Posts Tagged ‘Albert Irvin’

Blackpaint 652 – Maurer, Takis, Scherjfbeck, Truffaut and co.

August 28, 2019

Dora Maurer, Tate Modern 

Hungarian artist, specialising in geometric, sometimes highly colourful designs, layering, lattices, lots of theory in the wall notes (that I didn’t read, having learnt that I forget it all pretty quick).  Have a look at the examples below:

 

These look great through the arch as you come in to the gallery – early Albert Irvin with straighter lines?

 

Touch of Hoyland in the colours here…

 

Can’t think of any comparisons, which although not compulsory, makes me faintly uneasy; like it though.

 

Takis, Tate Modern 

Greek artist, but based in London and Paris, real name Panayiotis Vassilakis, heyday in the 60s, died just a couple of weeks ago.  Leaflet describes him as a “sculptor of magnetism, light and sound”.  Exhibition kicks off with the figurines below, which are appealing and a little Giacometti -like here and there, but soon the machines clock in.  Most of them were not working when we went, but an attendant did set one going (a pendulum pointer which strikes at the centre of a resonating metal shield); don’t know if it was for our benefit or if he does it regularly – like the man who fired the Anish Kapoor wax cannon in Guggenheim Bilbao a few years back.

 

 

The contraption on the left looks like a miniature electric chair, I thought,,,

 

Lots of quite beautiful suspended metal spheres, often turning on pendulums due to magnetic forces; also machines that pluck at metal metal cords or strips to produce, unsurprisingly, metallic “music”.

 

Visual hints of Calder at times, and also of Jean Tinguely, although these devices lack the anarchic, self – destructive tendencies of some of Tinguely’s machines.  A bit lightweight, maybe, in terms of emotional freight and social relevance – which can only be good, can’t it?

 

Helene Scherjfbeck again – RA 

I did this Finnish artist in my last blog, as readers will remember, but I’ve been again since and feel that I may have failed to do the exhibition justice last time – so here are some more pictures.  These, with the exception of the first one below, are highly graphic in a sort of magazine style, and I think they are pretty good and worth a close look.

 

I love this portrait – she looks like a Russian intellectual to me, writing a leaflet for a Narodnik party, People’s Will maybe, before going off to blow up the Czar.

 

So by way of contrast, there’s her, about to attend a society wedding, maybe-

 

..or her (no ready-made scenarios spring to mind – but I like the straight forehead-nose profile)…

 

Or her – the young Mrs. Thatcher, perhaps.  Love the shadow on the neck and face.

 

Modernists and Mavericks, Martin Gayford

My favourite art book since the brilliant Walter Hopps interviews a couple of years ago.  It’s based on London painters, notably Bacon, Freud, Hockney, Auerbach, Gillian Ayres, Bridget Riley, etc,  There is absolutely no jargon (except that invented by some of the artists themselves), the doctrinal disputes are covered lucidly, it’s a compulsive read.  You will know most of the stories if you are interested in these artists, but you may not know the connections between them.  It contains some revelations for me, chiefly the almost Stalinist attitudes of one Robin Darwin, the principal of the Royal College of Art in the 60s, who seems at one point to be drawing up lists of students to expel.  Why was Frank Bowling expelled for marrying Paddy Kitchen, a college officer?

On Bowling, it explains the contents of his big picture “Mirror” as a sort of compendium of styles extant at the time; I’m off to the Tate to check it out now – well, tomorrow maybe.  I was interested to read of Bowling’s conversation with Bacon about flat plane and perspective that Bowling thinks may have led to Bacon “blanking” him subsequently.  It’s good on Gillian Ayres too.  One mystifying omission – Albert Irvin.  No mention of him – maybe he’s too abstract for Gayford?  No, can’t be – what about Riley and Ayres?

Truffaut, Antoine Doinel films

Just watched the whole set, from 400 Blows to Love on the Run.  Truffaut’s alter ego gradually loses his charm as the series progresses, but this is not true of the captivating women with whom he becomes, or fails to become involved, marries, leaves; Claude Jade, Delphine Seyrig, Marie France Pisier, Dorothee. “Mademoiselle” Hiroku.  In Love on the Run, there are flashbacks to the 400 Blows, which remind you of the remarkable magnetism of Jean-Pierre Leaud as a young boy.  Brilliant set of films.

