Posts Tagged ‘Bunuel’

Blackpaint 643 – Franz West, Dorothea Tanning and Fellini’s Roma

April 24, 2019

Franz West – Tate Modern until June 3rd

I was pretty well disposed to regard this exhibition as a waste of space when I arrived, having seen the odd photo of West’s work in art books and been unimpressed by them.  After a few exhibits, however, I was feeling some grudging amusement here and there and was quite won over by the time we left to see the Dorothea Tanning.  It’s necessary, I think, to see the size of some of these pieces, coupled with the lack of portent.  He’s indulging a spirit of playfulness – yes, a sentence that would normally lead me to go elsewhere at once – but somehow, without annoying infantilism that implies.

Actually, now I come to think of it, it IS infantile and, yes, it IS annoying.  But the proper course of action, perhaps, is to see it and then condemn it.  What’s in it?  Some examples, as always, below:

 

Show kicks off with a series of framed cartoons like these;

 

Lots of stuff roughly sculpted or thrown together in plaster-

 

-or metal –

 

-or gold tinfoil (looks like, anyway)-

 

-or these sorts of entities, standing drunkenly and precariously on thin supports.  Also giant microbes or viruses dangling from the ceiling, huge boulder piles in fibre glass or epoxy resin or some such and a variety of insane prostheses that the more exhibitionist visitors can parade around wearing in front of their partners.  There are some metal sculptures that recall Paolozzi, perhaps, and a series of great spoof film posters.  Yes, on reflection, it’s childish in a Dada sort of way, but I quite liked it – don’t know why, really…

Dorothea Tanning – also at Tate Modern until June

This exhibition is haunted by Max Ernst, as can be seen in the first example below – reminded me of that little one he did called “Children Frightened by a Nightingale” or something similar.  Not surprising, since she was married to Ernst (Ernst had previously partnered Leonora Carrington, with whom I tend to confuse Tanning, and not only because of Ernst and the names; their work also has some similarities).  The giant locust thing on the tablecloth is a famous image of hers, and instantly recognisable, as is the one with the floaty haired girls in the corridor with the giant sunflower…

As for the third example below, the  biomorphic shapes wrestling by a table, there is a whole roomful of these paintings, sculptures too, that are completely different in style from the Ernst-ish ones and graphic locusts.  They (like everything, I suppose) are a matter of taste – I think they suffer from the similar stuff that often pads out affordable art fairs.

 

 

 

 

Roma, dir. Fellini, 1972

Fabulous film, not only for the ecclesiastical fashion show and the brothel scenes, but also (and mainly) for the underground breakthrough into the Roman villa, the fading murals and the wild, hallucinogenic scenes on the autostrada in the rain.  I’ve now seen all the Fellini available on DVD and Youtube and it’s all great – a few longeurs in “Clowns” perhaps, but the YouTube version had Portuguese subtitles.  I recommend getting all available Bunuel too, and watching them turn and turn about with the Fellini.

 

 

And this is one of mine.

 

The World Turned Upside Down 2

Blackpaint

24,4,19

 

Blackpaint 514 – Hoyland’s Cakes, The Serpent’s Egg, Auerbach’s Mustard

October 12, 2015

John Hoyland at Newport Street Gallery

hoyland1

These huge, voluptuous colour field pictures, around 40 of them, are on display at Damien Hirst’s new gallery near Vauxhall.  It’s enormous; white walls of course, lovely staircases, a line of big toilets with heavy doors as if he’s expecting coachloads of pensioners.  The paintings are from Hirst’s own collection and it’s great to see them here for free.

Acrylics for the most part – there are two oils, I think.  Several maroons with orange, leaf green (ugh!), turquoise, grey-blue, reds and greys, arranged in blocks or columns; a few with scraped edges and splatters, “smoking” tops (the result of trickle- downs and reversal of the canvas).  The central section upstairs I think of as the cake room; pinks, beiges and whites, like huge cake slices smashed and splattered against the canvas.  In the last room, deep, singing blues, reds and oranges, scraped to reveal gold, like clouds of fire; colours arranged in blocks and diagonals.

