Posts Tagged ‘Callan’

Blackpaint 630 – The Frenchman, the Sea Monster and the Swinging Light-Bulb

November 20, 2018

Edward Burne-Jones, Tate Britain

That glowing orange – red dress curving in its folds to the left is quite something….

….as is the fabulous female back in Perseus and Andromeda but spoilt, I think by the casual model-ish, stance, that makes her look a bit too pretty somehow; better if she’d been in water up to the thighs maybe.

 

Andromeda looks quite unconcerned as Perseus takes on the dragon, as if she doesn’t care who the victor will be.

Lots of well- muscled male buttocks on display in this huge exhibition of huge paintings; a little reminiscent of the recent Queer Art show, especially Duncan Grant’s swimmers.  Also, funny how these mythical maidens and warriors always carry Nazi associations for me – Wagner, Rhine maidens and all that, of course, but I think Ken Russell is also responsible.

Wonderfully skilled painter, great compositions, range of talents (tapestries, for instance)

Callan

My Christmas gift was box sets, in B&W initially, then colour, of the surviving episodes of this great series from the 60s.  It has the most haunting theme tune, played as a light bulb swings before the troubled eyes of Callan and then shatters as a bullet strikes it.

Callan left, Meres background

Callan is an ex-soldier and convict, brilliantly played by Edward Woodward, who is, reluctantly, employed by the Section, a very secret (illegal?) state security organisation, led by a series of toffs, each one codenamed “Hunter”.  “Hunters” are short-lived; there have been four so far, in the 12 episodes I’ve watched –  two of them killed, one by Callan himself.  The body count is high, male and female and the range of murderous agents Callan has had to take on is wide and interesting: old and new Nazis, KGB of course, Czechs, East Germans, OAS veterans (Algerian war) -even a British mercenary officer.  Callan operates in a constant state of barely controlled rage at his public school bosses and fellow agents.

My memory of the series was at fault in one very important aspect: I remembered Callan as a sort of semi-detached assassin, who was allotted a target, paid and was then on his own, especially if caught.  Actually, he is on the payroll and in fact, is the moral centre of the series; the others, especially Meres (Anthony Valentine) and Cross (Patrick Mower) are odious posh boys, lacking anything by way of a conscience.

One aspect of the series, peculiarly, reminded me of modern TV – Callan’s thoughts, like those of Mitchell and Webb in “Peep Show”, are often revealed in voice-over, as he searches a flat or lies in wait.

Faces in the Crowd,  2005, Whitechapel Gallery

Eduard Manet, Masked Ball at the Opera (detail)

I recently acquired the catalogue (above) for this terrific exhibition that I visited at the time but had completely forgotten.  It consisted of paintings, photographs and posters, including work by Manet, Picasso, Beckmann, Magritte, Kirchner, Sander, Walker Evans, Bomberg, Warhol, Bacon, Sickert, Giacometti…. and a hundred more.

Two fascinating facts I have learned from the catalogue: male harlequins are popularly supposed to be able to breastfeed – and Picasso apparently included harlequin figures in some of his sketches for “Guernica”.

Tony Joe White 

RIP.  See him on “Country Rock at the BBC”, tearing up “Polk Salad Annie” with a burning cigarette stuck on the end of one of his guitar strings; “Polk Salad Annie – the ‘gators got your Grannie (chomp, chomp)”…

Tony Joe also wrote “A Rainy Night in Georgia”; enough for one lifetime.  Honey-dripping voice, shit-eating grin.

 

The Frenchman

Blackpaint

20.11.18

 

 

 

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Blackpaint 523 – Last Stands in Africa, Callan and Pina

December 7, 2015

Wildlife Photographer of the Year, Natural History Museum

Some of these photographs defy belief, and I don’t mean just the ones that have been set up to do just that (the one that comes to mind is swallows flying through a hole torn in a painting set in a window frame).  To my mind, the best are the two blue sharks, the migrating geese (?) taken from above and the antelope in the dust that look like a cave painting.  Oh, and the clouds of mayflies like snow flurries around the vehicle…

cristobal serrano

Cristobal Serrano

 

Artist and Empire – Facing Britain’s Imperial Past (Tate Modern)

Another of those exhibitions at Tate in which historical and social factors outweigh, perhaps, questions of the standard of the art on show.  Laura Cumming in the Observer was scathing about the show for this reason and for “nauseating” pictures such as that of Victoria presenting a bible – “the Secret of England’s Greatness” – to a kneeling Indian prince, or “suitably grateful and genuflecting black man”, as she describes him.

