Posts Tagged ‘Blow’

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 198

September 24, 2010

Giotto

I’m looking at the Anne Mueller von der Haegen book on G. in the “Masters of Italian Art” series – those reds and blues are just beautiful.  The blue has a touch of green showing through and the reds are actually more dark orange, shading down to raw sienna almost.  The Last Judgement fresco in the Cappella degli Scrovegni in Padua strikes me as the best today – tomorrow it’ll be a different one.  On the right,  a fat blue devil stuffs the damned into his mouth as they cascade down to him as if washed there by rivers of blood and fire.  Here and there, men and women dangle naked from gallows in various recesses of hell, two upside-down and facing each other, as if having a conversation.  Another is horizontal on a turning spit.

Opposite, beneath an assembly of saints and martyrs, little, squat, bewildered people are rising naked from the ground or their tombs, as if from trunks.  they turn reverently, arms raised in supplication.

way up, on either side of the window, armoured angels clutch the edges of a red scroll, very much like giant sticks of rock.  Staggering, beautiful, weird; I will certainly be returning to these pictures again and again.

Chaldon

By way of contrast, I visited the church at Chaldon (1086), near Coulsdon in Surrey, to see that mural again (see Blackpaint 44).  Dark red/purple background, white figures that I suppose may once have been painted, and those strange, huge, big -eyed, three – toed demons that Eric Von Daniken would certainly have selected for his “Was God a Spaceman?” books, back in the 70’s, 80’s or whenever it was.

Tate Britain rehangs

That fantastic St. Ives room at the above – with the red and black Hilton, the black and white sand Blow, the Lanyons – green and blue water pulsing through them – the black Scott and the penis salt pots, the exploding black octopus Alan Davies, the lime green yellow Heron with the ingots showing through – all great, but they’ve been there over a year (except for the Bryan Wynter that was changed so that “Riverbed” could go to St.Ives). 

Why don’t they change a couple of the paintings every 2 or 3 weeks?  They must have several by each artist, maybe dozens.  Surely it can’t be too much work to change a few paintings regularly – where do they keep them; down below in the cellar?  Come on, more paintings by the same people, give the collections a proper workout and let the people see them.  Same goes for Tate Modern, and for all I know, for National Gallery too.  If there are problems with this, I would love to hear them.

Well done by the way; great paintings, free of charge – but let’s see more!

Basquiat (see Blackpaint 46 and 70)

I think Robert Hughes really screwed up badly by misjudging this artist as a lightweight, who only made it because he was black and in the right place, etc.  Lovely sense of colour and design, great drama, the words, the structures and textures; they are colour bombs, remind me of Miro Spain posters and Appel, a bit.  Not as “good” (rich, complex, sustaining) as either, but way up there nevertheless.

Hereward again – Blackpaint

24.09.10

Blackpaint 188

September 7, 2010

Tate St.Ives – Final word

Went back for a second visit and nothing to add on minimal stuff  or the Lily van der Stokker, but –

Frink

The “Harbinger Bird” is made of plaster – I had assumed wood, light coloured and unsmoothed.

Hoffman

Looking for the famous “push-pull” effect.  Couldn’t get it at all – some bits are obviously on top of others but that’s because you can see the boundary lines or brush marks, not because of some inherent property of the colours.  Not to say it’s not a great painting; especially that  blue colour, which reminds me of powder paints at primary school – some years ago, now.

Sandra Blow

Her “Vivace”, in her own words, was “an attempt to make a gestural work that was not tried and retried…, that happened “immediately””.  Looking through a booklet on her by Mel Gooding, however, I saw she had done another one, almost the same, this time in blue.  Some people can only do so much spontaneity.  Not a criticism, I love her stuff.

Lanyon

Is that a shark approaching from the right?

Tunnard

On second viewing, what struck me was the “technical drawing” aspect – the shapes were a bit like one of those old geometry sets you used to get in flat tin boxes.  Precision has its place, of course, and there are those who admire it for the workmanship, the care, the expertise…  Fuck all that,  I say, get some paint on your brush (or knife, or whatever) and whack it on, give it some stick, roll about on it naked – sorry, back in control again.

