Posts Tagged ‘Bela Tarr’

Blackpaint 540 – Bacon, Bela, Berlin and Dental Horror

April 9, 2016

Russian Portraits, National Portrait Gallery

Went to this again last Wednesday and it was thronged; while I was standing looking at the Vrubel portrait of Mamontov (see below), one of the two women in front of me declared “It’s just like a Francis Bacon!”  This seems to be a common observation to make about anything which isn’t a straightforward “realistic” representation – bit of smudging round the features? “Just like Bacon”; limbs a bit oddly positioned? “He’s doing a Francis Bacon”.

Russia Vrubel

It’s not like Francis Bacon, is it?  Or maybe I’m missing something…

bacon nude 2

This is like Francis Bacon.

My partner, however, says that I’m just as wrong in comparing, as I did last week,  the Vrubel to Sickert or to Ruskin Spear – she says it’s more like Braque.

Whoever, if anyone, is right, it’s a brilliant exhibition.  A painting I didn’t mention last time is Repin’s Rimsky Korsakov; the hands again and that “fleshy” paper (can’t see it properly below – you need to go to the exhibition).

Repin Rimsky

Repin is like Adolph Menzel, the painter who nearly fills the Alte Nationalgalerie in Berlin (Blackpaint 473) ; history scenes, portraits, pastorals, scenes from plays, Repin does it all, much more than competently.

Autumn Almanac (DVD), Bela Tarr (1984)

bela tarr

The melancholy Miklos Szekely (tight-lipped, sour featured) is present, on the right in the photo above.  It’s claustrophobic, intense, violent – a man gets a beating (actually, nothing by today’s standards; more like a roughing up) which is filmed from below, through a glass floor, like that film of Pollock painting.  Like other Tarr pictures, notably Damnation, the characters speak to each other in undertones, smiling all the time even when angry, abusive or threatening; in one scene, the two women in the film fight, each smiling into the other’s face the whole time.

It strikes me that, unlike the great Tarr  films based on the books of Krasnahorkai ( Satantango and The Werckmeister Harmonies), and even The Man from London (taken from a Simenon story), Autumn Almanac shows violence and corruption developing out of the situation itself, with no need of an outside catalyst – in this, it resembles Damnation.  In Werckmeister, the cataclysmic violence arrives with the travelling show, the Prince and the whale; in Satantango, the “community”, such as it is, is destroyed by the arrival of the satanic pair, Irimias and Petrina.  In “London”, the agent of disturbance is the case of money which Maloin sees flung into the harbour when the murder takes place.

I’m not absolutely sure about this; you could argue that the schoolmaster in “Almanac” is an outsider and his ejection allows the others to achieve a sort of twisted, corrupt equilibrium.. or maybe not.  It’s Tarr anyway, so worth seeing, and uniquely for him, in colour (pretty dark, though).

Lucia Berlin, A Manual for Cleaning Women, Selected Stories (Picador)

First heard of this book when it was reviewed before Christmas; her stories were compared to those of Raymond Carver and you can see why.  There’s a similar economy (she often dispenses with verbs), a conversational tone and the settings and subject matter are “dirty”, as in Dirty Realism; alcoholism, abortion, dysfunctional families.  The second story, “Dr. H.A.Moynihan”, is a groin-shrivelling tale of manic dentistry that is the most horrific piece of fiction I’ve ever read – that’s if it IS fiction.  The stories appear to be strongly autobiographical.  I think she differs from Carver, in that he is maybe more experimental with point of view.  he writes as a female character in several stories, “Fat”, for example, and successfully, I think.

Anyway, the blurb on the front says her stories “are electric, they buzz and crackle”.  They don’t, but they are a great, if occasionally gruelling, read.

Actually, I’ve just thought of a piece nearly as physically wrenching (literally) as Berlin’s story – Ted Hughes’ poem about de-horning bulls.

I’ve done no new paintings since last time, so here’s an old one for now, appropriate to Berlin and Hughes perhaps;

Close of a long day

Close of a Long Day

Blackpaint

9.4.16

 

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Blackpaint 484 – Pablo, The Borderlands, and the Backs Again…

March 1, 2015

Picasso –  Love, Sex and Art, BBC4

Recounted in the usual breathless manner, a very cursory overview of PP’s serial womanising, the women (with the exception of Francoise Gilot) apparently prepared to put up with all sorts; two of them, Jacqueline Roque and Marie – Therese Walter, killing themselves after his death.  Tragic, and interesting, but as far as the painting goes, of marginal importance, I think.  Where the programme was good was the early years; they showed painting after painting that I assumed were by different artists – they were all Picasso.  Google Picasso’s early paintings and see what I mean – I’m not going to show any next to mine…  Oh all right, this is…

Picasso blue nude

 

“Blue Nude” (1902); another stupendous back to join Kitaj’s Smoking Woman and Ginger’s in Swingtime (see previous Blackpaints).

