Posts Tagged ‘Assyrians’

Blackpaint 270

May 1, 2011

Figures in profile

The convention for processions in profile; which culture adopted it first?  The Egyptians and Assyrians (of various kinds – Babylon, Nineveh, Nimrud, Tigrath-Pilaster – I can’t keep hold of the differences) both use the convention; I’m guessing the Egyptians, who presumably then influenced the Assyrians… and later the Greeks, of course.  Then again, maybe both the early cultures developed the convention independently, which would be more interesting.

Cave of Forgotten Dreams

Werner Herzog’s 3D documentary about the caves of Chauvet in the Ardeche region of France, discovered in the early 90s.  Staggeringly beautiful, powerful, animal images – the horse with its mouth slightly open, the clashing rhinos, the way the artists have incorporated the scoops and bulges of the cave walls, the cave lions in profile, the black pigment on scraped white walls.  There is only one human figure in the whole cave system, a woman’s back on a sort of tooth -shaped rock, poking down from the roof.  Littering the floors, bear skulls, covered in sparkling calcite, like round puddings under a layer of smooth sauce.

Some of the paintings were done 5000 years apart, the later artist having no compunction about adding to the earlier ones – how could s/he know how old they were.. and why care?

Lots of Hans Hass – style spiritual theorising from Herzog; amusing eccentrics (mostly French), dressed in Inuit furs or sniffing crevices, trying to discover new, unknown caverns, or clumsily demonstrating spear throwers.  Some impenetrable musing about albino crocodiles from the Eden-style project near the nuclear power site up the valley; would the crocs one day escape, get as far as the caves and wonder at the drawings?

For some reason, this brought to mind Aguirre, Klaus Kinski in his Conquistador helmet, floating down the Amazon on his log raft, surrounded by the corpses of his followers, monkeys overrunning the vessel – but still staring madly, baring his teeth at the endless green.

National Portrait Gallery

Larry Rivers’ portrait of David Sylvester, the style reminding me a bit of Jim Dine, a bit of Rauschenburg even, with the sweeps of ochre on the body.  Tony Bevan’s self portrait heads at odd angles, with the elongated necks, pipe-cleaner hair; done in strong, crude acrylic colours with thick charcoal strokes.

Ida Kar

Rumanian “Bohemian”, photo portraits of artists; Leger with his flat tweed cap, scowling out like a French peasant, Epstein like a Polish train driver in HIS forage cap, Bratby en famille with one of his paintings, outside a suitably curlicued terraced house; Piper with his paintings and Braque with loads of his – busy boy – Heron with a black squiggle, Helen Lessore looking hunched and rather gloomy and the best one, Foujita, with his Stanley Spencer hair and three of the creepiest dolls I’ve ever seen.  Great portraits, only £3.50 to get in.


Bought a square one for a change from my usual 30*40 inches, and I can’t believe the difficulty I’ve had painting it –  nothing fits right.  Suppose it’s good to get out of your usual ways, once on a while.  I’ve ended up with something like a big egg yolk in a bottle-green sea.

Ai Weiwei

On 28th April, Tate Modern’s website expressed dismay at Ai Weiwei’s detention and providid a link to a petition calling for his release.  Please go to same and sign it, when you have finished reading this.


Nice to see Nicholas Whitchell, Rowan Pelling, Martin Bashir and all the other members of the royal family being given plenty of air time.  Pity that they can’t just keep on going until the next royal event…


Mayday 2011

Blackpaint 10

December 9, 2009

British Library

Exhibition of 19th century photography at the above, called “Points of View”, I think.  The usual stuff; workmen lined up on earthen galleries in tunnels, bridges and dams under construction in Egypt, India and elsewhere in the Empire, Muybridge sequences of apes, horses, bison and humans in motion – the horse definitely does have all four hooves in the air at one point – Gettysburg dead in a trench,  Conan Doyle with an ectoplasmic entity hovering behind him.  Victoria, Tennyson, Oscar Wilde, criminal types, misty evenings in Trafalgar Square.

Three photographs really stood out for me, for completely different reasons.  The first was an Andaman Islander with a clamp attached to her neck to hold her in place for the photograph.  The second was an X ray of a frog, with an eerily human skeleton- and the third, a portrait of the actress, Mrs. Patrick Kavanagh, as she was titled.

King’s Place

Then, down to King’s Place  in York Way, to see paintings by Updahl, the Norwegian painter.  Mountains and huge sweeping curves of bays, with distant towns sketched in with paint along the shoreline, all under dark mauve skies, sometimes with aurora depicted.  Some of them reminded me of Paul Nash’s bay scene.  Downstairs, some watercolours of similar scenes with sharp contrast of light and darkness on mountain faces.  Our view impeded by a huge throng of suited businessmen (some women, overwhelmingly men) having their buffet lunch break from a conference.

British Museum

Finally, down to BM and to Mexican revolutionary prints from 30s to 50s, I think.  Social Realist type subjects- beggars, workers, soldiers, disabled, street scenes – but in that heroic, stylised manner of the muralists; Rivera,  Siqueiros and Orozco (who have a wall to themselves, titled “The Big Three”).

Had a quick walk through the North American/Canadian Indian section – First Nation peoples is the correct term, I understand from Ray Mears and George Monbiot – and saw the anoraks made from gut (of seal, sea lion etc.) to the Main Court and through to the Assyrian reliefs from Nimrud, Nineveh and Tigrath – Pileser (is that right?), to check on the lions in the lion hunt series and see if what I said about them being much better than Renaissance lions was right – it was.

As well as the lions, sprouting arrows, there were lines of soldiers carrying little lopped -off prisoners’ heads, two prisoners being skinned alive, divers apparently using inflated skins as swimming aids, rivers full of fish, crabs and eels, cities being besieged, walls scaled and battering ram “tanks” crashing into walls.  And the huge eagle-headed guardian spirits with pine cone and bucket (very like a handbag), lashes, fly whisks, and one pair attacking each other with knives.

Home, and Tim Marlow on Vermeer on TV.  Enough to make me despair, as I contemplate the trite, anaemic, tricksy abomination that is my own current “painting”.

Listening to: “Sorry”, by Bix Beiderbecke and  “It Never Entered my Mind” by Ella Fitzgerald.  The latter has the phrase “uneasy in my easy chair” – I came across “uneasy chair” in Ferlinghetti the other day – and “Naked Lunch” a few times too; did he get it from Burroughs or was it the other way round?