Posts Tagged ‘Chagall’

Blackpaint 645 – Bellany and Davie; Skates, Bats, Donkeys and Diamonds

May 22, 2019

John Bellany and Alan Davie,  “Cradle of Magic”, Newport Street Gallery until 2nd June

A special, supplementary blog about one show, because it’s soon to close.  This brilliant free exhibition, all works owned by Damien Hirst, has been on since February, but somehow I’ve managed to miss it up to now – and there’s only ten or so days left; so if you possibly can, you need to get to Vauxhall Gardens and see this.

Both Scotsmen, Bellany died in 2013, Davie in 2014 at 94.  Bellany was figurative, Davie abstract – yet their paintings somehow go together, bounce off each other.  Maybe it’s colour, maybe brushwork (sometimes);  don’t know.  I’ve mixed them up, as they are mixed in the gallery, although not in the same order.

Bellany’s paintings, which are enigmatic, I think it’s fair to say, bring to my mind a range of painters; Ensor, perhaps, is foremost.  Skulls, masks, hanged men, groups of solemn, dark-clad men staring out at the viewer, the disconsolate skate/ray fish in the picture below; a general sort of cartoonish quality.  Both Ensor and Bellany lived in coastal towns; Ensor in Ostend, Bellany in the fishing village of Port Seton, near Edinburgh. Others: Max Beckmann, Soutine (another skate man), Arthur Boyd (his “Scapegoat” has the donkey – AND a skate fish, in the Australian desert) and Kitaj somehow, in the drawing and breadth of subject matter.

 

Bellany – Title? Date?

The skate king on his throne.  What are they, birds or bats?  Beckmann here, I think, and in Rose of Sharon below.

 

Davie – Bath Darling, 1956

Davie was a jazz musician and a pilot as well as a painter – a youtube fragment on him (Allan Paints a Picture) shows him at the piano – I think it’s “Getting Sentimental Over You” but the chords are rather free – reciting poetry at the same time, and reminding me a bit of Ron Geesin.  Unlike Geesin, he looks pretty tough as a young man, muscular and long-bearded.  He was feted in the states by the likes of Pollock, Kline and the other AbExes, and the painting below clearly shows the influence of Pollock and maybe de Kooning.  He combined the freedom of gesture (the black sweeps in the picture below, the drips and spatters above) with rich colour and a repertoire of recurring symbols (wheels, snakes, diamonds, images taken from rock pictures by indigenous people in St. Lucia, where he lived for 10 years).

Davie – Red Parrot Jay, 1960

 

Bellany – Eyemouth 1985

The look of love or hunger from the giant seagull?

 

Bellany – Rose of Sharon, 1973

The skate again.  A hint of Mexican influence here?

 

Davie – Romance for Moon and Stars, 1964

 

Davie – Trio for Bones, 1960

 

Davie – A Diamond Romance, 1964

In all three of these Davie pictures, there is the combination of rich colour, symbol and gesture – the rough and smooth elements that sometimes suggest Bacon’s work, without the figures of course, but a potent combination.  In more recent paintings (not represented here) the symbols remain but the rough gesturalism has gone – and the paintings are poorer for it, in my view.

 

Bellany – The Journey, 1989

Very reminiscent of the Boyd painting I mentioned earlier; also a touch of Kitaj in the execution.

A rather solemn portrait from (but not of) me to finish:

Man of Sorrows

Blackpaint

22.05.19

 

 

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Blackpaint 640 – Bill Viola, Michelangelo, Ken Kiff and Fellini – the sublime and…

March 5, 2019

Bill Viola and Michelangelo, RA

No photos allowed, so can only comment on this.  The Michelangelo drawings, Archers Shooting at a Herm, notably, are as wonderful as one might expect and would constitute a great exhibition alone (as I think several have, a few years back at the Courtauld – I’m sure Tityas was there and Phaeton). It seems to me an enormous stroke of hubris to display them with Viola’s works, as if there were something fundamental that they had in common.  As it is, it strikes me as two separate exhibitions in one space.

As for Viola’s videos and installations, there’s no doubt that they are striking – who wouldn’t pause and watch transfixed as a baby emerges from the mother, who squats facing the camera?  I’ve been there (childbirth) three times, but I was always at the other end so the view was obscured.   At the other end of this triptych, Viola’s mother is dying – one might think filming to be an intrusion at such a time, but I suppose it’s easier than getting a stranger or his/her family to consent…  Can’t remember what’s in between; life, presumably.

