Posts Tagged ‘Fellini’

Blackpaint 629 – Venice under Water and Anni Albers at the Tate

November 2, 2018

Venice under Water

Just back from flooded Venice, where I ran the 33rd Venice Marathon with my three sons, to raise money for Myeloma UK and to celebrate, if that’s the right word,  my 70th birthday.  This year, the conditions were the worst ever, at least for us slower ones ; a blasting headwind, driving hail into one’s face for several kilometers on the long bridge over the lagoon, followed by a step into calf-deep salt water on the car-free touristy stretch.  Sloshing on to St.Mark’s Square, with some desultory jogging over the seven or eight ramps to the finish by Giardini.  The day before, we were laughing at the tourists buying blue, orange and green galoshes; the day after, my eldest son had to go out early and find four pairs for us at E20 a pair.  BUT I did spot a peregrine falcon, cruising among the gulls in the red dawn sky over the Grand Canal, on the way to the start.

What has all this to do with art, you say?  Well, not a lot, but on the Monday (a dry day- the water comes and goes quickly with the tide and the wind), we came across the following, in a silent campo with several trees and surrounded by cloisters, on the other side of the island near Ospedale, and opposite the cemetery island:

Church of St. Francesco della Vigna

Big, white austere frontage with two huge bronze(?) statues, one a Moses horned like Michelangelo’s,  looming from alcoves about halfway up the wall – it’s got the feel of an abandoned Hawksmoor church about it (it’s not, of course – it’s Palladio; and it’s not abandoned).  And there’s the cloisters and no-one about at midday, a miracle in Venice.  In the gloom inside, there are a couple of great Veroneses, Tiepolo and the Negroponte below;  a fantastic painting, and no, I’d never heard of him before.  You have to drop a 50 cent piece in a box to get lights on the pics for a minute or so, like with the Bellini in S. Zaccaria.

 

 

Holy Family with Saints Anthony Abbot, Catherine and the infant John the Baptist, Paolo Veronese

Look at those fabrics, especially Catherine’s.

 

Resurrection of Christ, Veronese

 

Virgin and Child Enthroned, Fra Antonio da Negroponte

 

Another view of the above.  Love those putti swimming about in the sky under God, and the birds at the bottom; you can just make out a duck (mallard?) on the left and a hoopoe, last but one on the right.

Anni Albers at Tate Modern

I have to admit that this is not amongst my favourite exhibitions of all time, although I acknowledge the skill involved and the quality of the textiles displayed.  It’s all a bit too brown, grey and beige for my taste (although the examples I have picked to photograph seem to contradict that – because I picked ones I liked, I suppose).

I think you can see a resemblance to Paul Klee’s work in the second example especially; the interlacing tendrils in the 4th and 5th remind me of Brice Marden’s patterns – and maybe there is even a touch of Sean Scully in the pieces in general.  I thought the bedspread was nice, but better in a furniture showroom than an art gallery.  Yes, I know about the Bauhaus ethic of producing “practical”items, teapots, plates, chairs etc – I just like Rauschenberg and Jasper Johns and Joan Mitchell and the AbExes better.  No doubt, a major failure of taste and intelligence on my part, but I am an old white man, after all.

 

I really like this one.

 

But not so keen on this.

 

Crap frame.

 

An apology

First one above is blurred and I’m not sure it’s the right way up.

Trust (FX, Simon Beaufoy, Danny Boyle et al, 2018)

The US made, Simon Beaufoy version of the Getty kidnapping has to be the best thing on British TV this year.  Donald Sutherland is turning in a brilliant performance as the old man (Venice connection here – “Don’t Look Now” of course, and Fellini’s “Casanova”) Luca Marinelli, Hilary Swank.. well, they’re all terrific, as is the soundtrack, as is the camerawork and the script.  Shades of Godfather obviously, but also Fellini, I thought – or maybe the Sorrentino of “Il Divo” and “The Great Beauty”.  And there was all that hype about “the Bodyguard”…

Pictures of mine to finish with:

Rain over the Sound

 

Still Life with Milk Bottle

Blackpaint

02/11/18

 

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Blackpaint 562 – O’Keefe, Caine, Keitel and Maradona

July 14, 2016

Georgia O’Keefe, Tate Modern

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Autumn Tree – the Maple

I’ve been to the O’Keefe exhibition and wasn’t keen, on the whole.  I think the trouble is with two things: firstly, the surfaces of her paintings – they’re too flat and dry, no texture.  They would do equally well as prints, it seems to me (I remember, we felt the same about Hopper).  Surface like Lempicka, even.  That’s a matter of taste, I suppose, and so is the other problem, which is really the subject matter.

As with “American Sublime” a few years back and a Samuel Palmer in the watercolour exhibition, I think some things aren’t meant to be painted.  Glorious sunsets, weird desert effects, they’re great in nature but mostly horrible on canvas.  Like those garish postcards that olden days people used to send home from Thailand or wherever they’d been on holiday, they don’t convey the real thing.  An exception is –

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The Mountain, New Mexico

Same thing goes for antelope skulls – the real things are fantastic objects in themselves; why turn them into detailed, accurate drawings (except to provide an accurate scientific record)?  Same thing should go for the flowers, but for some reason, I like those.

