Posts Tagged ‘Dora Carrington’

Blackpaint 456 – Malevich, Bohemia and Bloomsbury

July 21, 2014

Among the Bohemians, Virginia Nicholson

Just finished this rambling, but most enjoyable tour of “Bohemia” by Vanessa Bell’s granddaughter.  It suffers from jumping up and down the decades within themes, often without giving dates, but a good episodic read all the same.  I was astonished to read that Dora Carrington, whose appearance and paintings  give one an impression of strength and intelligence, shot herself after the death of Lytton Strachey.  Bohemia was about drink, drugs, sex and all that – but also about free thinking, freedom from convention, the use of the intellect; pity to read of a great woman artist destroying herself over the loss of a companion (Strachey was homosexual).

Nicholson seems to me rather reticent about Eric Gill, given his unconventional home life and the current climate of opinion in the UK about child abuse; since the word “Bohemian” denotes, among other things, unconventional behaviour, I expected to read more about Gill than was there.  She describes Gill’s behaviour as “preposterous”.

The Art of Bloomsbury, Richard Shone

This book was published in conjunction with a Tate exhibition of 2000; I’ve only just got round to reading it.  The painters it deals with are Duncan Grant, Vanessa Bell and Roger Fry.  I was surprised by the colour, beauty, variety and technique displayed by all three artists,,  having always thought of them as a bit “brown” and boringly British.  Just flicking through, there are works that resemble Lautrec (Grant’s Virginia Woolf), the Scottish Colourists (Fry’s Blythburgh and Studland Bay), William Nicholson (Bell’s Iceland Poppies), Bonnard (Bell’s The Open Door and Grant’s Window, South of France and the Doorway); there are fabulous abstracts by Bell that look like Winifred Nicholson, more by Grant and luscious still lifes by both Bell and Grant, the best of which is Grant’s Omega Paper Flowers on the Mantelpiece.  A lovely book and I’m off to Charleston as soon as poss.

grant vanessa

Grant

bell the open door

Bell

grant omega

Grant

bell abstract

 

Bell

 

Malevich, Tate Modern 

So, enough of all this Bloomsbury and Bohemia stuff – off to TM, where proper theoretical painting is on display.  that is to say, it’s underpinned and driven by theory, a good analysis of which can be found in Boris Groys’ “The Total Art of Stalinism”.

In the first room, there is all sorts, as Malevich casts around for a style – some of it looked to me like German Expressionism, nudes surrounded by heavy black lines; Seurat – style landscapes; little collections of figures with Toulouse Lautrec figures; Munch/Nolde – like paintings; a strange, frog-like “dancer” with huge, clubbed hands and feet.

Next, Larionov/ Goncharova influenced peasants, growing more abstract, peasants with metallic, Leger like bodies; Theatre costumes like later Bauhaus efforts; the famous Black Square.

Malevich,-The-Woodcutter,-1912_original

Next, floating, coloured geometric shapes on white, the Suprematist paintings, seeming to be in the process of flying apart or coming together and, in one or two cases, resembling abstractified figures, despite the fact that Malevich gives one or two ironic “realist” titles when they clearly don’t represent the indicated “real” thing at all.

malevich

There is a room of drawings arranged by decade, often showing rough, freehand sketches of the geometric paintings; then, back towards figuration, with highly stylised peasants, metallic, harlequin, clown-like figures that wouldn’t have been nearly realist enough for the regime and finally Social Realist portraits that show the final capitulation of any independence or experimentation.

Malevich died of cancer in 1935, not in the gulag (although he had been imprisoned).  If he’d lived, I’m sure he would have been shot at some stage, despite the SR stuff.

Orlando, book and film

Back to Bloomsbury for a moment; I’ve started Woolf’s book and watched Sally Potter’s film of the same.  There are big differences in the narratives, but they are each great works in their own right.  It’s fascinating to read Woolf’s work in chronological order and see how she changes; this novel is certainly the easiest read yet (not quite Stephen King, but getting there) and the most visual.

The Potter film has strong resemblances to Greenaway’s style, in the use of location and music; the violence and grossness are missing, but it does have Tilda Swinton.

Big Painting

I’m trying to go big by sticking two canvases side by side and painting one image across them.  Results below  – the second image is  the painting as it stands now, but no doubt it will change.  It’s called, for obvious reasons, “Critical Theory – a Guide”.

 

 

?????????? –

First Version

 

??????????

 

Current Version

Blackpaint

22.07.14 

Advertisements

Blackpaint 400 – Dora, Mark and Stanley in Dulwich

June 27, 2013

Dulwich Picture Gallery – “A Crisis of Brilliance”

This is an exhibition of works by a number of British artists, connected with each other by way of the Slade, where they all studied under Tonks , and then by Bloomsbury etc., completed between 1908 and 1922.  WWI therefore features (there is the huge, rippling, faintly Kokoschka – like Bomberg of sappers under bombardment and Nevinson’s solitary, diving biplane) but does not dominate the exhibition.  My highlights as follows:

Stanley Spencer, “Mending Cowls at Cookham” – the  storm- threatening sky providing stark background to the  white of the cowls, as they are put in place.  That key shape does something too;

spencer cowls

Dora Carrington, “Soldiers at a Stream” – little painting, perfectly rendered and coloured, horses drinking, soldiers mounted;

Mark Gertler, “Pool at Garsington” – a touch of Cezanne, maybe; the L-shaped slice that seems to be collaged in, surrounding the house and tree;

gertler2

Carrington, that profile of Strachey with the stunning hands, fingers tented in thought (actually though, not- he’s holding a book).