Couple of mine to finish:

Father Time

Blue Cyclone

Blackpaint

28.08.19

 

 

 

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Blackpaint 639 – Irvin, Lanyon, Frink and Malle

February 20, 2019

Albert Irvin and Abstract Impressionism – RWA Bristol until 3rd March 2019 – so hurry to visit!

Following hard upon my enthusiastic review of the Bonnard exhibition at Tate Modern, another positive reaction to the above; I’m sure I’ll soon find an exhibition to hate, but in the meantime, this is really very good.  Not only a great collection of huge, colourful Irvins, but also Brit kitchen sinkers (Bratby, Coker), abstractionists (Lanyon, Hoyland, Beattie, Blow) and American AbExes (de Kooning, Pollock, Jack Tworkov, Grace Hartigan, Newman, Motherwell, Sam Francis).

I’m putting the sizes of these paintings in, since size is one of the main things emphasised by all the British painters in their reaction to the exhibition of US ab exes at the Tate in 1959 – although not all the American pictures on show here are huge; a de Kooning, Motherwell’s “Ulysses”, the Hartigan and the Francis are smallish.

Unless otherwise stated, the Irvins are done in acrylics, which he started using in 1971.  He painted with canvases either against the wall or on the floor, supported by paint cans in the corners to allow air beneath so the paint would dry more quickly.  The catalogue, with a revealing interview with Basil Beattie, a close friend of Irvin, is great at £15.

Untitled 6, 1975, 178×203

Oranges (colours, not the fruit) make a regular appearance in Irvin’s work.  Early on, he used a lot of black in his paintings in keeping with the spirit of the times – but. as can be seen, this soon disappeared, along with most earth colours, apart from the odd patch of yellow ochre, from his paintings and prints.  As Beattie says, there’s no angst in Irvin’s work.

 

Wall of early-ish Irvins

See the black?

 

Untitled 3, mid 70s, 213×305

OK, wide dark slash here – exception to the rule.

 

Kestrel, 1981, 213×305

 

Almada, 1985, 213×305

 

Irvin, Sky 1960, oil on hardboard, 122×183

Lanyon was a big influence early on, as can be seen here.  Compare it to the Lanyon below:

 

Lanyon – St Ives Bay, oil on masonite 1957, 122×183

 

Irvin, Fallen Child in Corridor, oil on hardboard, 1955, 122×77

Example of Irvin’s figurative work in the 50s.

 

Peter Coker, Table and Chair, oil and sand on fibreboard, 1955, 153×122

I love this Coker – the extreme tilt of the table. the flayed head (cow’s?) on the surface; why doesn’t it all slide off?  On the down side, there’s the lemon headed kid, reminiscent of some Mintons, Joan Eardley maybe.  I thought of Colquhoun and MacBryde too, but no, too realist and dowdy.

 

Irvin, Untitled 2, oil on canvas, 1966, 152×127

A rare oil among the Irvin abstracts – note the trickle downs, absent from the acrylic works.

 

John Hoyland, Ivanhoe 16.3.81, 1981, acrylics, 183×167

A very nice (I’m determined not to use any more hackneyed superlatives) Hoyland from the Brit abstractionist section.  Hoyland got Irvin in on an exhibition at the Hayward, from which he got his gallery, Gimpel Fils.  no photos of the Americans, I’m afraid – not allowed.  But check out the Tworkov, “Cradle”, and the Sam Francis especially.  The Grace Hartigan is not her best and I could never “get” Barnett Newman.

Bristol Museum and Art Gallery

Just down the road from the Irvin exhibition, this collection, containing the lovely Bouts below, with the refreshingly everyday BVM (is that a chocolate she’s about to give the baby Jesus? and what’s wrong with his left leg?)

