Posts Tagged ‘Elgar’

Blackpaint 604 – Holbein, Debussy, Sargent and Mrs Robinson

August 22, 2017

The Encounter, NPG

This is an absolutely stunning little exhibition of Renaissance drawings that should be seen by everyone interested in portraiture, and the reason is Holbein.  Leonardo, Durer, Pontormo,  Rembrandt are there too and some of the works (Pontormo, Rembrandt,  Caracci) are brilliant but the Holbeins are supreme.   Just line and a little sparing colour, but they tremble with life.  I thought, looking at them, that you could walk outside and see these faces adorning the people passing down Charing Cross Road – something that I didn’t get from any of the other masterworks on show.

 

Holbein, John More (son of Sir Thomas) –  could be checking his phone for messages…

Annibale Caracci’s drawings are also something of a revelation, while not in the same class as the wizard Holbein.  I’ll be going again.

The Graduate, Mike Nichols (1967)

I bought the DVD (50th anniversary release), only to find it was all over the TV this week.  Like everyone else of my age, I seem to have seen a bit here, another bit there – the frogman suit, the frantic chase to the church – but never the whole thing, from beginning to end.  A joyful experience to see it through, the perfect soundtrack – but, like my friends, I had an odd feeling that something was missing.  Surely, when Benjamin (Hoffman) was trying to locate the church where Katherine Ross was getting married, he went to at least one wrong location before he found it?  Three of us watched it and thought the same thing, independently…

It was reviewed or mentioned in the Guardian recently; I think it was Peter Bradshaw – he (if it WAS he) made a big deal of Mrs Robinson (Ann Bancroft, above) being a “sexual predator”.  Maybe so, but I can’t see Hoffman’s character having suffered any damage from the predation; rather the opposite.

Chris Ofili, Weaving Magic, National Gallery

The Ofili – designed giant tapestry below, featuring a very Japanese – looking, seated musician, playing a stringed instrument in a colourful, fanciful, slightly Disney-ish paradise.  I liked the tapestry and some of the preparatory, or related small drawings (below).

Chris Ofili

 

Singer Sargent watercolours, Dulwich Picture Gallery

Lots of people raving about these; I have to say, I was rather underwhelmed.  They are very accomplished, of course,  and there are some beauties: a couple of Boudin-like little beachscapes,  lovely rendition of Venetian statuary and architectural features and three brilliant male nudes at the end.  Also, I loved the oxen, the alligator and the Scottish soldiers.  However, I thought on the whole, it was somehow drab.  It reminded me of painting by numbers.  Probably it’s the subject matter – harbours, gondolas, a Spanish dancer (I think – maybe there just should have been one), pebbles beneath a fast-flowing river.  You can’t blame him retrospectively for cliches, I suppose.  I much prefer the Sargent of the huge oil portraits, the glowing women in their glowing dresses – his Mrs Robinsons (Mrs. Agnew, for example).

Ken Russell’s Monitor programmes

Oliver Reed as an actor playing Debussy, with Annette Robertson as Gaby

The Delius one – Song of Summer – still by far the best, but the Debussy, with Oliver Reed, playing an actor, playing Debussy, has its moments too.  Russell had to do it like this because the BBC, at the time, didn’t allow documentaries in which actors represented real people and spoke dialogue.  In his earlier “Elgar”, Russell had actors playing Elgar and his wife, but it was a sort of dumbshow with a voice-over (Huw Wheldon).  Sounds ridiculous now, but at least the BBC worried about these things, which are sort of important.  How many times do you see “fact-based” programmes now and think hang on – did that really happen?  Anyway, things soon changed, probably because of Ken, so we got the brilliant Delius and all the other strictly factual composer biopics he made subsequently.

Meant to do Matisse at the RA, but think I’ll go again and do it next time.