Inevitably, there are a number of Last Stands heroically depicted; Isandlwana below –

 

 

isandlwanafripp

Charles Fripp

-and Major Wilson in Matabeleland below –

 

(c) Russell-Cotes Art Gallery & Museum; Supplied by The Public Catalogue Foundation

Allen Stewart

I actually prefer the wonderful Denis McLoughlin cover of my 1956 Okay Adventure Annual (see below); It’s not in the exhibition, but it ought to be.

Wilson OKay

And General Gordon is there, defying the natives in Khartoum, and the doctor, last survivor,  just managing to stay in the saddle in Afghanistan…

The best pictures, to my mind, are those of elderly Maori warriors and chiefs by Goldie (below)

Goldie1

and those by Rudolf Swoboda (below) which Cumming tells me are “kitsch and sentimental”.  She points out that the subjects of these portraits were “brought over from Agra to perform at the Colonial and Indian of 1886” and were actually convicts, not the Indian “types” they represent.  They still look like good paintings to me, however; I presume all the women who have posed as Virgins in Old Masters were actually virgins?

There are some interesting sculptures made by the colonised subjects depicting British administrators and the like, but the best is a black wooden bust of an African in jacket and tie, with a bulging forehead; 1920s, I think.  It wouldn’t have looked out of place in Kettles Yard, with the Gaudier- Brjeskas and Nicholsons, etc.

 

swoboda1

Rudolf Swoboda

One of the paintings represents white women and children besieged at Cawnpore, in a state of collapse from hunger and despair; in the corner, the gates burst open and a horde of – British soldiers flood in!  Hooray, a rescue!  Apparently, the original plan was to show frenzied rebels, about to wreak the unspeakable, no doubt – but the artist changed it to spare the sensibilities of his viewers.

The physical depiction of the colonised peoples in this exhibition is markedly lacking in racial caricature.  There was no exaggeration of physical features to make the imperial subjects look comical, or stupid, or sinister (which, to anyone familiar with comics and cartoons from the 50s and 60s is surprising) – rather the opposite, in fact; they are exotic, but handsome and dignified in portraits.  And the bible picture described above is the only one in which a subject kneels to a British queen or her representatives.

No doubt, some on the left will detect an irony in the opening of this exhibition relating to our imperial past, as the bombers fly over Syria and Iraq and Afghan refugees, amongst others, try to get across European borders – but not I.

Anthony Valentine and “Callan”

callan-28005_2

I was saddened to read that Valentine had died; that’s him in the middle.  Older British readers will recall Valentine as Toby Meres, the ex public schoolboy foil to Edward Woodward’s chippy Callan in the 60s.  Callan worked for “The Section”, doing dirty jobs for the security of the state, paid in used notes in brown envelopes.  If caught,  he was on his own.  Fiction, of course; Callans couldn’t exist in a proper democracy like ours.  It was a great series, though.

Pina, Wim Wenders (2011)

bausch

I thought this documentary, on the choreographer Pina Bausch, who died in 2009, was mesmerising.  The sequence in which a male dancer constantly loads a female into the outstretched arms of another male, who promptly drops her (Beckett, fail again, fail better – or if not better, faster) was brilliant; she did the speeding up thing in other sequences.  She loved putting her female dancers – and once, a male – in long, flowing pastel dresses.  In addition to Beckett, I thought Fellini – and Bergman – in that last sequence with the dancers parading in a line on the escarpment.  And listening to “The Rite of Spring”, I thought it could be Vaughan Williams…

The members of the Tanztheater Wuppertal, reminiscing on Bausch, recalled that thing you come across so often with “inspirational” figures  – where a legend in a given field observes, says nothing, and then at the crucial moment, gives the performer the one word necessary, which makes all clear.  Dance, painting and sculpture, music, judo – all fields in which I have come across similar descriptions.