My favourite of the Viola’s is the one with the diving figure that never arrives at the surface of the pool.  Reflected in the water can be seen the upside down images of poolside people walking – but they are not there.  The most annoying film is that of the two old people examining their naked. scrawny bodies with pencil torches – saw this in Bilbao a while ago and it annoyed me there too.

Here’s a Viola from Bilbao – not in this exhibition, but it will give you an idea…

 

Ken Kiff, Sainsbury Centre, UEA Norwich, until 23rd April 2019

This is without question the strangest exhibition I’ve seen for a very long time.  Kiff, who died in 2001, started a sequence of paintings in 1971 that eventually ran to around two hundred.  He called it – The Sequence.  The catalogue refers to Bosch, Klee, Chagall and Samuel Palmer as possible influences, or “fellow travellers” at least, and the Jungian influences are hard to miss; or so the book tells me.  Ovid, Yeats and Rilke also get a mention.  He was in psychoanalysis from 1959 onwards and this also informs the work, to say the least.

No title given in book

 

Love and shadow – sorry about the reflection; she’s holding his leg, by the way, not a stick

 

Crouching Man (1)

 

Dignified man in a respectable London suburb, passed by a girl

Talking with a psychoanalyst; night sky – the analyst is the black seated figure; the pointing finger is mine

The poet; Mayakovsky – For what its worth, Kiff is wrong – Mayakovsky shot himself in the chest, not the head (photograph in David King’s brilliant book, “Red Star over Russia”).

 

(Woman with) protruding tongue – reflection again

The works are all small (the largest is 113×76 cm) and are in acrylic on paper, gummed to board.  The book claims him as, for a time, a very influential figure in British art.  I can’t see any obvious evidence of his influence, however; he seems a complete one-off to me.

City of Women (Fellini, 1980)

Watched the DVD of this fevered and feverish film, starring Anna Prucnal and “Fellini’s favourite alter ego”, Marcello Mastroianni as Snaporaz,  and was deeply moved.  In the age of #MeToo, it seems to me that Fellini’s film still has much of relevance to tell us.

Next time, Don McCullin, Franz West and Dorothea Tanning.

 

Free Radicals

Blackpaint

05 March  19

Blackpaint 512 – Walker Gallery, Pasolini, Andrei and two Enricos

September 20, 2015

Walker Art Gallery, Liverpool

Excellent collections, notably of previous John Moores winners; the Roger Hilton is still the best for my money, but then I’m a fleabitten retro.

hilton moores

 

Other treasures, ancient and modern, below:

Gillian Ayres, Aeolus

gillian ayres aeolus

Fantastic; texture, colour, control – but not too much…

Allen Jones, Hermaphrodite

allen jones hermaphrodite

This Jones reminded me of the Chagall below, which is in the Pompidou Centre collection.  Not a serious comparison, just the panel shape and the shape of the images, somehow…

 

chagall pomp

 

Attributed to Nicholas Hilliard, Elizabeth I

hilliard

Hilliard is known as a miniaturist, of course, but this is full size.  It’s still has that jewel-like intensity of the miniatures.

 

roscoe

These “two pictures” in the Roscoe Collection were bought separately but were part of the same altarpiece (see pattern on dress).

Nostalgia, Tarkovsky

domiziana giordano

Poor Eugenia (Domiziana Giordano, above); she’s desperate to sleep with Andrei, the Russian poet she is translating for, but he, understandably, is more interested in the mentally ill man who is trying to save the world by walking through the water of a spa baths with a lighted candle.  The ending is still harrowing, as Domenico (the mad man) sets fire to himself and crawls, screaming, in flames, through the Roman square.  The very last scene has the poet in a Russian(?) landscape with horses, his family and that of Domenico’s looking on in silence – the whole landscape enclosed by the cloistering walls of a gigantic abbey.  Stunning, but what does it mean? Something mystical, probably, but what does it matter?

Pasolini, Abel Ferrara 

Not really a biopic, this is concerned with the period leading up to Pasolini’s murder in a seaside carpark in 1975, beaten and run over with his own car – opportunistic, homophobic or political (inevitable conspiracy theories).  It should be said, though of no interest to me, that there’s some spectacular close-up oral sex (male on rent boy) and more sex in a fantasy sequence from the film that Pasolini never got made; beautiful lesbians and gays copulating in a one-night-only festival to “propagate the species”; spectacular sex, spectacular fireworks.

