Posts Tagged ‘Agnes Martin’

Blackpaint 519 – Agnes, Auerbach, Ten and Patti Again

November 8, 2015

Master John, NPG

These fantastic paintings by “Master John” or from his workshop – whoever he was.  Not Holbein for sure, but brilliant. I think.

master john 2

 

master john 1

Patti Smith, Just Kids

This is turning out to be a fascinating read; she completely confounds your expectations.  I thought she’d come across angry, tough, scathing – punk; not at all.  She’s sensitive, kindly, vulnerable, a bit pretentious, a bit awkward.  She knew everyone, remembers everything.  It’s a great companion and contrast to Viv Albertine’s book, which is also great in a different way.

Lines for Agnes, exhibition and discussion at Marylebone Church

Attended this last Saturday.  A small exhibition of small paintings with some perceived relationship to Agnes Martin; minimal but not minimalist, somewhat geometric, patterns or colour fields darkening at bottom…  One speaker mentioned the problem of taking too much out; erasing until you have nothing left.

It struck me that there are at least two completely opposite tendencies in abstract painting – or maybe just painting – with one going towards the erasure of everything, the other chucking in the kitchen sink.  One end is occupied by Agnes Martin, the other by, say, Appel or, if figurative, early Auerbach.  It’s a spectrum of course.  Won’t pursue this further, since it has already involved me in one heated argument.

Auerbach, Tate Britain

Since I’ve mentioned him,   I’ve been to the exhibition for the third – or is it fourth? – time today.  First, I noticed that the one with the red “worms” crawling across it; they look as if they are squeezed straight from the tube.  There’s a sort of broken shelf of paint built up under them, and it’s tempting to think that they would have simply fallen off without this shelf.  As for ” Building Site, Earls Court” (1953), I’ve realised what that black mass reminds me of – black olives, trodden into an oily mash.

“Ten”, SLWA, Gerald Moore Gallery, Eltham College, until 6th December

marion1

Marion Jones

“SLWA” stands for South London Women Artists – although with a couple of possible exceptions, these are paintings by artists who happen to be women – no feminist themes as far as I could make out.  I have to declare an interest; the above very excellent painting is one of my partner’s.  There are other good works, but you’ll have to go along to see those.

Bergman, The Passion of Anna

Another highly fraught piece starring Max von Sydow and Liv Ullman; again, it’s set on an island.  Three out of four of the films in the Bergman box set I bought are set on an island – and I’ve got an idea some others of his are also island-bound.  I’ll investigate and speculate further on this – no doubt it’s well known and someone’s already done a thesis on it.

Haven’t completed any new paintings this week, so here are four of my recent life drawings – I think I’ve captured a good likeness….

 

drawings 4

 

drawings 3

 

drawings 2

 

drawings1

Blackpaint

8.11.15

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Blackpaint 498 – Ice Cream at Tate Modern, Breasts at the RA

June 7, 2015

Agnes Martin (Tate Modern)

Happy Holiday 1999 Agnes Martin 1912-2004 ARTIST ROOMS  Acquired jointly with the National Galleries of Scotland through The d'Offay Donation with assistance from the National Heritage Memorial Fund and the Art Fund 2008 http://www.tate.org.uk/art/work/AR00179

Happy Holiday

This is the new exhibition at Tate Modern – those familiar with Martin’s work will know what to expect: the palest “ice cream” pastels (Neapolitan) , vanishing into near invisibility, stripes, huge grids done in faint graphite with tiny squares, a roomful of a dozen white canvases, occasionally, background fields varied by tiny, pale, differently coloured blobs…  Her early work, influenced to a degree by other abstractionists, resembles Pasmore somewhat.  Strangely, her later work appears, to a dissenter like me, to have more going on – a coloured stripe through the centre, a blue square, two black triangles with the tops snipped off.  This seems the “wrong” way round, somehow.  Still, if you emptied out your pictures early on, I suppose you start putting things in again, if you live long enough.

Like Rothko’s Seagram pictures, this is art that I think requires a contemplative attitude in the viewer that I am unable to sustain.  I hope one day to be able to appreciate them more fully.