 The Suspended Step of the Stork, Angelopoulos, 1991

The last in my boxed set of Angelopoulos, this one also features Marcello Mastroianni, although he doesn’t get to make love to a woman one third his age, as he did in the Beekeeper – and as Picasso did, in the instance of Marie-Therese.  The story concerns a border town in Greece, populated by a shifting mix of multi-ethnic transients and refugees (Kurds, Albanians and Romanians are mentioned).  Mastroianni is a prominent Greek politician who has walked out of his life and gone AWOL for an unknown reason – he makes a living as a telephone engineer along the border, a lineman for the county.

It struck me that there are those who love or feel comfortable or stimulated in exactly those surroundings; shifting peoples, many languages, everyone on the move, passing through, accommodating to each other for the time being, bringing new things – and others who feel lost, or uncomfortable, or afraid even, in such a climate.  This film made this tangible to me, although it’s a pretty banal reflection, I suppose – never be afraid to be superficial.

There is a good example of the Angelopoulos “stop time” scene in this film; a man in a dance hall, a young woman, they catch each other’s eye and stare and stare, transfixed, while the music continues..  Where have I seen it before? Bela Tarr? No, it’s West Side Story of course, Tony and Maria at the dance…   And the end of the film, a line of telephone linemen at the top of their poles, stretching along the border/river into the distance.

Sprout Exhibition

Short blog today – and a day late – because I’ve spent most of last week in the gallery.  If you didn’t come, hard lines, it’s over now.  Below are the pictures I sold.

Here are the ones I sold

watercolour11

 

Model’s Back (obviously)

sonia2

 

Rearview Mirror 

photo (55)

 

Water Engine 1

28th-june-2010-002

 

Chinook 

Back to normal next week.

Blackpaint

01.03.15

 

 

Blackpaint 451 – Folk Art, Deller, Bond and the Fatal Train

June 20, 2014

Folk Art at Tate Britain

This is a great exhibition, but is pretty much historical  – that’s to say, there’s nothing in it later than the skull and crossbones score-sheet of the WW2 submarine, apart from the giant straw King Alfred made in 1961 (an example of a tradition going back a couple of hundred years).

Many of the exhibits are articles with a use value; shop and pub signs, trays, quilts, really ugly leather toby jugs..There are, however, a number of things that are “true” works of art – that is, they have no function other than to be themselves as art objects.  The paintings of Alfred Wallis are the obvious examples; there are also the French POW cockerel made out of bones, the Wesleyan preacher painted on the vertebra of a horse, the “gods-in-a-bottle” (bizarre assemblages, akin to African fetishes).

folk art 1

What about the ship’s figureheads?  They are decorative – very beautiful, in fact – but arguably, they have a use value too; identification and maybe a symbolic guardian angel function, like the bottle gods.

Anyway, a few examples:

The shop signs, for illiterate patrons – giant boots, padlocks, a saw, an arm and hammer (blacksmith?) a sun with those wiggly beams (?)… a black sweep sculpture, tobacco shop Indians.

folkart3

The quilts – the Bellamy one, with Ally Sloper at the centre and the fabulous Menai Bridge one.

The signs – We Rule you, We Fight for You, etc. – and a very odd one, in which dogs appear to be about to attack someone who is having a crap behind a tree.  there is a text on the board explaining, but my eyes weren’t up to deciphering it.

The figureheads – several beautiful ones, the giant Indian warrior (I guessed Turkish, wrongly); the Elvis lookalike with the sideburns; and the extraordinarily beautiful and delicate one with the brown hat.

folkart2

The Culture Show, BBC2

Jeremy Deller and Alan Kane visited the Tate exhibition and also Blackpool, where they argued that the various fairground entertainments provided living examples of folk art.  Kane seemed to be saying that cheap novelties such as fake cigarettes and giant rubber turds could qualify – think that’s pushing it a bit, but who cares.  They also came up with a man who specialises in customising motorbikes and helmets with airbrushed nudes, dragons, snakes, skulls and so on.  Fascinating programme.