William Dafoe is made for the part and brings his usual intensity (today’s word) to the role – but not much is made of the director’s  rather interesting politics.  I understand that Pasolini, a Marxist, was unusual – unique? – among European left intellectuals in NOT supporting the student movement in 1968; he saw the students as bourgeois and the police fighting them as members of the working class.  There is some socio-political chat, not terribly clear , and some spectacular images, notably of the Fascist building and statuary in Rome, the Palazzo della Civilta Italiana.

fascist palace

Midnight Cowboy, John Schlesinger, 1969

Bought the DVD for relief from Tarkovsky, put it on late Friday night and forced myself to turn it off at 2.00am.  Then hadto start it again last night and watch it straight through.  Voigt and Dustin Hoffman are brilliant of course, and Sylvia Miles and Brenda Vaccaro – I love the switching from colour to sepia –  although not new, maybe it was in Hollywood.  Voigt’s buckskin jacket getting greasier as he walks the mean streets, Enrico’s filthy apartment. the sweat on his feverish face as he lights yet another butt.  Then, just for a second, I thought I saw Bob Odenkirk’s  Saul in Hoffman.  I don’t know, really.

midnight Cowboy

Caruso

The other Enrico.  I’ve got a collection of his singles on cassette – most of them recorded over 100 years ago!  Fantastic, creaky orchestras, crackly, dramatic delivery, sobbing, soaring, sometimes surprisingly sweet – “Vesti la Giubba”,  “E lucevan le stelle”, Handel’s Largo. Brings tears to the eyes, still.

Grongar Hill

I love these lines from Dyer’s “Grongar Hill” ; similar sentiment to Shelley’s “Ozymandias”:

“A little Rule, little Sway,

A Sun-beam in a Winter’s day

Is all the Proud and Mighty have,

Between the Cradle and the Grave.”

RIP Brian.

sidelined

Work Still in Progress

Blackpaint

20.09.15

 

 

 

Blackpaint 351 – Ena, Betty and the Dirty Old Men

July 20, 2012

Late to publish again – sorry.

John Singer Sargent

I feel ambivalent about this painter – sometimes, I am staggered by how good he is (Mrs. Agnew, Ena and Betty Wertheimer) and sometimes he goes way into chocolate box territory (Mrs. Cazalet and her children – especially her children).  No-one, I think, can do shimmering silk in a few dozen loose brush strokes like him.  I suppose the chocolate boxes are an occupational hazard for a Society painter; you won’t get paid if you paint the kids ugly.

Betty and Ena

Chagall

I’m familiar with Chagall’s floating/flying fiddlers, of course, but I have to say I was surprised by the “Fantastic Horse Cart”, painted in 1949, in which a rudimentary green horse (actually it looks more like a tapir) rises into the orange sky, supporting with its front legs a blue-faced fiddler.  If this weren’t enough, the horse is harnessed to a cart, which hangs from the horse and contains two small children.  Below is a village of old wooden houses.  Not Socialist Realism, then.

Mark Wallinger

His exhibit at the National Gallery involves peering through peepholes at  naked or “scantily-clad” women, in poses relating to the Titian  Diana and Actaeon paintings.  In a recent Guardian article,  a museum spokesperson claimed they were being plagued by “dirty old men”.  I can’t believe this – in the 50s and 60s maybe, but not now, when porn is easily accessible on the internet – so I’m told.

Art fairs

Those antique road trip progs on the telly have produced a public which wants a deal on everything.  I was at Urban Art in Josephine Avenue, Brixton last weekend.  It was all “What’s your best price?” or “How much for cash?” or “You did say two hundred, right?”  On the TV, they’re selling stuff just bought from another antique shop down the road; it’s all speculation to make a quick twenty or thirty quid.  It annoys me when people want a deal for paintings I’ve done, as if I expect them to knock me down, and price them accordingly.  Different if they say “I really like that painting, but I can’t quite afford it; is there any chance you could ….”  Might be the same thing, but it feels different to me.

