Posts Tagged ‘Barbara Hepworth’

Blackpaint 502 – What’s the Meaning of this?

July 5, 2015

Meaning in Abstraction

Jonathan Jones on Jackson Pollock: Blind Spots (Tate Liverpool) in the Guardian and now Laura Cumming in the Observer, also on Pollock, raise the question of meaning in painting.  Cumming writes eloquently about “Pollock’s leaping black lines – apparently describing nothing – as free as a bird to be purely, sheerly visual as they dance across the canvas”; she then spends much of the rest of her article spotting images in the paintings – “a massive figure powers along against a billowing yellow sky”.

pollock no.12 52

No.12, 1952

Jones, earlier in the week, also wrote about the images in Pollock’s work, quoting him: “I choose to veil the image”… and then commenting, “In other words, the image is there – meaning is there – always.  And in his later paintings it breaks out like a sickness.”

The image is there – meaning is there… so no image, no meaning.  How does this square with his recent championing of Bridget Riley and Howard Hodgkin?  She was doing “science” (opticals etc.), he was doing emotion. What about painters like Hoyland?  just decoration, presumably.

It’s irritating to read critics spotting shapes in the painting, even if everybody does – I was seeing tits everywhere in Diebenkorn’s “abstract landscapes” the other week; but worse is the implication that paintings without images from “reality” are meaningless.  The meaning is the picture, the picture is itself.

Neil Stokoe: Paintings from the 60s on. (Redfern Gallery, Cork Street W1)

What a pity that this finishes today (Sunday)!  I only discovered the exhibition (and the painter) on Wednesday, when I went looking for an upcoming William Gear exhibition at the same gallery.

Stokoe is now 80; he was at the Royal College of Art with – get ready – Hockney, Kitaj, Frank Bowling, Allen Jones, Derek Boshier; Pauline Boty was there and Caulfield the following year.  He was a friend of Bacon.  He had a canvas bought by the Arts Council in 1970 after his first exhibition and then – not very much for 30- odd years.  He went into teaching at Wimbledon, but carried on painting.

The astonishing thing is the size of the paintings he was producing – and stacking against the wall, presumably.  They are massive – “Man and Woman in Room with Spiral Staircase” (1970) is 214 x 214 cms and the others are around that size.

stokoe richard burton

 

The colours are pinks, bright blues, acid yellows sometimes set in dark surroundings, as above; in one or two, the face is “Bacon-ised” but I think the settings show more of the influence of the older painter – the spiral staircases, somehow (a recurring feature in Stokoe’s work; I count seven in the catalogue) and in “Figure with Black Couch” (1968), the couch itself provides an arena very like the rails and circles Bacon used.  Something else that occurred to me is the resemblance to Joanna Hogg’s last film, “Exhibition”.  It’s not just the spiral staircase thing, but the colours as well – that acid, lurid, neon, ice cream palette.

Anyway, I guess it’s finished now, so look him up online – there’s a great photo of him from “The Tatler”, which covered the private view of his earlier exhibition at the Piper Gallery.

All is Lost (JC Chandor)

Got this on DVD, having missed the release.  Redford is pretty good for 79, although I noticed there were a couple of stunt doubles in the credits; I’m sure that was him up the mast though.  Classic American lean, hard, nameless hero against Big Nature, not giving up, fighting on to the bitter end.  Facially, he seemed at times to be morphing into Burt Lancaster.  Great shots, particularly those of the life raft from below, in tandem on the surface with the moon’s reflection.  I wonder how many, like me,  were expecting the oceanic white tips to show up again at the end (see previous Blackpaint on “Gravity”).  Great film; awful, portentous score.

Les Enfants Terribles, Cocteau

I’ve been re-reading this because it’s thin; I was surprised to find how much it reminded me of MacEwan’s “Cement Garden” – or the other way round, I suppose.  No doubt I’m about 45 years late in making that observation.