Here’s a Health to the Barley Mow (BFI DVD)

On sale at the Tate, this is the filmed record of “a century of folk customs and ancient rural games”.  The film of Cecil Sharpe and Butterworth folk dancing in 1909 is funny; the Norfolk step dancer and the various sword dance teams are great; the Bacup Coconut dancers are there, of course;  the fiddle music by the great Pete Cooper, plaintive, perfect; but the sequence “Oss Oss Wee Oss”, filmed in Padstow in 1953 by Alan Lomax, is just unbelievable – those locals dancing to drums in the pub; they look as if they’ve been eating magic mushrooms.

Damnation, Bela Tarr

I love it – the rain slashes down in torrents onto the mud and empty lots in the forsaken Hungarian mining town, where the packs of dogs roam outside the Titanic Bar; the femme fatale sings a dismal torch song about it all “being over” as the bedraggled punters, especially Karrer, thin -faced, pining for her; the sullen, beaten faces stare out at the viewer as the heart-rending accordian dirge grinds on; everyone betrays everyone else – the femme (who is Karrer’s on-off lover) is last seen slipping down in the front seat of the barkeeper’s posh car, as the keeper leans back; Karrer goes to the police and informs on everyone and goes to wallow in the mud with the dogs… There is a long, slow, circular dance, a  slo-mo conga line of all the punters round the bar, which is a sort of anti- Fellini dance – those happy-sad circular dances to little clown combos in which everyone joins, like at the end of “8 1/2”.

That’ll Be The Day

The old David Essex rock n’ roll film – full of faces, Billy Fury, Ringo Starr, Keith Moon – and one, just fleeting, with a sax in his mouth, during “Long Live Rock”, I think – Graham Bond!  I used to go to see the Graham Bond Organisation at the 100 Club in Oxford Street in the 60s; Ginger Baker on drums, Dick Heckstall-Smith on tenor, Jack Bruce on bass and vocals, Bond himself on organ and alto sax, often simultaneously.  “Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf” and “Early in the Morning”…  He got into Aleister Crowley apparently, as well as drugs, and threw himself in front of a tube at Finsbury Park.  Christopher Wood, whose exhibition with the Nicholsons is currently at Dulwich, also died under a train (at Salisbury, in 1930).  But he wasn’t a Crowley fan , so far as I know…

Proust

I’m up to 3% on the Kindle now; I’ve passed the madeleine and tea bit- hope something happens soon.   Should finish some time in 2016, if I live that long….

 

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Overground to Atlantis

Blackpaint

20.06.14

Blackpaint 436 – Hockney, Orwell, Beatings and Orgasms

February 28, 2014

Hockney Prints at Dulwich Picture Gallery

This is a great exhibition; loads of prints extending through several rooms.  I liked the earliest stuff from the 60s the best – “The Rake’s Progress” series on his first time in America.  In these, he’s doing those cartoon figures, reminiscent of people like Barry Fantoni; he likes fire, which pops up in several etchings, a chair burning, for instance; in fact, the red of the fire the only colour in these, apart from blue on the US flag in one, I think.

Next, he does a series based on Cavafy poems, in which the figures are no longer “cartoons” but beautifully spare, single line renditions of (usually)naked young men.  I guess from the perfection of outline, he must have selected the etching line from a number of pentimenti in a drawing, like the one of Celia Birtwell below.

Plenty more; flowers, portraits, swimming pools…  The one immediately below with the columns, trees, garden, and distorted perspective is from the latter part of the exhibition.  The colours are recognisable from his big show at the RA a couple of years ago.

Hockney Dulwich 1

hockney dulwich 2

Newsnight – the Harriet Harman interview

An innovation on Newsnight after Laura Kuenssberg pursued Harman with the Daily Mail agenda, trying to force her to apologise for being an officer of the NCCL at a time when the Paedophile Information Exchange was an affiliate to the organisation.  After the interview was shown, Jeremy Paxman, full of his usual self-regard, and Kuenssberg, still fizzing with righteous indignation, discussed Harman’s performance like sports pundits, so that the viewers didn’t have to make up their minds unaided.  I wonder if this will be a regular event whenever the press demands apologies from Labour grandees for misdeeds 30 years before.

The Hunters, Angelopoulos

A group of hunters in the snow (Brueghel again) come across the body of a revolutionary fighter from the Greek Civil War.  It’s the 60s – the war ended in 1949, but the body’s wounds are fresh.  The hunters and their companions all have guilty pasts which are revealed, as the police examine them, the body on a table in the room…  All the usual Angelopoulos magic, the mountains, the music,  the operatic scenes – but additionally, in this film, a fully-dressed actress acts a drawn-out orgasm on a ballroom floor before a large audience, who applaud politely after the climax.  Shades of Bunuel.  Later, a portly hunter, dressed in a satin Father Christmas outfit, dances rather formally with his bobble hat – shades of Bela Tarr.

