Posts Tagged ‘Bonnard’

Blackpaint 637 – Bonnard, Nolan and Lift to the Scaffold

January 31, 2019

Bonnard, Tate Modern

I can’t really recommend this show too highly; I’ve been looking forward to it for weeks, been twice already and like everyone else, took photos of everything possible.  The colours are beautiful; mauves, blues, oranges, yellows (don’t know why I’m listing them, you can get a fair idea from my crappy, fuzzy snapshots below – all the good, clear ones were taken by my partner.

I was surprised at Adrian Searle’s negative review in the Guardian; despite giving a reasonably fair assessment of Bonnard’s achievement, he ended by saying he couldn’t get away from it fast enough.  No accounting for taste and Bonnard WAS a pretty dyed-in-the-wool bourgeois – he certainly looked it, anyway.  I suppose it’s all a bit old, white, privileged, domestic, smug, middle-class for Guardianista taste – but at least he’s Euro, not British.  Wonder what he thinks of Matisse?

One thing Adrian Searle is right about is Bonnard’s wobbly portrayals of people.  The faces are pretty rudimentary; Monchaty, his lover, for example, in the first real portrait in the exhibition.  One of the Marthes, emerging from the bath(s), actually looks like a sea lion to me.  Now and then, though, they are close to Degas.  While I am on about resemblances, here’s a few:  Peter Doig, Klimt, Degas, Vuillard, Goncharova, Van Gogh.  Didn’t bother with titles; too crowded to get them.

Something that the exhibition touched on was Renee Monchaty’s suicide, after Bonnard had decided to marry Marthe.  It didn’t say that Bonnard found her body in the bath.  This is of interest, given that Bonnard spent years after, painting Marthe in, and getting out of , the bath – you’d have thought he would avoid the setting.

 

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Very fuzzy – a bit Vienna Secessionist, I think, with that monumental prone nude on the wall.  Dodgy armpit..

 

 

Detail of a garden – Doig-y?

 

Unusual sharpness to door frame.

 

In one of the rooms, some frames have been removed – I think the result is a big improvement on those great wooden gilt jobs.

 

Very poor photo, great painting, VAST bath (in one picture, it looks to be floating about six feet off the ground.  I think some of the background is reminiscent of Klimt.

 

Love the various planes of colour in this and the woman just visible through the opening.

 

Bonnard’s windows and doors are often wobbly; when the scene is outside, it can look like a heat shimmer.

 

 

Very unusual scene for Bonnard; non-domestic setting, lots of people.  Placement and execution of distant figures rather like Lowry, the colours pastel-like.

 

This one says Van Gogh to me (or might, if it was a person, not a painting…)

 

I love the orange cow, or calf, on the left – that’s where I got Goncharova from.  The painting’s massive, by the way.

 

Lovely painting – no comment necessary.

 

Ditto.

Sidney Nolan, BBC4

Some stunners in this great programme last week – and also some not so stunning (to my eye, anyway).  I was surprised that some of his portraits, especially the early ones, reminded me a little of (early) Lucian Freud; some of the later ones, veiled and distorted, of Bacon.  Here and there, you could see vegetation and rock as Bacon would have rendered it – and also, maybe, Michael Andrews.  And an echo, sometimes, of John Bellany (maybe that should be the other way round, but anyway).

 

 

 

 

touch of Brett Whiteley here?

Lift to the Scaffold, dir Louis Malle (1958)

Doing what the French do best.

Otherwise known as Elevator to the Gallows, tense, clear, cold film noir with perfect Miles Davis music and beautiful Jeanne Moreau, haunting rainy Paris by night, searching for her lover (Maurice Ronet, above right) – who is stuck in the elevator, after killing her husband on the top floor.  Like a fool, he left the rope and grapple he used to scale a couple of floors to the victim’s office, dangling from the balcony and had to go back to get it….  A couple of juvenile delinquents, as they used to be called, nick his car and his gun and go on a spree, just to complicate matters further.

Here’s mine for this week:

Slouching to be Born

Next blog – Bill Viola and Michelangelo at the RA.

Blackpaint

30.01.19

 

 

 

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Blackpaint 532 – Brussels, Tolstoy, Magritte and those balls – what are they? – they’re Bells!

