Posts Tagged ‘Cezanne’

Blackpaint 573 – Imperfect Artspeak, Hughes and Narcos

October 25, 2016

Imperfect Reverse, Camberwell College of Arts

Some beautiful geometric abstracts on display here, some of them from the 60s and 70s Systems Group, some from younger artists working now.  I quote from the notes: “The term “imperfect reverse” intimates a move towards a structural logic, generative grammar, allowing an outside system or set of rules to drive the making of a series of works….This exhibition questions that transformation through a coercion that is both temporal and aspectual.  Examining an operational shift in working process towards a synthesis of experience.”

So there you are.  Whatever it means, there’s no doubt that the pictures are good; a selection of the best below:

camberwell-1

Sharon Hall

 

camberwell-2

Andrew Bick

 

camberwell-3

Richard Caldicott

 

camberwell-4

Natalie Dower

 

camberwell-5

Laurence Noga

The exhibition is at Camberwell until November, when it moves to Ruskin University Cambridge on the 23rd.

The Shock of the New

I’ve been watching Robert Hughes’ great series again – I recorded it ages ago, don’t know if it’s on DVD or some other source, but if so, it should be got hold of.  Apart from Hughes’ unmatched portentous delivery, the close-ups of the artworks struck me as the best I’ve seen – particularly Cezanne, Matisse and Bonnard.  Next to them, the dreary horror of Munch is fully exposed.  I know, he was doing something else – but he’s still a most depressing painter.

matisse-red-studio

Matisse, the Red Studio

 

cezanne-basket-of-apples

Cezanne, Basket of Apples

 

munch

Munch

I rest my case.  Hughes describes Matisse as the painter of the “Great Indoors” and that sounds about right to me; his landscapes are usually seen through a window frame.  Munch is often outdoors – but his skies are always dark, or lurid, weighing down upon humanity, as in the Ensor-ish group of walking dead above.  One of the world’s great painters obviously, but I just can’t be doing with him.

It’s always interesting to watch programmes from decades ago, to see how times and tastes have altered.  Hughes gives a great deal of prominence to Claes Oldenburg, for example, an artist who seems to me to be much less fashionable now; although perhaps I’m underestimating the influence of his giant soft sculptures.  Also, not enough de Kooning and no Joan Mitchell in there…..

Narcos

narcos

The Netflix series based on the life of Colombian drug baron Pablo Escobar, it seems to me to have a touch of Sorrentino about it – in several scenes I was reminded of Il Divo.  Multiple killings of course, and I’ve only seen the first episode of series one.  The box of the DVD says it’s a blend of “The Wire” and “Goodfellas” – I thought “Gomorrah”, but then it’s early days for me.

I’ve been trying to do something different in my painting, having realised some time ago that I’m doing the same images over and over (even if they are in a different palette or the other way up); I think I’ve managed it a little in the one below – but maybe not…

 

grey-fire-2

Fire, Water and Cloud

Blackpaint

25.10.16

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Blackpaint 561 – Yeats, Dante and the Four Horsemen

July 3, 2016

I’ve been reading Yeats and I thought I could usefully purloin a quote for a title…

slouching towards Bethlehem

Slouching Towards Bethlehem

 

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Green Fuse and Canal in E&A Wates’ Showroom, 82-84 Mitcham Lane

My paintings there for the next couple of weeks as part of the Streatham Festival  @Art23_Streatham.  Green Fuse – nicked that from Dylan Thomas.

 

Painters’ Paintings, National Gallery

The idea behind this exhibition is to show paintings that were owned by famous painters (Freud, Degas, Lawrence, Watts, Van Dyke et al), presumably so that you can judge how that influenced their work, if at all.  Unfortunately, I didn’t take much notice of who owned what, so you’ll have to go yourself, if you’re interested.  What you should be aware of is that many of the paintings are in the NG’s possession and have recently been on the walls as part of the permanent collection.  This has been the case with several exhibitions lately; one good example is the Gauguin bowl of flowers, that was in the Delacroix exhibition.  And the Spartan boys, by Degas…

What I’ve done, then, is to pick out some favourites:

Blanche

Jacques – Emile Blanche, M. Poictevin (1887)

Great portrait, this – reminds me of that one by Strang in the National Portrait Gallery, of Thomas Hardy.  That one’s got a green background, not yellow like the one above; but they both somehow recall those medieval ones by Cranach and the like, and maybe even Holbein.  Blanche also did Joyce, below:

 

joyce

J-E Blanche, James Joyce – this one isn’t in the exhibition, but it is by Blanche; it’s in the NPG.  Very different to the Poictevin portrait – could easily be by Singer Sargent.

 

Again, two very different pictures by Ingres:

ingres dante

Ingres, Dante.  Never would have guessed Ingres, in a month of Sundays.

