Posts Tagged ‘CoBrA’

Blackpaint 581 – 2016 Review 2 – Films, Theatre, Museums, TV

December 30, 2016

Film

Behemoth (Zhao Liang) – by turns, brutally realist and astonishingly surreal; coal mining and steelmaking, riding and spitting up coal dust in hospital, poetry, empty cities with traffic lights changing in deserted streets.

behemoth-2

The Revenant – brutal fighting, bear attacks, staggering scenery shots, fantasy scenes.  I was interested to see how it resonated with “Jeremiah Johnson”, 70s vehicle for Robert Redford.

Julieta (Pedro Almodovar) – One of those infuriating stories where people do unreasonable, devastating things (walking out on loved ones) with no explanation – and demand that their actions be accepted, no questions.

julieta1

High Rise (Ben Whateley) – Whateley successfully re-creates a 70s film; that is, he has made a 70s film; the colour, the sex, the violence.  I must have missed that particular party..

I, Daniel Blake (Ken Loach) – standard Loach; righteous anger, nightmare (but real) situations, unthinking cruelty, pretension, mindlessness, destitution, prostitution, murder by stress; but I still think it’s optimistic.  It presents a rose-tinted view of working-class people.  They are all so nice; maybe they really are in Newcastle.  One for the metropolitan elite to weep over (see Peter Bradshaw’s Guardian review).

blake

Revolution – New Art for a New World (Margy Kinmonth) –  Not really in competition as  it’s a documentary about avant-garde – and more traditional –  artists, before, during and after the Russian Revolution.  Some amazing art, heartbreaking stories.

DVDs

Ken Russell drama docs – he pretty much invented it – from 60s.  The best are “Song of Summer” (Delius), “Always on Sunday” (Douanier Rousseau) and “Dante’s Inferno” (Rossetti, played by Oliver Reed).

delius 2

Embrace of the Serpent (Ciro Guerra) – Terrific; South American rain forest, German explorers, shamen, mind bending drugs, mad missionaries.

serpent

The Sun (Sokurov) – Hirohito in the “bunker”.  Brilliant.

Metropolis (Fritz Lang) – finally watched the whole of this; there are absurdities but it’s amazingly influential.

metropolis

TV 

Thrillers, serial killers and kidnappers – and the Napoleonic Wars.

War and Peace.  I loved it, especially Jessie Buckley, surely a descendant of Giotto’s favourite model.

Marya-Bolkonskaya

The Disappearance (French series, set in Lyon)

poisson

The Missing (British, but set in Germany.  David Morrissey again, and the ridiculously relentless and riveting French detective Baptiste).

Rillington Place.  Claustrophobic, shabby, creepy – those stains on the bed – Tim Roth doing Attenborough doing Christie, like Branagh does Olivier doing Archie Rice.

In Plain Sight – a restrained but terrifying account of Peter Manuel’s crimes in 50s Scotland.  He invaded homes and murdered whole families for fun, while at least one senior detective knew full well he was the culprit – but was unable to convince others.

Theatre

First two at the Wyndham, third at the Garrick.

Hangmen, Martin McDonagh.

Featuring David Morrissey, a strange, well-acted, but rather pointless play about Britain’s second-best hangman (after Pierrepoint) lording it in his northern pub, which is visited by a sinister character who seems to have wandered in from a Joe Orton play.  Was there a miscarriage of justice?

People, Places and Things

Starring Denise Gough, storming through the role.  Shouty, sweary, loads of special effects, dancing, rock music, multiple heroines on stage, that trap door bed that I last saw in “Ghost Story”, drug taking, mobile phones…

The Entertainer, John Osborne, Wyndham

branagh

My favourite.  Kenneth Branagh doing Olivier’s masterpiece justice, dancing comfortably and delivering Osborne’s (and Kipling’s) words beautifully.   “…when you’ve finished killing Kruger with your mouth…”  Osborne seems to have been obsessed with Bass beer.