Hepworth at Tate Britain

Had to put these torsos in – there are three in a case together, but I can’t remember who did the third; Skeaping, I think.

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 torso

Torso 1914 Henri Gaudier-Brzeska 1891-1915 Transferred from the Victoria & Albert Museum 1983 http://www.tate.org.uk/art/work/T03731

Gaudier Brzeska torso

By the way, if you want to buy a Barbara Hepworth style duffle jacket at the Tate, you can do so for £400+; a sculpting shirt will set you back £300 odd.  Bargains, I think you’ll agree.

red and blue on ochre 1

Red and Blue on Ochre – NB It’s without meaning…

Blackpaint

05.07.15

 

 

 

 

Advertisements

Blackpaint 501- Dress Like Hepworth, Swear like Swearengen

June 28, 2015

Barbara Hepworth; Sculpture for a Modern World. Tate Britain 

The first thing to say about this is how small it feels.  There are seven areas shown in the map of the exhibition, but it actually feels like about four rooms.  In the first, there are a number of small works by her contemporaries as well as Hepworth ; John Skeaping, Epstein, Gaudier – Brzeska, Eric Gill, some of which are as good or better than hers.  I love the larger pair of doves by Epstein, with their deadpan expressions and pointed bills; then there’s the yellow cats, Skeaping I think, and Gill’s “Eve”.  There are also a number of beautifully smooth eggs and cylinders, assemblages of spheres and cuboids that cry out to be felt – which is, no doubt, why they are under glass.

 

Doves 1914-15 Sir Jacob Epstein 1880-1959 Purchased 1973 http://www.tate.org.uk/art/work/T01820

Epstein’s Doves

There is a room which is dominated by the paintings of Ben Nicholson, a succession of dreary Picasso-like black heads – maybe I’ve seen too much Nicholson of late – and those works of Hepworth’s that are strung with wires, like the ones by Naum Gabo (and I think Henry Moore did some too – did they all have the same idea at the same time?).

Then, there are the interlocking segments of burnished wood, like so many pieces of classy furniture from the 50s; you wouldn’t be surprised to find the nutty wood cocooning a radio or radiogram.  A couple of breeze block walls  with greening metal pieces hidden round corners, as if reproducing the effect of the pieces in her garden at St Ives.

The exhibition ends rather suddenly – it took us about 40 minutes to go round the lot.

Sculpture with Colour (Deep Blue and Red) 1940 Dame Barbara Hepworth 1903-1975 Presented by the executors of the artist's estate 1980 http://www.tate.org.uk/art/work/T03133

Sculpture with Colour (Deep Blue and Red) Hepworth

There are a number of purchasing opportunities, prints, scarves, pottery and a range of Hepworth-inspired clothing: a duffle jacket and a sort of canvas/linen shirt for sculpting in, so you can dress like her as you hack at the marble in your back garden, cigarette in mouth, drink on the table.

RA Summer Show (again)

A few more names and works to look out for:

Phyllida Barlow – a sculpture actually made of wood, that looks like rough old square-cut concrete conduit chunks stuck together; looks great in the context of more refined pieces, shying away from it in horror.

John Carter – brightly coloured plaques with small window-like notches cut into them; like walls of some North African fortress.

Phillip King – two small, colourful abstract drawings, in the corner next to his sculptural assemblage (I think the lop-sided window shape with the neon would make a good piece on its own, separated from the rest of the dreck he has attached it to; it would be like an early Martial Raysse).

 

Guston at Timothy Taylor Gallery

guston tt

Near the taxi-polluted Berkeley Square (the nightingale would have died choking), a prime collection of Gustons, ranging from unfamiliar free line drawings, through the big pink, red, green black and grey abstracts – only one, I think – to the cartoons.  Yes, I know they are more profound and painterly, not really cartoons but ironic appropriations of the form, look at the way he uses paint, and so on… but they still look like cartoons to me and he was a big fan (obviously) of the stupendous Robert Crumb.