February 14, 2016

Musee Des Beaux Arts, Brussels

icarus

It’s not actually called this any more, though the Brueghel painting of Icarus plummeting into the ocean that inspired the famous Auden poem is still there; it’s divided into three, or actually four bits (the modern one is closed at the moment), all in the one huge building: the Magritte museum, the “fin-de-siecle” museum and the mighty “museum of Ancient Art” are the sections open at the moment.  The building is at the top of the “Mountain of Art”; big, freezing, windswept square, lines of pollarded trees, watch for the mouse running under the waste basket, turn right after the massive library.

the-fair-captive

The Fair Captive

Magritte first; lots of cloudy skies in window frames, mirrors and easels; skin changing into wood grain or bricks; doves made of leaves; owls in threatening groups; bowler-hatted men (of course) – and those curious metallic balls with the horizontal slots in them, that also feature, I think, in some Max Ernst paintings.  What are they, I wonder.  Looked it up – they’re bells, like you hang round horses’ necks, apparently.

magritte balls

So far, so usual Magritte, but I was interested to see some of his colourful early poster work – I had’t known he was an ad man, but it makes perfect sense; the “surrealism” is often a neat little transposition, tidily illustrated (it’s night in the urban street, dark, street lights on outside the little villas – but it’s broad daylight in the sky above the tall trees) and often he uses the same image several times, slightly adapted, with a different “surreal” name.

villa magritte

There is a startling and inexplicable style change in the 40s(?); the usual neat precision gives way to rough-drawn, pink/brown/yellow pastel colours for a few pictures.  I checked, they were still oil on canvas; but then back to the familiar style again.

the-explanation magritte

The Explanation

Fin – de – Siecle

Some terrific stuff in here: Vogel,  the awful weather painter; that is, the weather’s awful, not the paintings.  It’s always raining, snowing or maybe just grey and drizzly in his town and village streets; Van Rysselbergh,  nothing special, landscapes in lines and stipples – but what a name!  Ranks with Van Dongen and Vantongerloo in my book (yes, there is one Van Gogh, portrait of a young man); Rops and Spillaert, both with loads of paintings, as if the museum director had said “OK, get cracking, we’ll take the lot.” And Finch again!  (see Blackpaint on Helsinki, August 2015).

Some little Kollwitz etchings. reminiscent of Goya penitents, that great Bonnard of his wife stretching, standing naked against the window in the bathroom – where else? – some good Toulouse Lautrec drawings, three Gauguins (two great, one awful) – but the real surprise was Ensor.

Ensor Chinese%20Porcelain%20with%20Fans,%201880

Chinese Porcelain

There were a couple of the cartoon-y clown/mask ones, the sinister ones he’s famous for,  but several good, chunky, almost social -realist pictures and a lovely still life with a central blob of red, a dish I think.  And “The Skate” (below):

Ensor_TheSkate

Ensor boy with lamp

The Lamplighter, Ensor

The last museum, “Ancient Art”, was so rich and enormous that I’m leaving it until the next blog.

On Thursday, we walked beyond the “Mountain of Art” and a huge, depressing palace on our right, towards Jubelpark and Musees Royeaux d’art et d’histoire …..  We trudged along a grey, freezing avenue of empty office blocks and building sites, as traffic tore past, terrifyingly close to very narrow pavements.  A great, glass EU building on the right reared above us and we didn’t notice it, so intent were we on keeping to the kerb.  It was easy to imagine it empty and to let, like all the others…..

The park was pure Magritte, though; neat, tidy, squared off, depressing; someone walking a little dog (loads of dogshit around – Magritte never put that in a picture, I think).  But there were busts of people, sculpted with their bodies apparently enclosed in boxes – and their bare feet poking out at the bottom.

If you eat in the museum restaurant, don’t have the “Americain” – it’s a hefty, cake – sized lump of raw hamburger meat, served with capers, salad and chips; delicious!

Kreuzer Sonata, Tolstoy

Inspired by the TV War and Peace, I’m reading this novella, which I thought I might finish on Eurostar; no such luck.  The views expressed – not sure how far they are Tolstoy’s own; probably all – make Zvyagintsev’s taciturn male bullies look like Hackney hipsters by comparison.

latest wip

The Siege of Brussels (Work in progress)

Blackpaint

14.02.16

 

 

 

 

Blackpaint 408 – Bilbao; Picasso’s Leeks, Urs Fischer’s Tongue

August 22, 2013

 Guggenheim Bilbao

If you’re in northern Spain, brave the giant Scalextrix set around Bilbao and visit Gehry’s Guggenheim.  Even if the exhibitions are bad – not often – the building is always worth another visit.