Lazarus, David Bowie, Kings Cross Theatre

LAZARUS

Michael C. Hall (Dexter) as Thomas Newman, the Man who fell to Earth, years on from the film, living as a rich recluse, pining for Marilou…  It’s a jukebox musical, packing in lots of Bowie classics; the women sing impressively in those steely, LesMis tones, the men manage to sound Bowie-like.  The story is incomprehensible tosh – there’s a killing – maybe.. or maybe it’s all in Newman’s head; but the effects are great.  Amy Lennox writhing sexily against a large screen (all the characters resort to this screen periodically, which is good as it’s hard to see what they are up to on the floor and the bed; the seats are not sufficiently banked up to give a good view); a black “cloud” spreading rapidly like a visual fart behind Valentine, as he sings; a girl in white running in slow motion on screen towards the stage…  Good bands and backing singers too.

Museums

CoBrA Museum, Amsterdam

appel flute2

Fabulous – Karel Appel, Asger Jorn, and the other cobras; not to be missed, especially Appel’s “Magic Flute” stage furniture.

Rijksmuseum, Amsterdam

breitner nude

Rembrandt, Vermeer; they are there all the time – but the Breitner exhibition got my attention.  Also Appel and DK.

Stedtlijk Museum, Amsterdam

dk north

De Kooning, Appel

Astrup Fearnley Museum, Oslo

Polke, Kiefer,

Guggenheim, Bilbao

Louise Bourgeois exhibition and Paris, 1900 – 45

 

lvg4

August, Laredo

Blackpaint

30.12.16

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Blackpaint 544 – Still Life, Bare Life, Sokurov and CoBrA

May 7, 2016

Still Life

I’ve decided to abandon my usual practice of putting my own paintings at the end of the blog and to stick them at the beginning instead – just in case the reader gets fed up and goes elsewhere online before reaching my pictures.

still life

Still Life with Pomegranates – yes, I know, not the usual so I made some changes…

still life with pomegranate new

Still Life with Pomegranate – now that’s more like it!

 

“Bare Life” Catalogue (Hirmer)

In an  essay by Colin Wiggins, a similarity is identified between Freud’s “Big Man” and the Ingres portrait of Madame Moitessier – they are both below.  It’s the pose.

Ingres Moitessier

Ingres, Portrait of Madame Moitessier – he was eleven years painting this…

 

Freud big man

Lucian Freud, The Big Man

Hmm – and between Degas and Bacon (spine):

degas after the bath 2

Degas, After the Bath

Bacon three figures and a portrait

Bacon, Three Figures and a Portrait 

Well, yes, but marginal similarity at most. However, Wiggins is suggesting only a marginal, perhaps even subliminal influence, so fair enough.

The Sun, (dir Alexander Sokurov, 2004)

Described as a “companion piece to Downfall” on the DVD cover, this is a mesmerising portrait of Hirohito, an impotent god imprisoned by his destiny in his bunker, as WWII grinds to an end, with the destruction of Tokyo by Flying Fortresses and the cities destroyed by the atomic bombs.  There is a dream sequence in which the American bombers soar over Japan in the form of fire-breathing, flying fish.  But so far (I still have some to go), it seems unlike all the other Sokurovs I’ve seen – can’t quite put my finger on it…

The-Sun-Alexandr-Sokurov

 

downfall2

Having mentioned “Downfall”, I felt it was an opportunity to include my favourite German helmet shot from the film.  Traudl tries to blend in with the Wehrmacht and somehow manages to filter through the Russian troops…

CoBrA Museum, Amstelveen, Netherlands

This great museum is in the suburbs of Amsterdam, in a nondescript housing and shopping precinct that reminded me of Swanley in Kent (also Swindon, and no doubt many other towns which may or may not begin with “Sw”); I only wish Swanley had such a collection.

