Posts Tagged ‘Francis Bacon’

Blackpaint 588 – Fundamental! Wolfie and Hockers at the Tates

February 27, 2017

Wolfgang Tillmans, Tate Modern

Huge blown-up photos on the walls, but also desktops full of his “snaps” (and pro-Remain, anti-Brexit propaganda posters/leaflets he presumably produced).  He calls each room an “installation”, the nature of which he expounds in the booklet, to avoid explanations on the walls.  My favourite below:

 

tillmans-1

Try to see that right arm and hand as a leg and foot and you get a totally different image…

Additionally, you can see –

A drainpipe and drainhole, with water running down through soggy litter; an amazing starscape over a dark hillside; a male bumhole close-up; a close-up of a vagina which appears to be that of a transsexual, judging by the hairy legs (echo of the famous Courbet picture); several large, beautiful colour field abstracts, red and ochre mainly, recalling Hoyland or more, Diebenkorn’s desert colours combined with his Ocean Park structures; crystalline car headlight; that strange shape of the swimmer picking his foot; enormous, rather touching blow-ups of delicate weeds sprouting in his backyard – and a simple image of a man in a blue T shirt, that is startlingly clear and 3D, when looked back on through the arch, from a short distance – try it.  And, of course, those great ones of pigment threads, slowly floating and whirling in fluid.  Great exhibition; Tillmans can find beauty in strange places – drains, for example.  Not sure about the other apertures.

Hockney, Tate Britain

After the big RA Hockney exhibition of 2012, I was expecting a bit of deja-vu; there was a bit, but I was surprised at how informative and enjoyable the Tate show is.  I’ve been twice, on a Saturday and a Thursday, and both times, the Tate was rammed with white-haired, retired schoolteacher types, along with the tourists and students.  Hockney is definitely a Treasure of Middle England, comparable, I guess, to Alan Bennett in his fanbase.

I reckon there are about ten or twelve different “sections”, some of them being distinct phases in his painting, others different areas of activity; here’s my breakdown of the show:

  • The earliest real Hockneys from the early 60s – textured, splashy paint, cartoon boys, areas of raw linen, words and letters (cf.Johns), jokey content – Boys Together, Typhoo Tea, toothpaste, the boys speeding towards Italy (see below).  I can’t get away from seeing a similarity to Bacon in the brushwork, splatters and bare surfaces here, if not the content (although one of the shower ones could be).

hockney-italy

Flight to Italy

  • Next, the Kitaj-like ones, where Hockney makes well-drawn, naturalistic figures, often alongside flat cartoon characters (see below).  Various palm tree and pyramid pieces, chaps in pants on bed or in shower.

Hockney, David; Man in a Museum (or You're in the Wrong Movie); British Council Collection; http://www.artuk.org/artworks/man-in-a-museum-or-youre-in-the-wrong-movie-176794

Man in a Museum (You’re in the Wrong Movie)

  • Swimming pools, snakey surface reflections, Bigger Splash of course.
  • A roomful of drawings, from early “cartoons” through beautifully, sparingly executed portraits, Kitaj, Kasmin etc.
  • Raw red USA desert canyons and Yorkshire Dales – hills and winding roads, flattened against invisible glass of the surface, shining with vivid colours, which I thought were a bit much in 2012, but I see from a TV film on Hockney last night are pretty accurate.  That one of hawthorn trees with maggot blossoms and the Van Gogh pink and grey sky..
  • A room of beautifully drawn but underwhelming drawings of woodland scenes.
  • The static portraits of Ossie Clark, Celia Birtwell, Henry Geldzahler, Hockney’s parents  et al; they recall della Francesca in the respect that the characters appear self-absorbed, or at least, uninvolved with each other.  There is a della Francesca on the wall behind Geldzahler, Baptism of Christ, I think.
  • Piercingly psychedelic verandahs, blue with red flowerpots, overlooking fiercely green lawns.  Those flowerpots really cut through.
  • A roomful of his composite videos of wood and meadowland in different seasons, taken by a battery of cameras from a moving car.
  • Ipad drawings and pictures he has worked up from them.
  • The psychedelic woods and landscapes from the 2012 exhibition.

I like the early stuff best, but it’s an impressive body of work, to understate the case.

To finish, a series of quick life drawings done with a brush and black acrylic.  Picasso at Barcelona next time.

 

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woman-with-fan2

woman-with-fan3

 

woman-with-fan4

 

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woman-with-fan6

Woman with Fan, 1 – 6

Blackpaint

26/2/17

 

 

 

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Blackpaint 584 – Uluru, Falling Space and Ken’s Ceramic Lava

January 29, 2017

little-sea-and-fire

One of mine to kick off –

Little Fire and Sea

Blackpaint

 

Now on to proper artists:

Michael Andrews, Gagosian, W1

A great exhibition of paintings by this lesser-known artist (lesser-known, that is, than his contemporaries such as Bacon, Freud and Auerbach; obviously, all my British readers will know him – you do, don’t you, both of you?).  It covers his whole career, starting with a couple of those eerie group paintings, people lying about singly and in couples, in a garden, staring out at you, some of them, as at a camera, or mingling in a club (the Colony Room, Bacon seated back to viewer, Freud staring out).  Then the balloon pictures, and an arresting picture of a plane about to hit us, above the lights of a city – bit like an Italian Futurist.  Then to Australia and the pink, rounded stone hills of the outback.  Then deerstalking in the Scottish hills.  Portraits in between.

