Posts Tagged ‘Durer’

Blackpaint 642 – Monk, Barlow, Nudes and Fellini

April 4, 2019

William Monk, “A Fool through the Clouds”, The Pace Gallery

This is only on until 10th April, so visit soon if you like his works.  Three examples below – they are big, by the way.

 

 

 

Phyllida Barlow, Royal Academy until 23rd June

As at the Tate some years back, and at the Venice Biennale 2017, giant structures in stone, wood, fibre glass, canvas and metal, filling the white galleries and presenting beautiful prospects through the archways.  As can be seen, they recall skeletal structures, perhaps poking up through mud on river banks or sea shores; great precarious boulders or metal chunks, balanced on spindly supports and draped with canvas swatches.  I don’t know who to compare her works to – maybe Keifer in terms of size (but not portent)…  No-one else, really.

 

Great view through doorway.

 

I wouldn’t stray beneath those structures at the back…

 

They were squashed flat 10 seconds later…

 

The Renaissance Nude, Royal Academy, Sackler Gallery 

As you would expect, there are some fabulous treasures on display here; nothing, however, to justify the rather overheated review Adrian Searle gave it in the Guardian a few weeks back.  Far from arousing lusty thoughts, I was constantly struck by how odd some of the nude body shapes and features were, Cranach for instance, but also Durer, and others.  Many of the artists seem to have a better grasp of the muscular male physique.  I particularly liked this mysterious little picture in a vitrine with several others in a series; it’s by Giovanni Bellini, I think – what’s he doing?  Coming out of his shell is the obvious answer.  Probably has some alchemical significance – maybe??

 

 

The Ship Sails On, Federico Fellini, 1981

Fellini will be turning up regularly in this blog over the next few weeks, as I’ve just been watching virtually his entire output on DVD.  Three to go – “Clowns” (on You tube, but in Italian with Portuguese subs), “Intravista” and Voice of the Moon” (his last film, can’t find it on DVD).

Anyway, “Ship” is the one about the voyage to dispose of the ashes of a star opera singer (Helen Suzmann) in 1914.  The guests are an assortment of singers, academics, royalty and hangers-on, and there is a sort of narrator in the form of Freddie Jones, a journalist who breaks the fourth wall constantly to address us (as he is doing in the still above).  What I particularly noticed this time round was how closely Jones’ facial expressions resemble those of Giulieta Masina, Fellini’s muse and wife.  Raised eyebrows, sudden perplexed frowns, that mouth pulled firmly down at the sides, expressing an undermining skepticism: a sort of facial shrug.  Barbara Jeffords is great too, as a rival diva.  The fabulously artificial seascapes too, with the static plumes of black smoke from the funnels.  At the end, Fellini pans back (is that the right expression?) to show the crew working the “sea” surface in the studio.

No new paintings, so these are the ones I sold in the exhibition last week:

Bad Old Science

Good New Science

Ballet

Disunity of the Spheres

I certainly can’t be accused of pretentious titles…

Blackpaint

4th April 2019

 

 

 

 

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Blackpaint 610 – French migrants, Polish exiles and the Hole in the Ceiling

November 20, 2017

The Impressionists in London (Tate Britain, until May 2018)

Strange exhibition, since a lot of these pictures – I’m not sure about the sculptures – don’t seem to be Impressionist at all.  The idea behind it is to showcase the French artists in exile in England after the fall of the Paris Commune and the massacres and oppression that followed it.  The booklet points out that there were no restrictions placed on these migrants and no quibbles over refugee or economic migrant status; apparently, there were no restrictions or limits on migration to Britain at the time – anyone could come.

There are a lot of pictures that are rather familiar from the Tate’s permanent collection; most of the Tissots and some Pissaros (Norwood, Sydenham) I’m sure have been moved downstairs.  The Tissots, for my money, are the most enjoyable but they are surely not “impressionist”, if that means passing effects of light and shade and all that; they look more like Millais, doing Singer Sargent subject matter.  The Whistler bridges and Monet’s series of Parliament in the last room, I think, are actually badly served by being all lumped together; great on their own, all together – too much.

Tissot

Also of interest, the Fantin-Latour double portrait; again, not impressionistic, more like Clausen or maybe Repin.  There is  social realist picture by an Italian (didn’t get the name) of loafers on a bridge under an orange sky – and the roomful of Derains at the end is great.

