Posts Tagged ‘Diebenkorn’

Blackpaint 526 – the Inevitable (yawn…) Review of the Year

December 31, 2015

Best Exhibitions

auerbach eow on bed

Auerbach, Tate Britain

pollock no14 1951

Pollock, Tate Liverpool

bacon figures in a landscape

Bacon, Sainsbury Centre

 

Torso 1928 Dame Barbara Hepworth 1903-1975 Presented by the executors of the artist's estate 1980 http://www.tate.org.uk/art/work/T03128

 

Hepworth Exhibition, Tate Britain

 

goya mirth

Goya, Courtauld

dumas helene

Dumas, Tate Modern

diebenkorn seated woman

Diebenkorn, RA

sargent children

Singer Sargent, NPG

hoyland2

Hoyland, Damien Hirst’s Newport Street Gallery

Wreck 1963 by Peter Lanyon 1918-1964

Lanyon, Courtauld

 

Actually a fantastic year in London; all the shows and books and DVDs below have been reviewed in previous Blackpaints, so you can see a proper evaluation – sort of – if you’re interested…

  • abstract geometry following on from Malevich at the Whitechapel with Adventures of the Black Square;
  • Marlene Dumas’ haunting and unsettling portraits and masks and nudes at TM;
  • Barbara Hepworth at TB (rather worthy, but some lovely little torsos from her and her contemporaries – maybe I’ve been to St.Ives too many times);
  • beautiful, modulating colours and shapes from Sonia Delaunay at TM;
  • Singer Sargent at the National Portrait Gallery – one delight after another, throughout;
  • Goya drawings and etchings of witches, penitents, “lunatics” and other unfortunates at the Courtauld (missed the National Gallery Goya, I’m afraid);
  • Giacometti, NPG – good but not THAT good..
  • Alexander Calder, TM – also GBNTG.

But the best:

  • Diebenkorn at the RA;
  • Rubens at the same time, same venue;
  • Frank Auerbach at TB;
  • Marlene Dumas;
  • Bacon and the Masters at Sainsbury Centre, UEA;
  • Singer Sargent;
  • Lanyon at the Courtauld;
  • Pollock at Tate Liverpool;
  • John Hoyland at Hirst’s new gallery near Vauxhall.

 

Best Films

No contest here; Jodorowsky’s Dance of Reality.  Violence, murder, suicide, live burial, plague, the Golden Shower, torture, operatic singing, more masks, Stalinism and nazism – all in the best possible taste and with an uplifting message.  And some wonderful scenery.

jodorowsky

Abel Ferrara’s Pasolini.  William Dafoe is great in the role; the sex is startlingly spectacular; mix of fantasy and reality – and a soundtrack including Tony Jo White of Polk Salad Annie fame (ask your grandparents).

Disappointing, given the hype:

Carol – woman -on- woman love story.  Good acting, good period feel, otherwise conventional.

Star Wars; the Force Awakens – Good action film, with a bit of nostalgia.  Found my attention slipping now and then (as in Carol); realised (I knew, of course, but didn’t know it in my bones) that criticism on TV and in papers is just part of the publicity machine.  They’re all for sale, from the Guardian to the Sun and beyond.

And the worst:

German’s Hard to be a God.

It is as if he deliberately set out to make it impossible to understand, or even to watch; its all too close – you can’t get any perspective.

 

Best DVDs /TV

Wild Tales – portmanteau mayhem in Argentina.

All is Lost – Robert Redford, convincingly against the elements.

One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest – Jack Nicholson against Louise Fletcher.

chief

The Swimmer– Burt Lancaster swims home across Cheeverland.

 

Best Books Read – poetry first

Gil Scott-Heron -Then and Now.  The words are great, even without the music.   What’s the word?

John Cooper Clarke – Ten Years in an Open Necked Shirt.  Evidently Chicken Town and Beasley Street – no more to be said.

Ted Hughes- Collected Poetry.  As Alan Bennett says, he’s not strong on humour, but the imagery is gritty and muscular and totally original.  Who is stronger?  Hughes, evidently…

Gaudete – also by Hughes.  His verse novel about the vicar from hell who visits vigorously all the women of his parish to found his new religion – and the efforts of the shotgun-owning menfolk to curb his enthusiasm…

 

Non – Fiction

Clothes Clothes Clothes, Music Music Music, Boys Boys Boys –  Viv Albertine.  great book – I couldn’t put it down.  Awful title, impossible to remember the right order.

