Posts Tagged ‘Conrad Shawcross’

Blackpaint 353 – Diana, Fidelio and the Long Shot

August 2, 2012

Titian et al at the National Gallery

The first striking thing in the exhibition is in the Callisto painting, the one on the far left as you enter.  It’s the massive right arm of the nymph in the foreground, with her back to us – the one who holds the equally large arrow.  The right arm is worthy of a shotputter and is out of proportion, but in a good, Michelangelo’s David sort of way (also substantially meaty are the arms of the goddess herself, as she fires the arrow at Actaeon in the “brown” picture).

In the centre of the Callisto painting is a glass object – an orb, globe or mirror – painted with the icy clarity of a Kalf still life.  It sets off the slightly misty “seethingness” of Titian’s surface seen close up.  In the autumnal tones of the painting depicting Actaeon’s death, the blurring is obvious, but can only be seen close up in the others.

In the painting where Actaeon surprises Diana, her small head and the odd angle at which it sits on her neck are, as always, striking; as with the arm, I point out distinctive, peculiar features which help make the pictures memorable for me.

Chris Ofili

There is a series of huge paintings which he calls the Ovid works.  Several display that Art Nouveau, Beardsley – like line he used in the paintings in his last exhibition and that dry, thin surface with the dark blue/mauve ground.  An enormous, light blue phallus in one – “Ovid; lust”, I think and a striking floor of red and white irregular “tiles” in another.

Conrad Shawcross

The Shawcross robot, smoothly running, with echoes of Epstein’s Rock Drill in its general appearance;  while I was there, its movements resembled those of a dog sniffing its crotch with the light probe.  For this reason, I took it to represent one of Actaeon’s hounds, but have since heard that it is supposed to be Diana herself.

There are also ballet costumes by several of the artists and a huge video of beautiful dancers and the directors rehearsing the ballets.  And all free.

Albert Irvin; Fidelio

At Gimpel Fils in Davies Street W1 until September.  Twenty six paintings, I think, that are great.  A couple of years ago, I saw my first Albert Irvin at the top of the stairs in the Tate Britain and it left me completely unmoved.  I thought it was boring; flat and brash, at the same time. Don’t know what happened – the “scales fell from my eyes” (where does that come from?) and now he’s my favourite living abstract painter, with Paul Feiler.

The “usual” fluorescent reds, greens, yellows, motifs that resemble flowers, crosses, pinnate leaves, stripes, squiggles, badges, circles – but amonst them, four stupendous paintings: “Rampart”, a tidal wave of wine or blood in a fluid block (?), “Brady”, yellow base with huge half-circle of green, covering left side; “Beacon”, with the grey/mauve ground and yellow-white cross hatchings like a cake – tiramisu maybe – spatched down on top; and “Trophy”, luminous green and red patches with a huge blue keyhole shape painted on it, for us to see through.

The first three are old – 76, 86 and 94 respectively – but “Trophy” is dated this year and all the rest are 2011 or 2012.  He’s 90 years old; not much development, but pretty consistent.

It strikes me that you could group him with Hoyland, Bowling, Paul Jenkins and maybe Richter (the abstracts anyway) in that they don’t use earth colours much or at all – their colours are airborne and sizzling.

More Irvin at Kings’ place until 24th August.

The Passenger, Antonioni

Watched the last, long shot through the barred window three times and couldn’t see the assassin or make out a shot.  Finally, watched it with Jack Nicholson’s commentary over the top; he points out – or at least, asks the question – “Was that a shot?”  At some point, the camera goes through the bars and turns round to follow the women and police into the dead man’s room.

Blackpaint

2/08/12

Blackpaint 192

September 13, 2010

Rachel Cooke on Ed Ruscha

Rachel Cooke seems to be pioneering a new form (or rediscovering an old form) of art criticism.  Some time ago, she referred to the artist Conrad Shawcross as “adorable”;  in the Observer yesterday, she writes about Ruscha in the following terms: “at 72, Ruscha .. is a devastatingly attractive man …. He has a gravelly voice – the kind that invites you both to move your head closer to his and to keep your eyes firmly on his lips ….  The luxuriant grey hair, the flinty eyes, the soft blue shirt… sitting with him is like sitting with an old-school American movie star…” 

 Actually, to be fair, it’s billed as an interview – but  I can’t help thinking a male reporter on the Observer wouldn’t get away with this stuff any more, if he was interviewing a woman artist.  Or maybe he would if she was 72 – is that it?  You can drool on about their physical attractions as long as they’re old; they’ll probably be pleased, rather than annoyed at being patronised.

Later in the article, she makes some reference to his art and his “trademark” use of words: “Ruscha used words as linguistic readymades; he painted them not because he liked what they meant, but because he liked the way they looked..”  This is an intriguing idea, but I think it can only work fully if the words are in a foreign language, better still a foreign alphabet.  I’m thinking of Malevich, Goncharova, was it, Rodchenko, who put Russian words or letters in their paintings sometimes, which work purely visually for non – Russian speakers.  when Ruscha paints “Standard” or “Boss”, you can’t  – or its really difficult to – look at it just as shapes or colours.  Interesting idea, though and I suppose it doesn’t matter if you can’t carry it through completely.

Rachel Whiteread drawings

This is reviewed in the Observer as well, by Laura Cumming.  It’s not an interview, so we don’t find out how attractive Whiteread is, or what she is wearing, but we do get a pretty good idea of what the drawings look like and what Cumming thinks of them (good, better than the sculptures, which labour the “one big idea”).  And she’s right; the “Untitled (Double Mattress Yellow)” does look “like a stale yellow cracker flat on its back, its buttons forming Tuc biscuit holes”. 

I wonder what the attraction is with graph paper?  I was writing about Eva Hesse at Tate St. Ives last week and now here are several more drawings on graph paper in a major exhibition.  Ready- made background, handy for straight lines, cheap, giving an air of spontaneity… Cumming says “the images mutiny” against it, stand out  better – a door “looks as abrupt as the exclamation mark it strangely resembles”.  Doesn’t to me, but I’m going by the photograph in the paper; maybe it does from across the room.  Find out when I go.

Elizabeth Neel

I’ve been looking again at “New Abstraction”, the Phaidon book by Bob Nickas  (it’s orange with a big white circle on the front – buy it).   This artist’s stuff is highly uplifting.  She does paintings that look like AbExes, but teeter on the edge, really; they’re full of thick, mud colours, scrawls and swirls, scratches and squirts and dribbles, blood smears, hanging flesh, glimpses of human forms.  She looks for photographs and images on the Net, of  “accidents, violence, decay” (sounds like Bacon).  Fantastic paintings – google her and you’ll see.  She’s Alice Neel’s granddaughter.

Skinningrove by Blackpaint