Posts Tagged ‘Barnett Newman’

Blackpaint 514 – Hoyland’s Cakes, The Serpent’s Egg, Auerbach’s Mustard

October 12, 2015

John Hoyland at Newport Street Gallery

hoyland1

These huge, voluptuous colour field pictures, around 40 of them, are on display at Damien Hirst’s new gallery near Vauxhall.  It’s enormous; white walls of course, lovely staircases, a line of big toilets with heavy doors as if he’s expecting coachloads of pensioners.  The paintings are from Hirst’s own collection and it’s great to see them here for free.

Acrylics for the most part – there are two oils, I think.  Several maroons with orange, leaf green (ugh!), turquoise, grey-blue, reds and greys, arranged in blocks or columns; a few with scraped edges and splatters, “smoking” tops (the result of trickle- downs and reversal of the canvas).  The central section upstairs I think of as the cake room; pinks, beiges and whites, like huge cake slices smashed and splattered against the canvas.  In the last room, deep, singing blues, reds and oranges, scraped to reveal gold, like clouds of fire; colours arranged in blocks and diagonals.

For an alternative view, try Jonathan Jones online – “Why is Damien Hirst opening his new gallery with this second-rate artist?”  He makes the laughable claim that Hoyland is trying to do Rothko, or Pollock, or Barnet Newman.  Actually, the painters who came to my mind were Hans Hoffman and John Golding (a bit).  Hoyland, says Jones,  is simply “messing about with paint”.

hoyland2

The Serpent’s Egg, Bergman (1977)

Falls into that genre of films like “Cabaret” and Visconti’s “The Damned”, in which the story is set in Weimar Germany, in this case, Berlin – sleazy drinking clubs, cabarets and brothels (often combined), cross- dressing, prostitution, obscene night club turns, dwarves, smeared, garish lipstick, lost innocence, sudden shocking violence, crazed Nazi bands, wet cobblestones, sense of doom…  Bergman’s film is set earlier than the others- 1923 I think, the time of hyper-inflation- but the similarities are apparent.  It becomes suddenly Kafka-esque towards the denouement; David Carradine is chased around a mysterious underground laboratory-labyrinth and confronts a mad scientist, more Nazi than Hitler himself (who is a minor demagogue at this time, about to launch his Munich Putsch).

Unlike any other Bergman film I’ve seen; sort of a low budget feel, strangely, since it was made in Hollywood, and the sound on the DVD is terrible.  I ended up watching it with subtitles for the hard of hearing, which improved it no end.

That Obscure Object of Desire, Bunuel (1977)

The story of this great Bunuel is well-known; Fernando Rey’s pursuit of the young Spanish flamenco dancer to Seville and eventually to Paris, her continual promising and then avoiding/refusing  sex with him (in one sequence arriving naked in his bedroom – apart from an impregnable, tightly-laced corset); the gifts of money he constantly makes to her and her complicit mother, culminating in his buying her a house.  After another provocation, he attacks her; she grins up at him through her bleeding lips and says, “Now I know you really love me!”  Dodgy sexual politics, to be sure.  I had forgotten the little “surreal” bits in the film – the mousetrap that goes off during one of Rey’s intense scenes with Conchita; the sack that he lugs around inexplicably in several scenes.

Conchita, the girl, is famously played by two completely different actresses –  the elegant, glacial Carole Bouquet and the effervescent Angela Molina.  This caused me great consternation when I first saw the film.  I rationalised it along these rather obvious lines: they represent the two halves of Conchita’s character; cold and hot.  That didn’t work though.  So, they represent the two ways she responds to Rey.  But that didn’t work either, for the same reason (they both encourage and reject him, rather than “taking turns”).

Wikipedia says that Bunuel got the idea to use different women in response to difficulties he was having on set with another actress,  Maria Schneider apparently, and that it had no deeper significance than that he thought it was an amusing idea and would” work well”.

