Posts Tagged ‘Burri’

Blackpaint 415 – Sandra Blow and the Pavilions at Venice

October 5, 2013

Sandra Blow at Kings Place

Went to see the Long Notes, great Irish/Scots folk group, at Kings Place last night and was delighted to find an exhibition of Blow’s work had opened the same day.  The earliest painting was from 1959, when she was part of the St.Ives set, and the latest from 2006, the year she died.  There are a number of huge canvases that are painted in acrylics and collaged with strips of tape, sacking and canvas patches; rich earth and water hues, ridges of rough texture, chevrons and ingots of high colour piercing through, a little reminiscent of Terry Frost – and of Burri (a partner) and Tapies.

The highlights of this group are:

Breakwater

Blow1

Glad Ocean (1989)

blow2

Brilliant Corner (1993 – detail)

blow3

There are also some beautiful prints, brightly coloured, wobbly geometrics.  A fantastic exhibition, and we only saw part of it – the gallery was closed, we only saw the stairwells and balconies.

Venice Biennale – the Pavilions

I think four are worth a mention; first, the British one (of course), featuring Jeremy Deller.  You get a free cup of tea and mini prints of the two big pictures on display, which you stamp out yourself with a rubber stamp.  The pictures, covering a wall each, are of a giant harrier, grabbing and lifting a Range Rover in its talons, and an angry, giant William Morris, standing in the ocean and thrusting a cruise ship, bows downward, into the water.  The first refers to an incident when a harrier was shot on a royal estate, the second, I think, to the ships of the wealthy that blight Venice and other Med resorts.  Additionally, there is some very satisfying film of Range Rovers being pulped, to the strains of Bowie’s “the Man who Sold the World”, played  by a steel band.  It’s one of the few pavilions which have a truly national feel to it; the Danish one, for example, is a fantasy about African migrants, lost in a facsimile of Paris, actually built in China.

Next, Belgium; “Cripplewood”.  In a dark chamber, a giant wooden and wax entity, fabric like bandages at the joints of limbs, twisted, arthritic bundles of twigs and branches – a little like Kiefer’s supine trees, or a huge, beached whale – made me think of Bela Tarr’s “Werkmeister Harmonies”… or even the Elephant Man.

The most sinister pavilion show was that of Indonesia.  There were life-size shadow puppets, a Paul McCarthy – style assemblage of a man with a TV head and a flower-covered figure rolling a bamboo roller “raft” – baffling – but then…

A dark, church-like space with desks on which enormous white books lie open, the whole surrounded by pictures of rough forest/jungle, charred, like the woodwork..

AND – a group of officers, ex-presidents apparently, seated around a table, a uniformed woman standing as if presiding.  One figure lies face down, apparently dead, another gestures towards a third with a knife, as if inviting him to kill himself with it.  Their faces appear bashed in – “distorted”, according to the guide book.  The commentary in the guide book has no mention of politics; instead, it goes on about Shakti, a religious principle which, it says. governed the creation of the works…

Finally, there is the Romanian pavilion – which is empty; EXCEPT for a group of (I think) eight young dancers, four men, four women.  They announce, with great solemnity, the title of a Biennale prize work from years gone by and then proceed to mime its content.  Sounds mildly amusing but is actually very funny, because of the limitations, as much as anything.

Enough Venice now.

The 70s, presented by Dominic Sandbrook

Odious presenter, explaining with relish how working people in the early 70s caused their own hardships by buying things on HP, wanting houses and cars and holidays that they should have known were not for them, but for the people who could afford to buy them outright.  I don’t remember the people I knew running to the shops waving Access cards.  I hate hearing glib generalisations presented with certainty, by smug academics who were (maybe) at school at the relevant time.

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Pellet

Blackpaint

5.10.13

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Blackpaint 413 – Venice; Three Saints and their Beastly Companions

September 30, 2013

Guggenheim Museum in Venice

Just back from a week in Venice to visit the Biennale (bit late – it closes next month).  Venice full of German, American and Japanese tourists and very few native Venetians; the streets were practically deserted by 8.30 pm, apart from rather subdued groups and pairs of lost tourists.  The Biennale, both the Arsenal and the park pavilions, more impressive than last time; I’m going to blog every couple of days this week until I’ve done everything worth mentioning.  Some of the very best things we saw were not part of the Biennale however, but were at the  Guggenheim; four, no five new pictures hung last year.First, Hans Hoffman’s “Spring on Cape Cod”.

hans hoff at the gug

Next, de Kooning’s “Woman, seated”.

DK at gug 2

Joan Mitchell, Untitled, in her amazing, clean, cold greens, oranges, reds and blues.

joan mitchell gug

And Burri, brown and black, underneath a sheath of cellophane.