There are some beautiful pencil drawings, hard to choose the best; self-portraits by Spencer and Carrington and Bomberg, all great (although Carrington’s, done at 16, looks nothing like Gertler’s portrait of her, done a few years later – Gertler’s is exceptionally fine, lightly but surely drawn and conveying a wealth of character; the gaze of love, presumably).

gertler1

Carrington’s heavy-hipped “standing Nude” is notable and the Gertler “Seated Nude”, done in watercolour pencils.

The clinker of the exhibition is Carrington’s “Bedford Market”, but she was very young when she did it and it’s very competent.

The exhibition is only three or four rooms, quite understated, but some real treasures.  I see I haven’t mentioned Paul Nash at all – probably because I’ve seen so much of his work lately.  The impact dulls with repetition; or does it always?  Maybe there are some painters who always grab you – for me, it’s de Kooning.  Forgot to mention Bomberg’s “In the Hold”, one of his horse-frightening geometric “abstracts”, way beyond anything else in the exhibition for experimentation and fittingly, separated from the others at the entrance.

Salter, All There Is

Finished this now, as well as “Light Years”; the writing in the earlier novel perhaps more consciously “fine”, sometimes crossing the border into pretentious territory – but I read them both, quickly for me, and am close to finishing his memoir, “Burning the Days”, for the second time.  There is a startling section towards the end of “All There Is”, when Salter’s protagonist Bowman rather forcefully overcomes the weak resistance of Anet, the young daughter of his ex-lover, takes her on a trip to Paris and abandons her there in a hotel room – an act of revenge on her mother, who had abandoned Bowman (and “robbed” him of a house in the courts).  Anet says “No” – but Bowman clearly knows she means “Yes”, and acts accordingly.  He’s right, of course; afterwards, she’s happy – until he ditches her.  Salter offers no hint of approval or disapproval; merely “describes”.  Maybe that’s what startled me about it – it’s so at odds with currently acceptable attitudes towards sexual conduct.

Almodovar, Talk to Her

This film is another case in point; it has a young woman in a coma, who is stalked – before the accident – by a pudgy mother’s boy.  He manages to become one of her carers when she is comatose, rapes her and makes her pregnant, a crime for which he is eventually imprisoned.

Unbelievably, given the circumstances outlined above, you feel a sort of queasy sympathy, rather than revulsion, for the rapist.  I’ve checked online; it’s not just me, the proper critics are united in their admiration for the film, which won an Academy Award and a Golden Globe in 2002.

So, how can this be?  Firstly, you don’t see the sex (although there is a fantasy sequence where a tiny dancer enters a rather stylised vagina).  The  surreal atmosphere of Almodovar’s films probably helps; and the rapist is portrayed throughout as a gentle, concerned character with a strong empathy for women, who is in love with (fixated on) the victim.  And he is caught, imprisoned and eventually kills himself.

Almodovar is clearly a follower of Bunuel in his anarchistic, surreal tendencies and his insistence on exploring the “unacceptable” faces of sexuality – fetishism and illness are prominent themes in the work of both.

What makes Almodovar’s film less jarring than the incident in Salter’s book?  I’m not sure.  To be continued.

??????????

Blackpaint

27.06.13

Blackpaint 372 – It’s all about women, beaches and room 47

December 20, 2012

Tate Britain

They seem to be re-opening the galleries one or two at a time.  Went there a couple or three weeks ago and there were no 20th century rooms open; now several rooms have opened up – the Frank Bowlings are on view again and the early C20th room, with some new additions.  There is a Christopher Wood, “The Fisherman’s Farewell”, a nice little Alfred Wallis view of St.Ives and a beautiful, leaf green Dora Carrington of two tiny female figures in Edwardian white, gazing at a huge green hill which overhangs them.

There is  a Stanley Spencer Resurrection set in Cookham; in the middle of the graveyard, several African women – are they all women? – , one wearing a set of gold neck rings, are among those rising ; what’s the story there, I wonder?  Apparently, Spencer was unable to give a clear explanation, except that the picture was supposed to represent a sort of universality and some stuff about instinctiveness – also, he was interested in African art at the time.

