Posts Tagged ‘Duchamp’

Blackpaint 435 – Hamilton, Richter, Baselitz, Andrex and the Phuncbot…

February 20, 2014

Richard Hamilton at Tate Modern

richard hamilton 2

Surprising how much ground he covered in his ideas and work.   It starts with shapes and forms from D’Arcy Wentworth Thompson; then those parchment-coloured, fragmented, “technical” drawings – car grids and headlights, electric toasters, commercial hairdriers, collages using plates of reflective silver material; a room based on Hamilton’s reconstructions of “Bride Stripped Bare”; blurred photographs, recalling (prefiguring?) Richter – anonymous blobs on crowded beaches, the Jagger-Fraser handcuffs picture, the Kent State victim, echoed in Richter’s Baader Meinhof pics; the flower pictures (Richter again); the political stuff – Treatment Room, with Thatcher holding forth (silently) on screen over bed (touch of Hirst here); Blair as a two gun cowboy, the Christ -like Dirty Protester in his cell, British soldier in Belfast street, Orange Order bowler hat man, maps showing expansion of Israeli occupied territory…

There are a couple of pictures containing Andrex toilet paper; not adverts, but semi-abstract paintings – and a trendy 60’s model girl, squatting fully dressed (paisley, I think) and taking a little curly shit on the floor – clearly where Martin Creed got the image; then there are the empty, mirrored hotel lobbies and stately naked models hoovering and hovering; the “Richard” (Ricard) parody logo that recalls Ed Ruscha’ s work; the electric toothbrush with denture plate attached and parody advert with Lorraine Chase- and, of course, “What is it that Makes Today’s Homes..” – this is so small that I missed it first time round and had to go back through to find it.

richard hamilton1

So, rich mix of ideas, startling originality, immaculate execution, with an underlying coldness and disengagement, even in the political work.

Philemon (Bible)

A short letter from Paul; but the interesting thing is that this letter, to Philemon, asking him to take back his former slave Onesimus, a runaway, demonstrates that slavery was not incompatible with Christianity – or, at least, with the Bible.  I suppose this should be obvious – nothing against slavery in the Ten Commandments or the Sermon on the Mount, for example – yet you tend to forget, because of the Christian influence in the anti-slavery movements in the 19th century.  I wonder if the other great religions condemn slavery explicitly?

Memphis Tennessee

I’ve been listening to this for 50 odd years – not continuously, of course – and have always wondered who “took the message and he wrote it on the wall”.  It sounds like “the phuncbot” to me.  So I finally looked it up on the net and it’s “My uncle”.  One version gives “Cos my uncle…”.  I’m still not convinced and prefer phuncbot.

The Travelling Players

travelling players

Theo Angelopoulos’ masterpiece; an ever dwindling, forlorn band of actors trudging and training through 20th century Greek history, putting on the same classic play in village halls, as war, murder, treachery and tragedy surround and wash over them.  It has that sort of tableau vivant style, interspersed with chunks of history spoken straight to camera by actors, like narrators in a play.  This sounds dreary, but isn’t; there is staggering mountain scenery, grotesque violence, partisan politics in both senses – and classical references, in that the players correspond to the tragedy of Agamemnon – Electra, Orestes etc.  And music – beautiful, haunting songs and American dance tunes.  Suitcases, shabby suits and coats, umbrellas, railway stations, mountain roads in the snow.  Long, but fantastic.

Baselitz, Richter, Penck at the British Museum

Powerful and dramatic woodcuts and drawings from Baselitz.   In 1967, he began to turn everything upside down; seated figures, eagles, trees, the lot.  The info on the wall explains that he was trying to empty the pictures of their figurative content, to abstractify them in some way. He succeeds sometimes, but mostly you think this is a seated man upside down; I wonder why.  Great, Seurat-like portrait woodcut from Penck and spirally, scribbly abstracts from Richter.