 

ingres norvins

Ingres, M. de Norvins

That’s more like the Ingres I would expect.  He only took a year or so over this one.

 

caracci woman

Caracci, A Woman Borne off by a Sea God

I picked the Caracci (which is huge) because of the hilarious contrast between the bodies and heads of the cherubic characters to the left and right of the god and the unfortunate woman.  Heads of children, bodies of Olympic weightlifters; compare Michelangelo, the Delphic Sybil from the Sistine Chapel.

cezanne bather

Cezanne, Bather with Outstretched Arm

Proof that brilliant painters sometimes do less than perfect drawings.   My partner says he meant it to be “inaccurate”; I’m not sure.

 

I love this Matisse:

matisse selfie

Matisse, Self-Portrait 1918

Perfect, I think.  Is that a suitcase between his legs, with an ashtray on top?

 

Come and See (Klimov, 1985)

Apocalyptic WW2 film, Bielorussia (Belarus) under German occupation in 1942; Klimov makes much use of Florya’s swollen, dried-out, blistered and horror-struck face, pushed close to the camera, as below, as he witnesses mass murders and rape.  The Nazi troops, with their ragbag of collaborating followers, rampage drunkenly around like tourists from hell, taking photographs of the slaughter to a soundtrack of nightmarish yodelling and marching songs.  I thought of the Tin Drum, Hard to be a God – and in the concentration on the facial close-up, maybe Laszlo Nemes’ Son of Saul – this just hearsay, though; I haven’t yet seen the Nemes (DVD out now).

come and see 1

 

come and see 2

SS Commander with his pet.  Maybe an echo of the Teutonic Knights in Eisenstein’s Alexander Nevsky.  And Glasha (if it is her who is raped – Wikipedia seems to be in some doubt) is Lavinia from Titus Andronicus…  You are tempted to think that Klimov has gone overboard on the brutality; no conscience-stricken, civilised good Germans here (cf. Cross of Iron, the Pianist); the closing titles point out that more than 600 villages in Bielorussia were destroyed and their inhabitants murdered in exactly the fashion shown here – and that Germans who were there as perpetrators have agreed that it is accurate.

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03.07.16

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Blackpaint 543 – The oranges are not the only fruit…

April 30, 2016

Delacroix and the Rise of Modern Art at the National Gallery

Gauguin still life

Gauguin, Still Life with a Delacroix

I have to say that I thought the Delacroixs (is that the proper plural?) were awful, on the whole.  They were melodramatic, exotic in a bad way and somehow dowdy; the brushwork looked dry and the colours lurid.  Then I looked at the work online and it was brilliant – luscious brushwork, fervid energy, piercing colour.  Just shows how photography has a glamorising effect on paintings, something I’ve noted before.

Then again, it could be I’ve been corrupted by all those repros you used to get in furniture shops in the 50s and 60s; Arab boys, Spanish flamenco dancers, harbour scenes – Delacroix is just too exotic for me.

The stunning Gauguin still life above is, for my money, the best thing on show, but there are great paintings by Degas, Redon, Moreau (not so great), Cezanne, two more Gauguins (one brilliant, the other terrible) and some awful Renoirs – but I have a blind spot about the latter, can’t stand his work.

Better show a Delacroix, after all, it’s his show, so:

delacroix algerian women

Algerian Women in their Apartments

See, it looks great as a photo.

Making your Ears Tingle

I’m reading Kings II in the King James Bible at the moment and here are three quotations that made me sit up:

Hath he not sent me to the men which sit on the wall, that they may eat their own dung, and drink their own piss with you? (2 Kings 18, 27)

Behold, I am bringing such evil upon Jerusalem and Judah, that whosoever heareth of it, both his ears shall tingle. (2 Kings 21, 12)

…and I will wipe Jerusalem as a man wipeth a dish, wiping it, and turning it upside down. (2 Kings 22, 13).

Pithy, eh?

The Hollow Crown – Richard II

hollow crown

Ben Whishaw perfectly cast, in my view; not an easy play to make work with all that rhyming verse – brilliant poetry, but it can sound quaint as dialogue, which it never does in this version.

The director does three art things in the murder scene at the end:

He has Richard, naked except for a loincloth, clamber to his feet, first sticking his rear high in the air in a direct echo of the Bacon/Muybridge boy;

Richard is slaughtered by crossbow arrows – up to now, he’s been Christ, now he’s St. Sebastian;

His body is dragged in a coffin before the usurper, Henry IV.  The corpse is twisted in the manner of those curving Christs on the crucifix by Cimabue et al.

 

Conceptual Art in Britain 1964 – 1979 (Tate Britain)

keith arnatt

I was determined to go round this without spending hours reading.  Consequently, I was round it in about fifteen minutes; there’s not much to look at apart from words.