My Blake Calendar

Below is the picture for June.  It shows Oberon, Titania and Puck from A Midsummer Night’s Dream.  I find it enormously encouraging that even artists of William Blake’s taste and ability are capable of turning out crappy pictures occasionally.

Oberon, Titania and Puck with Fairies Dancing circa 1786 William Blake 1757-1827 Presented by Alfred A. de Pass in memory of his wife Ethel 1910 http://www.tate.org.uk/art/work/N02686

National Portrait Gallery

I wrote about this beautiful little portrait of Hardy a few months ago.

hardy strang

 Thomas Hardy, William Strang

A little while later, I bought a 70s Penguin paperback of EM Forster’s “The Longest Journey”; on the cover was this picture, also by Strang, called “Bank Holiday”.

Bank Holiday 1912 William Strang 1859-1921 Presented by F. Howard through the National Loan Exhibitions Committee 1922 http://www.tate.org.uk/art/work/N03036

I think it’s great – totally unlike the Hardy; for some reason, it makes me think of Norman Rockwell.

Forster and Woolf

While I’m on the subject of Forster and the above novel, I found it interesting that he, like Virginia Woolf (Lighthouse, Jacob’s Room, The Voyage Out), occasionally kills his characters off with quite brutal suddenness.  He does in this, anyway; I wonder if there was any influence, and if so, in which direction?

 Back to the NPG

Below are two more arresting paintings, both by John Collier.  The first is, of course, Charles Darwin; the second, the Labour and later, Liberal, politician, John Burns.  I suppose it’s partly the full square stance of both subjects and Burns’ hands on hips – defiance? frankness?  I have to say that Darwin’s picture reminds me faintly of an orang utan – in a good way – but I think that may be because it was parodied in a cartoon and I “see” the parody…

collier darwin

Darwin, John Collier 

by John Collier, oil on canvas, 1889

 

John Burns, John Collier

RA Summer Exhibition 

Proper review of this next week, but in the meantime, here is by far the best painting in the exhibition – the fact that Marion Jones is my partner has no bearing, obviously, on my opinion.

marion RA

 

Bars and Triangles, Marion Jones

Diebenkorn, RA

I made my third visit to the brilliant Diebenkorn exhibition after the RA Summer Show – I started seeing great little paintings within paintings in the earlier abstracts, Albuquerque and Urbana series; little sections that would make paintings in themselves.  I started to see slight parallels with some of Nicolas de Stael’s landscapes, especially “Sea Wall”.  But most startlingly, I saw breasts everywhere.  In “Albuquerque 57”  (below) for instance, there is a very clear sketch of a pair of breasts that I hadn’t noticed before.  After that, I saw them everywhere in these abstracts, mostly in the shape of the lobes.

diebenkorn berkeley 57

 

Just above the green and yellow rectangular shapes.

To finish, here is a minimalist work of mine, in homage to Agnes Martin:

Close of a long day

Close of a Long Day

Blackpaint

6.6.15

Blackpaint 191

September 11, 2010

Painting

You know that feeling you get when you take a clean towel into the shower and when you step out dripping and bury your face in it, you find it smells of onions because you put it on the line when next door was cooking?  That’s how I feel when I finish a painting at night, think it’s OK and then look at it in the dull light of day.

I’m a bit worried about the lack of theory in my painting; it seems to be purely instinctive, a sort of physical process in which colours and marks are chosen by reference to what’s happening on the canvas, not some overall plan.  It could be that I’m an overgrown child, wallowing around in a paintbox, making a mess.  Its all meaningless decoration, maybe, but some (all?) paintings draw your eye to them by their physical properties, marks, texture, shapes on canvas – that’s meaning enough in itself, perhaps.

All abstract painters are overgrown children, I think; some of them sling the paint around, slap it on wildly, others control their crayons carefully, not going over the lines, tongue poked  out in concentration.  Sort of Joan Mitchell v. Agnes  Martin.

Raphael at the V&A

Wrote about this a couple of blogs ago; I thought you had to pay because a booking number was included in the review, but it’s free – booking advised, expected pressure of numbers.  Everything else I said stands.