At the moment, there is an exhibition about France in WW2.  It’s a little contrived, cobbled together, and actually runs from 1938 (surrealists, Spanish war aftermath) to 1947.  It includes pictures and cartoons by several artists (Charlotte Saloman, Felix Nussbaum) who died in Auschwitz and other camps; art done in hiding or on the run; art done in exile;  “official” art, i.e. acceptable to Vichy and/or the Germans (including Dufy with a giant blue panorama, like a Festival of Britain poster, and a Villon, rather like a Colquhoun/MacBryde figure); there is even a Picasso room, with some great studio photos by Brassai and one terrific painting in watery blue, “Studio with skull and Leeks”.

picasso skull and leeks

Most of the art, as always in wartime, was realist, symbolist or tragic/heroic – crucifixions, barbed wire, agonised, objectified suffering, calls to arms, etc.  Cartoons and collages  along Grosz and Heartfield lines from Joseph Steib; for some reason, a stupendous nude in the bath from Bonnard that I last saw a couple of years ago in the Pompidou, surely – that one with the walls that look like Klimt.

bonnard bath

Also a couple of beautiful, colourful abstracts from Sophie Tauber-Arp, “Etudes from the Earthy Food” (?)

After the obscenity of war, a floor of plain obscenity.  Three or four large Paul McCarthys, “The Spinning Dwarf”; black cartoon charcoal or paint mouse, claggy smears and sprays of paint here and there, pages of porno mags torn out and stuck on upside-down.  I suffered a rather painful neck spasm as a result.

Urs Fischer’s Tongue, poking through a ragged hole in the wall – not her real tongue, that is, but a synthetic one that emerges suddenly when you approach the hole – it darts through and licks at you.

Two R Crumb strips in his – er, uncompromising style, Boswell’s Diary and Making Love to a Strong Girl – no racial stereotypes this time, but plenty to offend those who wish to be offended.

R Crumb strong girl

Finally, there is Riotous Baroque, which I’ll do next week.

Thomas Bernhard, Old Masters

Reading this protracted, repetitive rant against artists, philosophers, musicians with an Austrian connection – I think it’s supposed to be ironic – I was suddenly reminded of John Cooper Clarke’s “Evidently Chickentown”, although the latter is a far superior piece of art, I think.  Watching the hour long programme celebrating his poetry, I was bowled over by “Beasley Street” – bits of it were  almost like those Auden poems that copy the form of nursery rhymes.

Top of the Lake

Great TV serial. marred by two factors; Holly Hunter’s laughable and highly irritating guru “GJ” (or maybe GeeJay) and the cop out regarding the relationship of Robin and Jonno – are they really brother and sister? No – Jonno’s mother had an affair as well.  That’s all right then.  All the white men, apart from Jonno, were violent and potential rapists, all the women deeply damaged by men.

??????????

Blackpaint

22.08.13

Blackpaint 365 – Heroic Mannerism in the Ironic Park

November 2, 2012

Harryhausen

I’ve been referring to the great film modeller as Harry Harryhausen; I now find, sadly from his obit., that it was RAY Harryhausen.  Sorry Ray – apposite really, as I’ve been in Budapest for a few days, and visited..

Memento Park

This is where they put a number of the Communist – era socialist realist and- what to call them? heroic mannerist?- statues to pose and beckon to each other across the grass and gravel paths.  Amongst these monstrosities is a memorial to the Hungarian International Brigade that fought with the Republicans in Spain; the unfortunate volunteers resemble, to me, the inhabitants of that island of Goonies that were in the old Popeye cartoon (apologies to my younger reader).  Some of these statues remind me of Ray Harryhausen’s work.

I was quite impressed that, so relatively soon after the end of communist rule, Hungarians can treat these relics with the irony shown here.