Raphael Cartoons

A couple of weeks ago – after Tillmans at Serpentine – went to V&A and looked for the Cartoons; couldn’t  find them.  Now I know why; they form the basis of a special exhibition with four tapestries, I think based on the Cartoons, from the Sistine Chapel, lent by the Vatican “to mark the pope’s visit” (Jonathan Jones in  the Guardian).  So, for the last few years, the punter has been able to see the cartoons for free.  Now, I presume you have to pay (Jones gives a box office number) for the privilege of seeing the eight, was it? plus the four from the Vatican.

I’ve found this quite often with exhibitions in museums and galleries; you pay your money and find that most of the stuff has been on display in the permanent collection for ages.  It disappears and turns up again, with a few extras chucked in.  Shouldn’t moan really; museums and galleries ARE free – probably won’t  be by next week – and you can’t blame them for exploiting a bit of earning potential.  Well, you can of  course and I do. 

I hate that “to mark the pope’s visit”, as well.  A pox on all religions and non-democratic political systems and cultural PR of this sort – remember the Turkish exhibition at the Royal Academy a few years back, that coincided with the discussions about Turkey joining the EU?  Art is politics – and so is religion.  Jones says as much in his last sentence.

And he’s  right about the best of the cartoons, too; The Miraculous Draught of Fishes.

Not a Raphael cartoon, but an old Blackpaint job.

Blackpaint

07.09.10

Blackpaint 186

September 3, 2010

Tate St. Ives “Object, Gesture, Grid” (cont.)

The “Gesture” room presumably refers to Abstract Expressionism and its St.Ives co-abstractionists (but see previous blogs on whether Lanyon, for example,  can truly be called an abstract painter; its a convenience term).

Appel

First, a great Appel called “Amorous Dance”, the movement vaguely recalling that long jazzy Pollock in the Tate Modern.  Pollocky looping lines on basic grey, but close up the usual swirl of multi-coloured ropes of paint, so thick they look like waves and hummocks.  The painting’s under glass, maybe to hold the paint in.  It looks dingy close up, but clean and beautiful from 8 feet away.

Feiler

Paul Feiler, the only living artist here, I think – that must be an odd feeling – white, grey, black and brown, scraped surface, disc, recalling the Mellis next door.  The Feiler is great but has spawned a host (argh! cliche!) of imitations in little art galleries around the country.

Pollock

“Yellow Islands”, squares of yellow, peeping through swirls of white and black, on raw canvas(?).  At the edges, the black has blotted in to the canvas like a Frankenthaler.  A big blotch of black in the centre has run down.  Lose yourself in the layers, working out what he did first.

Rothko

One of those huge black and red arch things that he did for the Seagram, and that were on display in a sort of inner sanctum in the Tate Modern a while ago.  Out of that context, I think it’s empty.  Controversial, I know.

Bryan Wynter

“Riverbed”, cream, grey, red, interlocking key-like shapes, one of which, hugely enlarged, I’m sure I saw in Barbara Hepworth’s garden later.  Also from the Tate M.

Sandra Blow 

“Vivace”, huge white canvas with a pot of paint apparently flung at it to make a big “V” shape, recalling a simplified bird in flight.  This splosh has been allowed to run down in thin trickles and then the canvas has been turned on its side.  Blow has then attached collaged strips of different colours to the right hand side.

Patrick Heron

A very Joan Mitchell- like painting – in her later, Monet-ish manner.  Dabs of bright colour, some allowed to trickle, all over canvas; then partly obscured by white, snow-like blobs.

Hans Hoffman

“Nulli Secundus” – deep red on black “floor”, cream/green toothpaste sweeps downwards.  Blocks of fizzing powder blue at the top.  how does this all work? It shouldn’t but it does.

Twombly 

A sculpture!  It’s small, like all the others; a foot or 18″ tall.  It’s bronze, and like a cannon, or the juggernaut – never would have guessed Twombly.

Lanyon

“Wreck”.  It’s like Noah’s Ark, resting on top of the soundhole of a guitar – you can see the strings.  Sea greens and lemon yellow – shouldn’t  work, but it does (that should be the title of this exhibition).