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Laughter, Uluru (Ayers Rock) The Cathedral I, 1985

Strangely like a Bacon, the mouth I suppose.

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The Thames at Low Tide, 1993-4

His last painting, I think.  Strange angles..

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School I, 1977

I love that black to dark blue water.

 

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Swimming Pool with Two Girls, 1982

From a photo, surely.

A lot to see; sixty-one pictures in all.  It’s on until March 25th.

Marcus Harvey, Vigo Gallery, W1.

This is the artist who caused the big stir back in 1995 at the Sensations exhibition,  with his portrait of Myra Hindley done in children’s handprints.  Nothing like that in this collection, but some interesting pieces, like below:

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Maggie, 2011 – surely not Mrs. Thatcher?

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The English Cemetery, 2016 – like Kiefer doing Isle of the Dead, floating in a Richter sea…

 

Richard Wilson, Annely Juda, W1

This is staggering; can’t work out how he did it.  He’s taken whole sections of space within the gallery itself (a stairway, curtains, wall), sculpted the space in wood. and then dropped them – gently – into position as below.  The drawing shows the section he has constructed.  Sorry about my mania for comparisons, but the effect is Louise Nevelson, positioned by Phyllida Barlow.

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Ken Price, Hauser and Wirth, W1

Ken Price, Bay Area sculptor (see him in “The Cool School” film about the Ferus Gallery, Walter Hoppe and Irving Blum and their artists, fantastic film);  yes, there are his big breast shaped ceramics, nipples pointing to the roof.  Unbelievably, this whole collection of outlandish pieces are ceramic; several look like molten lava, others like huge gemstones, and there are a pair of high gloss pots, as if to show he can do conventional brilliantly too.

Next door, there is another galleryful of his drawings in colourful inks.  Those ones of the naked women are a little Aubrey Beardsley, a little R. Crumb…

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400 Blows, Truffaut, 1959

400-blows

I’ve been meaning to buy this DVD for ages.  A school rebel film, developing into a reform school film. it’s the forerunner of several British films.  I reckon Ken Loach saw the games master leading the boys through town at the trot – Brian Glover, those shorts,  in the football match in “Kes”.  I reckon “Scum” too – and “The Loneliness of the Long-Distance Runner” at the end.  When the boy pockets the cash he steals from home, he swings his shoulders just like Jean Gabin.

Another one of mine to end with:

time-and-place-no-8

Time and Place No 8

Blackpaint

29/1/17

Blackpaint 560 – England’s Great Disaster (England 1, Iceland 2) and some art, of course…

June 27, 2016

 

monkey man,

Monkey Man, Blackpaint 2016

National Portrait Gallery – Lucian Freud/Chantal Joffe

A few erstwhile unknown works by Freud, well worth a look; a lovely drawing of a sleeping girl and an unfinished self-portrait, a drawing in paint of another girl, as well as a childhood drawing from a sketchbook.

freud sleeper

The Joffe painting, a self-portrait with her daughter, is in the characteristic, elongated Joffe style, the proportions making it appear that they were looking into a convex distorting mirror; (relatively) small heads and feet, bulging tums.  Check Joffe’s feet; the toes are just like Captain Lee’s (he who forgot to put his trousers on – see Blackpaint 510).

Gothic, Ken Russell (1987)

An unholy (!) screaming nightmare, Natasha Richardson as Mary Shelley, at risk from the attentions of Lord Byron (Gabriel Byrne), when he’s not attending to her half-sister Claire; several images from paintings:

  • Fuseli’s painting “The Nightmare” of a demon squatting on a sleeping woman’s abdomen;

gothic nightmare

  • Bacon’s painting of the Muybridge crippled boy, walking on all fours (Percy Shelley playing the fool on the chateau’s roof);
  • Magritte’s bandaged heads and faces in the sex scene with Byron and Claire and the clearly Magrittean breast with eye-nipple.

tit

For me, the abiding images those of Timothy Spall’s (Dr. Polidori’s) decapitated head smiling up out of the basket and the final one of the baby Frankenstein monster at the bottom of the lake.  A noisy mess of a film but unmistakeably Russell, and therefore brilliant.

Incidentally, it can’t be the case that there are many blogs where you can see breasts with eyes and friars emerging from a demon’s bottom (Blackpaint 452).

colunga

Colunga, Blackpaint

Just watched England lose 2-1 to Iceland – art no longer seems important.  As Captain Scott said (under even worse circumstances) “I do not think I can write any more”.

