Posts Tagged ‘David Bomberg’

Blackpaint 647- Three at TB; Bowling, Nelson and VG

June 15, 2019

Frank Bowling, Tate Britain until 26th August

Brilliant show, and a real revelation.  I’d seen Bowling’s poured paintings a few years back at the Tate Britain, when they devoted a single room to them; in addition, there was the huge spiral staircase one that was on permanent display there (and which is in this show, of course), so I knew he’d had a Pop Art period, a sort of Hockney/Kitaj/Blake phase – see the first painting below.  There’s even a girl with a Who-type target on her tee shirt in another one.  The figurative elements gradually receded, however, until he arrived at pure abstraction – for a while, anyway.

 

 

I’d not seen these vast map jobs in screaming colours, though; Africa, South America, Europe, USA, and Asia are all there somewhere – though not necessarily in the usual positions (and, obviously, not all in the example below).

Bowling wanted – I think he still does – to be thought of as a painter, not as a black painter.  The poured paintings, for example, are not really about anything but colour and maybe texture; the properties of the paint.  When he went to the USA, he was out of step – his choice – with some of the black painters who were overtly political – some of their work was recently shown at the Tate Modern.  There is some politics on show here; this one (I think) is called “The Middle Passage”, a reference to the slavers’ sea route – but most of the (often long and oblique) titles are clearly personal, not political.

 

 

An example of the poured paintings, which he did on a tilting table of his own devising.

After the poured paintings, there is an “encrusted” period (see above); thick slathers of acrylic paint, often scraped or shaped into squares that look like slices of bread submerged in pigment.  Chunks or banana shapes of polystyrene are sometimes present, shipwrecked in the paint.  Still the colours though, are paramount.

 

 

These last two – the bottom one is huge, the other a much smaller panel shape – are quite recent; 2014-ish, I think.  So he’s still doing great work in his 80s.  Best in London, in my opinion, depending on whether the Bellany/Davie show is still on at Damien Hirst’s Newport Street Gallery.

 

Van Gogh and Britain, Tate Britain until 11th August

My fourth (or is it fifth?) visit to this show, and it’s still packed  every time.  You can get in OK but you will have to peer over shoulders or use binoculars to read the captions.  I think some of the links that the show seeks to make are rather contentious; I can’t see much similarity or evidence of VG influence in the Bomberg self portrait below, despite the caption.

 

 

Another Bomberg and the only still life I’ve seen by him; I suppose you could make a case for some VG influence here…  Great vase of flowers though. exploding in all directions – makes “still life” a ridiculous description, really.

 

The Asset Strippers, Mike Nelson, Tate Britain until 6th October

Nelson has been round the country, buying up redundant plant and machinery, which he presents as if each piece were a piece of sculpture in an exhibition.  Some are combined, that is, balanced or stacked on top of each other.  Lathes, milling machines, jacks, scales, agricultural machinery – is that a threshing machine? – knitting machines, sequin machines…  You think “Look at that machine!  It’s really complicated and it does one specific job.  What if someone says,” There’s a better way of doing that, we can skip that bit of the process by doing a or b or c…. “; That’s it for the machine – now it IS a piece of sculpture – or scrap.

 

Not sure what the “bed” of sleeping bags is supposed to represent, if anything.  Everyone in the exhibition seemed to be smiling, the old ones (and there were many) wallowing nostalgia; younger visitors trying to work out what the stuff was for.

That’s the three shows currently at Tate Britain; next time, Goncharova at Tate Modern and Huguette Caland at Tate St. Ives.

