Posts Tagged ‘Alasdair Gray’

Blackpaint 392 – Penis Gourds, Baobabs, and Marienbad

May 2, 2013

Alasdair Gray’s “Lanark”

In Blackpaint 386, I mentioned the similarities between Gray’s painter Thaw and Gulley Jimson in Joyce Cary’s “the Horse’s Mouth”, feeling smug to have noticed.  I’ve just got to the bit in the book where Lanark is conversing with God and Gray has a series of sidebars in which he points out all the instances of plagiarism in his own book.  Sure enough, Cary is one – but it sort of takes the shine off it for me; I thought I was being clever.  Lesson there – finish the book before commenting.

Last Year in Marienbad

I think I’ve got a handle on this, after watching it through again; there are alternative endings presented in the film.  In the first, the Woman is shot by her husband; the man is therefore pursuing a ghost throughout – or maybe it’s his memories; in the second, she finally decides to leave with the Man.  That’s my theory anyway.  Jump cutting still funny, and I checked – the people in the gardens do have shadows, whilst the shrubs do not.

Running the films on 4*

I’ve been watching DVDs speeded up, and with some of them, it doesn’t distract from your understanding much (if you’ve watched them before, of course).  Some of them seem to be improved as silent films, depending on the strength of the images.  So far, I’ve watched Holy Motors, The Tin Drum and the Werckmeister Harmonies like this.  Film directors would hate my methods of watching – 30 minutes, then take a break, maybe finish watching tomorrow, or do another 30; it makes some directors a lot more bearable.  Must try Tarkovsky; Solaris, say.  The big drawback of watching it on 4* is you don’t get the score, of course (obviously).

Saatchi Gallery – New British Artists

Only really two that struck me.  The first was Sara Brewer, who makes spindly metal structures like window frames or supports, that are slightly out of kilter and have traces of paint marks on them at random points, it appears; the second was Nicolas Deshayes, who had two panels painted a smooth and uniform blue, with smaller panels of white “blown”plastic set on, or in them, bulging slightly out from the blue plane.  Reminded me of the sort of thing that Billy Al Bengston and Craig Kaufman of the Ferus Gallery “Cool School” were doing in the 60s and which I’m reading about in the excellent Pacific Standard Time book (also see the film The Cool School, narrated by Jeff Bridges).  Deshayes also shows some large slices of white polystyrene, with curved grooves carved into them, like pieces of salt lake surface, scarred with ski marks and chopped out in great, flat chunks.

Sebastiao Salgado at the Natural History Museum

A huge exhibition, loads of big black and white photographs – the Southern Seas and islands, Africa, Amazonia, Alaska, Russia and Canada, the USA.

It reminded me strongly of Ansel Adams – I wonder if Salgado manipulates his pictures in development like Adams did?  Maybe with advances in technology, he doesn’t need to.  The pictures have that “closeness” that I first noticed in Balterman’s wartime pictures of German atrocities in the USSR  – also in McCullin’s shots of the coalfields (the woman with the pram.  I think it’s to do with the focus being sustained throughout the depth of field.  There’s a picture taken across a valley and bay with mountains  on the other side – they must be a few miles away, but they are as sharp as the range on the photographer’s side; everything seems to be upfront.

There’s a sort of National Geographic, timeless quality to the photos of indigenous peoples – “The last two girls in the world to wear lip plates” (Ethiopia), the New Guinea tribesmen with their penis gourds, the Amazonian tribal girls, beautiful and naked – apart from the bone “beard” they have pierced through the chin.

Wondrous photos, many taken from a helicopter, surely; but that marine iguana’s foot, the baobab trees, swollen tubers on their raised, circular island…

??????????

 

 

Blackpaint – Window on the World

??????????

 

Life Drawing

Blackpaint

2.05.13

Blackpaint 386 – Abstract and Figurative; Painting the Churches

March 21, 2013

Lanark

The Alasdair Gray trilogy; I’ve arrived at the part where Thaw (I’m assuming this is at least semi-autobiographical) paints a giant Genesis on the ceiling and altar wall of the church.  It’s an echo of Michelangelo’s Sistine ceiling and wall, of course, but without the 30 year gap – but it also closely recalls the sequence in Joyce Cary’s “The Horse’s Mouth”, with it’s appropriately Apocalyptic denouement.