Carpaccio

Going back a little, there were the Carpaccios at the Scuola di Giorgio dei Greci; the famous St. George and Dragon with various scattered body parts – the lance seems to be on the wrong side of the horse’s head; wrong, that is, for martial, not artistic purposes.  In the next panel, George again, with the dead dragon, about to strike off its head for the assembled, be-turbaned crowd.

carpaccio1

Next, we have St.Tryphon, just like a little boy, with the Basilisk demon he has just exorcised from the little girl’s body.  It looks rather like a little donkey – pity it wasn’t a Gryphon, for reason of rhyme.

carpaccio2

St. Jerome next, with his newly tamed lion, trying to introduce it to a group of elders, who appear strangely reluctant to meet it.  And then, a much younger Jerome in his study, fine red leather chair, all sorts of scientific instruments at hand and a little white dog, looking on while he has his vision.

Don’t Look Now

Watched this again as soon as I was back from Venice and not much evidence of change in the last 40 years – the water ambulances are different and there were no giant cruise ships obliterating the views, but otherwise the same.  What I did notice was how everyone in Venice appeared to have some sort of secret personal agenda, signified by meaningful looks, gazings into the distance (priest), murmurs of “Ah, yes, of course” (police inspector)…  Only the English headmaster and his wife were free of the air of mystery – but they were in England.

More on Venice, particularly the Biennale, this week.

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Work in Prog

Blackpaint

30.09.13

Blackpaint 275

May 21, 2011

Bela Tarr

In  “Satantango”, his three DVD, 7 hour film, Irimias and Petrina sleep together, like Morecambe and Wise, in a little cubicle, in their overcoats.  Petrina covers the sleeping Irimias with a blanket.

When the charismatic Irimias is not there,  his disciples lose faith – rightly, of course – and only the faith of Lajos’ wife is unshaken; she does them the disservice of talking them round again.  Only Futaki, with his grim, thin, vinegary face, is unconvinced and strikes out alone.  I haven’t seen the end yet, however; maybe he comes around again.  Another hour or 90 minutes to go.

I’m seeing shades of Beckett and Bunuel in Tarr’s work.  I was going to say he stands at the opposite pole of my other obsession, Fellini – but then there are the whales, in “Satyricon” and “The Werckmeister Harmonies”…  I suppose what I really like about Tarr is the complete lack of pretension in his work.

An Ordinary Dog, by Gregory Woods

“Jerome”, one of Woods’ poems in the above collection, is clearly based on a painting of the eponymous saint; I can’t decide which one, however.  Woods mentions Jerome resting his slippered feet” on the upholstered ribcage of a dormant lion” – I thought the Durer, but no slippers and the lion is a foot or so away from the saint’s feet.  Maybe I’m being too literal; one of my many faults.  The last line – “Call me trivial but I can hear his stomach rumbling” – reminds me of that poem in Penguin Poetry of the Thirties, “The Progress of Poetry” by Christopher Caudwell:

“In evening’s sacred cool, among my bushes

A Figure was wont to walk.  I deemed it an angel.

But look at the footprint.  There’s hair between the toes!”

Kurt Schwitters

Just done another umber, alizerin, grey and black panel that looks (intentionally) a bit rough and rugged, like something from the beach at St. Ives, a chunk of sunk rowing boat maybe.  I thought of sticking some real wood to it, making it a sculpture or collage at least – then, flicking through an art book, came on Schwitters’ stuff done in the 20’s and a host of others, of course – Burri and Tapies with the sacking – and thought I’d better leave it.  There is nothing new under the sun, as I keep finding out – anew every day.

Max Ernst

His sculpture “Capricorne” , of a seated, bull- headed (Minotaur?) figure, flanked by a standing “wife” (Tanning) with a fish-shaped head – actually, the fish looks more like a hammer about to crash down on the bull’s head – holds in his right hand  – what?  It  looks to me like a giant toothbrush, which of course is entirely possible in Ernst’s work.  It’s now destroyed, anyway – book doesn’t say how.

The Minotaur

Must be one of the most frequently recurring images in art; I can think of Ernst, Picasso of course, Keith Vaughan, GF Watts… Actually, that’s about it.  I’ve just checked and, apart from a load of fantasy comic illustrations and figurines, a Greek vase and a Canova sculpture, I can’t find any others.  In film, there’s “Oedipus Rex” and “Satyricon”, of course.

Blackpaint

21.05.11

Blackpaint 230

December 13, 2010

Van Gogh

Richard Dorment, on the Royal Academy exhibition “Van Gogh, the Artist and his Letters”, which took place earlier in the year, writes in the Telegraph: “We learnt (from the letters) that even if it only took Vincent an hour or two to paint a picture, before his brush touched  the canvas he had chosen and mixed his pigments, and knew precisely where he would place every touch of colour” (my emphasis).