For an alternative view, try Jonathan Jones online – “Why is Damien Hirst opening his new gallery with this second-rate artist?”  He makes the laughable claim that Hoyland is trying to do Rothko, or Pollock, or Barnet Newman.  Actually, the painters who came to my mind were Hans Hoffman and John Golding (a bit).  Hoyland, says Jones,  is simply “messing about with paint”.

hoyland2

The Serpent’s Egg, Bergman (1977)

Falls into that genre of films like “Cabaret” and Visconti’s “The Damned”, in which the story is set in Weimar Germany, in this case, Berlin – sleazy drinking clubs, cabarets and brothels (often combined), cross- dressing, prostitution, obscene night club turns, dwarves, smeared, garish lipstick, lost innocence, sudden shocking violence, crazed Nazi bands, wet cobblestones, sense of doom…  Bergman’s film is set earlier than the others- 1923 I think, the time of hyper-inflation- but the similarities are apparent.  It becomes suddenly Kafka-esque towards the denouement; David Carradine is chased around a mysterious underground laboratory-labyrinth and confronts a mad scientist, more Nazi than Hitler himself (who is a minor demagogue at this time, about to launch his Munich Putsch).

Unlike any other Bergman film I’ve seen; sort of a low budget feel, strangely, since it was made in Hollywood, and the sound on the DVD is terrible.  I ended up watching it with subtitles for the hard of hearing, which improved it no end.

That Obscure Object of Desire, Bunuel (1977)

The story of this great Bunuel is well-known; Fernando Rey’s pursuit of the young Spanish flamenco dancer to Seville and eventually to Paris, her continual promising and then avoiding/refusing  sex with him (in one sequence arriving naked in his bedroom – apart from an impregnable, tightly-laced corset); the gifts of money he constantly makes to her and her complicit mother, culminating in his buying her a house.  After another provocation, he attacks her; she grins up at him through her bleeding lips and says, “Now I know you really love me!”  Dodgy sexual politics, to be sure.  I had forgotten the little “surreal” bits in the film – the mousetrap that goes off during one of Rey’s intense scenes with Conchita; the sack that he lugs around inexplicably in several scenes.

Conchita, the girl, is famously played by two completely different actresses –  the elegant, glacial Carole Bouquet and the effervescent Angela Molina.  This caused me great consternation when I first saw the film.  I rationalised it along these rather obvious lines: they represent the two halves of Conchita’s character; cold and hot.  That didn’t work though.  So, they represent the two ways she responds to Rey.  But that didn’t work either, for the same reason (they both encourage and reject him, rather than “taking turns”).

Wikipedia says that Bunuel got the idea to use different women in response to difficulties he was having on set with another actress,  Maria Schneider apparently, and that it had no deeper significance than that he thought it was an amusing idea and would” work well”.

I love that phrase; I’ve heard it so many times from different artists and said it often myself, in response to those who ask “What does that represent?” or “Why did you do that there?” – the answer is invariably mundane or unhelpful; it “looked good”, or “I thought it was black and when I put it on the canvas,  it turned out to be prussian blue”.  As often, a Jonathan Jones piece is instructive; reviewing the new Auerbach at Tate Britain, Jones recycles the old “colourless 50s” cliche: “Back in the 1950s, he (Auerbach) saw very little colour in the world.  Frankenstein faces loom like monsters in his early paintings.   Gradually came the colours: blood red, mustard yellow, and eventually orange, purple, blue, the lot – a rainbow slowly spreading…”.  Auerbach himself, speaking on his son’s film about him, explains that the new colours were the result of his progressively having more money to spend on paint.

Jones’ review is otherwise not bad, apart from his habitual thumping overstatement and childish posturing – “My generation owes Auerbach an apology..”…

serpents egg of obscure desire

The Serpent’s Egg of Obscure Desire

Blackpaint

12.10.15

 

 

Blackpaint 499 – The RA, the Internationale, Milk Cartons and Laundry Baskets

June 14, 2015

The Royal Academy Summer Show

Last blog, I identified the best picture in the show, which happened to be that of my partner, Marion Jones (Bars and Triangles, sold already).  It had a fleeting appearance on the Kirsty Wark BBC programme about the exhibition last night; about half a second, I think, so here’s another chance to see it:

marion RA

However, I feel I should I should mention some other pictures on display, so here goes:

Rose Hilton – Red Studio

rose

 

Hughie O’ Donoghue – Animal Farm

hughie

 

Frank Bowling – Pickerslift

frank

(It’s much bigger than this)

Christopher le Brun – Can’t or Won’t?

chris

(and so is this)

These are all big nobs; of the non – RAs and unknowns (to me, anyway) these two are the ones I liked best:

Arthur Neal – Studio and Garden

arthur

 

John O’Donnell – Winter

john

 

The BBC at War, BBC1

Just watched the first episode of this; interesting that William Joyce (Lord Haw Haw) had a British audience estimated at six million for his propaganda broadcasts from Germany; the JB Priestley broadcasts were set up by the BBC in competition.  Also, When the Germans invaded Russia, Churchill forbade, for a time, the playing of the Internationale as one of the anthems of the Allied nations; the music played on the programme to illustrate the eventual rescinding of the ban was NOT the Internationale, however, but the Soviet National Anthem.  Maybe the BBC doesn’t know the difference.

The Saragossa Manuscript, Wojciech Has (1965)

This Polish film is pure Bunuel, which perhaps explains Bunuel’s approving comment on the DVD box.  I think it contains the original delayed -action joke, where something happens mysteriously in one scene – and then is explained much later.  Guy Ritchie did it in “Snatch”, when a milk carton inexplicably explodes on a car windscreen and gets then chucked at the car later in the film.  In “Manuscript”, it involves a laundry basket.

Jonathan Jones

Another VERY definitive position adopted by Jones, this time regarding Bridget Riley.  Apparently, she’s more important than the figurative masters Bacon, Freud and Hockney because she provided the public with a new reality, based on a “scientific” approach to optical effect.  Only Howard Hodgkin is as important – his approach is poetic, though, whereas hers is (sort of) scientific.  The approach is quite reminiscent of Brian Sewell; black and white.  Anything reviewed is either brilliant and exposes the shoddiness and the bogus nature of some other artists – or it’s bogus and “silly” like Bacon at the Sainsbury Centre and is exposed as such by the brilliance of some other artists.

I’ve just seen “Fighting History” at Tate Britain, a show panned by Jonathan Jones as “moronic” in the Guardian the other day.  He’s right that it’s not great, but it’s nowhere near as bad as he says; my take on it next week.

 

geometry1

Geometry 2

Blackpaint

14.06.15

Blackpaint 436 – Hockney, Orwell, Beatings and Orgasms

February 28, 2014

Hockney Prints at Dulwich Picture Gallery

This is a great exhibition; loads of prints extending through several rooms.  I liked the earliest stuff from the 60s the best – “The Rake’s Progress” series on his first time in America.  In these, he’s doing those cartoon figures, reminiscent of people like Barry Fantoni; he likes fire, which pops up in several etchings, a chair burning, for instance; in fact, the red of the fire the only colour in these, apart from blue on the US flag in one, I think.

Next, he does a series based on Cavafy poems, in which the figures are no longer “cartoons” but beautifully spare, single line renditions of (usually)naked young men.  I guess from the perfection of outline, he must have selected the etching line from a number of pentimenti in a drawing, like the one of Celia Birtwell below.

Plenty more; flowers, portraits, swimming pools…  The one immediately below with the columns, trees, garden, and distorted perspective is from the latter part of the exhibition.  The colours are recognisable from his big show at the RA a couple of years ago.

Hockney Dulwich 1

hockney dulwich 2

Newsnight – the Harriet Harman interview

An innovation on Newsnight after Laura Kuenssberg pursued Harman with the Daily Mail agenda, trying to force her to apologise for being an officer of the NCCL at a time when the Paedophile Information Exchange was an affiliate to the organisation.  After the interview was shown, Jeremy Paxman, full of his usual self-regard, and Kuenssberg, still fizzing with righteous indignation, discussed Harman’s performance like sports pundits, so that the viewers didn’t have to make up their minds unaided.  I wonder if this will be a regular event whenever the press demands apologies from Labour grandees for misdeeds 30 years before.