Dieric Bouts

…and this treatment (below) of the Annunciation by Berchem, which looks as if it was done by the studio of Jeff Koons a year or two ago.  without the irony though – if Koons IS being ironic…

The Annunciation to the Shepherds, Nicolaes Berchem the Elder, 1656

 

Lanyon – who else?

Other moderns on show are Rose Wylie, Aubrey Williams and Auerbach.  More next blog.

Elizabeth Frink, Sainsbury Centre. UEA, Norwich until 24th February 2019 – so go straight from Bristol!

I thought Frink was some formidable old Iron Lady – turns out she was a ringer for Germaine Greer, so certainly not a FOIL, in the 70s anyway.  The sculptures are superlative and often funny – probably unintentionally – like the two running men, but I think the best in the show are ink on paper drawings called “Cuchulain”, a mythical Irish hero.  No images online that I could find…

Au Revoir Les Enfants dir. Louis Malle, (1987)

Rather devastating in a quiet way, film about a Jewish boy being hidden in a Catholic boarding school in WW2 France.  It seems that it was autobiographical, another take on collaboration and resistance to go with “Lacombe, Lucien”.  Essential viewing for these times.  Essential reading: “If This is a Man”, Primo Levi; essential listening: Ralph McTell’s “Peppers and Tomatoes”.

Next time, definitely Bill Viola, Ken Kiff, Don McCullin.  And Michelangelo.

To the Dream Lighthouse

Blackpaint

20/02/19

 

 

 

 

 

Blackpaint 635 – London Art Fair

January 17, 2019

London Art Fair, Angel, until Sunday 20th January 2019

This is only on for the next three days, so I’m rushing out this special edition of Blackpaint’s Blog to give the world my highlights – which are as follows: (hardly any words this time – but few necessary, really)

William Nicholson

 

Albert Irvin

 

Euan Uglow

 

Adrian Heath

…and a whole wall of Adrian Heath – or half of it, anyway

 

Martin Brewster

detail from the Brewster – love that scraping…

 

John Hubbard

 

Didn’t get the name of this artist (Stephen somebody) but I love the rough, built-up surface – it’s like a mixture of Roy Oxlade, say, and Leon Kossoff.  There’s a whole room of these, and they’re great.  (28th Jan – It’s Stephen Newton.  Apologies to Stephen for not getting the name before)

Rose Hilton

The top one called to me across a crowded room; pity about that frame.

 

Peter Kinley

Not keen on the yellow, but I like the rest…

Audrey Grant

I loved these figure studies – the bottom two remind me of a famous de Kooning, I think it’s called “The Visit”.

 

Patrick Procktor – Terrific portrait; I think it’s exhibited by the Redfern Gallery.

Again, didn’t get artist’s name, but thoroughly endorse the sentiment.

 

As always, one of mine to finish-

Still Life with Hyacinths and Milk Jug 

Blackpaint

17/01/19

 

Blackpaint 489 – Slagging Tate Britain, Rain in Hong Kong and Rioters on the Roof

April 4, 2015

Penelope Curtis Leaves Tate Britain

I’ve been rather taken aback at the vehemence with which the Guardian critics, Jones or Searle or both, have attacked the regime of this person at TB; you would think the place was devoid of visitors, who have taken their business elsewhere, alienated by a succession of misconceived, dull or just plain bad exhibitions.  In fact, it’s always busy, thronged with school parties, parents with buggies and kids called Oliver and Rosie, and old gits in jeans with white hair and day bags (like me). Like most visitors, no doubt, I’d never heard of Penelope Curtis – I love Tate Britain, however, and much prefer the light, white galleries to the stuffiness of the Royal Academy and the gloom of the V&A.  I sort of resent the slagging off that the critics feel entitled to dish out; I hope no-one takes any notice of it.

