Posts Tagged ‘Blake’

Blackpaint 252

February 17, 2011

Vincent’s Sunflowers

As I said a blog or two ago, I could never warm to the famous Sunflowers; now, “research shows” (Guardian, Tuesday) that sunlight turns 19th century yellow chrome paint brown – but “only if the yellow paint had been mixed with white pigments based on sulphates.”

This maybe explains the difference between these sunflowers and the blazing, yellow/orange entities that Van Gogh painted in Aug – Sept 1887.  Something I didn’t know about Van Gogh was how much he was influenced by Japanese art and culture – witness the 15 or so paintings of orchards and trees in blossom he knocked out in Arles in April 1888.

As for industry – the Taschen book shows 25 pictures for July 1890; not bad going, considering he shot himself on the 27th.

Turner

I was interested to discover that Turner used scraping away as a Technique in some paintings, notably the bottom left foreground in “Rocky Bay with Figures”, c.1830 and the crown of “Death on a Pale Horse”, c. 1825 – 30 (see William Gaunt’s Phaidon book).  This struck me as pretty advanced for the time, but my knowledgeable partner sniffed at my ignorance and said it was common.

I’m not convinced – Turner seems so way ahead of everyone else.  “Ship on Fire” and “Boats at Sea”, for example; the latter defines minimalism.  I suppose they are every bit as “abstracted” as that Melville I go on about –  and done decades earlier.

Watercolour Exhibition at Tate Britain

Which brings me to this show, which opened to the public yesterday, and which I attended with two companions and several hundred  grey retirees, mostly teachers, I would guess.  Within minutes, my friend had pronounced “Wrotham” incorrectly when reading a label – he was promptly and tartly corrected by the woman next to him; “It’s pronounced ROOT-HAM, actually. ”  She moved on with a tight little smile, leaving us suitably corrected and chastened.

Anyway – loads of brownish landscapes, as you would expect – I liked the Indian powder works on the riverbank – jewel-like miniatures, beautiful botanical drawings in eye-destroying detail, bright little Books of Hours.

Best thing is if I just list my highlights:

John Piper, Nantfranccon (I think); Layered rock strata, like piled bodies.

Edward Burra, a valley in Northumberland with a great, green, lowering hill overlooking it.

Ravilious’ lovely White Horse, with the slanting lines (rain?).

Girton’s Bamburgh Castle, one of David Dimbleby’s choices in his series on British art and landscape.  Stunning picture – doesn’t look much like Bamburgh Castle now, though.

Blake, Jane Shore doing penance – proof that Blake could do really ordinary, boring pictures too.

Samuel Palmer, “Dream in the Appenines”; hints of Raspberry Ripple in the sunset; Benjamin West, American Sublime and all that – bloody awful painting.

Arthur Melville, “Blue Night, Venice” – and what a blue it is; little bit green, but translucent, against the tower.  Comes close to Turner’s Venice sketches.  Why is he not better known?

Turner – the two already mentioned above, and several small sundown sketches, including “The Scarlet Sunset”, with the yellow wiggle on the water surface; it’s only the size of a postcard!

There’s a war room:

William Simpson – a butterfly rests on a cannonball, a lizard scuttles past, or maybe holds a frozen pose for an hour or two, in the aftermath of battle.  It’s “All Quiet on the Western Front” – but from an earlier war.

Mutilated faces from WWI and a French hussar dying, with his intestines exposed by a sabre cut at Waterloo.

A really strange Burra – “Soldiers at Rye” – in which the soldiers, with their bulging muscles, theatrical stances and inexplicable pointy-nosed masks, look like a troupe of travelling players from the 17th century.

The lovely little Samuel Palmer with the horizontal crescent moon, to offset the Appenine monstrosity; maybe he needed the small format…

Two David Jones, white and grey, that from a distance, bear a faint resemblance to Dubuffet’s scraped – away pictures.

Lucia Nogueira, her blots and stains with intermingling colours, so simple but memorable.

The Patrick Heron, of course; not as intense as the oils, though.

Roger Hilton – two of the child-like pictures, done in posters I think, from his bed-ridden period.  One with the dog, strangely affecting.

Peter Lanyon, fabulous of course, like a skate egg case on its side, and colours like Alfred Wallis.

Left the best to last – huge, on the end wall, is Sandra Blow’s “Vivace” with it’s glorious, vulvic sweeps of red acrylic, chucked from a bucket onto an off-white canvas.  Just what this constipated exhibition of little, detailed exquisiteness needs.  For some reason, Adrian Searle chose to be dismissive of this celebratory work in his Guardian review; he called it “silly”.  Wrong!  Blow’s painting is like a pint of cold Guinness with a creamy, perfect head, looking up at you from a bar counter – after a long drought, passed in the company of prissy relatives.

One last thing; £14.00, or £12.00 for concessions, is a lot for an exhibition put together substantially from Tate’s own resources.  A tenner, maybe….