David Smith

Nearly forgot David Smith – fantastic sculpture, like a dream farm implement… What do I do with this?

de Kooning

“The Visit” – always save the best to last.  A pink woman, with her legs wide open, sweeping, gestural brushstrokes at the top, those pastel greens and yellows and red splatters…. he’s just the boss, surely.

Can’t stomach writing about minimalism tonight.  Back tomorrow, keep reading.

Listening to What Made Milwaukee Famous, Jerry Lee Lewis:

“It’s late, and she is waiting,

And I know I should go home;

But every time I start to leave, they play another song;

Then someone buys another round, and wherever drinks are free,

What made Milwaukee famous has made a loser out of me …”

Old shit one, but I like it.

Blackpaint

03.08.10

Blackpaint 162

July 5, 2010

Laura Cumming on Banner

Laura Cumming (Observer, Sunday) says the Harrier is “a predator to the nearby prey of a Sepecat Jaguar lying beached and inverted on the floor.  Both planes are undeniably magnificent, powerful, menacing; and stalled.”  She’s wrong about the Harrier – it’s a caught fish, a skate-ray-shark type thing, hanging dead, waiting to be gutted.  The whole exhibit conveys impotence, not power or menace, although to be fair, she does end by saying the planes, exhibited as they are, “are reduced to – admittedly spectacular – curiosities.”

Dorothy Cross

Reading a catalogue the other day, I came across an artefact by this artist, entitled “Dishes”.  Made in 1992, it consisted of small enamel plates, a bowl and a cup, the last with a cow’s teat stretched over the top.  The catalogue stated that since 92, “she has employed udders on numerous occasions”.

This led me to consider the various odd materials that artists have employed and to want to make a list of them (I’m aware that list making is a classic obsessive activity and I’ve done a few already, so this will join the list of things which I won’t be doing in future in this blog).

Anyway-

  • Dead Animals.  Damien Hirst occurred to me first, but the shark and the sheep and the cow are themselves, albeit “mediated” by Hirst – he hasn’t made anything out of them.  if I included them, I’d have to include Fiona Banner’s planes and really, all other readymades.  I suppose the flies and the rotting meat are a composite, so they count, as do the butterflies. 
  • Blood.  Mark Quinn, Hermann Nitsch and the Vienna Actionists.
  • Sand, sacking and suchlike.  Burri, Tapies, Nicolson, Sandra Blow.
  • Piles of powdered pigment.  Kapoor.
  •  Rotting flowers, fruit and vegetables.  Anya Gallacio.
  • Palm trees, earth, straw.  Anselm Kiefer.
  • Oil.  That Richard Wilson installation that Saatchi exhibited.
  • Elephant dung.  Ofili, of course.
  • Faeces.  Terence  Koh, Piero Manzoni (allegedly – but who knows whether it was really in the tins?) and, no doubt, others.
  • Urine.  Helen Chadwick’s pissholes in the snow, or “Piss Flowers”.
  • all those bits and pieces used by “Art Informel” and Arte Povera artists, the collagists like Schwitters, etc.
  • Fat and felt.  No prizes.

In fact, I’m going to stop here, because the list becomes ridiculous, when you include sculpture and installation.

Necrotic Art

Photos of corpses by Sally Mann, photo of Damien posing with a head, dead mother  of Dorothy Todd  in the turtle burners’ Portrait Prize, plus the organic items listed above, lead me to wonder if body parts or even whole bodies might one day be exhibited as art, either as readymades or material.  After all, mummies, Lindow Man, dried-out corpses can all be seen in the British Museum and a host of other institutions – but they are “science”, medicine maybe, anthropology at least.  I suppose you could argue that Von Hagen is already doing it with his plastination roadshow, which undeniably has artistic as well as scientific aspects.  Plastination, however, prevents decomposition and sanitises (so I’ve heard).  I’m sure that considerations of decency and good taste would prevail……

Blackpaint

05.07.10 

Blackpaint 146

June 4, 2010

Altdorfer/Elsheimer

Unfortunate names, these, as will become clear:  I’ve been doing a Tanning/Carrington with them (see Blackpaint 121, 122) and mixing them up.  Albrecht Altdorfer is the one who did the Battle of Issus – Alexander the Great a tiny figure on a white horse, in the middle of hordes of  soldiers – and Adam Elsheimer, the one who did the stoning of St. Stephen – the one in the NG of Scotland at Edinburgh, in which the kneeling Stephen very slightly resembles a cartoon character, Tintin perhaps.  My partner points out the more important artistic feature of the triangular structure formed partly by the ray of light from the angel.