Orwell  – Such, Such Were the Joys and 1984

In the Guardian last week, Sam Leith wrote about the famous Orwell essay, describing it as “a load of bollocks”.  In the essay, Orwell recalls his time at St. Cyprian’s, a prep school near Eastbourne in the years before World War One.  It includes a description of Orwell’s (or Blair’s) beatings for wetting the bed, the second of which was carried out with a riding crop which broke, as a result of the headmaster’s exertions.  There are many other examples of abuse and privation, and Leith quotes another critic, who says the essay is drenched with self-pity.

This is odd, since Orwell expressly states that he didn’t feel especially picked out for mistreatment and in fact, regarded his beatings and the rest as his own fault; as a child, he had accepted the guilt which “Sambo” and “Flip”, the headmaster and his wife, allotted to him: “Now look what you’ve done!”, as Sambo yells at him when the riding crop breaks.  One of the themes of the essay is how the pupils accept the system and internalise it.  Not surprising then that his letters home contain no hint of discontent, or that his contemporaries (Leith cites Jacintha Buddicom) say he seemed happy enough.

Anyway, Bernard Crick dealt at length with all this in his 1981 biography of Orwell – he’s not mentioned by Leith.  One thing that is interesting; Leith rejects the Anthony West theory that “1984” was Orwell’s prep school miseries writ large- he does suggest, much more plausibly, that his political analysis worked back on “Such, Such..”.  Crick thinks that Orwell exaggerated and shaped his “memories” for literary, maybe political, purposes;  to state baldly that Orwell’s reminiscences are “a load of bollocks” is surely going a bit strong, though.

The Drawing Room, Abstract Drawings

Tucked away in an old industrial building in Bermondsey, there are some startling names on show here; Jackson Pollock, Eva Hesse, Anish Kapoor, Tomma Abts, Alison Wilding, Sol LeWitt, Serra…  They are mostly small, geometrical, several on graph paper.  The Pollock is funny, because it is “fenced off” by a single wire barrier to emphasise status, presumably.  It’s not a great Pollock…  The best works are those by Hesse, John Golding, and Garth Evans (see below); like Oiticica, but not as wobbly.

garth evans

Come and see (maybe buy) my paintings at Sprout Gallery, Moyser Road, Tooting, London SW16 between  4th and 15th March – open every day, including Sunday, 11.00am – 5.00pm.

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Work in Prog

Blackpaint

28.02.14

Blackpaint 415 – Sandra Blow and the Pavilions at Venice

October 5, 2013

Sandra Blow at Kings Place

Went to see the Long Notes, great Irish/Scots folk group, at Kings Place last night and was delighted to find an exhibition of Blow’s work had opened the same day.  The earliest painting was from 1959, when she was part of the St.Ives set, and the latest from 2006, the year she died.  There are a number of huge canvases that are painted in acrylics and collaged with strips of tape, sacking and canvas patches; rich earth and water hues, ridges of rough texture, chevrons and ingots of high colour piercing through, a little reminiscent of Terry Frost – and of Burri (a partner) and Tapies.

The highlights of this group are:

Breakwater

Blow1

Glad Ocean (1989)

blow2

Brilliant Corner (1993 – detail)

blow3

There are also some beautiful prints, brightly coloured, wobbly geometrics.  A fantastic exhibition, and we only saw part of it – the gallery was closed, we only saw the stairwells and balconies.

Venice Biennale – the Pavilions

I think four are worth a mention; first, the British one (of course), featuring Jeremy Deller.  You get a free cup of tea and mini prints of the two big pictures on display, which you stamp out yourself with a rubber stamp.  The pictures, covering a wall each, are of a giant harrier, grabbing and lifting a Range Rover in its talons, and an angry, giant William Morris, standing in the ocean and thrusting a cruise ship, bows downward, into the water.  The first refers to an incident when a harrier was shot on a royal estate, the second, I think, to the ships of the wealthy that blight Venice and other Med resorts.  Additionally, there is some very satisfying film of Range Rovers being pulped, to the strains of Bowie’s “the Man who Sold the World”, played  by a steel band.  It’s one of the few pavilions which have a truly national feel to it; the Danish one, for example, is a fantasy about African migrants, lost in a facsimile of Paris, actually built in China.

