Posts Tagged ‘alfred Wallis’

Blackpaint 451 – Folk Art, Deller, Bond and the Fatal Train

June 20, 2014

Folk Art at Tate Britain

This is a great exhibition, but is pretty much historical  – that’s to say, there’s nothing in it later than the skull and crossbones score-sheet of the WW2 submarine, apart from the giant straw King Alfred made in 1961 (an example of a tradition going back a couple of hundred years).

Many of the exhibits are articles with a use value; shop and pub signs, trays, quilts, really ugly leather toby jugs..There are, however, a number of things that are “true” works of art – that is, they have no function other than to be themselves as art objects.  The paintings of Alfred Wallis are the obvious examples; there are also the French POW cockerel made out of bones, the Wesleyan preacher painted on the vertebra of a horse, the “gods-in-a-bottle” (bizarre assemblages, akin to African fetishes).

folk art 1

What about the ship’s figureheads?  They are decorative – very beautiful, in fact – but arguably, they have a use value too; identification and maybe a symbolic guardian angel function, like the bottle gods.

Anyway, a few examples:

The shop signs, for illiterate patrons – giant boots, padlocks, a saw, an arm and hammer (blacksmith?) a sun with those wiggly beams (?)… a black sweep sculpture, tobacco shop Indians.

folkart3

The quilts – the Bellamy one, with Ally Sloper at the centre and the fabulous Menai Bridge one.

The signs – We Rule you, We Fight for You, etc. – and a very odd one, in which dogs appear to be about to attack someone who is having a crap behind a tree.  there is a text on the board explaining, but my eyes weren’t up to deciphering it.

The figureheads – several beautiful ones, the giant Indian warrior (I guessed Turkish, wrongly); the Elvis lookalike with the sideburns; and the extraordinarily beautiful and delicate one with the brown hat.

folkart2

The Culture Show, BBC2

Jeremy Deller and Alan Kane visited the Tate exhibition and also Blackpool, where they argued that the various fairground entertainments provided living examples of folk art.  Kane seemed to be saying that cheap novelties such as fake cigarettes and giant rubber turds could qualify – think that’s pushing it a bit, but who cares.  They also came up with a man who specialises in customising motorbikes and helmets with airbrushed nudes, dragons, snakes, skulls and so on.  Fascinating programme.

Here’s a Health to the Barley Mow (BFI DVD)

On sale at the Tate, this is the filmed record of “a century of folk customs and ancient rural games”.  The film of Cecil Sharpe and Butterworth folk dancing in 1909 is funny; the Norfolk step dancer and the various sword dance teams are great; the Bacup Coconut dancers are there, of course;  the fiddle music by the great Pete Cooper, plaintive, perfect; but the sequence “Oss Oss Wee Oss”, filmed in Padstow in 1953 by Alan Lomax, is just unbelievable – those locals dancing to drums in the pub; they look as if they’ve been eating magic mushrooms.

Damnation, Bela Tarr

I love it – the rain slashes down in torrents onto the mud and empty lots in the forsaken Hungarian mining town, where the packs of dogs roam outside the Titanic Bar; the femme fatale sings a dismal torch song about it all “being over” as the bedraggled punters, especially Karrer, thin -faced, pining for her; the sullen, beaten faces stare out at the viewer as the heart-rending accordian dirge grinds on; everyone betrays everyone else – the femme (who is Karrer’s on-off lover) is last seen slipping down in the front seat of the barkeeper’s posh car, as the keeper leans back; Karrer goes to the police and informs on everyone and goes to wallow in the mud with the dogs… There is a long, slow, circular dance, a  slo-mo conga line of all the punters round the bar, which is a sort of anti- Fellini dance – those happy-sad circular dances to little clown combos in which everyone joins, like at the end of “8 1/2”.