A pyramid of oranges by Roeloff Louw from which you are supposed to help yourself (I presume they replace them);

oranges

A photo sequence of Keith Arnatt eating his own words (above);

A photo sequence of KA gradually disappearing into a hole in the ground;

Bruce McLean (in a photo sequence), performing contortions in spaces between plinths;

Michael Craig – Martin‘s glass of water/oak tree;

A long rolled-up fabric “machine” in the colours of the stars and stripes by John Latham – didn’t find out what it did;

A heap of builder’s sand by Barry Flanagan;

Some vitrines with magazines in them, some about the Singing Sculpture by Gilbert and George, in which they painted themselves gold – very influential maybe, given the resemblance to the living sculptures outside the National Gallery.

The rest was writing, including much work by Art & Language – strong on the latter, not much of the former.  Some quite turgid Marxism on one wall – turned out to be Trotsky.  I don’t scorn conceptual work, I should say; I just don’t see it as useful for me to speculate on the concepts which may or may not be involved; probably get them wrong, anyway.

Two of mine, to finish:

St.George

St.George Death Stroke (WIP from last blog)

And my attempt at a still life, in homage to Gauguin:

still life

Still Life with Pomegranate 

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30.04.16

 

 

 

 

Blackpaint 487 – Diebens and Rubenkorn at the RA and Willem and Frank too

March 23, 2015

Richard Diebenkorn at the RA

Died and gone to heaven – well, very impressed anyway.  I think he’s my number 4, after Joan Mitchell, de Kooning and Peter Lanyon.  Some say he’s too easy; nice landscape-y images, pleasing, limpid palette… it’s a matter of taste, of course, but I went round and round, marvelling at one picture after another, and I’ll be going again, for sure.  Anyway, these are my highlights:

diebenkorn berkeley 57

Berkeley#57 

The busiest canvas, I think; can’t stop turning to look at it wherever you are in the gallery.  It all works better than in the photo above – colours are much richer.

 

diebenkorn seated woman

 

Seated Woman (on board) 

There’s something delectable about his drawings and paintings of women – they are sometimes rough, pentimenti showing, with a sort of intentional “clumsiness” as Jane Livingstone suggests in her book.  he likes striped tops and skirts (and no clothes at all, too).

diebenkorn day at the race

 

A Day at the Race 

The split screen effect; you can see it too, in “Interior View of Buildings”, in which the strip of buildings itself acts as a sort of divider.  It’s the Urbana series in which he uses this effect, I believe.  Like window frames sometimes.

The Cigar Box Tops

Tiny, perfect versions of the huge ones.

Still lifes

I love the knife in a glass – that putty colour.  And the Ashtray and Doors; looks to me like he’s painted over an old canvas, or board – the striations.

The figures

I’ve talked about the women – drinking coffee, reading the newspaper – there are a few men around, including one little one (picture, that is) that looks like Picasso – him, not one of his paintings.  They remind me a lot of David Park, a Bay Area painter.

diebenkorn ocean park 79

 

Ocean Park #79 

The best, I think, of the Ocean Park series – like your in an ornate, slightly shabby indoor swimming pool, with the light pouring through a huge skylight.  Takes me back to Deep End again (the Skolimowski film with Jane Asher that I’ve been watching in 30 minute chunks, because the script and acting are so clunky).

If I could, I would put in every picture in this exhibition.

Rubens and his Legacy (RA)

This got a blistering review in the Guardian from Jonathan Jones. I think; not enough big paintings, he said; too many sketches, too much padding, loads of pictures by artists who aren’t Rubens, and in which the “legacy” is spurious.  There’s a lot in what he says, but it’s still a great exhibition, in the sense of containing loads of pictures that are fantastic to look at.

 

rubens lion hunt

 Tiger, Lion and Leopard Hunt

This is the poster boy of the exhibition and deservedly so – just look at it; it’s all happening, just as it would have happened in real life!  One bloke is forcing open a lion’s jaws with his hands, while a tiger’s getting stuck into green man’s shoulder; and the other tiger has cubs in her mouth…  Enough sarcasm, it’s a staggering composition and swirl of colours.  I saw it at the top of the escalator at Tooting Bec tube station (poster, not the original) when I didn’t have my glasses on, and it looks fantastic as an abstract.

There are several other lion hunts by other greats, notably Rembrandt and a great lion hunt sketch by Rubens himself – they couldn’t have known those lion hunt reliefs from Nineveh, was it, or Nimrud…

Other Rubens highlights are:

rubens charles 1 with guard

 

James I uniting England and Scotland 

This sketch, from Birmingham Art Gallery, I’ve included because of the guard’s incredibly muscular left leg, not really well reproduced here, but massively impressive in the flesh, so to speak… reminds me of the left leg of the grey horse in the previous picture.  I like the angle of view in these ceiling sketches.

