Posts Tagged ‘Arthur Boyd’

Blackpaint 645 – Bellany and Davie; Skates, Bats, Donkeys and Diamonds

May 22, 2019

John Bellany and Alan Davie,  “Cradle of Magic”, Newport Street Gallery until 2nd June

A special, supplementary blog about one show, because it’s soon to close.  This brilliant free exhibition, all works owned by Damien Hirst, has been on since February, but somehow I’ve managed to miss it up to now – and there’s only ten or so days left; so if you possibly can, you need to get to Vauxhall Gardens and see this.

Both Scotsmen, Bellany died in 2013, Davie in 2014 at 94.  Bellany was figurative, Davie abstract – yet their paintings somehow go together, bounce off each other.  Maybe it’s colour, maybe brushwork (sometimes);  don’t know.  I’ve mixed them up, as they are mixed in the gallery, although not in the same order.

Bellany’s paintings, which are enigmatic, I think it’s fair to say, bring to my mind a range of painters; Ensor, perhaps, is foremost.  Skulls, masks, hanged men, groups of solemn, dark-clad men staring out at the viewer, the disconsolate skate/ray fish in the picture below; a general sort of cartoonish quality.  Both Ensor and Bellany lived in coastal towns; Ensor in Ostend, Bellany in the fishing village of Port Seton, near Edinburgh. Others: Max Beckmann, Soutine (another skate man), Arthur Boyd (his “Scapegoat” has the donkey – AND a skate fish, in the Australian desert) and Kitaj somehow, in the drawing and breadth of subject matter.

 

Bellany – Title? Date?

The skate king on his throne.  What are they, birds or bats?  Beckmann here, I think, and in Rose of Sharon below.

 

Davie – Bath Darling, 1956

Davie was a jazz musician and a pilot as well as a painter – a youtube fragment on him (Allan Paints a Picture) shows him at the piano – I think it’s “Getting Sentimental Over You” but the chords are rather free – reciting poetry at the same time, and reminding me a bit of Ron Geesin.  Unlike Geesin, he looks pretty tough as a young man, muscular and long-bearded.  He was feted in the states by the likes of Pollock, Kline and the other AbExes, and the painting below clearly shows the influence of Pollock and maybe de Kooning.  He combined the freedom of gesture (the black sweeps in the picture below, the drips and spatters above) with rich colour and a repertoire of recurring symbols (wheels, snakes, diamonds, images taken from rock pictures by indigenous people in St. Lucia, where he lived for 10 years).

Davie – Red Parrot Jay, 1960

 

Bellany – Eyemouth 1985

The look of love or hunger from the giant seagull?

 

Bellany – Rose of Sharon, 1973

The skate again.  A hint of Mexican influence here?

 

Davie – Romance for Moon and Stars, 1964

 

Davie – Trio for Bones, 1960

 

Davie – A Diamond Romance, 1964

In all three of these Davie pictures, there is the combination of rich colour, symbol and gesture – the rough and smooth elements that sometimes suggest Bacon’s work, without the figures of course, but a potent combination.  In more recent paintings (not represented here) the symbols remain but the rough gesturalism has gone – and the paintings are poorer for it, in my view.

 

Bellany – The Journey, 1989

Very reminiscent of the Boyd painting I mentioned earlier; also a touch of Kitaj in the execution.

A rather solemn portrait from (but not of) me to finish:

Man of Sorrows

Blackpaint

22.05.19

 

 

Blackpaint 420 – Australia at the RA; Whiteley’s Murder Pictures

November 7, 2013

Australia at the Royal Academy

This exhibition has had an astonishingly savage reception in some quarters, notably from Waldemar Januszczak and from Brian Sewell, who slates the aboriginal painters as ravaged by alcohol and trotting out pictures that are meaningless, when divorced from their ritual tribal functions.  Adrian Searle is also exercised by the omissions and patchiness of the show.  Clearly, it has bitten off too much to chew – impossible to do a whole continent thoroughly, with the rich and complex aboriginal cultures and the European tradition.  Still, there’s some great stuff to see, so you can go and be stimulated and entertained AND pontificate about how sketchy and incomplete the exhibition is…