Recent good or great things at Tate Britain – Deller’s Folk Art; the Turner exhibition; the Paolozzi and Henderson stuff; the fabulous Auerbachs of the Freud bequest; the Phyllida Barlow thing in the main hall; the Frank Bowling pictures; the life drawings in the Archive Room; the permanent collection, of course.  I think the Sculpture Victorious exhibition is interesting and funny, although not necessarily stuffed with great art.  I suppose a punter is satisfied if there’s something good to look at – s/he is not always worried if the focus isn’t sharp enough, or it’s got too much or too little stuff in it, etc., etc….

auerbach

 

barlow2

Salt and Silver, Tate Britain

Early photos, on now.  In the architectural ones and some of the landscapes, a little figure present, presumably for scale or maybe it wasn’t a proper picture without a human presence.  By 1860s, that seemed to have changed.  I was surprised to see an Indian rowing team, apparently about to plunge  their oars simultaneously into the water; I thought you needed a long exposure.  Then it was pointed out to me that the surface of the water was unbroken – they must have been frozen in the pose.  Some treasures here – but rather a lot of buildings and ruins…

salt and silver

 

Nick Waplington and Alexander McQueen,  Working Process, Tate Britain

Third TB exhibition; the fashions are extreme and interesting – some of the dresses recall Dubuffet – but for me, the real interest lies in Waplington’s huge, sharply focused rubbish photographs (i.e. photos of rubbish).  From the distance of the next room, they look to me just like de Koonings;  go and see.

I’m in the Mood for Love, Wong Kar -wai

The real interest of this hypnotic film is threefold:  first, the seemingly endless series of high necked dresses Maggie Cheung wears – I think she only wears one twice; second, the torrential rain storms that beat down on the dark alleys; third, and most important, the haunting theme tune.

in the mood for love

Strangeways: Britain’s Toughest Prison Riot (BBC2)

There was some fascinating film here of the rioting prisoners on the smashed up roof, wearing balaclavas, captured prison officers’ caps and various pieces of fancy dress, dancing to a loudspeaker and waving wooden clubs at the helicopter buzzing them: the footage reminded me of film of the miners’ strike (no, I’m not equating the miners with the prisoners, neither with regard to the cause or the behaviour – just the carnival atmosphere and the defiance).  There were chilling accounts from one of the prisoners of assaults and near-murders of sex offenders, who were dragged from their cells and injuries inflicted on guards with scaffold poles and slates hurled from the roof.

It was instructive to hear from the reforming governor of the prison, Brendan O’Friel, who seemed an enlightened soul (he introduced women prison officers to the Strangeways, stopped the officers wearing racist golliwog badges and actually spoke to the prisoners informally on occasion).  He recognised the acute problem of overcrowding in the prison; yet when the riot broke out and the occupation of the prison by the rioters became prolonged – I think it lasted 25 days – he seemed to lose his liberal attitude; he described it as “pure evil”.  This sounds a bit extreme to me, in the era of Islamic State and al-Shabaab and Boko Haram…

John Renbourn

Hero 60s guitarist, up there with Davy and Bert and Roy Harper.  I have a tape somewhere of him backing Doris Henderson on TV, doing “the Leaves that are Green”  – trouble is, I haven’t got a tape recorder any more.  RIP.

Albert Irvin

One of the greatest, and an untimely death – he was only in his early 90s.

irvin empress

One of mine, to finish:

burnt norton

Burnt Norton

Blackpaint

4.04.15

Blackpaint 412 – Talent and Taste and the Darkling Plain

September 19, 2013

Jonathan Yeo at the National Portrait Gallery

Saw the Culture Show programme on Yeo last night and was suitably impressed by his technical skill.  a whole bunch of political, arty and acting celebs, instantly recognisable, in a surface spectrum from creamy smooth (Sienna Miller) to Freudian fractured – assemblies of small, variegated  planes (George W Bush).

yeo1

yeo2

Only when reading Yeo’s Wikipedia entry, did I discover that the Bush “variegated planes” are actually images from porn magazines, a technique that Yeo has used several times.

I think I would say the same thing about Yeo as I said about Augustus John last blog; loads of talent, dubious taste.  By that, I don’t mean the use of porn images, or painting the pregnant Sienna Miller naked; more that they seem to flatter the subjects and include little tricks and flourishes – see the Nicole Kidman above.  Apart from Bush, maybe, I can’t imagine any of his subjects being dismayed or upset at the way they have been portrayed.  Have to go and see for myself now, at the NPG.