That’ll Be The Day

The old David Essex rock n’ roll film – full of faces, Billy Fury, Ringo Starr, Keith Moon – and one, just fleeting, with a sax in his mouth, during “Long Live Rock”, I think – Graham Bond!  I used to go to see the Graham Bond Organisation at the 100 Club in Oxford Street in the 60s; Ginger Baker on drums, Dick Heckstall-Smith on tenor, Jack Bruce on bass and vocals, Bond himself on organ and alto sax, often simultaneously.  “Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf” and “Early in the Morning”…  He got into Aleister Crowley apparently, as well as drugs, and threw himself in front of a tube at Finsbury Park.  Christopher Wood, whose exhibition with the Nicholsons is currently at Dulwich, also died under a train (at Salisbury, in 1930).  But he wasn’t a Crowley fan , so far as I know…

Proust

I’m up to 3% on the Kindle now; I’ve passed the madeleine and tea bit- hope something happens soon.   Should finish some time in 2016, if I live that long….

 

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Overground to Atlantis

Blackpaint

20.06.14

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Blackpaint 372 – It’s all about women, beaches and room 47

December 20, 2012

Tate Britain

They seem to be re-opening the galleries one or two at a time.  Went there a couple or three weeks ago and there were no 20th century rooms open; now several rooms have opened up – the Frank Bowlings are on view again and the early C20th room, with some new additions.  There is a Christopher Wood, “The Fisherman’s Farewell”, a nice little Alfred Wallis view of St.Ives and a beautiful, leaf green Dora Carrington of two tiny female figures in Edwardian white, gazing at a huge green hill which overhangs them.

There is  a Stanley Spencer Resurrection set in Cookham; in the middle of the graveyard, several African women – are they all women? – , one wearing a set of gold neck rings, are among those rising ; what’s the story there, I wonder?  Apparently, Spencer was unable to give a clear explanation, except that the picture was supposed to represent a sort of universality and some stuff about instinctiveness – also, he was interested in African art at the time.

In the same, or maybe the next room, several beautiful Gwen Johns, especially one called “the Invalid” or “The Convalescent”; it’s next to Harold Gilman’s “Mrs. Mounter”.  And there’s a great nude by Wilson Steer – I always thought he did landscapes.

wilson steer

I like to do that thing of standing in the middle of the room and scanning round with half-closed eyes – yes, you get curious glances – to see which paintings grab your attention.  Sometimes, of course, it’s the most garish ones, like the Francis Hodgkin one with the green faces; often, it works though, and you get the “best” pictures.  This time, it was the Whistler “Woman in White”, leaning on her mantlepiece, her head against the mirror (surely the reflection is a bit too low?)  and – maybe in an adjoining room – that Vanessa Bell from 1912, of the women on the beach with the sun hats and the bathing tent.  Simple but magic and very early.

whistler

vanessa bell

Turner

There is a whole roomful of mostly watercolour sketches, clouds, skies, beaches, that are so much more beautiful (to the modern eye) than the more conventional of his big, finished canvases.  One in particular, called “A Lay In”(?), like ripples across a sandy surface.  Among the bigger paintings, one should seek out the whaler boiling blubber – it has a much longer Turner title – and the Doge marrying the sea in Venice – where else?

Hidden and Inland Empire

Great Michael Haneke film with Binoche and Daniel Auteuil, in which the French media bourgeosie are threatened and made uneasy by guilt over their colonialist past, embodied by an impoverished North African and his son..  They deserve it for being very smug and irritating, completely unlike the British bourgeoisie, who, of course, are neither smug nor irritating and always behaved impeccably in the colonies.  

I happened to watch David Lynch’s “Inland Empire” immediately afterwards; there was an apparent coincidence.  In Hidden, a sudden suicide takes place in room 47 of an apartment block; in Empire, Laura Dern shoots someone and then runs into room 47.  In Empire, a leering face with blood pouring from mouth, appears straight after this; in Hidden, there are mystery drawings sent – of a face with blood pouring from mouth.  I thought I’d discovered something here – but no, someone in a Southern California university has already written a long piece on it.

La Regle du Jeu

Schumacher the gamekeeper was played by Gaston Modot, who, as I said last blog, was also “The Man” in “l’Age d’Or”; I should also have mentioned the beautiful Nora Gregor, the fatal femme Christine – a cross between Marlene Dietrich and Kristin Scott Thomas, I think.