To start with the aboriginal paintings; they are segregated from the others for the most part.  They are surprisingly huge and striking; there is one that is just like a Per Kirkeby, red, pink and white in a tower- or hill- like structure.  Another in this first room is a huge white square with pink and blue borders, with a wave-like swoosh in the centre; it looks like a tapestry.  Everywhere there are concentric circles, stars, giant figures built from blobs and stars of paint; “Cyclone Tracy” by Rover Thomas, a black funnel-shaped swathe through a striped landscape; another showing the story of a cannibal old woman who lived in a cave and ate kidnapped children.  It’s like a map – a blob in the middle is the woman’s cave.

australia3

Cyclone Tracy by Rover Thomas

There are paintings from the early days of European settlement; a couple that look almost like Caspar David Friedrich.  the early Euros obviously had difficulty seeing with “Australian” eyes.  Later, there are the Australian Impressionists, Roberts and Streeton etc. ; diggings, camps, sheep shearing; a great picture, “Lost”, a girl adrift in a eucalyptus forest; a radiant moonrise, a pink/grey dawn.  if you stand in the centre of the room, you can see there is an Australian colour set – dusty, tawny, orange but bleached out.

Then, we are at the modernist section; Sidney Harbour Bridge, painted by Grace Cossington Smith , who also painted the beautiful screen, like something Duncan Grant might have painted at Charleston.  Flesh hunks roasting on a beach, the sand and sea represented by blazing bands of yellow and blue; a collection of athletic, Lempicka-like figures tossing balls to each other, showing off.

Now the Nolans; several Ned Kellys – police at a burning beacon, Ned’s sister quilting the inside of his helmet, the shootout at Glenrowan.  And an odd one with a parrot (see below).

australia2

Now the 60s 0n – a Brett Whiteley of a bay, orange with small boats –

australia1

Olsen’s “Sydney Sun”, which hangs above you like a mirror over a bed – so I’m told – a bilious yellow, and compared by Januszczak to diarrhoea; two pictures by Fred Williams, small fragments and twists of paint in flat landscapes of grey and brown; a black and white Fairweather, a lot like Bryan Wynter and an enormous Arthur Boyd – a roughly drawn white figure, like a Bacon, on a black background, with a window looking out on a blazing white yard.

In the later galleries, two things of note – Fiona Hall’s set of opened sardine tins, with silver trees growing from the tops, containing not sardines, but penises, vaginas, and other “artefacts of a sexual nature”.  And a great abstract landscape, brown, grey, splattered, brushwork rather like Rose Wylie, with a bright, cream channel down the middle.  I think it was by Elizabeth Cummings but I can’t find it on the net.  Anyway, great exhibition, despite the savaging.

Brett Whiteley

I was so impressed by this painter that I bought the Thames and Hudson “Art and Life” catalogue at the RA.  The influences on him are quite obvious;  Diebenkorn in the early abstracts, maybe a little Adrian Heath too; William Scott – there’s a frying pan – and Roger Hilton, in the drawn line.  In both the drawings and the paintings, line and colour, Francis Bacon.  But he’s so good that he’s much more than the sum of these influences.  I prefer the earlier stuff, but fantastic.

The Christie Pictures

In the mid 60s, Whiteley was living in London and he became interested in the sex murders carried out in Notting Hill by John Christie in the 40s and 50s at 10 Rillington Place.  Whiteley did a series of paintings and drawings relating to the murders, some depicting Christie actually carrying out the killings.  The paintings are indistinct; they show naked bodies (Christie and the victim) fragmented and entwined and several show the penis-like nozzle of the gas pipe he used to gas the women.

When you flick through the book, you are struck first by how great the drawings and paintings are and you derive pleasure from them.  Then you read the titles, and you are repelled by the subject matter.  Still great art though?  see what you think.

christie1

christie2

I suppose there is a precedent for this; Sickert’s depiction of the Camden Town murder, say – or the Goya Disasters of War.  The sexual content in the Whiteleys adds another disturbing layer, though.  I wonder where they are – it’s hard to imagine anyone having them on the living room wall.  I bet they’re in storage in a gallery archive.