There is a Nixon Phlebitis and a picture in which he lays out his motifs – bloodshot eyeballs, lit fags, various detritus – as if preparing to stick them into a picture.

The paint actually is worth a mention; it’s oily and thick and greasy in places, looking still wet and viscous – and dirty.  Lovely.

Deadwood, the box set

Saving the last episode for tomorrow night.  They could never make this series now, could they?  I think it was made 2005 – 6.  Non-stop obscene language, constant racial epithets – there’s a character called the Nigger General –  casual sex and sexual violence, heroic drinking, drug use, throat cutting, eye gouging…  I’ve enjoyed every episode immensely and the music over the end credits is stunning – Bukka White, Memphis Slim,  Keb Mo’.  Ian McShane as Al Swearengen certainly laid Lovejoy to rest.

Three of mine to finish-

 

amanda in red and black

Amanda in Black and Red

sonia blurred

Sonia, Blurred (the model was pissed when I did this one)

red and blue canals1

Seagulls over Sorrento

Blackpaint

28.06.15

 

Blackpaint 450 – Pantomime Horses, the Royal Messenger and the Cornish Caves

June 13, 2014

Ben and Winifred Nicholson, Christopher Wood and Alfred Wallis at Dulwich Picture Gallery  

This follows on nicely from the exhibition at Tate St.Ives; Winifred is the star for me, in this early period, which more or less finishes when Ben began to do his geometric abstracts.  His paintings feature some rather irritating pantomime horses, not quite with the knees pointing the wrong way, but nearly.  Also, he seems to have nicked some sailing ships from Alfred Wallis.  The style is termed faux-naive, and it strikes a false note with me. for sure.

Winifred’s still lifes of flowers strike me as bearing a slight resemblance to Paul Nash, not so much content as surface and hue.  There are also two portraits, one of a family looking out at the viewer and one of a father tending to a child.  In addition to Nash, there is a hint of Stanley Spencer and perhaps, in the baby, Wallis and Gromit.

.winifred-nicholson-father-and-son-19271

Anyway, there’s a fine triangular Wallis of ships passing before icebergs, and Ben Nicholson’s rather shabby first abstraction, which has a charm of its own.  Still the best Winifred I’ve seen, though, is the Window Sill at Lugano, which is at the Tate St.Ives show.  The colours remind me of the great de Kooning poster which is in the Member’s Room of the Tate Modern.  Can’t find the DK painting in any of my books; maybe its a detail.

winifred nicholson

Winifred Nicholson

Tate St. Ives

Some paintings and sculptures from the current show that I didn’t mention last week:

Riopelle, Perspectives

Little ingots of white and black paint massed together in his usual style against areas of deep, cold blue and dark red.

Perspectives-Jean-Paul-Riopelle-1956

 

Frink

A human torso, half legs and arms, spread out like an animal carcase.

Hepworth, Torso

Beautiful bust of a heavy- hipped woman.

hepworth torso

 

Lanyon, Turn Around

One of several intriguing box-type constructions.

Turn Around 1963-4 by Peter Lanyon 1918-1964

 

Niki de Saint Phalle, Dracula

Hard to describe, so here’s a picture –

niki_de_saint_phalle_dracula

National Gallery 

A couple more things to look out for in the newly opened basement gallery (wednesdays and Sundays):

The Battle of Valmy

That poor hussar lying dead on his back, with a cannonball hole in his breastplate – why has he got no boots on?

valmy

The Madonna and Child – I think it’s in the style of Duccio.

Dubufe – the Surprise

Wonder what it is?

dubufe-surprise-NG457-fm

 

DH Lawrence, the White Peacock

I was going on last week about how Lawrence larded every page of this, his first novel, with nature description.  On reflection, I think its more than just the urge to describe; I think nature is almost another “character” in the narrative – it is stitched in to frame and echo the unfolding of the story in a way that transcends simple scene-setting; but I’m often wrong.