In the same, or maybe the next room, several beautiful Gwen Johns, especially one called “the Invalid” or “The Convalescent”; it’s next to Harold Gilman’s “Mrs. Mounter”.  And there’s a great nude by Wilson Steer – I always thought he did landscapes.

wilson steer

I like to do that thing of standing in the middle of the room and scanning round with half-closed eyes – yes, you get curious glances – to see which paintings grab your attention.  Sometimes, of course, it’s the most garish ones, like the Francis Hodgkin one with the green faces; often, it works though, and you get the “best” pictures.  This time, it was the Whistler “Woman in White”, leaning on her mantlepiece, her head against the mirror (surely the reflection is a bit too low?)  and – maybe in an adjoining room – that Vanessa Bell from 1912, of the women on the beach with the sun hats and the bathing tent.  Simple but magic and very early.

whistler

vanessa bell

Turner

There is a whole roomful of mostly watercolour sketches, clouds, skies, beaches, that are so much more beautiful (to the modern eye) than the more conventional of his big, finished canvases.  One in particular, called “A Lay In”(?), like ripples across a sandy surface.  Among the bigger paintings, one should seek out the whaler boiling blubber – it has a much longer Turner title – and the Doge marrying the sea in Venice – where else?

Hidden and Inland Empire

Great Michael Haneke film with Binoche and Daniel Auteuil, in which the French media bourgeosie are threatened and made uneasy by guilt over their colonialist past, embodied by an impoverished North African and his son..  They deserve it for being very smug and irritating, completely unlike the British bourgeoisie, who, of course, are neither smug nor irritating and always behaved impeccably in the colonies.  

I happened to watch David Lynch’s “Inland Empire” immediately afterwards; there was an apparent coincidence.  In Hidden, a sudden suicide takes place in room 47 of an apartment block; in Empire, Laura Dern shoots someone and then runs into room 47.  In Empire, a leering face with blood pouring from mouth, appears straight after this; in Hidden, there are mystery drawings sent – of a face with blood pouring from mouth.  I thought I’d discovered something here – but no, someone in a Southern California university has already written a long piece on it.

La Regle du Jeu

Schumacher the gamekeeper was played by Gaston Modot, who, as I said last blog, was also “The Man” in “l’Age d’Or”; I should also have mentioned the beautiful Nora Gregor, the fatal femme Christine – a cross between Marlene Dietrich and Kristin Scott Thomas, I think.

Happy Christmas to my readers.  Log on to Paintlater’s blog to see some fantastic AbEx paintings.

003

Oceanic Orpheus

Blackpaint

20.12.12

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

Blackpaint 121

April 26, 2010

Tate Modern

Dropped my partner’s paintings in to the Bankside Gallery for an exhibition today, so after, visited the  little round Jorn heads swimming like fish and the black Pollock and the Kline “black bridgehead” (Meryon, is it? sounds like St.Ives) and the huge, scraped, shimmering Richters and the pink and pearl grey Mitchell, to make sure they were still there – they were.

Motherwell, Picasso

In the Surrealist bit, was struck again by how boring the surfaces of most surrealist works are.  Makes sense I suppose, because the “message” is in the images, not the texture.  But I’m over familiar with most of them, so again, the painting that captured my attention was the Motherwell “Ulysses” on cardboard and wood, with that fleecy lump of white and the black triangular shape. 

Also, a Klee, black line drawing on white ground, “The Burdened Children” – looked a bit like a Brice Marden. 

These, and of course, the Picasso in that startling light  green, with the chunky woman staring out at you from her prone pose, resting on her elbow.  He, Picasso that is, always captures your eye.

To me, it always looks as if he’s just walked up to the canvas, slapped on the background, executed the figure in a few decisive (almost contemptuous) strokes, filled in a few details, looked at his watch and moved on to bash out another painting before the paint dries.  It’s a feeling I get from nearly every Picasso canvas – no errors, no overpainting, slip-slap, masterpiece done, move on.  The colours are piercing, the images arresting, the surfaces OK, but he’s not really interested in texture, is he?  No time.

In the bookshop after, a woman picked up the Taschen Picasso and leafing through, said to her friend, “He wasn’t bad at the beginning, you know – before he started to go all weird.”

Sarmanto

A new name to me, and a roomful of works, by Julao Sarmento, Portuguese, born 1948; one with a surface resemblance to Rauschenberg, rather disturbing collection of images in one of which, a man appears to be throttling a woman… Others in which the images are part erased or faded out – to do with memory.

Carrington, Tanning and Carrington

I realise today that I have been confusing two, and sometimes three different women painters.  For the similarly afflicted (I’m sure there are some), Leonora Carrington (British) and Dorothea Tanning (American) are both surrealist painters with a somewhat similar style, both with a connection to Max Ernst (Carrington was his lover until his arrest in WW2 by the Gestapo and his subsequent marriage to Peggy Guggenheim.  Tanning married him after Guggenheim). Dora Carrington, a little earlier than the other two, 1893 – 1932, was not a surrealist but a portraitist.  She was married to Lytton Strachey and committed suicide after his death.

Unforgiveable, this confusion – I’ll look at the work of the two surrealists more closely to establish the differences more firmly and stop this mental blurring (but their names and work are similar – and then there’s the Ernst connection…).

White Worm (fragment)

Listening to Ian Dury, Jack Shit George.

“What did you learn in school today? Jack shit.

Soon as the teacher moves away – that’s it.”

Blackpaint

26.04.10