Three really old ones of mine to finish –

Angelico Tower

 

 

Fish Head

 

 

Red Guard

Blackpaint, 15/06/19

 

 

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Blackpaint 497 – Metzger on Metal, AbEx Women

May 31, 2015

Gustav Metzger at Tate Britain

They’ve reorganised some of the rooms at TB and I was surprised and delighted to see a whole roomful of great Metzgers.  I thought the second and third were abstract but apparently they are pictures of a table.  I knew of Metzger as one of those Auto-Destructive artists from the 60s who set fire to things and smashed up pianos and the like – in the recent “Art Under Attack” exhibition at TB, there was a film of Metzger with a big screen up opposite St. Pauls, which he destroyed with acid (the screen, not St.Pauls) so that the cathedral slowly appeared through the growing holes.  Before this, he was one of Bomberg’s disciples and there are a couple of paintings which are instantly recognisable as school of Bomberg.  Is there any other painter who had such an iron grip on his followers as Bomberg did?

metzger1

 

This one is on metal.

metzger3

 

metzger2

 

Yes, easy to see the table now – but I had to be told.  My partner thinks he’d seen Matisse’s “La Table de Marbre Rose” (1916);

matisse table

 Matisse

 

Also new at TB, a darkened room containing Ralph Peacock’s brilliant “Ethel”:

Ethel 1897 Ralph Peacock 1868-1946 Presented by the Trustees of the Chantrey Bequest 1898 http://www.tate.org.uk/art/work/N01672

Look at that face: “How long am I going to have to sit here?”

Mitchell, Frankenheimer, Hartigan

Last blog was half about the imbalance of “influential” male and female artists in the 80s and 90s, at least as it was reflected in Taschen books.  It didn’t allow me to include any abstract expressionist painters, so here are works by these three women, fighting their corner in the famously macho AbEx “community”.  Joan Mitchell is my favourite painter. Helen Frankenthaler is also a seminal figure, of course – Grace Hartigan much less well-known, but also fantastic (see below).

frank lorelei

 Frankenthaler

joan mitchell gug

Joan Mitchell

Hartigan

Grace Hartigan, Paper Dolls

Beckett – Fail Better

I keep hearing and reading people quoting Beckett’s famous phrase as if it’s some sort of positive guidance.  He’s taking the piss, surely – if you fail, you fail.  Consider this exchange from “Rough for Radio 1”:

“She (astonished): But he is alone!

He: Yes.

She: All alone?

He: When one is alone one is all alone.”

When you fail, you fail.  And on that note –

asger's revenge

 

Asger’s Revenge

Blackpaint

31.05.15 

Blackpaint 452 – Folk Art, Song and Flowers of the Field

June 26, 2014

British Folk Art, at Tate Britain  

Now I have my membership card, I’m trying to make it pay for itself in a few weeks – so, back to Folk Art and Kenneth Clark again.  I didn’t mention Walter Greaves, the painter who Whistler discovered and apparently turned into a version of himself (see the result on display).  Before the Whistlerisation, Greaves had painted a picture of Hammersmith Bridge, with every precarious foot-or bum-hold occupied by a foot (or bum), watching the passage of the Boat Race crews on the river below.  Could it really be accurate?

Hammersmith Bridge on Boat-race Day c.1862 by Walter Greaves 1846-1930

 

Then, there is a dark brownish landscape with distorted trees and maybe horses, that’s just like some of the Ben Nicholsons at Dulwich, that I covered a blog or two ago.  There’s a field full of angry bulls in another picture and immense pigs in yet another.  I see my memory played me tricks when I described a couple of other things: the man taking a crap behind the tree is being stalked by men with muskets, not a pack of dogs as I said – and the elegant figurehead is wearing a brown, not blue hat.

Other new stuff at Tate B

Not new of course, but newly out of storage – or new to me, anyway:

Two great, sombre Bombergs – “Bomb Store” I believe.  Reminded me of Rouault.

There’s a whole room of Alan Davie, who died a few weeks ago.  Best pictures are “Fish God” (see previous blog, “Shark Penis of the Fish God”) and “Sacrifice”, a rough, dirty tangle on a great blue ground.

alan davie

That “Fauvist” portrait of a woman is by Fergusson, one of the Scottish Colourists – get the little book of SC postcards.

fergusson

There’s a beautiful bowl somewhere, by William Nicholson, Ben’s father.

And there’s that brilliantly coloured abstract in the same room as the Basil Beattie, which looks really crude close up – but absolutely beautiful from across the room.  Can’t remember the name – sounds North African to me – so can’t find a photo, but you will know what I mean when you see it.

