Posts Tagged ‘Andrew Graham-Dixon’

Blackpaint 468 – Widerberg’s Spacemen, Kirchner’s Women, Vampires and Incest

November 8, 2014

Frans Widerberg at Kings Place

Paintings that show elongated, naked humanoids with big feet, sometimes on horseback, in a circle holding hands, under the stars and heavenly lights; it’s a sort of world of aliens, faintly reminiscent of the Bowie spaceman in “the Man who Fell to Earth” (although I imagine Widerberg’s came first).  The palette is pretty much as shown below – primary, crude, a flat, poisonous yellow and violet blue the main colours.  The execution of the figures is also rough and intentionally (?) crude.

The blurb describes him as one of the most important Norwegian figurative painters since Munch – I can’t stand the colours and the spacemen, but then I hate Munch’s pictures too.  Maybe one or two might be OK, like a Kirkeby or Polke, as part of a bigger work, with a big dollop of irony (somehow, though, I don’t think Widerberg’s pictures have anything to do with irony); but dozens of them…

 

widerberg

Kirchner

I’ve said it before, but I think Kirchner’s long, elegant, insect-like women are beautiful.  I was reading the Hagens’ “What Great Paintings Say” (Taschen)  on Kirchner’s “Potsdamer Platz” and was intrigued to discover the reason for their sedate and dignified appearance: there was an ordinance in force in Berlin that prohibited prostitutes from displaying any untoward behaviour.  They could parade legally, provided they did it with decorum; presumably, the clients had to make the first move.

kirchner - berlin street scene

 

Ian McEwan – The Cement Garden and First Love, Last Rites 

Having read most of his recent books, I’ve got round to the earliest; a very different McEwan from the one who creates the middle-class professional characters of “Saturday” or “The Children Act”.  I was actually thinking  he might have trouble getting them published, if he were an unknown today.  Graphic – but not erotic –  scenes of incest and sexual abuse of a young girl by an older sibling in “Homegrown” (Last Rites)  might not make it into print, unless they were in a misery memoir.

Then I read about the attacks in the right-wing US media on Lena Dunham, for her description of examining her little sister’s vagina (as a child) and finding pebbles there.  It’s obviously supposed to be funny, but the critics call it sexual child abuse.  I wonder what they would make of McEwan’s early fiction.

Andrew Graham – Dixon’s The Art of Gothic, BBC4

AGD did Dracula this week; his thesis was that the vampire was a metaphor for burgeoning capitalism, sucking the blood of the workers of the world.  He quoted from Marx, describing capitalism in that way – but was unable to come up with a similar quotation from Bram Stoker, which might have helped his case.  He did link Stoker with the Protestant Ascendancy in Ireland, so Count Dracula in Transylvania, feeding parasitically on his peasant tenants, could be seen as kin to Anglo-Irish landlords – but I think this analysis is basically spurious.  AGD didn’t mention Dracula’s predilection for invading the bedrooms of young women and feasting on their blood – no, it’s not about sex, it’s about capitalism.  Not convinced.

Painting

Haven’t got a new painting to show, so a couple of life studies to go on with.

??????????

 

 

 

 

??????????

 Sonia with a Big Ball 1 & 2

Blackpaint

8.11.14

Blackpaint 467 – Mr.Turner, Marxist Ballet and Richter’s Postcards

November 1, 2014

Mr. Turner, Mike Leigh

Timothy Spall is great, the film looks terrific – but it’s got the usual biopic problem in that it’s episodic.  The boxes are checked, I presume in correct date order – visits to Petworth, Margate, famous paintings – the slaves in the sea, Rain, Steam and Speed, the Fighting Temeraire, lashed to the mast in the storm, Norham Castle, the red blob turned into a buoy, Victoria repelled by Sea Monsters – they missed out Turner in a boat sketching the great fire at Westminster, probably too difficult to simulate convincingly; but there is no story arc; it bumps along from one scenario to the next.  And there’s the dialogue – too Dickensy for me, too many periodisms.  And there are those scenes – the Royal Academy Varnishing Days and the boat trip out to the Temeraire – where famous characters and events are identified by theatrical introductions or grand statements.

There is a great fiddler in one sequence, on a ferry boat; he is Dave Holland.  As far as I could see, he got no credit at the end.  Every bit as good as Swarbrick in “Madding Crowd”.