Burmese Days

I’ve been looking at Orwell’s writing on Forster and Passage to India; mainly favourable, as you would expect.  He does say that Forster’s characters sometimes die for no real reason – and that the Germans broadcast Passage in the war as anti-British propaganda.  This was not a criticism; rather, it showed how powerful Forster’s novel was as a critique of British imperialism in India.  I imagine they would have broadcast Burmese Days too, had Orwell been as distinguished a novelist as Forster at the time.  It’s much more vehement than the earlier novel.

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Flowerpot

Blackpaint

20.02.14

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Blackpaint 363 – Naked Smoking and Hoovering; watch where you drop the ash.

October 18, 2012

Richard Hamilton at the National Gallery

Paintings – although they mostly look like giant photographs – done with laser colour sprays on canvas, controlled by computer program.  Colour gradations, especially flesh tones of the young naked women who inhabit the pictures, are so perfect.  The naked women make telephone calls, hoover, wander around or take part in tableaux that rehearse famous historical paintings – Annunciation (Leonardo? Lippi?), Sanraedan’s cavernous Dutch church interiors, Nude descending a Staircase, The Bride Stripped Bare.  The “action” takes place in hotel lobbies, or Hamilton’s various homes – one at Cadaques, I was interested to see.  The main exhibit consists of three pictures, in various media and states, of a nude woman lying on a couch in a position reminiscent of a Titian nude, overlooked by portraits of Courbet, Titian and, I think, Rubens.   Here and there are areas of blurring that recall Richter.  The disengagement of the nude women suggest Delvaux’s dream women, to me at least.  The tones are mostly subdued greys and pinks.

Technically brilliant, I found them flat, uninspiring and  lifeless.  Why do people keep re-doing the Old Masters?

Before leaving Hamilton, I should mention Jonathan Jones’ review of same last week in Guardian:  “What a dude!” he was moved to exclaim.  Compare with Rachel Cooke’s comments on Conrad Shawcross (gorgeous) and Ed Ruscha (also gorgeous) in recent-ish reviews.  Good to see journalistic standards are being maintained in the broadsheets; that’s what distinguishes them from  bloggers.

Kitaj

Unfortunately, after the sarcasm, I have to admit to an inaccuracy myself.  I cited the Kitaj back as one of the great backs in art (which it is), but totally failed to notice that the model is smoking.  This is somewhat important, as the picture is called Matryka Smoking.  This compounds the error, since I said I thought it was Kitaj’s wife, Sandra.  So that’s that sorted.  My obsession with backs comes from my usual spot in the life drawing session – behind the model.

  Howl

Saw the film on Ginsberg on TV last night; great poetry, terrible animations.  Far too literal – spirit-like hipsters swooping about the night sky transparently, like Peter Pan.  The obscenity trial was good though, based on the actual transcripts.

Lemming

Much better was this French “black comedy thriller” with Charlottes Gainsbourg and Rampling.  The latter adopts a chilling deadpan expression, bringing to mind Robert Shaw’s great Jaws description of sharks’ dead, black, doll-like eyes.  Charlotte Gainsbourg, a bit like Keira Knightly, has one of those faces that shift from beautiful to ugly, vulnerable to contemptuous in an instant.  great film, very highly recommended.

Vija Celmins

At Tate Britain, small charcoal and graphite drawings and lithographs, mostly of galaxies and spiders’ webs.  the question, as with Anna Barribal (see  Blackpaint 358) is: how does she do it?  Surely she doesn’t put the black in, leaving thousands of tiny, blurred, round, white star spaces?  This again is an example of art which painstakingly – no, the word is not strong enough – obsessively, fanatically reproduces that which a photograph could, perhaps, also reproduce.  It’s fascinating. but is it any more than that?  No doubt it is,and someone will comment to tell me how.