116

The Stadium

Blackpaint

7/11/13

Blackpaint 385 – Light and Resurrection

March 14, 2013

More from Tate Collection at yourpaintings

Another selection of recommendations from pages 11 – 20 of the above:

Arthur Boyd, Bride Drinking From a Creek (1960).  Looks surreal, the bride in her wedding dress kneeling at the creek. a crow in a thorny thicket  to her right – ominous? – but I’ve got an idea it might be something he really had seen.

Gillian Ayres, Break Off (1961).  Another Ayres, but I love this one – reminds me of breakfast, slice of toast… see below.

gillian ayres break off

Alan Green, Check (1973).  New to me – love it.  See below.

alan green

 

Finally, John Golding, CV (1973) – see below.  Looks simple, but there’s a lot going on round the edges of the yellow bit.

John Golding; (c) John Golding; Supplied by The Public Catalogue Foundation

 

Light Show at the Hayward

Light sculptures as the name suggests; some of it just novelty, clever but no real impact.  There are, however, four or five pieces that I found striking or beautiful.  The first is Dan Flavin’s   piece from 1966 -8, Untitled (to the innovator of Wheeling Peachblow).  It’s a rectangle of neon tubing forming a “painting ” of light on the wall – very familiar, but it has grown on me over the years.  

Carlos Cruz-Diez, who was born in 1923 – for some reason, I find it surprising that old artists make these sculptures. spaces, whatever – and who over the years from 1965 has created a number of “Chromosaturations”.  They are suites of empty rooms, each infused with a different, intense colour. icy blue, red, green, yellow; in the connecting zones the colours blend.  If you look at small reflecting cubes suspended from the ceiling, the light appears to change hue – it’s your eyes adjusting.

Perhaps the most spectacular exhibit is Olafur Eliasson’s “Model for a Timeless Garden” 2011.  A pitch-black room, and a line of water features, boiling up like miniature aereated fountains in different shapes, caught in a strobe light.  There is an arcing jet of water, the droplets of which appear like suspended diamonds in the strobe.  It strikes me that one advantage these artists have is that your attention can’t wander; while you’re in that room, there is the “sculpture”, the light, and no escape.

Also worth noting are the James Turrell from 1974, Wedgework V, like a huge Albers made of light – and Bill Culbert’s Bulb Box Reflection II (1975); it took me two or three minutes to realise that the bulb in the mirror was lit up and the one it was apparently reflecting, was not.  How does he do that?

Interesting that, apart from the Eliason, these are all old pieces – it’s a historical exhibition.  Nothing new about light sculpture.

Schoenberg’ s 2nd Chamber Symphony and Elgar

Listening to the Schoenberg the other day, I noticed a repeated phrase that I thought was from an Elgar piece.  I googled “Schoenberg and Elgar” and was gratified to find a Guardian article by Tom Service in 2010; in it, Service pointed out that the opening few bars of the Nimrod Variations appears in some fragmentary Schoenberg transcriptions, almost note for note.

The phrase I think I have identified is from Elgar’s Falstaff.  It appears repeatedly, but the Schoenberg piece imbues it with a feeling of unease which is absent from the Elgar.  I don’t know enough about music to describe how he does this.  It’s a beautiful piece, not much like the twelve tone experimentation he is known for.

Ordet

This astounding film from Carl Dreher, made in Denmark in the 50s, was on TV the other day.  I recorded it and watched it from a sense of duty at first – black and white, harsh dunes landscape, devoutly believing Danish farmers, an obsessive who thinks he is Christ come again, driven mad by studying the works of Soren Kierkegaard(!).  I laughed at the absurdity at first and then found I was gripped by the story – would the daughter-in-law die after the stillbirth… yes.  Would the obsessive try to resurrect her?…yes.  Would he manage it?   not going to tell you.

??????????

 

Blackpaint

14.03.13

Blackpaint 277

June 2, 2011

Exhibition

Had an offer to take part in an exhibition the other day, which was nice;  however, when I asked for details, I was told that one condition was no nudity, or partial nudity (I presume they meant in the paintings).  The reason was, the venue was a church hall and nudity might offend those who used it for purposes other than looking at art.  They have a point, I suppose – some of the Michelangelo stuff on the Sistine ceiling and wall might alarm cubs or scouts;   the implied oral sex in Adam and Eve for instance, or the wielding of huge phallic columns, or the snake biting Minos’ penos – sorry, penis – then again, it might not.  The images are distant and difficult to make out, after all.  Anyway, although my stuff is abstract, any figures anyone might read into the blotches and smears are definitely nude and might well be taking part in some obscene act – so had to decline, regretfully.