Anyway, I got “echoes” of a whole range of artists going round, some of them surprising:

Richard Hamilton – there were a couple of sheets of parchment-like paper, reminiscent of Hamilton’s early drawings of car fronts and fridges.

Luc Tuymans – grey/white sheets, tied or folded in the middle.

Marc/Macke – Lake George, Coat and Red (below)

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Black Mesa Landscape (below) reminded me of Lawren Harris, who paints mountains like distant white blancmanges.

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Generally,  I thought of Nolan’s and other Australian’s  renditions of landscape, Ayer’s Rock/Uluru for example.

Again generally, I got Mexican muralists for some reason.  The picture I liked best was Winter Road (below) – hardly typical.

okwinter road

 

Youth, Sorrentino (2015) DVD

What is Sorrentino doing?  He seems to be imitating the style of Terence Malick in the Tree of Life – but not doing it very well.  The only memorable image is that of the enormously-bellied hotel guest on the tennis court, propelling the ball into the air time and again with a sort of nimble, fat athleticism.  He’s supposed to be Maradona, apparently.

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Fellini said that he’d chosen Donald Sutherland to play Casanova because the actor was wooden – Sorrentino perhaps chose Michael Caine for the same reason.  Caine never seems to be acting in anything I’ve seen him in; he just says his lines, with an occasional slight gesture towards emotion – anger, or grief, say – as an indication of what his character might be feeling.  He’s Michael Caine; why bother?  He does look a lot like Sorrentino regular Tony Servillo in this, though.  Harvey Keitel’s exit is hilarious.  The music – Simple Songs, was it? – is terrible.

It got excellent reviews and won some prizes; must take another look to see what I missed.

So, nothing good this week (including the “change” of government).  Stood all weekend in a Brixton street art fair with a bunch of my paintings and didn’t sell a single one.  Then I turned out this pinkish affair, which I include only to have something new in the blog.

wip

Work (not) in progress,

Blackpaint

14.7.16

 

Blackpaint 525 – Tight Rope, Frenzy and Sex in Gothenberg

December 20, 2015

Tight Rope, White Cube Gallery, Bermondsey Street

This is a great exhibition; it has to do with artists who walk the line between figurative and abstract, I think (I haven’t read the book that goes with it yet – £20.00) – whatever, it has some lovely pictures from the likes of Guston, Bacon, Freud, Baselitz, Matisse, Duchamp et al.   It has one of the worst Picassos I’ve ever seen ( horrible, evil yellow with scrawls) and a terrific Tracey Emin figure on white over two or three panels.  My favourites below, starting with the great Bay Area painter David Park:

david park

Untitled (Portrait of Tom Jefferson), 1957

 

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Magnus Plessen, Untitled, 2015

Plessen seems to have used tape which he has pulled off to get the straight lines.

 

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Michael Armitage, Conservationists, 2015

 

Here’s the Emin –

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Tracey Emin, I think of you all the time

 

– and here’s the Picasso –

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Picasso, Man with a Mustache, 1970

Despite the Picasso, there are loads of excellent pictures here.  Even the ones I didn’t like – Dana Schulz’ retina-burners, for example – made me want to go home and paint immediately; those chunky but slippery brush sweeps, I imagine.

Also on show there are Gilbert and George’s “Fuck You” posters (that’s probably not their proper title, but gives an idea of the content).  Should detain you for a minute or so, long enough to read them all.

 

John Berger on Rembrandt and Goya

I’m reading Berger’s “Portraits – John Berger on Artists” and I find him insufferably precious at times – “It is remarkable how, for those who suffer a desire for art, so much does begin and end in it” (the National Gallery).  He also tends to make confident assertions about doubtful things.  There are examples throughout, but here’s one: “Goya lived and observed through something near enough to total war to know that night is security and that it is the dawn that one fears”; is that really right?  It fits his argument..

However, his comments on Rembrandt’s late self-portraits are interesting; he suggests that R. painted himself from memory, rather than using mirrors – thus avoiding the theatricality that Berger says always creeps in when artists do mirror SPs.  Have a look at the Courbet SP “The Desperate Man” to see what he means.

courbet

OK, it’s an extreme example.  Berger also suggests that Goya painted “the Naked Maja” from imagination – he simply did the clothed Maja without the clothes.  In evidence, he offers the breasts; falling unnaturally to the sides as they had done when she was dressed.  That’s what Berger says, anyway.

Frenzy

Hitchcock’s murder film on TV the other night; the cast was staggering, straight off the Shakespearian stage of the 70s – Jon Finch, Anna Massey, Billie Whitelaw, Clive Swift, Barry Foster et al.  The lewd conversation between barristers and the pub landlady about rape comes as quite a shock to contemporary ears and there is a very nasty rape sequence later.  Great bit in the back of the potato lorry, however.

Star Wars – film critics

They’ve all abandoned their critical faculties; not worth listening to (as I write, Mark Kermode is on TV, shouting and waving his arms about).

