Posts Tagged ‘Bill Viola’

Blackpaint 640 – Bill Viola, Michelangelo, Ken Kiff and Fellini – the sublime and…

March 5, 2019

Bill Viola and Michelangelo, RA

No photos allowed, so can only comment on this.  The Michelangelo drawings, Archers Shooting at a Herm, notably, are as wonderful as one might expect and would constitute a great exhibition alone (as I think several have, a few years back at the Courtauld – I’m sure Tityas was there and Phaeton). It seems to me an enormous stroke of hubris to display them with Viola’s works, as if there were something fundamental that they had in common.  As it is, it strikes me as two separate exhibitions in one space.

As for Viola’s videos and installations, there’s no doubt that they are striking – who wouldn’t pause and watch transfixed as a baby emerges from the mother, who squats facing the camera?  I’ve been there (childbirth) three times, but I was always at the other end so the view was obscured.   At the other end of this triptych, Viola’s mother is dying – one might think filming to be an intrusion at such a time, but I suppose it’s easier than getting a stranger or his/her family to consent…  Can’t remember what’s in between; life, presumably.

My favourite of the Viola’s is the one with the diving figure that never arrives at the surface of the pool.  Reflected in the water can be seen the upside down images of poolside people walking – but they are not there.  The most annoying film is that of the two old people examining their naked. scrawny bodies with pencil torches – saw this in Bilbao a while ago and it annoyed me there too.

Here’s a Viola from Bilbao – not in this exhibition, but it will give you an idea…

 

Ken Kiff, Sainsbury Centre, UEA Norwich, until 23rd April 2019

This is without question the strangest exhibition I’ve seen for a very long time.  Kiff, who died in 2001, started a sequence of paintings in 1971 that eventually ran to around two hundred.  He called it – The Sequence.  The catalogue refers to Bosch, Klee, Chagall and Samuel Palmer as possible influences, or “fellow travellers” at least, and the Jungian influences are hard to miss; or so the book tells me.  Ovid, Yeats and Rilke also get a mention.  He was in psychoanalysis from 1959 onwards and this also informs the work, to say the least.

No title given in book

 

Love and shadow – sorry about the reflection; she’s holding his leg, by the way, not a stick

 

Crouching Man (1)

 

Dignified man in a respectable London suburb, passed by a girl

Talking with a psychoanalyst; night sky – the analyst is the black seated figure; the pointing finger is mine

The poet; Mayakovsky – For what its worth, Kiff is wrong – Mayakovsky shot himself in the chest, not the head (photograph in David King’s brilliant book, “Red Star over Russia”).

 

(Woman with) protruding tongue – reflection again

The works are all small (the largest is 113×76 cm) and are in acrylic on paper, gummed to board.  The book claims him as, for a time, a very influential figure in British art.  I can’t see any obvious evidence of his influence, however; he seems a complete one-off to me.

City of Women (Fellini, 1980)

Watched the DVD of this fevered and feverish film, starring Anna Prucnal and “Fellini’s favourite alter ego”, Marcello Mastroianni as Snaporaz,  and was deeply moved.  In the age of #MeToo, it seems to me that Fellini’s film still has much of relevance to tell us.

Next time, Don McCullin, Franz West and Dorothea Tanning.

 

Free Radicals

Blackpaint

05 March  19

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Blackpaint 602- Surreal Women, Spitfires and Sandymount Strand

August 1, 2017

Dreamers Awake, White Cube 

Fifty Surrealist women – or rather, their works – on display at the Bermondsey gallery.  Big names here; Lee Miller, Bourgeois, Carrington, Tanning, Agar, Fini et al.  The earliest dated work is Lee Miller’s ” Untitled (Severed breast from radical surgery in a place setting 1 & 2)”, from 1929. Lots of the usual surrealist stuff; nakedness, masks, flowers used as masks (Linder Sterling in particular, her very provocatively posed women wearing huge blooms over various parts), sculptures of anatomical bits (Helen Chadwick’s ribbed courgette pricks with fur collars, entitled “I Thee Wed”, a series of cloths printed with archival dyes by Louise Bourgeois and Tracey Emin, which resemble Marlene Dumas’ “porn” pictures – big human- shaped blots of colour with sexual appendages and forthright titles (When my cunt stopped living; A million ways to cum), conglomerations of white biomorphic shapes with limbs and, inevitably, penises emerging here and there.

All great stuff, of course, but two artists in particular I enjoyed:  firstly, Nevine Mahmoud, with this luscious split peach of a sculpture, which looks like alabaster, but is listed as calcite, marble and steel –

 

Miss Her (Peach), Nevine Mahmoud, 2017 – see also her “Bosom”, which is a breast in pink and ice alabaster –

and Shana Moulton, with this video display piece.  A wriggling woman trapped or framed in a sort of display cabinet, various anatomical bits, most notably a big hand with a talking face on the palm, to the right and on the floor.  The cabinet transforms into a bath and fills with water, the woman turning into a Bonnard nude with touches of Klimt in the surround.  Very funny; loved it.

My Life as an INFJ, Shana Moulton, 2015 – 2016

INFJ?  Any ideas?

