Posts Tagged ‘EM Forster’

Blackpaint 506 – Light through the Thorns, Parrots in Boxes, Budgies in Trunks

August 8, 2015

William Gear – A Centenary Exhibition, Redfern Gallery, Cork Street W1

gear redfern 1

A couple of blogs ago (Blackpaint 502), I wrote about the Neil Stokoe exhibition at the Redfern, to which I’d gone. expecting William Gear.  Now the Gear is on, until September 5th and it’s well worth the trip to Green Park tube and the heat of Piccadilly to see it.

Gear exhibited with CoBra in 1949 – he and Stephen Gilbert were the only British artists – but I have to say, I don’t think he has a lot in common with painters like Appel; his work strikes me as much more like Adrian Heath, Bryan Wynter and even sometimes Patrick Heron, than the wilder, thicker, more gestural products of Appel and Jorn.  There is one painting, however, “Le Marche aux Fleurs” (1947), which could easily have been an early Jorn.

There are several recurring features of Gear’s work, the most prominent, perhaps, being the tangled bundle of jagged, hooked, thorn-like shapes he seemed to fling across his canvases, so that the patches of bright colour seem to peep out through a thicket of scrub.  The shapes are often, but not always, black.  Gear isn’t afraid of yellow; he uses a full spectrum, but it’s the yellow and black that stay with you after the Redfern.

Triangular grids are another feature, and there are a number of works like “Black Form on Red”(1957), that comprise two or three colours used in large, simple shapes, looking rather like sheets of thin leather or felt, collaged onto the canvas – Poliakoff, maybe, or Burri.  An influence that is suggested in the catalogue is that of Nicolas de Stael – I couldn’t see that, I have to say.

gear redfern 3

Good exhibition, in association with the Towner Gallery in Eastbourne, where Gear was the curator in the 60s.  There was a great black, thorny self-portrait on show at the Pallant House in Chichester recently; maybe its still there.  made me think of Tony Bevan, a bit.

gear redfern 2

Joseph Cornell at the RA

cornell 1

This is an exhibition for those, and there are many of them apparently, who like quaint objects and photographs displayed in shallow boxes.  Inevitably, there is a large overlap with the likes of Max Ernst, Rene Magritte and other European surrealists; the difference being that, whereas Ernst, for example, also painted and sculpted, Cornell stuck to the box formula permanently.  Clearly, he had a thing for parrots and cockatoos; his work goes completely against the grain of North American art of the time (40s and 50s) in two ways – it’s small and it’s in boxes.  Although there were later, feminist, artists in the states who put things in drawers and boxes to display them – not parrots, though, as I recall….

cornell2

The Swimmer, Frank Perry (1968) DVD

I think John Cheever’s short story is a masterpiece of the form, one of the best of the 20th century; hard to think of others so perfect, maybe a couple of Joyce’s Dubliners or Margaret Atwood’s Serpent’s Egg.  The film is also a work of art, though very much of its era (Hamlisch’s lush theme music, coupled with jagged Johnny Staccato jazz riffs and some eye -watering psychedelic visuals).  Burt Lancaster is brilliant as the ageing playboy Ned Merrill, in his budgie smuggler trunks, swimming home across the county, by way of the “river” of swimming pools of his “friends”.  Lancaster is by turns genuinely creepy and strangely sympathetic, despite his insensitivity. The pools are not there for freeloading swimmers to propel their sweaty bodies through.

 

The Longest Journey, EM Forster

Even though I’m currently re-reading “Finnegans Wake”, Forster’s book is the strangest, most difficult novel I’ve struggled through for ages; I had to keep going back and reading bits over again to make sense of it.  the problem is twofold – the language: very arch, ironic, riddled with Edwardian Oxbridge phraseology and slang – and the concerns; “love children”, family disgrace, inheritance, the intellect v. the physical, the prosaic v.the poetic, genetic flaws, town and country, social class… Actually, that’s quite a lot and I’m sure I missed plenty.

I was interested to see that Forster kills his characters  in an even more offhand way than Virginia Woolf; a “hurt” at football, a drowning and a steam train across the knees- the last completely unsignalled (sorry) and dispassionate: “It is also a man’s duty to save his own life, and therefore he tried.  The train went over his knees.  He died up in Cadover, whispering “You have been right,” to Mrs Failing”.  That’s it.