Next, Belgium; “Cripplewood”.  In a dark chamber, a giant wooden and wax entity, fabric like bandages at the joints of limbs, twisted, arthritic bundles of twigs and branches – a little like Kiefer’s supine trees, or a huge, beached whale – made me think of Bela Tarr’s “Werkmeister Harmonies”… or even the Elephant Man.

The most sinister pavilion show was that of Indonesia.  There were life-size shadow puppets, a Paul McCarthy – style assemblage of a man with a TV head and a flower-covered figure rolling a bamboo roller “raft” – baffling – but then…

A dark, church-like space with desks on which enormous white books lie open, the whole surrounded by pictures of rough forest/jungle, charred, like the woodwork..

AND – a group of officers, ex-presidents apparently, seated around a table, a uniformed woman standing as if presiding.  One figure lies face down, apparently dead, another gestures towards a third with a knife, as if inviting him to kill himself with it.  Their faces appear bashed in – “distorted”, according to the guide book.  The commentary in the guide book has no mention of politics; instead, it goes on about Shakti, a religious principle which, it says. governed the creation of the works…

Finally, there is the Romanian pavilion – which is empty; EXCEPT for a group of (I think) eight young dancers, four men, four women.  They announce, with great solemnity, the title of a Biennale prize work from years gone by and then proceed to mime its content.  Sounds mildly amusing but is actually very funny, because of the limitations, as much as anything.

Enough Venice now.

The 70s, presented by Dominic Sandbrook

Odious presenter, explaining with relish how working people in the early 70s caused their own hardships by buying things on HP, wanting houses and cars and holidays that they should have known were not for them, but for the people who could afford to buy them outright.  I don’t remember the people I knew running to the shops waving Access cards.  I hate hearing glib generalisations presented with certainty, by smug academics who were (maybe) at school at the relevant time.

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Pellet

Blackpaint

5.10.13

Blackpaint 361 – Bronze, Snow and Fire

October 4, 2012

Bronze, Royal Academy

This exhibition fulfils one of the most important criteria for me – there’s not too much to read.  In the half-light of the RA, this is quite a relief.  if you want to learn about the processes, you can; but the technical stuff is in a section of its own that you can pass by, without feeling that you’ve missed out.

The most impressive exhibit confronts you as you enter.  It’s a statue of a dancer (one leg missing) that was dredged up from the sea bed off Sicily, I think.  There is speculation that it is the work of Praxiteles, but this is probably hype, I would guess.  The motion frozen, the roughnesses of the surface, and the unfussy perfection of the modelling are something to see.

Then there is the long Etruscan Shadow Spirit, smiling to itself, the image of a Giacommetti figure – except smoother.  Then there is the Greek horse’s head, very like the Elgin one in the British Museum, the Etruscan Chimaera, the Scandinavian chariot of the sun and the Austrian carriage nearby – and the beautiful Benin and Ife heads…  I’ll stop now, before I list the lot.

The main impression it left me was the contrast between the beauty of the rough, or unpolished, or sparely decorated surfaces of artefacts of ancient civilisations (apart from those of India, Burma and China – no-one could call them unadorned): and the hideous, often huge, dark brown, highly polished contortions of the Renaissance : there is, for example, a huge wild boar that I think is the ugliest sculpture I’ve ever seen, although made with consummate skill and no doubt perfectly accurate in every detail.

There are exceptions, of course:  Cellini (well, of course) for one.  Interesting to see one of de Kooning’s Clamdiggers, like something risen from a bog clothed in clods of mud in a Harryhausen film, and the Jasper Johns beer cans, another dK connection (he gave Johns the idea).

Anna Karenina

This film, starring Keira Knightley in the title role, came as a surprise in that it moves back and forth between the stage, the theatre and naturalism.  In this respect, it is the descendent of Olivier’s “Henry V”, made during WW2, which starts and ends on the stage, but changes with great subtlety throughout.  The other work it recalls is “Oh What a Lovely War!”, which moves back and forth between the battlefields and Brighton Pier.  As reviewers have remarked, the choreographing of movements and the stage settings in Karenina lead you to expect the actors to do a song at any moment.

There are a few other film and art references:  the ball scene has a bit where the minor characters disappear and Anna and Vronsky are dancing alone (cf. West Side Story);  the beginning of the horse race sequence has echoes of My Fair Lady Ascot scenes; Anna and Vronsky wound together in white bedsheets reminds one of a Lucian Freud painting and there are touches of Renoir and Manet too.  Keira Knightley, certainly beautiful, and outstanding in this role, has a way of stretching her long throat forwards and thrusting her chin that gives her an almost insect-like appearance at times – like a praying mantis.  I thought she was too vivid for Vronsky at first, but Aaron Taylor-Johnson’s weakness, in his toy soldier white uniform, proved actually just right for the character.  The horse race scene is the outstanding moment.