The Hunters, Angelopoulos

A group of hunters in the snow (Brueghel again) come across the body of a revolutionary fighter from the Greek Civil War.  It’s the 60s – the war ended in 1949, but the body’s wounds are fresh.  The hunters and their companions all have guilty pasts which are revealed, as the police examine them, the body on a table in the room…  All the usual Angelopoulos magic, the mountains, the music,  the operatic scenes – but additionally, in this film, a fully-dressed actress acts a drawn-out orgasm on a ballroom floor before a large audience, who applaud politely after the climax.  Shades of Bunuel.  Later, a portly hunter, dressed in a satin Father Christmas outfit, dances rather formally with his bobble hat – shades of Bela Tarr.

Orwell  – Such, Such Were the Joys and 1984

In the Guardian last week, Sam Leith wrote about the famous Orwell essay, describing it as “a load of bollocks”.  In the essay, Orwell recalls his time at St. Cyprian’s, a prep school near Eastbourne in the years before World War One.  It includes a description of Orwell’s (or Blair’s) beatings for wetting the bed, the second of which was carried out with a riding crop which broke, as a result of the headmaster’s exertions.  There are many other examples of abuse and privation, and Leith quotes another critic, who says the essay is drenched with self-pity.

This is odd, since Orwell expressly states that he didn’t feel especially picked out for mistreatment and in fact, regarded his beatings and the rest as his own fault; as a child, he had accepted the guilt which “Sambo” and “Flip”, the headmaster and his wife, allotted to him: “Now look what you’ve done!”, as Sambo yells at him when the riding crop breaks.  One of the themes of the essay is how the pupils accept the system and internalise it.  Not surprising then that his letters home contain no hint of discontent, or that his contemporaries (Leith cites Jacintha Buddicom) say he seemed happy enough.

Anyway, Bernard Crick dealt at length with all this in his 1981 biography of Orwell – he’s not mentioned by Leith.  One thing that is interesting; Leith rejects the Anthony West theory that “1984” was Orwell’s prep school miseries writ large- he does suggest, much more plausibly, that his political analysis worked back on “Such, Such..”.  Crick thinks that Orwell exaggerated and shaped his “memories” for literary, maybe political, purposes;  to state baldly that Orwell’s reminiscences are “a load of bollocks” is surely going a bit strong, though.

The Drawing Room, Abstract Drawings

Tucked away in an old industrial building in Bermondsey, there are some startling names on show here; Jackson Pollock, Eva Hesse, Anish Kapoor, Tomma Abts, Alison Wilding, Sol LeWitt, Serra…  They are mostly small, geometrical, several on graph paper.  The Pollock is funny, because it is “fenced off” by a single wire barrier to emphasise status, presumably.  It’s not a great Pollock…  The best works are those by Hesse, John Golding, and Garth Evans (see below); like Oiticica, but not as wobbly.

garth evans

Come and see (maybe buy) my paintings at Sprout Gallery, Moyser Road, Tooting, London SW16 between  4th and 15th March – open every day, including Sunday, 11.00am – 5.00pm.

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Work in Prog

Blackpaint

28.02.14

Blackpaint 428 – Light, Frozen Horses, Murder in England

January 3, 2014

Sources of Light (cont.)

I was pursuing Morton Feldman’s schema last week, in which he says that the light in Rembrandt’s pictures is “without source”, Caravaggio’s “raking light”, etc.  Here’s another couple of examples:

caravaggio st paul

Caravaggio, St.Paul

Light from above and front right?

night watch

Rembrandt, Night Watch

Light from the front?  I can’t really see any real difference in the approach to lighting of these two artists.   Feldman might mean that there is no obvious source of light in the picture, window or candle, say – but its the same for Caravaggio surely….

Amy Sillman – One Lump or Two

My partner got this fantastic book for Christmas; I’ve written about her once before, but then I think I’d only seen a couple of her paintings.  She reminds me a bit of Brett Whiteley or Albert Oehlen, in that she often mixes up figurative with abstract; her drawing line is a little like Whiteley’s, too and hence like Roger Hilton.  But the colours are very distinctive – the reds, oranges and greens.,

My favourite paintings in the book are Birdwatcher (below) and A long Drawing, again reminiscent of Whiteley.

amy sillman birdwatcher

Birdwatcher

So, I strongly recommend that you buy this book – my partner tells me the text is not great; that thing where critics can’t resist telling you what pictures they can see in abstracts – but the pictures make up for it.