The Abdication of Persephone

Luminous little painting, fabulous but couldn’t find a repro…

Among the other painters represented, it’s worth mentioning the Kokoschka cartoon, in which Queen Victoria sits astride a shark, feeding it seamen (I quote the caption on the wall).  Presumably its based on a Rubens painting.  There’s a great Bocklin, “Battle on the Bridge”, shades of those Degas boys riding bareback in that famous picture.  Also works by Picasso, Reynolds, Lawrence, Cezanne, Delacroix, Gericault – and in a related exhibition curated by Jenny Savile, three de Koonings, including a juicy one from 1977, in which the paint swipes are so thick that the paint has stretched and puckered into tiny holes as it dried.  There’s also one of those red/orange/pink panel size women from 1971, and a collage from earlier.  AND two colourful Auerbach portraits, brilliant obviously, and a fabulous Bacon nude, George Dyer, by the look of it.  Savile herself has a big monochrome painting,  a bit like a Kiefer, and Cicely Brown has a DK – ish picture that’s not up to her best.  I’d pay to go and see this sub-exhibition alone.

The Fall of the Obese

There is a whole room full of Falls and in Rubens’ case, the sinners going to damnation all seem to be overweight.  But then of course, so do most humans in Rubens’ works, particularly the women; I mention the wife of Captain Pugwash again, in this connection…

Anyway, too much to say for one blog, so continued next week, along with all three new exhibitions at Tate Britain.

These are the counter rhythms2

These are the Counter Rhythms (WIP)

Blackpaint

22.03.15

 

 

Blackpaint 475 – Blackpaint’s Best and Worst Exhibitions of 2014

December 29, 2014

My Ten Best Exhibitions of 2014

I know, I’m sorry, but lists are really easy and I already have all the pictures ready.

Nicolas de Stael, le Havre

Mostly landscapes and sea views, with a few fantastic abstracts, from the latter part of his career.

de Stael big red

Martial Raysse, Pompidou Centre

I’d never heard of him, but he’s France’s most expensive living painter (not that that means he’s good – but he is).  Comparable, I think, to Richard Hamilton as an ideas man.

raysse1

Malevich, Tate Modern

Stupendous exhibition, both in the nature of the work on show and its historical interest and importance.  How did he manage to avoid being shot?  I think he probably died of natural causes just in time…

Malevich,-The-Woodcutter,-1912_original

Georges Braque, Guggenheim Bilba0

To be truthful, I’d thought of him as Picasso’s more boring collaborator in Cubism, so I was excited to see the beautiful works on dark backgrounds here.

braque red tablecloth

Cezanne and the Modern, Ashmolean 

Cezanne, Manet, VG, Degas and the revelation of those Soutine Expressionist townscapes and portraits.  Soutine was a favourite of De Kooning, so he’s good enough for me…

soutine1

Soutine

Richard Deacon, Tate Britain

Twisting, tortured, beautiful shapes in twisted, tortured materials.  And, mostly, huge…

deacon1

Veronese, National Gallery

Huge compositions, luscious colours, dramatic gestures, fabulous flesh – and some crap, insipid  Jesuses to offset the brilliance…

veronese1

Kenneth Clark Collection, Tate B

Pretty good stuff, Ken, even though you ploughed a particular furrow and had a “firm” (distorting?) hold on British modern art.  I loved the Pasmores, Sutherlands, Moores, Trevor Bell…

sutherland clark1

 

Graham Sutherland

Egon Schiele, Courtauld

Once seen never forgotten, these scrawny, distorted, perfectly drawn figures and faces.  How would he have developed, had he lived a longer life?

schiele2

Frankenthaler/ Turner, Margate

Bit tenuous, the link between the two; basically, hers look like landscapes and they both do washes – but some beautiful works from both.  Knew the Turners but not the Helens…

frank 2 cromagnon

 

Also great, but not quite…

Matisse Cut-Outs – I loved them, but it needed a few paintings to beef it up.

Silent Partners, Fitzwilliam, Cambridge – the mannikins exhibition; some beautiful pictures, notably Millais’ Black Brunswicker..

millais the black brunswicker

Richard Hamilton. Tate Britain – bursting with ideas, but cold, somehow..

Modern Art and St. Ives, International Exchanges 1915 – 65; Tate St.Ives – this one full of  brilliant art, but I knew most of them so it didn’t make the top ten.  Actually now I come to think, this was my real number two after de Stael.

winifred nicholson

 

 

Winifred Nicholson

And the Turner Prize was pretty good this year, even though it was nearly all video and the wrong one won.

So, having done the best, here’s My Worst Exhibitions of 2014:

Franz Widerberg, at the Kings Place.  Alien spacemen in horrible colours.

Richard Tuttle at the Whitechapel – mostly ticky-tacky.

Gerhard Richter at the Goodman Gallery – great artist, playing about.

