Posts Tagged ‘Auerbach’

Blackpaint 526 – the Inevitable (yawn…) Review of the Year

December 31, 2015

Best Exhibitions

auerbach eow on bed

Auerbach, Tate Britain

pollock no14 1951

Pollock, Tate Liverpool

bacon figures in a landscape

Bacon, Sainsbury Centre

 

Torso 1928 Dame Barbara Hepworth 1903-1975 Presented by the executors of the artist's estate 1980 http://www.tate.org.uk/art/work/T03128

 

Hepworth Exhibition, Tate Britain

 

goya mirth

Goya, Courtauld

dumas helene

Dumas, Tate Modern

diebenkorn seated woman

Diebenkorn, RA

sargent children

Singer Sargent, NPG

hoyland2

Hoyland, Damien Hirst’s Newport Street Gallery

Wreck 1963 by Peter Lanyon 1918-1964

Lanyon, Courtauld

 

Actually a fantastic year in London; all the shows and books and DVDs below have been reviewed in previous Blackpaints, so you can see a proper evaluation – sort of – if you’re interested…

  • abstract geometry following on from Malevich at the Whitechapel with Adventures of the Black Square;
  • Marlene Dumas’ haunting and unsettling portraits and masks and nudes at TM;
  • Barbara Hepworth at TB (rather worthy, but some lovely little torsos from her and her contemporaries – maybe I’ve been to St.Ives too many times);
  • beautiful, modulating colours and shapes from Sonia Delaunay at TM;
  • Singer Sargent at the National Portrait Gallery – one delight after another, throughout;
  • Goya drawings and etchings of witches, penitents, “lunatics” and other unfortunates at the Courtauld (missed the National Gallery Goya, I’m afraid);
  • Giacometti, NPG – good but not THAT good..
  • Alexander Calder, TM – also GBNTG.

But the best:

  • Diebenkorn at the RA;
  • Rubens at the same time, same venue;
  • Frank Auerbach at TB;
  • Marlene Dumas;
  • Bacon and the Masters at Sainsbury Centre, UEA;
  • Singer Sargent;
  • Lanyon at the Courtauld;
  • Pollock at Tate Liverpool;
  • John Hoyland at Hirst’s new gallery near Vauxhall.

 

Best Films

No contest here; Jodorowsky’s Dance of Reality.  Violence, murder, suicide, live burial, plague, the Golden Shower, torture, operatic singing, more masks, Stalinism and nazism – all in the best possible taste and with an uplifting message.  And some wonderful scenery.

jodorowsky

Abel Ferrara’s Pasolini.  William Dafoe is great in the role; the sex is startlingly spectacular; mix of fantasy and reality – and a soundtrack including Tony Jo White of Polk Salad Annie fame (ask your grandparents).

Disappointing, given the hype:

Carol – woman -on- woman love story.  Good acting, good period feel, otherwise conventional.

Star Wars; the Force Awakens – Good action film, with a bit of nostalgia.  Found my attention slipping now and then (as in Carol); realised (I knew, of course, but didn’t know it in my bones) that criticism on TV and in papers is just part of the publicity machine.  They’re all for sale, from the Guardian to the Sun and beyond.

And the worst:

German’s Hard to be a God.

It is as if he deliberately set out to make it impossible to understand, or even to watch; its all too close – you can’t get any perspective.

 

Best DVDs /TV

Wild Tales – portmanteau mayhem in Argentina.

All is Lost – Robert Redford, convincingly against the elements.

One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest – Jack Nicholson against Louise Fletcher.

chief

The Swimmer– Burt Lancaster swims home across Cheeverland.

 

Best Books Read – poetry first

Gil Scott-Heron -Then and Now.  The words are great, even without the music.   What’s the word?

John Cooper Clarke – Ten Years in an Open Necked Shirt.  Evidently Chicken Town and Beasley Street – no more to be said.

Ted Hughes- Collected Poetry.  As Alan Bennett says, he’s not strong on humour, but the imagery is gritty and muscular and totally original.  Who is stronger?  Hughes, evidently…

Gaudete – also by Hughes.  His verse novel about the vicar from hell who visits vigorously all the women of his parish to found his new religion – and the efforts of the shotgun-owning menfolk to curb his enthusiasm…

 

Non – Fiction

Clothes Clothes Clothes, Music Music Music, Boys Boys Boys –  Viv Albertine.  great book – I couldn’t put it down.  Awful title, impossible to remember the right order.

Just Kids –  Patti Smith about her and Robert Mapplethorpe.  Surprisingly restrained and almost Victorian prose at times.  By the way, lovely exhibition of Mapplethorpe, featuring photos and film of the young Patti at Kiasma, Helsinki.

patti2

 

Fiction

Raymond Carver, Collected Stories – he just wipes everyone but Cheever off the map.

John Cheever, Collected Stories.  Torch Song, the Duchess, the Little Red Moving Van, The Country Husband, The Swimmer… no, Cheever’s the best.  Unless Carver is…

House of Leaves, Mark Danielewski – a sort of horror story, pretentious, experimental in form.