Satantango, Laszlo Krasznahorkai

Finished the book now, and one thing different from Bela Tarr’s magnificent film; when Irimias, Petrina and the boy arrive at the deserted chateau, they are confronted with a vision of the dead girl – in Tarr’s film, it is simply a thick white mist, and only Irimias appears to be overawed, and falls to his knees.

Larva

Blackpaint

20/07/12

Blackpaint 274

May 16, 2011

Chagall Windows

Came across these last week walking in the Kent countryside, at All Saints, Tudeley, near Tonbridge.  Not the sort of place or denomination, where you expect to see stained glass windows designed by a world famous Russian Jewish artist . There they were, in narrow windows shaped like the head and torso of a man, with one larger altar wall one, containing a Christ figure.  For the most part, they were in that clear, singing Chagall blue, one of the four blues I see plain in the mind’s eye:  Perugino, Klein International, Chagall and Titian’s Ariadne on Naxos.

What are they doing there?  Memorial to Sarah Avigdor-Goldberg, drowned in 1963 yachting accident, whose parents once lived at the manor.  The church is worth Googling, if you can’t get down (or up) to Tudeley.

Van Gogh

He got a good review from a journalist and sold a picture, famously his only sale, for 400 francs – to a relative, it’s true, not  a civiian, but a sale all the same – AND was getting praise from fellow artists, notably Gauguin – all shortly before shooting himself.

Typically, he wrote to the journalist, thanking him and sending him a picture of a cypress… but then proceeded to tell him he’d got it all wrong and should be praising Monticelli instead of himself.

His fits sound distressing – they involved swallowing paint and turps and eating dirt on occasion.

He wrote a lot about Delacroix, the “master colourist” as he called him, and his last great enthusiasm was for Puvis de Chavannes.  Like many of us, he clearly had no idea how good he was.

Bronzino and Holbein

A chance TV programme on above the other night, from which I learned that Bronzino’s real worth was as a portraitist; brilliant, stagey portraits, dramatic lighting effects, use of props, magnificent, detailed clothing – but also solid, smoothed flesh and sculpted features, imbued with character.  Not a Holbein though – where did H come from, he seems to have dropped from the sky.  His portraits are perfect, completely naturalistic, none of that tendency to all look vaguely alike, precise, quivering with life.. well, they look as if they might.  Completely modern – but better.  Fascinating, too, the disparity between Holbein’s portraits and the religious and history works; in the latter, he seems to revert to a much earlier, less naturalistic style, more in keeping with his contemporaries.

National Portrait gallery

I’ve written about the Tony Bevans and the Larry Rivers; there are two more on that first floor that deserve a mention.  They are Warhol’s Jagger, in which the thick, straight black strokes around his head make him look like a monk in a cowl – and Ruskin Spear’s Francis Bacon, transfixing the viewer with his owl’s eyes.

Ai Weiwei

Six weeks missing now, and two exhibitions in London, at the Courtauld and the Lisson Gallery.  He must be by now the world’s most famous living artist.  If it goes on, there will be that debate again about whether to exert “pressure behind the scenes” or protest openly.  I remember when the Chinese premier visited and the Met lined the route with big policemen and confiscated banners so that he wouldn’t be offended by the sight of Free Tibet protesters.  Let’s keep Ai Weiwei and all other imprisoned artists in our minds and continue to pressure our lot to pressure their lot…

Michelangelo

His “Crucifixion of St. Peter” in the Pauline Chapel of the Vatican clearly contains another self-portrait,  the old man on the right of the picture.  The Taschen refers to Peter, being hoisted upside down on his cross, as looking out at the viewer but he looks to me as if he is eyeing the ground, hoping he won’t fall off head first when the cross is raised.  One other thing – there is a vast plain behind the scene, as there is in the companion piece “The Conversion of Paul”;  despite these huge vistas, not a single tree is depicted.  I remind the reader of my major discovery, strangely ignored by the world’s press, that Michelangelo Doesn’t Do Trees (see previous Blackpaint blogs too numerous to mention).

Bela Tarr

The camera pans slowly across a darkening horizon halfway down the screen, interrupted in places by the black silhouettes of leafless trees; an accordion plays, over and over, a Hungarian folk tune which sounds very like part of Beethoven’s Fifth.  The scene changes; now, a small flight of outdoor stone steps, lit in the blackness only by light from the door at the top.  In the light, the rain squalls and buckets down…


New images next blog.

Blackpaint

16.05.11