Posts Tagged ‘Clyfford Still’

Blackpaint 575 – The Downs, the Dance, the Serpent and the Spitfire

November 11, 2016

Revisits only this week, on the exhibition front:

Paul Nash (Tate Britain) again – I noticed how Nash often places objects in close-up and often out of perspective with surrounding features (tennis ball, leaves, mushrooms, a cleaver stuck in a wood block).  This achieves a surreal effect, as it were, without anything actually “surreal” going on.  Also, how the clouds sometimes resemble flints or lumps of chalk.  Banal comments, I know; best I can do today…

Nash, Paul; Event on the Downs; Government Art Collection; http://www.artuk.org/artworks/event-on-the-downs-28930

Abstract Expressionism at the RA –  again – anything else to say?  I spent more time with Clyfford Still;  the “torn strip” effect is sometimes painted, my partner tells me – that is to say, the white bits that resemble the edges of torn posters.  Sounds rather contrived for an AbEx, it seems to me.

still-1

Ab Ex discussion – We attended a discussion on the exhibition, in which three current abstract painters took part: Selma Parlour, Lisa Denyer and Gabriel Hartley.  The most common term used was “materiality”; there was much talk about which was more important,  process or outcome (both, not surprisingly) and several artists to watch were mentioned – Tomma Abst was one, Laura Owen another.  Someone asked from the floor whether Abstract Expressionism would have happened without World War II: the artists acknowledged the importance of the European refugees,  but speculated about home-grown American traits such as the huge landscapes of the “Sublime” tendency.

Three (mostly) B&W films:

Embrace of the Serpent (Ciro Guerra, 2015) – echoes of Apocalypto, Aguirre, Wrath of God (especially in the mission scenes),  and Fitzcarraldo. The relationship between the Europeans and the native peoples occasionally brings to mind Dersu Uzala; at the end , there are scenes of drug-induced hallucination which, astonishingly, remind one of Solaris (Tarkovsky’s, that is).  Colour makes an entrance here.

serpent

 

A Canterbury Tale (1944) – weirdness of story, woodenness of acting, especially the American sergeant, who seeks to be reading or reciting his lines – he was a real US soldier, not an actor, to be fair; the sinister glue man, Colpeper  – but the light, the scenery, the history, the hawk becoming the Spitfire…  Like most Powell and Pressburger films, it seems to have a magical quality that compels you to watch, despite the feyness.  I think it must be the cinematography, by Erwin Hillier.

canterbury-1

Possibly the most uncomfortable scene in the film, in which Alison Smith (Sheila Sim, later Lady Attenborough) sits far too close to the self-righteous and sinister Colpeper, the secret glue smearer and unbeknownst to her, her attacker.  Colpeper is played by Eric Portman.

 

canterbury2

Soon to be a Spitfire…

 

The Seventh Seal (Bergman, 1957) – direct line to Corman (Masque of the Red Death), Ken Russell (medieval squalor and hysteria), Monty Python (same) – and any film which ends with dancers in a line against the horizon (Fellini’s “81/2”, Pina..)

The real hero is not Von Sydow’s Block, but his squire, Jon.  Amusing to see Block eating wild strawberries…  Death resembles Gielgud.

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Max von Sydow (the knight, Block)

 

seal-1

Dance of Death

 

gunnar-bjornstrand

Gunnar Bjornstrand (Jon)

 

Planet Earth II

Staggering sequences of course, but the constant music was driving me nuts – until I thought of the Subtitles and Mute functions.  I also find the quality of the photography unsettling – the way it’s in focus throughout the shot, not just the foreground.  I’m just old school, I guess.

Three new pictures to finish, on wood panels:

appelish

The Spheres 1

disharmony-of-the-spheres-2

Spheres 2

spheres-3

Spheres 3

Blackpaint

11/11/16

 

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Blackpaint 570 – AbExes at the RA and the Thin Man in the City

September 30, 2016

Abstract Expressionism at the RA

Fantastic, of course; the best show in London since the RA’s Diebenkorn, which was not that long ago (OK, Auerbach at Tate Britain was also great, but I think the Diebenkorn had the edge, with the three distinct styles/periods/modes, whatever you wish to call them).  Back to AbExes – I went on Saturday when it opened; queued for only 10 minutes and for once, it wasn’t throgged with immovable punters, walkie-talkies clapped to their ears, so you could see some of the paintings.. and sculptures, mustn’t forget David Smith and a few Barnett Newmans.

