Posts Tagged ‘Dave Swarbrick’

Blackpaint 342 – Richter, Kitaj and Tarr; a light interval.

May 17, 2012

Gerhard Richter

Forgot to say in last blog that Richter uses no earth colours in his squeegee paintings – titanium white, ivory black, lemon yellow, cadmium red, ultramarine; that’s it (no green?).  Then, he sweeps and swerves through the paint with a big perspex scraper, leaving scrapes and skidmarks in the paint, or with his giant wooden baton, attached to the top or side and pushed or pulled across surface with apparent effort.  In one image, he pushes the wood with his shoulder across a field of grey, the paint  resisting more every inch, like Sisyphus with his boulder.

He says some interesting, and apparently contradictory things about his work and painting in general.  He says, citing Adorno, that you can’t put pictures together – they are “mortal enemies”.  Each painting, he says, “is an assertion that tolerates no company”.  BUT he paints series, the “Cage” series for example, in the Tate Modern, that seem to be designed to draw strength from, and bounce off each other.

As regards abstraction, he says the eye is always looking for something real – i.e. from the “real” world – and that is where you can start to get “a sort of meaning”.  He sees an abstract painting as containing the potentiality of an infinite number of real images – sort of, all pictures are contained in each picture.  Interesting to me, after going through that long explanation, every time someone asks what a picture is supposed to be.  Instead of droning on about image and structure and texture and contrast and movement and balance and juxtaposition, I can just say “well, it’s whatever you want it to be…  Madonna and Christ?  Well, yes, I see what you mean…”.

His assistant says, “You can’t influence the painting; if I say it’s good, leave it, he’s more likely to change it… because he’s looking for a reason”.  Cantankerous old bastard, one might think; I know a lot like him.

Watching the big squeegee or baton process on the DVD, I remarked on how a painting would appear after a sweep and then be destroyed by the next sweep.  First, a monochrome yellow, sweep, then a white cloudscape, sweep, a light horizon, sweep, a Rothko – the earth colours do emerge from the mixing process.

Questioned on how he knows a painting is finished – the big question – he says the following; “I feel less free with each step; I carry on until nothing is wrong any more”.  It implies dissatisfaction with every work; you don’t stop when you have achieved what you want, but when you can’t find a recognisable fault.  I suppose this is implicit in an improvising approach – but it could have been something like; “I stop when a completed picture jumps out at me”.  He’s obviously too honest to come out with rubbish like that, unlike some other abstract painters. 

Kitaj

That drawing of a seated woman’s back – I suppose it’s Sandra – it’s breathtaking, like a Michelangelo.  I’ve said this before. but it’s amazing how different his two styles are – the cartoonish, “Cecil Court” style and this classical, Old Master look.  I note how “fleshy” his colours, especially whites and reds, are in the cartoony ones – I don’t mean flesh tones but thickness and richness.

Young Musician of the Year

What is the title of that recorder piece played with only a drum accompaniment by Charlotte Barbour – Condini ?  It is played by Martin Carthy and Dave Swarbrick to close out “Arthur MacBride” but the only info given is that the tune is French.

Bela Tarr

The novel “Satantango” by Laszlo Krasznahorkai is out in a translation by George Szirtes; I have it and am hoping it is as uncompromising as the Bela Tarr film.  Only 274 pages, but no paragraphing.  It has punctuation, which is rather conventional I agree, and will lack the accordion music – but I have high hopes.  Next week, will review Turin Horse.

Blackpaint

17.05.12

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Blackpaint 295

September 19, 2011

Degas

Laura Cumming, reviewing the new show at the RA, says that Degas is more Michelangelo than Leonardo – what does she mean by this?  Maybe that Leo was more concerned with physical accuracy, the exact position and function of muscles, bones and flesh than Michelangelo; M was more ready to distort, exaggerate, generalise, to enhance the presentation of physical effort, posture. dramatic action… that seems fair enough comment.  She says that Degas seems to somehow project himself (spiritually, mentally) into the bodies of his ballet girls, to partake in their physical being in some way; that seems to me to be fanciful.  Surely it’s what anyone drawing a figure does, sort of, isn’t it?

Edward Lucie – Smith

I’m getting a lot out of his “Art Movements since 1945” (see previous blogs); he makes the connection between Kurt Schwitters and his Merzbauten and people like George Segal and Ed Kienholz, who produced environmental artworks in the 50s and 60s – that is, works that you walk through and round.  I’d thought of him as someone who produced beautiful little collages of wood, cloth etc.

Jasper Johns

Looking at those works of his from the 60s in which he “quotes” from art history – notably the Isenheim Altarpiece (Grunewald) in “Perilous Night”, but also Leonardo, Picasso and others.  These are quotes however, rather than the “re-imaginings” of earlier works by Picasso himself (Manet, Delacroix, Velasquez) or Auerbach (Rembrandt et al).  I suppose the most recent of this school would be Dexter Dalwood – he quotes like Johns, rather than doing his own versions.