Just Kids –  Patti Smith about her and Robert Mapplethorpe.  Surprisingly restrained and almost Victorian prose at times.  By the way, lovely exhibition of Mapplethorpe, featuring photos and film of the young Patti at Kiasma, Helsinki.

patti2

 

Fiction

Raymond Carver, Collected Stories – he just wipes everyone but Cheever off the map.

John Cheever, Collected Stories.  Torch Song, the Duchess, the Little Red Moving Van, The Country Husband, The Swimmer… no, Cheever’s the best.  Unless Carver is…

House of Leaves, Mark Danielewski – a sort of horror story, pretentious, experimental in form.

Shark, Will Self – pretentious and experimental in form and language.

Finders Keepers, Stephen King – the absolute master of plot and narrative drive; once you start any SK story you will finish it, unless you die first.

 

And the worst;

The Enormous Room, e e cummings – the archness of the language is unbelievable; a prison novel set in WWI, which is, so far,  a series of “comic” character sketches.  It’s driving me mad and I may give up on it.  The Penguin Modern Classic cover is a great Paul Klee, though…

 

And My Best of 2015

heaven only knows 2

Heaven Only Knows II

 

pellet1

A Pellet falls from Outer Space

Blackpaint

31.12.15

Happy New Year to all readers for whom it is New Year.

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Blackpaint 496 – Women’s Half Issue; Diebenkorn; Caligari

May 24, 2015

George Baselitz and Women Artists

Reading in the Guardian this week about Baselitz, I was interested to see he hasn’t modified his opinion about women as artists; just not up to it, apparently.  Baselitz figures prominently in Klaus Honnef’s “Contemporary Art”, a Taschen book published in 1990 and claiming to be “the first attempt to provide a comprehensive survey of contemporary art”.  It draws on the work of 102 artists from nine countries (mainly Germany, Italy, USA and UK) and out of the 102, ELEVEN are women.  There are several group photographs of ten or a dozen smiling artists; only one contains a woman – Francesco Clemente’s unnamed wife.

To avoid compounding the error, these are the artists in the book who are women; four are American, the rest German:

  • Susan Rothenberg (below)

  • Ina Barfuss
  • Elvira Bach (below)

bach

  • Jenny Holzer
  • Rosemarie Trockel (below)

trockel

  • Asta Groting
  •  Isa Genzken
  • Barbara Kruger (below)

kruger

  • Katharina Sieverding (below)

sieverding

 

  • Cindy Sherman
  • Astrid Klein

So there we are; I’ve mentioned all the women artists in a 25 year old Taschen book and can no longer be fairly accused of misogyny.  Thank goodness that things have changed and there is no longer any perceptible sexist bias in the art world…

Diebenkorn

I’ve been back to the RA exhibition for another look and spent 90 minutes just wandering round these fantastic pictures in delight.  This time I noticed sections in “Day at the Race” and the Urbana to its left which both have little groups of colours in them, as if exposed by scraping – sort of oblong insets.  And “Sea Wall” (below);

dieb sea wall

and the unganly, collapsed beauty of one of his women drawings (knee up, she’s lying on her left arm);

and the charcoal drawing with the straight lines, the collages and the cigar box tops – and everything else.  Fantastic – see it while you can, it’s not on much longer.

diebenkorn day at the race

 

diebenkorn berkeley 57

 

 

The Cabinet of Doctor Caligari (Robert Wiene, 1920)

What I’d forgotten about this great German Expressionist horror film is the twist at the end; is the narrator really mad, and “Caligari” the master of the asylum? Or has he been telling the truth?

caligari

 

Conrad Veidt on the roof with friend

 

caligari2

Werner Krauss and Conrad Veidt

Back to the talkies next week.

john the conqueror root

John the Conqueror Root

Blackpaint

24.05.15

Blackpaint 492 – The Three (or Four) D’s and Art House Sleaze

April 24, 2015

Sonia Delaunay, Tate Modern

delaunay black snake

A stunningly beautiful exhibition, cousin to the recent Matisse cut-outs and the Paul Klee show;  I was interested to see that the paintings got more vivid as she got older – in the earlier ones, the colours are more “muddied”, as can clearly be seen in the two examples below.  Another thing I liked was the rough edges, as if she’d cut out the shapes and stuck them on; gives the earlier works a pleasing wobbliness, somehow.  Like most – all? – artists, she has limits; there’s little texture or spontaneity and she recycles a number of devices: squares, triangles, circles, “S” shapes.  But then, that’s probably enough for one life-time, if you take the costume- and textile design, mosaic, tapestry and book/magazine covers into consideration…

Anyway, here are some things to look for:

  • Tchouiko (1907-8) – portrait; check out the droopy, Nosferatu fingers.
  • Binding of “der Sturm”, in the cabinet.
  • Young Finnish Girl – that blue (and red/pink).
  • Box (1913) – I’m sure that’s a painted button on the lid.
  • Bal Ballier, on mattress ticking – the women reminiscent of August Macke, I think.
  • The two on the end wall that are like knots, or skeins of coloured wiring.
  • The switch – or diversification – into fabric and costume design; hilarious film of lovely 20s and 30s models posturing and the huge, perpetually rolling fabric machine; dresses, ballet/theatre costume, fashion drawings and photos.
  • THEN – in the late 30s and 40s, back to painting.  I’m not sure if that corresponds with a real change, or if it’s just the effect of the way the exhibition is set out.  Vivid, sharper-edged paintings reminiscent of watch movements (see Rhythm Colour 1076, below)
  • The 1937 Paris exhibition room, with the huge, Gris-like murals of the propeller, the steam engine and the control panel.
  • “Coloured Rhythm 52” – my pick of the exhibition (can’t find a picture of it), along with “Black Snake”, just about the last painting in the show.

Great to see her separated out from Robert for once – as soon as I publish, I’m going to Google him to see if I can discern a clear difference between them; I seem to remember a shape or motif one used, but not the other.  Apart from Robert, the only other artists that popped into my mind going round this were El Lissitsky and Malevich – not that similar, but passing resemblances..

Delaunary 2

1914

 

delaunay 1

Rhythm Colour 1939

As my regular reader will know, I am a connoisseur and originator of Fortean-type theories – see, for example, Blackpaint 217, in which I prove that Shakespeare was a reincarnation of Michelangelo.  I cannot be alone in wondering about the cosmic significance of  three great “D”s in modern painting, all on exhibition in London at the same time – Diebenkorn (RA), Dumas and Delaunay (TM).  Actually, it’s four, if you count the De Koonings that are part of the Jenny Savile– selected group at the RA.

Climates, Nuri Bilge Ceylan (2006)

Following on from last week’s “flawed male characters” feature, Ceylan himself appears in this with his wife, playing the sleazest, most self-regarding male lead I can think of in modern cinema; he hangs around hidden in a doorway, waiting for a target woman to come home alone, then lets her spot him – and of course, she lets him in and ends up rolling about underneath him on the carpet as he pulls her clothes off and… cut away.

His wife, a TV producer, leaves him – actually, she sticks her hands over his eyes while riding pillion on his scooter, causing him to crash, so she must have been desperate.  He pursues her to a remote location in a permanent blizzard, waylays her in the company bus, tells her he’s changed – he’s ready to marry her and “give” her kids, so she should pack up her job and report to his hotel for sex forthwith… And, yes, she’s there waiting for him, on the bed (still dressed, but not for long).

I won’t spoil the surprise ending; presumably, Ceylan would argue that the film critiques the sexism of the sophisticated Turkish male – but the women are shown as vamps or victims.  Great cinematography and locations, of course.

 

Down Dog

 

Down Dog.  I think this is my best for ages.

Blackpaint

24.04.15

Blackpaint 464 – Ponds and White Beards, Ennui, Clowns and World War I

October 10, 2014

Turner Prize

I’ve only really seen the first two candidates, James Richards and Tris Vonna – Marshall, properly; need to go back for Ciara Phillips and Duncan Campbell.  However, I was surprised that Laura Cummings panned the first two in the Observer on Sunday – I thought they were both great.  Both were video- based.

First, James Richards.  He has a series of developing images – insects on and just below the surface of a pond, a budgerigar, heavily censored “explicit” photographs by Man Ray and Mapplethorpe from Japanese library books.  The latter are censored by scribbles from a white pencil so that in one, a man on top of another appears to have an untidy white beard hanging down over the belly of the man beneath, as he stoops towards it ( no prizes).  All these various images are accompanied by a variety of soundtracks that have nothing to do with the images, so its about the subversion of understanding by incongruity.  It took me about half a minute, for example, to make sense of the budgie, even though it was quite clear.  The pond images are stunning and I found the censorship scratches aesthetically pleasing too – bit like white paint swatches on a Rauschenberg.

Tris Vonna-Marshall kicks off with a panning landscape shot of the Essex marshes apparently; curlews on the soundtrack, a fat brown chain in a sump, the links looking just like bulbous, slimy sausage, washed green, drained red buildings, a Turner/Britten feel to it – Cummings describes it as “rigidly indifferent….. could have been filmed by a robot”.  He then changes to black and white interiors and a bunch of disparate objects like boxes, photos and accompanies it with a frantic, stream -of -consciousness soundtrack in which he seems to be presenting a sort of bi-polar, wired inventory of things and actions, as if trying desperately to fix them in his mind.  Sounds terrible; I liked it.  His next video, with a soundtrack in which he is pursuing several rather obscure anecdotes with family members, contains a series of images which reminded me of Prunella Clough; for example,  a grass -covered manhole cover, slightly opened.  Don’t know what it all means; liked it all the same.