I’ll be going again and again, for sure, so this is nowhere near exhaustive:

  • The Guston and Mitchell paintings made Frankenthaler’s “Europa” look rather dowdy, on the far right of the wall.

guston-prague

Guston, Prague

  • The stunning Mitchell “Salut Tom”; four huge panels of white, blue and yellow, Monet of course and a little bit Cy Twombly, those panels of the seasons that were in the Tate Modern a while back.

salut-tom

  • When you look through the archway at the two small pink, green and yellow de Koonings, they look like Toulouse Lautrecs.
  • The Clyfford Stills, most of them, are great on their own but as Laura Cummings says in the Observer, putting them all in one room next to each other, they tend to drain the others’ glory.

still

 

  • This is NOT the case with the de Koonings, however, before which you can only – well, I can only stand in awe.  Sorry, hyperbole creeping in – I could do lots of things, ONE of them being to stand in awe.  A couple of fantastic Women, “Whose name was writ on water”, “Villa Borghese” with its green sweeps, the yellow and grey one with its yellow sweeps, that juicy red one, the collage with the tin tacks…  He’s the guv’nor, no question.

dk-water

de Kooning  – Whose name Was Writ on Water

  • Pollock’s not bad either.  I’m quite familiar with Pollock’s work, so the one enjoyed most was the 1943 “Mural” with the repeated green figures.

pollock-mural

Pollock, Mural

  • Can’t get on with Barnett Newman, sorry to say; I don’t like that liverish red/brown he uses, or the orange zips.
  • Rothko – an unusual, scrapy, scrappy blue and yellow panel on paper.
  • Lovely, punchy B&W Klines and an unusual wobbly one.

kline

Franz Kline – Zinc Door

  • Ad Reinhardt, pursuing his obsessions to their black ends – one of his, with spidery lines and figures, just like a Constant.
  • Guston’s paint, especially on the cartoon one (yes I know, but they DO look like cartoons) is greasy, dobby and looks moist.
  • And then there’s Jack Tworkov, with the diagonal slashes of colour.

Enough for now.  I’ve been reading “Anti-Matter” by Ben Jeffries, an extended essay about Houellebecq and “Depressive Realism” in which there is a discussion of Faking It – the idea that all works of art are “fake”, even when they are avowedly realist.  I think that’s right in a sense, and particularly right for the AbExes; once you are putting paint on a support, brushing, dripping, blading, flicking, you are faking it, unless it’s a real action picture and even then, you choose the paint, so there is a gap.  Rothko is not in some transcendant state when he paints, at least not most of the time; he’s thinking how to portray his feelings/revelations – the ones he’s already had, that is.  He’s faking it.

Doesn’t matter – they’re fantastic anyway, faking it or not.

Metropolis, dir. Fritz Lang (1927) 

metropolis

I’ve been watching the print found in Buenos Aires, and shown on BBC, in 30 minute chunks – I have a short attention span.  Once you get past the hero’s make-up, curly hair and jodphurs, it’s full of influence: so far, I’ve got montage scenes recalling Grosz; Rotwang the inventor’s false hand in leather glove (Dr.Strangelove);  Frankenstein, of course; the downtrodden, Zombie-like workers have offspring in the Wizard of Oz, Popeye cartoons and  – zombie films; all films with an underground or hi-tec citadel – Indiana Jones, James Bond films, Wallis and Gromit..  No doubt, there will be many more.  And it has another memorable villain to add to the gallery: Fritz Rasp as the “Thin Man”.

rasp

Fritz Rasp – watch the film, you’ll laugh – but he’ll come to you in your dreams….

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Islares under Cloud

Blackpaint

30.09.16

 

 

 

 

 

 

Blackpaint 431- Coalhouse Walker and the Shithouse Wall

January 23, 2014

More from London Art Fair

Three more delights from the above show at the Angel:

Peter Kinley

art fair kinley

Bruce McLean

art fair bruce McLean

Reg Butler

art fair butler

Generally speaking, a great fair this year for abstract work of the 50s and 60s, but some current delights too, in the form of prints by Albert Irvin and Anthony Frost et al.

The Bay Area Painters by Thomas Williams

The bay in the title is San Francisco Bay.  Finally bought this book after lusting and pawing over it in Foyles for weeks; I was freshly astounded by the acrimony engendered by the decision of David Park, then Bischoff, then Diebenkorn to “go figurative”.  they were accused of cowardice, apostasy and treachery by Hassel Smith, Clifford Still and others. It sort of mirrors the “Judas” cries when Dylan went electric, or the earlier mutual contempt of the “mouldy fig” trad jazz fans and the be-boppers.  Perhaps an indication of the depth of feeling was that Park not only renounced abstraction, but deposited all his abstract work at the local dump.

I also find it fascinating and amusing that the critics Clement Greenberg and Harold Rosenberg thought Abstract Expressionism the correct form for Marxists – the prevailing form of “Marxist” art in the Soviet Union being Socialist Realism, about as far from AbEx, and indeed, from the figuration of Park and Bischoff (and de Kooning, who was getting anti-figuration flak for his “Woman” series) as it is possible to imagine.