Anyway, I discover from Wikipedia that they are about 100 years apart – Altdorfer 1480-1538, Regensburg and Elsheimer 1578-1610 (only 32), born Frankfurt but lived and worked in Rome.  Altdorfer apparently did the first “pure” European landscape in oils, Landscape with Footbridge, in 1518 – 20 (see Blackpaint 132, 133).  he also did an astonishing Birth of the Virgin, in which a posy of flying babies, cherubs, whatever, circle  in the air, hand in hand with angels, above said mother and baby.

I was surprised, too, to read in “Art of the 20th Century” (Taschen) that Altdorfer has been cited as a forerunner of  gestural painting, along with Turner, Kandinsky et al.  I can only think it’s because of his expressionistic skies and clouds and his willingness to ignore perspective and distort human figures – his figures tend to be extremely elongated, for instance.  On both these grounds, however, you would have to include El Greco too, surely.

The fact that Altdorfer, as a member of Regensburg town council, was implicated in the expulsion of the Regensburg Jews links him to another German, or rather Austrian, painter of the 20th century, albeit an amateur, or “failed” one. 

Abstraction

To return to painting, I think, in any examination of gesturalism or abstraction in European art you would have to include Arthur Melville’s little picture of 1889 (Blackpaint 139) – are there earlier examples of “pure” abstraction in British painting, or European painting, for that matter?  please comment, if you know. 

Surfaces

I love built-up surfaces,  done with paint, glue, sand, cement, sacking, slabs of stuff slatched down with a palette knife or just the hand and then scraped and  scratched – Fautrier, Dubuffet, Tapies, Burri, Sandra Blow, Jaap Wagemaker and, I  suppose, Asger Jorn too, as in “Proud, Timid One”.

Listening to Brooks and Dunn;

“I did my best, but her west was wilder than mine”.

Blackpaint

04.06.10

Blackpaint 145

June 1, 2010

Things you have learnt on Blackpaint since November 2009

  1. Michelangelo doesn’t do trees
  2. Romans and Greeks both did landscapes
  3. Egyptians and Romans did still lifes
  4. Raphael’s nudes are well covered; Michelangelo’s and Leonardo’s are “ripped”
  5. Some staggeringly good renaissance painters (and Rembrandt) do limbs and hands too big
  6. Some staggeringly good Post-Impressionists have done some really awful paintings
  7. Some cultures (notably Ife) happily mix abstract/stylised and naturalistic features in same sculpture/picture 
  8. There were lots of Dutch working class abstract artists in the post ww2 years
  9. Paul Feiler is the great unsung St.Ives artist
  10. So is Sandra Blow.

Artists between whom there are resemblances no.3 (I think)

Chris Ofili and Wangechi Mutu.  Check out especially  her heads entitled “the histology of the different classes of uterine tumours” (no kidding).

Listening to Honky Tonk Man by Johnny Horton.

“I’m a honky tonk man, and I can’t seem to stop,

I like to give the girls a whirl to the music of an old juke box;

And when the money’s all gone, I’m on the telephone,

Crying Oh,oh Mama, can your daddy come home?” 

Blackpaint

01.06.10

Blackpaint 62

February 8, 2010

Little shop near the Tate Modern

Don’t know what it’s called – its opposite that huge brown, metallic thing that looks like the spaceship in “Alien”.  they sell old catalogues from Christies etc. for £1 and £2 and I got some beautiful repros dead cheap in this way.  Amongst them were pictures of the following works, which you should Google and wonder at:

Karel Appel, Les Enfants 1951; Euan Uglow, Jane, Clapham Common 1951; Peter Kinley, Studio Interior No 115 1959, Sandra Blow, Composition 1958 (oil, sand and grit on board!), Peter Lanyon, Gusting 1961 and Fly Away 1961; Asger Jorn, Lac dans la petite foret and Black Lac Blues (no dates given).  There is also a Franz Kline in black, red and a sharp emerald green, entitled – Untitled.