Shark, Will Self – pretentious and experimental in form and language.

Finders Keepers, Stephen King – the absolute master of plot and narrative drive; once you start any SK story you will finish it, unless you die first.

 

And the worst;

The Enormous Room, e e cummings – the archness of the language is unbelievable; a prison novel set in WWI, which is, so far,  a series of “comic” character sketches.  It’s driving me mad and I may give up on it.  The Penguin Modern Classic cover is a great Paul Klee, though…

 

And My Best of 2015

heaven only knows 2

Heaven Only Knows II

 

pellet1

A Pellet falls from Outer Space

Blackpaint

31.12.15

Happy New Year to all readers for whom it is New Year.

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Blackpaint 519 – Agnes, Auerbach, Ten and Patti Again

November 8, 2015

Master John, NPG

These fantastic paintings by “Master John” or from his workshop – whoever he was.  Not Holbein for sure, but brilliant. I think.

master john 2

 

master john 1

Patti Smith, Just Kids

This is turning out to be a fascinating read; she completely confounds your expectations.  I thought she’d come across angry, tough, scathing – punk; not at all.  She’s sensitive, kindly, vulnerable, a bit pretentious, a bit awkward.  She knew everyone, remembers everything.  It’s a great companion and contrast to Viv Albertine’s book, which is also great in a different way.

Lines for Agnes, exhibition and discussion at Marylebone Church

Attended this last Saturday.  A small exhibition of small paintings with some perceived relationship to Agnes Martin; minimal but not minimalist, somewhat geometric, patterns or colour fields darkening at bottom…  One speaker mentioned the problem of taking too much out; erasing until you have nothing left.

It struck me that there are at least two completely opposite tendencies in abstract painting – or maybe just painting – with one going towards the erasure of everything, the other chucking in the kitchen sink.  One end is occupied by Agnes Martin, the other by, say, Appel or, if figurative, early Auerbach.  It’s a spectrum of course.  Won’t pursue this further, since it has already involved me in one heated argument.

Auerbach, Tate Britain

Since I’ve mentioned him,   I’ve been to the exhibition for the third – or is it fourth? – time today.  First, I noticed that the one with the red “worms” crawling across it; they look as if they are squeezed straight from the tube.  There’s a sort of broken shelf of paint built up under them, and it’s tempting to think that they would have simply fallen off without this shelf.  As for ” Building Site, Earls Court” (1953), I’ve realised what that black mass reminds me of – black olives, trodden into an oily mash.

“Ten”, SLWA, Gerald Moore Gallery, Eltham College, until 6th December

marion1

Marion Jones

“SLWA” stands for South London Women Artists – although with a couple of possible exceptions, these are paintings by artists who happen to be women – no feminist themes as far as I could make out.  I have to declare an interest; the above very excellent painting is one of my partner’s.  There are other good works, but you’ll have to go along to see those.

Bergman, The Passion of Anna

Another highly fraught piece starring Max von Sydow and Liv Ullman; again, it’s set on an island.  Three out of four of the films in the Bergman box set I bought are set on an island – and I’ve got an idea some others of his are also island-bound.  I’ll investigate and speculate further on this – no doubt it’s well known and someone’s already done a thesis on it.

Haven’t completed any new paintings this week, so here are four of my recent life drawings – I think I’ve captured a good likeness….

 

drawings 4

 

drawings 3

 

drawings 2

 

drawings1

Blackpaint

8.11.15

Blackpaint 505 – Francis, Rembr’ndt and the Chimp’nzees

August 2, 2015

Bacon and the Masters, Norwich (UEA)

Afraid this exhibition is now finished – I got to see it in its last week – so its a bit redundant now to review it.  However, I’m rather redundant myself, so here’s a few words.  First, I have to take issue with Jonathan Jones’ assessment in the Guardian; he thought the “Masters” (Matisse, Rembrandt, Velasquez, Van Gogh, Bernini et al), whose works Bacon used as  templates or providers of inspiration, actually made Bacon’s efforts look rather “silly”. His previous admiration for the British painter evaporated in the presence of the Masters.

There is no doubt that the Rembrandts are striking and the terracotta Bernini torsos staggeringly powerful, even though small; my feeling is, however, that Bacon’s work stands up well and does justice to those whose works he used – or rather, the photographs of them, since he famously avoided seeing the originals.

Take the paintings below, for instance; the powerful, sinister “Figures in a Landscape” (1956):

bacon figures in a landscape

 

or the portrait (1957) of Peter Lacey, Bacon’s sadistic “true love”, who did the painter quite serious injury in lovemaking (I don’t know if Bacon returned the compliment – I suspect not); I think the portrait suggests one of the Furies about to descend…

bacon lacey

or this great sketch or half-started work on linen from 1981, one of the three large sketches that begin the exhibition:

bacon three figures 1981

 

Here’s one of the Berninis for comparison:

bernini

The only Bacon that I felt was not up to par was a sketch of the Screaming Pope.  it suggested a Steve Bell to me…

Look closely at any Bacon and you will see how thinly and carefully he paints, with a stroke that is often very dry.  The portraits are painstaking and the famous distortion does not obscure the likeness in most cases; it’s dissection and reassembly, not butchery, not by a long way.