I love the machismo of these painters, both abstract and figurative; the greatest compliment paid by Douglas MacAgy, the Principal, to a student was “You paint with your cock”!  Clifford Still, on receiving praise for a canvas, would describe it as OK “to wipe his my ass on”; Hassel Smith said he wanted people to say of his paintings, “I wouldn’t hang that on my shithouse wall”.  I like this comment so much that I am putting a series of Shithouse Wall paintings – mine, not Smith’s – on Twitter.

Heaven’s Gate DVD

This is the Michael Cimino cut, the one which is supposed to be a masterpiece, NOT the hatchet job that was the original release.  there are, however, some real problems.  The sound is terrible; Kris Kristofferson swallows his words after speaking them into his beard.  The script alternates between mumbled, earnest exchanges and collective shouting and screaming, often in – Polish? Latvian?  Isabelle Huppert seems strangely unmoved by the slaughter of her girls in the brothel; granted she has just been raped and the rapists killed in front of her by Kristofferson – but you’d think she would show some dismay at the girls’ murders.

Ragtime, EL Doctorow

I watched them filming this in New York in 1980, but never saw the finished film (James Cagney’s last film, I think).  Got it for Christmas and enjoying it greatly.  It’s a mix of real historical characters and fictional ones – Coalhouse Walker Jr., the ragtime pianist and revolutionary, is fictional but Jim Europe’s band, in which he plays, was real.  I looked up Coalhouse to see if he was real; it reminded me of looking up the vignettes in My Winnipeg a few weeks ago.

Finally, look for more Shithouse Wall pictures on Twitter.

No new paintings this month, so here’s an old one.

??????????

 

Atlantic Bar

Blackpaint

23.01.14

Blackpaint 172

August 11, 2010

Blackpaint is back

Dozens of readers have contacted me in a state of confusion and  panic about my absence, but I am happy to say  I’m back, with much to report.  “Dozens” may be a small exaggeration…

Guggenheim, Bilbao 

Did the usual walk through the Serra iron alleyways, said hello to the Dine giant red wooden Venuses, the Koon flower dog and the Bougeois spider.

Abstract Expressionists

A delightful surprise, this – a room with three Motherwells, a huge Rothko, a Clyfford Still and  a de Kooning. 

Motherwell

 “Venetian Red Studio”, a red rectangle with a black outlined square in top right corner (we’re talking big here; 6 ft by 10, maybe); “Iberia”, one of a sreies, all black with a white square “torn” out of corner, like a Still; and “The Voyage; Ten Years after” – tripartite landscape canvas, ochre, white and black sections with big blue and black splatters and a big, spreading brown stain, like gravy.  I thought it was a Helen Frankenthaler at first, because of the staining.  Doesn’t sound too good, does it, but actually looks  great.  No, really.

Rothko

“Untitled”, of  course.  Vast, maybe 14ft by 10, in four segments from bottom, like wide stripes; red, yellow, yellow-green, lime-ish green, reminded me strongly of the Miles Davis “Sketches of  Spain” cover (although I think that had a little black Quixote and Panza silhouette).  Opposite the entry arch, a breathtaker.

Clyfford Still

Much smaller, maybe 4 by 2ft, a plain canvas with lots of brown foliage-like markings and a thin red strip or “zip” down or up the length of canvas – according to Still, it was up,apparently very  important.

de Kooning

“Villa Borghese”, portrait, say 6 ft  by 5, pink, green, blue, yellow and green/yellow smear/splurges.. smurges?  Vigorous strokes, almost swipes, up, across, and in triangular shape.  You can see its a picture of  a big house and garden – if you need to.

Rousseau

Douanier, that is.  An exhibition of his stuff upstairs.  Apparently influential on Cubists, particularly Picasso, his “painted collage” style – background painted first, then foregrounding in stages, giving a stuck-on effect to foremost images, which is very striking.  Some “jungle” pictures (famously based on in the local zoological gardens) and some decidedly dodgy portraits.

Two pictures stood out for me – “Les Artilleurs”, obviously from a photograph; 14 soldiers, white trousers, blue tunics, big artillery piece.  The other, surreal clowns in a wooded landscape, very high moon, huge twilight sky, and a VERY low ground – reminded me of that Kobke painting in National Gallery earlier in year, the one done from the roof of the castle, way down the canvas with vast sky.  Only in terms of the perspective, however;  you couldn’t really call Kobke’s stuff surreal – it’s so normal, yet empty (but then, Delvaux, de Chirico…).

Did Picasso really revere him?  there’s something in Penguin Book of Art Writing on a party at R’s, which I think implies they made fun of him – I’ll  re-read it for tomorrow.  I was thinking maybe Rousseau was a sort of Ornette Coleman- type figure, sort of derided at first, too advanced in his approach to be appreciated by anyone but a handful.  I’ll come back to that too.

No new paintings yet, so an old one will have to do..

St. John on Patmos