Basil Beattie

I remember going to his exhibition at the Tate Britain a few years ago and being bemused by a small number of huge canvases with crudely painted doorways and lozenges on them.  Now, I think he’s great – just looked at his stuff online and it reminds me of Prunella Clough magnified a dozen times; and the older stuff, maybe John Hoyland.  The Tate website reckons he’s a bit like Philip Guston, but I can’t see it. 

These lozenge shapes, like  inverted cakes, they appear over and over in his work – I wonder if he means to put them in, or if he does a canvas and then thinks; “Something missing, here – it needs a bold shape in black, something like this…Oh no, I’ve done that shape again!”  Probably not, because some of his paintings show them piled on top of each other to make “Ziggurats”.  Proper painters probably paint what they mean to paint.

“Positively seethes”

Looking back through blog, I find I have used this twice, or three times, in relation to surfaces of paintings by Gillian Ayres and Leon Kossoff.  One day, I’m going to go through the blog with a fine toothcomb and eliminate  all such cliches.

WIP Blackpaint – smell of onions

11.09.10

Blackpaint 179

August 22, 2010

Antichrist

Having just finished reading Revelations and hence the New Testament for the umpteenth time, I’m in the mood to review the Lars Von Trier film which I saw on TV the other night.  hope you will excuse this excursion into film – there’s a bit of painterly reference.

First, the physicality of the leads.  Willem Dafoe and Charlotte Gainsbourg have strangely similar features –  those slot mouths and oxygen mask pouts, and the deep cut lines.  Dafoe has an extraordinary, swirling line across the cheek, like a Lanyon wave or a Bacon dissection.  Then the bodies; cut muscles, flat, sharp-edged back and shoulders, esp. Gainsbourg, plenty of pumping sex in the grass.  So, even without the genital assault and mutilation, the penis spurting blood instead of sperm, there are constant reminders of Bacon’s work.

I love the cod psychology: he is a controlling, if loving, fascist of a (male) therapist, piloting her through her grief and guilt at the loss of their infant son (he fell, picturesquely, in slow motion, to choral music, through snowflakes,  from his bedroom window – while they were energetically shagging in another room).  She is irrational, woman as uncontrollable life-force, antichrist, witch, at one with, at the mercy of, the natural forces that surround them in their backwoods retreat.  As a fox remarks to Dafoe, “Chaos reigns”. The foxes, and a deer with a foetus dangling from its rear end, appear at moments throughout.

She provokes him by bashing his penis with a stool(?) and then drilling through his leg and attaching a grindstone to it (leg, not penis) whilst he is unconscious; then, as is well publicised, she cuts off her own clitoris with a pair of scissors.  In the end, he strangles her and burns her body on a pagan funeral pyre – and here come the deer, the fox and then a troop of women, presumably representing the women massacred by men down through the ages, witch-hunts etc., marching past down through the forest.

And the dedication – OF COURSE it was dedicated to Tarkovsky.  Visually powerful – sorry, cliche –  but not Tarkovsky, because the imagery was too literal, no sense of mystery.  No poetry, I suppose.  As if a young film maker were trying to impress his hero with tricks.

Bathos is always a danger; for English viewers, talking foxes can recall Basil Brush.  I remember also the scene in Onibaba, where the woman with the devil mask fixed to her face, says, according to the subtitles: “Don’t scream! It is only me – your mother-in-law!”

Agnes Martin

Very apt, I think, to look at this painter after the mud, blood and mutilation above.  Ironically (or maybe intentionally?), her display of about a dozen paintings is in that inner gallery of the Tate Modern where the blood and body stuff of the Austrians was:  bandages, stretchers, splatters, mutilations… now all gone, and pristine canvases of uniform size, pastel ice cream stripes, misted over with white paint, metal frames stare blankly from  the wall.  I was surprised to find she was born in 1912 and was Canadian (although vast prairies, frozen North, mist, snow…).  There are 8 paintings with horizontal stripes, 2 with vertical grey stripes, 1 orange horizontal “zip” and several in very pale pink, yellow and blue.  I wanted to chuck slashes of black or blood red paint at them  and let it slide down; what is the point of purity, if not to be defiled?  Then  again, perhaps the point is that it provokes these reactions.  Probably not, though.

Rufus

Blackpaint

23.08. 10