Posts Tagged ‘Basil Beattie’

Blackpaint 639 – Irvin, Lanyon, Frink and Malle

February 20, 2019

Albert Irvin and Abstract Impressionism – RWA Bristol until 3rd March 2019 – so hurry to visit!

Following hard upon my enthusiastic review of the Bonnard exhibition at Tate Modern, another positive reaction to the above; I’m sure I’ll soon find an exhibition to hate, but in the meantime, this is really very good.  Not only a great collection of huge, colourful Irvins, but also Brit kitchen sinkers (Bratby, Coker), abstractionists (Lanyon, Hoyland, Beattie, Blow) and American AbExes (de Kooning, Pollock, Jack Tworkov, Grace Hartigan, Newman, Motherwell, Sam Francis).

I’m putting the sizes of these paintings in, since size is one of the main things emphasised by all the British painters in their reaction to the exhibition of US ab exes at the Tate in 1959 – although not all the American pictures on show here are huge; a de Kooning, Motherwell’s “Ulysses”, the Hartigan and the Francis are smallish.

Unless otherwise stated, the Irvins are done in acrylics, which he started using in 1971.  He painted with canvases either against the wall or on the floor, supported by paint cans in the corners to allow air beneath so the paint would dry more quickly.  The catalogue, with a revealing interview with Basil Beattie, a close friend of Irvin, is great at £15.

Untitled 6, 1975, 178×203

Oranges (colours, not the fruit) make a regular appearance in Irvin’s work.  Early on, he used a lot of black in his paintings in keeping with the spirit of the times – but. as can be seen, this soon disappeared, along with most earth colours, apart from the odd patch of yellow ochre, from his paintings and prints.  As Beattie says, there’s no angst in Irvin’s work.

 

Wall of early-ish Irvins

See the black?

 

Untitled 3, mid 70s, 213×305

OK, wide dark slash here – exception to the rule.

 

Kestrel, 1981, 213×305

 

Almada, 1985, 213×305

 

Irvin, Sky 1960, oil on hardboard, 122×183

Lanyon was a big influence early on, as can be seen here.  Compare it to the Lanyon below:

 

Lanyon – St Ives Bay, oil on masonite 1957, 122×183

 

Irvin, Fallen Child in Corridor, oil on hardboard, 1955, 122×77

Example of Irvin’s figurative work in the 50s.

 

Peter Coker, Table and Chair, oil and sand on fibreboard, 1955, 153×122

I love this Coker – the extreme tilt of the table. the flayed head (cow’s?) on the surface; why doesn’t it all slide off?  On the down side, there’s the lemon headed kid, reminiscent of some Mintons, Joan Eardley maybe.  I thought of Colquhoun and MacBryde too, but no, too realist and dowdy.

 

Irvin, Untitled 2, oil on canvas, 1966, 152×127

A rare oil among the Irvin abstracts – note the trickle downs, absent from the acrylic works.

 

John Hoyland, Ivanhoe 16.3.81, 1981, acrylics, 183×167

A very nice (I’m determined not to use any more hackneyed superlatives) Hoyland from the Brit abstractionist section.  Hoyland got Irvin in on an exhibition at the Hayward, from which he got his gallery, Gimpel Fils.  no photos of the Americans, I’m afraid – not allowed.  But check out the Tworkov, “Cradle”, and the Sam Francis especially.  The Grace Hartigan is not her best and I could never “get” Barnett Newman.

Bristol Museum and Art Gallery

Just down the road from the Irvin exhibition, this collection, containing the lovely Bouts below, with the refreshingly everyday BVM (is that a chocolate she’s about to give the baby Jesus? and what’s wrong with his left leg?)

Dieric Bouts

…and this treatment (below) of the Annunciation by Berchem, which looks as if it was done by the studio of Jeff Koons a year or two ago.  without the irony though – if Koons IS being ironic…

The Annunciation to the Shepherds, Nicolaes Berchem the Elder, 1656

 

Lanyon – who else?

Other moderns on show are Rose Wylie, Aubrey Williams and Auerbach.  More next blog.

Elizabeth Frink, Sainsbury Centre. UEA, Norwich until 24th February 2019 – so go straight from Bristol!

I thought Frink was some formidable old Iron Lady – turns out she was a ringer for Germaine Greer, so certainly not a FOIL, in the 70s anyway.  The sculptures are superlative and often funny – probably unintentionally – like the two running men, but I think the best in the show are ink on paper drawings called “Cuchulain”, a mythical Irish hero.  No images online that I could find…

Au Revoir Les Enfants dir. Louis Malle, (1987)

Rather devastating in a quiet way, film about a Jewish boy being hidden in a Catholic boarding school in WW2 France.  It seems that it was autobiographical, another take on collaboration and resistance to go with “Lacombe, Lucien”.  Essential viewing for these times.  Essential reading: “If This is a Man”, Primo Levi; essential listening: Ralph McTell’s “Peppers and Tomatoes”.