Fantin-Latour

Melancholia, a Sebald Variation (Inigo Rooms, Somerset House until 10th December)

The main piece in this exhibition is a 54 minute film by a Dutch artist, Guido Van der Werve.  It interweaves three elements: the first is the artist swimming, cycling and running the equivalent of three triathlons, being the distance between Chopin’s heart (in Poland) and the rest of him (in Paris).   he kicks off playing the piano in a Polish church, wearing a wet suit, while a choir sings a rather beautiful, melancholic piece.  Off he goes, into the river, and some rather beautiful but surely speeded-up film of him swimming.  He continues, at intervals, switching to bike and then running, leaving his wet suit and then bike with a waiting woman…

But I’m telling the story!  Enough.  The other elements are 1. Sites relating to Alexander the Great’s career, and 2. More musical interludes, in which orchestras are revealed playing in a house and by a canal.  Dada-ish things happen; a man walks past on fire and dives into the canal  and glass smashes, explosions happen…  It’s about exile (Chopin, Alexander) it seems; “a melancholy meditation on the theme of not being able to return home”, the booklet says.

The Dada stuff threw me for a while, since humour is not something I readily associate with WG Sebald.  And indeed, there is none elsewhere in the exhibition, which contains work by Durer (of course), George Shaw, Tess Jaray, Dexter Dalwood, Anselm Kiefer and others, as well as Sebald’s own darkened, enigmatic photograph collection.  The theme is melancholy and whether it is an “unproductive form of mourning” or a spur to creativity.

Kabakovs again (Tate Modern until 28th Jan 2018)

 

It occurs to me that there is a similarity between Sebald’s use of photographs etc. in his books and the Ilya Kabakov exhibit “Labyrinth (My Mother’s Album” in the current show at TM.  You walk through a series of dimly-lit rooms, with pages of a scrapbook pasted to the walls; blurry photos of pastoral scenes with memoirs of his mother in Russian and English.  At first, you try to read them but you soon give up – the light’s too dim.  It’s all about the nostalgia of the photos and the atmosphere.

Incidentally, the first time I visited this exhibition, I looked at “The Man who Flew into Space from his Apartment” and completely missed the catapult and the hole in the ceiling.  It was pretty crowded in there, but still…

 

Da Vinci’s Salvator Mundi

I’ve more to say, but will save it for next time.  But I think that Leonardo is a Luini (as it was originally though to be).  It’s just not good enough for Leo.  Then again, great painters often do crap Christs; Veronese, for instance.  Maybe it’s some sort of cosmic dread, or maybe the Church stopped them being too human with Christ’s face.

Next time, Soviet posters, October (Eisenstein) and Walter Hopps.

Firestorm

Blackpaint

20/11/17

 

Blackpaint 423 – Spencer and Durer, Honey and Fire

November 28, 2013

Durer at the Courtauld

Drawings, woodcuts and etchings showing influence of Italy on Durer; includes great drawings by Mantegna as well.  Durer’s broken outlines, dense and varied hatching on display; great piglets (actually look more like wild boars) in Prodigal Son.  A young woman in a Mantegna drawing looks just as if she’s on her mobile.

Also in gallery, Richard Serra drawings, consisting of masses of crushed black crayon pressed down by Mylar, a sort of transparent plastic.  So, quite a broad spectrum of drawing style on display at Courtauld…

Still think the best painting in the gallery is the Marx Reichlich portrait of the young woman below.

(c) The Courtauld Gallery; Supplied by The Public Catalogue Foundation

Skaters in courtyard below look just like figures in a Lowry, provided weather dull and overcast – pretty safe bet at this time of year.

Stanley Spencer at the Courtauld

In the Terrace Rooms, behind the ice rink, the murals from Burghclere, relating to WW1.  Only one shows action (I don’t think it’s one of the murals); Irish soldiers, struck by a salvo of shells from Turkish artillery.  The viewpoint is maybe 30ft above the ground; a great, looping, grey envelope of smoke, with shadowy forms of horses or men concealed in its folds.  Dead and injured are scattered on the rock or cinders, wounded being carried away.

All the other large pictures share a similar viewpoint – 10 – 30 ft above ground or floor, sometimes the ground tilting drastically upwards about halfway down the picture.  This is most noticeable in the strange picture of soldiers drinking from a spring or well or waterhole – they lie face down, capes stretching along their backs like folded ants’ wings, maybe, lapping at the water, as if pinned to a board tilted towards us.