This last illustrates the annoying thing about artists who call things “Untitled” or “Composition II, no.143”.  It may preserve their integrity, avoiding, as it does, the implication that a painting must look like something or have reference to some place or particular time – but its really hard to differentiate them, if you’ve done 200 “Untitled”s.

Anyway, I hope there are images on the net, or you’ll just have to enjoy the evocative names.

Painting

Having real trouble with latest figurative stuff – trying to combine “fractured surface” experiments with figures.  It’s funny, I thought it would be easy to “combine” abstract and figurative (a contradiction, of course, but what the hell), but its not.  “One or the other; you can’t have both”, they seem to be saying to me.  Better have another whiskey and see what they say then.

Listening to “I’ll be seeing you” by Frank Sinatra and the Tommy Dorsey orchestra, Sept. 1942

“I’ll be seeing you, in all the old familiar places…”

Blackpaint

08.02.10

Blackpaint 48

January 24, 2010

Abstract Expressionism

Following Friday night’s “automatic” painting session, tried it again last night; predictably, no success.  I remained very conscious of what I was trying to achieve throughout the night and the result was very disappointing.  A bluey-green, grey, white and very black mess of a picture, a sort of childlike imitation of what I got on Friday without the natural feel of it.  I’ll have to work on it in the normal way to try and make a fist of it.

Joycean Novels 

By chance, I’m reading three books at the moment which all claim influence from Joyce: Berlin Alexanderplatz by Doblin, Manhattan Transfer (which the blurb also compares to Berlin Alexanderplatz) by Dos Passos and At Swim-Two-Birds, by Flann O’Brien.  With the first two, so far, the influence seems manifest mostly in the use of portmanteau words and sections of newspapers, official reports and adverts.  O’Brien’s book is the closest to Joyce, the first 30 or so pages containing dialogue and prose style that could have come straight from the “Cyclops” and the “Oxen of the Sun” chapters of Ulysses. 

The Flann O’Brien is also the source of the best sentence I have read today: “Kelly then made a low noise and opened his mouth and covered the small man from shoulder to knee with a coating of unpleasant buff -coloured puke.”

Or I thought this the best, until reading the Observer, I found this, under the sub heading: “overweight Britons resort to liposuction”:  “During the same period the average amount of fat taken out (by liposuction) rose from 687ml in 2000 to 1.05  litres last year.  The 2000 litres of body fat removed in 2009 are the equivalent of what a typical chip shop uses in a year to fry its fish and chips.”

Surely, there’s an opportunity here for an enterprising conceptual artist to explore a new material, perhaps asking questions about body image, norms of beauty and so on.  Someone’s probably already done it.

Tate Britain

Went there this afternoon – some “new” sculpture in the main hall: Richard Deacon, a doughnut shaped bulb of pewter-like steel plates, squashed in, as if sat on by a giant; Rachel Whiteread, a set of what looked like concrete toasters, set up like dominoes; William Tucker, a long pipe twisted into improbable loops; Tony Cragg, a multi-shelved cabinet stocked with sand-blasted white bottles and vases; someone else’s long, thick rope, snaking through a chicane of tall, soft “traffic cones”.  In a side room, a giant rock which from a distance resembled honeycomb or Father Jack’s earwax – but, close up, turned out, (disappointingly) to be knitted wool.

St. Ives  

The Lanyons, Herons, Hiltons, Blow (only one- why?) looked as good as ever; when will the Tate have a big exhibition of St.Ives stuff, giving Sandra Blow and Barnes-Graham etc. their due?

Listening to “El Paso Blues” by Big Joe Williams;

“Didja get the letter I throwed in your backyard?

I’d a come home, baby, but your good man had me barred,

Oh babe, baby don’t you wanta go….”

Blackpaint

24.01.10