Next time, definitely Bill Viola, Ken Kiff, Don McCullin.  And Michelangelo.

To the Dream Lighthouse

Blackpaint

20/02/19

 

 

 

 

 

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Blackpaint 407 – Bloodshed at the RA; is Stoner Perfect?

August 15, 2013

Sorry for hiatus – been away.

Mexico, a Revolution  in Art, at the RA

Not all Mexican – Edward Weston, Tina Modotti, Philip Guston, Cartier -Bresson,  DH Lawrence  et al, all down there on a visit at one time or another.

Starting with the inevitable sepia photos of firing squads and their dead victims, one sequence showing the shooting of four Mexicans, one after the other, at the moment the bullets strike; violent death somehow seems more prevalent in Mexican revolution, the executions routine and casual – maybe a reflection of the ubiquity of photographers.  Also strikers, prostitutes peeping from windows, semi-surrealist street shots…

A few lurid, blood-raw landscape pictures, and one snow-capped peak that recalled the Canadian “Seven” painter, Lawren Harris.  Maybe the landscape really IS that raw, blood orange colour – best to leave it to God, perhaps, like those lurid American Sublime sunsets.

The Guston (early figurative mode) and the one opposite of a man in a cat’s suit the best, along with a portrait by Siqueiros of Zapata – like a hooded-eyed, ancient deity.  Also an Orozco and a Rivera; both better as murals, I think.

Guston in Mexico

The RA Summer Exhibition

Overall, not inspiring.  Lots of well-known RAs doing their usual thing; some beautiful Irvins, especially the small, marmalade orange prints called “Shakespeare” (presumably after Shakespeare Road, rather than the playwright) – and a huge, penetrating blue canvas by Barbara Rae,   I think the most striking painting – in a good way – in the show.  But I didn’t record the title.

Gillian Ayres’ flower-shaped images on prints, Tracey Emin’s broken-line etchings, John Carter’s Oiticica-like wobbly squares… A number of John Bellanys in garish, livid colours, humans with seabirds’ heads.. a big, brown, messy, lovely Basil Beattie.

Jock MacFadyen’s paintings were interesting – none of the cartoon-like tattoo’ed thugs with pit bulls; instead, a realist derelict factory with graffitti and a minimalist portrait if Humphrey Ocean – good, but I think I prefer the cartoon stuff – speaking of which, A big Rose Wylie over the door in her usual style.

Most striking of the non – RAs was a small yellow, patchwork print by Hetty Haxworth, called “Rig and Furrow”, loads of prints of which already sold.

haxworth

Worst painting by famous artist; Per Kirkeby’s “Laokoon”, a roughly executed serpent in ugly colours.  Also Pete Tonkins’ acrylic abstract.  Ugliness, whatever that is, not necessarily bad in a painting, of course, but should be something else to carry it; coherence, structure, something anyway.

Stoner by John Williams

First published in 1965, a campus novel set in University of Missouri in years from WW1 to the 50s.  I thought it was stunning – I normally read a bunch of books a few pages each every day, but I put others aside until I finished this, in maybe four days, really fast for me.  It’s not flawless; the dialogue in the love scenes a little shaky, perhaps, and a death scene seems prolonged; but it made me reflect on my own time as a student and teacher, with some very depressing and uncomfortable results.

Something that occurred to me, but apparently to no-one else who has written about the novel on the internet, was that Lomax’s campaign against Stoner through Walker could be read as a metaphor for the ideological struggles between radical movements and more conservative forces on campus, which became common a little later in the 60s; I was thinking particularly of the accusations of racism or misogyny that were often deployed against conservative and liberal academics.  No doubt this take is somewhat crass; all other reviews stress the universality of the themes and the perfection of the novel.

I couldn’t help casting some of the characters mentally, in the film that must soon be made; Stoner himself, as a young man, I see played by Paul Dano (There Will be Blood); Finch could only be Philip Seymour Hoffman (The Master).

Great book; best of its kind I’ve read since Richard Yates.

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Montreuil, Blackpaint

15.08.13

Blackpaint 377 – The Chocolate Staircase and the Shinjuku Thief

January 17, 2013

Constable, Gainsborough, Turner and the Making of Landscape at the Royal Academy

Sounds impressive, but most of the pictures on show are etchings and other prints made from original paintings by the above.  I’m always amused to see the little figures in them – you couldn’t just do a landscape in England; it wasn’t a proper picture.  There had to be a kid with a cart and some cows, or maybe a mythological subject – a giant snake killing some chap by a stream, maybe, or some hero fighting a dragon.  I think it might have been Gainsborough who broke that taboo and did the first true “landskips”; have written about it in a previous blog.