In another picture, “Map Reading”, I think, only the officer is bothering; in the background, a bunch of soldiers gather berries from bushes in flower, as if they are on the Sussex downs or in a garden in Kent.

spencer mural

In several pictures, white sheets, mosquito nets, bandages, even buckets echo the idea of angelic wings; all tasks portrayed are mundane; scrubbing lockers, eating bread and jam, bathing…

Unfortunately, the Resurrection centre piece is represented only by a giant slide projection, since it is impossible to move the original.  The crosses don’t have that 3D quality they have in the photographs.  A great exhibition though, and free.

Bal

A Turkish film, director Kaplanoglu, set in lush green, mountainous forests, terraces of planted tea; a honey-gatherer who dies alone in the forest when he falls from a tree, his son who speaks only in whispers… A great scene of communal dancers at a mountain fair, women in traditional dress, curtains of mist drifting around the cars and stalls scattered around the hillside.  The pace is “stately” throughout, so be prepared for scenes in Bela Tarr time. “Bal” means honey; it’s one of the “Yusuf” trilogy, with Egg and Milk.

Gravity

When Sandra Bullock is aboard the Russian space craft and fire breaks out, the alarm screen says “FIRE!” in English.  All other notices and instructions are in Russian only.

A Passage to India

Finally got round to reading this, and I’m impressed with the way Forster unfolds the misunderstandings, crassness and arrogance operating between the British, the Indians and the “Eurasians”, and within the Indian groups.  I think I need to read “Burmese Days” again, as well.  Burma, not India, of course, and somewhat later than “Passage”, but I think it will be instructive.

??????????

Skegness

Blackpaint

28.11.13

Blackpaint 368 – Dancing with Death, Small Talk at Parties

November 22, 2012

Death at the Wellcome Centre

Yes, “Death” is the title of the exhibition.  It’s the collection of one man, Richard Harris, and it’s astonishing that he can live with all this stuff; I managed about half an hour before depression drove me outside into the rain.

Not that the exhibits themselves are depressing – many are amusing, some beautiful and all are interesting.  It’s what isn’t there that’s a downer, since you can’t get it out of your mind (I can’t anyway).

So, what is there?  As may be expected, skulls are omnipresent, Dances of (and with) Death, Deaths and Maidens, Death (i.e. skeletons) playing the fiddle.  Dancing skeletons seem to have penetrated all cultures – excellent Japanese and sub-continental examples here; simple but somehow beautiful death dolls from C19th USA.  A fantastic sort of diorama from Argentina, including miniature novels, corpses, monks, towns and villages, made in 2011 but looking archaic, if it wasn’t for the modern dustjackets on the little books…  It was only when I looked back from across the room that I saw the whole thing was in the shape of a skull.

There are 50 small etchings or prints made by Otto Dix, showing the horrors of the trenches and inevitably, some Goya etchings with his own atrocities.  A set of playing card-sized depictions of military life by Callot, I think; rapes, murders, executions all depicted.

The centrepiece is a horrible wax sculpture by John Isaacs, entitled “Are You Still Angry with Me?”; a corpse is sitting on a crate, partially flayed, great sections of flesh removed from the long bones, as if butchered for an anatomy lesson, perhaps, or, in line with the title, a victim of shellfire or bombing.

All the worms, bones and dancing skeletons, however, depict a sort of life-in-death; what’s missing is that suggested by the work of Rothko, or Ryman, or Malevich; oblivion, nothingness.  I know that’s not what Malevich intended in his black canvases, or Ryman with his white ones; that’s what they suggest to me, though – sometimes.  Best done in poetry, Larkin’s “Aubade”; “Not to be here, Not to be anywhere, And soon; Nothing so terrible, nothing so true.”

Barbaric Genius, Sky Arts

Film on last week by Paul Duane about John Healy, the author of “The Grass Arena”, about his life as a drinker, rough sleeper, criminal, writer, chess master, yoga adept; a brilliant book, episodic, filmic – it’s been filmed, starring Mark Rylance – and a Penguin Modern Classic, despite Faber, his original publishers, having junked it, following a confrontation with Healy a decade ago.  I was introduced to him at a party some time ago, the only author of a Penguin Modern Classic I’m likely ever to meet; we talked about how much he liked cheese.

