Posts Tagged ‘Bruegel’

Blackpaint 535- It’s all there, at once; the Night Manager, Churchill and Llewyn.

March 6, 2016

George Blacklock – Colour and Abstraction (Crowood 2015)

Although I don’t agree with many (actually any) of the rules Blacklock sets out in his book, he makes the interesting observation that a painting differs from other art forms – literature, music, cinema, dance, theatre – in that you see the whole of a painting immediately.  With the others, the work unfolds, revealing itself to you gradually; the painting’s there straightaway, in its entirety.  Even with a sculpture, you often have to walk round it to get the full picture and, of course, you can’t see it all at the same time.

bosch

Obviously, with paintings by, say, Bosch or Bruegel, you can spend ages taking in the dozens of little monsters lurking in the landscape, or the proverbs that the peasants are acting out in the village; you don’t take in a whole painting instantly – but you do get an overall impression.  I’m not sure I know where I’m going with this, so I leave the reader to consider the implications which I’m sure are interesting.

bruegel proverbs

By the way, the rules Blacklock outlines in his intro are as follows:

  • Make all marks with “absolute conviction”; hesitancy and doubt won’t do.
  • Make sure that your surface is smooth and able to take the paint; no bobbles.
  • Make sure you have enough of the right paint.
  • Make sure you use the right-sized brush – is it big enough?
  • Paint with conviction – no half measures!

I break all these rules, all the time, which is no doubt why I’m a shit painter.

The Night Manager, BBC

I think this is being way overpraised; Tom Hiddleston is unconvincing so far in the violent bits and the same goes for Olivia Colman, whose indignation about Roper and the “river boys” (MI6)  looks manufactured to me.  I don’t think it’s the fault of the actors – it’s just a really creaky book.

Churchill’s Secret, BBC

Gambon was brilliant but I can’t understand the point of having a fictional character (Romola Garai’s nurse) in there in a central role.  Annoying, this mix of fact and fiction, where a big chunk of make-believe is chucked in.  Gambon and Glenda Jackson looking alike these days, I noticed, when the latter was being fawned over by a woman guest presenter on a recent Artsnight (BBC2).  It’s ageing, I suppose, working on the basic structures to eliminate the individuality; depressing.

Inside Llewyn Davis, 2013

This Coen Brothers film on TV the other night I realised how good it was, apart from John Goodman’s hammy bit;  I love that flat stare that Oscar gives – disbelief, resignation, contempt, long-suffering, breaking point coming very close, very quickly – and a touch of ironic humour.  That’s pretty good, just for a stare.  The music was great too, spot on, especially “The Old (Auld?) Triangle”, Dominic Behan’s song, I think, delivered by a white-sweatered close harmony group – a sort of US college boy version of the Clancy Brothers.

Llewyn gives up trying – “That’s all I got” – and walks out of the club and “folk” music – as a young Bob Dylan sings in the background.

oscar-isaac

I’ve been stuck in a freezing gallery, watching passers-by pass by – but have managed to knock out this scruffy landscape-ish thing in between stints.  Bobbly surface, ran out of paint, used the wrong brush and was hesitant and tentative.

col blow, rainy night 4

Cold Blow, Rainy Night

Blackpaint

6th March 2016

Advertisements

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 295

September 19, 2011

Degas

Laura Cumming, reviewing the new show at the RA, says that Degas is more Michelangelo than Leonardo – what does she mean by this?  Maybe that Leo was more concerned with physical accuracy, the exact position and function of muscles, bones and flesh than Michelangelo; M was more ready to distort, exaggerate, generalise, to enhance the presentation of physical effort, posture. dramatic action… that seems fair enough comment.  She says that Degas seems to somehow project himself (spiritually, mentally) into the bodies of his ballet girls, to partake in their physical being in some way; that seems to me to be fanciful.  Surely it’s what anyone drawing a figure does, sort of, isn’t it?

Edward Lucie – Smith

I’m getting a lot out of his “Art Movements since 1945” (see previous blogs); he makes the connection between Kurt Schwitters and his Merzbauten and people like George Segal and Ed Kienholz, who produced environmental artworks in the 50s and 60s – that is, works that you walk through and round.  I’d thought of him as someone who produced beautiful little collages of wood, cloth etc.