 

work in prog

Work in Progress

Blackpaint

7.12.15

Blackpaint 388 – Zizek, Trockel, Callan and Mona

April 4, 2013

Zizek, YODD

Year of Living Dangerously (2011).  So full of ideas and observations, crackling and fizzing, mostly undeveloped, unexplained, dropped for something else, that it’s impossible to critique a chapter, let alone the whole book.  For instance:  “capitalism without capitalists” – only managers on super salaries and bonuses now, running businesses owned by banks run by managers on super salaries, like a big beehive with honey but no queen… that’s a book’s -worth of theory, needing development and explication – but no, move on. Bit of invective maybe, those who disagree are morons…

I like his analysis of The Wire; how the McNultys and Freamons and the rest help to prop up the system by going outside the rules, making it seem that capitalism can deliver some justice (except it can’t, because they fail).  This reminded me of “Callan”, a British TV series in the 60’s.  Callan, played superbly by Edward Woodward, was a tough, indignant little man who lived in a dingy London bedsit; when the British state needed a dirty undercover job done, a Russian spy assassinated maybe, Callan got a call and a brown envelope.  If something went wrong, he would be on his own; the state would deny knowledge.  He bristled with morality, of course; his public school controllers were all about expediency and hypocrisy.

Not the same, I know; The Wire crew operate without sanction, Callan was a (secret) secret servant of the state.  Powerful idea, though; I assumed for years  that every democratic state has a Callan or two, to do those jobs which “need to be done”, but which can’t be acknowledged.  I don’t think I’m alone in this; the Hilda Murrell case comes to mind and the conspiracy theories about Dr Kelly’s suicide.  Some people seem to be convinced these were murders, although if so, they were highly incompetent and to no credible purpose.

Rosemary Trockel at the Serpentine Gallery

  • Starts with dozens of little pictures, collages, photos, drawings, some like Marlene Dumas a little; the young German pop fan, Emin-like drawing of a man kneeling and puking in a toilet, adverts…
  • Wall hangings made from coloured strands of wool, vertical or horizontal, some threadbare, some perfect, with bright, jazzy colours on black..
  • Ceramic plaques, like great splats or badges of quartz or fool’s gold, or shiny, glazed china spladged against the wall..
  • Glass cases with tableaux and assemblages – a flat photographic girl bending up at the front end, as if reading, while a baby sleeps in a cot, with a fat black fly on its face (baby not cot);  a furry tendriled sac behind baby’s head inflate and deflates like breathing…
  • and lots more.

trockel

It made me think of Beuys – the fabric and the cases, I suppose.  I felt constipated during and after, which I feel was a reaction to the air of clutter and stuffiness – but constipated in a good way.

Theory of Validating Crapness – the Mona Lisa

Here goes with the first VC (see last blog):

It’s the white line coming from the region of her left ear.  Seems to be a rock shelf, but doesn’t correspond to anything on left side of head.  Nevertheless, it  adds something…I think – although now, it’s beginning to irritate me.  Is it damage and restoration, maybe?

mona lisa

The Secret in Their Eyes

Brilliant Argentinian film, set in present day and in 1974, during the Dirty War; palpable “chemistry” between the two –  mature leads.  The surprise ending echoes a Nabokov short story called “Russian Spoken Here”.  Despite the melodrama and the unashamedly romantic core, a real pleasure.

Little Dorrit

Dickens really knows how to end a book; I was dreading another ten chapters or so, to tie up some of the loose ends (I think they were loose – I couldn’t quite grasp the details of the financial arrangements), but I needn’t have worried.  Dickens was obviously bored too, so he made the house fall down and bury the villain.  Job done – marry the hero and heroine to each other and on with the next page turner…  The thing is, you can never tell how much more there is to go, if you’re reading a Collected Works on a Kindle; I started on 57% and finished, 30+ chapters later, on 60%!

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Memento Park

Blackpaint

04.04.13