Some really bizarre scenery on show – there are several etchings of cwms – is that right? – in Wales that appear to be surrounded by monolithic, flat faced slabs of rock, the likes of which I have never seen.  Plenty of thunderstorms, wild seas, rainbows, billowing cloud; a few beautiful, postcard-sized Constables tucked into corners.  And there are a few large paintings; dark and dramatic in the midst of all the black and white prints.

In the stairwell, an incongruous sight, but a very welcome one; a huge painting by Basil Beattie that looks like a melting, chocolate cream staircase on raw brown-green linen – a staircase in a stairwell.

basil beattie

Swinton and Scott Thomas

Watched films starring these two actresses in foreign films recently; Tilda Swinton in an Italian film, “I Am Love” (English title) and Scott Thomas in “Leaving”, a French film.  At times, I felt as if the two films were somehow bleeding into each other.  Both women married and comfortable/wealthy; Swinton falls for an Italian chef, Scott Thomas for a Spanish builder.  lots of torrid sex in idyllic, rural mountain surroundings; both leave their boring, bourgeois husbands for the exciting studs.  OK, the endings are rather different but the general situation and shape the same.  Continental art films – they can churn this stuff out endlessly.

Oshima

RIP. ” Ai No Corrida” I’ve got on video – yes! Video still working! – but will someone please bring out “Diary of a Shinjuku Thief” on DVD?  Can’t remember much about it from seeing it at UEA many years ago – except that I spent a rather sleepless night, tossing and turning, after seeing it.

Other films that need to be brought out on DVD as soon as possible (I’ve been looking for them for ages):  “The Damned”, directed by Visconti and “The Spider’s Stratagem”, Bertolucci, I think.

London Art Fair at the Angel

Went there today; a very mixed bag, but some beautiful paintings by Adrian Heath, Robyn Denny (especially), Paul Feiler. and two real beauties by Douglas Swan – that blue one with the yellow circle.

douglas swan

Also, however, some real clinkers – a terrible Keith Vaughan, an awful, and huge, Hoyland – red, green, yellow and crude – and Patrick Heron, especially one that looks as if he’s painted it over with white enamel.  It’s very heartening for a painter to see that the masters can knock out rubbish from time to time,too.

002

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Bloody Doors and Windows

Blackpaint

17.01.13

Blackpaint 191

September 11, 2010

Painting

You know that feeling you get when you take a clean towel into the shower and when you step out dripping and bury your face in it, you find it smells of onions because you put it on the line when next door was cooking?  That’s how I feel when I finish a painting at night, think it’s OK and then look at it in the dull light of day.

I’m a bit worried about the lack of theory in my painting; it seems to be purely instinctive, a sort of physical process in which colours and marks are chosen by reference to what’s happening on the canvas, not some overall plan.  It could be that I’m an overgrown child, wallowing around in a paintbox, making a mess.  Its all meaningless decoration, maybe, but some (all?) paintings draw your eye to them by their physical properties, marks, texture, shapes on canvas – that’s meaning enough in itself, perhaps.

All abstract painters are overgrown children, I think; some of them sling the paint around, slap it on wildly, others control their crayons carefully, not going over the lines, tongue poked  out in concentration.  Sort of Joan Mitchell v. Agnes  Martin.

Raphael at the V&A

Wrote about this a couple of blogs ago; I thought you had to pay because a booking number was included in the review, but it’s free – booking advised, expected pressure of numbers.  Everything else I said stands.

Basil Beattie

I remember going to his exhibition at the Tate Britain a few years ago and being bemused by a small number of huge canvases with crudely painted doorways and lozenges on them.  Now, I think he’s great – just looked at his stuff online and it reminds me of Prunella Clough magnified a dozen times; and the older stuff, maybe John Hoyland.  The Tate website reckons he’s a bit like Philip Guston, but I can’t see it. 

These lozenge shapes, like  inverted cakes, they appear over and over in his work – I wonder if he means to put them in, or if he does a canvas and then thinks; “Something missing, here – it needs a bold shape in black, something like this…Oh no, I’ve done that shape again!”  Probably not, because some of his paintings show them piled on top of each other to make “Ziggurats”.  Proper painters probably paint what they mean to paint.

“Positively seethes”

Looking back through blog, I find I have used this twice, or three times, in relation to surfaces of paintings by Gillian Ayres and Leon Kossoff.  One day, I’m going to go through the blog with a fine toothcomb and eliminate  all such cliches.

WIP Blackpaint – smell of onions

11.09.10