Can this really be so?  Precisely? Every touch?  I find this hard to believe – no element of chance at all, no revising, no improvising.  Many other painters and artists of every kind claim there is an  element of re-working, revision, spontaneity, change of some sort during their working process.  The idea of a painter following a pre-determined plan with precision sounds like painting by numbers – which doesn’t sound likeVan Gogh.

I didn’t see the show, so I can’t comment on the match between particular letters and paintings; if VG described the process after doing the painting, maybe he did some unconscious editing, “tidying up”.  Maybe not; must read the letters, so until then, will say no more on VG and stick to Dorment’s comments.

It is interesting to me that Richard Dorment equates this preparedness and precision with “consummate professionalism”.  I’m sure he’s right, but a bit of spontaneity, improvisation and chance properly acted on can be professionalism too, surely; otherwise, a lot of great painters are amateurs.  Then again, one purpose of the exhibition was, I believe, to demonstrate a rational and controlled approach on Van Gogh’s  part, as opposed to the popular view of him as “the madman touched with genius”, so perhaps Dorment’s comments must be seen in this light.

He finishes: “The brilliance of this show was that it forced us to see what is really there and not what our imaginations add to it”.  This opens wider a giant plastic bin liner full of live eels with almost every word – but I’ve gone on too much already, so will change the subject.

Sandra Blow

Lovely, but short, DVD (the Eye, Illuminations) on the above done in 2006, the year she died.  She lived with Burri in Italy after the war and acknowledged that she got the idea of using sacking in her paintings and collages from him – not often you hear artists confirm their “borrowings” so freely.  She mentioned two other important sources of influence – the Underwood book on African art and the work of Ruskin Spear and Walter Sickert on her “brown” phase.  I’m still very taken with her “Vivace”, which I saw at Tate St.Ives a few months ago and which, in its spontaneity, was untypical of her work.  She put wellington boots on to hurl red paint across the huge canvas, making an enormous “V”.

Quiz

Who put a zebra and a parachute in the same picture?

Lambton Worm

Blackpaint

13.12.10

Blackpaint 146

June 4, 2010

Altdorfer/Elsheimer

Unfortunate names, these, as will become clear:  I’ve been doing a Tanning/Carrington with them (see Blackpaint 121, 122) and mixing them up.  Albrecht Altdorfer is the one who did the Battle of Issus – Alexander the Great a tiny figure on a white horse, in the middle of hordes of  soldiers – and Adam Elsheimer, the one who did the stoning of St. Stephen – the one in the NG of Scotland at Edinburgh, in which the kneeling Stephen very slightly resembles a cartoon character, Tintin perhaps.  My partner points out the more important artistic feature of the triangular structure formed partly by the ray of light from the angel.

Anyway, I discover from Wikipedia that they are about 100 years apart – Altdorfer 1480-1538, Regensburg and Elsheimer 1578-1610 (only 32), born Frankfurt but lived and worked in Rome.  Altdorfer apparently did the first “pure” European landscape in oils, Landscape with Footbridge, in 1518 – 20 (see Blackpaint 132, 133).  he also did an astonishing Birth of the Virgin, in which a posy of flying babies, cherubs, whatever, circle  in the air, hand in hand with angels, above said mother and baby.

I was surprised, too, to read in “Art of the 20th Century” (Taschen) that Altdorfer has been cited as a forerunner of  gestural painting, along with Turner, Kandinsky et al.  I can only think it’s because of his expressionistic skies and clouds and his willingness to ignore perspective and distort human figures – his figures tend to be extremely elongated, for instance.  On both these grounds, however, you would have to include El Greco too, surely.

The fact that Altdorfer, as a member of Regensburg town council, was implicated in the expulsion of the Regensburg Jews links him to another German, or rather Austrian, painter of the 20th century, albeit an amateur, or “failed” one. 

Abstraction

To return to painting, I think, in any examination of gesturalism or abstraction in European art you would have to include Arthur Melville’s little picture of 1889 (Blackpaint 139) – are there earlier examples of “pure” abstraction in British painting, or European painting, for that matter?  please comment, if you know. 

Surfaces

I love built-up surfaces,  done with paint, glue, sand, cement, sacking, slabs of stuff slatched down with a palette knife or just the hand and then scraped and  scratched – Fautrier, Dubuffet, Tapies, Burri, Sandra Blow, Jaap Wagemaker and, I  suppose, Asger Jorn too, as in “Proud, Timid One”.

Listening to Brooks and Dunn;

“I did my best, but her west was wilder than mine”.

Blackpaint

04.06.10