Nineteen Eighty -Four

I’ve just got to the bit where Winston reads Goldstein’s book.  In it, Goldstein relates how the permanent state of war existing between Oceania, Eurasia and Eastasia has had the effect of stabilising their economies by burning off surplus capital that would otherwise lead to crises of overproduction.  this seems just a whisker away from the “permanent arms economy” described – not sure if its his original idea – by Michael Kidron, in his old Pelican(?) paperback, “Western Capitalism Since the War”.  He’s writing about the Cold War and the constant renewal of military hardware, but still, pretty close.  Years since I read the Kidron and I’ve lost my copy, so maybe he mentions Orwell.

Flowers of the Field (to 13th July)

A  play by Kevin Mandry at the White Bear pub theatre in Kennington; it fits nicely with the British Folk Art exhibition, where the DVD, made by the British film Institute, entitled “Here’s a Health to the Barley Mow” is on sale.  The play, set in 1916,  concerns the efforts of a war-damaged British officer to collect folk songs in rural Sussex; he inadvertently walks into a drama to do with the ownership of a farm and the efforts of a young girl to avoid  forced marriage to a rapacious landowner.  The difficulties faced by the officer in getting the locals to come up with the real goods, as opposed to hymns, old music hall songs and ballads, make for some very funny scenes and echo real problems faced by the early collectors, like Cecil Sharp and Percy Grainger.

The second half is darker, concerned as it is with the question of the farm and the marriage.  The song which the officer eventually succeeds in recording, is a southern version of “I Once Loved a Lass”.  This is a Scottish variation, recorded among others by Sandy Denny.  Words different, but similar; tune pretty much the same in both versions.

I saw my love to the church go,

With brides and brides’ maidens, she made a fine show,

And I followed on with a heart full of woe,

For she’s gone to be wed to another.

As for the DVD, the High Spens Sword Dance group and the Britannia Coconut Dancers (not blacked up here) have to be seen.

Il Bidone

Fellini’s great film about con men in 50’s Italy, starring the monumental Broderick Crawford (he looked almost the same throughout his career, give or take a few white hairs).  Apparently Fellini used him for his presence – he didn’t act much, just did himself, according to the commentary.  I think he was effective across a fair range though – menace, dignity, vulnerability, pathos, cynicism – and he could really wear a big, shapeless suit.  The music, inevitably by Nino Rota, is very reminiscent of “Blackadder”.

??????????

 

Lizard Reunion

Blackpaint

26.06.14

 

Blackpaint 400 – Dora, Mark and Stanley in Dulwich

June 27, 2013

Dulwich Picture Gallery – “A Crisis of Brilliance”

This is an exhibition of works by a number of British artists, connected with each other by way of the Slade, where they all studied under Tonks , and then by Bloomsbury etc., completed between 1908 and 1922.  WWI therefore features (there is the huge, rippling, faintly Kokoschka – like Bomberg of sappers under bombardment and Nevinson’s solitary, diving biplane) but does not dominate the exhibition.  My highlights as follows:

Stanley Spencer, “Mending Cowls at Cookham” – the  storm- threatening sky providing stark background to the  white of the cowls, as they are put in place.  That key shape does something too;

spencer cowls

Dora Carrington, “Soldiers at a Stream” – little painting, perfectly rendered and coloured, horses drinking, soldiers mounted;

Mark Gertler, “Pool at Garsington” – a touch of Cezanne, maybe; the L-shaped slice that seems to be collaged in, surrounding the house and tree;

gertler2

Carrington, that profile of Strachey with the stunning hands, fingers tented in thought (actually though, not- he’s holding a book).

There are some beautiful pencil drawings, hard to choose the best; self-portraits by Spencer and Carrington and Bomberg, all great (although Carrington’s, done at 16, looks nothing like Gertler’s portrait of her, done a few years later – Gertler’s is exceptionally fine, lightly but surely drawn and conveying a wealth of character; the gaze of love, presumably).

gertler1

Carrington’s heavy-hipped “standing Nude” is notable and the Gertler “Seated Nude”, done in watercolour pencils.

The clinker of the exhibition is Carrington’s “Bedford Market”, but she was very young when she did it and it’s very competent.

