Posts Tagged ‘BP Portrait Prize’

Blackpaint 605 – Naked in the Woods, Slaughter in the Deserts

September 4, 2017

Playground Structure  (Blain Southern Gallery, Hanover Square W1. until 16th September)

Nice exhibition of abstract painters – and one photographer, Jeff Wall – with little to connect them, beyond the fact that they all use a form of grid structure and play around with it, subverting it in various ways.  The exception is again Wall, whose large photograph is of a climbing frame in a suburban park.  For me, the most interesting is Joan Snyder, two of whose works are below.  BS have a great catalogue of Snyder’s stuff, but it’s for display only and I haven’t yet found a copy for sale.  Ed Moses is here too – two of his masking tape pieces, a watercolour and an ink and graphite drawing on paper.

New Squares, Joan Snyder 2015


Snyder, Untitled, 1969


Gregory Crewdson, Cathedral of the Pines, Photographers Gallery until 8th October

Crewdson photographic scenarios that resemble film stills; you are often looking for a narrative – what’s going on here, why is there a police car parked under the trees, what are these two women doing, waiting outside a hut in the forest?  Often, the question is, why are they half naked or clad only in a dirty slip, gazing into a mirror or out of a window?  The pensive down -dressing is one motif here; others are forest, thick snow, brown wooden interiors, an air of decaying melancholy and sometimes menace.  They resemble film stills, but also rather flat, super-realist paintings.  For comparison, the painter George Shaw occurred to me; also Sally Mann. and maybe a touch of David Lynch…    Worth a visit.

I think this one is titled “Haircut”.


BP Portrait Prize, NPG

Interesting this year to see some of the influences in this year’s Turtle Burners’ prize (as well as the astounding technical skill on display, as always):  I saw obvious and several evidence of Lucian Freud, one Stanley Spencer, one Bomberg and one Elisabeth Peyton.  I admired greatly the prize-winning little portrait below.

Gabi, by Henry Christian – Slain


Fahrelnissa Zeid, Tate Modern until 8th Ocober

This is on in the new bit of the TM, second level.  She was a Turkish woman, “born into an elite Ottoman family”,  married an Iraqi prince, who was ambassador to Germany, as well as sometime regent of his country.  She was mainly active from the 40s through to the 60s, following abstract styles as shown below, before, oddly,  returning to portraiture.  Who else has done this?  I suppose Malevich (political pressure played a part there though) – maybe Bomberg and Guston too, although not to portraiture really – abstract to figurative, though.  Having mentioned Bomberg,  I thought there was a passing, superficial resemblance in the splintered, multicoloured patterns to Bomberg’s pre -WW1 pictures “Jiu- Jitsu” and “the Baths”.





Other new Tate Stuff

Some new work that has shown up in the regular galleries since my last visit:

“Disparates – A little night music”

This drawing by Peter de Francia has obvious echoes of Beckmann’s “Night” and Grosz’s work in general – maybe a touch of Rego too?


An assembly by Germaine Richier – echoes of Wifredo Lam.


Il Topo (Alexander Jodorowsky, 1970)


I’ve finally got hold of this cult movie, championed by John Lennon and kept off the screens for years by Allen Klein.  It’s in a box set with “Fando y Lis” and “The Holy Mountain” and, inexplicably, separate CDs of the musical scores;  padding really.

“Topo” is a quest picture, set in the Mexican  (?) deserts, a lone, black leather-clad gunman with his young (naked) son behind him on the horse.  He soon dumps and apparently forgets him and picks up a couple of beautiful women – one he rescues from a murderous bandit “general”, the other just appears – and embarks on a mission to find several other top gun hands and kill them.  Bloody massacres, throat cutting, castration, whipping, amputees, dwarfs, lynchings and at the end, a suicide obviously inspired by the monks in Vietnam.  But it’s not all fun – there’s a spiritual dimension too.

Aware, as I occasionally am, that criticism is more than just listing possible influences and resemblances, I nevertheless feel compelled to do so – so here goes:

Bunuel, especially Simon of the Desert:  Pasolini (Oedipus Rex, Matthew and the surprisingly sweet soundtrack – music plays a big part in Paso’s films, unlike those of the deaf Bunuel); spaghetti westerns, of course; The Wild Bunch; Toshiro Mifune in Sanjuro etc.; Freaks.  And Fellini, Jodorowsky’s acknowledged maestro. ” Fando” and “Holy Mountain” I’ll deal with next time.