Although reviewers have praised the cinematography, and the film is flushed with luscious reds and crisp snow whites, I missed a certain sharpness in the detail.  At the end, raindrops fall on oak leaves in extreme close up – they haven’t got that crystalline Bela Tarr look.  Maybe it’s easier to do in black and white.

Rita Ackermann

At Hauser and Wirth in Piccadilly.  Eight huge blood-red and blue abstracts under the title “Fire by Days”.  Actually, they look as if they might be human figures going up in flames.  Very impressive, and intriguing, in that it looks as if she has used sand to texture them here and there, although the leaflet only says oil, spray paint and acrylic.  She seems to have painted creases in the canvas on one at least (first on left, top left of canvas) whilst another has a thick seam running down the left side, as if two canvases joined.  Apparently, she worked out from a paint spill in her studio.  In the basement are blue skeins of oil on paper titled “Fire by Day Blues” and in the upstairs gallery, a series of distorted portraits of the same face – Fire by Days The Fool.  I think the red ones are great.  I looked through her book (£40.00) and found resemblances to Albert Oehlen and other German Expressionists of the 80s.

Blackpaint

4.10.12

Blackpaint 351 – Ena, Betty and the Dirty Old Men

July 20, 2012

Late to publish again – sorry.

John Singer Sargent

I feel ambivalent about this painter – sometimes, I am staggered by how good he is (Mrs. Agnew, Ena and Betty Wertheimer) and sometimes he goes way into chocolate box territory (Mrs. Cazalet and her children – especially her children).  No-one, I think, can do shimmering silk in a few dozen loose brush strokes like him.  I suppose the chocolate boxes are an occupational hazard for a Society painter; you won’t get paid if you paint the kids ugly.

Betty and Ena

Chagall

I’m familiar with Chagall’s floating/flying fiddlers, of course, but I have to say I was surprised by the “Fantastic Horse Cart”, painted in 1949, in which a rudimentary green horse (actually it looks more like a tapir) rises into the orange sky, supporting with its front legs a blue-faced fiddler.  If this weren’t enough, the horse is harnessed to a cart, which hangs from the horse and contains two small children.  Below is a village of old wooden houses.  Not Socialist Realism, then.

Mark Wallinger

His exhibit at the National Gallery involves peering through peepholes at  naked or “scantily-clad” women, in poses relating to the Titian  Diana and Actaeon paintings.  In a recent Guardian article,  a museum spokesperson claimed they were being plagued by “dirty old men”.  I can’t believe this – in the 50s and 60s maybe, but not now, when porn is easily accessible on the internet – so I’m told.

Art fairs

Those antique road trip progs on the telly have produced a public which wants a deal on everything.  I was at Urban Art in Josephine Avenue, Brixton last weekend.  It was all “What’s your best price?” or “How much for cash?” or “You did say two hundred, right?”  On the TV, they’re selling stuff just bought from another antique shop down the road; it’s all speculation to make a quick twenty or thirty quid.  It annoys me when people want a deal for paintings I’ve done, as if I expect them to knock me down, and price them accordingly.  Different if they say “I really like that painting, but I can’t quite afford it; is there any chance you could ….”  Might be the same thing, but it feels different to me.

Satantango, Laszlo Krasznahorkai

Finished the book now, and one thing different from Bela Tarr’s magnificent film; when Irimias, Petrina and the boy arrive at the deserted chateau, they are confronted with a vision of the dead girl – in Tarr’s film, it is simply a thick white mist, and only Irimias appears to be overawed, and falls to his knees.

Larva

Blackpaint

20/07/12

Blackpaint 345 – Doc, Ray, Sigmar, Bela, Fred and Ginger

June 7, 2012

Two heroes gone this week –

Doc Watson

Listen to “Stack O’ Lee” and Alabama Bound”  on  “Ballads from Deep Gap”, with his son Merle accompanying him – country guitar playing beyond adequate description..

And…

Ray Bradbury

I’ve blogged about him before (see Blackpaints 41, 149, 170 ) and recently re-read seven of his short story books – I wrote down four, then counted them up; Silver Locusts, Small Assassin [Dark Carnival}, October Country, Illustrated Man, Golden Apples of the Sun, Dandelion Wine, Day it Rained Forever.  Easy to see his influence on Stephen King, which is a good thing – but then there’s the 1920s whimsical nostalgia; straw hats, striped blazers, bonnets, park bandstands, sarsaparilla, shades of Dick Van Dyke.  This can be wearing but it’s interspersed with real creepiness, malice and horror.  The Small Assassin for example, an intelligent, malign baby that murders its mother; the undertaker who abuses his clients in the mortuary and eventually gets his comeuppance; the Catacombs.  Best of all, I like “the Lake” from “The October Country” – an air of real melancholy.  I think it might be his earliest published story.