The exhibition is only three or four rooms, quite understated, but some real treasures.  I see I haven’t mentioned Paul Nash at all – probably because I’ve seen so much of his work lately.  The impact dulls with repetition; or does it always?  Maybe there are some painters who always grab you – for me, it’s de Kooning.  Forgot to mention Bomberg’s “In the Hold”, one of his horse-frightening geometric “abstracts”, way beyond anything else in the exhibition for experimentation and fittingly, separated from the others at the entrance.

Salter, All There Is

Finished this now, as well as “Light Years”; the writing in the earlier novel perhaps more consciously “fine”, sometimes crossing the border into pretentious territory – but I read them both, quickly for me, and am close to finishing his memoir, “Burning the Days”, for the second time.  There is a startling section towards the end of “All There Is”, when Salter’s protagonist Bowman rather forcefully overcomes the weak resistance of Anet, the young daughter of his ex-lover, takes her on a trip to Paris and abandons her there in a hotel room – an act of revenge on her mother, who had abandoned Bowman (and “robbed” him of a house in the courts).  Anet says “No” – but Bowman clearly knows she means “Yes”, and acts accordingly.  He’s right, of course; afterwards, she’s happy – until he ditches her.  Salter offers no hint of approval or disapproval; merely “describes”.  Maybe that’s what startled me about it – it’s so at odds with currently acceptable attitudes towards sexual conduct.

Almodovar, Talk to Her

This film is another case in point; it has a young woman in a coma, who is stalked – before the accident – by a pudgy mother’s boy.  He manages to become one of her carers when she is comatose, rapes her and makes her pregnant, a crime for which he is eventually imprisoned.

Unbelievably, given the circumstances outlined above, you feel a sort of queasy sympathy, rather than revulsion, for the rapist.  I’ve checked online; it’s not just me, the proper critics are united in their admiration for the film, which won an Academy Award and a Golden Globe in 2002.

So, how can this be?  Firstly, you don’t see the sex (although there is a fantasy sequence where a tiny dancer enters a rather stylised vagina).  The  surreal atmosphere of Almodovar’s films probably helps; and the rapist is portrayed throughout as a gentle, concerned character with a strong empathy for women, who is in love with (fixated on) the victim.  And he is caught, imprisoned and eventually kills himself.

Almodovar is clearly a follower of Bunuel in his anarchistic, surreal tendencies and his insistence on exploring the “unacceptable” faces of sexuality – fetishism and illness are prominent themes in the work of both.

What makes Almodovar’s film less jarring than the incident in Salter’s book?  I’m not sure.  To be continued.

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Blackpaint

27.06.13

Blackpaint 350 – Bomberg, Belle and Munch

July 12, 2012

Picasso and Britain

Last days at the Tate Britain, so went again.  The Duncan Grants I still like, in spite of everyone else, it seems; especially “Interior at Golden Square”; also, one or two of the Nicholsons, especially the pink one.  The Picassos themselves blow everything else out of the water, of course, for confidence, inventiveness, use of colour… but there are a couple of duff ones (see previous Blackpaint ).

Bomberg at South Bank University

Turns out that only four or five of the drawings and paintings on show at the moment are Bombergs – but this was not a disappointment, as those by his followers  are great.  There is a beautiful charcoal sketch by Edna Mann, of a nude woman stoopimg to pick up something from the floorpaintings that are very Auerbach in colour and structure by Dennis Creffield;  Cezanne-like bathers heavily outlined in black by Cliff Holden; and a big, dark, swerving, black-outlined head by Dorothy Mead.  Great little exhibition, and more to be shown in October, I was told.

Patrick Keiller at Tate Britain

This “exhibit” comprises an exhibition within an exhibition, based on the “Robinson Institute”, a fictional entity based on a fictional character invented by Keiller.  It is concerned with English landscape (which I got, without reading) and the development of capitalism (which I didn’t).  Along with Keiller’s own photographs, some brilliant, interesting works by Turner, James Ward, Paul Nash, Gursky, James Boswell, John Latham (huge black blot), Fiona Banner (small black blot)…..  I find these fictional conceits increasingly irritating – why not just stick a load of paintings you like together, like Grayson Perry at Bexhill a couple of years ago? – then again, Keiller has used the Robinson thing before, so it’s got the integrity of a previous history.