Paul Feiler

He died this summer, when I was abroad. so I missed the obits.  The last, I think, of the 50s and 60s St. Ives generation. I considered him for a while to be the greatest living British abstract painter.  Then I “discovered” Albert Irvin – and there’s Gillian Ayres of course – but he’s still up there, I think, in terms of “the greatest” – but no longer living…

feiler

Paul Feiler

John Bellany

Another painter recently dead is Bellany.  As utterly unlike Feiler as you could imagine, his odd figures in awkward poses remind me, a little, sometimes, of Paula Rego – and RB Kitaj in his cartoon style, Unlike Rego, he often used harsh, garish colours.

Bellany1

bellany 2

Well, not sure about Kitaj…  Apparently, his (Bellany’s) paintings got brighter and more optimistic in tone after his liver transplant.

Old Masters, Thomas Bernhard

I recently made a facetious remark about this great book, comparing the protracted rant that it mostly is, to John Cooper Clarke’s “Evidently Chickentown” – and concluding that Clarke’s poem(?) is the greater work.  About 60% of the way through, however, certain changes begin to occur in the Bernhard book and it takes on greater depths.

Consider the following, on the uses of art after bereavement: “None of those books or writings which I had collected in the course of my life …were ultimately any use, I had been left alone by my wife and all these books and writings were ridiculous.  We think we can cling to Shakespeare or to Kant, but that is a fallacy, Shakespeare and Kant and all the rest…..let us down at the very moment when we would so badly need them, Reger said…. everything which those so-called great and important figures have thought and moreover written leaves us cold…”  So, art is no help or cure for pain – echoes of “Dover Beach” and “The Green Linnet”.

We are soon back to ranting. however; and I am gratified to find that Reger, the protagonist, believes that every great work of art is mortally flawed (see Blackpaint 387, the theory of validating crapness) and that many artists, notably El Greco, can’t do hands.  According to Reger, “El Greco’s hands all look like dirty wet face flannels”…

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Tenby, Wall to Fort

Blackpaint

19.09.13

Blackpaint 407 – Bloodshed at the RA; is Stoner Perfect?

August 15, 2013

Sorry for hiatus – been away.

Mexico, a Revolution  in Art, at the RA

Not all Mexican – Edward Weston, Tina Modotti, Philip Guston, Cartier -Bresson,  DH Lawrence  et al, all down there on a visit at one time or another.

Starting with the inevitable sepia photos of firing squads and their dead victims, one sequence showing the shooting of four Mexicans, one after the other, at the moment the bullets strike; violent death somehow seems more prevalent in Mexican revolution, the executions routine and casual – maybe a reflection of the ubiquity of photographers.  Also strikers, prostitutes peeping from windows, semi-surrealist street shots…

A few lurid, blood-raw landscape pictures, and one snow-capped peak that recalled the Canadian “Seven” painter, Lawren Harris.  Maybe the landscape really IS that raw, blood orange colour – best to leave it to God, perhaps, like those lurid American Sublime sunsets.

The Guston (early figurative mode) and the one opposite of a man in a cat’s suit the best, along with a portrait by Siqueiros of Zapata – like a hooded-eyed, ancient deity.  Also an Orozco and a Rivera; both better as murals, I think.

Guston in Mexico

The RA Summer Exhibition

Overall, not inspiring.  Lots of well-known RAs doing their usual thing; some beautiful Irvins, especially the small, marmalade orange prints called “Shakespeare” (presumably after Shakespeare Road, rather than the playwright) – and a huge, penetrating blue canvas by Barbara Rae,   I think the most striking painting – in a good way – in the show.  But I didn’t record the title.

Gillian Ayres’ flower-shaped images on prints, Tracey Emin’s broken-line etchings, John Carter’s Oiticica-like wobbly squares… A number of John Bellanys in garish, livid colours, humans with seabirds’ heads.. a big, brown, messy, lovely Basil Beattie.