A common factor shared by Richards and Vonna-Marshall is Germany; Richards is based in Berlin, Vonna-Marshall has German parentage.  Phillips and Campbell in next blog.

Hopper and Sickert

There was a programme on Edward Hopper on Sky Arts during which I was struck by the similarity of two of his themes with those of Walter Sickert; alienation between partners and theatres.  Below are two examples: the styles are very different, of course, but the themes are the same.

 

hopper - couple

Edward Hopper – Room in New York

 

 

sickert ennui

Walter Sickert – Ennui

 

hopper clowns

Edward Hopper – Two Comedians 

 

sickert brighton pierrots

Walter Sickert – Brighton Pierrots

I’ve no idea if Hopper knew Sickert’s work , or vice versa; the only artist that Robert Hughes mentions in his essay on Hopper is de Chirico; Hughes detects an echo of him in Hopper’s scenarios.  I thought maybe a touch of Diebenkorn in his bathing- suited women…

Imperial War Museum

Now re-opened, the exhibits much thinned down and put into context with AV presentations.  All is explained; great bottlenecks of greyhairs and tourists reading and watching, like those punters with walkie talkies who stand in front of paintings for ten minutes, until the WT tells them to move on – and kids (at whom all this is presumably aimed) charging about, looking at not much.  I prefer to read about it at home and look at objects (trench clubs, McCudden’s smashed windscreen) with little labels in the museum.  Only managed WWI this time.

A new (or newly exhibited) painting below, by the Scottish Colourist Fergusson;

fergusson -dockyard portsmouth

JD Fergusson – Portsmouth Harbour

 

kennington - the Kensingtons at

Eric Kennington – The Kensingtons at Laventie

This was on display prior to the closure of the museum, and is still on show. Although Kennington did it from life apparently, I was struck by the Renaissance “feel” of it.  the soldiers look like figures at the base of the Cross, maybe – or a Della Francesca (none of them are connecting with each other, all in their private worlds).

All the President’s Men

Best film I saw last week (Clooney’s “The Descendants” a disappointment); there were some brilliant aerial shots of cars entering and leaving car parks (no, really) – all those different styles and colours!  Very tense, Hoffman, Redford and Robards all brilliant.  it was just a pity that it all got telescoped at the end, with the arrests and prosecutions and impeachment and resignation of Nixon just listed.  Still, it would have been about five hours long…

 

??????????

 

009

 

Scraping the Surface 1 and 2

Blackpaint

10.10.14 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Blackpaint 438 – Hop Picking in Orwell, Sudden Death in Woolf, Lurking in Sprout

March 14, 2014

Orwell – A Clergyman’s Daughter

Re-read Burmese Days and of course, was immediately hooked again by Britain’s most readable author, journalist and writer in general; so now I’m on Clergyman’s Daughter, racing through.  Some terrible stereotypes and dodgy dialogue, it’s true; but the scenes in the hop-picking areas of Kent are memorable and visual and strike one as accurate.  The section in Trafalgar Square and the cafe in Charing Cross Road, which Orwell has done as a play is clearly inspired by the Night Town sequence in Ulysses; the character of Mr. Tallboys, the unfrocked parson, continually reciting and distorting biblical passages and prayers, for example, is very reminiscent of Joyce.  At one point, Orwell seems about to tip over into surreal fantasy like Night Town –  but draws back at the last moment, and turns it into a dream.

To the Lighthouse

Suddenly, after a hundred pages or so (maybe – I’m reading it on a Kindle, so can’t tell exactly), Woolf starts killing off the characters in a line or so each, as if bored with them; first, Mrs Ramsay, then Andrew (blown up by a shell on the Western Front), then Prue  (in childbirth)… all three within a few pages.  Reminded me oddly of BS Johnson’s Christy Malry – Johnson gives him cancer and kills him quite suddenly, ending the book in what feels like midstream.  Like real life, I suppose, which was Johnson’s point.  Now I think, sudden death has happened in all the Woolf books I’ve read so far – The Voyage Out, Jacob’s Room, Mrs Dalloway, Lighthouse – the only exception is Night and Day.