My Winnipeg

Guy Maddin’s 2007 fantasy biography of his snowbound, sleepwalking hometown, where in 1942, fake German soldiers invaded the town to promote the sale of (Allied) war bonds – true – and racehorses escaped from a stable fire to plunge into a local river and be instantly frozen, with their heads and necks poking up through the ice – legend.

winnipeg

Sightseers

On TV over Christmas, Ben Wheatley’s uncomfortable comedy murder spree around the blue john mines and the pencil museum.  A while through it, I realised it was a sort of twisted (per)version of Mike Leigh’s “Nuts in May” – in this version however, the self-righteous countryside guardians are brained or run over by Wheatley’s even more self-righteous anti-hero.  He also kills litter louts, though.  Seen three of his now; A Field in England, Sightseers and Kill List – all worth watching, if you like the English countryside as a backdrop to quite serious, nasty violence with a touch of paganism.

One more film – an old one, Chabrol’s Les Noces Rouges (1973)

Michel Piccoli and Stephane Audran as the lovers who murder her husband in a Postman Always Rings Twice burning car set-up.  As soon as these two come on screen, it conjures Bunuel, of course; Discreet Charm and Belle de Jour, and is the better for it.  Not really obvious why they murder the husband, since he is willing to ignore their affair in exchange for Piccoli’s collusion in some mildly dodgy land deal; maybe Audran couldn’t accept her husband’s acquiescence.  seems psychologically plausible, anyway.

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In The Studio

Cap Frehel

Cap Frehel – an old one, but no new ones painted yet

Blackpaint

2.01.13

Blackpaint 406 – Tarkovsky and porn, events in Jane Austen, My Old Paintings

July 25, 2013

Uzak (cont.)

It’s about alienation, of course – hence “Distant”, meaning of Uzak.  The distance between Yusuf and Mahmut, Mahmut and his ex-wife, Yusuf and the pretty girls he half-heartedly stalks, the distancing effect of the snow on Istanbul’s streets and buildings… you get the picture.  The country cousin Yusuf, with his hungover, hangdog expression, “sailor’s cigarettes” and childish laugh manages to generate some sympathy; the rat-faced Mahmut, drinking in trendy jazz cafes, watching Tarkovsky and porn, and resenting the lack of sophistication of his lumpish guest, is the more dislikeable of the two.

uzak2

Some great shots, as well as the snow scenes I mentioned last blog; one in particular, a silver fish flipping on the pavement, having fallen from the full creel; the camera pulls back and up to close-up of Yusuf, and then beyond him to the traffic that flows both ways across the screen, slightly out of focus against a leaden grey sky.  Hard to explain why so good – something to do with the closeness and the angle of shot, maybe.

Ceylan now my third favourite director, after Bela Tarr and Fellini – but then there’s Bunuel and Herzog and Sokurov and Ken Russell….and Visconti and Pasolini….

Simon of Sudbury

Sight of the week on TV was on BBC4 last night, in “Chivalry and Betrayal” :  the head of the above-named unfortunate, still with some skin clinging, kept in a wall safe at a church in Sudbury, having been chopped off 600 plus years ago by Wat Tyler’s followers in the Peasants’ Revolt.  Sudbury thought up the first poll tax – bad idea, as he was dragged out of the chapel in the White Tower and dispatched unceremoniously by the unimpressed taxees (is that a word?  It is now).

Simon of Sudbury

Jane Austen  (no, that’s Simon of Sudbury above)

Great that her face is going on banknotes; I once used to say that I would go to my grave without reading Jane Austen – now that I have made it to chapter 44 of “Sense and Sensibility”, I wish I’d stuck to that.  Event-free, is how I would describe it; things livened up a little when it looked as if Marianne was going to die – but she got better.  Maybe she’ll have a relapse in the last 6 chapters.  What I find really difficult is keeping up with who is related to who – who, for example, is Mrs. Jennings?  I can’t be bothered paging back through the Kindle; I’ll have to go to Wikipedia, I  suppose.

