Posts Tagged ‘Burmese Days’

Blackpaint 437 – Platypus, Nest Eggs, Algerians, Burmese Days

March 7, 2014

Brett Whiteley

I’ve been looking at this artist’s work again, and I must say I love the way he draws – sometimes!  he has a bold, clean line when he wants, and it mixes with areas of tangled line that have been erased and sometimes picked out with ink or pencil.  He’ll elongate and distort as the fancy takes him, like a cartoonist, Scarfe maybe.

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A lot of his work is in dubious taste (I don’t mean porny, that’s fine as far as I’m concerned); for instance, the Christie drawings and paintings, based on the 10 Rillington Place murders, that he actually mixed with zoo drawings, for example “a Cheetah at Ten Rillington Place” – good painting, though.

I love some of his Lavender Bay verandah-scapes and the series of landscapes he did with an “S” shaped river included.  he’s also notable for the number of different objects he stuck on his canvases; birds’ eggs (often in nests), birds, his own ginger hair on a self-portrait, coins, a brain, a duck-billed platypus (stuffed)…..

The boxing and cricket paintings reminded me of Francis Bacon, as did the Zoo paintings.

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The Brits Who Built the Modern World (Rogers, Foster, Shuttleworth etc.) BBC4

TV progs about these; thought some of their stuff was brilliant, for example, the Pompidou Centre, for which they claimed there wasn’t even an overall drawing existing when they excavated the vast hole in the middle of Paris for the building – yeah, hippy architects, cool…  They, well, Rogers anyway, claim to have been lefties in the 60’s, building workers’ recreation projects and the like.  Now, however, they do prestige airports and such for the Chinese, which is much better in many ways, because they carry long-term projects through, being a dictatorship.  Over here, you have to worry about democracy; governments, and hence plans changing, unions being a pain, people refusing to move….  The Chinese can guarantee you a cleared site for your shiny project, no problem.  And they’re communists, Chinese gov. that is, so it’s all in the Peoples’ interest.

Good Men (Ismael Ferroukhi)

Great film (2011) set in WW2 Paris, concerning Algerians.  It stars Tahoor Rahim, the young gangster in Audiard’s “A Prophet”, doing a similar turn; he’s a black marketeer and informer, naive, poorly educated, amoral (to start with), ducking and weaving, an eye to the main chance; slowly, he acquires a conscience and a loyalty to his compatriots.  There’s something of Pontecorvo’s “Battle for Algiers” to it – I suppose it’s the similarity of Rahim’s character to that of Ali la Pointe, and their “journey” towards activism.

The music in the film is staggering; I had the volume low on the the first song and couldn’t hear the words – it sounded like a ballad done by the Watersons or Martin Carthy.

Burmese Days

Just finished the Orwell book and of course, now I’m going to have to read the lot again – Clergyman’s Daughter next.  I thought it a much cruder portrayal than Passage to India, but of course, Orwell was an officer in the Burmese police while Forster was a visitor to India, so maybe Orwell’s first-hand knowledge of the Burmese and the ex-pats was superior.  I thought the characters of Verrall, and Elizabeth were beautifully drawn.  From reading the Crick biography, it appears that the incident in which Ellis attacks the students with his stick might have been suggested by a similar incident in which Orwell, or Blair, himself laid into a Burmese youth at a railway station.

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RK Back – An old one, I’m afraid.

Blackpaint

07.03.14

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Blackpaint 435 – Hamilton, Richter, Baselitz, Andrex and the Phuncbot…

February 20, 2014

Richard Hamilton at Tate Modern

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Surprising how much ground he covered in his ideas and work.   It starts with shapes and forms from D’Arcy Wentworth Thompson; then those parchment-coloured, fragmented, “technical” drawings – car grids and headlights, electric toasters, commercial hairdriers, collages using plates of reflective silver material; a room based on Hamilton’s reconstructions of “Bride Stripped Bare”; blurred photographs, recalling (prefiguring?) Richter – anonymous blobs on crowded beaches, the Jagger-Fraser handcuffs picture, the Kent State victim, echoed in Richter’s Baader Meinhof pics; the flower pictures (Richter again); the political stuff – Treatment Room, with Thatcher holding forth (silently) on screen over bed (touch of Hirst here); Blair as a two gun cowboy, the Christ -like Dirty Protester in his cell, British soldier in Belfast street, Orange Order bowler hat man, maps showing expansion of Israeli occupied territory…

There are a couple of pictures containing Andrex toilet paper; not adverts, but semi-abstract paintings – and a trendy 60’s model girl, squatting fully dressed (paisley, I think) and taking a little curly shit on the floor – clearly where Martin Creed got the image; then there are the empty, mirrored hotel lobbies and stately naked models hoovering and hovering; the “Richard” (Ricard) parody logo that recalls Ed Ruscha’ s work; the electric toothbrush with denture plate attached and parody advert with Lorraine Chase- and, of course, “What is it that Makes Today’s Homes..” – this is so small that I missed it first time round and had to go back through to find it.

richard hamilton1

So, rich mix of ideas, startling originality, immaculate execution, with an underlying coldness and disengagement, even in the political work.

Philemon (Bible)

A short letter from Paul; but the interesting thing is that this letter, to Philemon, asking him to take back his former slave Onesimus, a runaway, demonstrates that slavery was not incompatible with Christianity – or, at least, with the Bible.  I suppose this should be obvious – nothing against slavery in the Ten Commandments or the Sermon on the Mount, for example – yet you tend to forget, because of the Christian influence in the anti-slavery movements in the 19th century.  I wonder if the other great religions condemn slavery explicitly?