Bay Area Painters

I know I’ve written about them before, but must mention Frank Lobdell, Nathan Oliveira and Joan Brown, who took part in life drawing sessions with Diebenkorn in his figurative period.

oliveira

 

Oliveira

lobdell

 

Lobdell

Sprout Exhibition  

Haven’t been to any exhibitions for the last two weeks, having been stuck in the Sprout Gallery, trying to lure rare passers-by in to sell them paintings.  Sold three; here are two – can’t find photo of the other.

the young horseman

The Young Horseman

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Oxlade Nude

The Family Friend, Sorrentino

This film contains the most disgusting anti-hero in cinema – he’s an old gangster, money lender, hypochondriac, wears an anti-migraine bandage on his head, a dirty old plaster cast on one arm, gobbles chocolates greedily, lives in a dark, stinking flat with his incontinent, invalid mother; he forces himself on a beautiful young bride on her wedding day…. and she (apparently) becomes fixated on him and comes back asking for more…  Like all Sorrentino films, it features old men dancing; this time, country and western dancing, with big stetsons and fringed jackets.  All it lacks is Tony Servillo.

??????????

And here’s the latest painting – Blackfriars to Nine Elms

Blackpaint

14.03.14

Blackpaint 431- Coalhouse Walker and the Shithouse Wall

January 23, 2014

More from London Art Fair

Three more delights from the above show at the Angel:

Peter Kinley

art fair kinley

Bruce McLean

art fair bruce McLean

Reg Butler

art fair butler

Generally speaking, a great fair this year for abstract work of the 50s and 60s, but some current delights too, in the form of prints by Albert Irvin and Anthony Frost et al.

The Bay Area Painters by Thomas Williams

The bay in the title is San Francisco Bay.  Finally bought this book after lusting and pawing over it in Foyles for weeks; I was freshly astounded by the acrimony engendered by the decision of David Park, then Bischoff, then Diebenkorn to “go figurative”.  they were accused of cowardice, apostasy and treachery by Hassel Smith, Clifford Still and others. It sort of mirrors the “Judas” cries when Dylan went electric, or the earlier mutual contempt of the “mouldy fig” trad jazz fans and the be-boppers.  Perhaps an indication of the depth of feeling was that Park not only renounced abstraction, but deposited all his abstract work at the local dump.

I also find it fascinating and amusing that the critics Clement Greenberg and Harold Rosenberg thought Abstract Expressionism the correct form for Marxists – the prevailing form of “Marxist” art in the Soviet Union being Socialist Realism, about as far from AbEx, and indeed, from the figuration of Park and Bischoff (and de Kooning, who was getting anti-figuration flak for his “Woman” series) as it is possible to imagine.

I love the machismo of these painters, both abstract and figurative; the greatest compliment paid by Douglas MacAgy, the Principal, to a student was “You paint with your cock”!  Clifford Still, on receiving praise for a canvas, would describe it as OK “to wipe his my ass on”; Hassel Smith said he wanted people to say of his paintings, “I wouldn’t hang that on my shithouse wall”.  I like this comment so much that I am putting a series of Shithouse Wall paintings – mine, not Smith’s – on Twitter.

Heaven’s Gate DVD

This is the Michael Cimino cut, the one which is supposed to be a masterpiece, NOT the hatchet job that was the original release.  there are, however, some real problems.  The sound is terrible; Kris Kristofferson swallows his words after speaking them into his beard.  The script alternates between mumbled, earnest exchanges and collective shouting and screaming, often in – Polish? Latvian?  Isabelle Huppert seems strangely unmoved by the slaughter of her girls in the brothel; granted she has just been raped and the rapists killed in front of her by Kristofferson – but you’d think she would show some dismay at the girls’ murders.

Ragtime, EL Doctorow

I watched them filming this in New York in 1980, but never saw the finished film (James Cagney’s last film, I think).  Got it for Christmas and enjoying it greatly.  It’s a mix of real historical characters and fictional ones – Coalhouse Walker Jr., the ragtime pianist and revolutionary, is fictional but Jim Europe’s band, in which he plays, was real.  I looked up Coalhouse to see if he was real; it reminded me of looking up the vignettes in My Winnipeg a few weeks ago.

Finally, look for more Shithouse Wall pictures on Twitter.

No new paintings this month, so here’s an old one.

??????????

