Posts Tagged ‘Dumas’

Blackpaint 628 – Skinned Alive in Dulwich and Striped in Hanover Square

October 21, 2018

Jusepe de Ribera, Dulwich Picture Gallery

The most effective heir to Caravaggio, Spanish painter who worked in Naples (1591 – 1652)

I’ve been looking forward to this exhibition for months, having seen fantastic de Riberas in the Prado last year; vast canvases of stretched, prostrated male bodies undergoing torture… hang on, this is becoming rather weird.  They are not actually all that gruesome and it’s the brilliant rendition (unfortunate term, but the correct one) of the human body that’s fantastic, not the torture or bloodshed.

There are only four or five large canvases in Dulwich – St.Bartholomew, about to be skinned alive (two of those, I think); Marsyas, being flayed by Apollo; St Sebastian, having his arrows pulled out by a couple of women (the women rather perfunctory – de Ribera seems more interested in men).  There is a portrait of a man holding a knife and a flayed human skin, obviously inspired by the Michelangelo self portrait on the Sistine wall.

Additionally, there are a number of beautiful little drawings, some in red chalk, that are reminiscent in style of Leonardo, but Goya immediately comes to mind; the subject matter?  Executions, tortures such as the strappado, hangings, crucifixions, facial deformations…  You can imagine the visitor to Ribera’s studio, after seeing these: “And the one you’re working on at the moment, upstairs – would that be a harbour scene or some nice flowers in a jug, with butterflies?  Oh, a flaying…”.

 

St Sebastian

The sprawling male bodies are the obvious focal point – the skin often white or greyish, grainy, rippled over the belly, livid white and scooped out by shadow in turn.  Wher the flaying is actually in progress, it is the foot or arm that is being “done” and is easy to miss.  De Ribera is also pretty hot on fabric; see the example below.

 

By coincidence, the night before going to this, I watched the film “Bone Tomahawk” (dir. S.Craig Zahler, 2015) on TV, in which cave-dwelling cannibal throwbacks scalp a living man, then upend him and chop him in two from the crutch; it seemed to make an appropriate double with Ribera.

Amy Sillman, Camden Arts Centre, Finchley Road tube

By way of slight contrast, this beautiful set of paintings and drawings, and a cartoon film in the overheated Camden Arts Centre.  Lovely big, green, pink, blue abstract canvases (see below) and cartoony characters, like the crawling, vomiting (?) creature that make their way, like Kentridge’s people and coffee pots, into the film.  The pictures have surface; sometimes hard, smooth and glazed, sometimes rough, scraped, paint in bobbles and rills.  She seems, again like Kentridge and many other artists, to have recurring images; the thing that looks like an old vinyl record pickup in “TV in Bed” below; or is it an unconscious deep sea diver, lying on his back on the sea bed and wearing flippers…

Apart from Kentridge, Guston (the pinks), Oehlen and for some reason, Marlene Dumas came to mind.

 

What the Axe Knows

 

TV in Bed

 

Slant

 

 

 

Sean Scully, “Uninsideout”, Blain/Southern, Hanover Square

For some reason, someone tweeted that Scully “should be ashamed of himself” for this exhibition…  Why?  He did stripes before and he’s doing stripes now – what’s wrong with these stripes?  Too colourful, maybe…

Anyway, they are huge; lush, syrupy sweeps of paint on aluminium supports, very painterly, with a depth of colour like those he showed in that fabulous palace in Venice, at last year’s Biennale.  Additionally, there are a couple of enormous, quilt-like assemblages with inset panels (three pictures down, below).  Downstairs, smaller works on paper in pastel.  In Scully’s handwriting, some guff about clashing colours suggesting The Clash rock band – great art doesn’t, or shouldn’t need explanation or justification.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Two of mine to finish with, somewhat smaller than Scully’s:

Ice Candle

Blackpaint

 

Little Crashing Out

Blackpaint

21.10.48

 

 

 

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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 273

May 11, 2011

Ai Weiwei

I understand that the Tate Modern has “Release Ai Weiwei” in enormous letters on the outside of the building; if this was the case when I wrote, criticising the management, I hope they will accept my apologies.  I was up there the other day – Sunday, I think – and didn’t notice it; maybe it was on the other side.  Good to see two new exhibitions at Somerset House and Lisson Gallery and campaign for his release gaining momentum.