Turner Prize – Duncan Campbell

There are two Campbell films; the first is “Sigmar”, based on Polke works (?); points form lines and intersections, dots are joined up to a soundtrack of barked commands in funny German accents.  Brings to mind those Czech cartoons you used to get on TVin the 60’s when there was a break in schedules.

Second film starts with an academic treatment of the role of tribal art in Western culture, of the construct of “negritude”, and ponders how black people should view it and take it forward.  It shows a number of examples of mostly African art.  This is followed by a Michael Clark ballet (below) based on Marx’s equations in “Kapital”.  Then a set of scenes involving hands, table, cloth, cup, soup, pan, sugar, lighted cig, ashtray – and a commentary that sounds like a diary and notes on the development of a film about capitalism.  Then, hands shuffling photographs – station, bear, Parisian streets, a bizarre street accident, Eiffel tower struck by lightning – with a commentary of letters from Allen to Freda.  I guessed Ginsburg, but couldn’t find anything to back that up.  Then a section on the death of Joe McCann in 1970 in Northern Ireland, his funeral and his image in a poster, and how the meaning of an image changes over time…

OK, right at the end is an image that stayed with me; voice drones on about the economics of the art market and the camera pans down over the cracked, green leather spine of an old-fashioned book and it’s suddenly like woodland trees in a misty evening, like that Seurat in the Kenneth Clarke exhibition at Tate Britain.

 

duncan campbell

Beckmann – Kitaj – Chagall

Watching the  BBC1 programme “The Art the Hitler Hated” the other night, I was struck by the Beckmann painting that turned up in the Munich flat of Cornelius Gurlitt and how similar it is to one of Ron Kitaj’s styles (see Cecil Court; the Refugees, below).  Not an original observation; Andrew Graham – Dixon remarked that Kitaj had done a bit of “fake” Beckmann and a bit of “fake” Picasso – “but mostly just fake” – in a hostile review at the time of Kitaj’s retrospective in 1994.

Actually, while writing this, another comparison occurred to me; Chagall.  I think it’s the positioning of figures in Kitaj’s obscure narrative pictures – they lie horizontal, lean, sprawl, do odd things (although I don’t think any fly)…..

beckmann3

 

kitaj cecil

 

Gerhard Richter at Marian Goodman Gallery

Just visited this in Lower John Street, Soho.  Fabulous, huge white space.  There are several like the one below; done with lacquer, I think he places glass or perspex on top and shifts it to get the patterns – pretty much like  what Oscar Dominguez or Max Ernst – or both – called “Decalcomania”.  There are also huge linear pictures made with needle thin, dead straight, ink jet lines randomly selected by colour.  They’re novelties really; he’s playing about.  But then, a lot of art is famous artists playing about….  Best thing is a series of photos of landscapes altered by paint smudges and smears; a rockface nearly obscured and a farmer on a tractor stand out.

 

richter1

 

 

Shark 

Why does Will Self keep italicising phrases in the text?  It reminds me of Krasnahorkai’s habit of randomly putting phrases in speech marks.

 

??????????

 

DK Back

Blackpaint

01.11.14

 

 

Blackpaint 309

November 30, 2011

Bacon – the Sylvester interview

I’ve been watching that amazing sequence on the Bacon Arena DVD, where Sylvester, lighting one fag from the butt end of another, questions Francis in a probing manner whilst the two of them are lying on a divan bed – Sylvester in one of those white detective raincoats!  There’s plenty of space between them, but Sylvester keeps moving closer and blowing smoke around Bacon’s face.  Just like Peter Cook or a Python sketch.

In an odd way, Bacon’s painting sometimes reminds me of De Kooning – the pinks and oranges, maybe, and the brushwork sometimes.  We use a Duccio postcard as a bookmark in the De Kooning book and it matches perfectly, as far as colour goes.

Pollock – Art of America;

Andrew Graham-Dixon’s new series on US art (America means North America, in this case); he looked at Lavender Mist, I think, and a few others, and said something like; “It’s all very well to look at Pollock’s paintings and admire them – but we have to explain them”.  Why??  He then went on to say that he saw chaos in them – but that’s nonsense, isn’t it?  They are full of harmonies, the colours and shapes recur and echo each other in all the “drip” paintings; there’s surely an overall impression of control in them – he said that there was virtually no accident in them, he mastered the dripping and the only chance element occurred in the fall of a few inches between the end of the stick and the surface of the canvas.  I suppose they looked like chaos at the time, but not now.