 

Three Score and Ten

Blackpaint

22/08/17

Blackpaint 546 – Venus, Golgotha, Ken Russell and Delius

May 21, 2016

Still Life with Green Glass

still life with green glasss 2

Blackpaint – continuing with my new policy of putting my painting at the start of the blog, in case you log out without reading on (unlikely, I know).

 

Botticelli Re-imagined at Victoria and Albert

This exhibition falls into three sections:

1. 20th and 21st century works inspired by Botticelli, one of which is the clip from the Terry Gilliam film below (1997):

 

botticelli Thurman

Uma Thurman, coming out of her shell in the Adventures of Baron Munchausen (dir. Terry Gilliam, 1988)

There is also the inevitable Dr. No clip of Ursula Andress, wading out of the waves to Sean (James Bond) Connery’s astonishment and appreciation;  Warhol’s Ribena/raspberry- coloured graphic of the head of B’s Venus; a Magritte, in which Flora from Primavera accompanies a bowler-hatted man;  David laChappelle’s Koons-ish psychedelic Venus, with two unclothed men holding suggestive conches; and a Munoz, in which Venus, a drawing collaged with nuts and washers rises from a sea of modern detritus.

2.  19th century works inspired by Botticelli:

Several works by Burne-Jones of the rich brown tones; a couple by Gustave Moreau (I like the scrapy one); an Ingres nude with a large vase, on which he worked with someone else whose name escapes me and which took him 36 years to finish; several Mucha-like pictures that reminded me of posters advertising fruit and veg, that I used to see in Mrs. Dean’s greengrocers round the corner in the 1950’s; a lovely, freshly- coloured tapestry by William Morris.  And-

3.  Works by Botticelli himself and “Workshop of..”:

Loads of Virgins with baby Christs, mostly hugely fat or nearly as big as the mother, often accompanied by a young John the Baptist.  Virgins usually good, Christs decidedly not so.  The faces have a very graphic, flat, drawn quality (see Simonetta below), maybe something to do with the use of tempera?  Also gives them a very modern look, somehow.

 

Botticelli Vespucci 1

Simonetta Vespucci, Botticelli

Two versions of the same woman, B’s decidedly more glamorous (compare nose, forehead, chin and figure) but del Garbo’s more convincing to my mind – she looks skeptical and rather bored.

Botticelli del Garbo

Simonetta Vespucci, del Garbo

Some great tondos, two portraits of a Medici man, the Mystical Nativity and B’s great (but difficult to make out) drawings of Dante’s circles of hell are the best things on show.

The Cast Rooms at V and A

The strangest sight in these stunning rooms is, of course, still the 12th century Shobdon Tympanum, with its hippy, androgynous Christ in the skirt and stripey sweat shirt-

shobdon tympanum

 

…but these two German Golgothas, the first the size of an old TV, the second a huge plaque, are also of interest, for the odd headgear as well as the brilliant carving:

 

Cast Room 1

Cast of Oak Altarpiece by Hans Bruggemann C.1514 – 21, Schleswig Cathedral

 

Cast Room 3

 

 

And the main event…

Cast Room 4

I don’t know who executed this – took a photo of the wrong label.

 

Song of Summer – Ken Russell’s 1968 Omnibus film on DVD

Russell’s Omnibus films on Elgar, Debussy and Delius (pictured) are out on DVD/BluRay at last; I got them in FOP, Charing Cross Road for £18 – they’re £29 odd in the BFI on the South Bank.  The early rules for art docs on the BBC seem  extraordinary now, and evolved as Russell made them, as a result of his pushing, I guess.  At first, he wasn’t allowed to have actors at all; for his Prokofiev he could only use archive.  For Elgar, he had a boy riding a horse and actors representing Elgar and his wife – but NO dialogue.  For Debussy, he had to do a film about Oliver Reed et al making a film about Debussy, with a fictional director.  Finally, for Delius, he managed actors and dialogue.  Why these restrictions?  I suppose a ferocious regard for accuracy and authenticity on the part of the BBC.