And back to art.

Sigmar Polke

Polke is an artist about whom I have written very little; the reason, I think, is that his work is so diverse, it’s difficult to get a handle on it.  If, for instance, you take four Polke pictures from Taschen’s “Contemporary Art” (1990), you find them completely different from each other.  “The Computer Moves In”, paint or ink sprayed on a photographic print (?) of someone seated at a computer station, on a pixelled background; “Camp 82”, a barbed-wire Auschwitz corridor between concrete fence posts and spot lights, under a baleful, dirty, grey/orange sky; and “Alice” – white outline drawing of Alice and the hookah-smoking caterpillar on his mushroom, on a background of white spots and green “football” wallpaper.  They are all from the early 80’s; “Socks”, from 1962, is a painting in varnish of three long brown socks laid out as if for display- it looks just like a Wayne Thiebaud.

The text makes great play of his light sense of irony and this lightness is maybe another thing that distinguishes him from other German artists of the period…

Picasso 

At the Tate Britain show of P’s influences on British artists, there were one or two startling, early Impressionist-style paintings that were impossible to recognise as Picassos.  The Rotterdam Boijmans Van Beuningen Museum apparently has another.  It is called “Woman at the Table Outside a Cafe”, from 1901.  A woman in a beautiful grey-green dress, in a cape and enormous white feather hat; red lips, challenging expression, slightly caricature-ish.  Apparently, she is an “old prostitute”, according to the catalogue.  The picture suggests Lautrec, or maybe Van Dongen (love that name).

Richard Pare

The sweeping “S” shape of the balustrade in the “Chekist Housing Scheme” stairwell, photographed in Moscow by Pare in 1999 and shown in the RA’s recent “Building the Revolution” show.  It’s exactly the sort of thing Fred and Ginger might have danced down in “Top Hat” or “Swing Time”. 

The Turin Horse

It’s all there; the relentless weather (wind this time), the pitch-dark, painterly interiors, the textures, the repetition, the dressing and undressing, the small actions performed in their entirety, no editing – the hot potatoes, eaten with burnt fingers, lips and mouths (cutlery not needed in Tarrland), the drinking of Palinka…  But then there is the beauty and sharpness of the images.  When the girl wrestles the well cover off, I was waiting for the Japanese girl to emerge…  The photographer is called Fred Keleman; he should get a mention – and of course, there is Vig, who writes and performs(?) the necessarily relentless accordion theme.  I don’t really care what it all means – it’s mesmerising.. but best in small doses.

Blackpaint

7/05/12

Blackpaint 344 – Last Tango from Bela

May 31, 2012

Bela Tarr

I read in the Guardian that he is retiring to teach at a film school.  Terrible news – no more rain, mud, pigs and palinka, displaced peasants… 

Fred and Ginger

I’ve been watching the old Astaire Rodgers films again – Top Hat, Swing Time, Follow the Fleet – and ending up with a stupid smile at every breathtaking dance number; I find this is perfect to alternate with Tarr films, on the old 30 mins of Astaire-Rodgers, followed by 30 mins of Satantango or Damnation principle – they complement each other perfectly (as of course do Fred and Ginger).

Ed Burtynsky at the Photographers Gallery

The exhibition is titled “Oil”.  Huge, Gursky-ish photographs; spaghetti junctions, vast Volkswagen lots, thousands of Harley bikes at Sturgis, N.Dakota (where there’s a bikers’ convention): nodding donkeys flung higgledy-piggledy across the landscape in Baku, Azerbaijan; same hardware but neatly set out in California and Canada.  Shipbreaking in Chittagong – monolithic, black “walls” of iron, dwarfed workers posing; a Philadelphia truck-stop complex, Exxon and Big Mac signs; a beautiful, painterly interior of a refinery, shining, chromed pipes; oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico.  In one of these photos, tiny ships spraying foam (?), the surface of the sea just like coal, as if looking at a glistening, wrinkled, solid coal wall in a mine.

