Posts Tagged ‘Boltanski’

Blackpaint 301

October 21, 2011

Tacita Dean in the Turbine Hall

..of the Tate Modern, of course.  Must be enormous pressure to do something spectacular.  She’s chosen to celebrate the medium of film and the display is a tall, window-shaped projection on the back wall, with film sprocket holes on either side.  Critics have variously described it as a cathedral window or a lift shaft – I tend to the latter.  So, what happens is that a series of images come and go for 11 minutes, then the sequence starts again.

The images include (from my memory):

Shaggy Ink Cap mushrooms; rapids, with the middle section flowing backwards); pink flower; lump of resin(?) suspended on string or wire; mountain (Matterhorn?) pictured in different colours; a human eye, opening and closing; large orange dots.  I’ve resisted the temptation to add more, gleaned not from memory, but other critics’ lists – and that’s the thing; you can’t help doing a cuddly toy – listing what you remember.  Not really what you ought to be doing when contemplating a great work of art.

So- it’s nice, but it’s not Eliasson; more in the class of the Rachel Whiteread.  Better that that thing with the bunk beds and paperbacks or the Salcedo split in the floor;  but I think the Balka was more memorable.  Actually that’s a lie; the Balka thing came to mind after I’d thought of all the others mentioned.

Gerhard Richter

Interesting that Richter is now the greatest living artist, according to various critics (Laura Cumming, for instance), when a while back, it was Boltanski, when he had his installation in Paris.  Latest thing, I suppose.

But the Richter at TM is great, and I’ll be going again, several times (we get in free as my partner is a member – cheap, if you go a lot).  I’ll take it in sections:

First, there’s the blurred photo paintings; bomber raids, Wehrmacht Uncle Rudi,  victim Aunt Marianne, with a baby in arms – is that Richter? – , the creepy, smiling dog with the clown face, couples, tiger, ruins… must stop this, making lists again.

Next, grey/black curved liquid spurt, reminded me of Bacon painting about which he was gleeful, apparently, at bringing off a perfect squirt of water. Also,  a grey swirl, with orange-green splats.

Next, “Damaged Landscapes” – Turner-ish grey Alps; Paris decomposing into curling, black and white squares and L shapes, like melting wax mixed with ash; kitsch snowy mountains; an empty, anonymous concrete city.

Grey Paintings – a dense undergrowth of grey sword-like strokes, recalling both Laurie Lee’s childhood jungle-garden memories and Christopher Wool’s paintings – although Wool’s are more slippery and soft-edged.

Figuration meets abstraction – brown cloudscapes, enlarged and smoothed out; two large coloured paintings that were originally little painterly sketches of – something that escapes me now – enlarged, blurred and smoothed until just two oblong blobs in pink and white.  A blurred Annunciation, based on Titian, apparently.

Genre Paintings and Early Squeegee – and the exhibition explodes into colour.  Blazing greens, reds, yellows, pinks; green tendrils of paint.  Completely overwhelming the little skull and candle paintings, and a fantastic iceberg.

Landscapes and Portraits – A huge abstract with seething red and orange on the right (of the picture) and cool, squeegee’d blues and greens sliding and curving on the left – can’t remember what’s in the middle.  Another with a shower of fat, purple bloody drops.  Betty turning away – apparently she’s looking towards a grey painting, although it looks like a plain dark background –  and another of her reading; both very slightly blurred “photographs”, it seems to me.  Some blurred landscapes with houses.

18 October 1977 – the Baader-Meinhof pictures.  Some Warhol-ish repetition of Meinhoff dead, although unlike Warhol, minor variation and blurred surface.  These, and the earlier, “Uncle Rudi” ones, brought to mind those blurred, sometimes touched-up photos you used to get in True Detective magazine, like Ruth Snyder in the electric chair or Charles Starkweather under arrest.

Abstraction in the 90’s – a huge beetroot – coloured squeegee job; a grey picket fence pattern; eight small, piercingly colourful scrapy abstracts, one with folds of scraped paint resembling bright leaf insects. 