Casanova

Fellini, Donald Sutherland in the title role, having sex with a mechanical life-sized doll in Gothenburg, a debauched Dudley Sutton playing a harmonium halfway up a wall…  Now, that’s what I call a film.

 

dirty protest2

I’ve finally finished a picture – here it is; it’s called

Dirty Protest

Blackpaint

19.12.15

Blackpaint 523 – Last Stands in Africa, Callan and Pina

December 7, 2015

Wildlife Photographer of the Year, Natural History Museum

Some of these photographs defy belief, and I don’t mean just the ones that have been set up to do just that (the one that comes to mind is swallows flying through a hole torn in a painting set in a window frame).  To my mind, the best are the two blue sharks, the migrating geese (?) taken from above and the antelope in the dust that look like a cave painting.  Oh, and the clouds of mayflies like snow flurries around the vehicle…

cristobal serrano

Cristobal Serrano

 

Artist and Empire – Facing Britain’s Imperial Past (Tate Modern)

Another of those exhibitions at Tate in which historical and social factors outweigh, perhaps, questions of the standard of the art on show.  Laura Cumming in the Observer was scathing about the show for this reason and for “nauseating” pictures such as that of Victoria presenting a bible – “the Secret of England’s Greatness” – to a kneeling Indian prince, or “suitably grateful and genuflecting black man”, as she describes him.

Inevitably, there are a number of Last Stands heroically depicted; Isandlwana below –

 

 

isandlwanafripp

Charles Fripp

-and Major Wilson in Matabeleland below –

 

(c) Russell-Cotes Art Gallery & Museum; Supplied by The Public Catalogue Foundation

Allen Stewart

I actually prefer the wonderful Denis McLoughlin cover of my 1956 Okay Adventure Annual (see below); It’s not in the exhibition, but it ought to be.

Wilson OKay

And General Gordon is there, defying the natives in Khartoum, and the doctor, last survivor,  just managing to stay in the saddle in Afghanistan…

The best pictures, to my mind, are those of elderly Maori warriors and chiefs by Goldie (below)

Goldie1

and those by Rudolf Swoboda (below) which Cumming tells me are “kitsch and sentimental”.  She points out that the subjects of these portraits were “brought over from Agra to perform at the Colonial and Indian of 1886” and were actually convicts, not the Indian “types” they represent.  They still look like good paintings to me, however; I presume all the women who have posed as Virgins in Old Masters were actually virgins?

There are some interesting sculptures made by the colonised subjects depicting British administrators and the like, but the best is a black wooden bust of an African in jacket and tie, with a bulging forehead; 1920s, I think.  It wouldn’t have looked out of place in Kettles Yard, with the Gaudier- Brjeskas and Nicholsons, etc.

 

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Rudolf Swoboda

One of the paintings represents white women and children besieged at Cawnpore, in a state of collapse from hunger and despair; in the corner, the gates burst open and a horde of – British soldiers flood in!  Hooray, a rescue!  Apparently, the original plan was to show frenzied rebels, about to wreak the unspeakable, no doubt – but the artist changed it to spare the sensibilities of his viewers.

The physical depiction of the colonised peoples in this exhibition is markedly lacking in racial caricature.  There was no exaggeration of physical features to make the imperial subjects look comical, or stupid, or sinister (which, to anyone familiar with comics and cartoons from the 50s and 60s is surprising) – rather the opposite, in fact; they are exotic, but handsome and dignified in portraits.  And the bible picture described above is the only one in which a subject kneels to a British queen or her representatives.

No doubt, some on the left will detect an irony in the opening of this exhibition relating to our imperial past, as the bombers fly over Syria and Iraq and Afghan refugees, amongst others, try to get across European borders – but not I.

Anthony Valentine and “Callan”

callan-28005_2

I was saddened to read that Valentine had died; that’s him in the middle.  Older British readers will recall Valentine as Toby Meres, the ex public schoolboy foil to Edward Woodward’s chippy Callan in the 60s.  Callan worked for “The Section”, doing dirty jobs for the security of the state, paid in used notes in brown envelopes.  If caught,  he was on his own.  Fiction, of course; Callans couldn’t exist in a proper democracy like ours.  It was a great series, though.

Pina, Wim Wenders (2011)

bausch

I thought this documentary, on the choreographer Pina Bausch, who died in 2009, was mesmerising.  The sequence in which a male dancer constantly loads a female into the outstretched arms of another male, who promptly drops her (Beckett, fail again, fail better – or if not better, faster) was brilliant; she did the speeding up thing in other sequences.  She loved putting her female dancers – and once, a male – in long, flowing pastel dresses.  In addition to Beckett, I thought Fellini – and Bergman – in that last sequence with the dancers parading in a line on the escarpment.  And listening to “The Rite of Spring”, I thought it could be Vaughan Williams…

The members of the Tanztheater Wuppertal, reminiscing on Bausch, recalled that thing you come across so often with “inspirational” figures  – where a legend in a given field observes, says nothing, and then at the crucial moment, gives the performer the one word necessary, which makes all clear.  Dance, painting and sculpture, music, judo – all fields in which I have come across similar descriptions.