 

Atlantic Bar

Blackpaint

23.01.14

Blackpaint 420 – Australia at the RA; Whiteley’s Murder Pictures

November 7, 2013

Australia at the Royal Academy

This exhibition has had an astonishingly savage reception in some quarters, notably from Waldemar Januszczak and from Brian Sewell, who slates the aboriginal painters as ravaged by alcohol and trotting out pictures that are meaningless, when divorced from their ritual tribal functions.  Adrian Searle is also exercised by the omissions and patchiness of the show.  Clearly, it has bitten off too much to chew – impossible to do a whole continent thoroughly, with the rich and complex aboriginal cultures and the European tradition.  Still, there’s some great stuff to see, so you can go and be stimulated and entertained AND pontificate about how sketchy and incomplete the exhibition is…

To start with the aboriginal paintings; they are segregated from the others for the most part.  They are surprisingly huge and striking; there is one that is just like a Per Kirkeby, red, pink and white in a tower- or hill- like structure.  Another in this first room is a huge white square with pink and blue borders, with a wave-like swoosh in the centre; it looks like a tapestry.  Everywhere there are concentric circles, stars, giant figures built from blobs and stars of paint; “Cyclone Tracy” by Rover Thomas, a black funnel-shaped swathe through a striped landscape; another showing the story of a cannibal old woman who lived in a cave and ate kidnapped children.  It’s like a map – a blob in the middle is the woman’s cave.

australia3

Cyclone Tracy by Rover Thomas

There are paintings from the early days of European settlement; a couple that look almost like Caspar David Friedrich.  the early Euros obviously had difficulty seeing with “Australian” eyes.  Later, there are the Australian Impressionists, Roberts and Streeton etc. ; diggings, camps, sheep shearing; a great picture, “Lost”, a girl adrift in a eucalyptus forest; a radiant moonrise, a pink/grey dawn.  if you stand in the centre of the room, you can see there is an Australian colour set – dusty, tawny, orange but bleached out.

Then, we are at the modernist section; Sidney Harbour Bridge, painted by Grace Cossington Smith , who also painted the beautiful screen, like something Duncan Grant might have painted at Charleston.  Flesh hunks roasting on a beach, the sand and sea represented by blazing bands of yellow and blue; a collection of athletic, Lempicka-like figures tossing balls to each other, showing off.

Now the Nolans; several Ned Kellys – police at a burning beacon, Ned’s sister quilting the inside of his helmet, the shootout at Glenrowan.  And an odd one with a parrot (see below).

australia2

Now the 60s 0n – a Brett Whiteley of a bay, orange with small boats –

australia1

Olsen’s “Sydney Sun”, which hangs above you like a mirror over a bed – so I’m told – a bilious yellow, and compared by Januszczak to diarrhoea; two pictures by Fred Williams, small fragments and twists of paint in flat landscapes of grey and brown; a black and white Fairweather, a lot like Bryan Wynter and an enormous Arthur Boyd – a roughly drawn white figure, like a Bacon, on a black background, with a window looking out on a blazing white yard.

In the later galleries, two things of note – Fiona Hall’s set of opened sardine tins, with silver trees growing from the tops, containing not sardines, but penises, vaginas, and other “artefacts of a sexual nature”.  And a great abstract landscape, brown, grey, splattered, brushwork rather like Rose Wylie, with a bright, cream channel down the middle.  I think it was by Elizabeth Cummings but I can’t find it on the net.  Anyway, great exhibition, despite the savaging.

Brett Whiteley

I was so impressed by this painter that I bought the Thames and Hudson “Art and Life” catalogue at the RA.  The influences on him are quite obvious;  Diebenkorn in the early abstracts, maybe a little Adrian Heath too; William Scott – there’s a frying pan – and Roger Hilton, in the drawn line.  In both the drawings and the paintings, line and colour, Francis Bacon.  But he’s so good that he’s much more than the sum of these influences.  I prefer the earlier stuff, but fantastic.

The Christie Pictures

In the mid 60s, Whiteley was living in London and he became interested in the sex murders carried out in Notting Hill by John Christie in the 40s and 50s at 10 Rillington Place.  Whiteley did a series of paintings and drawings relating to the murders, some depicting Christie actually carrying out the killings.  The paintings are indistinct; they show naked bodies (Christie and the victim) fragmented and entwined and several show the penis-like nozzle of the gas pipe he used to gas the women.

When you flick through the book, you are struck first by how great the drawings and paintings are and you derive pleasure from them.  Then you read the titles, and you are repelled by the subject matter.  Still great art though?  see what you think.

christie1

christie2

I suppose there is a precedent for this; Sickert’s depiction of the Camden Town murder, say – or the Goya Disasters of War.  The sexual content in the Whiteleys adds another disturbing layer, though.  I wonder where they are – it’s hard to imagine anyone having them on the living room wall.  I bet they’re in storage in a gallery archive.