Afterwards, using one of the luxurious WCs in the Sainsbury building, I saw myself in the mirror which takes up the whole rear wall. Slightly crouched, toilet paper in hand, trousers around lower legs, furtive expression… a rather typical Bacon scenario, to match those in the gallery…

Watching an Arena DVD on Bacon, I was struck again by his odd pronunciation of Rembrandt – it was “Rembr’ndt”.  A while later he did it again with “chimp’nzee”.  I thought it was unique – then I watched a DVD on Auerbach and he said “Rembr’ndt” too.

John Golding, UEA

golding2

Up the stairs from the Bacon exhibition was this large show of paintings from Golding, a major British abstract artist, somewhat akin to Hoyland, I think, as a sort of counterweight to the great figurative master on the ground floor.  Here are three works, all large, from different periods.  This show may still be on – worth a trip to Norwich, if it is.

 

golding3

 

golding6

The Double Life of Veronique, Kieslowski

This film was on TV last week.  I can’t make my mind up about Kieslowski’s work – sometimes, as here, it strikes me as sentimental and soft focus, a little bit “Truly, Madly, Deeply”; she falls in love with a handsome puppeteer, for god’s sake.  Then again, he did “A Short Film about Killing”, with the long murder and the hanging scene….

Two old pictures that I have overpainted somewhat, to finish:

jungle

The Road to Mandalay

 

10th May 1941

 

10th May 1941

Blackpaint,

2.08.15

Blackpaint 487 – Diebens and Rubenkorn at the RA and Willem and Frank too

March 23, 2015

Richard Diebenkorn at the RA

Died and gone to heaven – well, very impressed anyway.  I think he’s my number 4, after Joan Mitchell, de Kooning and Peter Lanyon.  Some say he’s too easy; nice landscape-y images, pleasing, limpid palette… it’s a matter of taste, of course, but I went round and round, marvelling at one picture after another, and I’ll be going again, for sure.  Anyway, these are my highlights:

diebenkorn berkeley 57

Berkeley#57 

The busiest canvas, I think; can’t stop turning to look at it wherever you are in the gallery.  It all works better than in the photo above – colours are much richer.

 

diebenkorn seated woman

 

Seated Woman (on board) 

There’s something delectable about his drawings and paintings of women – they are sometimes rough, pentimenti showing, with a sort of intentional “clumsiness” as Jane Livingstone suggests in her book.  he likes striped tops and skirts (and no clothes at all, too).

diebenkorn day at the race

 

A Day at the Race 

The split screen effect; you can see it too, in “Interior View of Buildings”, in which the strip of buildings itself acts as a sort of divider.  It’s the Urbana series in which he uses this effect, I believe.  Like window frames sometimes.

The Cigar Box Tops

Tiny, perfect versions of the huge ones.

Still lifes

I love the knife in a glass – that putty colour.  And the Ashtray and Doors; looks to me like he’s painted over an old canvas, or board – the striations.

The figures

I’ve talked about the women – drinking coffee, reading the newspaper – there are a few men around, including one little one (picture, that is) that looks like Picasso – him, not one of his paintings.  They remind me a lot of David Park, a Bay Area painter.

diebenkorn ocean park 79

 

Ocean Park #79 

The best, I think, of the Ocean Park series – like your in an ornate, slightly shabby indoor swimming pool, with the light pouring through a huge skylight.  Takes me back to Deep End again (the Skolimowski film with Jane Asher that I’ve been watching in 30 minute chunks, because the script and acting are so clunky).

If I could, I would put in every picture in this exhibition.

Rubens and his Legacy (RA)

This got a blistering review in the Guardian from Jonathan Jones. I think; not enough big paintings, he said; too many sketches, too much padding, loads of pictures by artists who aren’t Rubens, and in which the “legacy” is spurious.  There’s a lot in what he says, but it’s still a great exhibition, in the sense of containing loads of pictures that are fantastic to look at.

 

rubens lion hunt

 Tiger, Lion and Leopard Hunt

This is the poster boy of the exhibition and deservedly so – just look at it; it’s all happening, just as it would have happened in real life!  One bloke is forcing open a lion’s jaws with his hands, while a tiger’s getting stuck into green man’s shoulder; and the other tiger has cubs in her mouth…  Enough sarcasm, it’s a staggering composition and swirl of colours.  I saw it at the top of the escalator at Tooting Bec tube station (poster, not the original) when I didn’t have my glasses on, and it looks fantastic as an abstract.

There are several other lion hunts by other greats, notably Rembrandt and a great lion hunt sketch by Rubens himself – they couldn’t have known those lion hunt reliefs from Nineveh, was it, or Nimrud…

Other Rubens highlights are:

rubens charles 1 with guard

 

James I uniting England and Scotland 

This sketch, from Birmingham Art Gallery, I’ve included because of the guard’s incredibly muscular left leg, not really well reproduced here, but massively impressive in the flesh, so to speak… reminds me of the left leg of the grey horse in the previous picture.  I like the angle of view in these ceiling sketches.