 

work in prog

Work in Progress

Blackpaint

7.12.15

Blackpaint 452 – Folk Art, Song and Flowers of the Field

June 26, 2014

British Folk Art, at Tate Britain  

Now I have my membership card, I’m trying to make it pay for itself in a few weeks – so, back to Folk Art and Kenneth Clark again.  I didn’t mention Walter Greaves, the painter who Whistler discovered and apparently turned into a version of himself (see the result on display).  Before the Whistlerisation, Greaves had painted a picture of Hammersmith Bridge, with every precarious foot-or bum-hold occupied by a foot (or bum), watching the passage of the Boat Race crews on the river below.  Could it really be accurate?

Hammersmith Bridge on Boat-race Day c.1862 by Walter Greaves 1846-1930

 

Then, there is a dark brownish landscape with distorted trees and maybe horses, that’s just like some of the Ben Nicholsons at Dulwich, that I covered a blog or two ago.  There’s a field full of angry bulls in another picture and immense pigs in yet another.  I see my memory played me tricks when I described a couple of other things: the man taking a crap behind the tree is being stalked by men with muskets, not a pack of dogs as I said – and the elegant figurehead is wearing a brown, not blue hat.

Other new stuff at Tate B

Not new of course, but newly out of storage – or new to me, anyway:

Two great, sombre Bombergs – “Bomb Store” I believe.  Reminded me of Rouault.

There’s a whole room of Alan Davie, who died a few weeks ago.  Best pictures are “Fish God” (see previous blog, “Shark Penis of the Fish God”) and “Sacrifice”, a rough, dirty tangle on a great blue ground.

alan davie

That “Fauvist” portrait of a woman is by Fergusson, one of the Scottish Colourists – get the little book of SC postcards.

fergusson

There’s a beautiful bowl somewhere, by William Nicholson, Ben’s father.

And there’s that brilliantly coloured abstract in the same room as the Basil Beattie, which looks really crude close up – but absolutely beautiful from across the room.  Can’t remember the name – sounds North African to me – so can’t find a photo, but you will know what I mean when you see it.

Nineteen Eighty -Four

I’ve just got to the bit where Winston reads Goldstein’s book.  In it, Goldstein relates how the permanent state of war existing between Oceania, Eurasia and Eastasia has had the effect of stabilising their economies by burning off surplus capital that would otherwise lead to crises of overproduction.  this seems just a whisker away from the “permanent arms economy” described – not sure if its his original idea – by Michael Kidron, in his old Pelican(?) paperback, “Western Capitalism Since the War”.  He’s writing about the Cold War and the constant renewal of military hardware, but still, pretty close.  Years since I read the Kidron and I’ve lost my copy, so maybe he mentions Orwell.

Flowers of the Field (to 13th July)

A  play by Kevin Mandry at the White Bear pub theatre in Kennington; it fits nicely with the British Folk Art exhibition, where the DVD, made by the British film Institute, entitled “Here’s a Health to the Barley Mow” is on sale.  The play, set in 1916,  concerns the efforts of a war-damaged British officer to collect folk songs in rural Sussex; he inadvertently walks into a drama to do with the ownership of a farm and the efforts of a young girl to avoid  forced marriage to a rapacious landowner.  The difficulties faced by the officer in getting the locals to come up with the real goods, as opposed to hymns, old music hall songs and ballads, make for some very funny scenes and echo real problems faced by the early collectors, like Cecil Sharp and Percy Grainger.

The second half is darker, concerned as it is with the question of the farm and the marriage.  The song which the officer eventually succeeds in recording, is a southern version of “I Once Loved a Lass”.  This is a Scottish variation, recorded among others by Sandy Denny.  Words different, but similar; tune pretty much the same in both versions.

I saw my love to the church go,

With brides and brides’ maidens, she made a fine show,

And I followed on with a heart full of woe,

For she’s gone to be wed to another.

As for the DVD, the High Spens Sword Dance group and the Britannia Coconut Dancers (not blacked up here) have to be seen.

Il Bidone

Fellini’s great film about con men in 50’s Italy, starring the monumental Broderick Crawford (he looked almost the same throughout his career, give or take a few white hairs).  Apparently Fellini used him for his presence – he didn’t act much, just did himself, according to the commentary.  I think he was effective across a fair range though – menace, dignity, vulnerability, pathos, cynicism – and he could really wear a big, shapeless suit.  The music, inevitably by Nino Rota, is very reminiscent of “Blackadder”.

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Lizard Reunion

Blackpaint

26.06.14

 

Blackpaint 451 – Folk Art, Deller, Bond and the Fatal Train

June 20, 2014

Folk Art at Tate Britain

This is a great exhibition, but is pretty much historical  – that’s to say, there’s nothing in it later than the skull and crossbones score-sheet of the WW2 submarine, apart from the giant straw King Alfred made in 1961 (an example of a tradition going back a couple of hundred years).