A Bigger Splash

The Tate Modern has  a show about action painting that I visited briefly last week; it’s very big and packed with info.  Unfortunately, the whole point of action painting is the action, so without it, you have only the remnants and the photographs, and sometimes the commentaries.  Nevertheless, it looked really interesting, if not visually stunning and I’m looking forward to going again.  Felt unwell halfway round, not the result of the Austrian Actionist photos, and had to cut it short.  What I do remember was the photos of the Yves Klein event in Paris at which a number of stunning naked models rolled in blue paint and left impressions of their bodies on great sheets of paper – all before a seated audience of bourgeoisie in evening dress.  Klein himself in dinner jacket and black tie, being the master of ceremonies.

More on this next time.

 

My Kitchen at Home

Blackpaint

22/11/12

Blackpaint 335 – Redheads and Lurking Virgins

April 4, 2012

Deep End

Saw this on TV the other night for first time since 1970 or thereabouts; made by Jerzy Skolimowsky, set in a public baths in the East End.  Although all the actors were English (except, perhaps, Burt Kwouk in a dodgy “Chinese” hat, selling hot dogs), it sounded dubbed at times – I got the impression it was a foreigner’s view of London, same feeling with Polanski’s “Repulsion”, to an extent, but that had Catherine Deneuve as star – this had Jane Asher, who was rather good as a beautiful, hard-edged stripper/baths attendant.  Interesting that, apart from Michael Caine, who was much older, nobody to do working class cockney accents, until Ray Winstone in “Scum”, and maybe Phil Daniels and co in “Quadrophenia” – but that was much later, 79 I think.

The colours were the thing, really; green of the baths, red of Asher’s hair, white uniforms and ceilings and snow, orange, blue… the scarred and peeling walls sometimes recalling those beautiful Armenian and Azerbaijani arthouse films – “Colour of Pomegranates”, for example.  The bits I remembered from 1970 were the Tube journey with the life-size nude-ish cutout of Asher and the shock ending; won’t spoil it, in case it comes out on DVD.

Titian, The Flight into Egypt

Chanced on this new exhibition at the National Gallery today – had no idea it was opening (free).  It consists of the above painting, on loan from the Hermitage in St.Petersburg, referring to it as “Titian’s first masterpiece”, as well as a number of other Titians, Giorgiones, Durers and others that are deemed to have fed into it in some way.  The other Titians include “Noli me Tangere” and the one I wrote about before, calling it the “Flight into Egypt”, which is actually the Virgin and Child with a Shepherd, or some such title.  Confusingly, there is also a “Rest on the Flight into Egypt” on display.

The Hermitage painting is large; a small procession of Joseph, Mary and the child on an ass, led by an adolescent girl through a wooded Italianate countryside, in which a deer, a fox, a hawk, some sheep and a cow appear.  The Titian colours are there; the Virgin’s dress appears to be pink silk or velvet. and Joseph’s cloak a lustrous yellow.  Only the colours suggest Titian to me; I would not have thought of him first, perhaps because of the girl leading the ass, whose square build is unlike any Titian I have seen.  The girl for me is the main focus of the picture.

Homage to a Poet by Giorgione

The Durer drawings are stunning, of course, as are the pair of wolves by someone else, forget who; but the real attraction for me is the beautiful, strange painting by Giorgione, entitled “Homage to a Poet”.  It shows a Christ-like poet with a laurel crown, seated on a rocky outcrop, while devotees bring him tokens, animals wander about (as in the Titian) and a small, shadowy Virgin figure(?) lurks halfway up the opposite bluff.  It’s all very static; the figures stand out somehow, as if collaged on, an effect I remember from Douanier Rousseau pictures at Bilbao a year or two ago.  The shrubbery, dark at the front, lightening at the back, is sharply defined – just beautiful, and strange.  The wall notes point out Giorgione’s regard for the work of Schongauer – maybe that combination of German cold clarity with the warm colours of Venice is the secret.  Anyway, he’s my latest favourite Renaissance painter.

An old Blackpaint – at least three months old

4.o4.12

Blackpaint 275

May 21, 2011

Bela Tarr

In  “Satantango”, his three DVD, 7 hour film, Irimias and Petrina sleep together, like Morecambe and Wise, in a little cubicle, in their overcoats.  Petrina covers the sleeping Irimias with a blanket.