Rosenquist

Interesting that James Rosenquist, who started in advertising, painting billboards, said in Art of America that he hated the images he produced for adverts – the images that he used in his artworks were supposed to demonstrate the emptiness of advertising and hence his contempt.  Strange that the slick images and finish that he uses in his huge pictures are the thing that he is prized for.

Bela Tarr

Last blog, I mentioned an interview in which he was asked why he liked ugliness (landscape, buildings, above all, faces):  again, I can only see beauty – the derelict buildings, the rain, mud, darkling skies, bare trees against the horizon, peasants’ faces grained with dirt and tiredness, unshaven, peering through the rain with a cigarette disintegrating in the mouth, and the men too, just as downtrodden; those long, receding, glimmering tarmac roads, the figures trudging to the vanishing point in endless takes, the accordion music repeating melancholy phrases…. beautiful.

Ken Russell

As I mentioned in an earlier blog, I watched Women in Love again recently and was bowled over by its brilliance as an adaptation; Glenda Jackson, Oliver Reed (especially) and Alan Bates perfect casting.  Reading the book, I was surprised to find that Ursula was the older sister; Lawrence draws her personality in much stronger strokes than is presented by Jenny Linden – Lawrence gives her an obstinacy that maddens both Gudrun and her father, but which is lacking from the Russell film.  Doesn’t matter – masterpiece anyway.

Blackpaint

29/11/11

Blackpaint 253

February 22, 2011

Susan Hiller

At the Tate Britain.  Three or four things stuck in my mind, but I’m going again because I’m sure there’s more to it.  Trouble is, you have to read the artspeak explanations to fully understand – and life is too short.  Anyway, this is what I saw (and heard):

A large collection of sepia to Eastman colour postcards of huge waves crashing over British promenades – some of these may have been altered by artist; not sure.

Recordings of one line phrases in dying languages, by the last living speakers.  Several First Nation tribes of the Americas – Welsh Romany caught my eye and ear.

A collection of Victorian memorial plaques to people who had died trying to save others; lots of fires, drownings, falls through ice, traffic accidents (horse-drawn).  Lots of children trying to save siblings.

A dark room full of a forest of hanging ear phones; voices telling stories in a number of languages, the one in English I listened to was about UFOs.

A series of vivid red and yellow photos under glass, of faces blurred and faded – all female I think (?)

So, dying, fading, becoming extinct, blurring, failing to communicate, haunting …..  Now to read the booklet and find out what it was really all about.

Fellini’s Eight and a Half (How do you do fractions in figures on a keyboard?)

Fantastic film, of course; Mastroianni as a preening, but harrassed, film director, pursued by adoring and demanding lovers, scorned by an inexplicably bitter wife, tortured by the idea that he may just be superficial and have nothing to say.  He wears his overcoat over his shoulders and has a floppy, wide brimmed fedora as he saunters through the film, greeting, blowing kisses, politely stonewalling..  It ends with a startlingly affecting sequence in which the entire cast parade down an open staircase into an arena, led by  marching troupe of musical clowns.  Reminiscent of the closing sequence of Russian Ark (see Blackpaint 232).

Franz Marc and August Macke

German Expressionists, both killed in WWI, I’d tended to conflate their work – but they are actually quite distinct.  Marc’s colours are darker and glow more intensely; Macke’s are fresh, bright and lighter.  Think I prefer Macke, at the moment; I love those women with the ankle length skirts and no feet, like bowling pins.

Turner

Andrew Graham -Dixon made an interesting observation on the Culture Show, that maybe Turner needed the medium of watercolour, its propensity to spread and run of its own accord, to achieve the sort of freedom he showed in “Ship on Fire”.  Maybe, but when you see what he could do in oils, the Petworth paintings, Sea Monsters, the storm at the harbour mouth with the long title – you know the one …

The Taschen is good on Turner’s perspective “problems” in “House of Commons on Fire” – check the far end of the bridge in relation to the fire – and in the one of Raphael in Rome – the balcony.  Does it matter? Of course not, but interesting.  Also, there is the recurring woman, rear view, leaning forward, in the Petworth and “bivalve” paintings.