Many of the exhibits are articles with a use value; shop and pub signs, trays, quilts, really ugly leather toby jugs..There are, however, a number of things that are “true” works of art – that is, they have no function other than to be themselves as art objects.  The paintings of Alfred Wallis are the obvious examples; there are also the French POW cockerel made out of bones, the Wesleyan preacher painted on the vertebra of a horse, the “gods-in-a-bottle” (bizarre assemblages, akin to African fetishes).

folk art 1

What about the ship’s figureheads?  They are decorative – very beautiful, in fact – but arguably, they have a use value too; identification and maybe a symbolic guardian angel function, like the bottle gods.

Anyway, a few examples:

The shop signs, for illiterate patrons – giant boots, padlocks, a saw, an arm and hammer (blacksmith?) a sun with those wiggly beams (?)… a black sweep sculpture, tobacco shop Indians.

folkart3

The quilts – the Bellamy one, with Ally Sloper at the centre and the fabulous Menai Bridge one.

The signs – We Rule you, We Fight for You, etc. – and a very odd one, in which dogs appear to be about to attack someone who is having a crap behind a tree.  there is a text on the board explaining, but my eyes weren’t up to deciphering it.

The figureheads – several beautiful ones, the giant Indian warrior (I guessed Turkish, wrongly); the Elvis lookalike with the sideburns; and the extraordinarily beautiful and delicate one with the brown hat.

folkart2

The Culture Show, BBC2

Jeremy Deller and Alan Kane visited the Tate exhibition and also Blackpool, where they argued that the various fairground entertainments provided living examples of folk art.  Kane seemed to be saying that cheap novelties such as fake cigarettes and giant rubber turds could qualify – think that’s pushing it a bit, but who cares.  They also came up with a man who specialises in customising motorbikes and helmets with airbrushed nudes, dragons, snakes, skulls and so on.  Fascinating programme.

Here’s a Health to the Barley Mow (BFI DVD)

On sale at the Tate, this is the filmed record of “a century of folk customs and ancient rural games”.  The film of Cecil Sharpe and Butterworth folk dancing in 1909 is funny; the Norfolk step dancer and the various sword dance teams are great; the Bacup Coconut dancers are there, of course;  the fiddle music by the great Pete Cooper, plaintive, perfect; but the sequence “Oss Oss Wee Oss”, filmed in Padstow in 1953 by Alan Lomax, is just unbelievable – those locals dancing to drums in the pub; they look as if they’ve been eating magic mushrooms.

Damnation, Bela Tarr

I love it – the rain slashes down in torrents onto the mud and empty lots in the forsaken Hungarian mining town, where the packs of dogs roam outside the Titanic Bar; the femme fatale sings a dismal torch song about it all “being over” as the bedraggled punters, especially Karrer, thin -faced, pining for her; the sullen, beaten faces stare out at the viewer as the heart-rending accordian dirge grinds on; everyone betrays everyone else – the femme (who is Karrer’s on-off lover) is last seen slipping down in the front seat of the barkeeper’s posh car, as the keeper leans back; Karrer goes to the police and informs on everyone and goes to wallow in the mud with the dogs… There is a long, slow, circular dance, a  slo-mo conga line of all the punters round the bar, which is a sort of anti- Fellini dance – those happy-sad circular dances to little clown combos in which everyone joins, like at the end of “8 1/2”.

That’ll Be The Day

The old David Essex rock n’ roll film – full of faces, Billy Fury, Ringo Starr, Keith Moon – and one, just fleeting, with a sax in his mouth, during “Long Live Rock”, I think – Graham Bond!  I used to go to see the Graham Bond Organisation at the 100 Club in Oxford Street in the 60s; Ginger Baker on drums, Dick Heckstall-Smith on tenor, Jack Bruce on bass and vocals, Bond himself on organ and alto sax, often simultaneously.  “Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf” and “Early in the Morning”…  He got into Aleister Crowley apparently, as well as drugs, and threw himself in front of a tube at Finsbury Park.  Christopher Wood, whose exhibition with the Nicholsons is currently at Dulwich, also died under a train (at Salisbury, in 1930).  But he wasn’t a Crowley fan , so far as I know…

Proust

I’m up to 3% on the Kindle now; I’ve passed the madeleine and tea bit- hope something happens soon.   Should finish some time in 2016, if I live that long….

 

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Overground to Atlantis

Blackpaint

20.06.14

Blackpaint 447 – Ken Clark’s pictures, Theory and Non-Theory, Capitalism, Fellini and Orwell

May 23, 2014

Kenneth Clark Collection at Tate Britain 

This is an astonishing exhibition; four and a bit big rooms of great art, most of it actually owned by Clark.  Some of the treasures on show listed or shown below:

pasmore clark 1

Victor Pasmore

A couple of portraits and nudes by Pasmore that are new to me, along with the more familiar river side pictures like Hammersmith and “Evening Star” in which, unlike the Turner of the same name I saw the other week at Margate, the star in question is readily visible.  The rear view nude on the bed (which I can’t find a picture of) looks like a fore-runner of Uglow.

sutherland clark1

Graham Sutherland, Sun rising between two Hills

A number of great Sutherlands, landscapes, foundries, Blitz damage, portraits (of Clark himself); also Pipers on similar themes, and Paul Nash – especially his magisterial “Battle of Britain” with it’s vapour trails making a great, plant-like shape in the sky above the Thames and the coast.

bell clark1

Graham Bell, Brunswick Square, 

A new one on me – love that violet blue.

