Posts Tagged ‘Dorothea Tanning’

Blackpaint 643 – Franz West, Dorothea Tanning and Fellini’s Roma

April 24, 2019

Franz West – Tate Modern until June 3rd

I was pretty well disposed to regard this exhibition as a waste of space when I arrived, having seen the odd photo of West’s work in art books and been unimpressed by them.  After a few exhibits, however, I was feeling some grudging amusement here and there and was quite won over by the time we left to see the Dorothea Tanning.  It’s necessary, I think, to see the size of some of these pieces, coupled with the lack of portent.  He’s indulging a spirit of playfulness – yes, a sentence that would normally lead me to go elsewhere at once – but somehow, without annoying infantilism that implies.

Actually, now I come to think of it, it IS infantile and, yes, it IS annoying.  But the proper course of action, perhaps, is to see it and then condemn it.  What’s in it?  Some examples, as always, below:

 

Show kicks off with a series of framed cartoons like these;

 

Lots of stuff roughly sculpted or thrown together in plaster-

 

-or metal –

 

-or gold tinfoil (looks like, anyway)-

 

-or these sorts of entities, standing drunkenly and precariously on thin supports.  Also giant microbes or viruses dangling from the ceiling, huge boulder piles in fibre glass or epoxy resin or some such and a variety of insane prostheses that the more exhibitionist visitors can parade around wearing in front of their partners.  There are some metal sculptures that recall Paolozzi, perhaps, and a series of great spoof film posters.  Yes, on reflection, it’s childish in a Dada sort of way, but I quite liked it – don’t know why, really…

Dorothea Tanning – also at Tate Modern until June

This exhibition is haunted by Max Ernst, as can be seen in the first example below – reminded me of that little one he did called “Children Frightened by a Nightingale” or something similar.  Not surprising, since she was married to Ernst (Ernst had previously partnered Leonora Carrington, with whom I tend to confuse Tanning, and not only because of Ernst and the names; their work also has some similarities).  The giant locust thing on the tablecloth is a famous image of hers, and instantly recognisable, as is the one with the floaty haired girls in the corridor with the giant sunflower…

As for the third example below, the  biomorphic shapes wrestling by a table, there is a whole roomful of these paintings, sculptures too, that are completely different in style from the Ernst-ish ones and graphic locusts.  They (like everything, I suppose) are a matter of taste – I think they suffer from the similar stuff that often pads out affordable art fairs.

 

 

 

 

Roma, dir. Fellini, 1972

Fabulous film, not only for the ecclesiastical fashion show and the brothel scenes, but also (and mainly) for the underground breakthrough into the Roman villa, the fading murals and the wild, hallucinogenic scenes on the autostrada in the rain.  I’ve now seen all the Fellini available on DVD and Youtube and it’s all great – a few longeurs in “Clowns” perhaps, but the YouTube version had Portuguese subtitles.  I recommend getting all available Bunuel too, and watching them turn and turn about with the Fellini.

 

 

And this is one of mine.

 

The World Turned Upside Down 2

Blackpaint

24,4,19

 

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Blackpaint 340 – Dustmen, Chlorine and Gerhard’s Enormous Squeegee

May 3, 2012

Orchestra Rehearsal, Fellini

Is this film just reactionary?  Takes me back to my student days in the early 70s (chanting slogans, sitting in, exaggeration, graffiti, posters, charismatic, long-haired, moustachioed student leaders speechifying in apocalyptic terms, gazing into the socialist future with shining eyes, seeing themselves as Leon, or Che, or Makhno,  sitting in….  sorry, back to the film.

There are gibes at the unions’ demands on  demarcation and tea breaks and Fellini clearly identifies with the maestro, who is scorned and abused.  The old caretaker, however, reminisces to the audience about the good old days, in which the maestro’s word was law and the musicians would accept physical punishment for playing a bum note or coming in late – sounds like fascism to me and Fellini steers clear of wishing for that, I think.

At the height of the “anarchy”, a wrecking ball comes through the wall (representing what?  The philistinism of  contemporary culture?  Television?); it kills the harpist and the musicians “come to their senses” – like good pupils, they submit their individual wills to the maestro and proceed to make music together, sheltering in their common pursuit from the external enemy – but the maestro’s angry rebukes soon begin once more…

Paintings that Smell

Not literally, of course – Stanley Spencer’s “The Lovers” comes to mind first; the dustmen, worshipped by the housecoated women, the rubbish – old cabbage leaves, tea leaves, tea pots – the picture smells of Jeyes’ Fluid to me, disinfectant with decay underneath, and a suspicion of armpits.  Maybe it’s because I used to be a dustman for a short time, many years ago, before black plastic bins and bags.  The maggots and seafood restaurants were the worst – and that cold trickle of liquid down the back of your neck as you hoisted the tin bin onto your shoulder; what was it – rose water, maybe? Probably not.