When the charismatic Irimias is not there,  his disciples lose faith – rightly, of course – and only the faith of Lajos’ wife is unshaken; she does them the disservice of talking them round again.  Only Futaki, with his grim, thin, vinegary face, is unconvinced and strikes out alone.  I haven’t seen the end yet, however; maybe he comes around again.  Another hour or 90 minutes to go.

I’m seeing shades of Beckett and Bunuel in Tarr’s work.  I was going to say he stands at the opposite pole of my other obsession, Fellini – but then there are the whales, in “Satyricon” and “The Werckmeister Harmonies”…  I suppose what I really like about Tarr is the complete lack of pretension in his work.

An Ordinary Dog, by Gregory Woods

“Jerome”, one of Woods’ poems in the above collection, is clearly based on a painting of the eponymous saint; I can’t decide which one, however.  Woods mentions Jerome resting his slippered feet” on the upholstered ribcage of a dormant lion” – I thought the Durer, but no slippers and the lion is a foot or so away from the saint’s feet.  Maybe I’m being too literal; one of my many faults.  The last line – “Call me trivial but I can hear his stomach rumbling” – reminds me of that poem in Penguin Poetry of the Thirties, “The Progress of Poetry” by Christopher Caudwell:

“In evening’s sacred cool, among my bushes

A Figure was wont to walk.  I deemed it an angel.

But look at the footprint.  There’s hair between the toes!”

Kurt Schwitters

Just done another umber, alizerin, grey and black panel that looks (intentionally) a bit rough and rugged, like something from the beach at St. Ives, a chunk of sunk rowing boat maybe.  I thought of sticking some real wood to it, making it a sculpture or collage at least – then, flicking through an art book, came on Schwitters’ stuff done in the 20’s and a host of others, of course – Burri and Tapies with the sacking – and thought I’d better leave it.  There is nothing new under the sun, as I keep finding out – anew every day.

Max Ernst

His sculpture “Capricorne” , of a seated, bull- headed (Minotaur?) figure, flanked by a standing “wife” (Tanning) with a fish-shaped head – actually, the fish looks more like a hammer about to crash down on the bull’s head – holds in his right hand  – what?  It  looks to me like a giant toothbrush, which of course is entirely possible in Ernst’s work.  It’s now destroyed, anyway – book doesn’t say how.

The Minotaur

Must be one of the most frequently recurring images in art; I can think of Ernst, Picasso of course, Keith Vaughan, GF Watts… Actually, that’s about it.  I’ve just checked and, apart from a load of fantasy comic illustrations and figurines, a Greek vase and a Canova sculpture, I can’t find any others.  In film, there’s “Oedipus Rex” and “Satyricon”, of course.

Blackpaint

21.05.11

Blackpaint 251

February 13, 2011

Kings Place

Three exhibitions on here at the moment, all of which strike a remarkable note of contrast – conflict, really – with the corporate surroundings:

Norman Cornish – The Narrow World of…

A series of drawings and paintings of cloth-capped, mufflered, rough-suited men in pubs, leaning on wooden bars before beer pumps, surrounded by straight glasses, not jugs, of amber beer.  Not a mug in sight – “Glasses with ‘andles? ‘Ow effete!” as an old Bill Tidy cartoon put it – and certainly, no wine glasses.  Dogs figure; rangy whippet-types, with muscular rear ends.  The best is a small yellow watercolour in a corner.

Cornish was a miner himself from Spennymoor, County Durham.  I think there’s a touch of early Van Gogh in his close-ups and a hint of Lowrie in his street scenes (which are not featured in the exhibition, but are in the Cornish book on sale).

Angela Hughes – Transitions

A number of paintings, ranging in size from vast to small, mostly featuring the basement of a derelict glass factory.  Ghostly is the word – sprays of glassy white on a brownish pink-grey background, dim lines of machinery, cable looping down like lianas, racks emerging from the gloom.  Pastels, charcoal and oil all used, but even the oil paintings look as if they were done in the dust and sediment of the factory floor.  This sounds bad, perhaps, but is not meant so – they are effective and haunting.