Edvard Munch at Tate Modern  

This, I have to say, is the worst exhibition I’ve ever seen.  Or, to be fair, it’s a very good exhibition of one of the worst painters I’ve ever seen.  The paintings are in dead colours, crudely painted, many figures cursorily executed with round, turnipy heads.  One “Kiss” looked like a man kissing a Labrador standing on its hind legs.  There is a series of seven or eight “Weeping Woman”s, in which she looks like a pale corpse, going greenish here and there, like something out of “The Shining”.  His wallpaper – lots of claustrophobic interiors – looks as if it’s patterned with dried blood.  Banal, flesh-creeping subject matter:  vampire women, a post-sex (rape?) scene, operating theatres with huge blood stains, a man aiming a rifle at someone through a window..  Lots of photographs, with “ghosts” hovering in them, but too small for me to keep looking at.  It’s crap, but good value – there’s lots of it.  I never did understand why The Scream has resonated with so many people.

Belle de Jour 

The original, Bunuel – Deneuve, of course.  What does the Japanese customer have in his little box?  Why does the coffin rock beneath Severine at the Duke’s?  And did Rebekah Brookes get the idea for the demure, white-collared, black Leverson dress from Belle, rather than the Salem witch trials, as the papers and TV here suggested?

Melancholia

It’s drenched in Tarkovsky, on second viewing; “Hunters in the Snow”, the music, the theme, even (“Nostalgia”)…

Blackpaint

13/07/12

Blackpaint 348 – Hopping Through the Market and Swinging in the Trees

June 28, 2012

Chelsea Degree Show

The “plaques” of paint I enthused about in the last blog were made by Clare Travers.

Other Chelsea works I liked:

Jonathan Slaughter – droopy, wilting, tubular sculpture, called, I believe, “Pay for the Printer”, a title borrowed from a Philip K Dick story.  In this tale, human societies have become dependent on friendly aliens known as “printers”, who can reproduce goods and chattels that are described to them; then they get ill and start dying and their powers wane; the replications become ever poorer and fall to pieces or melt back into shapeless matter – time for humanity to shape up and get the tools out again. 

Minji Kim – fragile sculptures of joined rectangles and cubes, formed from thin sticks glued to each other (they don’t appear to interlink like Escher, but are rather glued together), hanging horizontally in front of a dark background.

Anne – Marie Kennedy – paintings of dark grey blocks, cut and slightly shifted by thick slices of white.  Painterly roughness, of course; I have to have some texture.

Don Gumbrell – big, cartoonish paintings with a slight George Condo feel; modern German Expressionist colours.  Like the colour and surface, not so much the image.

Tess Faria – videos, which I normally pass by en route to paintings; she’s plastering a whitewashed wall with black mud; she’s sitting in a big white box in the road; and in the last one, she’s hopping on one leg through a market (could be Deptford?)  – hopping and shopping, in fact.  One or two passers-by look back briefly.  Don’t know why, it sounds trivial and old hat, but it made me watch until she’d finished plastering the wall in one video and hopped out of the market in another, and cheered me up.

Anon – In the same room as Tess, a number of items of furniture, TV, wardrobe etc, beautifully made from chipboard.  Videos, too, but I liked the furniture.  Forgot the name and the work wasn’t in the catalogue.

Selma Dahhouki – more video; she’s swinging on a rope on a tree in the woods, she’s attempting unsuccessfully to slide up another tree trunk, she’s diving into the green waters of a river or lake.  And yes, she’s naked, as you would be, doing these “back to nature” type activities.  Fortunately, the task I have set myself is merely to describe, not to interpret – so I can enjoy the simple pleasures of just looking at art.

Also liked Joanna Stamford’s battered, torn, bronze arm bracelets and lumpy plaster chairs; Tommy Ramsay’s oils of brick walls and columns on grey/brown backgrounds; and Susan Collyer’s Richter-ish blur pictures – particularly the grey “plate” with the orange squares (since I’m looking at this in the catalogue, can’t make out whether it’s a painting or photograph).