Just too much to list really – Cezanne drawings. Coptic tapestry figures from the 5th – 7th century AD, a Lippo Lippi Moses striking the rock, a couple of Nolans, one horrible the other fantastic, a couple of great Seurats, a Samuel Palmer, Cornfield by Moonlight and Evening Star (again), Henry Moore in the shelters and the mines, oh, a couple of Leonardo drawings…  It’s amazing that one man could have amassed all this in the 20th century.

Theory

I attended a symposium at UCL a couple of weeks ago, on “Real Abstraction”.  A series of distinguished academics, who discussed matters like materiality in very abstruse terms, assuming familiarity with the terms on the part of the audience (many of whom looked as if they were up to speed on the topic).  All the speakers, I think, mentioned Adorno; Capital also made an appearance in every presentation.  It was soon clear to me that the real subject was how abstraction in art could be accommodated by Marxist theory of the Frankfurt school – for the first speaker anyway.  We listened to six of the speakers and none of them made any attempt to define what “Real Abstraction” was. We listened quietly, applauded politely and visited Habitat in the lunch hour, buying a nice glass flask for £8.00.

More Theory

My painting has always taken account of “theory” – Foucault, Barthes, Derrida, Baudrillard, Deleuze – I suppose it’s obvious from the content.  At my book group the other day, I discovered from one of the academics that there are “theory” and “non-theory” people in the universities; the latter would be traditionalists, liberals or conservatives, using analytical processes not determined (although perhaps informed) by the writings of the above and their followers.  Glad I’m not one – now I can add Adorno to the list too.

Orwell, Eileen and 1984

Perhaps the ultimate non-theory person; I was interested to read in the great Crick biography that Orwell’s wife Eileen worked for the Ministry of Food during the war, persuading the people to eat whatever vegetables were currently plentiful – one month, she might be stressing the health benefits of potatoes; the following month, there may be a shortage, and she would switch to pointing out how fattening potatoes were.  Crick suggests plausibly this filtered into Nineteen Eighty-Four.

Fellini, The Ship Sails on

Watched this again and was freshly impressed by the performance of Freddie Jones  as the reporter-narrator, who ends up in the rowing boat with the rhino (you have to get the DVD and watch it, too complicated to explain) and Barbara Jeffords as the suppressed operatic diva.  Fantastic.

 

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For Derrida

Blackpaint

23.05.14

Blackpaint 443 – Deacon, Cezanne, Fellini and Bragg

April 25, 2014

Richard Deacon at Tate Britain – until Sunday!

I was unexcited about the prospect of visiting this exhibition, since painting is more my thing than sculpture usually; that’s why it took me so long to get around to it.  I was surprised – it’s great.  Wood, metal, cement. sometimes all three together – wooden strips looping along the floor and rearing up like lassos; an oblong metal “shell”, open at both ends, with a flat metal lip overlapping and then blending with the edge of the orifice.  It just lies there on the floor, like a giant grey metal cream horn.

deacon1

A splintered and tortured steamed oak and metal structure, writhing all over the floor – how does he twist the wood like that?  I presume it’s made possible by the steaming process.

deacon2

A black “hogan” shaped thing, or maybe giant seed case called “Struck Dumb”, rather spoilt in my view by a red bow tie shape at one end;  “After”, a huge, “wickerwork” snake, curling across the gallery, stiffened by a wide silver metal band running from end to end.  A group of small, organic shapes, sculpted in various materials, like a group of sea creatures washed up by the tide.  And terrific, looping, diagramatic drawings with erasures and fuzzed lines in blue ink.

deacon 3

Great sculptures and great engineering.  It finishes this Sunday, so go this weekend.

Ruin Lust, Tate B

I thought this stretched the definition of “ruin” a bit far; there is a series of photographs by Gerard Byrne, for instance, which show hangovers or survivals of 60s design in present-day architecture and society – great photos, interesting idea, but not really “ruin”.  Unlike Waldemar Januszczak, however, I don’t really care if the concept is stretched though, as long as there’s some good art to look at in the exhibition.  And there is some; several paintings and prints of Llanthony Abbey to kick off.  I know it well and none of these look much like it (not that it matters).   The usual suspects are here; Turner, Constable, Wilson Steer.  There’s a mildly Apocalyptic John Martin, of the Pompeii eruption, which looks to me as if it’s happening in a vast underground chamber – my partner tells me he did some designs for sewers during the cholera epidemics, so maybe that influenced him. They are in Jeremy Deller’s exhibition in Nottingham, I understand.  Photos of stupendous German bunkers and gun emplacements on the Atlantic coast, by the Wilson sisters;  A couple of familiar surrealistic pictures by Paul Nash; a great Sutherland and a Piper church.

piper 1

I thought Ian Hislop’s description of Piper as “a committed Modernist, in love with the Olden Days” (The Olden Days, BBC2) was spot on.  Some war photographs from Rachel Whiteread and a Patrick Caulfield, which displays the contrast between his clean, radiantly coloured, graphic style and the ruinous subject matter.  Not one of the great exhibitions, but a good 30 minute job. if you are a Tate member and don’t have to fork out specially.