Ai Weiwei

Went to see the bronze Zodiac animal heads in the courtyard of Somerset House, with the fountains and kids playing within their semi-circle.  They actually look like hard, moulded brown plastic (the heads, not the kids) and feel like it too.  There was a rat, cockerel, dragon, snake, lion (or tiger), hare, bull, horse, pig… must be three more, but can’t remember.  They are based on figures that were outside a Chinese palace, I think, and that a British army stole or destroyed during an Opium War; so there is an irony in  them being on display in a British “Palace”.

The Lisson Gallery show has the neolithic pots that Ai plastered with garish, modern industrial paint.  This iconoclastic streak in Chinese art makes sense in the context of a society so bound by rules and convention and order; smash it up, break free, clear the decks, start afresh.  In this respect, a negative (or rather positive) image of the Cultural Revolution, the Red Guard, the Little Red Book – but done from below, by insanely brave individuals trying to achieve a sort of freedom of thought and action.

Ai Weiwei is still being held without charge by the Chinese authorities.

Out of Australia, British Museum

Prints and drawings by the “Angry Penguins” group of Australian artists, Tucker, Nolan, Boyd, Brack and Hester; also some drawings by German Jewish WW2 internees, and abstracted landscape pictures by the great Fred Williams.  These drawings, particularly Nolan’s and Boyd’s, are well worth a visit, but it is the Native Australian pictures, by the likes of Judy Watson and Kitty Kantilla  that are really interesting.  There is one of a lightning god, in the form of a grasshopper with “wrists” chained to “ankles” and little hammers on the elbows; another of sand whorls on the ground, another with arrows of a cyclone heading towards lines at right angles, representing the land…  They look like abstract tapestry patterns, but are all representative.  I’m explaining this badly; go and see.

Aguirre, Wrath of God

Watched this again the other night;  the whirring, wheeling whistle of that bird, Kinsky’s mad, sneering glare, the sinister “la, la, la”-ing of Aguirre’s accomplice, the beautiful, doomed girls…  fantastic film, enhanced in some strange way by the crap subtitles.

Blackpaint

02.06.11

 

Blackpaint 178

August 21, 2010

Joan Mitchell

Yes, she’s on in Edinburgh til October 3rd, and there’s no way I’m going to miss this, even though it’s just a few paintings – seven ,I think, and some pastel drawings.  Got a glimpse of three on the Culture Show, presented by  Alastair Sooke in a Sinatra hat with Coltrane in the background (I think – my ears need syringeing).  He mentioned some really important things;  for instance, she swore a lot and was alcoholic – unusual for an Abstract Expressionist.  He pretty much got the main things right, though, mentioning Monet and lyricism and colour, contrasting with the black, depressive, explosive stuff.

I think that Mitchell was one of the most distinctive, expressive and inspiring of a miraculous bunch and is up at the top with de Kooning, Pollock and Hoffman.  Sick of hearing how she was younger, second wave, not as innovative, etc., etc.  Look  at the pictures in Jane Livingstone’s book; they’ll make you gasp and sometimes even move the sensitive to tears (probably only when drunk at 2.00am, however).

I was interested in Sooke’s account – if he wrote it himself; maybe he was just reading the words –  of the dark, “depressive” stuff and the light, “lyrical” stuff, in terms of how long it takes a painter to complete.  if you are responding to moods and you start something doomy, what happens if you cheer up half way through?  And vice versa?

The answer must be that you respond to the needs of the painting – this idea that Ab Exes just painted their moods is surely bollocks.  I understood that depression stops you from working, so the “dark” paintings must be “recalled in tranquility” or whatever the quotation is.  All art is fiction, unless it’s about itself.