Jasper Johns

Looking at those works of his from the 60s in which he “quotes” from art history – notably the Isenheim Altarpiece (Grunewald) in “Perilous Night”, but also Leonardo, Picasso and others.  These are quotes however, rather than the “re-imaginings” of earlier works by Picasso himself (Manet, Delacroix, Velasquez) or Auerbach (Rembrandt et al).  I suppose the most recent of this school would be Dexter Dalwood – he quotes like Johns, rather than doing his own versions.

As for Johns, the works which are my favourites are the big canvases with attachments like brooms, and collaged bits, those bolts of colour, red, yellow, orange, often on a blue background; the grey curtains of thinned paint soaking down into the fabric (see  “According to What” 1964), the stencilled lettering….

Bruegel

In “The Fight Between Carnival and Lent”, according to the Taschen book by the Hagens, the fat Lord of Carnival astride the barrel represents Protestantism, while Catholicism is personified by the lean, haggard, hungry figure with a beehive on his head (no explanation of the beehive offered!).  This is a novel presentation; Prots – or rather, the Puritan variety – are more usually lean, stern killjoys, the Catholics happy to feast and keep Christmas.  I suppose this is an English, or more precisely, Shakespeareian representation.

Willem de Kooning

I’ve never seen a contrast more clear and tragic than that between his paintings of 1983 onwards, as Alzheimer’s or whatever variant it was, took hold, and those from before.  The later ones are cleanly painted snakey loops of pastel colour on empty canvas, tangled but spaced out, textureless.  Go back to 66/67, say, “Two Figures in a Landscape” or “The Visit” – splotches, streaks, swathes, bleeds and trickles, pink, green, yellow, white, blue-black, scratched, scored and worked like Appel but much more subtle somehow; rich, swarming texture… fantastic.

Larry Rivers

I love the loose way he paints figures and faces – reminds me of Jim Dine or even more, Kitaj’ s figure drawings.  See “Parts of the Body; French Anatomy Lesson”.

Far From the Madding Crowd

Reading this, it strikes me that the old film was perfectly cast.  I can’t imagine any actors better than Stamp, Christie, Bates and Peter Finch in their respective roles as Troy, Bathsheba, Gabriel and Farmer Boldwood.  And of course, Dave Swarbrick as the fiddler at the post-harvest piss up…

Blackpaint

19/09/11

Blackpaint 151

June 14, 2010

Bruegel

Looking at some of the snow scenes, I realised there was a slight resemblance to Lowry’s stuff, if only in the large numbers of little people going about their various businesses.  I suppose this is true of other Netherlands painters, such as Avercamp; probably a very trite observation – sorry.

Before leaving Bruegel, I feel I have to mention Landscape with the Fall of Icarus, in which you can just make out the legs of the falling boy  following the rest of him down beneath the ocean.  A galleon passes him on its way, a shepherd gazes in ignorance at the sky, a ploughman in the foreground continues ploughing his furrow.  The picture occasioned Auden’s poem,  Musee des Beaux Arts:

“…In Brueghel’s Icarus, for instance: how everything turns away

Quite leisurely from the disaster: the ploughman may

Have heard the splash, the forsaken cry,

But for him it was not an important failure….”

Think I’ll do paintings in poetry, when I can get round to the research.

Rude Britannia

Went round this yesterday, and it was great; will do it tomorrow, but just to remark on the critics briefly, who clearly don’t like it.  Laura Cumming in Observer and Richard Dorment in the Telegraph both criticised the excessive range, as they saw it, of stuff on offer, that didn’t somehow go.  The historical bits, the “bawdy” stuff, the conceptual art stuff… again, I think it’s because wide range and tenuous connections make an exhibition difficult to review, though they might make it more interesting for the punter.  Dorment commented that the Tate had mistaken a book for an exhibition.

Three other new things at the Tate worth seeing:

Anthony Wishaw  

80th birthday painting (actually called Landscape drawing, in acrylic with some form of composition); grey and black, like a Lanyon landscape in a Hitchens shape, beautiful and substantial.

Gillian Ayres 

Three big paintings, two of which can be seen through the archways of the other rooms; one at the end of the Fundamental Painting room, making a splash of reddish-brown and yellow colour at the end of a dark tunnel.  The best is Break Off (also  the earliest, 1961) in which, on an ochre/buff background, 5 or 6 floating objects resemble breakfast items, to me anyway.  Phaethon is a huge, crude, coloured plaque of pink and yellow and blue and white, with zig-zag patterns gouged in the thicknesses of the paint.  Sang the Sun in Flight is the one at the end of the tunnel. 