116

The Stadium

Blackpaint

7/11/13

Blackpaint 418 – Whiteley, Schendel, Shining and Drowning

October 24, 2013

Brett Whiteley

I’d hardly heard of the above Australian artist until I saw “Art of Australia” this week.  What a brilliant painter he was  (died of an overdose in 1993); earlier stuff looked like Diebenkorn a bit – later, shades of Roger Hilton, Bacon and, I think, Scarfe and/or Steadman.  He mixed abstract, figurative, letters, techniques in a manner reminiscent of Albert Oelhen (but before Oelhen?).  Fantastic.

brett whiteley

Mark Bradford and Larry Bell at the White Cube Bermondsey

Bradford does huge canvases – I estimate the largest are 20ft * 18ft (dimensions not given and attendant didn’t know).  He plasters them with paper, paints it and then rips and shreds it down with a power sander.   The results resemble road systems and landscapes – one is like a coastline, another a tsunami investing a coastal city, another, Turner’s “storm at Harbour Mouth” (the sander swirls on black are like the rings on the cross section of a felled tree).  Some are bright – blue, pink, orange, white – reminding one of Peter Doig’s early paintings; others, dark and oppressive, like Anselm Kiefer’s work.

There are two beautiful Larry Bell pictures; they are like crumpled tinfoil and celluloid film, printed onto white canvas.  there are many more, but for my money, they are spoilt by being on black canvas and in black frames.

Blue Jasmine

Saw this Woody Allen film this week – it’s Streetcar, set in San Francisco rather than New Orleans.  Cate Blanchett does a great job of playing a neurotic, pampered, addicted, desperate woman, once rich, now broke, dumping herself on her despised working-class sister.  Script is great, but you never for a second forget you are watching acting; it’s naturalistic, rather than natural.  I can’t help comparing it to the fabulous Joanna Hogg films, Archipelago and Unrelated, that I’ve written about – in which, most of the time, no-one, pro or amateur, appears to be acting at all.

Reading Sebastian Faulks’ A Possible Life, which begins with a WW2 training exercise; officers lead their men mistakenly into flooded area and a soldier is drowned.  Strangely similar stories from two sources; Pete Seeger’s song “Waist Deep in the Big Muddy” (I have it by Dick Gaughan on his “Sail On” album) and a Scott Fitzgerald story I read recently – can’t find it at the moment, he wrote so many stories.  The SF version is the earliest – I wonder if it’s the original.

The Shining

Watched it yet again the other night; like Goodfellas and Casino, you only have to see a few seconds and you are hooked – these films are Ancient Mariners.  I can’t understand why Stephen King hates the Kubrick film – it’s obviously a work of art, unlike most attempts at filming King books.  Kubrick changed it a bit – killed off the Scatman and left the Overlook standing, whereas King blew its boilers and burned it down.  I think Kubrick’s ending was better.  Pity about the Scatman, though.

Klee at Tate Modern

Went round this exhibition again, and, yes, I was rather snotty about it last time.  Room 13 is great, with the ones that are composed of dots and look like little tapestries – also the blue one, “path into the Blue” I think it’s called.  There’s also the miniature opera stage set that reminded me of Picasso’s “Night Fishing at Antibes” – but much smaller.

Mira Schendel

Great antidote to Klee – Brazilian minimalist, recalling Lygia Pape and Oiticica a little; wobbly square…  Triangles, bi-and trisected canvases; then, rough paint drawings and collages of bottles on bars, drips and splatters; some brilliant black ink on off-white paper, strong lines and jagged scribbles.  Then letters appearing and playing with typefaces; hanging tablets of rice paper; Eva Hesse-like tubes of gold-ochre, suspended from ceiling; silky, white nylon threads hanging in masses and curling up like hairs at the floor; a series of rough, eye-catching tablets on walls with bible quotations – she was a struggling Catholic, apparently.

schendel1

schendel2

Also visited “Art Under Attack” at Tate Britain; save that for next time.

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Work in Progress

Blackpaint

24.10.13

Blackpaint 339 – Toads, Pus, and Self-Indulgent Vice

April 26, 2012

Figure Drawing

Trying to keep my hand in on the figure drawing front until I can return to my Friday sessions, I bought a big pad and have been copying nudes out of the Louvre and Courtauld guidebooks.  After two days, I’m thoroughly sick of Rubens nudes in lesbian fantasy poses, bouncing about with tambourines, and naked slave girls being artfully stabbed at the court of Sardanopolis, and I’ve taken refuge in the works of Kirchner.  Pointy feet, skinny. insect-like bodies, pus, lime green and acid orange instead of rosy pinks and fleshy curves.