Cezanne and the Modern , Oxford Ashmolean Museum

This is just packed out with interesting things, as is the permanent collection at the museum ( I’ll write about that in next blog, along with the Matisse cut-outs).

The Cezannes are mostly watercolours; the best of these are one of a rockface or quarry, almost like an early Hamilton car fender drawing from a distance; and one called “Undergrowth”, I think, like a pen and ink and wash drawing.  Then, there is a single, large, unfinished oil painting called “Route to le Tholonet”, which has beautiful, subtle blue, brown and green hillsides behind a couple of tree trunks and a sketchy cottage – it’s oil, but it looks like watercolour, especially in the exhibition guide (good for £5).  Also pears in a bowl, a skull and a shimmering bottle still life.  Great St.Victoire, next door with the others.

Others: Great Modiglianis, one of Cocteau, pink cheeks, spidery body and features, wrists and chin and a male face, a Russian I think, with a crooked, “stuck on” nose;

A striking Degas nude, “After the bath, woman drying herself” – her bum is right in your face as you enter the gallery; she appears to be diving forwards, her arm and shoulder outlined in red, head disappearing behind divan, or whatever.  Her head’s in the wrong place, it seems to me, too far to the right…;

degas ashmolean

A Van Gogh, “the Tarrascon Stage”, the paint badged on thickly in sticky-looking squares;

A fabulous Manet, “Young Woman in a Round Hat” – on the wall above is a quotation from Manet; “There are no lines in Nature…” and yet, round the woman’s left shoulder and arm, a very visible black line.  Great painting though.

manet round hat

 

Soutine – these are a revelation; he’s much more than the sides of beef.  A thick red-lipped, crop-headed self portrait; A beautiful, sad-eyed portrait of an unknown woman in a black dress, with a dark blue background;  an awful choirboy and an awful hanging turkey BUT – three expressionist paintings of the town of Ceret, that look a little like Auerbach building sites, but with curving lines.  There’s a church spire from below looking up, recalling Delaunay’s Eiffel Tower.  Another, with two paths meeting to form a triangle, like the legs of that Boccione statuette… all done in the late 20s.

soutine 2

Fellini, “81/2”

Stunning opening and closing sequences – in the opening, Mastroianni (Fellini) floats high above, attached by the ankle to a line and to a car (it’s a dream sequence) – and the closing, the actors take part in a Dance of Fools, hand in hand, to the music of a clown band – shades of “The Seventh Seal”.

The Olden Days (BBC2)

I mention this series again, NOT because my son Nicky was a researcher on it (although he was), but because I was struck by the startling resemblance of Billy Bragg to the photograph portrait of the older William Morris…

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Heaven Only Knows (final version)

Blackpaint

25.04.14

Blackpaint 441 – Giants and their Weapons, Orwell and the Sweet Life

April 11, 2014

Future Map, ual (University of the Arts London)

This was an exhibition at SPACE, Mare Street in Hackney, showing (to quote the booklet) “the finest emerging visual arts from  University of the Arts London. Now in its 16th year, Future Map has a well-earned reputation for exhibiting the next generation of artists who will define our visual landscape”; I went last week, meaning to write it up but got bogged down with Orwell et al – and now the exhibition’s finished.  Still, these were the the works that I found memorable:

  • Jack Wilkinson (the winner) – “Untitled”, an assemblage of marked and spattered off-white boards, recalling those early panels of Richard Hamilton, interspersed with black, upright rectangles.
  • Sean Lavelle – “Glassrack Green and Orange”; a wooden framework, draped with a transparent green plastic fabric, drawn on to resemble green bricks, and with snake- like forms writhing across it.  I thought of it as “worms on a frame”.

lavelle

  • Han Byul Kang – “Dawn”; several objects, one a halved rocking chair, inverted, an occasional table and a giant cotton reel – or maybe, one of those big spools around which cable is wound, all of which were highly decorated in brightly coloured designs.

Kang

  • Bethe Bronson – “Hidden Exposure”; a video installation, in which a solemn, seated woman stares out at the viewer, whilst a younger, teenage(?) girl stands at her side; both in Victorian dress.  The girl, at first still, moves her head and eyes towards the older woman and then away from her, in a series of stop-time movements.

bronson

  • Abigail Booth – sculptures, one a large silver splat! of mercurial molten metal, which turns out to be “Chrome”, not mercury; the other, a block of granite, its surface marked in quarters, titled “Quartered Granite”.

These are the works that stuck in my memory, not necessarily because they were great…  The booklet, however, is superbly produced by the University of the Arts London.  It’s huge and makes all the works look fantastic.

Ian Hislop, “the Olden Days” BBC

Hislop’s first prog in the series happened to include a “prehistoric” stone circle that had actually been made in the 1850s, copied or inspired by the genuine stone ring at Avebury.  This led to a mild dispute with a friend about the Long Man of Wilmington in Sussex, who I thought was Bronze Age and he thought was Victorian.  Turns out the best guess is 16th or 17th century.   So, of course, I had to look up all the other chalk horses and the  Cerne Abbas giant – and only the Uffington horse in Oxfordshire, by the Ridgeway, is genuinely Bronze Age or earlier.

wilmington

Wilmington

cerne abbas

Cerne Abbas – also 17th century (spot the difference – yes, that’s right, the weapon)

uffington

Uffington – the real thing, and also the most beautiful by far.