Secondly, Hockney’s “Bigger Splash”; chlorine, of course.

De Kooning Retrospective, Thames and Hudson

Fabulous paintings, but something of a tedious text, which seems overconcerned with delving into the crowded abstracts and retrieving identifiable bits and pieces of images – door, ladder, mouth, teeth, penis, vagina, window, chair…  This approach soon palls and threatens to undermine the magic of works like Gansevoort Street, Easter Monday, Interchange and the rest.  Pictures are mouth-watering, though.

Tate Modern

That corner in the surrealism bit is where I go now – Appel yellow wooden plaque next to Motherwell’s Ulysses; swing right to Joan Mitchell’s huge grey painting and further right to the Dorothea Tanning…  BUT still missing my Franz Kline black bridgehead with the two Asger Jorns facing it; Proud, Timid One and Letter to my Son – I want them back as soon as Damien Hirst is over.

Gerhard Richter

I watched the new DVD on Richter last night and was fascinated to see him dragging his enormous wooden squeegee down and/or across the painted surfaces of his canvases, blending, covering or scraping off the pigment.  Several times when he did it, I thought “Great!  Now leave it!”  But he didn’t – he dragged it again and wiped the image out.  The film left me with the impression that it’s really difficult to paint with someone pointing a camera at you while you do it.  Richter said as much, politely; he talked about painting being a secret (private) activity.

That squeegee is a bit of a WMD, really; he uses a big brush to modify after it has passed over – but I would have thought he’d be moving on soon as regards technique, if he hasn’t already.

Work in progress (note Baselitz influence)

Blackpaint

2.05.12

Blackpaint 122

April 27, 2010

Tanning and Carrington

What I should have pointed out yesterday, once I had cleared up my own confusion about these two artists, is that they are both living:  Carrington in Mexico, aged 93 and Tanning in the USA, 100 years in August.

As to their work, Tanning does little girls, giant cockroach/grasshoppers in deserted ballrooms, with giant artificial-looking flowers, flights of birds that attack windows and fall as fishes.  Carrington does elongated, wild-haired women (self portraits, I  think), sometimes naked, often beset by white horses and once, attended by a strange half-hyena, half-zebra creature – or maybe it’s wearing its ribs on the outside…

Paul Feiler

I got a fine little Austin/Desmond catalogue from the shop near the Tate Modern, of works by this artist.  Born 1917,  a St.Ives artist who, for some reason, did not get a Tate paperback written about him.  He uses a palette of milky, curdled whites, ochre, browns, greys, blues and blacks.  His surfaces are often scraped and nubbly, his motifs are scored arcs, ovals, circles and stripes, always scratchy and rough.  Some works are semi-figurative; a window frame, for instance.  They have place names mostly, like Porthgwarra and Gwithian.  William Scott compared him to de Stael and in one painting, “Botallack, grey and black”, you can see what he means.  There are some smartly executed little figure sketches too.  It’s fascinating and instructive to see how much variation and beauty can be wrung from a fairly restricted palette and range of marks.

Jock McFadyen

Another cheap book from the same place.  Born in 1950, a youngster compared to today’s other features, McFadyen lives and works in the East End and does scenes of life in the area in the 80s.  A line of prostitutes lean against  wall, three hard-looking men with a forlorn pit bull, a one-legged woman on a crutch, a couple of girls in a park, waiting for “the Cortina Boys”, graffiti, yobs, market scenes.  And a portrait of Harry Diamond, the photographer, dancing to jazz, no doubt, in “Paul Tonkin’s prefab”.  Harry Diamond was known both for his great photography and for having been a model several times for Lucian Freud.  That’s him in Freud’s portrait of the young man next to an aspidistra.  I can attest that McFadyen’s portrait is excellent, having met Harry several times in the last ten years through my dear friend, Bob Glass.

Listening, appropriately, to the Duke Ellington 40’s band, the so-called Blanton band, doing “Harlem Air-Shaft” and “Diminuendo and Crescendo in Blue”

Blackpaint

27.04.10

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