Posts Tagged ‘David Dawson’

Blackpaint 327 – The legs and feet are the best bits

February 25, 2012

Lucian Freud at National Portrait Gallery

I’m told by a friend that I got it wrong when I said Freud made his first wife, Kitty Garman, face the wall while he was painting; it was while he was eating.   Readers will agree that this gives a completely different picture of him.

I’ve now seen the exhibition, which is big  – but to tell the truth, we did it in 40 mins – although I am quite familiar with Freud’s paintings). 

 In addition to the ones I checked in last blog, I have to mention the huge one of Leigh Bowery lying on his back on a couch with a slender girl  next to him, but facing the opposite way and towards the viewer;  both are naked.  The picture is framed by an arch of the gallery and is best viewed through the arch, from the corridor.  The background is a dim ochre.  Two things struck me; the resemblance of the girl, physique and posture, to the early de Kooning picture of Juliet Browner from 1938 ; and Bowery’s right leg, which is arched upwards.  The way Freud has rendered the flesh of this leg is just perfect.

Then, there is the girl with the blue toenails.  Again, it is the legs, this time a roasted reddish hue, that strike you.

The slender blonde nude lying back on the bed in girl with red chair – grey/black outline round figure very noticeable, especially around her forearm; not usual for Freud, maybe he was tired.  Also, I think that bobbling of the paint on the flesh in some of the later paintings can be irritating, especially on the face of that young blonde woman – you’ll see it immediately when you go; it’s like a skin disease.  Not so bad on Sue, the benefits supervisor – enough flesh there to contain the bobbles.

Finally, the nude, seated painting of David Dawson, with his pink chest and enormous right hand coming out of the canvas at you, bigger than his shoulder.

Generally, I have to mention the feet, sturdy, solid, red and sinewy.  Check them out, for instance, in the one of the woman arching her arm over the piled-up linen (she’s actually standing against a wall or chair, or something concealed by the linen, not lying on a bed, as I had previously thought.  Stands to reason, of course; Freud would have had to be floating above her to paint an aerial view.)

Check the sturdy feet.

Elsewhere in the NPG

Some other paintings of interest at the portrait gallery:  Aleister Crowley in some sort of ritual robe, making an interesting closed circle gesture with his fingers and wearing a thoroughly nasty expression; painted by Leon Kennedy(?).  The fantastic profile of Lytton Strachey with the great long left hand raised, by Dora Carrington.  The great Ruskin Spears, of course – Bacon and Sid James, and the David Sylvester by Larry Rivers, my favourite portrait in the NPG.

Fellini, The Ship Sails On

The rhinoceros I mentioned is the origin of a disgusting stink aboard the ship; it is hoisted up with ropes and hosed down by the crew.  It is clearly a rubber or polythene model, much too big (intentionally, I’m sure) and thus, it joins the company of monstrosities in Fellini films, like the huge dead fish at the end of La Dolce Vita and the whale hoisted up in a sling in Satyricon – link with the dead, stinking whale in Bela Tarr’s Werckmeister Harmonies, too, enabling me to mention him again.

More crap pictures – back to abstract soon.  Here’s a proper one, from the archive:

Blackpaint

25.02.12

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Blackpaint 287

July 22, 2011

Lucian Freud

What a staggering photograph by David Dawson in today’s Guardian, of Freud working, stripped to the waist, in 2005;  his torso looks to me exactly like one of his own (Freud’s) paintings.  By contrast, another crass assertion by Adrian Searle that, next to Freud, Hockney and Howard Hodgkin are “artistic pygmies”; fair enough to think that, but not without argument.  Searle merely asserts that Freud’s art “has authority” (presumably Hockney and Hodgkin lack that quality) and follows it up with anecdotes about his assertive (boorish, aggressive?) behaviour.  He once painted himself with a black eye after getting into a punch up with a taxi driver.

For my money, his best pictures were the portrait of a young Francis Bacon, the picture of Harry Diamond standing next to the aspidistra and the portrait, elongated and looking down, of Frank Auerbach.  Also, that great, porridge-y, self portrait, naked apart from the boots.

I’d have hoped for some comparison with Auerbach, too; seems logical as they are both painters of flesh and Grand Old Men.