Making Colour, National Gallery – not as exciting as it could have been.

Ruin Lust, Tate Britain – ditto.

OK, that’s enough; maybe I’ll do films and books tomorrow.  If not, Happy New Year from all at blackpaint.wordpress.com.  Bye!

watercolour1

watercolour2

 Life Drawings

Blackpaint

29.12.14

 

 

Blackpaint 447 – Ken Clark’s pictures, Theory and Non-Theory, Capitalism, Fellini and Orwell

May 23, 2014

Kenneth Clark Collection at Tate Britain 

This is an astonishing exhibition; four and a bit big rooms of great art, most of it actually owned by Clark.  Some of the treasures on show listed or shown below:

pasmore clark 1

Victor Pasmore

A couple of portraits and nudes by Pasmore that are new to me, along with the more familiar river side pictures like Hammersmith and “Evening Star” in which, unlike the Turner of the same name I saw the other week at Margate, the star in question is readily visible.  The rear view nude on the bed (which I can’t find a picture of) looks like a fore-runner of Uglow.

sutherland clark1

Graham Sutherland, Sun rising between two Hills

A number of great Sutherlands, landscapes, foundries, Blitz damage, portraits (of Clark himself); also Pipers on similar themes, and Paul Nash – especially his magisterial “Battle of Britain” with it’s vapour trails making a great, plant-like shape in the sky above the Thames and the coast.

bell clark1

Graham Bell, Brunswick Square, 

A new one on me – love that violet blue.

Just too much to list really – Cezanne drawings. Coptic tapestry figures from the 5th – 7th century AD, a Lippo Lippi Moses striking the rock, a couple of Nolans, one horrible the other fantastic, a couple of great Seurats, a Samuel Palmer, Cornfield by Moonlight and Evening Star (again), Henry Moore in the shelters and the mines, oh, a couple of Leonardo drawings…  It’s amazing that one man could have amassed all this in the 20th century.

Theory

I attended a symposium at UCL a couple of weeks ago, on “Real Abstraction”.  A series of distinguished academics, who discussed matters like materiality in very abstruse terms, assuming familiarity with the terms on the part of the audience (many of whom looked as if they were up to speed on the topic).  All the speakers, I think, mentioned Adorno; Capital also made an appearance in every presentation.  It was soon clear to me that the real subject was how abstraction in art could be accommodated by Marxist theory of the Frankfurt school – for the first speaker anyway.  We listened to six of the speakers and none of them made any attempt to define what “Real Abstraction” was. We listened quietly, applauded politely and visited Habitat in the lunch hour, buying a nice glass flask for £8.00.

More Theory

My painting has always taken account of “theory” – Foucault, Barthes, Derrida, Baudrillard, Deleuze – I suppose it’s obvious from the content.  At my book group the other day, I discovered from one of the academics that there are “theory” and “non-theory” people in the universities; the latter would be traditionalists, liberals or conservatives, using analytical processes not determined (although perhaps informed) by the writings of the above and their followers.  Glad I’m not one – now I can add Adorno to the list too.

Orwell, Eileen and 1984

Perhaps the ultimate non-theory person; I was interested to read in the great Crick biography that Orwell’s wife Eileen worked for the Ministry of Food during the war, persuading the people to eat whatever vegetables were currently plentiful – one month, she might be stressing the health benefits of potatoes; the following month, there may be a shortage, and she would switch to pointing out how fattening potatoes were.  Crick suggests plausibly this filtered into Nineteen Eighty-Four.

Fellini, The Ship Sails on

Watched this again and was freshly impressed by the performance of Freddie Jones  as the reporter-narrator, who ends up in the rowing boat with the rhino (you have to get the DVD and watch it, too complicated to explain) and Barbara Jeffords as the suppressed operatic diva.  Fantastic.

 

??????????

For Derrida

Blackpaint

23.05.14

Blackpaint 443 – Deacon, Cezanne, Fellini and Bragg

April 25, 2014

Richard Deacon at Tate Britain – until Sunday!

I was unexcited about the prospect of visiting this exhibition, since painting is more my thing than sculpture usually; that’s why it took me so long to get around to it.  I was surprised – it’s great.  Wood, metal, cement. sometimes all three together – wooden strips looping along the floor and rearing up like lassos; an oblong metal “shell”, open at both ends, with a flat metal lip overlapping and then blending with the edge of the orifice.  It just lies there on the floor, like a giant grey metal cream horn.

deacon1

A splintered and tortured steamed oak and metal structure, writhing all over the floor – how does he twist the wood like that?  I presume it’s made possible by the steaming process.

deacon2

A black “hogan” shaped thing, or maybe giant seed case called “Struck Dumb”, rather spoilt in my view by a red bow tie shape at one end;  “After”, a huge, “wickerwork” snake, curling across the gallery, stiffened by a wide silver metal band running from end to end.  A group of small, organic shapes, sculpted in various materials, like a group of sea creatures washed up by the tide.  And terrific, looping, diagramatic drawings with erasures and fuzzed lines in blue ink.

deacon 3

Great sculptures and great engineering.  It finishes this Sunday, so go this weekend.