The thousands of regular readers of this blog will be familiar with CoBrA (Copenhagen, Brussels, Amsterdam, the home cities of the founders of the group) and its leading painters; Asger Jorn, and Karel Appel.  Here are works by them and some of the lesser-known artists of the group:

cobra1

Yellow Ochre Moon, Eugene Brands

 

cobra2

Village Scene, Lucebert (1962)

 

cobra3

Falling Sun, Carl-Henning Pedersen (1951)

 

cobra6

Red Mask, Egell Jacobsen

cobra7

Two Birds, Karel Appel

 

cobra8

The Fake Laugh (Tragi-Comic Image), Asger Jorn

 

cobra9

The Intermediate Reserve, Jorn

 

cobra10

The Spectators and the Assassin from Lurs, Jorn

 

cobra11

Harlequin, Jan Nieuwenhuijs

One important idea held by the group was the quite common notion that children see the world in a superior way to adults, who are jaded and corrupted and curbed by experience and socialisation; in childhood, there is some kind of direct access to the essence, which dissipates as we grow.  So, back to painting like the kids – a hopeless task, of course, but I think it produced a certain freshness and originality in their work.

See also recent blog with Appel stage settings and costumes from The Magic Flute and Noah, also at the CoBrA museum.

Blackpaint

7.5.16

 

Blackpaint 541- Bosch to CoBrA and thence to Berlin

April 17, 2016

Hieronymus Bosch at s’Hertogenbosch – where else?

Well, also at the Prado, where the Garden of Earthly Delights triptych lives and the London National Gallery, where Christ Mocked (the Crowning with Thorns)  lives –

bosch natgal

and at Lisbon, where the Temptation of St. Anthony triptych lives – although this last has apparently been demoted to “follower of ” status, despite containing several of the best known “monsters” (see below).  The saddled fish, the little bird thing in the red tunic and funnel helmet….

bosch triptych-the-temptation-of-st-anthony-1516

Although these three works are missing for some reason, the exhibition is still fantastic in every sense and the town is making the most of it, quite rightly.

The paintings have lights within the frames and so look like slide projections in the darkened galleries.  The weirdness of Bosch’s figures and landscapes, I think, have distracted viewers from the sheer quality of the painting; the colours are beautifully subtle.  The Death of a Miser, for example, is in that Duccio pink/brown/Venetian red palette.

There are several similarities to Bruegel, of course; There’s a “Dulle Griet” character dragging a cart, angels with long trumpets, just like those in Bruegel’s “Fall”, crows on bare tree branches, distant gallows and wheels on top of poles (Bruegel’s “Triumph of Death”), street cripples with similar aids (maybe these are stock figures).

I noticed the same model cropping up in several paintings; the old geezer with the white hair, tooth stumps and inane, cruel grin shows up in two versions of “Ecce Homo”, one by Bosch himself, another by a follower  and the NG “Christ Mocked” (above); the man on the left.

eccehomo1

That’s him, in the white robe, isn’t it?

The little armoured character in the St. John of Patmos (below) is a self-portrait of Bosch; why the arrow through his torso – something that crops up in many Bosch paintings?

bosch patmos

I like the monsters in the workshop drawings; “OK fellows, today we’re going to have a competition to see who can draw the best monster…”.  No picture, unfortunately.

Some other highlights for me:

The red/black background in the boy with the walker;

bosch little boy

St. Jerome, lying down with that fish-like tree trunk behind him, and that doggy lion;

bosch st jerome

St. Christopher, with the bear hanging going on behind;

bosch st christopher

St.John the Baptist, or “Doper”, as it is – appropriately? –  in Dutch, looking bored, waiting for TV to be invented, maybe;

bosch john the baptist

The tunnel, or sewer in the sky route to Paradise – is it based on a local canal?

The Disneyland pink tower things in “Garden of Earthly Delights” – sadly, only a copy in the exhibition.

Finally, the workshop painting of Noah’s Ark, grounded after the Flood.

s'hertogenbosch

Me on the left, next to a Bosch “monster” in the town.  I managed to get dressed before the police arrived.

