Posts Tagged ‘Baltermans’

Blackpaint 346 – The Glamour of Desolation

June 14, 2012

Burtynsky again

Second visit and I realise that these fabulous photographs actually glamorise the processes of oil extraction, refinement and waste disposal – not sure if that was the artist’s intention.  The scenes of environmental dereliction, in the Azerbaijan oilfields and especially Chittagong, look great.  If I were in Bangladesh as a tourist, I’d want to go to Chittagong, see the hulks on the beaches with golden light pouring over and round them, and take pictures.  From across the room, the photographs reminded me of those classy riverscape paintings used to illustrate Penguin Classic editions of Dickens – “Our Mutual Friend”, maybe.

If they had been in black and white, they would have looked like Baltermans Soviet war shots; Stalingrad or Kursk…

And, inevitably, the salt flats shot recalls Brueghel…

Tree of Life (Malick)

Another second visit, and the Tarkovsky overtones immediately flooding in, especially “Mirror”; but a couple of Ray Bradbury moments I missed the first time, too – the clown who drops into the water tank (surely that’s Gacy’s clownface?) and the tall man in the wooden tunnel/corridor…  Probably me reading stuff in, rather than Malick.

A series of images at the end to play with; beach and sandbar, desert rocks, doorway in desert and water, that rock fissure from below again, the floating mask – and who are the two girls with the mother when she gives her son to god/eternity/universe…?

British Museum – The Horse

The Stubbs paintings; sometimes, there’s something strange or not right with his riders and horses, isn’t there?  The horses seem to me to be elongated somehow, can’t quite put my finger on it…  It must be a way of seeing, since he did all those anatomical drawings of horses (a copy of the book is in the exhibition).

Van Dyck

There is the most beautiful drawing of a horse in black chalk with white highlights on blue paper; the wall note says it’s probably a sketch for an equestrian portrait like the one of Charles I in the National Gallery – the one in which the horse’s neck is too long and/or the head too small.

Picasso, the Vollard Collection (print room of British Museum)

Seen these etchings already in Santiago de Compostella (see Blackpaint 288).  The beautiful curving line, freedom of depiction, the way he mixes spare line with dense forests of cross-hatching.  That head-knob nose, copied from – forgotten, somewhere Middle East or Med.,  that makes an appearance for several prints and then disappears.  Mostly elderly artist with nude model and statue; a series of Minotaurs, drinking at orgies, or creeping into young girls’ bedrooms – there are usually naked girls, vulnerably loitering or asleep, in the vicinity.  There is a series of five or six “rapes”, with great flurries of limbs and torsos, but difficult to make out.  Finally, there are several blind Minotaurs, being led here or there in a stiff-legged, Egyptian profile walk.  Some Rembrandt and Goya etchings are mixed in, where Picasso had borrowed a theme, or the subject matter/technique is similar.

Blackpaint

14th June 2012

Blackpaint 293

September 8, 2011

Michael Craig-Martin’s Oak Tree

I’ve seen this at the Tate Britain many times, of course, but I read the interview extract on the wall for the first time yesterday – it reminded me of a Peter Cook interview.  The oak tree appears to you and I to be a glass of water, set on a shelf high up the wall.  According to MCM, it became an oak tree when he chose to exhibit it as such.  It is not a symbol or a metaphor – it is an oak tree, currently in the form of a glass of water.  It will cease to be an oak tree, if and when MCM decides that it is no longer one.  He isn’t asked what will happen when he dies; will it remain an oak tree (although appearing to be a glass of water) or will it revert?  What if a careless attendant were to spill it and refill the “glass” with water?  Would he know?

Don McCullin

There is a roomful of B&W photographs by McCullin, at the moment; landscapes, rural and industrial, tramps and drinkers in the East End in 1969, GIs and East German police in 60s Berlin.  The landscapes are almost too beautiful, in the sense of composition – a shot along a water-filled ditch, thorn trees lining it, black against an awesome sky; snow-covered fields under a winter sky, on Hadrian’s Wall – the ditch a bit Bela Tarr.  A woman wheels a pram across the shot, slag heaps and chimneys in the distance, soot or coal dust covering everything; despite the open-air setting and the distance, I found this and the other industrial shots oddly “enclosed”, almost claustrophobic – reminded me of that Baltermans photograph of distraught Russian women, finding the bodies of their murdered men on the Russian steppe.

But the tramp photos are the most remarkable; they are covered with dirt, stunned and staring, almost roasted by the open air and hard living.  Two of the faces have to be seen to be believed; they look Shakespeareian.

Dismembered Bodies

I think the room is called this, or something like it.  At Bilbao Guggenheim this summer, a lot of sculptures – Kiki Smith, Robert Gober – could have fit in here.  There is a video by Bonnie Camplin and Paulina Orlowska that I watched several times through; it was a series of cut-outs of two women, dancing to jumpy music and I became hooked on the bit where the black floor seemed to be sucked up into the bottom of the one on the left.  Other artists – John Slezacker’s cut – ups and a wooden piece by Enrico David that looked like cut – outs of the Beatles with dowelling penises thrusting horizontally out.  Also, something that looked like a tall, roughly-made, cardboard guillotine.

Stuart Brisley

A series of photos of a long ago happening in which Brisley lay on the cement ground in a park and revolved, drawing with chalk as he did so.  Then he repeated the action with white paint, then black paint until his body in the photo resembled an oil-drenched corpse, partly dismembered…   Then he jumped in a lake.

Chelsea MA Show

Striking videos by Adam Frank Walker in the film theatre; the first, called “Flat Screen-Hackney” I think, was filmed during the recent riots.  There were striking close-ups of participants, fronting up to the police, taunting them, chucking rocks, carrying off a flat screen.  Film jerky, episodic, occasionally washed out in a blaze of yellow or red.  If he filmed it himself, he must have been at risk – maybe it was a compilation from TV or internet?  Second was “Everyday fucking art” (or maybe “Accidental art”); a snarling, smoking man yelling out of the screen in a Notts or Derbyshire accent, in answer to unprovoking questions from the unseen filmmaker,  Finally, another angry man, apparently a flatmate, threatening to “rip your fucking head off if you do that with the camera again” – or similar words.  I went to Walker’s website to read up on him but I couldn’t understand most of it.

Not nice, but effective – like rappers snarling and poking fingers out of a TV screen at you. The films make you feel first uncomfortable then angry, so that you want to punch back.  Any still from any of the films would be powerful; I thought they linked up with the McCullin tramp photos, especially the everyday artist.

 

Blackpaint

8.09.11