Posts Tagged ‘David Sylvester’

Blackpaint 521- Mediating Between Nothingness and Being; Calder and Giacometti

November 23, 2015

Alexander Calder, Performing Sculpture,  Tate Modern

This is one of those exhibitions that you go round with a smile on your face; probably childhood associations with mobiles or, if you’re a mature adult like me, with kites and novelty items on top of the TV.  His portraits are staggeringly good, done as they are with a few lengths of wire; if you go underneath them and look up, you can see how well they work, even from below.  I loved the fish in the wire tank, too.

calder1

Some of the works were like models of Picabia dream machines (although none of them seemed to be working when we were there;  the aerial mobiles, assembled from wire and coloured metal discs, reminded me of Chinese dragon creatures, lobsters and, oddly, of tapeworms – the segmented bodies, I suppose.  Reminders of Picasso everywhere, of course.

Antennae with Red and Blue Dots 1960 Alexander Calder 1898-1976 Purchased 1962 http://www.tate.org.uk/art/work/T00541

It’s a pleasing exhibition, but ultimately lightweight (sorry); I think Calder’s work is better seen with the work of his contemporaries, to add variety – but then, you could say that for rather a lot of artists.

Giacometti, Pure Presence, National Portrait Gallery

Rather a small exhibition to weigh in at sixteen quid odd, I thought ; we had a two-for-one from Cass Arts that eased the pain.

The title comes from something Sartre wrote; it refers to Giacometti’s practice of putting the subject right in the middle of his drawings and keeping any background confined to  a few sketchy lines, a chair or door, say, floating and fading in a corner.

giacometti1

Sartre also describes Giacometti as constantly “mediating between nothingness and being”.  Not sure what he means by this; it could apply to just about any artist.  I suppose it’s something to do with this faintness of background – and with the sculptures, the rough,  finger-and thumb-worked nature of the clay from which the perfect little heads and faces emerge.  They were kneaded into being, Sartre is saying (maybe): they could just as easily be kneaded out of being.

giacometti2

There is a film from 1967 of Giacometti working, with a commentary by David Sylvester.  Sylvester observes that, in the sculptures,  his women are all motionless, standing straight-legged (where they have legs) bolt upright, receiving the gaze of the sculptor and returning it impassively.  The men, however, like Giacometti himself, are “striving” – perhaps he said “striding” – restlessly.  This can’t be observed in the current exhibition, however, since only one sculpture, I think, has legs; it’s a woman, in that characteristic “one-legged” stance.

The paintings, all in that muddy ochre/grey/black/orange palette, are really drawings; thin, whippy, B&W lines delineate the figures and faces, which often have a grey-black “wash” across them.  Sylvester says that many of the sculptural portraits seem to resemble Giacometti himself; other lookalikes for me are General de Gaulle and the Queen, when she was young.

Here’s the sacrilege: I thought this exhibition was also lightweight.  The drawings looked tricksy somehow, and I missed the striders and the bigger sculptures  (I suppose because this IS the NPG, and the striders aren’t portraits).  Seen Giacometti displayed much better in,say, Louisiana near Copenhagen.

24 Hour Party People, Michael Winterbottom (2002)

Watched this brilliant film in which Steve Coogan plays Tony Wilson, the Manchester – based impresario, except that “impresario” isn’t at all the right word…club owner, record producer, visionary, idealist, loser –  the Manchester -based Tony Wilson is the best description, maybe.  Is it really true that Ian Curtis hanged himself while Werner Herzog’s “Strozzeck” was on the telly and, if so, was there some connection between the two events?

falling man

Falling Man

 

black surround

Black Work in Progress

Blackpaint

23.11.15

 

 

Advertisements

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