Karel Appel’s animals and settings for “The Magic Flute” and “Noach”

I’ll be blogging about the fabulous Appel and the other CoBrA artists next time, but I’m including these pieces, from the CoBrA Museum in Amstelveen, because they seem to me to relate in some way to Bosch’s flying fish and other weirdnesses – rougher and “childlike”, sort of, but definitely related.

appel - flute1

 

appel flute2

Victoria, dir. Sebastian Schipper (2015)

Victoria

German film, set in Berlin, famously done in a single take, like “Russian Ark”.  A happy-go-lucky (she even looks a bit like Sally Hawkins) Spanish girl takes up with a goonish bunch of Berliners one night  and gets involved (predictably) in serious complications.  I found the first half hour or so irritating and tedious as the Berlin lads clown around and say “fuck” a lot – this sent several of the ICA audience into fits of excited laughter.  It has a definite “Euro” feel about it; could have been set in any Eurocity.  Story was cliched and implausible.  This one take thing has a sort of fetish feel for me – why is it better to do things in one take?

OK, other Dutch museums next time.

life drawings in pastel

Life Drawings in pencil and pastel

On the Rocks

On The Rocks

Blackpaint

17.04.16

 

Blackpaint 506 – Light through the Thorns, Parrots in Boxes, Budgies in Trunks

August 8, 2015

William Gear – A Centenary Exhibition, Redfern Gallery, Cork Street W1

gear redfern 1

A couple of blogs ago (Blackpaint 502), I wrote about the Neil Stokoe exhibition at the Redfern, to which I’d gone. expecting William Gear.  Now the Gear is on, until September 5th and it’s well worth the trip to Green Park tube and the heat of Piccadilly to see it.

Gear exhibited with CoBra in 1949 – he and Stephen Gilbert were the only British artists – but I have to say, I don’t think he has a lot in common with painters like Appel; his work strikes me as much more like Adrian Heath, Bryan Wynter and even sometimes Patrick Heron, than the wilder, thicker, more gestural products of Appel and Jorn.  There is one painting, however, “Le Marche aux Fleurs” (1947), which could easily have been an early Jorn.

There are several recurring features of Gear’s work, the most prominent, perhaps, being the tangled bundle of jagged, hooked, thorn-like shapes he seemed to fling across his canvases, so that the patches of bright colour seem to peep out through a thicket of scrub.  The shapes are often, but not always, black.  Gear isn’t afraid of yellow; he uses a full spectrum, but it’s the yellow and black that stay with you after the Redfern.

Triangular grids are another feature, and there are a number of works like “Black Form on Red”(1957), that comprise two or three colours used in large, simple shapes, looking rather like sheets of thin leather or felt, collaged onto the canvas – Poliakoff, maybe, or Burri.  An influence that is suggested in the catalogue is that of Nicolas de Stael – I couldn’t see that, I have to say.

gear redfern 3

Good exhibition, in association with the Towner Gallery in Eastbourne, where Gear was the curator in the 60s.  There was a great black, thorny self-portrait on show at the Pallant House in Chichester recently; maybe its still there.  made me think of Tony Bevan, a bit.

gear redfern 2

Joseph Cornell at the RA

cornell 1

This is an exhibition for those, and there are many of them apparently, who like quaint objects and photographs displayed in shallow boxes.  Inevitably, there is a large overlap with the likes of Max Ernst, Rene Magritte and other European surrealists; the difference being that, whereas Ernst, for example, also painted and sculpted, Cornell stuck to the box formula permanently.  Clearly, he had a thing for parrots and cockatoos; his work goes completely against the grain of North American art of the time (40s and 50s) in two ways – it’s small and it’s in boxes.  Although there were later, feminist, artists in the states who put things in drawers and boxes to display them – not parrots, though, as I recall….

cornell2

The Swimmer, Frank Perry (1968) DVD

I think John Cheever’s short story is a masterpiece of the form, one of the best of the 20th century; hard to think of others so perfect, maybe a couple of Joyce’s Dubliners or Margaret Atwood’s Serpent’s Egg.  The film is also a work of art, though very much of its era (Hamlisch’s lush theme music, coupled with jagged Johnny Staccato jazz riffs and some eye -watering psychedelic visuals).  Burt Lancaster is brilliant as the ageing playboy Ned Merrill, in his budgie smuggler trunks, swimming home across the county, by way of the “river” of swimming pools of his “friends”.  Lancaster is by turns genuinely creepy and strangely sympathetic, despite his insensitivity. The pools are not there for freeloading swimmers to propel their sweaty bodies through.