Jock MacFadyen’s paintings were interesting – none of the cartoon-like tattoo’ed thugs with pit bulls; instead, a realist derelict factory with graffitti and a minimalist portrait if Humphrey Ocean – good, but I think I prefer the cartoon stuff – speaking of which, A big Rose Wylie over the door in her usual style.

Most striking of the non – RAs was a small yellow, patchwork print by Hetty Haxworth, called “Rig and Furrow”, loads of prints of which already sold.

haxworth

Worst painting by famous artist; Per Kirkeby’s “Laokoon”, a roughly executed serpent in ugly colours.  Also Pete Tonkins’ acrylic abstract.  Ugliness, whatever that is, not necessarily bad in a painting, of course, but should be something else to carry it; coherence, structure, something anyway.

Stoner by John Williams

First published in 1965, a campus novel set in University of Missouri in years from WW1 to the 50s.  I thought it was stunning – I normally read a bunch of books a few pages each every day, but I put others aside until I finished this, in maybe four days, really fast for me.  It’s not flawless; the dialogue in the love scenes a little shaky, perhaps, and a death scene seems prolonged; but it made me reflect on my own time as a student and teacher, with some very depressing and uncomfortable results.

Something that occurred to me, but apparently to no-one else who has written about the novel on the internet, was that Lomax’s campaign against Stoner through Walker could be read as a metaphor for the ideological struggles between radical movements and more conservative forces on campus, which became common a little later in the 60s; I was thinking particularly of the accusations of racism or misogyny that were often deployed against conservative and liberal academics.  No doubt this take is somewhat crass; all other reviews stress the universality of the themes and the perfection of the novel.

I couldn’t help casting some of the characters mentally, in the film that must soon be made; Stoner himself, as a young man, I see played by Paul Dano (There Will be Blood); Finch could only be Philip Seymour Hoffman (The Master).

Great book; best of its kind I’ve read since Richard Yates.

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Montreuil, Blackpaint

15.08.13

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

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Blackpaint

21.03.13

Blackpaint 374 – Review of the Year (Yawn)

December 31, 2012

The Blackpaint Annual Review 

Exhibitions – went to about 40; these are the most memorable:

Bronze at the Royal Academy

That statue of the dancer that languished on the seabed; Praxiteles?  Maybe…

Also, the Etruscan smiley god and de Kooning’s Clamdigger.

Migrations – Tate Britain

The fantastic Schwitters collage and Singer Sargent’s Ena and Betty.

Burtynsky at the Photographers’ Gallery

Shipbreaking at Chittagong and the ship apparently set in a sea of coal.

Kusama at Tate Modern

The boat covered in fabric penises and, of course, the darkened room with mirrors, reflecting pinpoints of coloured light, with shallow water around the walkways.  Everything was interesting.

London Art Fair at the Royal College of Art

The beautiful Keith Vaughans.

Albert Irvin at Gimpel Fils

Blinding colours, stars, flowerheads, flak streams – he really does yellow well, not an easy thing.

Films

Once upon a Time in Anatolia – that apple bouncing down the stream bed in the night.

The Master – Dodd mincing about singing “We’ll go no more a-roving” to a room full of fawning acolytes – and suddenly, they’re all naked – or was it just the women?

Anna Karenina – the horse race, exploding over and out of the stage set.  Many disagree, apparently, but I think Keira Knightley is a really good actress.  Lately, it seems to me that male critics feel they can praise only the following actresses: Imelda Staunton, Tilda Swinton and especially, Anna Chancellor.

DVDs and TV Films

Where to start?  Ken Russell, of course –Women in Love,  The Devils, The Music Lovers, Gothic.  The last three fantastically over the top; Oliver Read tearing himself from a crucifix to couple with a swooning Vanessa Redgrave; how beautiful Glenda Jackson was as Gudrun Brangwen.

Red Desert (Antonioni) – those colours in the industrial landscape.. Monica Vitti…

The Gospel According to St.Matthew (Pasolini) – I had it on at Easter; one after another, my atheist children came in, fell silent, watched it through to the end.

