Posts Tagged ‘Antichrist’

Blackpaint 276

May 26, 2011

Jonathan Jones’ review of Mark Leckey at the Serpentine Gallery

I haven’t yet seen the show, but Jones’ review in Tuesday’s Guardian has to be the most damning I have ever read:  I have to recommend it for the degree of vehemence contained – it’s an artwork in itself.  Several reader comments on Jones’ review assumed it was some sort of post-modern satire (he denies this and asserts it’s a genuine opinion).  A few extracts: the headline refers to “farting about with speakers and screens”; “…how terrible an exhibition I had stumbled into”; “The installation GreenScreenRefrigeratorAction with its bonkers talking gadgets…. is one of the worst works of art I have ever seen in a serious gallery”;  “Nothing prepares you for the stupidity and arrogance of the central exhibit…” – and so on.  Read the review on the Guardian website to feel the heat.

What makes this really intriguing is the review posted under Jones’ name for the 2008 Turner Prize, later won – by Leckey.  Here are some extracts:  “This year I care (about the Turner Prize) because Mark Leckey is on the shortlist..”; “Mark Leckey is a fantastically creative example..”; “I find this artist irresistible..’; and he refers to Leckey’s art as “captivating, mysterious, soulful and provocative.”

I checked and, yes, it’s under Jones’ name on the site, dated 13th May 2008.  So what’s happened – has Leckey deteriorated, or has Jones had a Road to Damascus?  The degree of hostility in the recent review suggests the latter.

Violence in Painting (2)

Wrote about this recently in relation to the Caravaggio Abraham and Isaac in the Uffizi.  I was going to do more on pre-20th century paintings of violence – then I realised the scale of the job! Consider the following:

Goya’s horrors of war, Saturn scoffing his young, the witches, the cudgel fighting, the firing squad;

Various Massacres of the Innocents (Rubens comes particularly to mind);

Crucifixions and scourgings of Christ (Grunewald for instance);

Beheadings, sawings, grillings, stonings, skinnings, piercings by arrow of numerous saints – Catherine, John the Baptist, George, Ursula with her Virgins – 11.000 was it?  Agatha with her breasts on a plate…  that  saint having his thin intestine wound out round a tree.

And none of this is shocking to see; we look at it with perfect equanimity in the National Gallery et al, with maybe a wince at the idea of poor Agatha, say.  So what about the 20th and 21st centuries?

Beckman’s Night;

Grosz’s scenes of murder and suicide in Berlin;

Dix’s mutilated Card Players and corpses in the trenches;

The War artists’ pictures of the two World Wars;

Warhol’s car crashes and fallers;

Marlene Dumas’ Dead Marilyn.

Again, none of these are shocking to us, except perhaps the Warhols, because they are prints of actual photographs.  Bacon’s paintings are still more “violent” and shocking than these actual depictions.

The same can perhaps be said of cinema.  How many genuinely shocking instances of violence in recent TV or cinema?  Very few, since Reservoir Dogs started the intensification process in cinema and CSI followed suit on the small screen; we (or at least, I) have become unshockable – nearly.  So in cinema, this is my short list of shocking moments:

Antichrist, the self mutilation of the Charlotte Gainsbourg character;

The Pianist. Again, self harm, this time Isabelle Huppert:

The Orphanage, when the car hits and kills the old woman;

Salo, the scalpings and blindings at the end – but like St.Agatha, this is more the idea than what is actually seen;

Man Bites Dog, the rape and murder scene;

As for TV, I can only think of the John Lithgow killings on Dexter, which I think really pushed the limits.

The knowledge of reality is all – genuinely shocking and distressing, and destined to remain so, is the footage of people falling on 9/11 and the few seconds of the einsatzgruppen in action and the Kovno murders.

So – that’s enough of this unsavoury topic; didn’t set out to dwell so much, but things kept popping up in my head (worrying, in itself, really).  Next blog on still life and flower painting.

Blackpaint

26.05.11

 

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Blackpaint 179

August 22, 2010

Antichrist

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

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

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

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

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

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

Agnes Martin

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

Rufus

Blackpaint

23.08. 10