Cyclists

Wandering about on the common today, getting used to walking and stretching my stitches, I felt like one of those unfortunates loitering in the park,  in the Larkin poem Toads Revisited – “Waxed-fleshed out-patients,  Still vague from accidents”; always exciting nowadays  though, with the constant need to jump out of the path of the determined, hard-eyed cyclists, sprinting towards you along the No Cycling paths.  It reminded me of this I saw in the Guggenheim in Venice – it’s by Metzinger:

But actually not quite right; not enough malevolence.

Luc Tuymans

I came across this painting of his in Phaidon’s 20th Century Art Book; it’s from 1990, and is entitled “Body”.  The commentary, rather than the work itself, I found interesting.  “…a small, near-abstract composition, painted with an almost careless disregard.  Tuymans deliberately wishes to avoid the appearance of sophistication, seeing virtuosity as a self-indulgent vice.  He uses cheap paints, badly stretched canvases, and sometimes employs a medium for the base coat which causes the surface layers to crack, resulting in premature ageing… Tuyman’s colours are dismal and sickly, like the nicotine-stained walls of a decaying mental hospital.”  It seems to me that this commentary applies to a whole swathe of painters, both figurative and abstract, ranging from de Kooning and Diebenkorn to Marlene Dumas and William Sasnal – give or take the remarks about colour and cheap paint.  It is an approach that has been absorbed into the aesthetic of the last 50 years, yet it still divides people on the question of “proper art”.  Rough, cheap, dismal and sickly – sounds good to me.

Meek’s Cut-off

Saw this on TV last night.  What are we to make of the ending?  I thought Bela Tarr and Tarkovsky had cured me of the need to ask such questions, but after a straight telling of an intriguing story, with two clear possibilities presented, the film just stopped and I felt cheated.  Did the Blackfoot lead them to water or slaughter?  Still want to be told a story with a proper ending…. pathetic really.

Figure Drawing 5

Blackpaint

26.04.12

Blackpaint 214

November 2, 2010

Bonnard

I’ve been looking at this artist in some detail and I’m staggered by some of the paintings.  That Phaidon book – at first, the illustrations look a bit lifeless, bit brownish; not the sparkling, pure colours you know the originals have.  But having looked a little harder and deeper, I’ve seen the light, as it were.

First, “Nude, right leg raised”.  A view along model’s bent body, slightly angled away from the painter – think I’ve only seen such a view in a Degas, probably ballet dancer.  Maybe a little like a Diebenkorn figure.

“Street scene, Place Clichy”, 1895, with its creamy yellow against brown and black, reminding me of that Jack Yeats picture from a Dublin bus or tram – the one that was on the cover of the Penguin “At-Swim-Two-Birds”.

“The Garden” (1936), looks like an abstract at first; could go any way round on the wall, until you see the pigeons on the path.

Then there are the various shimmering views through windows and doorways, the increasing flatness of the picture plane and the table-tops tilting towards the viewer in the Cezanne manner.  One of the clearest examples is “Getting out of the Bath”, with the tilted lino pattern and the table legs.  Then, the “Dining Room Overlooking the Garden”, with the sketchy, ghost-like figure of Marthe scarcely noticeable to the left of the french windows, and the staggering “Decoration at Vernon”, another pass-for-abstract, with its oranges and pinks.

Finally, for now, the late “Studio and Mimosa”, the latter burning bright yellow beyond the orange marmalade window frame.  Just fantastic, with that innerburning light you get with Van Gogh and Joan Mitchell.  Sorry about the superlatives, but altogether justified in this case.

Van Gogh

Also got the Taschen double on the above with the complete paintings (or at least, 83% of them!  Some are lost, like the one of the painter in his straw hat with the easel under his arm, that Francis Bacon used; lost in WW2).

The early ones are so brown, like C17th Dutch Masters, in tone.  And there’s a series of a weaver at his loom, done from several different views, that I wasn’t familiar with; also the brown Cafe  that’s in the Orsay – I was very dismissive of this one when I blogged about the Orsay.  Wrong, as usual – looks fine to me now, although not as good as the later ones, of course.  One chapter of the book is entitled “Religious Maniac” – they don’t mince their words at Taschen.

Last Judgement

Last mention of Mike for a while; I’m becoming obsessive.  I just want to mention the bulging, prominent eyes of many characters in the LJ, signalling wonder, horror and/or sheer terror, depending on their fate – there’s a cartoon quality to it.  With the writhing, twisting, gesturing poses, this really is something like the most astonishing strip cartoon ever done.

St. Blaise, Blackpaint

2.11.10