Art and the State

One thing that can be said for Damien Hirst is that (so far as I know) he has not participated in any of the Olympic or Jubilee nonsense currently engulfing the UK.  Could be wrong about this – please comment if I am.  Anyway, the sight of a collection of artists, actors and various other performers, in their posh clothes, at a reception for the Queen at the Royal Academy was bizarre and faintly nauseating.  They looked, for the most part, deeply embarrassed – some, notably David Hockney, pulling faces that made them look demented.  Maureen Lipman, interviewed by Will Gompertz, acquitted herself well; she said she had no idea why they were all there and then qualified this by opining that it was all about money and networking.  Gompertz and the odious George Alagiah “back in the studio”  (Morrissey is right about him “acting out” the news) feigned amusement – the interview disappeared and a more conventional few sentences from Charlotte Rampling substituted on later airings of the story.  Well done, Maureen; disappointing, Charlotte. 

Jonathan Jones on Hirst

Something I left out when discussing Jones’ excoriating review of Hirst last week, was his side-swipe at “whimsical abstraction”.  I assume that this is the process of producing abstract work without a coherent ideological frame of reference.  If so, my improvised paintings clearly fit the bill, so I must thank Jones for supplying me with a convenient label.  Latest whimsical abstraction below.

Blackpaint

31/05/12

Blackpaint 342 – Richter, Kitaj and Tarr; a light interval.

May 17, 2012

Gerhard Richter

Forgot to say in last blog that Richter uses no earth colours in his squeegee paintings – titanium white, ivory black, lemon yellow, cadmium red, ultramarine; that’s it (no green?).  Then, he sweeps and swerves through the paint with a big perspex scraper, leaving scrapes and skidmarks in the paint, or with his giant wooden baton, attached to the top or side and pushed or pulled across surface with apparent effort.  In one image, he pushes the wood with his shoulder across a field of grey, the paint  resisting more every inch, like Sisyphus with his boulder.

He says some interesting, and apparently contradictory things about his work and painting in general.  He says, citing Adorno, that you can’t put pictures together – they are “mortal enemies”.  Each painting, he says, “is an assertion that tolerates no company”.  BUT he paints series, the “Cage” series for example, in the Tate Modern, that seem to be designed to draw strength from, and bounce off each other.

As regards abstraction, he says the eye is always looking for something real – i.e. from the “real” world – and that is where you can start to get “a sort of meaning”.  He sees an abstract painting as containing the potentiality of an infinite number of real images – sort of, all pictures are contained in each picture.  Interesting to me, after going through that long explanation, every time someone asks what a picture is supposed to be.  Instead of droning on about image and structure and texture and contrast and movement and balance and juxtaposition, I can just say “well, it’s whatever you want it to be…  Madonna and Christ?  Well, yes, I see what you mean…”.

His assistant says, “You can’t influence the painting; if I say it’s good, leave it, he’s more likely to change it… because he’s looking for a reason”.  Cantankerous old bastard, one might think; I know a lot like him.

Watching the big squeegee or baton process on the DVD, I remarked on how a painting would appear after a sweep and then be destroyed by the next sweep.  First, a monochrome yellow, sweep, then a white cloudscape, sweep, a light horizon, sweep, a Rothko – the earth colours do emerge from the mixing process.

Questioned on how he knows a painting is finished – the big question – he says the following; “I feel less free with each step; I carry on until nothing is wrong any more”.  It implies dissatisfaction with every work; you don’t stop when you have achieved what you want, but when you can’t find a recognisable fault.  I suppose this is implicit in an improvising approach – but it could have been something like; “I stop when a completed picture jumps out at me”.  He’s obviously too honest to come out with rubbish like that, unlike some other abstract painters. 

Kitaj

That drawing of a seated woman’s back – I suppose it’s Sandra – it’s breathtaking, like a Michelangelo.  I’ve said this before. but it’s amazing how different his two styles are – the cartoonish, “Cecil Court” style and this classical, Old Master look.  I note how “fleshy” his colours, especially whites and reds, are in the cartoony ones – I don’t mean flesh tones but thickness and richness.

Young Musician of the Year

What is the title of that recorder piece played with only a drum accompaniment by Charlotte Barbour – Condini ?  It is played by Martin Carthy and Dave Swarbrick to close out “Arthur MacBride” but the only info given is that the tune is French.

Bela Tarr

The novel “Satantango” by Laszlo Krasznahorkai is out in a translation by George Szirtes; I have it and am hoping it is as uncompromising as the Bela Tarr film.  Only 274 pages, but no paragraphing.  It has punctuation, which is rather conventional I agree, and will lack the accordion music – but I have high hopes.  Next week, will review Turin Horse.

Blackpaint

17.05.12