The descriptions of the paintings in both books would seem to place both Thaw and Gulley Jimson in a stylistic line of British figurative painters including Stanley Spencer, the two Roberts (Colquhoun and MacBryde), Jock Mcfadyen, John Bellany, Peter Howson and Paula Rego; figurative but distorted, surrealistic..  Alasdair Gray too, of course, but not so much.. more illustrative.

Figurative and Abstract

The British figurative tradition of which the above list may be considered the extreme – left? – wing, is very strong and pervasive, having dominated movements in Britain through to street or Grafitti or Urban art whatever you like to call it.  Auerbach, Freud, Bacon, Uglow, Hockney, Blake, Doig, Shaw, Ofili, Dalwood..  OK, non-figurative; Riley, Davenport, McKeever, Ayres, Blow, Lanyon, Hilton, Heath, Feiler, Denny, Hodgkin – fair enough, just as many, if not more.. Hoyland, Wynter, Frost (Terry and Anthony), Turnbull…  What is it, then, that makes me think that abstraction is somehow not quite perceived as the British way?

Maybe it’s to do with exhibitions.  Recent big blockbusters for foreign abstractionists – Schwitters, Richter, Boetti.. when was the last big exhibition of  a British non-figurative painter?

Tate at yourpaintings

Carrying on with my trawl, there’s Albert Irvin‘s Empress (1982)

irvin empress

Sickert’s Ennui (1914) – just a fantastic image; and

Robin Denny’s Golem I (1957 – 8)

Robyn Denny; (c) Robyn Denny; Supplied by The Public Catalogue Foundation

 

There Will Be Blood

Glad to see this again on TV, a chance to compare Day Lewis’ Plainview with his Lincoln.  I preferred the Plainview with his John Huston voice, sudden bursts of violence and cruelty and the moustache – but you could see glimpses of Plainview in the Lincoln.

I’ve Been Loving You So Long

Far be it from me to criticize anything Kristen Scott Thomas is in – apart from the English Patient – but the ending is a cop-out.  She killed her kid as an act of mercy; he was dying from some horrible, painful disease.  At the trial, she refused to explain or defend herself and consequently, was regarded as some sort of monster.  Why resolve it like this?  Better to leave it unexplained.  Same with Festen – the father is eventually condemned for incest and rape; better if the family had continued to rally round him.  Same with The Hunt – the community re-absorbs the “molester” when he is proved innocent; better (and more true) if they’d continued to persecute him anyway.   There’s no redemption, except for celebs and politicians.  The worst cop-out was Ordet though; the religious obsessive actually manages to bring back the daughter-in-law from the dead!  What are we to make of that?

OK, here’s a couple of my pictures – not comparable to those above,I know, but it’s my blog…

002

??????????

Blackpaint

21.03.13

Blackpaint 375 – Sexual Politics and the Ozenfant Coincidence

January 7, 2013

Out of sync. this week, because of the annual review, so will do a short one today and another on Thursday to get back on track.

Contre Toi

DVD of French film featuring Kristin Scott Thomas as a doctor, abducted by a young man whose wife died following childbirth attended by KST.  She is held captive in a bricked up cellar room and treated brutally – knife at throat, denied water, pushed around and eventually punched in the eye, after he tries to force her to masturbate him (he soon desists).  Naturally – it’s a French film – she soon starts to feel affection for him; he’s lonely, like her, and of course, there’s Stockholm Syndrome…

She escapes, turns the tables on him, takes him to bed wearing a very fetching slip – her, not him – so the sex we have been expecting is the inevitable pay off.  But she then turns him in.  So, interesting sexual politics; abducted, threatened, assaulted – of course, she has to fall for him.  But it’s OK, because she got free and CHOSE (sort of) to do it – and she gets him put away.  It’s written and directed by a woman, Lola Doillon.

The Ozenfant Co-incidence

I got Alasdair Gray’s Lanark for Christmas; I’d just got to the bit where Lanark meets Dr. Ozenfant when I stopped reading for the day.  Minutes later, I was reading Jane Rye’s great book on Adrian Heath and happened to see, in the notes, a reference to “Apres le cubisme” by Amedee Ozenfant and someone else.  What are the chances? Coincidence, you say;  I wonder…  then again, Gray is an artist and might well have studied or come across the book…

This is only one example of mysterious cosmic forces that I have noted – see previous Blackpaints on “The Taylor Vincent Ad”, Blackpaint’s Law of Spurious Plausibility and my convincing argument that Shakespeare was the reincarnation of Michelangelo.