Generally, lots more painting in Chelsea show now, mostly retro like my own stuff.  Lot of interesting abstract stuff on walls of TV programme sets too – Mad Men of course, but also Neighbours – don’t watch it myself, mind you – but so I’m told.  And even some advert, there’s a couple of good abstracts, not in some Bauhaus kitchen with beautiful people either.  Can’t remember the product, though.

David Bomberg  

The Sarah Rose collection of Bomberg and the Borough painters is open now at South Bank Uni in Borough High Street; fabulous, interesting painter, famously “uncompromising” (difficult personality).  I’m off there at earliest opportunity – see collection online at www.boroughroadgallery.co.uk

Blackpaint

28.06.12

Blackpaint 320 – The Shire, the Sunset and the Pequod

January 19, 2012

David Hockney

His new show at the RA seems to be dividing the critics somewhat, so I am eager to go see.  Some seem to be casting him as Grand Old Man of figurative painting, upholding traditional old English values (that thing about drawing, a sort of fetishism I think) against the conceptuals, the empty, sensationalist Hirstites. His grumpy old squire-ishness and eccentricities about smoking and the calendar assist in this, I suppose.  Some reviewers are writing in awed tones about beauty and soul – enough to make you sick, or me anyway.

Martin Kettle in the Guardian expresses this identification with traditional values – he chucks in Yorkshire pride too, no nonsense in Yorkshire – most strongly; he writes that “Hockney and his art express and address the kind of people and country that he and we wish we were”.  What does this mean?  That we are  people who love landscape painting, hate abstract and conceptual art, admire the “useful”, despise the frivolous, can draw really, really well?  All sounds deeply conservative to me, as if Hockney’s art was made to chime with Cameron’s current version of Thatcherism.  He’s probably right about many people living in Britain today – when times are hard and uncertain, you tend to cling to what you see as safest.  Not sure he’s right about Hockney, though.

Hockney’s tree pics and landscapes strike me as so oddly coloured that I think of them almost as cartoons – the repros I have seen remind me of the graphics that you used to see in pre – CGI animation; not so much East Yorkshire as The Shire.  That bright green, the beetroot – to – mauve colours he uses for paths; it all lacks the denseness and richness and subtlety of trad English landscape.  So what – he’s using trees and landscape to make pictures and if the pictures don’t look like the landscape, it shouldn’t be a problem.  The only question is, do you like the pictures?

Giorgione

Was in the National Gallery today, and I came across a couple of paintings by this mystery man of Venice.  The first, Il Tramonto, the Sunset, had a lot going on in it as well as the sun setting; St. George killing the dragon, St.Anthony waving out of a cave, St. Roch (maybe) getting his leg bound up, and a pond with a very humpy monster sitting in it.  What is the relationship between all these?  Like the Tempest, in the Venice Accademia, no-one has much idea what’s going on.

The other picture was the Adoration of the Kings, that little panel with the groom crossing his legs and looking down at his feet, way off to the right out of the main action of the picture, but stealing the attention completely.  The glowing yellows and reds are up to Raphael standard.

Catena

Why does Catena have partridges wandering about in both the pics on display next to the Giorgiones?  there they are, in both a St. Jerome in his study (lion with very human face) and in an Adoration (baby Jesus with head like a cannonball).

Travelling Light

At the Whitechapel, the latest government pictures selection, by Simon Schama this time.  Best pictures; Roger Hilton’s fabulous Pequod (thought it was a big Alfred Wallis, from across the room); Bomberg’s Jerusalem Armenian Church, and Marta Marce’s “Scalectrix” loops.  There’s that great portrait of Byron, done up like a Greek soldier, but looking very soft – not like the mad satanic near rapist portrayed in Ken’s “Gothic”.  Once again, fantastic booklet, made for bloggers so they don’t have to take notes.