Ruin Lust, Tate B

I thought this stretched the definition of “ruin” a bit far; there is a series of photographs by Gerard Byrne, for instance, which show hangovers or survivals of 60s design in present-day architecture and society – great photos, interesting idea, but not really “ruin”.  Unlike Waldemar Januszczak, however, I don’t really care if the concept is stretched though, as long as there’s some good art to look at in the exhibition.  And there is some; several paintings and prints of Llanthony Abbey to kick off.  I know it well and none of these look much like it (not that it matters).   The usual suspects are here; Turner, Constable, Wilson Steer.  There’s a mildly Apocalyptic John Martin, of the Pompeii eruption, which looks to me as if it’s happening in a vast underground chamber – my partner tells me he did some designs for sewers during the cholera epidemics, so maybe that influenced him. They are in Jeremy Deller’s exhibition in Nottingham, I understand.  Photos of stupendous German bunkers and gun emplacements on the Atlantic coast, by the Wilson sisters;  A couple of familiar surrealistic pictures by Paul Nash; a great Sutherland and a Piper church.

piper 1

I thought Ian Hislop’s description of Piper as “a committed Modernist, in love with the Olden Days” (The Olden Days, BBC2) was spot on.  Some war photographs from Rachel Whiteread and a Patrick Caulfield, which displays the contrast between his clean, radiantly coloured, graphic style and the ruinous subject matter.  Not one of the great exhibitions, but a good 30 minute job. if you are a Tate member and don’t have to fork out specially.

Cezanne and the Modern , Oxford Ashmolean Museum

This is just packed out with interesting things, as is the permanent collection at the museum ( I’ll write about that in next blog, along with the Matisse cut-outs).

The Cezannes are mostly watercolours; the best of these are one of a rockface or quarry, almost like an early Hamilton car fender drawing from a distance; and one called “Undergrowth”, I think, like a pen and ink and wash drawing.  Then, there is a single, large, unfinished oil painting called “Route to le Tholonet”, which has beautiful, subtle blue, brown and green hillsides behind a couple of tree trunks and a sketchy cottage – it’s oil, but it looks like watercolour, especially in the exhibition guide (good for £5).  Also pears in a bowl, a skull and a shimmering bottle still life.  Great St.Victoire, next door with the others.

Others: Great Modiglianis, one of Cocteau, pink cheeks, spidery body and features, wrists and chin and a male face, a Russian I think, with a crooked, “stuck on” nose;

A striking Degas nude, “After the bath, woman drying herself” – her bum is right in your face as you enter the gallery; she appears to be diving forwards, her arm and shoulder outlined in red, head disappearing behind divan, or whatever.  Her head’s in the wrong place, it seems to me, too far to the right…;

degas ashmolean

A Van Gogh, “the Tarrascon Stage”, the paint badged on thickly in sticky-looking squares;

A fabulous Manet, “Young Woman in a Round Hat” – on the wall above is a quotation from Manet; “There are no lines in Nature…” and yet, round the woman’s left shoulder and arm, a very visible black line.  Great painting though.

manet round hat

 

Soutine – these are a revelation; he’s much more than the sides of beef.  A thick red-lipped, crop-headed self portrait; A beautiful, sad-eyed portrait of an unknown woman in a black dress, with a dark blue background;  an awful choirboy and an awful hanging turkey BUT – three expressionist paintings of the town of Ceret, that look a little like Auerbach building sites, but with curving lines.  There’s a church spire from below looking up, recalling Delaunay’s Eiffel Tower.  Another, with two paths meeting to form a triangle, like the legs of that Boccione statuette… all done in the late 20s.

soutine 2

Fellini, “81/2”

Stunning opening and closing sequences – in the opening, Mastroianni (Fellini) floats high above, attached by the ankle to a line and to a car (it’s a dream sequence) – and the closing, the actors take part in a Dance of Fools, hand in hand, to the music of a clown band – shades of “The Seventh Seal”.

The Olden Days (BBC2)

I mention this series again, NOT because my son Nicky was a researcher on it (although he was), but because I was struck by the startling resemblance of Billy Bragg to the photograph portrait of the older William Morris…

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Heaven Only Knows (final version)

Blackpaint

25.04.14

Blackpaint 371 – Cezanne’s Skull and the Gamekeeper’s Moustache

December 13, 2012

Bloomberg New Contemporaries

I know I did this ICA exhibition last time, but didn’t give any names of the artists – going to put that right now.  The “strolling” video (glamorous Japanese(?) women strolling in a mannered way around gardens and statuary) is by Tony Law.  The squares with diagonal cross inside, black on white canvas – the ones a bit like Bram van Velde – are by Jack Brindley.  He also has a sculpture made of a bent metal rod, like a very thick aerial; doesn’t sound much, but it’s good, I think.  The blurry paintings on unbleached linen are by Emanuel Rohss – one of them looks like a sinister head and shoulders figure now, maybe a comic superhero covered in leaves….