As for Johns, the works which are my favourites are the big canvases with attachments like brooms, and collaged bits, those bolts of colour, red, yellow, orange, often on a blue background; the grey curtains of thinned paint soaking down into the fabric (see  “According to What” 1964), the stencilled lettering….

Bruegel

In “The Fight Between Carnival and Lent”, according to the Taschen book by the Hagens, the fat Lord of Carnival astride the barrel represents Protestantism, while Catholicism is personified by the lean, haggard, hungry figure with a beehive on his head (no explanation of the beehive offered!).  This is a novel presentation; Prots – or rather, the Puritan variety – are more usually lean, stern killjoys, the Catholics happy to feast and keep Christmas.  I suppose this is an English, or more precisely, Shakespeareian representation.

Willem de Kooning

I’ve never seen a contrast more clear and tragic than that between his paintings of 1983 onwards, as Alzheimer’s or whatever variant it was, took hold, and those from before.  The later ones are cleanly painted snakey loops of pastel colour on empty canvas, tangled but spaced out, textureless.  Go back to 66/67, say, “Two Figures in a Landscape” or “The Visit” – splotches, streaks, swathes, bleeds and trickles, pink, green, yellow, white, blue-black, scratched, scored and worked like Appel but much more subtle somehow; rich, swarming texture… fantastic.

Larry Rivers

I love the loose way he paints figures and faces – reminds me of Jim Dine or even more, Kitaj’ s figure drawings.  See “Parts of the Body; French Anatomy Lesson”.

Far From the Madding Crowd

Reading this, it strikes me that the old film was perfectly cast.  I can’t imagine any actors better than Stamp, Christie, Bates and Peter Finch in their respective roles as Troy, Bathsheba, Gabriel and Farmer Boldwood.  And of course, Dave Swarbrick as the fiddler at the post-harvest piss up…

Blackpaint

19/09/11

Blackpaint 264

March 31, 2011

Marlene Dumas

I’ve been looking at her Phaidon book again, and most of the images – no, ALL of the images – are “ugly”.  That is to say, they are distorted, bloated, explicit, mostly grey or brown, like decaying flesh.  There are ugly babies, naked figures lined up as if for inspection in a concentration camp or  a brothel, women offering their bodies in pornographic poses (but so crudely painted that they are not titillating –  in a conventional way); actual paintings of dead women’s faces…  I used to think the baby with the red hands (Painter) was the most disturbing – now I think it’s those “school photographs”, especially The Turkish Schoolgirls (1987).  Look at the front three from the far right!  They will haunt your dreams, like something from The Orphanage.

So why do I like her work?  Well, it’s strong, dramatic, caustic, driving.  If it was music,  it would be Piece of my Heart by Janis Joplin, or maybe Gimme Shelter; if it was food, it would be lime chilli pickle; if it was a film, it would be Salo.. This could go on and on (if it was an insurance company..), so I’ll stop with the pretentiousness now – I hope you get the point.

It occurs to me that there has to be something to offset the harshness and horror; that something is, of course, the technical skill in the images; the use of colour, the draftsmanship, the artful clumsiness and crudeness in just the right places to just the right degree.

The Killing

I’m counting Morten as 50% right; OK, he wasn’t the murderer, but he was the political manipulator.

Magritte

Went to the drawings and prints at British Museum yet again and this time, read the blurb on the Magritte drawing.  It referred to Herbert Read’s comments that Mag looked for affinities between unlikely things – the example here is leaves and bricks.  The drawing is of a tree in which the foliage is shaped like a single leaf; poplar. I would say.  Only, instead of individual leaves, it is composed of bricks, as in a brick wall.  OK, leaves soft, pliable, rustling; bricks hard, unyielding, silent.  However – leaves combine together to make a greater unity, bricks combine together.. etc.

Too cerebral and systematic for me – I like my surrealists wild, untidy, loose ends, what’s that in the corner, what’s that supposed to be… so it is, how disgusting – the feeling that it might really have been dragged up from their subconscious minds, even if they’re faking it – as perhaps Dali might have done once or twice.  Maybe Magritte’s subconscious mind worked that way – after all, he was famously neat, fussy, and tidy, even when painting.  But then, so was Miro.

Looking again at the Kitaj life drawings, they contain distortions; that inward curve of the lower back is surely exaggerated and the lower leg also curves too much.  The genitalia are far too small, of course.  These distortions, however, are of the order of Michelangelo distortions, as the drawings are in the same class as M’s, in my view.

Far From the Madding Crowd

First time I’ve seen this utterly beautiful film; I loved the circus scene, the songs, the characters, the story.  Two whole seconds of “David Swarbrick” on view, playing fiddle in the barn.  Julie Christie singing “Bushes and Briers” – the stunning original, not the nearly-as-beautiful Thompson/Denny song.  Was that really her singing? and Terence Stamp, doing the Jolly Tinker?  If so. they made a good job of it – as did the tinker in the song.

Blackpaint

31/03/11