 

finsbury mud 2

 

Finsbury Mud 2,

Blackpaint

08.08.15

 

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Blackpaint 498 – Ice Cream at Tate Modern, Breasts at the RA

June 7, 2015

Agnes Martin (Tate Modern)

Happy Holiday 1999 Agnes Martin 1912-2004 ARTIST ROOMS  Acquired jointly with the National Galleries of Scotland through The d'Offay Donation with assistance from the National Heritage Memorial Fund and the Art Fund 2008 http://www.tate.org.uk/art/work/AR00179

Happy Holiday

This is the new exhibition at Tate Modern – those familiar with Martin’s work will know what to expect: the palest “ice cream” pastels (Neapolitan) , vanishing into near invisibility, stripes, huge grids done in faint graphite with tiny squares, a roomful of a dozen white canvases, occasionally, background fields varied by tiny, pale, differently coloured blobs…  Her early work, influenced to a degree by other abstractionists, resembles Pasmore somewhat.  Strangely, her later work appears, to a dissenter like me, to have more going on – a coloured stripe through the centre, a blue square, two black triangles with the tops snipped off.  This seems the “wrong” way round, somehow.  Still, if you emptied out your pictures early on, I suppose you start putting things in again, if you live long enough.

Like Rothko’s Seagram pictures, this is art that I think requires a contemplative attitude in the viewer that I am unable to sustain.  I hope one day to be able to appreciate them more fully.

My Blake Calendar

Below is the picture for June.  It shows Oberon, Titania and Puck from A Midsummer Night’s Dream.  I find it enormously encouraging that even artists of William Blake’s taste and ability are capable of turning out crappy pictures occasionally.

Oberon, Titania and Puck with Fairies Dancing circa 1786 William Blake 1757-1827 Presented by Alfred A. de Pass in memory of his wife Ethel 1910 http://www.tate.org.uk/art/work/N02686

National Portrait Gallery

I wrote about this beautiful little portrait of Hardy a few months ago.

hardy strang

 Thomas Hardy, William Strang

A little while later, I bought a 70s Penguin paperback of EM Forster’s “The Longest Journey”; on the cover was this picture, also by Strang, called “Bank Holiday”.

Bank Holiday 1912 William Strang 1859-1921 Presented by F. Howard through the National Loan Exhibitions Committee 1922 http://www.tate.org.uk/art/work/N03036

I think it’s great – totally unlike the Hardy; for some reason, it makes me think of Norman Rockwell.

Forster and Woolf

While I’m on the subject of Forster and the above novel, I found it interesting that he, like Virginia Woolf (Lighthouse, Jacob’s Room, The Voyage Out), occasionally kills his characters off with quite brutal suddenness.  He does in this, anyway; I wonder if there was any influence, and if so, in which direction?

 Back to the NPG

Below are two more arresting paintings, both by John Collier.  The first is, of course, Charles Darwin; the second, the Labour and later, Liberal, politician, John Burns.  I suppose it’s partly the full square stance of both subjects and Burns’ hands on hips – defiance? frankness?  I have to say that Darwin’s picture reminds me faintly of an orang utan – in a good way – but I think that may be because it was parodied in a cartoon and I “see” the parody…

collier darwin

Darwin, John Collier 

by John Collier, oil on canvas, 1889

 

John Burns, John Collier

RA Summer Exhibition 

Proper review of this next week, but in the meantime, here is by far the best painting in the exhibition – the fact that Marion Jones is my partner has no bearing, obviously, on my opinion.

marion RA

 

Bars and Triangles, Marion Jones

Diebenkorn, RA

I made my third visit to the brilliant Diebenkorn exhibition after the RA Summer Show – I started seeing great little paintings within paintings in the earlier abstracts, Albuquerque and Urbana series; little sections that would make paintings in themselves.  I started to see slight parallels with some of Nicolas de Stael’s landscapes, especially “Sea Wall”.  But most startlingly, I saw breasts everywhere.  In “Albuquerque 57”  (below) for instance, there is a very clear sketch of a pair of breasts that I hadn’t noticed before.  After that, I saw them everywhere in these abstracts, mostly in the shape of the lobes.

diebenkorn berkeley 57

 

Just above the green and yellow rectangular shapes.