The Abdication of Persephone

Luminous little painting, fabulous but couldn’t find a repro…

Among the other painters represented, it’s worth mentioning the Kokoschka cartoon, in which Queen Victoria sits astride a shark, feeding it seamen (I quote the caption on the wall).  Presumably its based on a Rubens painting.  There’s a great Bocklin, “Battle on the Bridge”, shades of those Degas boys riding bareback in that famous picture.  Also works by Picasso, Reynolds, Lawrence, Cezanne, Delacroix, Gericault – and in a related exhibition curated by Jenny Savile, three de Koonings, including a juicy one from 1977, in which the paint swipes are so thick that the paint has stretched and puckered into tiny holes as it dried.  There’s also one of those red/orange/pink panel size women from 1971, and a collage from earlier.  AND two colourful Auerbach portraits, brilliant obviously, and a fabulous Bacon nude, George Dyer, by the look of it.  Savile herself has a big monochrome painting,  a bit like a Kiefer, and Cicely Brown has a DK – ish picture that’s not up to her best.  I’d pay to go and see this sub-exhibition alone.

The Fall of the Obese

There is a whole room full of Falls and in Rubens’ case, the sinners going to damnation all seem to be overweight.  But then of course, so do most humans in Rubens’ works, particularly the women; I mention the wife of Captain Pugwash again, in this connection…

Anyway, too much to say for one blog, so continued next week, along with all three new exhibitions at Tate Britain.

These are the counter rhythms2

These are the Counter Rhythms (WIP)

Blackpaint

22.03.15

 

 

Blackpaint 479 – Birdman, Auerbach and Cat Strangling

January 24, 2015

Birdman

I think this is the best American film I have seen for years. I was about to say because the others are all superhero crap – but then so is this, in a way;  not crap, but superhero.  Michael Keaton is an ageing ex-superhero, Birdman, who is directing and leading in a Broadway version of a Ray Carver story, “What we talk about when we talk about love”.  The preview stage has been reached and Keaton is struggling with self-doubt and contempt, an egomaniac co-star (Edward Norton, magnificent), a disaffected daughter recently in “rehab” (Emma Stone, also brilliant, below) …. and so on, can’t bother with all this exposition.

Anyway, the dialogue crackles, as does the jazz drum accompaniment, the story is absorbing and funny, sentimentality is kept in check (though not absent) and the acting is great, as are the long takes following the actors’ tracks backstage and out of the theatre in one memorable scene.

I can’t resist the urge to spot resemblances that has often (always?) been a feature of this blog;  I glimpsed Gene Hackman in Keaton, Helen Mirren in Naomi Watts, Matthew McConnaughey in Edward Norton, Richard Dreyfuss in Zach Galifianakis – and in the huge-eyed Emma Stone, Lucian Freud’s painting of Kitty Garman strangling the kitten, below.  Well, just the eyes really – and Kitty is just holding the kitty….

 

emma stone

Girl with a Kitten 1947 by Lucian Freud 1922-2011

 

London Art Fair, Islington Business Centre

Unfortunately, this is only on for another day, but I daresay that some of the paintings below will still be unsold, if you want to buy them (although the first four are not for sale, being part of the Chichester Pallant House Gallery’s exhibition-within-the exhibition, so to speak).

 

auerbach gerda boehm

 Frank Auerbach, Reclining Head of Gerda Boehm – the best painting in the building, a more intense blue than appears here

 

sickert jack ashore

 

Walter Sickert, Jack Ashore – you can see Jack in the background, but he’s not the main focus really – look at her left thigh; it’s made up entirely of loose dabs and strokes of white.  I’m not sure why this is good, but it is.

artfair lanyon

 Peter Lanyon – didn’t get the title;

 

artfair denny

 

Robyn Denny – again, no title, and I’m not sure that this is the right way up.  It’s great though, from when he was doing AbEx stuff before going geometric and minimal.

The following were from various galleries showing at the fair:

 

artfair vaughan2

 

 Keith Vaughan

 

 

artfair vaughan1

 Keith Vaughan again – Two Figures

artfair mellis

Margaret Mellis – love that red

 

artfair cadell

 

 

Cadell – Ben More and Mull

artfair fergusson

 

Fergusson – Still Life with Fruit – I love these Scottish Colourists; there’s also a Melville, the Glasgow Boy, in the same display.

artfair gear

 

William Gear – Two landscapes, 1947 and 1948 

artfair kinley

 

Peter Kinley, Figure on a Bed, 1975

…and, as usual, several great Roger Hiltons, Allan Daveys, Gaudier-Brjeska figure drawings, Prunella Clough, John Golding – great stuff.