Orwell and anti-semitism

Still ploughing on through the collected works and the biographies; finished “Coming up for Air” and well into “Down and Out in Paris and London” (started with the novels; that’s why I’m out of synch).  I have to say that there are a number of very dubious references to Jews peppered throughout the works – he makes no outright anti-semitic statements, but the portraits and anecdotes involving Jews are always derogatory.  Flory, in “Burmese Days”, opines that the British Empire is run in the interests of the Jews and the Scots.  Flory is a fiction, and not necessarily the bearer of the author’s own opinions, but you feel it chimes with the prejudices of the Orwell of the period.  I think he probably changed as his political views developed, and I’ll be interested to see if I remember right as I drive on through to Nineteen Eighty Four.  I think the anti-Jewish prejudice was pretty typical of Orwell’s social background and education – but you expect better of someone as questioning and self-examining and fair minded as Orwell.

La Dolce Vita

Watched this again to see if I recognised the Rome I ran in the other week to Fellini’s Rome; and no, it looked completely different (except for the Trevi fountain and St. Peters).  I’m sure the image of the little boy in the raincoat and hood in the “miracle” sequence popped up years later in another film set in Italy – Venice this time; “Don’t Look Now”.

Sue Townsend

Sad news about the above – I took Adrian Mole’s diary as a style template for this blog.

 

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Work (still) in “progress”

Blackpaint

11.04.14

Blackpaint 433 – Sex Toys, Flamingoes and a Robot Swede

February 6, 2014

Saatchi Gallery – Body Language

There seems to be a sort of house style to the paintings currently on display – huge; crudely drawn; harsh, raw, livid and/or fluorescent colours; acrylic or thinned-down oil, lacking surface sheen; shock-sexual images.  If this sounds bad, it’s not meant to; I like a lot of the works.

The names of the following painters occurred to me as I went round – Doig, Marlene Dumas, Sasnal/Tuymans, Rose Wylie and once, even Keith Vaughan.

Henry Taylor

Black American artist, raw, cartoonish, lively portraits and street life.  I liked “She Mixed” (below) and The Finger.

Saatchi Taylor

Eddie Martinez

Graffiti origins; his Last Supper below; which one is Jesus, which Judas?  It’s huge, by the way.

saatchi martinez

Chantal Joffe

I thought these were the best on show; mostly portraits, great flesh tones, deceptively slapdash but not when you look closely.  A wee bit Marlene Dumas, maybe..

saatchi joffe

Helen Verhoeven

saatchi verhoeven

Can’t really see it from this, but some of the nude figures are rather Keith Vaughan; what the hell is going on?  Why are those long pipe things going up the woman’s skirt and into the other one’s vagina?  And the nude on the far right, is that a blow-up doll she’s holding?  Maybe the others are blow-ups too, being inflated – I’m sure there’s a simple explanation…

There are several more painters and sculptors in this exhibition; more next blog.

Also at Saatchi, there is New Order II; British Art Today

The artists who impressed me most were

Dominic Beattie

saatchi beattie

Collages made out of overlapping layers of board or metal, not quite fitting exactly, in bright colours and patterns.  Small, but impressive from the other end of the gallery.  A treat for the eye, after all that roughly painted, huge, sexy, figurative stuff.

Mary Ramsden

saatchi ramsden

This doesn’t give you much idea – you need to see two or three together.  Large fields of flat, contrasting colour, reminding me a little of Gary Hume.

Kate Hawkins

saatchi Hawkins

You get the picture – surrealistic boxes with eye things or bow ties on tripods and ladders.  Amusing but…. more next time.

Philip Seymour Hoffman

Now he’ll never get to play Gordon Finch in the film of “Stoner”, when it gets made (see previous Blackpaint).  RIP.

The Great Beauty, Sorrentino

Obvious tribute to Fellini, it has Rome, the parties, the oddities, the conga dancing in a chain of fools; Tony Servillo taking the place of Mastroianni, with something of his weary charm, if not the looks.  I was waiting for the outrageously artificial – like the whale in Satyricon, the dead fish in Dolce Vita, the rhino and the ship with smoke blowing the wrong way – was that “And the Ship Sailed On”?  There was a giraffe, but it turned out to be real.  Then, near the end, the flock of flamingoes took off improbably into an improbable sky, and there it was. He (Sorrentino) likes to have scenes in which old men throw themselves about in hip disco dancing poses, like in “Il Divo”.  Great film.

The Bridge II

I thought Saga’s robotic recoil and wide- eyed stare whenever something puzzled her was just a bit too much like Data in Star Trek; also her stock phrase “I have analysed what you said…”.  Plot totally un-followable, too many characters, too SF.  Kim Bodnia as Martin great,  though.  How are they going to get him out of prison for the next series?

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Work in Progress

Blackpaint

6.02.14