Memphis Tennessee

I’ve been listening to this for 50 odd years – not continuously, of course – and have always wondered who “took the message and he wrote it on the wall”.  It sounds like “the phuncbot” to me.  So I finally looked it up on the net and it’s “My uncle”.  One version gives “Cos my uncle…”.  I’m still not convinced and prefer phuncbot.

The Travelling Players

travelling players

Theo Angelopoulos’ masterpiece; an ever dwindling, forlorn band of actors trudging and training through 20th century Greek history, putting on the same classic play in village halls, as war, murder, treachery and tragedy surround and wash over them.  It has that sort of tableau vivant style, interspersed with chunks of history spoken straight to camera by actors, like narrators in a play.  This sounds dreary, but isn’t; there is staggering mountain scenery, grotesque violence, partisan politics in both senses – and classical references, in that the players correspond to the tragedy of Agamemnon – Electra, Orestes etc.  And music – beautiful, haunting songs and American dance tunes.  Suitcases, shabby suits and coats, umbrellas, railway stations, mountain roads in the snow.  Long, but fantastic.

Baselitz, Richter, Penck at the British Museum

Powerful and dramatic woodcuts and drawings from Baselitz.   In 1967, he began to turn everything upside down; seated figures, eagles, trees, the lot.  The info on the wall explains that he was trying to empty the pictures of their figurative content, to abstractify them in some way. He succeeds sometimes, but mostly you think this is a seated man upside down; I wonder why.  Great, Seurat-like portrait woodcut from Penck and spirally, scribbly abstracts from Richter.

Burmese Days

I’ve been looking at Orwell’s writing on Forster and Passage to India; mainly favourable, as you would expect.  He does say that Forster’s characters sometimes die for no real reason – and that the Germans broadcast Passage in the war as anti-British propaganda.  This was not a criticism; rather, it showed how powerful Forster’s novel was as a critique of British imperialism in India.  I imagine they would have broadcast Burmese Days too, had Orwell been as distinguished a novelist as Forster at the time.  It’s much more vehement than the earlier novel.

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Flowerpot

Blackpaint

20.02.14

Blackpaint 423 – Spencer and Durer, Honey and Fire

November 28, 2013

Durer at the Courtauld

Drawings, woodcuts and etchings showing influence of Italy on Durer; includes great drawings by Mantegna as well.  Durer’s broken outlines, dense and varied hatching on display; great piglets (actually look more like wild boars) in Prodigal Son.  A young woman in a Mantegna drawing looks just as if she’s on her mobile.

Also in gallery, Richard Serra drawings, consisting of masses of crushed black crayon pressed down by Mylar, a sort of transparent plastic.  So, quite a broad spectrum of drawing style on display at Courtauld…

Still think the best painting in the gallery is the Marx Reichlich portrait of the young woman below.

(c) The Courtauld Gallery; Supplied by The Public Catalogue Foundation

Skaters in courtyard below look just like figures in a Lowry, provided weather dull and overcast – pretty safe bet at this time of year.

Stanley Spencer at the Courtauld

In the Terrace Rooms, behind the ice rink, the murals from Burghclere, relating to WW1.  Only one shows action (I don’t think it’s one of the murals); Irish soldiers, struck by a salvo of shells from Turkish artillery.  The viewpoint is maybe 30ft above the ground; a great, looping, grey envelope of smoke, with shadowy forms of horses or men concealed in its folds.  Dead and injured are scattered on the rock or cinders, wounded being carried away.

All the other large pictures share a similar viewpoint – 10 – 30 ft above ground or floor, sometimes the ground tilting drastically upwards about halfway down the picture.  This is most noticeable in the strange picture of soldiers drinking from a spring or well or waterhole – they lie face down, capes stretching along their backs like folded ants’ wings, maybe, lapping at the water, as if pinned to a board tilted towards us.

In another picture, “Map Reading”, I think, only the officer is bothering; in the background, a bunch of soldiers gather berries from bushes in flower, as if they are on the Sussex downs or in a garden in Kent.

spencer mural

In several pictures, white sheets, mosquito nets, bandages, even buckets echo the idea of angelic wings; all tasks portrayed are mundane; scrubbing lockers, eating bread and jam, bathing…

Unfortunately, the Resurrection centre piece is represented only by a giant slide projection, since it is impossible to move the original.  The crosses don’t have that 3D quality they have in the photographs.  A great exhibition though, and free.

Bal

A Turkish film, director Kaplanoglu, set in lush green, mountainous forests, terraces of planted tea; a honey-gatherer who dies alone in the forest when he falls from a tree, his son who speaks only in whispers… A great scene of communal dancers at a mountain fair, women in traditional dress, curtains of mist drifting around the cars and stalls scattered around the hillside.  The pace is “stately” throughout, so be prepared for scenes in Bela Tarr time. “Bal” means honey; it’s one of the “Yusuf” trilogy, with Egg and Milk.

Gravity

When Sandra Bullock is aboard the Russian space craft and fire breaks out, the alarm screen says “FIRE!” in English.  All other notices and instructions are in Russian only.

A Passage to India

Finally got round to reading this, and I’m impressed with the way Forster unfolds the misunderstandings, crassness and arrogance operating between the British, the Indians and the “Eurasians”, and within the Indian groups.  I think I need to read “Burmese Days” again, as well.  Burma, not India, of course, and somewhat later than “Passage”, but I think it will be instructive.

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Skegness

Blackpaint

28.11.13