Tree of Life (Malick)  – America’s Tarkovsky.  Beautiful, and like Tarkovsky, utterly devoid of humour.  These chaps know they are important.

Melancholia (Von Trier) – The opening sequence, that white horse falling backwards, Kirsten Dunst and Charlotte Gainsbourg both riveting.

The Leopard (Visconti) – Burt and Claudia in the ballroom scene, prefiguring “Russian Ark”.

Swingtime – Fred and Ginger awesome in “Pick Yourself Up”, beauty and perfection in “Never Gonna Dance”.

The King of Marvin Gardens – Bruce Dern and Jack Nicholson, both staggeringly good.

Books

The Grass Arena by John Healy.  Unique, I think; boxer, fighter, drinker, criminal, rough sleeper, chess master, yoga practitioner, writer…

Ulysses, James Joyce.  6th time I think.  Still the most important work of fiction in English written in the 20th century; difficult to see how any fiction could supplant it.  Also really filthy, sexy and funny.  How could he have written like that when he did?

The Road and Everything Flows by Vassily Grossman.  Sort of fiction, but Grossman often strays into journalism; not a problem as he has stupendous stories to tell, about the war, the purges, the gulag…

And here’s my best painting this year – Happy New Year, to those for whom it is New Year.

005

Cap Frehel

Blackpaint

31.12.12

Blackpaint 360 – Faust, Laocoon and the Red Desert

September 27, 2012

De Kooning

I was surprised to read in the Retrospective that DK got into a fight with Clement Greenberg in 1961 (this was when DK’s drinking was “becoming a problem”; unfortunately, it doesn’t say who won, painter or critic).  Even more of a surprise was to read that the whole of Janis’ stable of Abstract Impressionists had left gallery when he showed an exhibition of “New Realists”; Dine, Warhol, Lichtenstein, etc.  Guston, Motherwell, Rothko and dK walked. Those were the days…

Sokurov

I’ve just bought his “Faust” on DVD.  It often goes into that washed-out colour that Sok. used in “Mother and Son” and also uses the elongation and tilting of figures that featured in that film.  The Margareta and Mephistopheles characters are both sinister and memorable – the Grand Guignol dissections are fun too.  I lent my video of the silent Faust – Murnau, was it? – to someone and never got it back, but I remember a scene in that where Faust swings his cloak and it shrouds the entire city – nothing in Sokurov’s to equal that but it’s still very good.

Keith Vaughan

At an art fair at the Royal College of Art in Kensington Gore last week, saw this artist’s “Laocoon Man”, which is the cover picture for the new catalogue of Vaughan’s paintings.  I loved it for the combination of that singing blue background and the rough, cream/grey chevrons within the central figure.  Very beautiful paintings.

I was interested to see that a great, dark Albert Irvin from 63 I think, nothing like the brightness of his later and current work, was going for £14,000 – compared to over £50,000 average for dead British painters of, I guess, similar or lesser fame.  Presumably, at this level, the massive price hike happens  once you are dead.  I wonder how soon after?

Another painter new to me was William Brooker.  A great still life on a beige tablecloth, the folds opening towards the viewer with trompe l’oeil effect.  The precision and lines much like Euan Uglow, though Brooker earlier, I think.

Rachel Whiteread

When writing about Saatchi recently, should have mentioned the chess sets in separate gallery upstairs.  Whiteread’s has 60’s period doll’s house furniture as pieces; lamps, cabinets, a radiogram, I think.  Carpet and lino squares form the chess board.  Sounds twee, but quite funny.  Also, Matthew Roney’s; a picnic laid out on a tablecloth, picnickers having fled something that came out of the woods.  Bits of food and mustard, ketchup for the pieces – four erect penises at each corner for the rooks (maybe salt and pepper pots it occurs to me) –  but definitely penis shaped.

