Posts Tagged ‘Cai Guo Qiang’

Blackpaint 220

November 16, 2010


Taking a break from Michelangelo for a week or two – not that I’ve exhausted him as a topic, but “What do they know of England who only England know?”, as someone – Kipling, was it? – once said.  So, following on from the “Virgin of the Rocks”, I thought I’d look at Leonardo’s “Last Supper”, in the Refectory (appropriately) at Santa Maria delle Grazie in Milan.

Jesus has just announced to the diners that one of them will betray him and there is general consternation.  In any Last Supper, of course, the two main characters are Jesus and Judas; Jesus is, I think, always portrayed centre table and in Leonardo’s, Judas is two seats to his right – although Peter is leaning across to talk to John, making Judas effectively third on Christ’s right.  I wonder, is there some convention about the seating of the disciples, or do they go wherever the painter decides?  And has there ever been a depiction of the scene looking from one end of the table, with the disciples around it and Christ at the top?

Anyway, Judas has to be prominent, so that his guilt (a moneybag usually, and some positional difference from the others) can be signalled.  Leonardo’s depiction was the first in post-Medieval times to have Judas behind the table with the others.  He is clutching his bag of silver and recoiling in shock –  apparently in the act of reaching for a bread roll.  I read somewhere that he was sometimes depicted with red hair, to distinguish him as the betrayer.  From the poor state of repair of the fresco, I can’t tell whether or not Leonardo has followed this convention.

The Sperm Pipe

The second work by da Vinci to draw my attention today was the drawing of the act of sexual intercourse, in which the side view of the male in section shows a tube running from the brain directly to the penis.  The male is shown as a person (see below) whilst only the female sexual parts are depicted.  It was thought at the time that sperm was produced in the brain and flowed from there down to the penis by way of this pipe.  Given that images arising in the brain contribute to the erection of the penis, this seems to me to be a perfectly reasonable hypothesis in the absence of physical evidence and can therefore be cited as an early example of Blackpaint’s Law of Spurious Plausibility (Blackpaint 217 and 165).

Bram Bogart

Looking at his “Untitled” 1956, ink on watercolour paper, couldn’t help noticing resemblance to those Chinese gunpowder paintings by Cai Guo-Kiang – it’s in “Intensely Dutch” by Hendrik Kolenberg, Art Gallery NSW 2009.

Van Gogh

While I’m on Holland, ploughing on through the Taschen 2 volume, complete VG.  In 1885, he painted portraits of 19 peasant women in white caps, 15 peasant women in dark caps, one in a red cap, two in green shawls, one in “greenish lace” and 11 with bare heads.  Only four portraits of men, though – two in caps, one with a pipe and one with a cap and pipe.  That’s just the portraits – others show work and eating, for instance, the famous “Potato Eaters”.



Blackpaint 203

October 8, 2010

Martin Rowson

Glad to see in the Guardian a week or so ago,a Rowson cartoon featuring a long tongue issuing from the mouth of a toadying pressman and winding towards Cameron, who was descending from a royal-type coach.  Unfortunately, it (the tongue, not the coach) did not approach the anus of the said politician, but formed a slimy red carpet for him to tread.  More subtle than arse-licking but somehow less satisfying – hang on, that didn’t sound right.  Anyway, must end this obsession; this blog is  becoming more obscene by the day.  I see that a reader used the terms “tate modern vaginas” to find the site. 

So – from now on, no obscenity, no pointing out indecent little details in works of art – only good, clean, mature discussion on artistic matters, in the highest of moral tones.

Ai Weiwei

Coming soon to the big hall at the Tate Modern, how do you square the work of an artist like Ai, who tangles with an arbitrary and viciously reactivr regime like the Chinese government with artists who paint about paint, or “investigate materials”?  Difficult one – there’s nothing heroic about the latter.  Ai, who has recently been provoking the government about those missing in the Szechuan earthquake, is like a lion tamer sticking his head in the lion’s mouth – but without taming it first. 

I suppose, say, asking questions about the liquid qualities of light passing through various media doesn’t really match up in the credibility stakes – but someone has to do it.   One day, when all the dictatorships are overthrown, global warming has been halted and reversed, famine is no more,  peace and plenty and democratic socialism reign, we’ll still have art surely – or maybe not, because no struggle.

A thread in Chinese art –

Ai Weiwei famously dropped and smashed a Han dynasty vase and filmed himself doing so;

Huang Yong Ping destroyed A History of Chinese Art in a washing machine;

Cai Guo Qiang blows things up with fireworks.

I don’t know, but I have the feeling that, in the context of Chinese history and philosophy, this destructive streak must be especially shocking.  Then again, Mao and the Cultural Revolution… maybe in that context, destruction is culturally familiar.  Woefully ignorant here, as is obvious, so please comment.

Wayne Thiebaud

Now 90, I mention him because I like his work and it’s apposite to the comments above about political art.  He does pictures of consumer items like  cakes, shoes, lipsticks set against flat, highly coloured backgrounds.  He has a background in signwriting and cartoons which clearly shows in his work.  There’s something funny about a lovingly-painted slice of cake with a cherry on top,  on its plastic shelf in an automat, or a stout, shiny pair of black brogues set at a jaunty angle.  Is it political?  Of course – something to do with the worship of consumer items, mass production, etc., etc.  But then, all art is political in the sense that it represents a choice of what to represent and what not to represent.  Its not necessarily commited, though. 

More about this, when I’ve thought it through clearly – might be some time.

Broke Line Tide