Posts Tagged ‘Faust’

Blackpaint 401 – Manhugging at the Fair; Annoying in Chechnya

July 4, 2013

Lowry at Tate Britain

I think he’s more important as a social historian than as a painter; the old Mitchell and Kenyon films which play in this exhibition show that his particular vision was spot on.  No-one else was covering this sort of industrial, municipal vista so consistently.

As I said in last blog, I think there’s something of Brueghel in there and not just the small figures and the white background.  B documented the lives of his peasants and Lowry  is doing the same for the people of his northern towns, to an extent; the Fever Van, the Funeral, Going to and Coming From Work, the Fair at Daisy Nook (twice, at least).  His figures are less solid than B’s, caricatures really, but he does give them individual details, even if they come out looking the same.

Several characters recur; a pair of drunks (?) “man-hugging”, kids, and those two dogs – probably more that I didn’t notice.  None of the figures seem to cast a shadow – indeed, they look somehow separate, even when they overlap, as if collaged.

lowry2

No dogs in this one.

When you see the paintings surrounding you, their filmic quality is obvious; you can easily imagine the figures coming to life and swarming through the factory gates towards the smoking chimneys.  I thought of that film of snow-covered Nevsky Prospect and the people  scattering under fire during the 1905 revolution.  It’s on the cover of the paperback of Trotsky’s “History of the Russian Revolution”.

My favourite painting is uncharacteristic and one of the first in the exhibition – it’s the little brick terraced house with the flowers in the window.  Look closely at it- it’s beautifully painted, especially the brickwork.

Another interesting and uncharacteristic painting was a Welsh scene, I think called “Bargoed”; somehow, the perspectives are more conventional (his townscapes often look like two or three different photographs cut up and collaged together and the diminishing size of the figures as they recede is often “wrong”) and the whole picture has a more “muscular” feel – not better than the townscapes, but much more conventional.

lowry1

Quick visit to our favourite room, the one with Bigger Splash and the red Caro – I looked closely at the Bacon triptych and was interested to notice how thin the paint was – the weave of the canvas fabric was clearly visible.  His own remarks about the role of accident and chance in a painting and the common (mis)conception that he painted with a sort of vigorous abandon had led me to believe that the paint would be applied more thickly.

The Tony Cragg “Stack” – how did they install it without its falling to pieces?  It’s surely not stuck together and yet there is no way it could be raised – unless it was on a palette that was somehow slipped out from under it when it was in place…

Aleksandra, Sokurov

How irritating Sokurov’s characters can be.  This is the film about the grandmother who visits her army officer grandson when he is on active service in Chechnya.  She goes around being provocative, as if the presence of a matriarchal figure, overweight and with  bad legs, should be treated as completely normal by the gormless boy soldiers.  They have to help her out and keep her safe.  She meets some Chechnyan counterparts and treats them, and a young Chechnyan assigned as her guide, to a string of platitudes that, I’m sure, would have gone down really well with the population during Russia’s war on the Chechen “rebels”.

I was reminded of the diplomat in Russian Ark; he is also an irritating figure, pushy, inquisitive and  annoying to everyone in the film.  Unlike Alexandra, of course, he (the character, that is) is not Russian, but French or Swiss.  And then there is the Mephistopheles character in Faust – but its right for him to be annoying, I suppose.

Salter, “Light Years”

There’s a great scene in this, where Viri, the central male character, is at a party, getting drunk – except that you don’t know he’s plastered, until he insists on doing a costumed imitation of Maurice Chevalier, unbidden, before the guests, forgets and repeats lines, then passes out in the maid’s bedroom as the others go in to dinner.  It’s a trick that Richard Yates also uses, I think in “Easter Parade”, where the male lead instigates a punching contest with a younger character who is annoying him by being younger and having opinions…

Imagine, Vivian Meier

BBC programme on the staggering work of “amateur” photographer and professional nanny Meier, who printed only a tiny proportion of her 100, 000+ negatives and kept the rest in storage, to be sold off after her death.  She seemed to have taken pictures in just about any style, all good, many stunning.  Joel Meyerowitz made a good point about her portraits, which were often of street people; he said that using a Rolleiflex, which you looked down at while you pointed it at the subject from your midriff, meant that you didn’t have to confront people by raising the camera to your face and looking at them directly.  Maybe that helped – whatever the reason, great pictures were the result.

poor tom

Poor Tom – an old one, but I like it…

Blackpaint

4.07.13

Blackpaint 360 – Faust, Laocoon and the Red Desert

September 27, 2012

De Kooning

I was surprised to read in the Retrospective that DK got into a fight with Clement Greenberg in 1961 (this was when DK’s drinking was “becoming a problem”; unfortunately, it doesn’t say who won, painter or critic).  Even more of a surprise was to read that the whole of Janis’ stable of Abstract Impressionists had left gallery when he showed an exhibition of “New Realists”; Dine, Warhol, Lichtenstein, etc.  Guston, Motherwell, Rothko and dK walked. Those were the days…

Sokurov

I’ve just bought his “Faust” on DVD.  It often goes into that washed-out colour that Sok. used in “Mother and Son” and also uses the elongation and tilting of figures that featured in that film.  The Margareta and Mephistopheles characters are both sinister and memorable – the Grand Guignol dissections are fun too.  I lent my video of the silent Faust – Murnau, was it? – to someone and never got it back, but I remember a scene in that where Faust swings his cloak and it shrouds the entire city – nothing in Sokurov’s to equal that but it’s still very good.

Keith Vaughan

At an art fair at the Royal College of Art in Kensington Gore last week, saw this artist’s “Laocoon Man”, which is the cover picture for the new catalogue of Vaughan’s paintings.  I loved it for the combination of that singing blue background and the rough, cream/grey chevrons within the central figure.  Very beautiful paintings.

I was interested to see that a great, dark Albert Irvin from 63 I think, nothing like the brightness of his later and current work, was going for £14,000 – compared to over £50,000 average for dead British painters of, I guess, similar or lesser fame.  Presumably, at this level, the massive price hike happens  once you are dead.  I wonder how soon after?

Another painter new to me was William Brooker.  A great still life on a beige tablecloth, the folds opening towards the viewer with trompe l’oeil effect.  The precision and lines much like Euan Uglow, though Brooker earlier, I think.

Rachel Whiteread

When writing about Saatchi recently, should have mentioned the chess sets in separate gallery upstairs.  Whiteread’s has 60’s period doll’s house furniture as pieces; lamps, cabinets, a radiogram, I think.  Carpet and lino squares form the chess board.  Sounds twee, but quite funny.  Also, Matthew Roney’s; a picnic laid out on a tablecloth, picnickers having fled something that came out of the woods.  Bits of food and mustard, ketchup for the pieces – four erect penises at each corner for the rooks (maybe salt and pepper pots it occurs to me) –  but definitely penis shaped.

Red Desert

Watched this visually staggering film on TV the other day (sorry about the “staggering”, but it really is).  Monica Vitti fretting and smouldering throughout and Richard Harris thoroughly wooden – “doltish”, as the Encyclopedia of Film describes him.  Ridiculous portentous dialogue, of the kind sent up by Woody Allen, but extraordinary shipyard and quayside scenes in saturated greens and reds; ships looming through fog, pylons, derelict, polluted countryside – fantastic.

Saw” Bronzes” at the Royal Academy last Sunday – next blog.  WordPress appears to be breaking down – can’t do tags or insert more pictures!  Hope it works next time.  If not, I’ll be closing down.

Cap Frehel

Blackpaint

27.09.12