Jennifer Bailey did the acid green, triangular, Varda Caivano – like paintings, and Suki Seokycong Kang did the loopy, Twombly-Wool grey and pink painting.  Finally, Nicole Morris did the video in which a woman model tries out poses against a background of blue partitions.

A couple of exhibits I didn’t mention last time:  there is a video on a TV showing a series of clips, repeated a defined number of times each.  A young man in a swimming pool jumps onto the back of another, while someone’s midriff passes the camera; a host introduces a singer on stage; a woman sings a song from “Evita”; a parrot squawks; all these repeated a number of times.  I think the point is that repetition creates integrity, or “establishment” in some way.  The repetition acts as a sort of frame, starting and cutting off the sequence at given points and establishing a sort of completeness.  Think of repetition in music, the idea of a “riff” in jazz.  Yes, it might drive you mad of course – but I find the idea interesting.  The video is the work of Piotr Krzymowsky.  Finally, there is a huge linen, covered by a spidery dark blue and burnt orange expressionist pattern by Max Ruf.

National Gallery

Spent two hours there the other day.  I think I saw everything – five things stuck with me in particular: Samson’s huge left shoulder and arm in Ruben’s painting and that dark crimson robe; the executioner’s snappy white and blue(?) striped tights in the Master of Kappenburg’s painting; the fantastic Degas paintings in the first of the Impressionist rooms, the black outlining of the hands – is it good or bad, I can’t decide; the Cezanne self -portrait, in which the colours on the bald skull of the painter  echo those on the rocks of the landscape by the same painter, a few feet away; and that lovely wet Paris street at night by Pisarro.  And the Titians and Raphaels and Tintorettos… I still don’t think the Manchester Madonna and the other unfinished one look much like Michelangelos, however.

La Regle du Jeu

Started watching this creaky film out of sense of duty – often cited as one of the greatest ever – and after a few minutes, totally hooked.  The shooting party scenes I only realised were a metaphor for the spread of Fascism when I watched the commentary, I’m sorry to say.  What it reminded me of , more than anything, was “L’Age d’Or”.  the country house setting, the madcap entertainments, or course, but above all, Schumacher the gamekeeper, with the moustache and glaring eye.  When I looked it up – yes, same guy, who played “the Man” in L’Age d’Or nine years earlier.

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Saint’s Head, Man’s Back

Blackpaint

13th December 2012

Blackpaint 365 – Heroic Mannerism in the Ironic Park

November 2, 2012

Harryhausen

I’ve been referring to the great film modeller as Harry Harryhausen; I now find, sadly from his obit., that it was RAY Harryhausen.  Sorry Ray – apposite really, as I’ve been in Budapest for a few days, and visited..

Memento Park

This is where they put a number of the Communist – era socialist realist and- what to call them? heroic mannerist?- statues to pose and beckon to each other across the grass and gravel paths.  Amongst these monstrosities is a memorial to the Hungarian International Brigade that fought with the Republicans in Spain; the unfortunate volunteers resemble, to me, the inhabitants of that island of Goonies that were in the old Popeye cartoon (apologies to my younger reader).  Some of these statues remind me of Ray Harryhausen’s work.

I was quite impressed that, so relatively soon after the end of communist rule, Hungarians can treat these relics with the irony shown here.

Budapest Fine Art Museum, Heroes Square

A Cezanne exhibition, Cezanne and the Past, in the museum at the moment; many of his drawings of Old Masters, and some paintings which were surprisingly bad.  BUT – there was Madame Cezanne with her striped, picket-fence skirt (best picture), Madame C. in Blue, with her face almost a Modigliani (second best) – and “Basket of Apples” and “Kitchen Table”; fabulous fruit and tablecloths, tilting to the spectator.  In both, the table fore-edges are out of line, as if there were two small tables in each picture, the divide hidden by the snowy tablecloths.  My partner insists that this is part of the intentional (and revolutionary) distortion – I can’t see it, I think he just couldn’t be bothered to re-jig it.

In the permanent exhibition, which we had to shoot through at speed, I noted the following:

Sassetta, St. Thomas Aquinas in Prayer – beautiful, Duccio-like green “framing” – my favourite picture.

Maso di Banco; obviously “influenced” by Giotto – or maybe the other way round? No – one of Giotto’s best pupils.