Budapest Fine Art Museum, Heroes Square

A Cezanne exhibition, Cezanne and the Past, in the museum at the moment; many of his drawings of Old Masters, and some paintings which were surprisingly bad.  BUT – there was Madame Cezanne with her striped, picket-fence skirt (best picture), Madame C. in Blue, with her face almost a Modigliani (second best) – and “Basket of Apples” and “Kitchen Table”; fabulous fruit and tablecloths, tilting to the spectator.  In both, the table fore-edges are out of line, as if there were two small tables in each picture, the divide hidden by the snowy tablecloths.  My partner insists that this is part of the intentional (and revolutionary) distortion – I can’t see it, I think he just couldn’t be bothered to re-jig it.

In the permanent exhibition, which we had to shoot through at speed, I noted the following:

Sassetta, St. Thomas Aquinas in Prayer – beautiful, Duccio-like green “framing” – my favourite picture.

Maso di Banco; obviously “influenced” by Giotto – or maybe the other way round? No – one of Giotto’s best pupils.

Lorenzo Monaco – a cut-out crucifixion; never seen anything like it;

Bosch – “The Bacchus Singers”; one with a finger down his throat, puking on the floor behind the oblivious others;

Bosch again – a very damaged copy of a section of “Garden of Earthly Delights”;

Lucas Cranach – Salome with John B’s head, smirking at the spectator, really pleased with herself; JB looking less so;

Pieter Brueghel – John the Baptist (in happier days) sermon; the one with the woman in the Japanese hat.

Hans Holbein the Elder – “the Dormition of the Virgin”, in a style so much more archaic than the realist portraits of his genius son (although H the Younger’s biblical scenes were not so different);

A couple of brilliant Bonnards – look at them from across the room to see them as abstracts, they work brilliantly.

And lots more, will finish next blog.

Adrian Heath

Thought he was a minor painter, sort of link between London and St.Ives; but I’ve just got the new Lund Humphries book by Jane Rye – he was staggeringly good.  There are obvious similarities in places to Poliakoff, Terry Frost (a friend and also ex -POW) and Roger Hilton; but I think they are richer and more interesting than any of them.  Rye is right when she talks about the sense of calmness, balance, and chaos breaking through.  they are just beautiful and I can’t over-praise them.

Andriassy

Blackpaint

2/11/12

Blackpaint 236

December 29, 2010

Review of the Year (Part 1)

OK, all the swanky broadsheet newspapers and TV culture programmes do an annual review, so Blackpaint’s readers are required to at least read the heading before – heading off in a more interesting direction.  Be reassured, however; I will only mention one thing under each heading.  So, assuming one of you is still reading, here goes:

Nov. 2009 – Balka box at Tate Modern.  Thick, felt blackness on your own in the morning; hordes of Spanish kids with phone cameras in the afternoon.

Dec. 2009 – Turner Prize Show.  Lucy Skaer’s whale skeleton and the powdered plane by Roger Hioorns – sorry, that’s two.

Dec – Mexican prints at British Museum.  Influence of Siqueiros on Pollock.

Dec – Updahl at Kings Place.  Purple skies over the fjords, amidst the corporate hospitality.

Dec – Photography at British Library.  Those weirdly humanoid X rays of frogs.

Jan 2010 – Photographers Gallery; Goldberg etc.  Afrikaaner boys on horseback with Easter Island expressions.

Jan – Chaldon Mural.  Demons like aliens, in Happy Valley.

Jan – Chris Ofili, Tate Britain.  The hanged man on the right of the picture.

Feb 2010 – Van Doesburg, Tate Modern.  Diagonal or square?  VD says former, Mondrian latter.

Feb – Arshile Gorky, TM.  Had no idea how influential he was on the Abstract Expressionists; didn’t like those fluffy white backgrounds, though.

Feb – Brighton Art Gallery.  The Christopher Wood and the Mods and (especially) Rockers photos.  Two again, sorry.

Feb – “Michelangelo’s Dream”, Courtauld.  Phaeton’s chariot and horses plummeting down.

March 2010 – Threshold; drawings at Whitechapel Gallery, curated by Paula Rego.  That Sutherland drooping, segmented penis on yellow background.  OK, I know it isn’t, but it looks like it.

March – Celeste Boursier – Mougenot at Barbican.  Birds on the guitar strings, everyone loving it; impossible name, though.

March – Paul Nash at Dulwich.  Overkill for me – but I love the Thames Estuary air war.

