Posts Tagged ‘British Museum’

Blackpaint 627 – 20th Century Wars, Vampires and Top Shots

September 28, 2018

Cold War (dir. Pavel Pawlikowsky, 2018)

Polish film, black and white, concentrating on a love affair within a folk music collective in the early 50s.  The musical director starts to have sex with a young and talented performer and the affair deepens for both of them, as communist politics are increasingly imposed on the material and performances of the ensembles.  Folky tributes to comrade Stalin have to be performed to ensure the enterprise can continue.  MD defects in Paris, talented young performer stays.

The affair continues when she also defects a year or so later – but they row drunkenly and she swans off back to Poland in a huff.  And so it goes, through the 50s and on; can’t live apart, can’t live together.  At last, it’s resolved, in a way that recalls scenes from Bela Tarr’s “Satantango” and the end of Tarkovsky’s “Stalker”.  Not the resolution, that is, but the setting in which it takes place.

The music of the various ethnic groups heard in the film is fabulous and strange; there is some terrific jazz piano.  Sex is presumably problematic for #Me Too enthusiasts, since the girl is quite young at the beginning of the film, the man older and in a position of some authority – not that I’ve heard or read any adverse comment.  Foreign film, not lascivious, so presumably it’s OK.

Aerial Top Down Shots (cont.) –  

Tried to keep track of these as I said last time, but they are everywhere now – not only in the classy drama  and nature progs and adverts, but even in “The One Show”.  Almost obligatory.

The Night Porter (dir, Liliana Caviani, 1974)

Great transgressive film, big scandal at the time – Dirk Bogarde as a Nazi version of Aschenbach, Charlotte Rampling in braces, singing and posing for the camp guards and being rewarded with a severed head.  But even here, I find some unlikely similarities to “Cold War” (forbidden love, obsession, fascist/communist opposition to the couple, suicide).

Dracula, Bram Stoker.

Just reread this and I was surprised to find it was one of those books (Lord of the Rings, Stephen King’s “It”) where a sacred fellowship is formed to perform the impossible task of – saving the world, basically.   But,unbelievably, after losing poor Lucy to the Nosferatu and having to stake her through the heart and cut her head off to save her soul – they leave Mina to sleep alone, so that Dracula can get at her.  I see I have written “Unbelievably”…

Nevinson at British Museum, Print Room (room 90)

OK films over – now for the pictures on walls.  Nevinson was in a medical unit at or near at the front in WW1 for a few months.  He became one of the leading British war artists, along with the likes of William Orpen, and Paul Nash.  my favourites below.  the second is, of course, not a war scene, but a street in New York.  There’s a great view through a Paris window that’s just like  a Matisse…

 

 

Richard Smith at Tate Britain

This has reappeared on the wall at TB; meant to put it up last time but forgot.  I think of it as the lion’s mane.

I’ve finally done some painting again and the results are below.

 

Isthmus

 

Flayed 

 

Crashing Out

Blackpaint

28/09/18

 

 

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Blackpaint 346 – The Glamour of Desolation

June 14, 2012

Burtynsky again

Second visit and I realise that these fabulous photographs actually glamorise the processes of oil extraction, refinement and waste disposal – not sure if that was the artist’s intention.  The scenes of environmental dereliction, in the Azerbaijan oilfields and especially Chittagong, look great.  If I were in Bangladesh as a tourist, I’d want to go to Chittagong, see the hulks on the beaches with golden light pouring over and round them, and take pictures.  From across the room, the photographs reminded me of those classy riverscape paintings used to illustrate Penguin Classic editions of Dickens – “Our Mutual Friend”, maybe.

If they had been in black and white, they would have looked like Baltermans Soviet war shots; Stalingrad or Kursk…

And, inevitably, the salt flats shot recalls Brueghel…

Tree of Life (Malick)

Another second visit, and the Tarkovsky overtones immediately flooding in, especially “Mirror”; but a couple of Ray Bradbury moments I missed the first time, too – the clown who drops into the water tank (surely that’s Gacy’s clownface?) and the tall man in the wooden tunnel/corridor…  Probably me reading stuff in, rather than Malick.

A series of images at the end to play with; beach and sandbar, desert rocks, doorway in desert and water, that rock fissure from below again, the floating mask – and who are the two girls with the mother when she gives her son to god/eternity/universe…?

British Museum – The Horse

The Stubbs paintings; sometimes, there’s something strange or not right with his riders and horses, isn’t there?  The horses seem to me to be elongated somehow, can’t quite put my finger on it…  It must be a way of seeing, since he did all those anatomical drawings of horses (a copy of the book is in the exhibition).

Van Dyck

There is the most beautiful drawing of a horse in black chalk with white highlights on blue paper; the wall note says it’s probably a sketch for an equestrian portrait like the one of Charles I in the National Gallery – the one in which the horse’s neck is too long and/or the head too small.

Picasso, the Vollard Collection (print room of British Museum)

Seen these etchings already in Santiago de Compostella (see Blackpaint 288).  The beautiful curving line, freedom of depiction, the way he mixes spare line with dense forests of cross-hatching.  That head-knob nose, copied from – forgotten, somewhere Middle East or Med.,  that makes an appearance for several prints and then disappears.  Mostly elderly artist with nude model and statue; a series of Minotaurs, drinking at orgies, or creeping into young girls’ bedrooms – there are usually naked girls, vulnerably loitering or asleep, in the vicinity.  There is a series of five or six “rapes”, with great flurries of limbs and torsos, but difficult to make out.  Finally, there are several blind Minotaurs, being led here or there in a stiff-legged, Egyptian profile walk.  Some Rembrandt and Goya etchings are mixed in, where Picasso had borrowed a theme, or the subject matter/technique is similar.