Storm Front



Blackpaint 462 – Constable, John and Albert, Turtle Burners’ Best

September 18, 2014

Alastair Sooke on Constable

Two things surprised me in this programme:  first, the fact that Turner was established as a Royal Academy member before Constable; I’d always thought it was the other way round (I suppose because Turner strikes me as the more “modern” of the two); second, the great enthusiasm for Constable in France.  Delacroix apparently repainted one of his own works after seeing a Constable.  The latter treated this adulation with contempt and steadfastly refused to go to France to promote his work.

Still not convinced by Sooke’s case that Constable was a revolutionary figure in the art world, however.

Programmes on Abstract Art, BBC4

I found the Matthew Collings prog great – an hour and a half on abstract art, what could be wrong? – but inevitably, some omissions.  Nothing, I think, on Lanyon, Frost, Hilton, Blow or any of the other St.Ives painters.  Hoyland was there, but not enough and the fabulous Albert Irvin surely was worth another ten minutes.  I like Collings’ own paintings – they always remind me of Festival of Britain motifs – but they don’t look much fun to produce.

High time Hoyland and Irvin had books on them produced by Tate.





irvin empress


Virginia Woolf at the National Portrait Gallery

Not that many paintings – lots of photos, diary extracts etc. – but the few that are there are great.  There’s the Duncan Grant portrait of Virginia that looks like a Toulouse Lautrec, the Vanessa Bell portrait of her with the features practically omitted, except for the mouth and the Grant portrait of a Strachey (I think), sprawled along or across a red sofa.  The best to my mind though, is the little Bell portrait of Saxon at the piano; looks like a Gwen John to me.

vanessa bell saxon

BP Portrait Exhibition, National Portrait Gallery

The two paintings that I thought stood out at the Turtle Burners’ prize this year were by Richard Twoze and William Kloze – I hope I have spelt them correctly.  I didn’t pick them because the names rhyme; didn’t even notice until later.

Twoze painting of Jean Clark got second prize; the Kloze one, of his wife at home in Thailand, has that thing that Freud was so keen on – everything in picture is given equal attention (almost); the metal lamp, the copper-lit doorway; the rendition of the wife has something of Euan Uglow.

richard twose jean woods



william klose




I am in Crete at the moment, but back next week.  Until then, old ones will have to suffice.








Blackpaint 282

June 27, 2011

L’Age d’Or

Interesting that the most shocking transgression committed by Gaston Modot is not kicking the blind man, slapping the mother, drooling over the pictures, kicking the dog.. but stamping on the beetle, presumably because that was a real death, but also because of our 21st century environmental consciences.  I remember cutting wood lice in half with a trowel as a child and feeling no pangs of guilt.

So much going on in that film that I actually missed the peasants driving a huge coach through the ballroom; just didn’t notice them.  I DID, however, notice the shadow of the airship over St Peters Square – presumably, the one from which that sequence was filmed.

Sofia War Memorial

I thought the “vandalism” of the war memorial in Bulgaria (one soldier, brandishing a pistol, was given a painted Superman suit, another a Father Christmas robe and a third, what appeared to be a clown outfit) looked great;  I suppose it was the way the Superman suit matched the heroic pose.  I suppose I would have been outraged if I was a descendant or relative of a soldier killed in the “liberation” of Bulgaria in WW2 – war memorials, official government ones anyway, are political, however, in the sense that they can carry messages beyond simple respect for the dead, especially in Eastern Europe.  The artists were probably attacking the government rather than the war dead – if there was an intended political dimension at all.  There may not have been; artists are supposed to outrage opinion – it’s part of the job; and a war memorial will do it, that’s for sure.

Turtle Burners Prize

Went to see this at the National Portrait Gallery; some stunningly good and all hugely competent, but nothing much to catch the eye in the use of paint.  Sleek, dead surfaces – or “good paintings”, as they are known to those who like paintings to be photographic likenesses (note of twisted bitterness from failed abstract dauber).  Standouts were “To be human” by Ian Cumberland and the lovely one of Lauren in her graduation dress – beautiful drapes and folds – with the dog, by ??? sorry, didn’t have a pen to take note.

Other statuary is a different matter.  I admire Churchill hugely, and was delighted to see the Mohican he acquired in the riot – he looked good in it, I thought.

Mike Waterson 

Was only playing the Early Watersons CD yesterday – then read today that Mike was dead; only 70.