 

The Longest Journey, EM Forster

Even though I’m currently re-reading “Finnegans Wake”, Forster’s book is the strangest, most difficult novel I’ve struggled through for ages; I had to keep going back and reading bits over again to make sense of it.  the problem is twofold – the language: very arch, ironic, riddled with Edwardian Oxbridge phraseology and slang – and the concerns; “love children”, family disgrace, inheritance, the intellect v. the physical, the prosaic v.the poetic, genetic flaws, town and country, social class… Actually, that’s quite a lot and I’m sure I missed plenty.

I was interested to see that Forster kills his characters  in an even more offhand way than Virginia Woolf; a “hurt” at football, a drowning and a steam train across the knees- the last completely unsignalled (sorry) and dispassionate: “It is also a man’s duty to save his own life, and therefore he tried.  The train went over his knees.  He died up in Cadover, whispering “You have been right,” to Mrs Failing”.  That’s it.

 

finsbury mud 2

 

Finsbury Mud 2,

Blackpaint

08.08.15

 

Blackpaint 207

October 15, 2010

Dexter Dalwood

I’ve been looking at the new book of Dalwood’s work.  A wizard wheeze, doing crime scenes and major events as empty rooms or places.  It ticks the social comment box – if you call a painting “Yalta” or “Birth of the UN” or “Sunny von Bulow”, it doesn’t matter what you put in it, critics will see some social or political relevance there; I don’t think there usually is any.  The Turner Prize entry, “Dr. Kelly”, for example – a tree on a hilltop, against an intense night-time blue, big silver moon – it says loneliness, maybe despair, to me; but it doesn’t constitute a critique.  Maybe having a picture named after a scandalous tragedy involving the Iraq war in the Turner Prize exhibition will be enough to gain Dalwood a lead; who knows?  

It doesn’t have to be, of course, as long as the picture is good and interesting; I’m just suggesting it helps, by giving the work another (spurious) dimension.  Good luck to him – an idea that can run, and already has for some years.

Dalwood’s paintings contain little cameos of other painters’ work;  De Kooning, for example, in the UN picture; Bacon on the wall in “Klaus von Bulow”; and Sunny as Millais’ Ophelia in “Sunny von Bulow”. 

Michelangelo’s “Last Judgement”

For some reason, I’d thought that M. painted this straight after finishing the ceiling in 1512; I suppose I just thought you would – “ceiling done, now for the walls” sort of thing.  but  no – he did a lot of other stuff and came back in 1536, 24 years later when he was 60 years old, to do the huge fresco for a different Pope, Paul III.  It took him until 1541.

Later, following the Council of Trent, some of his figures had breech cloths painted in to cover their genitals – but the concealments look  pretty random to me.  Why cover some members and leave others on display?  I can understand why they would want Jesus under wraps (but his winding sheet seems to curl round fairly naturally, so presume that was M.’s own work) -but there seems to me no reason behind the other choices.  Can anyone help?

Ai Weiwei

Sad news that the seeds are now out of bounds; now that I think of it, there was a thin mist of dust hanging above the “beach” when I was there.  Health and (choke) safety gone (cough) mad, if you ask me (wheeze and collapse).

CoBrA

There urgently needs to be a documentary made about the above group and their associates; Jorn, Appel, Pederson, Constant etc.  I can’t remember ever seeing anything about them on television or film.  Same goes for Per Kirkeby, who after all, is still alive.  Tons of art on British telly at the moment, but its mostly crap, or about huge names (Picasso, Matisse, Warhol); we know all that.

Corryvreckan by Blackpaint

15.10.10