“Fig Leaf” – Obscured Objects of Desire

A couple of things popped up on this survey of sculptural censorship on TV last night that were new to me.  First, the Greeks used to paint their statues.  Apparently, this is common knowledge to the decently educated, but was news to me.  Does that mean the Romans did too?  I would guess it does – which implies a break with tradition, on the part of the Renaissance sculptors.

Second, an explanation for the diminutive genitals on Greek statues; a small penis was a sign of “control and restraint – of good citizenship”, according to Stephen Smith, author and presenter of the programme.  This explains the small penis displayed by David – Michelangelo was following the tradition.  I’m glad to have an answer to this question, which I have touched on in earlier blogs.

The Risen Christ

Smith featured the above sculpture, in which Michelangelo presented Christ naked, with one arm around a cross.  It was attacked with a hammer by a monk in the 17th century and now wears a bronze loincloth affair.

Laura Cumming on Watercolour

Excellent review in Observer, except that she seems to share Searle’s inexplicable dislike of Blow’s “Vivace”.  Cumming describes it as “hugely inflated” – so it is, but in a totally good way.  Sometimes it’s right to blast away the understated, quietly magical, wonderfully executed, minutely observed, immensely subtle….  Chuck a great big bucket of red over it.

Blackpaint

22.02.11

Blackpaint 223

November 25, 2010

Bridget Riley at the National Gallery

This exhibition contains both Riley’s own works and those of artists she has herself chosen, presumably to illustrate her inspirations and connections with her paintings.  “Escape 3” is the first of her works on show.  It is a canvas of modulating grey and blue wavy horizontal lines.  When I looked at this in the gallery, it appeared to me that the top half was irregular in terms of the width of the lines and their spacing, whilst the lower half consisted of two areas which “tilted” towards the viewer like a hinged sandwich.

Later, I saw the exhibition reviewed on TV and it was obvious that this division was false; the undulating, horizontal lines are “crossed” by regularly- spaced “creases” running diagonally top to bottom.  Optical illusion, but I only “got” the proper illusion, as it were, when the TV distanced me from it.

Opposite is Mantegna’s “Introduction of the Cult of Cybele to Rome”.  Processions of celebrants going this way and that, very strong sculptural effect, almost 3D.  Riley says the painting has “an all – embracing rhythm with which he (Mantegna) builds horizontals and verticals”.  The connection is “the special nature of pictorial space” in his paintings.

The other paintings she has selected are Raphael’s “St.Catherine”, in which more rhythmic currents in the portrayal of robes, the wheel, the figure are present; and three small Seurat figures -in -landscape  sketches, which presumably resonate with her palette (as does the Raphael).

There are two huge paintings, one on linen, the other directly on the wall (executed by assistants), which are in pastelly blue, green, beige and orange and resemble  cut out and concertina’d paper decorations, leaning viewer’s left to right, and stretched across an area of wall.  “Arcadia”, on linen, was done in 2007, “Blue” this year, of course.  The rhythms are there, the colours echo the Seurats to a degree. 

 There is a whole wall covered with empty black circles, which intersect like Venn diagrams; a colourful, vertical stripes painting (like those Mod blazers from the 60’s – yes, I had one); and a shimmering, modulating – again- set of black through to white dots, set in a circular pattern.  The most striking work, I think, is “Red on Red”, a beautiful, flame-like image in red, pink, orange and Prussian blue.

So, at first glance, highly unlikely combination  of images, but possible to see what she is driving at.  I’m unable to swallow Andrew Graham – Dixon’s assertions that her work reflects her love of natural forms, however;  I think you can probably take ANY painter and set your terms wide enough to discover ANY influences, echoes, associations you like – or, at least, art journalists can.  Just chop and wave your hands, assert EMPHATICALLY and pause for dramatic effect before the last word.

Quiz; Who painted the tower at Neunen, over and over again (no, I mean paintings, not the actual tower)?

Blackpaint, unfinished yet.

25.11.10

 

Blackpaint 154

June 18, 2010

Portrayals of God in Western Art

As promised, comment on Andrew Graham-Dixon’s remark that Michelangelo was the first artist to portray God (ceiling of the Sistine Chapel, touching fingers with Adam):  Wikipedia says portrayals of God started in France in 12th century with “the hand of God”; then there was the Naples Bible showing God in the Burning Bush, addressing Moses presumably; then, in the Rohan Book of Hours.  It shows a 1489 picture by Perugino showing God; that beats Michelangelo by about 19 years (Sistine Chapel done 1508 – 1512).