Blackpaint

19.01.12

Blackpaint 314

December 22, 2011

Sutherland

Laura Cumming in her review of the Sutherland show in Oxford (see Observer last Sunday) remarks on his adoption of  realism with the outbreak of WWII, or at least, the Blitz.  I remarked on this in Blackpaint 128, in relation to Bomberg, with his involvement in the First World War – it’s as if the sights of warfare call for a more realistic depiction, or some artists no longer feel that an experimental approach can do them proper justice.  Maybe this is understating it, in the case of Bomberg – according to Robert Hughes in his book on Auerbach, Bomberg was so traumatised by his time in the trenches that he shot himself in the foot, a capital offence at the time.

Irvin

I mentioned the Alice Correia essay I read in the Irvin book – she quotes Roger Hilton as follows: “Words and painting don’t go together.  The more words that are written about painting, the less people will see the painting.  Half the difficulty that people find in “understanding” painting is that they think they have to put it into words.”  The truth of this  is easily demonstrated – just think of the number of times you have gone to an exhibition and spent more time reading the labels and info on the walls than looking at the pictures.  A bit of context is OK, but a work, especially an abstract one, should speak through the image – otherwise, why bother?

Unfortunately, she spoils it for me on the previous page: “Why is it that that non-representational art draws so much negative attention? …The work of Jackson Pollock… still has the ability of infuriating viewers who feel they are being duped in some way….It could be because abstraction does not have any easy answers.  The question is not “what is it of?” but rather, “how does it make me feel?” ”  

Well, no.  Back to words again!  The “feelings” proposal negates Hilton’s comments entirely.  Pictures don’t need to represent feelings either.  She asserts that Irvin’s pictures are about hope, an easy conclusion to reach, since they are vibrant, bright colours and contain little black. But  he was in the RAF during WW2; some of them could easily represent burning German cities from a plane, with daisy-like bomb explosions (Plimsoll, Skipper and Brandenburg, for example).  Let the pictures speak for themselves.

Van Gogh

I’m sure I have remarked on this before, and that loads of others have also noticed it, but some of Vincent’s late paintings look as if he is painting  LSD experiences.  The blazing stars, of course, but also tree bark, meadow grasses, fields and hedgerows seem to swarm, somehow, or are outlined in light, in a way that I remember from long-ago “experiments” with hallucinogens.  Not to suggest that he was an early adopter; maybe a chemical imbalance made him see in that way.  Then again,  not all painters paint what they see – probably not even most.  Certainly not me, even in life drawing; I’m happy with anything that looks halfway OK, even if it’s nothing like what I see. 

The Music Lovers

Sample reviews,  from Wikipedia:

Dave Kehr of the Chicago Reader described the film as a “Ken Russell fantasia – musical biography as wet dream” and added, “[it] hangs together more successfully than his other similar efforts, thanks largely to a powerhouse performance by Glenda Jackson, one actress who can hold her own against Russell’s excess.”

TV Guide calls it “a spurious biography of a great composer that is so filled with wretched excesses that one hardly knows where to begin . . . all the attendant surrealistic touches director Ken Russell has added take this out of the realm of plausibility and into the depths of cheap gossip.”  Ken Russell must have been immensely proud of these, and other, worse, reviews.

My own realist efforts.

And latest, abstractified Figures in a (winter) landscape.  This was called “Life Drawing 1”, a couple of blogs ago.

Blackpaint

22/12/11

Blackpaint 130

May 9, 2010

Private View (cont.)

Eavesdropping on the visitors, one realises what should have been obvious; this is more about interior decorating than it is about art.  There you are, having agonised about your work, wrestling with the tempestuous emotions stirred up, screaming (almost ) with frustration, perhaps just managing to check your shaking hand as it lifts the razor to your ear – and what do you hear? 

 “What about that for the lounge?” 

“No, I don’t think so really – we need something a bit more… green”.

Fair enough.  It’s a compliment, really because they are paying cash to live with your work – or not, in most cases.

Bomberg

What I said about admiring him because he died in poverty; reason is that, to me, it implies he had some integrity about his art, something I haven’t got; I’m a whore, I’ll knock out a green painting for the lounge any time, I suspect; haven’t been asked, so far.  Of course, it could just be he was a miserable, cantankerous bastard who was his own worst enemy, but I prefer to think not.