Some Old Work

I’ve not finished a new painting since last blog and latest is in no fit state to insert as a work-in-progress (must get rid of the lime green patch first) – so here is some old work that I’ve never used or not shown for ages:

133-e1293405580314

Sweet England

21st-may-2010-001

Grey Landscape 

bushes-and-briars

Bushes and Briers

finsbury mud 1

Finsbury Mud

glass and fog

Fog and Glass

OK – enough old stuff for now.  I hope to have at least one new painting to show by next blog; depends on the lime green and its willingness or otherwise to go away.

Blackpaint

25.07.13

Blackpaint 350 – Bomberg, Belle and Munch

July 12, 2012

Picasso and Britain

Last days at the Tate Britain, so went again.  The Duncan Grants I still like, in spite of everyone else, it seems; especially “Interior at Golden Square”; also, one or two of the Nicholsons, especially the pink one.  The Picassos themselves blow everything else out of the water, of course, for confidence, inventiveness, use of colour… but there are a couple of duff ones (see previous Blackpaint ).

Bomberg at South Bank University

Turns out that only four or five of the drawings and paintings on show at the moment are Bombergs – but this was not a disappointment, as those by his followers  are great.  There is a beautiful charcoal sketch by Edna Mann, of a nude woman stoopimg to pick up something from the floorpaintings that are very Auerbach in colour and structure by Dennis Creffield;  Cezanne-like bathers heavily outlined in black by Cliff Holden; and a big, dark, swerving, black-outlined head by Dorothy Mead.  Great little exhibition, and more to be shown in October, I was told.

Patrick Keiller at Tate Britain

This “exhibit” comprises an exhibition within an exhibition, based on the “Robinson Institute”, a fictional entity based on a fictional character invented by Keiller.  It is concerned with English landscape (which I got, without reading) and the development of capitalism (which I didn’t).  Along with Keiller’s own photographs, some brilliant, interesting works by Turner, James Ward, Paul Nash, Gursky, James Boswell, John Latham (huge black blot), Fiona Banner (small black blot)…..  I find these fictional conceits increasingly irritating – why not just stick a load of paintings you like together, like Grayson Perry at Bexhill a couple of years ago? – then again, Keiller has used the Robinson thing before, so it’s got the integrity of a previous history.

Edvard Munch at Tate Modern  

This, I have to say, is the worst exhibition I’ve ever seen.  Or, to be fair, it’s a very good exhibition of one of the worst painters I’ve ever seen.  The paintings are in dead colours, crudely painted, many figures cursorily executed with round, turnipy heads.  One “Kiss” looked like a man kissing a Labrador standing on its hind legs.  There is a series of seven or eight “Weeping Woman”s, in which she looks like a pale corpse, going greenish here and there, like something out of “The Shining”.  His wallpaper – lots of claustrophobic interiors – looks as if it’s patterned with dried blood.  Banal, flesh-creeping subject matter:  vampire women, a post-sex (rape?) scene, operating theatres with huge blood stains, a man aiming a rifle at someone through a window..  Lots of photographs, with “ghosts” hovering in them, but too small for me to keep looking at.  It’s crap, but good value – there’s lots of it.  I never did understand why The Scream has resonated with so many people.

Belle de Jour 

The original, Bunuel – Deneuve, of course.  What does the Japanese customer have in his little box?  Why does the coffin rock beneath Severine at the Duke’s?  And did Rebekah Brookes get the idea for the demure, white-collared, black Leverson dress from Belle, rather than the Salem witch trials, as the papers and TV here suggested?

Melancholia

It’s drenched in Tarkovsky, on second viewing; “Hunters in the Snow”, the music, the theme, even (“Nostalgia”)…

Blackpaint

13/07/12

Blackpaint 302

October 31, 2011

Tarkovsky

I mentioned that Bunuel was deaf in last blog, and that may be why music was apparently not so important in his films; watching Tarkovsky’s “The Sacrifice” last week, and his use of, for instance, Bach’s Matthew Passion, it’s clear that Tarkovsky is the opposite of Bunuel in this respect – as also in the total lack of humour in any of his films (T., not B., that is, of course).  One other thing in “Sacrifice”; the painterly, bleached, interior scenes, are surely based on Hammershoi.  It was filmed in Sweden, after all.