Conflict Time Photography, Tate Modern

Revisited this (see previous blog) and found a couple of things I missed last time:

  • The collection of photos of Northern Ireland – irritatingly, these go up the wall too high to see them all properly (they are small), but there are some interesting ones low down – a couple of men or boys, tied up and covered with whitewash (?) wearing placards; one proclaims him to be a drug dealer to “underage children”).  Also, the huge photo of a riot which seems to involve throwing of milk cartons – what does the big red circle indicate?
  • The series of photographs of relics of Hiroshima.  The lunchbox of a schoolgirl, contents carbonised; no sign of the girl.  The uniform tunic, discovered in branches of a tree, of a schoolboy; no trace of boy.  Single lens of eyeglass of a housewife; piece of skull found some weeks later.
  • The odd, but fascinating jumble of photos and memorabilia contained in the little sub-exhibition of “the Archive of Modern Conflict”.

 

Still haven’t done any proper painting for a while, so some life drawings to fill the gap.

life drawing 1

life drawing 3

life drawing 4

life drawing 2

Life Drawings

Blackpaint

24.01.15 

 

 

 

Blackpaint 463 – Awkward English Painters, Campion and Amis

September 30, 2014

The Later Turner, Tate Britain

Well, all the usual suspects are there; the Slave Ship, Sea Monsters, Burial at Sea, Steam Boat off a Harbour’s Mouth,  Parliament burning,  Rain Steam and Speed, Exile and the Limpet, the whaling pictures – and some of the most hideous gold frames you could imagine.  Apart from those paintings listed, the sketches of Venice and elsewhere in Italy and Switzerland are, of course, fantastic.  Maybe I’m Turnered out, though; I’ll go again this week and see if there’s anything new to say.

turner

 

Storm at Sea; Steam Boat off a Harbour’s Mouth  

Sickert and Bomberg on BBC4

Two great programmes (I missed the one on Paul Nash).  The Sickert one showed direct lines back to Degas and TL, and forward to Auerbach and even Bacon (the self-portrait).  The paintings from photographs – Edward VIII and the Italian Count (didn’t get the name) after the conference – were linked by Andrew Graham – Dixon to Warhol.  This was not such a radical idea; I came across the suggestion in Robert Hughes’ “Nothing if not Critical” the next day.

sickert1

The Bomberg prog did justice to the variety of his styles during his career and showed how his “Sappers” painting – is it still on exhibition in Tate Modern? – was based on the Caravaggio Crucufixion of St.Peter.  There’s an exhibition of Dorothy Mead, one of his best disciples, on in London at the moment.

bomberg sappers

 Bomberg, Sappers Under Hill 60

caravaggio st peter

 Caravaggio, Crucifixion of St.Peter 

Portrait of a Lady, Jane Campion

Watched a DVD of this film starring Kidman and Malkovich, and I was astounded to see a sequence in sepia straight out of Fellini – like “The Ship Sailed On”.  Moments later, it turned into Bunuel, when a plateful of ravioli pockets, I think, developed mouths and started speaking to Kidman.  Then it was gone and we were back to relative naturalism.

Zone of Interest, Martin Amis

This is the first Martin Amis I’ve read; it is gripping, and Amis has done the research on Auschwitz and the Holocaust that the subject requires.  He does, however, use the camps as the setting for a story about the commandant and his wife; not sure about this.  Maybe the only story should be the story OF the camps. He has a Jewish girl point at herself before her murder and say “Eighteen years old”.  I came across the source of this in “Rise and Fall of the Third Reich”, in the evidence of a German civilian who saw the incident at a massacre by an einsatzgruppe at Dubno in Ukraine, not in Auschwitz.  She was 23, not eighteen.  Still, there’s a good essay by Amis at the end and I don’t think it insults the memory of the victims.  Probably more on this next blog.

 

crete5

Cretan Plants (a Figurative Interlude)

Blackpaint

30.09.14

Blackpaint 395 – The Tate Rehang, Richter and Frisco

May 23, 2013

Tate Britain Chronological Rehang

Finally, the TB is fully open again, and the rehang is impressive – though, if like me, you have too much time on your hands, you might well have seen most of it, gallery by gallery, as each room was re-opened.  Nevertheless, there are some paintings I haven’t seen before or recently, and some revelations:

There is a Gainsborough family group, done in 1850, that is NOTHING like those feathery, impressionistic portraits he’s famous for; much more like a Hogarth, say.

Joseph Wright of Derby,” The Smithy” – looks so much like a tableau at Tussauds, or in a museum; must be the “lighting” within the picture.

Reynolds – this sounds pathetic, but there’s a standing portrait of a lawyer – check out the hands, he can really do good hands.

The Etty nude – 18th century, but it looks really modern; perhaps the shading, somehow.

Arthur Melville, the Venetian tower watercolour – that incredible, vivid twilight blue sky.

Bit of a jump now to the 1960s and beyond (reflecting my interests, maybe):

Peter Lanyon, a beautiful big painting called “Thermal”, thick loops of white on blue and grey.

Next to it, a set of Kitaj grotesque faces called “the Erasmus Variations”, for some reason.