April 2010 – History of the World in 100 0bjects, British Museum.  The tiny carved reindeer, with no purpose other than to look good.

April – Shobdon Tympanum, V & A.  Wild, hippy woman in sailor top, who turned out to be Jesus enthroned in majesty.  Strangest British object I’ve ever seen (but see Chaldon, above).

April – Pompidou Centre, Paris.  Too much fantastic stuff.  The feminist videos stick in my mind, especially Hannah Wilke’s.

April – Musee d’Orsay, Paris.  Several crap paintings by genius painters (Van Gogh, Cezanne…)

April – Museum of Modern Art, Paris.  Fabulous Bonnards, Marthe in bath.

April – Tate Modern, permanent collection.  Sarmanto, disappearing pictures.

April – Kingdom of Ife, British Museum.  Mix of realism and stylisation in single sculptures – and those heads.

April – Christian Kobke at the National Gallery.  The roof painting, seven -eighths sky.

(Peep Show on now; this continued tomorrow).

Blackpaint

29.12.10

Blackpaint 233

December 22, 2010

British Museum – Drawings; Picasso – Mehretu

Total surprise, this; free alternative to spending £12 on the Book of the Dead exhibition.  And one of the best exhibitions I’ve seen this year (review of the year to follow after Christmas).

Straightaway, I have to mention Jim Dine – “The Diemaker”.  Beautiful drawing, white shirt and tie barely suggested, slumped seated pose, one hand a grey cloud, heavy shading on face and left side, which looks strangely collapsed in shadow.

RB Kitaj – “Sides”, 1976.  Three depictions of male right side, from about chin to mid thigh, chalks on yellow paper; just stunning life drawings, class of Michelangelo.  Lean, muscular body, great, sweeping curve of lower back into buttocks – fabulous.

Picasso – sketch in red chalk for “Desmoiselles d’Avignon”, an upperbody and head, and separate face, latter recognisable as a desmoiselle, former not like P. at all – heavy overdrawing, more like Rouault, say.

Matisse – “Lady in Taffeta Dress”, charcoal on paper, dress folds suggested with usual economy, fewest lines throughout – but solid.

Bonnard – “Dining Room at Cannet”, coloured drawing, 1940.  Actually a laid table, but done in perspective rather than dropped down, or forward, at this late date.  Chairlegs on right rather dodgy, though.

Anselm Keifer – “Dein goldenes Haar Margarete”, a line from Paul Celan’s Holocaust poem “Todesfuge”.  Ground level cornstalks against a blue sky, the words of the title painted across it.  The blue of the sky a surprising (to me) soft note from this artist.

Guston – Two Guston drawings, the first one of his KKK crowds, milling about in a cave, their button eyes looking somehow startled; the other, “Hooded”, a single head in a non-Klan covering, suggesting torture today, obviously.

David Smith – A drawing very like his “landscape” sculptures, a framework with dangling bits and screwed-on ratchets(?).  They remind me of those Airfix kits with the plane parts stuck on plastic frame for you to twist off.

Dorothy Dehner – Smith’s 1st wife. “The Great Gate of Kiev”, an exploded plan of a wooden structure – but it’s flying!

Kirchner – Three, I think, and interesting to hit his gestural, expressionist style first, as you pass from the little ante room with the permanent collection of early drawings, etchings and mezzotints, showing evidence of sheer, painstaking effort.  Kirchner like a draught of cold, strong wine or a release of breath.

Enough for today – rest of drawings tomorrow.

Michelangelo

Looked at the Epifania cartoon again, in this section – I’m sure that the standing figure on the viewer’s right is a self-portrait.  The broken nose is there and it looks to me like a pumped-up version of the famous St.Bartholomew’s skin self portrait on the Sistine wall – only grinning.

Blackpaint

22.12.10

Blackpaint 224

November 27, 2010

Last Suppers

Just watched Bunuel’s “Viridiana” again – and it has the best beggars’ banquet scene in it.  A nun invites the local beggar population to move into the mansion she inherited from her uncle (who hanged himself because she wouldn’t marry him).  As usual in Bunuel films,  naive (sanctimonious) kindness results in unexpected disaster – when she leaves them alone to go on an errand, they raid the cellars and kitchens, set themselves a sumptuous meal, get drunk, fight, fornicate, wreck the place.  At the climax of the feast, the drunken figures resolve themselves into a tableau of da Vinci’s “Last Supper”, grouped around a beggar “Christ”.