Keith Pattison – No Redemption

Outstanding photos of the Miners’ Strike, the 84/85 one that is, which mostly centre on Easington Colliery in County Durham and the streets of the town where the miners lived – past tense, because those who still live there won’t have been miners for 25 years.  Pickets, police, skin tight jeans and skimpy denim jackets, the odd biker leather, banners, arrests, working miners under escort…

What really comes across is how much of an invading army the police were – marching in in columns, hard-faced, riot masks and shields, lining your streets, standing on your doorstep, telling you go that way, not this way, dragging you off under arrest from outside your own front door.  You can’t tell if the police are local, or members of, say, the Met who allegedly inflamed the strikers by waving their overtime packets at them – some police were reportedly better than others.  Nothing can disguise the army of occupation impression, however.

Alma Street figures frequently – I wonder if it’s still there, not demolished or re-named.  The photographs are works of art, as well as reportage – beautifully “composed”, in the sense of great anticipation and instant selection on Pattison’s part.  Surprisingly little anger from the strikers; many of the photos have a cheerful, almost carnivalesque atmosphere.

Expressionist Woodcuts at the Strang Print Room, UCL

Nolde’s “Prophet”, a Resurrection by Beckmann, a Grosz with street executions and disabled soldiers, hungry street life, Kathe Kollwitz’s beautifully drawn but oppressively monumental pictures of women with dead sons.  Durer’s Four Horsemen and St. Michael to compare (measure them against?).  A little exhibition but great stuff.

Blackpaint

12.02.11

Blackpaint 241

January 10, 2011

Van Gogh

Interesting to read in the Taschen VG the symbolism of his painting of April 1885 of the Bible and Zola’s “Joie de Vivre”, which he called “Still Life with Bible”.  The bible represents his father (solidity, authority, religion) and the dead candle signifies his recent demise.  The Zola volume is VG himself.  Zola’s story asserts the value of life and the life force in the face of sufferings, whilst the bible is open at Isaiah 53, which exalts those who suffer.  This sort of reading is more familiar to those who have read the Hagens’ interpretations of Renaissance paintings, which abound with symbolism, but it can still be used with more modern artists. I don’t have Van Gogh’s complete Letters, but my selected Letters doesn’t include such an analysis by VG himself – I imagine that it is the (plausible) effort of the authors, Walther and Metzger.

Veneziano

In the Uffizi guide, the Santa Lucia dei Magnoli Altarpiece.  That green and rose pink background remind me of Fra Angelico (Man of Sorrows) and maybe Duccio.  The really memorable aspect, however, is the rough, vigorous peasant face of John the Baptist, staring out at the viewer.  Nobody in the picture – two other saints and the Virgin and Child – is looking at anybody else; it’s like a room full of statues (the flesh tones on the V and C are pretty stone-coloured too).  Oddly, it seems to increase the picture’s power, in the same way that della Francesca’s figures sometimes do.

Altdorfer

Still perusing the Uffizi guide and Altdorfer’s “the Martyrdom of St. Florian” strikes me.  Florian, with a massive white millstone chained to his neck, kneeling on the rough logs of a pier or bridge with a great throng of people behind him.  Several of them look surprisingly solicitous, taking his cloak, gesturing towards the water, as if assuring him that its not too cold.  Florian looks unpersuaded.  Things are not looking good for him.

Leonardo

His early painting (c.1480) of St. Hieronymus contains the first really credible picture of a lion that I have seen in the early Renaissance.  Durer’s efforts, for instance, seem to me to flounder when it comes to the eyes; his lions have human eyes, if somewhat large.  The Hieronymus lion, although unfinished, has the unmistakable profile of a genuine African male.

Quiz

In the Sickert picture “Ennui”, what is the old boy at the table doing?

Listening to Martin Carthy, “Newlyn Town”:

“I robbed Lord Golding, I do declare,

And Lady Mansfield in Grosvenor Square;

I shut the shutters and bid them goodnight,

And home I took my loot,

And home I took my loot to my heart’s delight…”

Blackpaint

10.01.10

Blackpaint 238

January 4, 2011

1st blog of the year – but not necessarily the best, which is yet to come.

Posters

Looking at that Durer rhino in the British Museum the other day, I was reminded of the posters that used to cover the stains and graffitti on the walls of my room at university some years ago.  Decades, actually; several, in fact.  I can see them now, in my mind, through a cloud of swirling cigarette smoke, stuck crookedly to the internal breeze block walls of Suffolk Terrace; Cinnamon Girl pounding out and drowning the howling of the wind blowing from the Urals across the plains of Earlham Village.