To finish, here is a minimalist work of mine, in homage to Agnes Martin:

Close of a long day

Close of a Long Day

Blackpaint

6.6.15

Blackpaint 434 – Creed; the Piles, the Cacti and the Suspense

February 14, 2014

Hayward Gallery – Martin Creed, “What’s the Point of it?”

This was reviewed on the Review Show (BBC2) and was described as “joyous” by Paul Morley; the others agreed.  I was astounded to hear that music was part of the exhibition, in the form of several soundtrack items – I was totally unaware of this; just didn’t notice it, I suppose.  In fact, the reviewers mentioned a number of items I missed; as always, sounded as if they were at a different show.

It’s packed with exhibits, mostly numbered not named – here’s my list, with the occasional comment:

  • Swinging “MOTHERS” sign, nearly skimming the head, if your as tall as me (6ft 4in)
  • Diminishing, or growing, stacks/lines of cacti, chairs, tables, planks, boxes, girders

creed cacti

  • Pictures of stepped pyramids and staircases

Creed pile

  • Stripe paintings on walls (horizontal, vertical, diagonal,  criss-crossed…)
  • Film of rather small erect penis, gradually diminishing, on terrace
  • Pointed tower of LEGO
  • Rough portraits, duff portraits, freely painted, multi – colour abstracts (small)
  • Metal nozzles, protuberances and er – intuberances (?) like bathroom fittings
  • smooth white breast-shaped swellings, “growing” from wall
  • Dark piano, each key of which sounded at intervals by attendant
  • White piano, lid opening and crashing shut automatically at regular intervals
  • Door, opening and closing
  • Car, bonnet, doors and boot of which opening and shutting, lights on and off, regular intervals
  • Line of metronomes, out of sync (when we were there, anyway)
  • 1000 differently coloured and framed prints of a broccoli “tree”
  •  A load of balls (tennis, basketball, football, etc.)
  • Little ticky-tacky paint and tape pictures, quite nice
  • Video of two dogs, wolf hound and chihuahua, wandering about and pursued by men
  • Video of a young man and young woman, walking on into a white space and being sick on the floor.  The man is first, and accomplishes his puking with something of a swagger; hands on hips, I think.  The woman, however, outdoes him with about six consecutive large sploshes of thin red winey vomit – couple of bottles’ worth, I should think.  Well done!
  • Separating the two vomits is a sequence in which a young woman comes on, hitches her dress up, squats down and proceeds to have a shit.  This is quite tense, as at first, she only manages a couple of little pellets.  She grunts a bit; obviously she thinks there is more to come.  I got a little annoyed at this point when a young couple came and stood in front of me – didn’t want to miss anything…. and then there it was – curling out slowly and finally achieving separation.  She stands and walks off; job done.

In the leaflet, it says “horrible vomit” becomes a form of painting, and shit – the first solid thing that any of us makes – is sculpture”.  This reminds me of the David Foster Wallace story of the man who shits out fully-formed “sculptures” like portrait busts of celebrities…

Saatchi Gallery – Body Language (cont.)

Couple more painters worth a mention in the above exhibition:

Dana Schutz

dana schutz picnic

This one’s called “burnt Picnic”, I think;

And Andra Ursuta

“Vandal Lust”, a fantastical trebuchet (catapult) thing – sort of ramshackle Anish Kapoor, not working – with a couple of flattened, smashed bodies lying around, one of which appears to have been propelled into a wall, going by the damage to the plaster.

Denis Tarasov‘s Russian and Ukrainian gravestone C prints, showing the dead in their lives with their cars, cigars and champagne are worth mentioning too.

Days of 36, Angelopoulos (1974)

Made under the “Colonels’ ” regime in Greece, on a tight budget, this story of a jail hostage taking and the political intrigue behind the scenes is difficult to follow at times; whose is the body fished out of the sea, for example?  It does, however, have a scene which anticipates “The Shawshank Redemption”; music (a tango, it sounds like) is played in the compound – the inmates crowd the windows of the cells, overcome with emotion…

Burmese Days 

Re-reading Orwell’s book to compare it to Forster’s Passage to India.  Orwell’s is much more forceful, more angry, the language of the British violent and racially abusive; maybe it’s the 10 years’ difference between the books, as well as Orwell’s more radical (?)political outlook..  A couple of scornful remarks about Jews and homosexual scoutmasters from Flory, Orwell’s “hero” (sort of)…

??????????

 

Garden House

Blackpaint

14.02.14