Happy Christmas to my readers.  Log on to Paintlater’s blog to see some fantastic AbEx paintings.

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Oceanic Orpheus

Blackpaint

20.12.12

Blackpaint 320 – The Shire, the Sunset and the Pequod

January 19, 2012

David Hockney

His new show at the RA seems to be dividing the critics somewhat, so I am eager to go see.  Some seem to be casting him as Grand Old Man of figurative painting, upholding traditional old English values (that thing about drawing, a sort of fetishism I think) against the conceptuals, the empty, sensationalist Hirstites. His grumpy old squire-ishness and eccentricities about smoking and the calendar assist in this, I suppose.  Some reviewers are writing in awed tones about beauty and soul – enough to make you sick, or me anyway.

Martin Kettle in the Guardian expresses this identification with traditional values – he chucks in Yorkshire pride too, no nonsense in Yorkshire – most strongly; he writes that “Hockney and his art express and address the kind of people and country that he and we wish we were”.  What does this mean?  That we are  people who love landscape painting, hate abstract and conceptual art, admire the “useful”, despise the frivolous, can draw really, really well?  All sounds deeply conservative to me, as if Hockney’s art was made to chime with Cameron’s current version of Thatcherism.  He’s probably right about many people living in Britain today – when times are hard and uncertain, you tend to cling to what you see as safest.  Not sure he’s right about Hockney, though.

Hockney’s tree pics and landscapes strike me as so oddly coloured that I think of them almost as cartoons – the repros I have seen remind me of the graphics that you used to see in pre – CGI animation; not so much East Yorkshire as The Shire.  That bright green, the beetroot – to – mauve colours he uses for paths; it all lacks the denseness and richness and subtlety of trad English landscape.  So what – he’s using trees and landscape to make pictures and if the pictures don’t look like the landscape, it shouldn’t be a problem.  The only question is, do you like the pictures?

Giorgione

Was in the National Gallery today, and I came across a couple of paintings by this mystery man of Venice.  The first, Il Tramonto, the Sunset, had a lot going on in it as well as the sun setting; St. George killing the dragon, St.Anthony waving out of a cave, St. Roch (maybe) getting his leg bound up, and a pond with a very humpy monster sitting in it.  What is the relationship between all these?  Like the Tempest, in the Venice Accademia, no-one has much idea what’s going on.

The other picture was the Adoration of the Kings, that little panel with the groom crossing his legs and looking down at his feet, way off to the right out of the main action of the picture, but stealing the attention completely.  The glowing yellows and reds are up to Raphael standard.

Catena

Why does Catena have partridges wandering about in both the pics on display next to the Giorgiones?  there they are, in both a St. Jerome in his study (lion with very human face) and in an Adoration (baby Jesus with head like a cannonball).

Travelling Light

At the Whitechapel, the latest government pictures selection, by Simon Schama this time.  Best pictures; Roger Hilton’s fabulous Pequod (thought it was a big Alfred Wallis, from across the room); Bomberg’s Jerusalem Armenian Church, and Marta Marce’s “Scalectrix” loops.  There’s that great portrait of Byron, done up like a Greek soldier, but looking very soft – not like the mad satanic near rapist portrayed in Ken’s “Gothic”.  Once again, fantastic booklet, made for bloggers so they don’t have to take notes.

Blackpaint

19.01.12

Blackpaint 185

September 2, 2010

Tate St.Ives

Just returned from Cornwall after two visits to the above in two days – to see the same shows, in case I missed anything.  Such is my level of dedication.

Lily van der Stokker – “No Big Deal Thing”

Pastel colours, child-like, or more accurately, 70’s hippy- type, childish drawings, brightly coloured sofas, ordinary, everyday things, celebrating the normal.  Some huge murals, many drawings on A4 paper.  I heard a gallery guide explaining why this was a feminist approach (ordinary women’s world, child- friendly, claiming and celebrating the territory, etc.)  The booklet says she “challenges and engages with the legacies of Feminism, exploring ideas often thought of as forbidden to contemporary art – the decorative, the sentimental and the “nice”” .  I failed to detect any note of irony in the work, so why the inverted commas for “nice”?  I was reminded of Post it notes on fridges, children’s crayon drawings, people who dot “i’s” with smiley faces.