I love that phrase; I’ve heard it so many times from different artists and said it often myself, in response to those who ask “What does that represent?” or “Why did you do that there?” – the answer is invariably mundane or unhelpful; it “looked good”, or “I thought it was black and when I put it on the canvas,  it turned out to be prussian blue”.  As often, a Jonathan Jones piece is instructive; reviewing the new Auerbach at Tate Britain, Jones recycles the old “colourless 50s” cliche: “Back in the 1950s, he (Auerbach) saw very little colour in the world.  Frankenstein faces loom like monsters in his early paintings.   Gradually came the colours: blood red, mustard yellow, and eventually orange, purple, blue, the lot – a rainbow slowly spreading…”.  Auerbach himself, speaking on his son’s film about him, explains that the new colours were the result of his progressively having more money to spend on paint.

Jones’ review is otherwise not bad, apart from his habitual thumping overstatement and childish posturing – “My generation owes Auerbach an apology..”…

serpents egg of obscure desire

The Serpent’s Egg of Obscure Desire

Blackpaint

12.10.15

 

 

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Blackpaint 349 – Malevich, Stalin and Fred and Ginger again

July 6, 2012

Sorry, a day late publishing, owing to basic idleness.

Frank Bowling

Good to see an article in the Guardian on Bowling’s poured paintings at the Tate Britain.  I knew him only by the single flag painting in the “Migrations” exhibition, which is not at all typical of his work.  He tends more to a sort of abstract Expressionism and uses colours that remind me of John Hoyland – although he doesn’t mention knowing Hoyland; Hockney was one of his art school contemporaries.  I’m going to see the Tate thing again tomorrow.

Paul Jenkins

My Australian blogger/painter friend Paintlater posted an item about this US AbEx artist, again unknown to me, who has just died.  Fantastic, large canvases with swathes of paint unfurling across them, guided with a knife apparently.  A little like Morris Louis – the paint looks as if it has been hurled but it doesn’t spatter – a bit like huge silk scarves, although not in the one below, which is untypical, but nice.

Malevich

Been reading Boris Groys’ book “The Total Art of Stalinism”, which is a reading of the the Russian avant garde and it’s relationship with the Stalinist state and Socialist Realism.  Malevich’s famous Black Square of 1923 was, according to Groys, a “Ground Zero”, painted by M as a sort of barrier of nothingness designed to put an end to further proliferation of art movements in Russia, enabling the mobilisation of artists for the construction of a real, unitary “work of art” – the socialist state itself.  Groys sees this as the self-imposed task of the Russian avant garde.

Unfortunately for the AG, their formalism was not seen as useful by either Lenin or Stalin, who disengaged with the AG in favour of the proponents of Socialist Realism – which was handier for propaganda purposes.

I’d always thought of the Russian avant garde as vaguely libertarian and radical; radical they were -but libertarian, no.  Totalitarian, more like.

Groys’ book is about Soviet Russia (published in 1987), so it largely ignores the similarities (and differences) between Socialist Realism and Nazi and Fascist art.  An interesting book to be written there – no doubt, it already has been.

 

Critics

Barnett Newman famously said that the relationship of critics to artists was like that of ornithologists to the birds – the birds do, the ornis watch and interpret.

Seems to me that this is right – artists (Bacon, Pollock, de Kooning)are great on the processes of production but are often vague and reluctant to analyse deeply what they do – in case the magic goes away, presumably.  I think its for the artist to do and the critic to analyse; its a pity that some of the critics insist on mystifying the work by “reading” it in an arcane vocabulary that is spoken only by other critics.

Fred and Ginger

“Swingtime” has got to be the best; “Pick Yourself Up” is just an unbelievable joy, when Fred does that saunter – sudden kick thing, and later swings Ginger over the barrier.  But then there is “Never Gonna Dance”, a perfect little ballet quoting all the previous numbers.  Ginger’s back in that dress is the third great back in art history; Veronese’s “Unfaithfulness”, Kitaj’s wonderful drawing are the other two (see previous Blackpaints).

Some old ones to end-

 

Blackpaint

06.07.12

Blackpaint 86

March 14, 2010

Barnett Newman

I can’t leave this idea of the painting “painting itself ” (see previous blogs on Ofili et al., nos. 45 – 49, and 83)).  Now I’ve come across it in a quote from BN in the Taschen “Abstract Expressionism” book by Barbara Hess: ” I began these paintings eight years ago the way I begin all my paintings – by painting…..It is as I work that the work itself begins to have an effect on me.  Just as I affect the canvas, so does the canvas affect me.”  OK, so it’s not totally a matter of the artist as a sort of passive applicator but a dual process – a bit from the artist, a bit from the painting and so on.  Even the ones who work from sketches (Kline, Hartung) produce the sketches by the means of “automatic writing”, that Surrealist conceit of the artist’s subconscious doing the work by guiding the hand.