Sidney Nolan and Arthur Boyd

Since seeing that great Arthur Boyd painting in the Tate I’ve been looking at stuff by these two; the Ned Kellys, lost explorers, scapegoats, sunsets…  I was going to call it surreal, but I’ve got an idea that their paintings are a lot more “real” – maybe Australia really looks, or looked, like that…  The only other Australian painter that I’ve seen work by is Fred Williams, who did those fantastic landscapes and top shots that were in  the Tate Modern a couple of years ago.  Bit of an Australian Lanyon – or the other way round.  I’ll be looking at other Australian artists in blogs to come. 

Saw the Francis Alys at Tate Modern today – will write about it tomorrow.

Listening to Kris Kristofferson at Cambridge, doing “Me and Bobbie McGhee” – and of course, Bobbie  is a girl!  Obvious really, but only just realised – I knew Kris wrote it, and even saw him perform it to a totally unappreciative audience (he was booed) at the Isle of Wight.  Joni told us off, said it was nothing like Woodstock…

“Busted flat in Baton Rouge, waitin’ for a train,

Feelin’ near as faded as my jeans…”  

Janis did it better, but Kris wrote it.

Blackpaint

21.08.10

Blackpaint 176

August 16, 2010

Rauschenberg

Last blog should have read “Ruscha’s OLDER vandal brother” – although doesn’t sound so good.  Rauschenberg was born in 1925 and is dead; Ruscha was born in 1937 and is still alive – important differences (to the artists anyway).

Rausch. is included,with Ruscha and Rosenquist et al, in the Taschen “Pop Art”.   I  think I’m right in saying he’s  the only one with any real texture to his surfaces – the others are all smooth and glassy, some airbrushed.

Tate Britain

 A Mary Feddon, mauve table floating at a Cezanne angle, floating on it a red-orange fruit and other objects I can’t recall – and an Arthur Boyd, “Bride drinking from a creek”, depicting exactly that; a ghost -like figure with, a stiff white lace veil sticking up behind her, face in the river, surrounded by blackened stumps and sticks of trees burnt in some bush fire.  Both fabulous painitngs.

Blake

There is an exhibition of beautiful small pictures by William Blake, mostly from the Book of Urizen, including one that looks like God using a bowling ball, another of a highly stylised skeletal figure with a patriarch and one of those squareish, massively muscled, but huddled and  troubled (sorry) figures with the staring eyes.  Also a single page of beautifully etched trees and pastoral scenes, each the size of a pair of dominoes, and showing clearly Blake’s influence on modern artists like Graham Sutherland.  We have a copy of the book at home with tipped in illustrations, that are clearly different versions of the ones on show here; apparently, he did a number of versions in different media.

Sutherland, etc.

In the next room are works by Sutherland, Michael Ayrton, John Piper and Keith Vaughan, which seem to follow naturally somehow; Vaughan’s figures, in particular, are solid and chunkier than the more abstract figures of the 60s I’m used to (see various previous Blackpaints).  The main Ayrton is a Temptation of St. Anthony, which is a wonderful drawing  in terrible  colours, to my eyes anyway.

The Sutherlands include the Welsh(?) landscape with the cow’s skull in those Bomberg-like orange-reds and ochres, the green, white and black tree tunnel and the long, green log which always looks to me like a pig’s head on the end of a battering ram.

Finally, in this room, there is a glass case, full of  sketchbooks by Sutherland, Vaughan and Robert Colquhoun which have some of the best pictures, as always.

John Riddy

Next room, have a look at one particular picture by Riddy, the shot of a brick wall in Weston Street.  It looks just like a painting to me, the brickwork and old poster tatters making an illusion of paint texture.

Lanyon

The great little exhibition of Lanyon’s preparatory works for the 1951 “Porthleven” is still up and it makes me doubt whether Lanyon’s work  is in any sense abstract.  Everything he paints is there in the world, apart maybe from sweeping lines representing a glider’s trajectory; it’s just  cut up and jumbled, “abstractified”, I suppose.  Margaret Garlake in her Tate book goes for “near-abstract”.  An interesting bit of info is that Lanyon claimed he was unaware of the presence of the fisherman and his wife, the two figures that “contain” the town, until he’d  finished.  Sounds far-fetched, but I believe it – happens  to me all the time.

Blackpaint

16.08.10