 

Dunkirk, dir. Christopher Nolan (2017)

Very loud and “intense” (the word that everyone who has seen it uses); the explosions and bullet strikes as stunning as “Private Ryan”, but the horrors far more muted, for the 12 certificate, maybe – I was surprised to see two young children with their mother in front of me.  The performances were strangely stilted, in the case of the older characters, especially Branagh – as if delivering immortal words at all times.  The throttling-back seemed appropriate in the case of Mark Rylance – quiet and thoughtful, gentle heroism sort of thing.

Bit too much “nick-of-time”ism, maybe; the cockpit, the stuck wheels, the multiple escapes from sinking ships; I wondered if based on personal accounts, strung together.  The scene where the soldier wakes on the Mole and is hurried onto the last boat with the officers struck me as someone’s personal anecdote.

Although I love and revere it, I could have done without the chords from “Nimrod”, designed to tickle the tear ducts (unsuccessfully, I’m proud to say).  The beautiful, tiny Spitfires are the absolute stars of the film, despite the controversy about their numbers over the beaches; I hope they weren’t CGI…

On balance, good, but not as good, I think, as the portrayal of Dunkirk in “Atonement”- much as it pains me to praise anything to do with Ian McEwan, after his recent pronouncements.  Great to see a straight, patriotic British film at this time though; I wonder if it will escape criticism for “Anglocentrism” or some such…

Ulysses, dir. Joseph Strick (1967)

I’ve finally finished Finnegans Wake, so I thought I’d go back to the easy one.  I got up to the scene in the Ormond and  decided to check the film out again to see what a job Strick had made of it – the answer is, not half bad at all.  You won’t know what’s going on if you haven’t read the novel; there are great chunks missing (the library sequence, the cabman’s hut) but Night Town is good, especially Bella Cohen’s, and some of the casting is brilliant.  Milo O’Shea will always be Bloom for me; Barbara Jefford as Molly looks wrong at first but grows into it; Joe Lynch is just right as Blazes Boylan and Martin Dempsey as Simon Dedalus too.  TP McKenna’s Buck Mulligan is spot on and Maurice Roeves, again, like Jefford, looks wrong at first, but convinces you in the end.  And Sandymount Strand looks great (shot by the great Wolfgang Suschitsky) so keep your eyes open…

Bill Viola (again)

In the last blog, I did Viola at the Guggenheim, Bilbao; I knew this piece reminded me of something – it’s this Panther paperback cover from the early 60s.

 

Viola

Panther Paperback Cover

Haven’t done much big abstract stuff lately, so two old ones to finish with:

Water Engine 2

 

Eastertide

Blackpaint

1/08/17

Blackpaint 601 – Monkey, Mask, Milk, Water and Blood

July 19, 2017

Sorry about the break in transmission; I have been on my hols, including Guggenheim Bilbao as per usual.

Bilbao Guggenheim, Pierre Huyghe

Untitled (Human Mask)

Video art.  Film of the little girl above, living in isolation in a decaying house, dead moths stuck to the window panes, cockroaches exploring the floors – but hang on, she’s got furry arms and legs, long feet and claws.  It’s not a girl, but a monkey or lemur in a mask and a dress – although I find it’s almost impossible to think of it as anything but a little girl, the actions and bearing and responses being so apparently human.

It’s apparent that “she” is in the Far East, from the labels on the food tins and packets in the kitchen; outside, there is an indistinct female voice from a muffled loudspeaker – the word “nuclear” is just audible, and gives the game away.  When the camera ventures outside, we see that it’s an abandoned modern town, maybe Fukushima after the earthquake (and tsunami and nuclear disaster).

The caption on the wall mentioned the tradition of the mask in Noh plays, implying that Huyghe was referring to that, but the layers of meaning are no doubt multiple and I do not venture there, for fear of pretention creeping in.

Bilbao Guggenheim, Bill Viola

No such problems with Bill Viola (a whole floor at Gugg., for a retrospective); he deals with the big stuff, birth, death, resurrection, communication.  He likes slow motion, women and girls in long dresses, falling liquids, close-ups of newborn babies, hosts of silent people threading slowly between the trees of silent woods….

Inverted Birth

At first, it looked like Bruce Willis in some diehard sequence; first water, then milk (or blood, or mud – can’t remember the order) pouring down on him, then reversing and pouring up…

 

The Greeting

Women communicating deeply, touching, smiling – as women do…

 

Three Women

Women and girl; long dresses, water showering down.

OK, I must confess to being faintly irritated by the portentous atmosphere and especially by the film about ageing and death – “Looking for Immortality”, I think it’s called, , where the naked old man and the naked old woman intertwine and explore their limbs and lines with pencil torches – bit too close to home.

Tommy, dir. Ken Russell (1975)

Never seen this before, despite being an ardent Russell fan as readers will know.  I was surprised at how coherent the story was (not credible, but coherent; I had a vague impression that Pete Townsend had written a bunch of great songs and sort of strung a flimsy story around them, but no.  Highlights for me are Oliver Reed at his sweatiest and sleaziest as the Ted stepfather and of course, Keith Moon as Uncle Ernie (suggesting, faintly, Alfred E Neumann in the old “Mad” magazine).  And Ann-Margret in the bath of baked beans.

There’s a scene where Tommy is undergoing “treatment” involving his eyeballs being fixed open, while he is restrained in a chair – straight out of Clockwork Orange.

Portraits and Life Drawings

Haven’t done much abstract painting the last few weeks, so three lifeys to end with;

Monica

 

Susie on the bench

 

Long Lie

Blackpaint

19/07/17