Matisse

Watched the Alastair Sooke programme on the above.  I was amused to hear Django Reinhardt and the Hot Club doing “Swing 42” yet again.  Someone at the BBC sound archive is a Reinhardt fan and Django keeps popping up on anything to do with France or art or the occupation of Paris in WW2;  A bit like the Ry Cooder bottleneck soundtrack to “Paris Texas”, every time there’s a desert or US road shot.

There were three staggering generalisations made by Sooke.  First was about “The Piano Lesson”; there was a lot of grey, for Matisse, in this picture, a spike of it poking into the boy’s head.  “It’s about the First World War,” said Sooke, “Matisse was thinking about all those young men sent to the front…”.

Second, there was that beautiful, rich red interior with all the items floating about in the room as if in liquid.  “Matisse has left the hands off the clock,” said Sooke, “He has suspended time…”

Third and last, and maybe fair enough, the book “Jazz”, which Matisse made in bed in the last couple of years of his life; Sooke said in this book, with its brilliant colours, “Matisse was defying death”.

I’d really like to know what evidence he has for any of these assertions; all three were made totally baldly, no “One might think Matisse was..” or anything like that.  Still, if art critics are prepared to take this on, it removes the responsibility from artists so not necessarily a bad thing.

Roger Hilton

This thing about Matisse doing the simplified cut outs when he was ill and bedridden reminded me of Hilton and the childlike images he produced with poster paints after his illness incapacitated him.  Please note I say childlike, not childish; I’m not being disparaging.

Interregnum by Blackpaint

Listening to Cold, Cold Feeling by TBone Walker.

“I got a cold, cold feeling, it’s just like ice around my heart, (*2)

I know I’m gonna quit somebody, every time that feeling starts”.

Blackpaint

09.05.10

Blackpaint 128

May 6, 2010

Abstract and Figurative

In the Tate Modern yesterday, I wandered into the Futurist gallery, killing time more than anything else.  Not that the paintings (or some of them) aren’t good, but I’m sort of familiar with them – or I thought I was.  There was David Bomberg, a picture very much like “The Mud Bath” in form – zigzag solid forms that turn out on close inspection to be people.

Then, at the end of the gallery, I looked at the other Bomberg; a giant picture of soldiers at work under a light blue sky, it’s called something like “Canadian sappers mining Hill 60, in the St.Eloi sector” and it was painted in 1919-20.  It’s a strange picture, a sketch apparently, and it reminded me a little of a Spencer/Kitaj cross.  The soldiers appear to have slightly wobbly arms.  It is, however, conventional in its depiction of the human figure, compared to “The Mud Bath” paintied four or five years earlier.

What had happened in between, of course, was the Western Front and Bomberg’s participation in it.  Perhaps it seemed somehow inappropriate (strange word to apply to painting – who would want to paint “appropriate” pictures?) to render the troops in his abstract style.  After the industrial-scale slaughter, perhaps it seemed right to one who had been there to paint them as individual people rather than anonymous, semi-geometric shapes. 

After the war, there were the Palestine  landscapes, then Spain and Cornwall.  I think these paintings were more conventional than the pre – war paintings; my partner says no – the Vorticist stuff was faddy and superficial, a sort of blind alley; the landscapes more exciting in the use of paint and structure.

Either way, I was interested in this apparent abandonment of abstraction by one who had been so “radical”.  An obvious parallel – on the face of it, anyway – is Philip Guston and I’ll look at him tomorrow as I have urgent business to attend to at the polling station.

Interesting that Susan Philipsz’ entry for the Turner Prize is a recording of her singing “Lowlands” under a Scottish bridge (sorry – unclear.  She’s not singing under a bridge – The recording is played under a  bridge).

The Cock Crew by Blackpaint

“I dreamed a dream the other night;

Lowlands, lowlands away my John;

I dreamed a dream the other night;

My lowlands away.

I dreamed I saw my own true love;

Lowlands, lowlands  away, etc.

He was green and wet with weeds so cold,

Lowlands, lowlands away,” etc.

Blackpaint

06.05.10