The huge Frank Bowling figurative painting “Mirror”, in colours reminiscent of Kitaj and maybe Hockney.

The Fiona Rae, with its squiggles and squirts of toothpaste, like an early Craig Kaufman.

Finally, the Tony Cragg “Stack”, like a pile of wood palettes – but actually there are no palettes at all!  It includes breeze-blocks, boards, rolls of material, and a couple of red plastic buckets, like the Turner spots of red.  An eight (?) – decker sandwich.

The rehang was reviewed by Laura Cumming in last Sunday’s Observer; she found it to be badly organised in some respects, some pieces obscuring the view of others; her review ignores the overall look of the rooms, though – if you stand in the archway, looking back at the corner with the Bowling and the Rae, with the Caro red metal sculpture to the right, the room just looks brilliant.

Stanley Spencer

Repeat of James Fox’s BBC4 prog on early C20th British painters; bloody awful portentous tone to all his comments but despite the overstatement, worth watching for the paintings.  The numerous crosses in Spencer’s mural in the Sandon Memorial chapel looked like 3D over Fox’s shoulder.

spencer crosses

 

Dekalog, Kieslowsky

Seen only the first of these Ten Commandments so far; an atheist lecturer is punished by a god which communicates through his (the lecturer’s, not the god’s) computer.  Queasy about the story, but great camerawork; I love the great monolith of the block of flats, standing in for god or maybe the tablet of stone…  Who is the young man in the astrakhan hood who sits by the fire on the river bank?  Ghost of the boy, sort of, maybe?

Heimat

Missed this when it was on channel 4 20 years go, and catching up now on DVD.  Those landscapes. when it changes to colour – they look just like Gerhard Richters.  Thought the same thing when I saw the film of the tornado which hit Moore – sure that will be a great comfort to the poor inhabitants.

Bay Area School at Thomas Williams, Old Bond Street

Interesting little exhibition on post – WW2 painters in San Francisco.  There are a couple of abstracts by John Grillo and a larger one by Ernest Briggs – like most abstracts, they look better when you stand well back.  The Briggs is one of those melters – the paint looks as if it’s slipping and sliding, touch of de Kooning and Joan Mitchell, maybe.  there’s a great little pink based abstract by Diebenkorn. and several so-so portraits by him; you wouldn’t know they were Diebs – but there’s a “Folding chair” that couldn’t be by anyone else.

My favourite picture is a half portrait by David Park (?) in thick black and white strokes, with a small touch of Auerbach about it.

 

 

??????????

 

Red Line

Blackpaint

23.05.13

Blackpaint 391 – A Pair of Brown Eyes and Storm Clouds on the Volga

April 25, 2013

Tate Modern

Some other “new” stuff worth seeing that I didn’t mention last time:

Bill Woodrow‘s big elephant head sculpture, with car doors, unravelling maps and machine gun held in trunk;

Rachel Whitehead‘s sarcophagus-like black bath-tub thing;

Roger Hilton‘s waving, leaping “Oi-Yoi-Yoi”;

A huge Frank Bowling figurative painting, in style and coloration rather like an early Hockney, or maybe Kitaj;

A whole roomful of Chapman Bros. imitation tribal fetishes – look closely, they all have Macdonald’s motifs;

An apocalyptic Primrose Hill by Frank Auerbach;

A Bacon triptych;

Some of those lumpy sculptures by Rebecca Warren – I like them, but none have the presence and personality of de Kooning’s Clamdiggers.

There is a room devoted to Basic Design, with characteristic works by Pasmore, Richard Hamilton, Alan Davie, William Turnbull and Rita Donagh – interesting to those (like myself)  following the thread of abstraction in British art.

Finally, there is a portrait by George Clausen called “Brown Eyes”, which I didn’t mention before because I was afraid it was banal and sentimental.  My very unsentimental partner said it was “arresting”, however, so I mention it now.

clausen

Actually, it seems he did quite a few of the same girl, whoever she was, and when you look at several of them together, the sentimentality oozes back rather – but still….

Gert and Uwe Tobias at the Whitechapel Gallery

They are brothers, born in Romania.  Went to the private view for this last week, and felt – wrongly, I’m sure – that there was a smartly black-shirted attendant behind me the whole time.  There were certainly plenty of them, to stop you taking drinks upstairs or straying through wrong doors…

Large, bright, childlike images of E. European folklore on black backgrounds, creating a wallpaperish effect – lots of butterflies and other insects, strange birds – shore larks, maybe – thorny vines and spindly witch dolls.  Sometimes an echo of Picabia’s odd machines.  I enjoyed the smaller, brightly coloured pieces the most.

gerd and uwe

Upstairs were the photographs of Karl Blossfeldt, mostly from the 20s and 30s, I think, from the German mags in which they appeared.  Close-ups of parts of common plants that obviously echoed – or inspired – architectural forms.  Some looked like spiral staircases or pagodas or whatever; I wasn’t sure whether he was a scientist, an artist or some sort of mystic.  I guessed he might be a follower of Rudolf Steiner, but nothing on the internet.  That thing about natural forms reproduced in human works sounds very like Steiner to me.