 

Delius 1

Christopher Gable (left) as Eric Fenby and Max Adrian as Delius – or is it Keith Richards in younger days?

 

delius 2

Fenby writing, Delius dictating

Russell based the Delius film on Eric Fenby’s book “Delius as I Knew Him” and on meetings with Fenby himself.  He (Russell) thought it was his best work and said that it was absolutely accurate; Fenby was reduced to tears on visiting the set, as it all came back to him – he’d had a nervous breakdown in the 20s after four years as a willing slave to the blind and paralysed composer-dictator.

The performances of Christopher Gable – a prominent ballet dancer – as Fenby, Maureen Pryor as Jelka, Delius’ wife and especially Max Adrian as the “monster” himself are stunning.   David Collings is also good as the irritating Percy Grainger, chucking his tennis ball over the house and tearing through to catch it on the other side – impossible, surely.  Fantastic film; Russell was a genius.  I could remember nearly every detail from seeing it on TV in 1968.

Blackpaint

21.05.16

 

 

 

 

Blackpaint 385 – Light and Resurrection

March 14, 2013

More from Tate Collection at yourpaintings

Another selection of recommendations from pages 11 – 20 of the above:

Arthur Boyd, Bride Drinking From a Creek (1960).  Looks surreal, the bride in her wedding dress kneeling at the creek. a crow in a thorny thicket  to her right – ominous? – but I’ve got an idea it might be something he really had seen.

Gillian Ayres, Break Off (1961).  Another Ayres, but I love this one – reminds me of breakfast, slice of toast… see below.

gillian ayres break off

Alan Green, Check (1973).  New to me – love it.  See below.

alan green

 

Finally, John Golding, CV (1973) – see below.  Looks simple, but there’s a lot going on round the edges of the yellow bit.

John Golding; (c) John Golding; Supplied by The Public Catalogue Foundation

 

Light Show at the Hayward

Light sculptures as the name suggests; some of it just novelty, clever but no real impact.  There are, however, four or five pieces that I found striking or beautiful.  The first is Dan Flavin’s   piece from 1966 -8, Untitled (to the innovator of Wheeling Peachblow).  It’s a rectangle of neon tubing forming a “painting ” of light on the wall – very familiar, but it has grown on me over the years.  

Carlos Cruz-Diez, who was born in 1923 – for some reason, I find it surprising that old artists make these sculptures. spaces, whatever – and who over the years from 1965 has created a number of “Chromosaturations”.  They are suites of empty rooms, each infused with a different, intense colour. icy blue, red, green, yellow; in the connecting zones the colours blend.  If you look at small reflecting cubes suspended from the ceiling, the light appears to change hue – it’s your eyes adjusting.

Perhaps the most spectacular exhibit is Olafur Eliasson’s “Model for a Timeless Garden” 2011.  A pitch-black room, and a line of water features, boiling up like miniature aereated fountains in different shapes, caught in a strobe light.  There is an arcing jet of water, the droplets of which appear like suspended diamonds in the strobe.  It strikes me that one advantage these artists have is that your attention can’t wander; while you’re in that room, there is the “sculpture”, the light, and no escape.

Also worth noting are the James Turrell from 1974, Wedgework V, like a huge Albers made of light – and Bill Culbert’s Bulb Box Reflection II (1975); it took me two or three minutes to realise that the bulb in the mirror was lit up and the one it was apparently reflecting, was not.  How does he do that?

Interesting that, apart from the Eliason, these are all old pieces – it’s a historical exhibition.  Nothing new about light sculpture.

Schoenberg’ s 2nd Chamber Symphony and Elgar

Listening to the Schoenberg the other day, I noticed a repeated phrase that I thought was from an Elgar piece.  I googled “Schoenberg and Elgar” and was gratified to find a Guardian article by Tom Service in 2010; in it, Service pointed out that the opening few bars of the Nimrod Variations appears in some fragmentary Schoenberg transcriptions, almost note for note.