I wondered what, say, Joan Mitchell or Marlene Dumas would have made of it.  She has a point really – art can’t all be about dramatic stuff like sex, death, despair, the sublime and so on; that’s mostly for the boys  – it should also be about a nice ice cream, or a trip to the petting farm with your daughters.

Object: Gesture: Grid – St.Ives and the International Avant – garde 

This is the other exhibition on at the moment and there is some great stuff in it.  A ludicrous understatement really; must be about 50 million quids-worth if it ever came on the market.

There are three rooms, the first of which is “Object” – works influenced by Cubism and Surrealism.  There’s a Braque, a Picasso, Giacometti, Hepworth and Ernst – but I have to say, although I registered the presence of these, I have no memory of them except the Ernst, which had one of those corrugated, brown, hairy surface areas like a doormat, that he does.

Tunnard

The painting that strikes you first – I watched other punters, most went straight over to it – was by John Tunnard, called “Tol Pedn”.  this is a place name, so I suppose it makes this work something like a Lanyon, in that it may be an exploded landscape.  it looks nothing like a Lanyon, however; more like a Paul Nash surreal effort.  It has sharply defined, red/pink arch things, grey areas, carefully drawn lines – striking.

Mellis

The Margaret Mellis is a blue wooden disc on drift- and scrapwood backing, like a flattened toy handcart; a beachcomber’s “glut”.

William Scott

The Scott is an unadorned and only slightly simpified mackerel, arching across a dish against a black background.  Unusually naturalistic for Scott, must be early. 

Paolozzi

Lovely, iron oblong ring sculpture, upper “arm” garlanded with odd objects, VERY much like a David Smith.

Elizabeth Frink

With the Tunnard, the most memorable thing in this room; I think its called “Harbinger Bird”.  About 2 ft tall, leaning forward on long legs, an indistinct but sinister sort of head.. I think I’ve seen it on a Penguin book, maybe Ted Hughes?

Alfred Wallis

A fine little ship on a creamy sea, otherwise all greys and greens; I liked this much more than I expected, it was very clear, correct and strong.

That’s the first room; “Gesture” tomorrow – don’t miss it, as it includes Pollock, Hoffman, Appel, Rothko…..

10th May 1941 (WIP)

Blackpaint

Blackpaint 100

March 31, 2010

100 glorious years – sorry, blogs

I have reached my centenary (actually, this is 101; first one was not numbered but titled, modestly, “I am Blackpaint”).  By way of celebration, I am going to give you my ten best St. Ives pictures, long awaited since Blackpaint 96.

1.  Fly Away, Peter Lanyon 1961.

2.  Moon Quay, Terry Frost 1950.

3.  Soaring Flight, Peter Lanyon 1960.

4.  Untitled 1968, Roger Hilton (the one that looks like an obese tapir with a long snout on orange, green and white).

5.  Alfred Wallis, Night Fishing, 1935 (a ship sails vertically down a bend in river in profile).

6.  Fourteen discs July 20th 1963, Patrick Heron – 1963, of course.

7.  That lime green/yellow one in the Tate Britain, Patrick Heron.

8.  That one by Sandra Blow with sand mixed into the paint, in the same room of Tate B.

9.  Red Black and White, Terry Frost 1956.

10.  Skara Brae, William Scott 1959. 

Soaring Flight

Moon Quay

Actually, there are loads more – Sandra Blows, Hiltons (wish he’d given them all names), John Wells, McKenzie….  Still, can always revisit.

Royal Academy

Put my two in yesterday; they were tiny, compared with the canvases other painters were lugging in from white vans illegally parked in Burlington Gardens.  still, size isn’t everything…

Here’s an old one of mine:

Blackpaint

31.03.10