2001 and beyond – the September picture that I have already written about (the planes hitting the WTC); the booklet appears to contradict the Guardian McCarthy article I cited – maybe I misread it.  OK, have reread it and I did misunderstand- it was a number of sketches that Richter thought to be abstract, until a friend pointed out that they showed the attack on the WTC;  Richter then based this picture on them.  Also, some great small ones in white with black line markings, like atom particle tracings on a metallic plate.

Cage – exhibition ends across cafe, in the room with the 6 huge scrapeys that are on permanent display.  Inspired by John Cage’s music, they look to me like swamp, scraped out in varying colours.


My mate Paul tells me he was deaf, which is why there’s not much music in his films.  Not many people know that.

Blackpaint (Chris Lessware)


Blackpaint 41

January 17, 2010

Boltanski again

Another review of B’s Paris installation, this time Laura Cumming in the Observer.  I’m ashamed to learn that “he has long been considered France’s greatest living artist” – I’d seen his stuff before, I remember a dimly-lit corner (shrine) of photographs of Holocaust victims, possibly in the Bilbao Guggenheim; but I had no idea of his status.  Nor had his French nationality registered with me; because of his name, and  because of his work on the Holocaust, I’d (ironically)assumed he was Polish.  Given his previous work, it’s not surprising that Cumming refers to  “Auschwitz, Srebrenica, Rwanda”, when looking at the assemblages of anonymous clothing.

This piece, however, as Cumming  points out, goes further.  “You do not imagine these clothes to be those of murdered people so much as humanity en masse, flattened like biblical crops”, she writes and describes the repetitive action of a giant mechanical claw, picking up articles of clothing from a giant pile – and dropping them again, in a blind, random and ceaseless process.  A suitably solemn review, the tone of which was for me undermined by the headline, “A monument to everyone and no one” – yes, Clouzot, pathetic isn’t it?

By coincidence, I have just re-read Ray Bradbury’s story, “the Scythe” from “The October Country”.  An impoverished mid western family in 1938, heading to California, come across a well- kept farm in the midst of wheatfields.  A dead man is inside; they bury him and settle down in the farm, which is well stocked with food, and the man finds a scythe and begins to cut the ripe corn.  Strangely, it rots as soon as it is cut.  Also there are some patches that are still green, others ripening, others ready for the scythe… you can guess the rest.


I’m afraid I suggested in yesterday’s blog that Boltanski might be mad (before I knew he was France’s greatest living artist); that was prompted by the revelation in Searle’s Guardian article that he is compiling an audio library of people’s heartbeats that will be stored on a remote Japanese island.  I should say that I don’t consider madness in artists to be necessarily a bad thing – indeed, doing apparently mad things has been shown repeatedly to be the only way that art “advances” (although I don’t believe it advances – goes in cycles, maybe).

Sistine Chapel – Original Sin and The Last Judgement

Been looking at the Taschen “Michelangelo” again, and I was really struck by how close Eve’s face is to Adam’s penis in the apple scene.  The caption reads blandly; “The juxtaposition of a supposedly female face and masculine genitalia is a common feature of Michelangelo’s work”, and goes on to give other examples.

Then, there is the hilariously phallic right hand lunette of the “Last Judgement”, described as “angels lifting up the column of flagellation”.  Sorry to indulge in these base observations.

Bicycle Thieves – De Sica

Fantastic film – Coppola was surely informed by it, when he made The Godfather.  The music for one thing; and Ricci’s friend, the dustman-ganger who helps him look in the markets, reminded me of de Niro’s young house-breaking companion in Godfather II – but then, so did Bruno!  I love the shambolic picture of postwar Rome; everything half-built or crumbling, improvisation, old bits of uniform being worn..

There were a couple of scenes that seemed straight out of Cartier – Bresson; where the camera follows two street urchins along a dazzling white wall, as they beg from a suited and hatted gent with a briefcase – and the German(?) clerics with their circular hats and cassocks, sheltering from the cloudburst with Ricci and Bruno.  I must immediately get hold of “Miracle in Milan” again.

Listening to “Davy Lowston” by Martin Carthy.

“Our captain John McGrath, he set sail, he set sail,

Oh yes, for old Port Stanley, he set sail;

He said “I’ll return, men, without fail”,

But he foundered in a gale,

And went down, and went down, and went down”.