Tate Modern

The Rothkos are back in their central “temple” after being temporarily replaced by Agnes Martin and the bloody Austrians.  Looked a long while at the Dubuffet, “Busy Life” –  saw the boulder thing.  The figures, scattered at all angles, look as if they are scraped into rock.  Maybe this is because I saw Herzog’s “Cave of Forgotten Dreams” the other day (see 270).

Stanley Spencer

His “St. Francis Feeding the Birds” looks very much like a portrait of Mike Leigh in costume – unlikely, given the disparity of dates.  This brings me to today’s main theme, which is top ten portraits.  I have two lists of my favourites:  20th Century and pre – 20th century.

Portraits pre 20th Century

1.  Holbein – Thomas Cromwell.

2.  Holbein – Unknown Lady with Squirrel and Starling

3.  Velasquez – Pope Innocent X

4.  Rembrandt – self in age.  Any of them – but especially at the age of 63.

5.  Gainsborough – Mrs.  Siddons, or the Linley Sisters

6.  Leonardo – Lady with an ermine, Cecilia Gallerani (doesn’t the ermine resemble her?)

7.  Ingres – the landlady in the National Gallery.

8.  Goya – Duchess of Alba

9.  Salvatore Rosa – Self portrait.

10.  Whistler – Symphony in White no.2

20 th Century Portraits

1.  De Kooning – Marilyn Monroe.

2.  Marlene Dumas – Jule the Woman.  The red face.

3.  Francis Bacon – 3 studies of Muriel Belcher, or 3 studies of George Dyer.

4.  Gerhard Richter – Betty.

5.  Lucien Freud – Harry Diamond next to the Aspidistra – it’s called “Interior in Paddington”.

6.  Larry Rivers – David Sylvester.

7.  Frank Auerbach – all of them!

8.  Otto Dix – Von Harden

9.  Singer Sargent – Ena and Betty Wertheimer.  And, of course, Lady Agnew.

10.  Joyce’s father – Patrick Tuohy.

Bela Tarr (cont)

The accordion plays the melancholy, repetitive tune, while two drunken old men execute a dance by a snooker table, involving brandishing a chair.  A crowd of unshaven, capped, feral, moustached, semi-drunken men wait in a cobbled square; one forces spirits down the throat of a timid youth who is foolish enough to approach him.  The same youth comes eyeball to eyeball with a rotting, stinking whale in a huge wooden container in the same square – it resembles the recent Balka installation at the Tate Modern (container, not whale).  A drunken mob invades an asylum and lethargically beat the occupants with sticks, fists and feet.

The Banks of the Nile

Blackpaint

11.05.11

Blackpaint 108

April 12, 2010

Blackpaint back

from Paris, with controversy and ignorant comment, bad art and dated musical references.  I see my readership has plummeted in the last few days; no doubt, this post will continue the process of decline.

Pompidou Centre

The lower floors have an exhibition of women’s art, entitled “Elles a centrepompidou”, mostly from the 60’s, 70’s and 80’s.  There is some brilliant, though familiar stuff (Dumas faces); some equally brilliant, though less familiar (Louise Nevelson, a huge black gate affair with Leger/Ernst- type shapes and Sylvie Fanchon, a huge sky blue canvas with bright red linked chain painted across it, just like a big Prunella Clough); and a few exhibits that a less principled viewer of either sex might have found provocative – even titillating.

First, a big B&W video by (and of) Hannah Wilke, in which she makes a series of ironic, pouting faces to camera and touches herself, performing a striptease.  Next to this, another video;  artist (Kiki Smith?) strips, or already is, naked and slathers wallpaper paste all over herself and rolls on the floor in wallpaper.  A small black sculpture by Smith portrays a woman prone beneath a goat which is apparently having sex with her.  My delicacy here is perhaps misplaced, because nearby is Betty Tompkins’ “Fuck Painting”, which portrays a large penis entering a vagina, I think from below, but not sure.  Nearby again, a series of small drawings by Tracey Emin, some of which at least, show an enormous penis moving towards an eagerly smiling cartoon girl, who is the same size as itself.

Like everyone else, I looked at all this solemnly and was reminded of Tompkins the following day in the Musee d’Orsay when I saw the famous Courbet picture of a woman’s thighs and lower torso, legs spread to display the furry vagina – and a group of six or so, including a couple of women, peering at it, absorbed.  The Courbet was the more accomplished painting, I think, though with less going on than the Tompkins.  More on the d’Orsay tomorrow.