A couple of other things from the Tate – a new Turner, “Venice, the Doge marrying the sea” or some such title; look at it from the archway, it’s brilliant from a distance, less effective close up.  Also the Yass wire walker film – if you watch it through the archways from the other end of the galleries, it looks great, painterly, especially the tower block.  The Keiller exhibition was being dismantled while I was there; huge crates labelled “H. Moore” standing around in the main hall; but I did have a good look at the Lowry, and noticed how weird his perspectives are; they seem to start again at the end of every street going away from you, like a mediaeval painter maybe.

Harris Savides

Obit in Guardian of the above, cinematographer on David Fincher’s “Zodiac” and so responsible for that great yellowish look that the film had – I don’t know how better to describe it, but it fitted the period and the theme perfectly – as did Donovan’s Hurdy Gurdy Man; what a sinister song.

Dinosaur Walk

Blackpaint

18.10.12

Blackpaint 292

September 5, 2011

Edward Lucie-Smith

I’ve just acquired a used copy of his “Movements in Art since 1945” (Thames and Hudson, 1970); I’ve no idea if it’s still in print – it would have been updated, of course – but it contains a whole load of colour illustrations of paintings I’ve never seen before, in a beautiful matt finish, much nicer that the usual glossy.  Some listed below:

  • Gorky, the Betrayal (47);
  • Hofmann, the Rising Moon (64) – the characteristic “push-pull” rectangles on a red background;
  •  De Kooning, Woman and Bicycle (52-3) – ELS links De Kooning’s sharp-toothed women to Warhol’s later Marilyns;
  • Heron, Manganese in Deep Violet (67) – glowing, of course;
  • Sam Francis, Blue on a Point (58);
  • Asger Jorn, you Never Know (66) – swirling yellow, blue, red;
  • Appel, Women and Birds (58) – swirling blue and red, a little less yellow than Jorn;
  • De Stael, Agrigente (54) – eye-burning, “abstract” landscape…

and loads more.

Some of his remarks are interesting, given the time at which he is writing; he says that Hockney’s then current works of the California, lawns and pools,”Bigger Splash” phase lack the irony and bite of the earlier, cartoon boys period.  He yokes Balthus and Bacon together as figurative outsiders, dealing in comparable, transgressive or shocking images (surely Bacon is by far the superior of the two).  He notes the intriguing mixture of nostalgia and modernity in the work of Pop artists, such as Peter Blake, and the way that British Post -Painterly abstractionists like John Walker were still prepared to use perspective in their works, whereas such  use was banished from the Americans’ work.

He has a 1962 quotation from Duchamp, regarding the “Neo-Dadaists”, which is simple, but hugely important:  “This Neo-Dada, which they call New Realism, Pop Art, Assemblage,vetc., is an easy way out and lives on what Dada did.  When I discovered ready-mades I thought to discourage aesthetics.  In Neo-Dada they have taken my ready-mades and found aesthetic beauty in them.  I threw the bottle rack and the urinal into their faces as a challenge and now they admire them for their aesthetic beauty” (ELS. p.11).  What better expression is there for the problem I was on about in the last blog – how you make things look “good” in a painting by making them look like something somebody has done before?  There’s the answer – paint something which looks crap, then do it over and over again until you get used to it and it becomes a style….

St. Martin’s MA show

Beautifully produced catalogue for this, “on sale in the foyer”, and only two quid.  Here are some exhibits I remember:

Helen Sorensen, Peas and Music – green shoots from a huge soil bed, surrounded by speakers that weren’t playing when we visited; oddly touching, for some reason;

Oliver Guy-Watkins – don’t know title – a stairwell and whole section of basement smothered with fake snow; reminded me of the inside of my un-defrosted fridge;

Elsa Philippe, the Conductor – a video in which the artist (if it is she) resembles a member of the Incredible String Band in one of their early 70’s entertainments;

Laura Degenhardt, Thames Boat – didn’t see this in the flesh, but liked it in the catalogue for it’s painterly qualities – but I’ve just noticed the dimensions; 20*25 cms!  That’s about a postcard, isn’ it?