Orwell, Animal Farm

There’s a lovely passage in Crick’s biography, worth quoting in full:

“When Queen Elizabeth, whose literary adviser was Osbert Sitwell, sent the Royal Messenger to Secker and Warburg for a copy in November, he found them utterly sold out and had to go with horse, carriage, top hat and all, to the anarchist Freedom Bookshop, in Red Lion Street, where George Woodcock gave him a copy”.

The Killer Inside Me

Michael Winterbottom film from a Jim Thompson novel, starring Casey Affleck as a psychopathic deputy sheriff in Texas 50s and Jessica Alba as his prostitute girlfriend, who he beats to death quite coldly as part of a double murder, when it suits him.  Later, he does the same thing to his fiancee.  A horrible film, with two repulsive sequences – possibly three – which I found very compelling too; had to watch it to the end.  Maybe there’s something wrong with me.  Affleck is brilliant; you want to beat him to death.

??????????

Cornish Cave Painting 3

??????????

 

What the Landscape Became

Blackpaint 13/06/14

Blackpaint 294

September 13, 2011

Changing Times…

Edward Lucie-Smith, writing in 1969, refers to Bridget Riley as “Miss Riley”.  Male painters are referred to by their surnames: “Hockney”does this or that…  .  Lucie – Smith quotes Dr. Johnson with reference to computer – generated art: “Dr, Johnson’s remark about a woman preaching seems applicable: it is not that the computer does it well, but it is surprising that it can do it at all.”  Interestingly, he later refers to Barbara Hepworth as “Hepworth” – clearly a sign of respect.

In material from the Sainsbury Centre in Norwich, I am told that Mary Webb taught at Norwich School of Art – which has since been renamed “Norwich University College of the Arts”.  What bollocks all that is; Norwich Art School sounds much better, I think.

Days of Heaven

Finally got to see this great film again, at the BFI – I remember seeing it back in 1979 and thinking it was the best film I’d ever seen.  I remembered the name of Nestor Almendros, the cinematographer, but not that it was Terence Malick directing – the photography seemed far more important.  It was nearly as stunning the second time, but maybe a little less so, because my expectations were so high.  The narrative voice of the young girl provided a clear link to Badlands; parts of it, and parts of the dialogue sounded improvised.  I found Leo Kottke’s upbeat guitar music a bit irritating and there was one scene which came perilously close to that awful stretch in Gangs of New York, where everyone is doing their own street bit – juggling, fighting, drinking, picking a pocket…  The river scenes reminded me a little of Night of the Hunter.  Brooke Adams has somehow got a silent film face; I could easily see her with Chaplin, in Gold Rush, say.  Strange, beautiful eyes and that downturned mouth…

Fellini’s Casanova

And yes! The whale makes an appearance in this too, as a circus/freak show exhibit, like in Tarr’s Werckmeister, and Fellini’s own Satyricon (although not in a circus; hoisted from the sea).   I think there’s a thesis to be written on the role of rotting whale carcases in art house cinema.  Maybe you could stretch it to include huge, unidentified fish things, to get Dolce Vita in.

Degas and Picasso

Adrian Searle in today’s Guardian, says that the famous Degas statue of the Little Dancer was “the model for one of the figures in Picasso’s 1906 Demoiselles d’Avignon – or at least, this is the opinion of Richard Kendall, the curator of the Degas show at the RA.  I checked this out, and he can only mean the demoiselle on the left, as the viewer looks at the painting.  The posture and the head position are completely different, however, and the only resemblance I can see is between the right leg of the little dancer and the leg of the demoiselle – pretty thin, really (the idea, not the leg).

Diebenkorn

I have started to love that second abstract period; the way some of them combine the painterly-ness with the schematic, sort of half minimalism of all those ones that look like archways or windiws…  started to do some like that myself – only 35 years later, of course…

The song the spider sings

Blackpaint

Sept 13th 2011