Posts Tagged ‘Death in Venice’

Blackpaint 312 – He Slapped the Paint on with his Bare Hands

December 13, 2011

De Kooning

“And just as he occasionally applied the paint to canvas with his bare hands, de Kooning’s sculptures reflect the physical investment in the creation of a work of art that was characteristic of …..Abstract Expressionism.” (Barbara Hess, de Kooning, Taschen 2007).  Occasionally?  I would have thought he did it a lot and often – I don’t see how you could get some of those marks with a brush or knife.  Nothing like getting a good fistful and slapping it onto the canvas – in a careful and thoroughly controlled movement , of course…


One more quote from the same book, this time DK himself:  “I’ve always been crazy about Soutine – … Maybe it’s the lushness of the paint.  He builds up a surface that looks like a material, like a suvstance.  There’s a kind of transfiguration, a certain fleshiness in his work”.

He’s right, isn’t he?  And there is a certain resemblance in his (Soutine’s) distorted trees and villages to DK’s “style”  (although DK hated the word).

Gesamtkunstwerk at Saatchi

Just want to mention two more artists from this exhibition; the first is Ida Ekblad, a Norwegian who often works in Germany.  She has made several thick plaques of concrete or plaster, in which are embedded, or to which are stuck, various bits of pipe and metals, coloured fabric, general rubbish, some more organised than others, a wash of paint here and there…  I know, sounds like crap, but they really look great, especially from a distance.  When she paints, she turns in huge, dramatic Scando works, owing something to the school of Per Kirkeby.  Saw one of hers in Venice Bienniale, but forgot to mention it then.

Secondly, Thomas Helbig, whose work I both loved and hated.  He has two ghastly, lumpy sculptures entitled Vater and Jungfrau, that are sort of biomorphic – half bird,  half human, really ugly in a not interesting way.  His paintings, Maschine and Wilde Mit Spiegel, however, have a delicacy of touch and colour and a rather Richter-isch quality; maybe because the first looks a bit like a blurred jet plane, recalling Richter’s September painting.

There is a book  of Helbig’s work on sale in Saatchi’s, and in it are a number of very beautiful paintings, on lacquer, I think it said, that recall Chinese wall hangings. 

Finally, for now anyway, there is Stefan Kurten; highly detailed, one or two verging on super-realism, but others in a difficult to describe graphic style -overgrown  gardens, plants, balconies, interiors of deserted flats and modern concrete buildings.  Crowded with things, empty of people.  They look fantastic in repro, maybe better than in the “flesh”.  One of them, Ultramarine II, reminded me of Hopper’s Nighthawks in its general shape, with sculptures and paintings standing in for the people.

Life Drawings

This is the finished painting that I was doing to incorporate some of my lifers, and in which I was trying to purify my colours of ” mud” and get a  De Kooning cleanliness in the tangle.  Partial success, maybe.

Life Drawing I

Here are the pictures I used:

They’re all in there somewhere.

The Music Lovers

Halfway through this and enjoying it immensely, memories flooding back.  It’s like a boisterous brother to Death in Venice, the hostility between Tchaikovsky and Rubinstein (the Delius actor) echoing that between Von Aschenbach and Alfred –   Down the river, through the willows in canoes, everyone in white,shades of  Manet… fantastic.



Blackpaint 303

November 6, 2011

We Need to Talk about Kevin

I saw this brilliant film last night and could only use tired superlatives about Tilda Swinton’s performance, so I won’t bother.  One thing did strike me, however; a feeling of familiarity when her terrifying son turned and smiled at her, at one point.  Where had I seen that before?  Didn’t have to think long – Bjorn Andresson, luring Dirk Bogarde on, in “Death in Venice”.  Probably fanciful, since I’ve only just watched “Venice” again and read the story for the first time – I was intrigued to find that Mann made the pursuit of Tadzio more redolent of corruption than the film suggested; bit more darkness at the heart.  Tadzio – all those women pursuing him, shouting “Tadzi-uu, Tadzi-uu” all the time – is one of the most dislikeable characters in film.  Now he’s joined by Kevin, in all his incarnations; but perhaps “dislikeable” is rather too weak in Kevin’s case.

Whose idea in “Kevin” to use Lonnie Donegan and Washington Phillips on the soundtrack?  Totally incongruous. but it worked, like everything else in the film.

Il Bidone

Broderick Crawford looks exactly the same in all his films – bit more or less flab, more or fewer wrinkles, but basically the same old ten-four.  He doesn’t act, according to Dominique Delouche, Fellini’s assistant director on Bidone, he just is (and had to be kept off the booze while making the above).  Ridiculous thing to say, but I find he has a sort of vulnerability about him, like Mitchum in “Eddie Coyle”, say.  Great hard man, though, cf.  Neville Brand. 

Delouche had a sad story about Fellini, after “La Strada” was booed and jeered at Cannes or somewhere.  He pursued Fellini to offer his praises and found Giuletta Masina with black eye make-up running in tears down her face, while Fellini trudged dejectedly beside her – like a pair of sad elephants, he said.  Strange to think of this feted Italian hero being jeered.


There was so much fantastic stuff at the Biennale, I’m going to have to do a few artists a day to get it all in.  First up, the Belgian pavilion had “Feuilleton” by Angel Vergara, “curated” by (what does that mean?) Tuymans.   Perspex panes, spattered and smeared with brilliant colours, fixed over news footage illustrating the Seven Deadly Sins.  The effect like moving, noisy Rauschenburgs.


Swedish pavilion.  Andreas Ericksson, another painter in that Kirkeby groove – I’m a pushover for dark, licheny, broody Scando surfaces, maybe with livid slashes of colour…

Seth Price.  There as an individual artist, doing great things with lengths of rope attached with resin to textured, painted canvas surfaces.  Doesn’t sound exciting, but it is.

Pipilotti Rist.  Another individual, more brilliant colours, video Venicescapes with Northern Lights, naked women (poss. Rist herself), gynaecological features I think, but hard to tell…. intriguing.

Christopher Wool.  Huge, blotty, dark – well, blots in varying (modulating) colours. remind me a bit of those mid- 60’s Joan Mitchells, only enormous.

More tomorrow; here’s one of mine,

Head of St. Blaise

Blackpaint (Chris Lessware)