Middlemarch

Exchange of literary opinion on the North Downs Way last week:  “How you getting on with Middlemarch?”

“More than half way through.”

“Anything happened yet?”

(Pause..) “No.”

Venice Guggenheim

Was transported to Venice as a birthday present, so expect many Venetian entries in blogs to come.  The Guggenheim has a bunch of Miros, Ernsts (Bride stripped bare, for instance), Picassos, Braques, Kandinskys, Klees..  I’ve picked four of the most striking paintings:

El Lissitsky

Beautiful, clean, geometric, shades of Malevich.

Motherwell

I think it’s called “Personage”.  Again, clean, clear colours, bit dirtier, more painterly than the El.

Schwitters

Little collage this one, with a corroded metal disc (or that’s what it looks like) and a butterfly.

A great transparent cyclist by Metzinger and a portrait of the painter Frank Burty Haviland by Modigliani, early, utterly unlike his almond-headed nudes and portraits.  And, a load of early Pollocks, including one of those Synasthaesia ones (see earlier Blackpaints on Pollock).

Incidentally, have been given the Taschen on Modigliani and I’ve revised my opinion of him drastically.  I’d thought of him as a sort of Lempicka, doing tasteful pin-up nudes in an endlessly reproduceable, stylised way; but the portraits are great, the styles more varied, the flesh surfaces unexpectedly painterly (hate that word, won’t use it again) – look at the surface, for instance, of the Courtauld Gallery nude…. the problem for me is the pretty faces. The bow lips, demurely downcast eyes, long lashes, come-hither looks would be OK on a biscuit tin, though not sure about the naked bodies.

More Venice, including the Biennale, in the week.

Blackpaint (Chris Lessware)

28.10.11

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.

Bunuel

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)

20.10.11

Blackpaint 297

October 3, 2011

British Ceramics Biennial

This is taking place in Stoke-on-Trent at the moment, and there is a report on it by Charlotte Higgins in today’s Guardian, which contains the following arresting sentence: “Today, it (disused Spode factory) houses Sarah Younan’s ceramic pieces, very sexual and inspired by Eva Hesse:  teapots strung from the wall, with lids like nipples; others decorated with erect penises…”.  More tea, vicar?

“New” Leonardo

Again from the Guardian, recent article reports that Martin Kemp, a retired Oxford prof, is convinced that the drawing in question is genuinely an unknown Leonardo; the evidence is circumstantial, of course, but plausible.  First, there is a fingerprint on the top left of the drawing which is “highly comparable” to one on Leo’s St.Jerome in the Vatican; there are “stylistic parallels” to a Leonardo portrait kept at Windsor Castle; carbon dating puts the picture at the right period; the picture appears to have been done by a left-handed artist (Leo known to have been a left hander).

Elsewhere, I think in the Telegraph, there was a report that stitch holes in the parchment edge matched those in a sketch book of Leo’s and the thickness of the parchment corresponded – in that all the pages were of varying thickness and this one differed from the others (in other words, it matches because it doesn’t match…).

I can only refer the reader to Blackpaint’s Law of Spurious Plausibility (see Blackpaint 165 et al.).  Briefly, the law states that the more reasonable a theory appears, the more likely it is to be wrong.  The portrait, however, looks very beautiful in reproduction, lost Leo or not.

Cezanne

Reading the Taschen on Cezanne at the moment, and I ‘ve realised for the first time how radical his vision was – how did he square his stated intention of painting absolute reality with tilting tabletops, jug mouths and bowls of fruit to show interiors and altering the size of objects to defy rules of perspective?  I mean, I can see all sorts of arguments which he might have put to himself and others, and it’s normal to us now – but at the time, he was going out on a limb.  Did he write about it?  Another example of my ignorance; will research and return to the subject.

The Discreet Charm of the Bourgeoisie

Watching this great Bunuel film again last night, I was struck by Stephane Audran’s character, embodying the sleek beauty, perfect surface manners, hospitality, resourcefulness with an underlying selfishness and amorality – powerful combination.  Fernando Rey also perfect, as always.

I was surprised that it didn’t contain the scene where they dine, sitting on toilets – guess that was another one, Obscure Object of Desire maybe…

Blackpaint

2/10/11