This, however, is just typical blogger’s hair-splitting; even if Michelangelo’s wasn’t technically the first, it’s definitely the best likeness.

Royal Academy

Another AGD item, this time on the Culture Show; he seems to be on everything to do with art these days, and so does Grayson Perry.  No problem telling them apart, however – Perry has fair hair.

The item showed the judges of the Wollaston(?) Prize at their deliberations, trying to decide who should get the £25,000 prize for the most distinguished work in the show.  This should have been easy, as it was behind them on the wall; Gillian Ayres, of course.  They awarded it to Yinka Shonibare.

Damien Hirst

A re-run of an old South Bank Show from 2 or 3 years ago, with Melvin Bragg interviewing him at Toddington, the vast stately home he bought to turn into a gallery for his work and his collection.  I thought he was really eloquent about the sort of artist that he cheerfully admits he isn’t – the lonely, Van Gogh – type painter, who works in solitary agony, does everything for him/herself, to whom every work completed and sold “is like a little bit of their soul torn off”.

I have a number of bits of torn-off soul available….

Blackpaint

18.06.10

Listening to Willie Nelson, We Don’t Run.

“We don’t run, and we don’t compromise,

We don’t quit; we never do.

I look for love; I see it in your eyes-

The eyes of me, and the eyes of you”.

Yes I know, but it sounds great when Willie does it.

Blackpaint 153

June 17, 2010

Sigmar Polke

Obit in the Guardian.  Like Gerhard Richter, in the sense that his work was so diverse it’s hard to get a handle on it all.  I remember an exhibition at the Hayward, I think, maybe five(?) years ago; he was using lots of hard resins that gave his work a mirror effect.  There was one of a Taliban or Al Quaida horseman like a cartoon.  I’ll have to look into him more closely, now that he’s dead (seems to go like that to me, that an artist acquires status by dying).

Rude Britannia

The exhibition, and watching the BBC4 programmes, brought to mind an interview I saw recently, of Martin Rowson.  I’d thought of him (along with Scarfe and Steadman, but maybe even more than these two) as the natural heir of Rowlandson – the similar name seemed fitting too.  Of all modern cartoonists, he seemed to be the one willing to go the farthest, in terms of public figures up to their necks in shit, or tongues up backsides.

I was surprised, then, when he said (I think) that the Danish cartoons of Allah shouldn’t have been published, or should have been censored, on the grounds that they were an attack on the weak in a society by the strong.  He then said that, later, when the furore and the murder(s) and the deaths of rioters had occurred, the cartoons SHOULD have been published then, because the events had caused the pendulum to swing the other way.  I hope I’ve got this right; quite a complex position.

I was intrigued to hear a cartoonist like Rowson speak in favour of censorship of material which attacks religion, on the grounds that the attack constitutes an attack on the adherents, and the adherents are vulnerable.  Is he equating the Danish cartoons with, say, anti-semitic cartoons in 30’s Germany?  I was also surprised to hear that he’d toned down a cartoon at the request of an editor – he’d moved a politician’s – Blair’s, I think – he’d moved  the tongue a little  further away from a backside (Bush’s no doubt).  So – savage, but not  so savage.

Pontormo

Saw Andrew Graham – Dixon last night, on Vasari.  He spent some time on Pontormo. and showed two huge paintings by the same, on the spot in some church in Italy (wasn’t paying that much attention, I’m afraid).  I sat up at this, however, because they didn’t look anything like the Pontormos that I’ve seen in the National Gallery.  If I remember rightly, they made up a series of paintings relating to Joseph at the court of Pharaoah – the dreams, the execution of the butler and freeing of the baker – or was it the other way round? 

Anyway, what I remember mostly was the colours; a rich pinkish red, grey and rich pale blue were dominant.  The colour in the paintings that AGD was talking about looked completely different.  I wonder if its to do with the cleaning process; the NG cleaned up all its early paintings about ten years ago, I think.

Michelangelo

AGD said that M. was the first artist to portray God (the Judeo-Christian version), in the Sistine Chapel.  Not according to Wikipedia, which gives a number of forerunners to Mich in this respect.  See tomorrow.

Headroom

Blackpaint

17.06.10