Posts Tagged ‘David Hockney’

Blackpaint 321 – Yorkshire, Blackburn and the Leopard

January 23, 2012

Hockney at the RA

The weekend papers full of hype for this – Roy Hattersley droning on about Yorkshire, bringing in Captain Cook and other irrelevancies, interviews with bussed-down Yorkshire painters groups, Yorkshire tourist board planning Hockney tours…  More about Hockney’s “superlative” drawing skills,” richness and exuberance” of the colours.  I have to say that none of the repros I have seen particularly demonstrate Hockney’s (undoubted) drawing skills and some of the green, orange and Ribena colours look like no colours I have seen in “real life”, in Yorkshire or anywhere else.  An artist called Jim Bruce – not a Yorkshireman – tellingly referred to Hockney’s landscapes as “abstract”, while enthusing about them to an interviewer.  Laura Cumming in the Observer says “He is not primarily interested in the ever-changing rhetoric of weather, light or nature.  He is thinking about picture making..”   She refers to the colours as “Matisse crossed with Walt Disney” and I persist in being reminded of the animated Lord of the Rings.

The size of the paintings must contribute to the feeling of “Event”; I touched on the previous display of Hockney big trees at the Tate Britain when writing about John Martin’s spectaculars recently.  Interestingly, with regard to hype, I see that the Leonardo exhibition is described as “overpraised” in today’s Guardian.  Don’t think any critics had the nerve to say that when it opened.

Having said all that, the Hockneys are definitely distinctive; you couldn’t mistake the pictures for anyone else’s work and that’s something to prize, for sure.

London Art Fair

Acquired tickets for this, which normally cost £18 entrance fee, expecting a lot of dross; instead, saw the best British painting I have seen all year.  Admittedly, most of it was  St. Ives or other oldies, but that’s the rut I’m stuck in.  My partner tells me that the recession is leading collectors to sell off some good stuff, but I’m unconvinced; lots of cash around at the top end, I think.  Anyway, some lovely, brilliantly coloured Anthony Frosts (Terry’s son), loads of Alan Davie, including a great one on thick brown wrapping paper, Roger Hilton poster paints and others from earlier, loads of little Sutherlands, Keith Vaughans and great early Sandra Blows, when she was using sand and suchlike.  Several Ivon Hitchens, Prunella Clough, and a totally uncharacteristic Patrick Heron, that was bright little colours on a black base.  The best pictures were as follows:

Peter Lanyon, large oblong panel, with unusual, intense orange -red section and an almost grafitti feel to it; 

John Blackburn, new to me, but born 1932; beautiful white and blue panels on an upright rectangle, tucked away at back, very like Paul Feiler;

Paul Feiler (born 1918, Britain’s greatest living abstract painter), white and off-white square with red and blue broken and concealed lines breaking surface here and there; 

Adrian Heath, who taught Terry Frost in POW camp, Poliakoff-like geometric shapes in various colours, resembling collage;

Robin Denny, a big, wild, dark blue Ab Ex effort, so fantastic I stepped back carelessly for a better look, straight into a gent who was also gazing at it.  On the way home, we saw his (Denny’s) coloured rods design on Embankment tube – hard to believe same bloke did both.

Also in Embankment station, a besuited Peter Blake, several of whose works were on show at the Angel.

Three other painters whose work I liked were Mark Surridge, little Lanyon-y panels; Rebecca Salter, gauzey, gossamer surfaces to her canvases,; and Chloe Lamb, whose abstracts, often in variations of ochre, I loved, but thought the paint could have been slapped on more thickly.  There is another Chloe Lamb, featuring on Google.

The Leopard, Visconti

Made in 1963, just seen the DVD.  Sicily in Garibaldi’s time, eras ending, the stately old aristos intermarrying with the new bourgeoisie – Burt Lancaster surprisingly perfect, once you get used to the dubbed voice; another sumptuous, hypnotic ball to go with the one in Russian Ark; those quirky mazurkas.  And Romolo Valli, the hotel manager in Death in Venice, here a sycophant priest.  And music by Nino Rota.

Old one, I’m afraid; batteries in my camera gone.

Blackpaint

23/01/12

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 260

March 14, 2011

Mark Wallinger

Video installation  in the Tate Britain.  It’s been there for some time, but I took  the time to sit and watch it on Sunday.  It’s a film of people, mostly business types, coming through the exit gates at an airport, in slow motion, to some beautiful early church music.  The music and slow motion turn the whole thing into a ballet and endow every movement and facial expression with significance; raised eyebrows, for instance, to convey nonchalance, perhaps; a quick check of the mobile, a squaring of the shoulders..  At one point, a young man, student maybe, enters from the right with a cup of coffee, cutting into the path of a woman who has just come through the gate.  A collision seems inevitable, but no – they pass by as if the other did not exist.  In the final seconds of the loop, a young woman runs into the picture and towards the camera, again, close to an emerging passenger – and again, it’s as if they are unaware of the other’s presence.  The sort of exhibit that makes you want to go back to see if you missed anything.