Some more from the Pompidou women’s exhibition – Annette Messager’s rag dolls on long sticks propped around the walls; Eva Hesse’s giant white worms rearing up (perhaps some phallic significance here) and Lee Bontecou’s “Untitled” from 1966, a combination of painting and sculpture, curved surfaces bulging out from the picture painted cream, brown and red.  Reminded me of some Frank Stellas, in this “coming out of the wall” sense.

Finally, there was Eva Aeppli’s installation of 13 gaunt, gowned figures all apparently male, seated on folding chairs, in an unfortunate juxtaposition with Sigalit Landau’s “Barbed Hula” – a video of a female, bikini’ed torso hula hooping, but wait – the hula hoop turns into barbed wire! Marks left, but no blood drawn.  The juxtaposition is unfortunate, in that it looks as if they are ogling the bare belly of the hula girl.

Since many of these exhibits are 25, 30, 40 years old, the historical context has changed, perhaps largely as a result of the art itself: consequently, art that was once radical, startling, outrageous seems now very similar to quite mild pornography.  Something similar happens to all of us, I suppose; the difference is there’s always the chance that  it will all come round again for the art.  I hope I die before I get old.

Tomorrow, the rest of the Pompidou and the Orsay.

Listened to “Watch Your Step” by Bobby Parker; raw metal guitar riff nicked and slightly adapted by Beatles for “I Feel Fine”, blistering sax solo, soulful screaming and very disturbing “stalker” lyrics “..You ditched me baby, but you’ll get yours one day, you better watch your step…”

Also “Meet on the Ledge”, Fairport Convention, where Sandy comes in..

“The way is up; along the road,

The air is growing thin;

Too many friends have tried, blown off this mountain with the wind…”

Blackpaint 12.04.10

Blackpaint 31

January 6, 2010

Conceptual Art

I think my problem with this sort of art is an unwillingness to engage with ideas that are not immediately apparent in the work.  If I have to read a plaque on the wall in a gallery in order to understand what the artist is saying, then the chances are quite high that I won’t bother.  I may still like the art; I may get a lot from it; but it probably won’t be what the artist intended.

I’m not sure whether this is legitimate or just crass.  Visual art surely should engage you visually; maybe its impact can be deepened by accompanying text – but if you end up writing great chunks of explanation (or having them written for you by critics), then it seems to me that you probably ought to make your message clearer visually.

That said, I’ve just trolled through the whole of “100 Contemporary Artists” (Taschen), both volumes, and the earlier “Art Now”, same publisher, and I haven’t found a single artist whose work doesn’t engage me visually to some degree, without reading the (mercifully brief)higher art bollocks written about each of them.  Some are more arresting than others, of course – and I prefer the painters, as I suppose I would.

Probably it’s because the conceptual artists are in a book rather than a gallery and you can return to that again and again.  as you flick through to your favourites, the others become more familiar and you start seeing things you missed at first.

More favourites: Tom Friedman – especially the “Green Demon”, Elmgreen and Dragset – the Prada shop in the middle of nowhere; Gursky, Albert Oehlen and Luc Tuymans.  and Pipilotti Rist – lovely videos and even better name.  But the images that stop me as I flick through are by Cecily Brown, Marlene Dumas, Tuymans and Oehlen.  Buy the book or look them up on the net – I’m worried about copyright if I attach images to this, other than my own.

Actually, there are two instances where I’m glad I read the text.  The first is Matthew Barney, who made the “Cremaster” series of films; there is a startling still of a red haired young man with pig’s (?) ears flopping down on each side of his head – reminds me somehow of a scene from “The Shining”.  The text reads, “The title of the series is derived from the cremaster muscle in the male genitals from which the testicles are suspended, and which is retracted in a reflex movement produced by cold or fear inside the body.”

The second relates to the work of Nobuyoshi Araki, who obsessively photographed his dying wife up to the point of death and beyond.  The text reads, “The photographs which have become emblematic of Araki’s work, however, are his portraits of young women – prostitutes and schoolgirls – either dressed or naked, hanging from the ceiling or thrown to the ground, their hands tied together, their legs apart, or even engaged in the sexual act.”  I’d like to know what Susan Sontag would have to say about him – this surely qualifies him as a “transgressor” ( Meaningless coincidence – Sontag was also photographed after death, I think, by Annie Leibovitz, wasn’t it?

Listening to Cyril Davies, “Chicago Calling”

“Well, Chicago calling, hear me call your name,

Yeah Chicago calling, come back home again,

I’m goin’ back to Chicago, Chicago callin’ me,

Yeah Chicago calling, Lord that’s where I long to be”

Blackpaint

06.01.10