Francis Bacon, early works

From his “first career”, the period with Eric Hall and Roy de Maistre, paintings and furnishings.  There is a dark tree trunk like a Paul Nash (quite crudely painted); three Picasso-esque rugs; a screen with black, Leger-like shapes; a painting called Figures in the Park, with a tree, a very rudimentary dog(?) thing, and a squareish sort of figure; it’s alternative title is “Herman Goering and his Lion Cub” which, on close inspexction, makes sense.  It’s not clear whether this was Bacon’s idea or someone else’s interpretation.  On the end wall is the famous “figures at the foot of the crucifixion” tryptich.

Blackpaint

14.06.10

Blackpaint 150

June 13, 2010

So, the World Cup has started and knowing the close correlation between the love of football and that of art, especially abstract art, I am assuming a downturn in readership.  Nevertheless, I will continue to write to my usual high standards, even if no-one is reading.

Bruegel and Bosch 

Last time, I highlighted some of the similarities in their beasts and monsters; today, I’ll look at themes.  It’s easy-

  • Trickery
  • Knavery
  • Dishonesty
  • Foolishnesss
  • Proverbs
  • Scenes from the scriptures

All the above themes are touched on by Bosch in the Haywain and the Ship of Fools.  In the Conjuror, a foolish man is tricked by the conjuror into  thinking he has coughed up a frog, whilst a youngster in the little crowd cuts off the purse of an onlooker.  In the Stone Operation, a quack surgeon apparently removes, not a stone, but a tulip from the head of his patient (this operation was supposed to cure stupidity; tulips, for some reason, were symbolic of the same.  Bruegel also painted a stone op).  Then there is, of course, his Garden of the Earthly Delights, which is part of a triptych with paradise and hell as the wings, but very little in the way of religiosity in any of the three.  Those giant birds, the goldfinch, green woodpecker, kingfisher and robin (?) on the left look weirdly threatening and there are the giant strawberries, mussel shells (what’s going on in there? and under the transparent umbrella?), globes and Disney towers – and the impression of serial shagging, if not the actuality.  And in Paradise – an albino giraffe thing.

As for the scriptures, Bosch painted Epiphanies, two Ecce Homos, Christ carrying the cross, the feast at Cana (in which no-one is actually eating), Paradise, Hell, the Ascent of the blessed and the Fall of the damned several times each, Christ on the cross, Christ crowned with thorns, St Jerome and St.Anthony (although these latter appear to be an opportunity to do more feverish visions, rather than to inspire holy thoughts.

Turning to Bruegel, he did a whole series of works based on Flemish proverbs (which are, in most cases, the same as English ones), mostly  illustrating foolishness, greed and knavery.  Other works include the Magpie on the Gallows, in which a man takes a shit, and others dance at the foot of the gallows, the Peasant and the Birdnester, in which a peasant points and laughs at a boy falling out of a tree, just as he himself steps into a ditch – and the Parable of the Blind, in which the blind men are led by a blind man into a ditch.  In the Misanthrope, he has the world portrayed as a boy cutpurse in a glass globe.  In the Land of Cockaigne, he portrays gluttony in a way that reminds me of the old Tommy McClintock song, the Big Rock Candy Mountain (original version, very different to Burl Ives’, which few readers will remember).

The Triumph of Death is of special interest, in that it is untouched by any relief in the form of an Afterlife.  It is unique, I  think, to either artist’s work in this respect; a sheer, unmitigated nightmare vision without the possibility of salvation. 

Bruegel’s religious pictures differ from those of Bosch in that they take place in his contemporary Netherlands, in the villages, often in winter, with peasants being peasants.  They are portrayed naturalistically, eating feasts, playing, working, skating…  Furthermore, in his seasonal pictures (Hunters in the Snow, Haymaking, the Wedding Dance), he encompasses a much wider spectrum than Bosch.  Bosch’s characters are often – usually – grotesque; Bruegel’s always, give the impression of being true to life.  For that reason, I think he is the greater of the two.  Check out the codpieces on the bagpipe player and foreground male dancers in wedding Dance in the Open Air, by the way.

Listening to Willie Nelson, Whiskey River.

“Whiskey river, take my mind, don’t let my memories torture me;

Whiskey river, take my mind, you’re all I got, take care of me.

I’m drowning in a whiskey river….”

Blackpaint

13.06.10