Sorry about the digression.  Anyway, there was the rhino and another Durer – the Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse – in gold lines on black paper.  Later, when I moved in with my partner in the Fine City, there were new ones on the wall – a Hobbema treescape of somewhere in the Netherlands that looked more like Indonesian jungle, and Kandinsky’s “Cossacks”.  For months, I thought it was completely abstract, vivid squiggles of colour on an off-white ground – until one day, it was pointed out to me that the upright lines on the right were the Cossacks’ lances and the red squares were their furry hats.  This sort of reassured me and I began to like it, but it was many years before I was completely happy liking pictures that didn’t correspond to something in the “real world”.

The difference was that my Durers came from the poster shop in town, whilst my partner’s Kandinsky was from some gallery in London, probably the Tate.  Abstract didn’t sell well to students, but the Apocalypse – mounted dead men after all – were just like the Nazgul in Lord of the Rings.

Uffizi

My eldest son gave me a catalogue of the above for Christmas – when we went in 2002, the queue was too long.  I was looking at the Piero di Cosimo, “The Liberation of Andromeda”.  Weird monster, with its straight tusks – but then, the whole picture is weird.  There are, to quote the guide, “nordic woods and straw huts on the unlikely looking hilltops in the background.  The musical instruments are equally unlikely…they are all missing a soundbox or strings”.  This is also weird, since the strings are clearly visible – the writer is correct about the soundboxes however and the lute – like thing on the right seems to have a serpent’s head attached to a bagpipe chanter or a flute of some kind.   Didn’t I read somewhere that there is someone who specialises in building strange instruments depicted in paintings?  He’d have fun with this one.

Lorenzo Monaco

In the same book, Monaco’s altarpiece, “Coronation of the Virgin”, 1413.  On the left hand panel (looking at it, that is) a group of saints and martyrs with highly suspicious and disgruntled expressions.  some can be identified by their attributes; there is the Baptist with his staff ending in a cross, Stephen with two rocks on his head, Peter with his big key and one with a club – or is it a bundle of sticks?  If a club, I think it’s St. James the Less, who was beaten to death with a hatter’s club.  But who is that with the sword?  Someone who was beheaded, I suppose.

More on Uffizi, and on Cezanne and others in next blog.  Meanwhile, good to see Wolfie Adams through but a pity that he had to knock John Boy Walton out – what a game of darts though.

Blackpaint

Midnight

03.01.11

Blackpaint 234

December 24, 2010

British Museum Prints and Drawings (cont.)

Baselitz – Seated person in looping and criss-crossing black ink – but upside-down, as usual.

Hans Hoffman – A surprise for me to see this most painterly of painters in a drawing exhibition.  More looping and straight black strokes, a little like Bram Van der Velde, on red and … white, I think.  From the other end of the room, looked like an abstract Rouault, if such things there are.

Anastasi – New one on me; “Subway Drawings”, because done on the subway – with his eyes closed.  Little clouds of fine black lines on either end of a thicker black bar, like a barbell with fuzzy knapweed instead of weights.  I don’t know what the idea was (maybe just to see what came out).

Jay Defeo – Wrote about her one or two blogs back; a friend of the 1st generation “Beats”.  This a technically superb rendering of the top of a camera tripod (a little like Richard Hamilton in 60s).  Apparently, she did this stuff to relax between her proper abstracts.

Franz Kline – Instantly recognisable thick black calligraphy, like a letter K on its side.  Called “Untitled”, of course.

Seliger – Forgot first name.  Looping marks like etching (maybe it was) or staining in grey.  Like a cross between Jaap Wagemaker andLucebert.

Franz Ackermann – Modern white apartments, stadium, seashore, brightly coloured and as if through a fish-eye lens.

George Grosz – Street scenes of Weimar Berlin with usual caricatures – none the worse for that.

Dubuffet – “Landscape in Yellow” – usual scraped and scored surface, about as much like a landscape as a rhinoceros – which brings me to…

Durer – The famous rhino, etching and original drawing, in the permanent display bit.  As everyone knows, he’d never seen one and was going on a written description of the one delivered to Brussels(?) Zoo during his time.  If it’s true that he’d never seen one, it’s a pretty miraculous likeness, allowing for a few bizarrities (I know, but it should be a word).

Mehretu – One of those precise, exploding lines abstracts that look like computer graphics (probably are).

Merry Christmas to Christian readers – probably aren’t any left, by now.

Blackpaint

24.12.10