Ilya and Emilia Kabakov,” The Happiest Man”( under the  University of Westminster, Baker Street)

It is “under” too; down the iron stairs and turn immediately right – don’t go along the underground delivery passage, like we did.  There’s notice pointing to the gallery, set just so you miss it at the foot of the staircase.

It’s a sort of underground cinema, with a little, cosy Russian room, full of knick-knacks, armchair, sofa, pictures on the wall, a kulak’s place maybe, not an impoverished peasant’s hut; you can watch the films through the window, or sit outside in the cinema.

The films are extracts from musicals of the 30s, 40s and 50s; healthy, headscarved, fleshy women, wearing their medals, running to work behind tractors or on combine harvesters; smiling, preening moustached men, flirting with the girls, Cossack hats set at rakish angles, plucking guitars – the song of the couple in the buggy sounded like “The Carnival is Over” to me – everyone happy.  The film was blurred and this added to the beauty of the images; buttery, tawny cornfields, golden dust,  HUGE, deep, deep blue skies, winding river (must surely be the Volga, or maybe the Don), crumbling bluffs, great, black, thunderous, rolling clouds…  The same colours can be seen in Sokurov’s “Save and Protect” (his version of Madame Bovary).

So, the beauty offsets the irony, somewhat.  Vassily Grossman’s “Everything Flows” has an account of the Ukrainian famine – man-made- of 1933, in which millions died and armed guards were placed outside villages to ensure that starving peasants were kept from dragging themselves towards the towns (nevertheless, some managed to make it to cities, where they presented a spectacle of horror to the citizenry).  Ilya Kabakov, I read in the pamphlet, acknowledges the realities, whilst admitting to the nostalgia that these films induce in him.  It’s a great exhibit and it’s free to see.

Oliver Stone’s Untold History of America

Brilliant to see this at the same time as reading Anthony Beevor’s history of WW2.  Stone makes a great deal of Roosevelt’s running mate, Henry Wallace; some sort of socialist, by US standards, apparently.  You get the impression from the programme that Britain, the USA and the Soviet Union all joined the war together, to crush Nazism – and then Britain and the USA sat back to let the Russians do it all.  It’s not the facts he states; it’s those he omits and the spin he spins…

Promised Land

Anti-fracking film, starring Matt Damon, set in farming town in mid-West.  Heart’s in the right place, but cliche-ridden (last minute conversion, emotive speech to erstwhile opponents).  Good to see Hal Holbrook again, soon after Lincoln, though.

??????????

Great Leap Forward

Blackpaint

25.04.13

Blackpaint 329 – Manly Women and The Rear View

March 6, 2012

Leonard Rosoman

Obituary for the above today in Guardian. Fireman during the Blitz, painted the famous picture of the wall collapsing on two firemen during a raid (which he witnessed).  A beautiful picture of an aircraft with folded wings, Sutherland – ish, a luscious rose-pink; was in the Imperial War Museum some time back, maybe still on show.

Robert Motherwell

Looking at Motherwell’s art, you really come to understand what is meant by “gestural” painting – that’s exactly what many of his pictures resemble; a deliberate, sometimes violent, always deliberate gesture, usually in black, often with spatters, on a plain background.  His colours, unlike those of, say, Hoffman, are limited to maybe three or four at the most.  The Spanish Elegy series ran to over a hundred pictures, all with the same central image, based apparently on the dead bull’s testicles in the bullring.  This (below) is his Ulysses, in the Tate, which I have mentioned several times; it’s the most striking image in the surrealism bit (what’s it doing there?)…

Joan Mitchell

Every day, I change my mind – yesterday, I would have sworn de Kooning was the best of the AbEx bunch – OK, I know he wasn’t really an AbEx, not even an abstractionist for a lot of the time, but for convenience’ sake…  Today, I’ve picked up the Joan Mitchell book and it’s page after page of beautiful, fresh, intertwined tangles of bright paint, green, gold, blue, that somehow avoid bleeding into each other and becoming muddy and sludgy – Hemlock, Evenings on 73rd Street. George went swimming, Hudson River Day Line – and then the ones assembled out of colour blocks that look as if they are glowing with fire – Salut Sally, Wet Orange, Belle Bete, all with thin colours dribbling over and through the blocks.  They look good enough to eat.

Hudson River Day Line

She’s sort of the Anti-Auerbach; even when the canvas is covered, there’s light and space and air, somehow.  I love Auerbach’s sludgy paintings too, I hasten to add.

de Kooning

I’d assumed that he put his paintings together on the canvas, so to speak; that the charcoal and paint lines left in or only partly erased or obscured were evidence of an improvisatory approach – wrong.  He left some in, painted over others,  He traced or enlarged elements from one picture or sketch to another.  He appears to have borrowed images from other painters on occasion, a notable example being the screaming woman looking up to the sky in “Guernica”.  He mixed his paints with plaster of paris to achieve particular effects. 