Lorenzo Monaco – a cut-out crucifixion; never seen anything like it;

Bosch – “The Bacchus Singers”; one with a finger down his throat, puking on the floor behind the oblivious others;

Bosch again – a very damaged copy of a section of “Garden of Earthly Delights”;

Lucas Cranach – Salome with John B’s head, smirking at the spectator, really pleased with herself; JB looking less so;

Pieter Brueghel – John the Baptist (in happier days) sermon; the one with the woman in the Japanese hat.

Hans Holbein the Elder – “the Dormition of the Virgin”, in a style so much more archaic than the realist portraits of his genius son (although H the Younger’s biblical scenes were not so different);

A couple of brilliant Bonnards – look at them from across the room to see them as abstracts, they work brilliantly.

And lots more, will finish next blog.

Adrian Heath

Thought he was a minor painter, sort of link between London and St.Ives; but I’ve just got the new Lund Humphries book by Jane Rye – he was staggeringly good.  There are obvious similarities in places to Poliakoff, Terry Frost (a friend and also ex -POW) and Roger Hilton; but I think they are richer and more interesting than any of them.  Rye is right when she talks about the sense of calmness, balance, and chaos breaking through.  they are just beautiful and I can’t over-praise them.

Andriassy

Blackpaint

2/11/12

Blackpaint 299

October 17, 2011

Vertov, Man with a Movie Camera

Made in 1929 in Odessa, it contains all the fetishes of modernism – machines, steam, trains, trams, open saloon cars, fire engines – and a sort of tour of daily life; sport and leisure (high jumpers, hurdlers, swimmers, organised exercise,vodka and beer bars, cinema, circus), work (happy workers on assembly lines, packaging cigarettes at high speed), birth and death (what must be the first live birth – you actually see the baby emerging from a shot directly pointed at the mother’s vagina and at the same level), accidents, street life….

But the machines – sliding metal, spraying oil, shafting, rolling, clanking (I assume; silent film) punching, squirting steam.

Placards and statues of Lenin and Marx pop up, but none of Stalin – 1929 too early.  One or two happy tramps and bench sleepers, but mostly well-fed, well-dressed, happy workers, full shops, teeming streets, smiles, laughter….   The technical tricks – slomo, speedup, Dutch leans, split-screen, tracking shots; Vertov’s group were anti – fiction in film, pro-documentary.  The credits announce a film without narrative, but of course, the modernist bent creates its own narrative within the big one of birth, life, death Soviet – style.

Greatest Artists Ever

So the Guardian announced last week, as the headline to a choice of, not artists but  pictures, selected  by various luminaries; Amanda Levete, an architect, chose a Zurbaran still life. showing lemons, a jug, and a cup and plate, looming out of the darkness.  A surprise to me, after his saints and cowled monks.

Charles Saumarez – Smith and Isaac Julien, while making radically different choices (CSS picked “paintings of the Italian Renaissance”, which is cheating, Julien picked Cindy Sherman), both cited transcendance of time and genre as their main criterion.

And Blackpaint’s choice, the reader asks?  Changes from week to week, of course, but I think de Kooning’s “Palisades” – or maybe Lanyon’s “Headwind”, that I’ve just come across…

Headwind, Peter Lanyon

Yes, I know, Lanyon v. de Kooning.. but it’s magnificent, isn’t it?

Cezanne again

“Cezanne’s aim in segregating the sexes in the Bathers series was to exclude any … element of the transient, sexual or erotic”, says Ulrike Becks-Malorney in the Taschen.  She writes that “his strong feeling of shame, his sexual inhibitions and fears, and his shyness about showing naked men and women together in what he regarded as trivial, sensual poses.”

This is puzzling to me, since in the previous sentence, she refers to the pictures of 1860’s and 70’s in which he “used the confrontation between the sexes in a provocative way.”  Presumably, she is referring to “the Orgy”, 1864 – 8 (or circa 1870, as Catherine Dean has it, in the Phaidon book on Cezanne), “the Temptation of St. Anthony”, 1870 and “A Modern Olympia” 1873 – 75.  Check them out; hard to reconcile with sense of shame or sexual inhibition.

Also, there is this odd sentence, referring to a figure with arms behind his head in a male Bathers of 1900: “It is a gesture of opening oneself up and offering oneself – in this particular case, it is presenting an erection to the seated figure in the bottom left-hand corner”.  And, yes, she’s right, for sure.  what a strange old bugger Cezanne must have been.

Painters who took ages, and did drafts, even though it looks as if they knocked their pictures out in minutes…

Franz Kline.  This sounds critical, but I don’t mean it to be – I find some of his work staggering.  Just found some of his coloured ones, with the reds and greens – fantastic.  Google him and see.

Next time, Richter and Tacita Dean at Tate Modern.

Blackpaint

17.10.11