The phrase I think I have identified is from Elgar’s Falstaff.  It appears repeatedly, but the Schoenberg piece imbues it with a feeling of unease which is absent from the Elgar.  I don’t know enough about music to describe how he does this.  It’s a beautiful piece, not much like the twelve tone experimentation he is known for.

Ordet

This astounding film from Carl Dreher, made in Denmark in the 50s, was on TV the other day.  I recorded it and watched it from a sense of duty at first – black and white, harsh dunes landscape, devoutly believing Danish farmers, an obsessive who thinks he is Christ come again, driven mad by studying the works of Soren Kierkegaard(!).  I laughed at the absurdity at first and then found I was gripped by the story – would the daughter-in-law die after the stillbirth… yes.  Would the obsessive try to resurrect her?…yes.  Would he manage it?   not going to tell you.

??????????

 

Blackpaint

14.03.13

Blackpaint 322 – Canyons, Maggots and a lot of Trees…

January 29, 2012

Hockney at the RA

Went on Thursday afternoon and queued for only 20 minutes.  First, a couple of lovely, dour English paintings of Bradford scenes, then into the 60’s; cartoon boys tearing along in a car heading, so the caption said, from Switzerland to Italy, toothpaste colours in striped and chevrons, “An Ordinary Painting” with top and bottom balancing.

Then, some roaring red, roasted American landscapes; “A Closer Grand Canyon” (98) and “Nichols Canyon” (80) – the latter a fluorescent quilt, like that early Miro, the Farm, in the recent exhibition.  In the corner, “Garrowby Hill” and “The Road across the Wolds” (date 200?),  ribbons of road winding around hills, as the names suggest, the lower two thirds of each canvas flat , the top third a receding perspective of fading patchwork fields; really odd and effective. 

Watercolour trees and puddles from 2004, smudgy blue-grey skies – quite striking in their pallor, in the prevailing Ribena and lettuce-coloured surroundings. These must be the paintings that Alastair Sooke describes as “dull-as-ditchwater” in the Telegraph.  Welcome relief, I thought.

The hawthorn and blossoms were a highlight for me; big, square blocks of branch, the blossom squirming like bunches of white grubs on the limbs.  Ghosts of Paul Nash and maybe early Craxton hovering.

The uniform size and number of the IPad panels surrounding the room, I found a little off-putting; what stayed with me – the reflecting puddles and the swirling leaf/tree tunnels, created by multiple small strokes, the Van Gogh effect.

One thing very apparent, especially with the huge composite image of “Spring in Woldgate Woods” (2011), is the crudity of the drawing – the trunks are often just flat shapes, outlined with a thick dark line.  Flowers and leaves are simple shapes like cut-outs coloured in.   This may be the result of the enlargement of IPad drawings – I didn’t read the notes carefully enough to be sure.  However, it is even more apparent in the Yosemite pictures, which are recent and are definitely enlarged IPad images.  The only thing I really liked about these was the clouds in one of them.

There is a sequence of paintings in different styles which are versions of a Sermon on the Mount by Claude.  Hockney’s final version has Christ preaching on what looks like the top of a giant carrot.  These pictures seem somehow out of place, except for the carrotty colour.

The sketchbooks in glazed cabinets are good, but then, isolating and presenting images in this way gives them added significance – for me, the repetition and uniformity of size of the other images detracts, although it did occur to me that, if you saw many of these pictures in a gallery “on their own”, with  paintings by other artists, you might walk past them without a second glance.

BUT – having said that, a bit of distance makes all the difference.  If you stand right back, the other end of a room, say, some of them look great.  It’s obvious really; they’re made to be seen from far off.

I haven’t mentioned the charcoal drawings; they are really quite powerful – big, square cliff faces of tree at intersections and crossroads, looming like liners or huge black department stores.  One of them reminded me of an enormous black owl’s head.