For some reason, this scene annoyed the church in Spain, where Bunuel directed the film after 25 years in exile, and it was suppressed by the Spanish government.

Bridget Riley

Read Hilary Spurling in the Guardian Review and found that, yet again, I must have missed something – there was a Rubens included in the exhibition.  Have to go again, but that won’t be a problem; the painting “Red on Red” that I mentioned was reproduced in the paper and looked even more beautiful than I remember.  The only problem is that it very faintly reminded me of a British Gas logo.

Asger Jorn

As always – well, often – happens when I look at art books,  I find myself reproducing in a general sort of way, the style or look, if not the techniques of artists I like.  I suppose this lurks around the plagiarism area, but it’s not conscious; it just happens.  I’ve been burrowing in Guy Atkins’ book “Jorn in Scandinavia 1930 – 53” and a very pale something of the following pictures seems to have lodged in my head and come out on the paper (run out of canvas, pro tem): “Wounded Beast”, “Buttadeo”, “Sickly Phantoms” and “Return to the Detested Town”.  These are all from 1951 and all feature heavy black scoring (looks like charcoal) around ghostly white or green faces, emerging from a maelstromic – is that a word? – background.  I seem to have picked up on the black scoring, for now anyway.

Bonnard  

Last Bonnard for a bit;  Bonnard was always revising his work and Julian Bell tells the story of Vuillard and Bonnard going to museums in which B’s works were displayed, where Bonnard would alter a picture with which he had become  dissatisfied, while Vuillard diverted the attendant.  I can’t believe this happened more than once, but a great story, nevertheless.

Quiz:  who did the “Broken Obelisk” sculpture at the Rothko Chapel in Houston?  Clue: not Rothko.

Blackpaint

27.11.10

Blackpaint 221

November 19, 2010

The Nabis

It means prophets in Hebrew.  This group was made up of Bonnard, Serusier, Maurice Denis, Vuillard, Ranson and others.  Why I mention it is the amazing story of “The Talisman”; this was a panel painted in 1888 by Serusier, under the guidance and instruction of Gauguin, who they regarded as their master.  Serusier brought back the painting, entitled “The Bois d’Amour a Pont – Aven”,   like Moses with the tablets of stone, and it was treated as their guiding star by the rest of the group.  It is a highly stylised landscape, with a large yellow colour field, an orange-red bridge leading to a blue house with bright blue river and patches in background; very flat surface.  The flatness of the picture plane was of the essence, as was the intensity of the colours. 

I love these obsessive little movements with their fixed ideas and absolute rules (see stuff on Mondrian and van Doesburg in Blackpaint 60 and 61, February 2010). 

Also of interest about Bonnard is that he won a poster competition for France – Champagne and his poster apparently influenced Toulouse Lautrec; TL subsequently painted habitually in this style, whereas Bonnard abandoned it immediately.  The Bonnard poster is really like a Lautrec – you would assume it was one, if you were not told otherwise.

Before leaving Bonnard (for today – he’s too interesting to neglect for long), I must mention “White Interior”; there’s a table corner in it, which he maybe positioned wrongly, or maybe just wished to show with different articles on it, so he painted it again, further to the right – and left the first one in.  Looks OK; why change it?

Leonardo

I’ve been looking at his wonderful portrait of Cecilia Gallerani, the one of the demure young girl with the ermine.  In Leonardo’s day, the ermine was a symbol of purity because of its fastidious ways;  apparently, it didn’t like getting its fur dirty.

How times have changed; an ermine is a stoat, which is a close relative of the weasel.  What would we now make of a portrait of a young woman fondling an alert and rather predatory looking weasel?  Not purity, I would think, even if the fur was white.

Quiz for today

Raphael also painted a lady holding an animal symbolising virtue, though this one was mythical; what was it?

Angel of Mons by Blackpaint

19.11.10

Blackpaint 218

November 11, 2010

Richard Diebenkorn

I’m quite bemused at Diebenkorn’s career, really; for my money, the earlier abstracts from the 50s and 60s are very much better than those of his second abstract period.  If you look at the Albuquerque, or Berkeley paintings, you see a series of rich, textured colour patches and tracts, marked and scored with black paint and sometimes (like Roger Hilton’s) charcoal, scribbles, smears and thickly-painted squirls in desert-tawny, red, greys and whites, sometimes a lavender or mauve.  They are, unmistakeably, abstractions of aerial landscapes.  I’ve gone on about them before, somewhere.