It seems that few American Abstract Expressionists fitted the stereotype of the gestural painter, who improvises as he/she goes along.  Maybe only Pollock and a couple of othersMotherwell?

Apart from three canvases, my paintings are totally improvised – when I start, I’ve hardly any idea of where they are going to go.  No sketches, it all takes place on the canvas or the paper.  First thing – get the canvas dirty with a swatch or slash of paint.  After that, it proceeds by trial and error and correction, scraping and plastering.  Shapes emerge and are incorporated or painted over, tracts of paint have to be concealed, scraped off or cut back.  Eventually, an image or set of images emerges, that I think constitutes a picture.  I’m sure that, if I did sketches or preparation, the end result would be better – but the process would be like work and I’d have to stop.  I’d rather keep painting.

Michelangelo

I haven’t written anything about the maestro for ages, so had a flick through the picture books tonight.  Two things struck me, both very banal, I’m sure.  First, most of his women, with the exception of Virgins, are really men with breasts stuck on (I think Alan Bennett put that observation into “The History Boys”) – and one of the images of God in the 8th bay of the Sistine ceiling is showing his bare backside, for no good reason.  Given that lots of genitalia were later painted over, how did that get past the censors?

Goodfellas

Paging through the channels aimlessly the other night, came across Paul Sorvino’s pouchy face peering at the garlic clove, as he shaves it into thin slices with a razor blade – and that was it, hooked again; only seen it about twenty-three times.  Astounding that he never got an Oscar until The Departed.

A really early one.

Some of my stuff in the WhatIf Gallery, Dartford.

Blackpaint

06.03.12

Blackpaint 325 – Fabric Penis Stalactites

February 16, 2012

Yayoi Kusama

This artist now in her 80s, has an exhibition at the Tate Modern at the moment and I went, expecting not very much.  From what I had heard, she was a performance artist from the 60s who now lived voluntarily in a mental institution in Japan, and tended to cover everything in sight with coloured spots, from tiny to huge.  True, but much more, it turned out. 

First, there is are some surrealist drawing/paintings, resembling vaguely threatening dragons or snakes, and then some quite beautiful small drawings/collages/paintings in vibrant colours; moons, bacteria, some that reminded me of Hartung, dots, lines, fish (deep-sea phosphorescent)… terrific.

Then, the “Infinity Net” paintings, huge, white, covered with little bobbles of paint, with maze-like patterns just visible.  There are nine or ten of these, and I must admit they don’t look that great in the exhibition book – better on the wall. 

Then, you come to the bit where she covers a variety of things – a rowing boat, sofa, armchair, ladder, cabinet, women’s shoes – with sewn and stuffed little bags in the shape of penises.  An old-fashioned kettle hangs from one.  By way of variety, flowers and macaroni are used to cover shirts and coats and there is an attractive “Bronze Coat”, covered with sewn bags like horse dung.  The echoes of Oppenheim’s fur cup and the jacket covered with glasses (Duchamp?) are obvious.  I thought the penises looked like some mineral growth of little stalagtites – very pleasing.

Then. you come to the dark room, covered with little reflecting coloured discs that show up in one of those fluorescent lights –  and then to the reflecting mirror room, in which hundreds (?) of little coloured lights succeed each other in casting reflections into the surrounding mirrors and shallow pools of water, creating ever-receding pinpints of light.   Careful here – one chap stepped unwittingly into the water.  In the photos, this room resembles a Peter Doig painting somehow; but not in the “flesh”.

There’s much more, but it should be seen, not described.  I have to say, I didn’t see anything here that indicated she was more mentally ill than any other artist – obsessive, maybe, but most artists are, really.  After all, doing art is essentially playing.  Academies have been set up, rules laid down, techniques set in granite,  critics like Robert Hughes intone solemnly on the practices of Auerbach, say, working every day, 10 hours a day, covering everything in charcoal dust, taking 2 years on every portrait – it has to be done properly.  Then, along comes someone who breaks all the rules, sticks up two fingers to tradition, and becomes a huge success.  I love it – long live Damien and Tracy, and Julian Schnabel, who Hughes doesn’t seem to like much.  Play away, make (more) shedloads of money.

Albert Irvin

I’ve just discovered Tate Shots on YouTube, which are short films on artists, talking about their work, and watched the one on Albert.  The paintings (which I hated at first) are now so beautiful that, if I weren’t a working-class boy from South London, would make me weep with ecstasy.  No, not really – but they are good, especially that one with the great, diagonal sweeps of purple with little splats of blue.  Nice bloke, too.  Fiona Rae’s film is good as well – she has a little gizmo for squeezing all the paint out of a tube; must get one.

Flodden, Albert Irvin

Fellini

I’ve just bought the DVD of “the Ship Sailed On”, by the above, but haven’t yet seen it; I am intrigued by the book I have on Fellini, in which he avoids answering the question “What is the significance of the rhinoceros?”  Needless to say, … well it’s needless to say, so I won’t say it.

Can’t decide which way up this should go, so here’s both until I make my mind up.

OR…

Blackpaint

16.02.12