Blackpaint 168

July 18, 2010

Turtle Burners’ Portrait Prize at the NPG

Managed to get up to this today.  All portraits very competent and, no doubt, accurate – but only one had that thing of grabbing your eye; cynosure is the word, I think.  This one was by Diarmuid Kelley and was titled “What a Terrific Party”, or something similar (didn’t have a pen on me).  It was of a British Army officer in dress uniform, seated on a cot in pensive (or possibly drunken) mode.  It was painted with those flat, short brush strokes and strong contrast of light and dark and reminded me of someone like Orpen.  The background was ochre, I think, and grey or black and was abstracted to a degree.  The only one where the surface of the paint drew me. 

The other painting I liked was the one based on Rembrandt’s Dr. Tulp, by Henry Ward.  It was huge, and showed a group of six or seven besuited dignitaries surrounding a patient on the operating table, whose kidney has just been removed by the “Finger Method” (!  Is this a joke?)  They look like a group of ghouls or vampires.  the reference is clearly to those pictures where loads of VIPs were painted at some conference or meeting, with their faces turned unnaturally toward the viewer.  They leer satanically out at you – I presume that was the painter’s intention.

I have decided to celebrate the success of BP’s timely and efficient operation to stop the leak by returning to oils.  I’d forgotten, however, that the bloody stuff never dries, so have already managed to ruin a pair of jeans.  Oils are much better than acrylics though, somehow – they glow more and they’re more slippery and unctious, which is just another way of saying they’re…oilier.

Jean Miotte

Miotte is today’s recommendation.  born 1926 and still with us, he does wild gestural stuff often “built” around black, spidery knots of paint with vivid colours.  Check out “Deliverance” 1960 in Taschen’s Art of the 20th Century (very Franz Kline-ish), and Google him – well worth it.

Brixton Urban Art

Been sitting in the gutter opposite my paintings all day in Josephine Avenue, getting sunburnt and watching the crowds from the Lambeth Country Show go by.  Not a great deal of action down my end, I’m sorry to say – but you get your stuff seen, which is half the battle.

Black Fork on White by Blackpaint


Blackpaint 159

June 24, 2010

Chelsea Degree Show (cont.)

A couple of items I missed yesterday that have floated back into my mind – again, all from memory, so apologies for any errors:

  • A whole wall filled with samples of knitting work, showing variations in style of ..well, knitting stitches (is that right term?)
  • A number of line drawings based, I think, on “The Joy of Sex”, that instruction book from the 70’s by Alex Comfort.  They were executed on paintings and photographs of paintings.
  • Curved blocks of wood, highly coloured – bright blue, I think – shaped like big cheese wheels and fitted around steps.

Depicting the Dead

Following on from Sally Mann’s photographs of corpses, more on the depiction of death, occasioned by the BP Portrait Prize being awarded to Daphne Todd for Last Portrait of Mother.  Todd’s mother is lying dead, aged 100, mouth gaping, against a big, lush, white bolster pillow and sheets.

I think it must have been done at home, since it’s executed in a Spencer/Freud style, which would have taken some time.  I can’ t imagine a hospital suspending the routines for a painting to be done – maybe a hospice?  Maybe she did it from sketches and memory or photos, or perhaps it was done at the deathbed; if so, how long did it take?

A couple of other things occurred to me; I wondered how the judges felt.  How do you compare someone who has entered a picture of their dead mother with someone who has entered their postman?  On pure merit, I suppose; it looks (in the Guardian photograph) to be a very good picture.

I also wondered whether it’s easier to paint the face of a corpse than that of a living person, in the sense that the emotions have gone; there’s no sparkle in the eye, as it were.

Finally, there is the fact that paint tends to “glamorise” ; paint, oil paint in particular, has sensuous qualities that are pleasing in themselves and can’t help but add that attractiveness to the least glamorous material.

Damien Hirst

The other death picture I saw this week was at Tate Britain; that photograph of a young Damien crouching and mugging next to the bloated features of a decapitated man’s face (presumably taken in a mortuary somewhere).

I used to find this picture ugly, callous and grotesque; I still do, but I think maybe Hirst is justified.  He is showing a fitting mindset for an artist – unsentimental, irreverent, objective.  you can’t avoid thinking, “Grin on, mate, that’ll be you some day with your head in a basket and some prat making fun of you”.  It won’t be, probably, as Hirst is rich enough to avoid dissection – but all the same,   “As you are now, so once were we”, as Christy says.

So it’s still disgusting, but it is art.