 

In the Dark Australia

Blackpaint

5/09/11

Blackpaint 271

May 4, 2011

Max Ernst

Bought the Phaidon book on Ernst by Ian Turpin and was surprised by the variety of techniques and effects Ernst achieved over the years, many of which come under the heading of “oil on Canvas”.  frottage (rubbing of pencil et al over a textured surface), grattage (scraping away of paint), decalcomania (laying paper or some other medium onto an area of wet pigment and then shifting it slightly and peeling it away), this latter invented by Oscar Dominguez – as well as collage, of course.  Birds, plants, insects, plumage, jungle, psychomachinery, eyes, thin, overlapping panels of paint (colour fields, in fact) – echoes of Picabia, Magritte, De Chirico, Douanier Rousseau, Dali, even one that looks like a Chris Ofili! (“One Night of Love”, demonstrating yet another technique; coiling twine or string down onto wet paint and then removing it to leave the trail).

My current favourites are “Garden Aeroplane-Trap” from 1935, in which white, bony, plane-ish structures lie in wooden trays piled up into citadels, being crawled or grown over by pink, fuzzy, mollusc-like plants, or maybe shellfish – AND –

“The Robing of the Bride”, 1939.  A naked, elongated, high-breasted woman is cloaked in a robe of rich red feathers which mask her head and face, attended by a green feathered snake-bird man holding a big broken arrow, another long naked girl, and a four-breasted, little green Manalishi thing with a distended belly, picking its nose with a thumb.

What does it mean?  Possible sexual connotations, I would think – and the text refers to Duchamp, if that’s any help.

Phillip Taafe

At the Gagosian Gallery, Kings Cross.  Huge, high white walls, silent, suited security attendants hold the door open for you.  Various painted layers on paper attached to canvas – huge rectangular or triangular works in a range of bright colours; pink, greens, blues, reds,  oranges, often featuring masks (Noh theatre) and harem-like grilles.  Scimitar shapes, one with gold, spidery, bursting fireworks or stars, another like petals cascading down in straight lines.  Faint echoes of Ofili again, and perhaps Gilbert and George without the swearwords.  Wallpaper-ish sometimes, too.

Turner

That strange painting of Napoleon against a garish sunset, contemplating a shell – its in the Tate Britain, the one in which his reflection makes his legs look twice as long.  There’s an Ernst, “Napoleon in the Wilderness”, in which N is contemplating an encrusted, but otherwise naked woman, holding a saxophone-shaped strap thing with an odd little dragon on the end, where the bell should be.  Did Ernst know the Turner?  Turpin makes no mention.

Anthony Quinn

What a brilliant thug he makes in “La Strada”, displaying not the slightest concession to manners, politeness, normal social intercourse anywhere in Fellini’s film, beyond addressing the audiences of his strong man act as “Ladies and Gentlemen” and a nun as “Sister”.  Otherwise, he leans scowling against walls, scratching, smoking into his cupped hand, grunting, swilling wine, roaring about on his motorbike with the caravan thing attached – and fighting and beating people up, of course.  Haven’t seen him as Michelangelo painting the ceiling, but his Gauguin bore some resemblance to Zampano.  Actually, it was Charlton Heston who played Michelangelo, not Quinn (BP, 6th Dec 2011)

I love those Italian films of the early 50s, “Bicycle Thieves” and “Miracle in Milan” for example, with huge blocks of flats on wasteground, Roman ruins, people living in shacks, caves, dressed in odd bits of uniform, forage caps, greatcoats, driving odd vehicles (broomsticks in “Miracle”)…

Van Gogh

Was surprised to read that VG was barred entry to Arles, as a result of a petition by the people, shortly after the ear incident, and was locked up on grounds of public safety; up to that point in the letters, he seemed a peaceful and harmless sort of cove, apart from some mild stalking of his cousin and tiresome religious mania…

Blackpaint

3/04/11