This Flight Tonight (to Joni Mitchell)

Blackpaint

17.02.11

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Blackpaint 250

February 10, 2011

Frankenstein at the Olivier

Danny Boyle director and Nick Dear, writer – or rather, adaptor of Mary Shelley’s original.  But the important thing for the audience, which contained a number of excited teenage girls, was Benedict Cumberbatch playing the monster, and to a lesser extent, Jonny Le Miller, playing Victor.  They are going to alternate the roles.

The first 20 minutes or so were fantastic.  Cumberbatch was naked on stage, being “born” from a pulsing, pod-like womb (Body Snatchers, definitely not Spinal Tap); then flip-flopping prostrate like a fish; then swiftly learning to get to his hands and feet, then stand, shakily upright and walk, after a fashion.  There were clear references (I’m avoiding the use of “channeling” here, I hope other pedants will note) to Muybridge and Bacon – the crippled boy walking on all fours – and, above all, Blake.  I think it was the stance; upright, straight-legged, head thrown back – and perhaps the washes of light from the wide ribbon of light bulbs in the “ceiling”.

Then, the Industrial Revolution arrived, in the form of a train, loaded with working men and women who began laying about the stage with sledgehammers and tools – Metropolis – and soon the monster acquired a cloak and a jeering mob – the Elephant Man.  Later in the play, Dickens, in the shape of the children’s costumes, especially the cap of the little boy. The programme mentions Fuseli, but I must have missed that.

I had the feeling throughout that I was watching a musical; I wouldn’t have been at all surprised if someone had burst into song (there was some dancing, flamenco-ish guitar music and something that sounded rather like “Wimoweh” – ask the grandparents).  There was a great revolving stage, luminous huts descending, a mansion facade that also served as a ship at one point, and made reference to Kay Neilson.

I have to say that, as soon as we were back to straight, “naturalistic” exposition, everything went very flat; I was continually waiting for the next spectacle.  There were about four or five of these, I suppose.  In fact, I would have been happy if the whole thing had been done like the first sequence – as a sort of combination of mime, ballet, performance art, spectacle, and music.

There is a rather operatic rape, by the way; a man somewhere behind me was obviously shocked; “Oh no, oh dear “, he gasped in dismay.  The teenagers were undisturbed, needless to say.

National Gallery

Took a turn round the “modern” bit; especially the Degas(es) – what is the proper plural? – that never fail to astound me.  Those two “red” ones, just look at the hands, and the portrait of the pudgy little girl with the challenging stare.  Then, there is the little one of Princess Pauline de Metternich; I bet she wasn’t happy about the bags under her eyes.  What was Degas – an Impressionist? If so, it shows the limitations of these terms, two artists like, say, Degas and Monet yoked together…

That Ingres woman in the dress is Mme Moitessier, a banker’s wife, not a landlady as I said in previous blog.  A chap was copying the picture – I avoided mentioning that it took Ingres 12 years to finish.

A couple of horrible Vuillards; Madame Wormser and her kids.  I hate that acid greeny-blue, bluey green.

Turner’s Ulysses escaping from Polyphemus; how many ships in the picture?  I think four.

Finally, Hogarth’s “Marriage a la Mode”; the last, grim painting in the series, in which the mistress has poisoned herself and the servant who supplied the poison looks on in horror; I was reminded strongly of Madame Bovary, not surprisingly, since I have just reread it.  What is remarkable is that I am also reading “Vanity Fair” – and on Truffaut’s “Fahrenheit 451” the other night, the firemen hurled a bookcase to the floor prior to burning it and two of the books that fell from it, on which the director chose to focus in close up, were Bovary and Vanity Fair. Coincidence, you say?  I think perhaps not, my sceptical reader…

Sorry again, re-used image; new stuff from now on.

Blackpaint

10.02.11

Blackpaint 243

January 18, 2011

Tate Britain

Half the place a building site, as Fiona Banner’s planes are dismantled – wings were going out the door as I arrived.  No new paintings, but some things I missed last time:

Vanessa Bell, “Studland Beach” – two large hatted women watch another at a shoreline changing tent, like a worshipper at a white monolith.  Simple “plates” of deep blue, cream and ochre, very effective from a distance.

Lucien Freud – a portrait of his first wife (who died the other day) with those huge, intense eyes.  Looks as if she’s strangling the cat she is holding up to the viewer.

The collection of little sculptures -Meadows, Chadwick, Armitage – remind me of those lines in Prufrock: “I should have been a pair of ragged claws/ Scuttling across the floors of silent seas” – or again, Rex Warner’s “Light and Air”: ” even the pale of pearl, nip, clip of dawn/ on cold coasts curling over the grey waves..”.

Keith Vaughan, “Theseus and the Minotaur” – a naked woman, presumably Ariadne, seated, a naked man stretched out asleep on a bed – Theseus? – and a humanoid form, I assume the Minotaur, standing over him.  This is obviously a version of the story with which I am unfamiliar.