The Ocean Park pictures, though interesting, are much less so.  The colours are more sickly, the reds, yellows and blues thinner and more acidic (many are acrylic on paper).  There are ruled lines, geometric shapes – many resemble shuttered windows.  They’re  dead, compared to the earlier stuff.  Jane Livingstone’s book cites the influence of Mondrian here, and quotes his dictum that “chance must be avoided, as much as calculation”.  What, you may ask, do you utilise, if not  chance or calculation?  Mondrian’s  answer is “intuition”.

If you avoid the intervention of chance, accident, whatever you call it, I think you lose the possibility of that “life” that sometimes  is caught in a picture, flickering across or against a smooth, uniform patch of colour.  Diebenkorn’s early abstracts  capture a lot of  those moments – just check  the series I have mentioned.  The Ocean Park pictures, sadly, never do.

Bonnard

Something that I did not previously know about the above was that one of his models, Renee Monchaty, commited suicide – in  her bath.  And Bonnard discovered the body.This was  in Rome, in 1923.  He subsequently (and famously) went on to do a number of  paintings of his wife Marthe getting in and out of the bath and in  two at least, lying full length  in the tub.  Surely, whenever he painted a bath scene, he would have been reminded…  Clearly, real artists are different to the rest of us; I’m reminded of  Bacon painting George Dyer with his new lover’s head  substituted (see Blackpaint 96), and Araki’s wife.

Quiz

In whose work does a businessman sit in a bar with a chamber pot on  his head?

Millbank by Blackpaint

11.11.10

Blackpaint 114

April 19, 2010

Ten Male Artists whose work  should be published in cheap editions by Taschen or Tate or anyone good

Partly to demonstrate the anti-sexist credentials of Blackpaint’s blog, but also to mention a slew of painters I like but can’t get cheap books about:

  • Hans Hoffman – I can only find one book on this seminal colour field artist and teacher (in Henry Pordes, Charing X Road) and it’s 65 quid! 
  • Richard Diebenkorn – highly desirable book by Jane Livingston, but it’s 35 quid.  Bit cheaper on Amazon, but I like to  buy the old-fashioned way.
  • Richard Guston
  • John Hoyland
  • Graham Sutherland
  • Pierre Bonnard – the colours in the Phaidon are dead; Taschen required urgently.
  • Eduard Vuillard
  • Asger Jorn, Appel – all the CoBrA people, really.
  • Keith Vaughan
  • Albert Oehlen

A mixed bunch, to be sure; but I have actually  searched for cheap editions of all these and have only really been lucky with odd ones in catalogues.

Michelangelo  and Trees

I missed one (see Blackpaint 112) ; there are actually two pretty basic and dead trees in the Flood (Sistine).  I have amended the blog accordingly, but my point remains, I  think.

Goldsmiths

Watching the BBC4 programme on Goldsmiths, I was struck with the obsession they – both tutors and students – have with “meaning” in art.  They construct their tableaux or objects or  whatever and  then worry that the public won’t get their meaning.  one said,”They won’t think hard enough about it”.  The prof, however, when pressed, said, “It’s all about the art, really; the rest is bullshit”.  This I  found reassuring, but I’m told  by those who know, that art schools require context and meaning and argument and that  artists who refuse to discuss their work in these terms and assert that a work of art should, as it were, speak for itself, will not get far in academia.

Strange really; it’s a sort of marxist or pseudo-marxist position, that art has to be experienced and appreciated in context.  I remember writing an essay arguing just that,  several years (well, decades) ago at university.  The tutor’s comment  was “Interesting – but I don’t think you would convince a purist.”  Now I’m the purist, I suppose.

I also find it interesting that what I  do, a lot of the general public regard as “modern art” – but it’s really old-fashioned, of course, abex or colour field stuff being the equivalent of, say, modal jazz, Coltrane doing “My Favourite Things” or Miles Davis’ “Kind of Blue” – 51 years old!

Blackpaint

19.04.10