St.Ives

The BBC4 film Art in Cornwall, fronted by James Fox, got another airing last night; it was 90 minutes long and good on Wallis, Nicolson, Hepworth, Wood, Gabo, Lanyon and Heron.  Not enough on Frost, nothing on Hilton, Blow, Mackenzie, Wynter…  Surely, it should have been two 90 minute programmes to get it all in.  Still, better than nothing…

Lanyon

The film was pretty good on Peter Lanyon, and sent me straight back to my books to look at him again.  The sweep and energy in the paintings, surf exploding, sunlight blinding, flight lines, roughness, scoring of rocks, concealed figures (Lost Mine and Porthleven), those fantastic murals at Liverpool and Birmingham universities…  Why isn’t he rated as highly as Freud and Bacon?  Too abstract for the figuratives, and too landscape-y for the abstractionists, I suppose.

Tarkovsky and Tarr

Both of these directors clearly have a thing about rain –  I’m watching Tarkovsky’s “Nostalgia” at the moment, and great, soaking deluges are pouring down, often shot through with dazzling light that separates out the individual falling drops.  Derelict brick and cement buildings are a favourite, with great holes in the roof that admit torrents.  Often, as with Tarr, dogs are wandering about, usually German Shepherds in Tarkovsky’s case.  The difference between the two is one of mood; Tarr’s deluges pour down on glum village streets or mud roads and shabby blocks of flats; Tarkovsky’s downpours in Nostalgia, Stalker and Mirror tend to be more – well, nostalgic in mood.

 

 

B

Blackpaint

22/07/11

 

 

 

 

 

Blackpaint 283

July 3, 2011

Last Year in Marienbad

Watching this, I have discovered, like thousands before me, no doubt,  the source of many parodies – especially that one where actors speak a pretentious sentence whilst gazing out at the audience and mid-sentence, the scene changes and they’re in different clothes or a different place.  This is not to denigrate the film – it’s beautiful (and so is Delphine Seyrig) and anyway, I love pretentious films; cliches and parodies are so often born from great art, n’est-ce pas?  Loved the Max Ernst feather dress, too.

It strikes me that L’Age d’Or could have been done as an “anti – Marienbad” – if it wasn’t 30 years older.  the couple in Marienbad are sort of polar opposites to the couple in the Bunuel film – stylistically anyway.. but now I’m starting to see parallels, so will stop with that…

Laura Cumming on Magritte

Last Sunday, reviewing the Magritte show at the Tate Liverpool, LC wrote in the Observer that Magritte’s work was “a sustained exploration of painting itself, how it works, what it can ever show or truly say”.  I think this is an astonishing claim for a painter who, most critics seem to agree, was no great shakes as a user of paint, but was a competent illustrator – a man who was a good commercial artist.  Surely, it’s the power of his images that makes him interesting, as well as the champion poster – shifter, apparently (or maybe it’s the most book covers).  His painting is as good as it needs to be to get the idea across – he’s a conceptual artist, who doesn’t really explore painting at all.

Cartoon Museum – Steve Bell  

This is in a little street opposite the front entrance of the British Museum and contains a great exhibition of Bell’s work.  I was surprised at how well some of his characters stand up after a few years (Bell turns his politicians into characters, for example the Iron Lady and Major with the underpants, Blair with the mad eye, Cameron with the condom head); I remember them seeming a bit crude and even silly to me, when he first did them.  Now, they strike me as epic.  Then, there are the variations on famous paintings; my favourites are Major’s underpants burning on the Thames (after Turner), Blair about to be inundated by an overcurling tidal wave of shit in the form of Gordon Brown (after Hokusai) and Brown as a boxer, flat on the mat, punching himself in the face (I think that was a Bell original).

There is also the French artist, the penguin, the monkey, the sheep, the chief inspector….

There’s a fascinating video of Bell going about his work at party conferences and doing his own commentary.  As you would expect, he finds a physical peculiarity and develops it – Cameron’s smooth cheeks and a certain wateriness of the eyes that suggest a fishiness to him; Osborne’s slightly bulging neck and, especially, the bum nose-end.  Go and see it, after the Australian prints and drawings in the BM.

Whitechapel Gallery 

Here, for free, is an exhibition of some of the art works that have been chosen by various politicians and diplomats to decorate their offices and reception rooms.  The one I particularly liked was a photograph by David Dawson of Lucian Freud, painting the queen.  She’s sitting there, in a plain plastered room (presumably in Buck House?? – no; St.James’ Palace ) with a crack running across one wall, in a very ordinary-looking coat – with her crown on.  More of this exhibition tomorrow, along with Vorticists, Twombly and others.

Blackpaint

02.07.11