Keith Arnatt

His “Artist as a Shadow of his Former Self” is worth a look (in the same room); just a photo of his truncated shadow on a brick wall, but with the title, and the wall, of course,  it felt related somehow to Banksy’s stuff, only years earlier.

Barry Flanagan

A whole room of lovely small drawings, actually prints, I think, of simple line drawings with a couple of portraits that reminded me of early Hockney.

Turner

Looking at the “Sea Monsters” in the flesh, so to speak, I noticed yet another imponderable – on the immediate left of the “face” (or the left hand fish, as I am coming to think of it) there is a thing like a head with a cap on top and blunt face with no nose.  Another sea monster??

Michelangelo

Vincent thought Michelangelo did legs too long – but that it didn’t matter; there was truth in the distortion.  He doesn’t say which piece or pieces he is referring to, unfortunately.  I have to say that I haven’t noticed any particular leg distortion, but I do have a problem with the breasts on “Dawn”, part of the Lorenzo de’  Medici tomb.  As Alan Bennett made one of his History Boys say, she has a man’s torso with a woman’s breasts stuck on – or words to that effect.  Or, maybe he was referring to the female figure on the Giuliano de’ Medici tomb, where the breasts are even more “stuck on”.

Michelangelo’s drawings of the Tasks of Hercules in the Royal Library at Windsor show poor Hercules getting a really painful looking chomp on the backside from one of the heads of the Lernean Hydra.  He wrestles with other heads and necks in the classic Laocoon pose.

Bela Tarr

The Wallinger shows how the right music and slow motion can make the ordinary fascinating and full of moment; Tarr’s film, “The Man from London” (see Blackpaint 256 ) uses the music in this way throughout throughout – instead of slow motion, however, he uses stillness and a development from dark to lit, blurred to clear.  In one sequence, a character is walking along a harbour wall and the camera, travelling with him, swings in such a way that he appears to be making no progress against the background at all – indeed, it looks as if he is walking forwards but moving backwards.  Highly unsettling.

Blackpaint

14.03.11

Blackpaint 165

July 11, 2010

God in the Brain – Michelangelo

My youngest son told me a week or so ago that some scientists had recognised the odd surround from which God reaches to Adam on the ceiling of the Sistine Chapel as being an exact match for a cross section of the brain.  Then, last night, the same theory popped up on QI – Stephen Fry said it was three or four scientists and the whole thing was the more plausible because Michelangelo famously conducted (illegal) dissections.

So it’s clearly nonsense, according to Blackpaint’s Law of Spurious Plausibility.  This states that the likelihood of a theory being bullshit increases proportionate to its plausibility (to a disinterested and rational public).  We’re talking here about plausibility, not evidence, I emphasise.  The fact that  four scientists believe something is true is not evidence, unless its in their own field – maybe not even then; professional magicians love to have scientists observe their tricks, because they are really easy to fool – I suppose because they take a linear approach.

Caravaggio

Blackpaint’s Law probably applies to the Caravaggio camera obscura theory too.  Martin Gayford was writing about this in the Telegraph yesterday – the gist was that certain oddities in the way C. paints could be explained by his having used a camera obscura to “trace” some figures and then sort of reassemble them on canvas – an early variety of cut and paste, I suppose.  Sounds plausible – I think Hockney came up with it in that book he wrote a few years back.  There’s that question of the outstretched left hand in the “Supper at Emmaus” (too small in relation to the right one – see Blackpaint earlier this year) – not sure how that fits in.  Anyway, it’s plausible, but no evidence, so Blackpaint’s Law says BS.

Gillian Ayres

Below is my latest painting, that I thought was a pretty good effort, a re-working of an old canvas called “Bad Boy” that was OK at the time I did it but crap in retrospect.  The new one is called Bad Boy 2 (Falstaff), for obvious reasons.  After finishing it, and sticking it on the wall for appraisal, I happened to see a painting by Gillian Ayres, entitled Hinba, in a book.  Same reds and pinks, infinitely more interesting.  I wasn’t conscious of any influence, but it seems to me that I must have registered the Ayres somewhere in the back of my skull before painting; bit of a choker, really.  I suppose that sort of thing happens all the time.

Private View 

Last Thursday, in a swish health centre on Chelsea Wharf.  Amazing how much better your pictures look when they get a big chunk of pristine white wall to themselves.  A few glasses of red wine also improves their appearance, but best of all is a cheque (rare occurrence).

BB Falstaff by Blackpaint

Listening to Friends in Low Places, by Garth Brooks

“Blame it all on my roots – I showed up in boots

And ruined your black tie affair…”

Blackpaint

11.07.10