Blackpaint

14th June 2012

Blackpaint 278

June 6, 2011

British Museum

Spent just an hour wandering through the galleries on second floor; after a couple of minutes found myself deeply absorbed in those black and red earth pots that look as if they were made yesterday, rather than 2000 years ago.  Stories of Theseus, Hercules, the Trojan War, distance runners, javelin throwers…  Then, there were the paintings from the walls of Pompeii – Icarus nose-diving, Odysseus tied to the mast while the Sirens sing (harpy-like birds instead of beautiful women), Ariadne watching Theseus, leaving her abandoned on Naxos…  Then, those bearded, smugly smiling Cypriot statues, then the Judgement of Paris, done by the Etruscans in that Egyptian-style profile, cartoon faces with pointy noses and chins, eyes set halfway down the nose, copied the style from Picasso, maybe. A large plaster or stone plaque, showing Anthony “pleasuring” Cleopatra, as they say, in the back of a barge, while a boatman stares determinedly ahead…

Then, the Medieval Europe room, and the Tring Tiles; non-biblical legends of Jesus as a child, accidentally killing several of his playmates and then reviving them under the direction of his mother, the BVM.  Similar story on a Young Tradition album I have.

Back to the Greeks a moment – I was pleased to see how many different sorts of pots and cups and jars they had to deal with the task of wine drinking; the kratos for mixing, others for cooling, amphorae for storage with the long, pointed ends for handling.  Clearly, they kept their units up.

Tate Modern

Did the Miro again, and this time, I liked those metallic grey-black-brown ones with the piercingly bright red, white and black blobs crawling on them – “Escape Ladder” and the others – better than last visit.  I thought one of the burnt canvases looked OK; the others like try-outs.  Still liked the Black Fireworks and the condemned cell one, and this time, noticed the three wooden staves at the end – the King, Queen and Prince.  Thought they were quite good, as Adrian might say.

Mitch Epstein

US photographer, pictures of working and derelict industrial structures, oil derricks etc., in the coastal southern states.  In one photograph, of a derrick on the sea shore, the reflection in the water looks just like one of those “Season” Twomblys.

Do Ho Suh 

Look up – there’s a red polyester staircase starting in mid-air above your head.  A bit Whiteread, a bit Abakanowicz…

Painting

Seriously thinking about that good taste thing – that’s to say a picture looks good or OK when you can say it looks a bit Lanyon, or Scully or Twombly – you have to refer to some other painter who is good.  No point in that, really; but it’s really hard to get away from.  Maybe force yourself to stop before you’ve got it to that stage (i.e. when it still looks shit) or get a good Lanyonesque and then sabotage it with pink lines or something.

Un Chien Andalou

I was surprised to find, on buying the DVD (l’Age D’or) that the eyeball-slitting scene comes at the beginning, not the end, as I falsely remembered. It’s still very funny, I think; the bicycle crash, the desperate expression of the youth watching the ants run from the hole in his hand,  the two seminarists being dragged across the floor with the piano and the dead donkeys.  One of them was Dali (the seminarists, not the donkeys).  The youth reminds me of Richard E Grant in “Withnail”.  The end, with the two of them half-buried in sand, maybe lodged in Beckett’s mind; it’s like “Happy Days”.

According to Wikipedia, the woman in the film commited suicide – she burnt herself alive ; the young man also killed himself, with an overdose.  Bringdown, as we used to say in the 60s.

Blackpaint

06.06.11 

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 105

April 6, 2010

A History of the World in 100 Objects

“Did” 30 of these yesterday, being marched round by my eldest son who duly photographed each one, allowing a minute or so for contemplation before continuing.  This was a minute more than many visitors, who contented themselves with the photo – in one case, a photograph of the label, rather than the object.

The most intriguing object for me was the 13,000 year old swimming reindeer (actually two reindeer, the male in pursuit) carved out of mammoth tusk and discovered in a French valley.  The experts have been unable to discover or surmise a use for it, which raises the possibility that it was carved simply for the pleasure, satisfaction, call it what you like, of “artistic” production.  Is this the earliest example of such a piece?  It may, of course, have had some ritual purpose, like animals in cave paintings or fertility objects; but unlike these, it seems to record an observed event. 

The Olduvai stone chopping tool makes you wonder how they knew it wasn’t just an ordinary rock – presumably it was part of a site.

German Expressionism and colour

I have some serious doubts about that stuff I was saying in Blackpaint 102, about “German” colours being dead, washed-out, livid.  I think it’s true, or at least arguable,  for Beckmann, Neue Sachlikheit people like Modersohn-Becker and Schmidt-Rotluff, and on up to Polke, Baselitz, Kiefer and Kippenberger.  But then there was Marc and Macke – OK, they were earlier but they were vibrant and limpid, like Dufy and the Fauves.  And Rouault and Soutine were as dark and/or livid as anyof the Germans I’ve mentioned.  and the Bauhaus people, like Schlemmer, they were bright too – so possibly, it’s all nonsense.  Probably more to do with movements than nationalities.

Beckmann’s “Night”

Surely that’s Lenin in the cap on the right??

Here’s an appropriate one of mine, in dark, dead colours:

Blackpaint

06.04.10