Adrian Heath

Before leaving the Heath book, I was intrigued to see that, whilst teaching at Cosham, he used an exercise in which he developed a sort of abstracted landscape out of a figure drawing.  It’s a pretty common exercise apparently, and I only mention it because I find that I’ve done more or less the same thing in most of my last dozen or so paintings – maybe even more.  He does it better though.

Commenting on Heath’s practice of making preparatory drawings or sketches for his paintings, Rye writes,”This practice was certainly at odds with the ideas of the American expressionists who regarded preliminary drawing as a decadent practice incompatible with true spontaneity” (p.141).  Well,  yes, you would have thought so – but Franz Kline and de Kooning both used sketches and indeed, DK imported whole images from previous paintings.  They LOOK spontaneous though…

OK, stopping now; more on Thursday.

002

 

 

004

 

Blackpaint

7.1.13

Blackpaint 255

February 27, 2011

British Art Show 7 (cont.)

Christian Marclay – Clever, funny exhibit; film clips featuring clocks, watches, people saying what the time is – corresponding to real time. Just ponder for a moment the amount of research required to assemble 24 hours worth of such footage.  I wondered if he maybe used stock footage of clocks to cut away to, but if so, it’s done seamlessly. I recognised two films in the 10 minutes we watched – “The Talented Mr. Ripley” and “3 Days of the Condor”.  Sometimes the segues were amusing – if that was not accidental, then it’s one more thing that he must have edited for and therefore an even more staggering achievement.

To what purpose, though?  It put me in mind of that Fischli and Weiss exhibit at the Tate Modern – in the basement now, no doubt – where all the bits and pieces were artificial, sculpted out of polyurethane or something to look absolutely real – when you could have got the real things and assembled them with no effort at all.  The point is the huge pointlessness; vast effort to raise a small smile.  Quite profound really; read Ecclesiastes.

Sohei Nishino has made a panorama of London by taking 10,000 photographs, selecting 4,000 and cutting and pasting them together, thereby getting a crude, reconstructed version.  Sort of the opposite to F and W; making something new and imperfect to contrast with the usual panorama.  Can’t help feeling that the expenditure of effort puts this somehow in the Marclay – F and W field,though.

George Shaw – Huge versions of his sinister and depressing (I use the words admiringly) Humbrol shedscapes.  One, a bulldozed tract of pulverised dirt pent up by metal caging, another of a dark, deserted recreation ground; you get that sinking stomach feeling looking at them.

Wolfgang Tillmans – Another beautiful, huge, inkjet picture, the spidery threads of pigment opening like some sea anemone; unfortunately, it’s emerald green.  Can’t stand the colour.  Also, glazed cabinets displaying magazine pages, articles, cheesy adverts,  plastic surgery, facial mutilation, material on sexism… Bit like clearing up Bacon’s studio floor and bunging the stuff in glass cases.

Cullinan Richards – Occupying the stairwell, newspapers with tarry black slash markings,  picture in rough white of a horse and rider at full vertical gallop up the central shaft; I loved this, first I thought a little like Baselitz, but this morning, found another rough white horse, tilted at an odd angle – this one in the Per Kirkeby catalogue.

Milena Dragicevic – Distorted and surrealised (I know it isn’t a proper word, but it should be) women’s faces, one for example with huge, red, letter box lips.  Echoes of Marlene Dumas.

Sarah Lucas – Hans Bellmer-ish sculptures made from stockings or tights stuffed like sausages, looped and knotted in swollen, intestinal bundles; organised in rather obscene ballet on top of pedestals.  Clever and striking but unlikeable, as if that matters.

Alasdair Gray – the Lanark author; clean, meticulous, pastel coloured drawings of family, domestic life…

Vaida Caivano – Four abstract oils, small, dun colours, thin and threadbare, drily painted.  Not as rich as the ones in the Victoria Miro Gallery, unfortunately.  Unusually for this exhibition, they were all “Untitled”.

Apart from the Marclay, we didn’t watch any of the video installations – the heavy black curtaining was mildly disgusting, as was the chemical smell in the theatres.

Few more exhibits tomorrow, plus a review of Bela Tarr’s “Man from London” – Bela Tarr, Tarkovsky’s less compromising brother director…

Exterminating Angel

Sorry – old picture; camera batteries exhausted.  New one tomorrow.

Blackpaint

26.02.11