Red Desert

Watched this visually staggering film on TV the other day (sorry about the “staggering”, but it really is).  Monica Vitti fretting and smouldering throughout and Richard Harris thoroughly wooden – “doltish”, as the Encyclopedia of Film describes him.  Ridiculous portentous dialogue, of the kind sent up by Woody Allen, but extraordinary shipyard and quayside scenes in saturated greens and reds; ships looming through fog, pylons, derelict, polluted countryside – fantastic.

Saw” Bronzes” at the Royal Academy last Sunday – next blog.  WordPress appears to be breaking down – can’t do tags or insert more pictures!  Hope it works next time.  If not, I’ll be closing down.

Cap Frehel

Blackpaint

27.09.12

Blackpaint 353 – Diana, Fidelio and the Long Shot

August 2, 2012

Titian et al at the National Gallery

The first striking thing in the exhibition is in the Callisto painting, the one on the far left as you enter.  It’s the massive right arm of the nymph in the foreground, with her back to us – the one who holds the equally large arrow.  The right arm is worthy of a shotputter and is out of proportion, but in a good, Michelangelo’s David sort of way (also substantially meaty are the arms of the goddess herself, as she fires the arrow at Actaeon in the “brown” picture).

In the centre of the Callisto painting is a glass object – an orb, globe or mirror – painted with the icy clarity of a Kalf still life.  It sets off the slightly misty “seethingness” of Titian’s surface seen close up.  In the autumnal tones of the painting depicting Actaeon’s death, the blurring is obvious, but can only be seen close up in the others.

In the painting where Actaeon surprises Diana, her small head and the odd angle at which it sits on her neck are, as always, striking; as with the arm, I point out distinctive, peculiar features which help make the pictures memorable for me.

Chris Ofili

There is a series of huge paintings which he calls the Ovid works.  Several display that Art Nouveau, Beardsley – like line he used in the paintings in his last exhibition and that dry, thin surface with the dark blue/mauve ground.  An enormous, light blue phallus in one – “Ovid; lust”, I think and a striking floor of red and white irregular “tiles” in another.

Conrad Shawcross

The Shawcross robot, smoothly running, with echoes of Epstein’s Rock Drill in its general appearance;  while I was there, its movements resembled those of a dog sniffing its crotch with the light probe.  For this reason, I took it to represent one of Actaeon’s hounds, but have since heard that it is supposed to be Diana herself.

There are also ballet costumes by several of the artists and a huge video of beautiful dancers and the directors rehearsing the ballets.  And all free.

Albert Irvin; Fidelio

At Gimpel Fils in Davies Street W1 until September.  Twenty six paintings, I think, that are great.  A couple of years ago, I saw my first Albert Irvin at the top of the stairs in the Tate Britain and it left me completely unmoved.  I thought it was boring; flat and brash, at the same time. Don’t know what happened – the “scales fell from my eyes” (where does that come from?) and now he’s my favourite living abstract painter, with Paul Feiler.

The “usual” fluorescent reds, greens, yellows, motifs that resemble flowers, crosses, pinnate leaves, stripes, squiggles, badges, circles – but amonst them, four stupendous paintings: “Rampart”, a tidal wave of wine or blood in a fluid block (?), “Brady”, yellow base with huge half-circle of green, covering left side; “Beacon”, with the grey/mauve ground and yellow-white cross hatchings like a cake – tiramisu maybe – spatched down on top; and “Trophy”, luminous green and red patches with a huge blue keyhole shape painted on it, for us to see through.

The first three are old – 76, 86 and 94 respectively – but “Trophy” is dated this year and all the rest are 2011 or 2012.  He’s 90 years old; not much development, but pretty consistent.

It strikes me that you could group him with Hoyland, Bowling, Paul Jenkins and maybe Richter (the abstracts anyway) in that they don’t use earth colours much or at all – their colours are airborne and sizzling.

More Irvin at Kings’ place until 24th August.

The Passenger, Antonioni

Watched the last, long shot through the barred window three times and couldn’t see the assassin or make out a shot.  Finally, watched it with Jack Nicholson’s commentary over the top; he points out – or at least, asks the question – “Was that a shot?”  At some point, the camera goes through the bars and turns round to follow the women and police into the dead man’s room.

Blackpaint

2/08/12