Auerbach, “Building Site on Oxford Street” – today, it looks like a thick, liquid mass of mud or faeces; cream, red-brown, grey and yellow, with straight lines ploughed trough the morass with fingers or brush.  Last time, I thought it looked “bejeweled”.

Blake, “The Good and Evil Angels” – the label next to the painting points out that the bad angel has a heavy build and dark skin (reflecting “non-European stereotypes” of the time); but it also looks to me as if he is blind – his eyes have no pupils.  No reference to this on the legend.  A look at the Tate website, however, provides a clue; for Blake the bad angel represents energy, the good, reason. This would make sense; energy is blind without the direction of reason.  Possibly.

Marc Vaux (b.1932)

This artist has a whole room, containing seven large works.  They are smooth textured, uniformly layered colours, mint green, brown, cream, red, blue, grey and black.  Two have bolt-on metal or perspex appendages, in one case, like a frame imposed on the picture a little short of the edges and a little away from the canvas.  Half circles, bent stripes, wedge shapes.

Tarkovsky’s “Mirror “

Watched this again today and was interested to see the scene where the woman washes her hair and rises in slow motion from the sink, her hair covering her face and dripping, while water runs down the charred walls of the wooden house behind her.  That’s where the little girl in “The Ring” came from, surely.

Blackpaint

18.01.11

Blackpaint 231

December 16, 2010

Norman Rockwell

Wrote about him in last-but-one blog (Blackpaint 229) and now I hear there is an exhibition at Dulwich Picture Gallery, on now.  I compared him to the Soviet Socialist Realists, in regard to his presentation of American life – fine and dandy, the American Dream – just as the communists portrayed life in the Soviet Union.  Jonathan Jones in the Guardian, however, recalls his 1964 painting of the black girl Ruby Bridges, going to her school, defying the rotten vegetables thrown at her by southern whites opposed to desegregation.  So I was being a little unfair to Rockwell; the Dulwich show leaves this picture out, according to Jones, and sticks to the conservative stuff prior to 1964.  In these Evening Post covers, American life is shown in a glowing, nostalgic light.

Doris Seidler

She has died in the US, aged 97.  Never heard of her until I read the Guardian obituary and saw that beautiful, rectangular, black, ochre and grey collage entitled “Comp with Etched Fragment”, they used to illustrate it.  Its a shame to find out about these artists only when they die.  Not much on the web, either.

Sandra Blow

On the other hand, there are several great paintings by the above, if one goes to Google images.  Right in the middle of page 4, however, there is an interesting image that has nothing to do with the artist, but clearly relates to her surname; there are more throughout the rest of the entry.   Lovers of abstract art should not be deterred by this.

Tate Britain rehang

Some of the rooms have been reorganised on chronological lines.  In the Sickert “end of the pier” room, there is one of the geometric Bombergs entitled “Ju Jitsu” – can make out the interaction of the fighters, but not what the moves are.  There is a nude Spencer on a bed with his nude wife and a joint of lamb, I think – could be beef, though.  Also, his remarkable “Woolshop”, in which the hanks of wool seem to intertwine with the women’s hair.   There is a four panel Eileen Agar, shades of Miro a bit, something to do with the development of an embryo; and a lovely Tunnard, mustard yellow, geometric, entitled “Fulcrum”.  Finally, a picture by Winifred Knights, called “Deluge”, in which women and girls are doing some sort of slanting eurythmic dance.  All vthese pictures are very distinct from each other, the beauty and drawback of a chronological approach.

A large Keith Vaughan in the next room attracts the attention; There’s a reclining and a standing figure, rather featureless and flabby pink – it’s Theseus and the Minotaur, although can’t see it myself.  Not a patch on his de Stael – type pictures.  There’s an Alan Davie, “Black Mirror”, in which the brushwork is very like Bacon’s, say, on his black ones with writhing figures and metal rails; a Hockney pyramid and giant palm in front of it; and a beautiful Auerbach building site in jewel-encrusted orange.  There’s a Heron, one of those in which he uses straight white lines to delineate figures and a Bacon dog, a little, fizzing grey ball of energy, in a frame of course.

Blake

Adjoining these rooms, there is a Blake room, with Nebuchadnezzar crawling, Newton measuring and the Good and Bad Angels, all instantly recognisable and fantastic (in every sense).  There are also several paintings that formed illustrations for Dante’s “Divine Comedy”.  Plutus, the guardian and tormentor of those who have committed sins of avarice, has distinctly Jewish features says the label – although I must say, I couldn’t make this out clearly.  Apparently Blake had an interest in phrenology, which was fashionable at the time.  Thieves are being tormented by snakes, one of which appears to be emanating from a woman’s vagina (this is not just me; the label points it out) – a reminder of Michelangelo’s linkage of snakes and sexuality on the Sistine wall.  There is Brunelleschi being tormented by a 6 footed serpent and a barrator (political power broker) having his skin torn off in lumps; all good stuff – but dodgy on the phrenology front.

Blackpaint

16.12.10