To return to this thing about presentation for a moment – I saw the show reviewed on BBC4, the Review Show (appropriately).. and all the pictures looked fantastic – the winding roads and patchwork fields, the blossom maggots, the Technicolour woods, even the red-raw Grand Canyon.  Photographs, and especially television, glamourise everything drastically.  There’s no point in going to exhibitions, everything looks much better on the telly. 

 And of course, with IPad drawings there’s no texture, no lumps, bumps, trickles or ridges – just SMOOTH, how a picture ought to look.

Interesting to see the uniform chorus of approval on the prog for Hockney’s “positivity”; he has “brought the colour home” from the States; he is showing “bravery” for still doing new work at his advanced age (Leonard Cohen, too, got similar praise).  This positivity thing seems to be in the air in the art world; something to do with the Olympics, all being in it together, the Big Society – art in the service of society under the coalition.  Paul Morley, in particular, condemned any negative criticism of the Hockney and took a sneering swipe at the RA visitors as middle class, for making facetious remarks like “Too many trees” within his hearing.  Too many trees is, however, true and to-the-point. 

 One last thing – one test of a work to me is if the image stays in your mind with any sort of clarity, once you stop looking at it.  The Hockney pictures certainly do that.

Wilhelmina Barns – Graham

Just around the corner from the RA, in Berkeley Street, an exhibition of the above Scottish and St.Ives painter, showing a pleasing diversity if styles, from naturalism to total abstraction.  One glowing yellow ochre and brown harbour scene, resembling Prunella Clough’s early worker pictures; some lovely abstracts with magisterial brush sweeps of white; in a corner, a group of brilliant, brightly-coloured abstract shapes (with one terrible pink-based one, the larger one in the middle of the wall) and by far the best painting, a brown and red job that looked like a pair of pliers clenching a red-hot ingot – just like a Roger Hilton, I thought.  Great little exhibition, just right for my little British tastes.

The Russell Omnibuses on Elgar and Delius

Fantastic – the images and the music.  That avenue of  poplar trees filmed from below in a tracking shot in Elgar, the stunning acting of Max Adrian as Delius – “Are you ready, boy?   Take this down – Tan -ta-TAA, Tan -ta-TAA….”.  Russell was a great, great film-maker.

Blackpaint

29/01/12

Blackpaint 96

March 27, 2010

Having a major failure of the imagination today – not unusual for me – so I have decided to resort to the adolescent device of listing my ten best…  So, today, my

Ten Best Abstract Expressionist Paintings

1.  De Kooning, Palisade (1957)

2.  Joan Mitchell, Mooring (1971)

3.  Hans Hoffman, Phantasia (1944)

4.  Jackson Pollock, Lavender Mist no.1, 1940 (1940!)

5.  Franz Kline, Scranton (1960)

6.  Helen Frankenthaler, Autumn Farm (1959)

7.  Hans Hoffman, Pompeii (1959)

8.  de Kooning, Untitled (Summer in Springs) (1962) – look at that yellow!

9.  Joan Mitchell, Salut Sally (1970)

10.  Jackson Pollock, Autumn Rhythm Number 30, 1950 (1950)

Sorry – you’ll have to look them all up to see if I chose right.  Next in series will be my ten best St.Ives paintings, but will save that for when I have nothing of interest to say; possibly tomorrow.

Bacon

In the Telegraph review today, there was a photograph of George Dyer sitting in his underpants and next to it, Bacon’s painting of John Edwards in exactly the same pose.  Bacon simply transposed the head of his later partner onto the body of Dyer, for the painting.  That requires some high level of artistic detachment, I think.

Listening to Elgar’s Cockaigne, Cello Concerto, Violin Concerto and Falstaff – probably a reaction to my unpatriotic remarks about Paul Nash in Blackpaint 94.

Blackpaint 27.03.10