What strikes me is the difference between the work of the various artists – you could hardly find more differing styles than those of Newman, Kline, Hartung and Ofili, yet they have all made strikingly similar comments about the nature of painting as they experience it.  Of course, this probably just means that I’m saying something extremely banal…

Nathalie Djurberg

Again from Taschen, this time “100 Contemporary Artists”, the most superfluous explanation of a title: “..as in Tiger Licking Girl’s Butt (2004), in which, as the title implies, a tiger compulsively licks a girl’s behind.”  Interesting use of the word “implies” here.  Incidentally, no danger to either tiger or girl involved, since they are both clay models, used for animation by the above artist.

Final Version (I think) of “Ain’t Seen No Whiskey”:

And Version 1 of “Untitled, March 13th, 3.00am”

So called, because that’s when I did it, after a long dinner party involving a surfeit of anchovies and a ukelele.  Definitely had seen some whiskey on this occasion.

Read on over the next few entries “to see how the dialogue between the painting and myself develops”.

Listening to Dick Gaughan again, the “Green Linnet” (Napoleon, of course):

“I have roamed through the deserts of wild Abyssinia and could yet find no cure for my pain;

I’ll go and enquire at the isle of Saint Helena – but soft whispers murmur, ’tis vain.

Come tell me ye critics, come tell me in time,

What nations I must roam, my green linnet to find.

Was he slain at Waterloo, in France or on the Rhine?  No, he’s dead on Saint Helena’s bleak shore”

Blackpaint, Sunday evening coming down.

Blackpaint 35

January 10, 2010

Kenneth Noland

In yesterday’s obituary of Noland, Michael McNay recalls Clement Greenberg’s use of the term “post-painterly abstractionists” to describe Noland and others, and remarks how, for Greenberg, “the purely colour-based paintings of Noland and the others marked out a different and more advanced stage of art’s march to absolute abstraction”. 

This sounds very odd now, the idea of art as a rolling process heading in a particular direction towards fulfilment, in some sort of Hegelian or Marxian progression.  Further on in the piece, McNay mentions the “wholesale rejection by younger painters…of modernist abstraction” in the 1960s.

Now, of course, everything is fragmented and one can cut and paste from these past movements – nothing is original.  this, thank goodness, does not mean the same as “nothing is worthwhile doing”; but I suppose every piece that is produced of whatever kind fits into some existing category, with ready points of comparison by which the critic can assess its worth.

Is that really so, or is there true originality “out there”? (horrible cliche, like “I don’t think so”, or “Do you know what?” or “Good luck with that.”)  Here’s another one; Answers on a postcard to….

Taschen

Yesterday, I bought the two new Taschen books “Abstract Art” and “Abstract Expressionism”.  Both full of images of great beauty and profundity that I am tempted to describe in superlatives like “stunning” and “poignant” – but I won’t, because I am of a certain age and culture, and besides they are cliches.

Something I noticed was the use of marginalised or obscured colours in two paintings in particular.  The first, by Barnett Newman, “who’s afraid of red, yellow and blue I”.  This is at first glance a red rectangle with a narrow stripe of blue running down the left margin.  Only at second glance (perhaps as a reaction to the title) do you notice the much narrower, and ragged stripe of yellow down the right margin.

The other picture, by Robert Motherwell, is one of the famous “Elegy to the Spanish Republic” series, this one no.34.  In this version, the bulbous black figures in the foreground partially hide background squares of red yellow ochre and blue, arranged in rough columns.  I think I’ve seen a version in the Tate Modern, and I’m sure that it was on a background of plain white.  The colours (of the Spanish Republican flag) transform the image from an abstract one to a symbolic one to my mind – although I suppose you could argue that the title itself does that, to an extent anyway.

More about these stunning and poignant paintings of great beauty and profundity to follow.

Today, I listened to no music at all – but I watched Wolfie Adams beat Dave Chisnall in the darts final, to the accompaniment of the most surreal commentary yet from Tony Green and his colleague.

Blackpaint

1o.01.10