Blackpaint

27.06.16

 

 

 

Blackpaint 540 – Bacon, Bela, Berlin and Dental Horror

April 9, 2016

Russian Portraits, National Portrait Gallery

Went to this again last Wednesday and it was thronged; while I was standing looking at the Vrubel portrait of Mamontov (see below), one of the two women in front of me declared “It’s just like a Francis Bacon!”  This seems to be a common observation to make about anything which isn’t a straightforward “realistic” representation – bit of smudging round the features? “Just like Bacon”; limbs a bit oddly positioned? “He’s doing a Francis Bacon”.

Russia Vrubel

It’s not like Francis Bacon, is it?  Or maybe I’m missing something…

bacon nude 2

This is like Francis Bacon.

My partner, however, says that I’m just as wrong in comparing, as I did last week,  the Vrubel to Sickert or to Ruskin Spear – she says it’s more like Braque.

Whoever, if anyone, is right, it’s a brilliant exhibition.  A painting I didn’t mention last time is Repin’s Rimsky Korsakov; the hands again and that “fleshy” paper (can’t see it properly below – you need to go to the exhibition).

Repin Rimsky

Repin is like Adolph Menzel, the painter who nearly fills the Alte Nationalgalerie in Berlin (Blackpaint 473) ; history scenes, portraits, pastorals, scenes from plays, Repin does it all, much more than competently.

Autumn Almanac (DVD), Bela Tarr (1984)

bela tarr

The melancholy Miklos Szekely (tight-lipped, sour featured) is present, on the right in the photo above.  It’s claustrophobic, intense, violent – a man gets a beating (actually, nothing by today’s standards; more like a roughing up) which is filmed from below, through a glass floor, like that film of Pollock painting.  Like other Tarr pictures, notably Damnation, the characters speak to each other in undertones, smiling all the time even when angry, abusive or threatening; in one scene, the two women in the film fight, each smiling into the other’s face the whole time.

It strikes me that, unlike the great Tarr  films based on the books of Krasnahorkai ( Satantango and The Werckmeister Harmonies), and even The Man from London (taken from a Simenon story), Autumn Almanac shows violence and corruption developing out of the situation itself, with no need of an outside catalyst – in this, it resembles Damnation.  In Werckmeister, the cataclysmic violence arrives with the travelling show, the Prince and the whale; in Satantango, the “community”, such as it is, is destroyed by the arrival of the satanic pair, Irimias and Petrina.  In “London”, the agent of disturbance is the case of money which Maloin sees flung into the harbour when the murder takes place.

I’m not absolutely sure about this; you could argue that the schoolmaster in “Almanac” is an outsider and his ejection allows the others to achieve a sort of twisted, corrupt equilibrium.. or maybe not.  It’s Tarr anyway, so worth seeing, and uniquely for him, in colour (pretty dark, though).

Lucia Berlin, A Manual for Cleaning Women, Selected Stories (Picador)

First heard of this book when it was reviewed before Christmas; her stories were compared to those of Raymond Carver and you can see why.  There’s a similar economy (she often dispenses with verbs), a conversational tone and the settings and subject matter are “dirty”, as in Dirty Realism; alcoholism, abortion, dysfunctional families.  The second story, “Dr. H.A.Moynihan”, is a groin-shrivelling tale of manic dentistry that is the most horrific piece of fiction I’ve ever read – that’s if it IS fiction.  The stories appear to be strongly autobiographical.  I think she differs from Carver, in that he is maybe more experimental with point of view.  he writes as a female character in several stories, “Fat”, for example, and successfully, I think.

Anyway, the blurb on the front says her stories “are electric, they buzz and crackle”.  They don’t, but they are a great, if occasionally gruelling, read.

Actually, I’ve just thought of a piece nearly as physically wrenching (literally) as Berlin’s story – Ted Hughes’ poem about de-horning bulls.

I’ve done no new paintings since last time, so here’s an old one for now, appropriate to Berlin and Hughes perhaps;

Close of a long day

Close of a Long Day

Blackpaint

9.4.16

 

Blackpaint 502 – What’s the Meaning of this?

July 5, 2015

Meaning in Abstraction

Jonathan Jones on Jackson Pollock: Blind Spots (Tate Liverpool) in the Guardian and now Laura Cumming in the Observer, also on Pollock, raise the question of meaning in painting.  Cumming writes eloquently about “Pollock’s leaping black lines – apparently describing nothing – as free as a bird to be purely, sheerly visual as they dance across the canvas”; she then spends much of the rest of her article spotting images in the paintings – “a massive figure powers along against a billowing yellow sky”.

pollock no.12 52

No.12, 1952

Jones, earlier in the week, also wrote about the images in Pollock’s work, quoting him: “I choose to veil the image”… and then commenting, “In other words, the image is there – meaning is there – always.  And in his later paintings it breaks out like a sickness.”

The image is there – meaning is there… so no image, no meaning.  How does this square with his recent championing of Bridget Riley and Howard Hodgkin?  She was doing “science” (opticals etc.), he was doing emotion. What about painters like Hoyland?  just decoration, presumably.

It’s irritating to read critics spotting shapes in the painting, even if everybody does – I was seeing tits everywhere in Diebenkorn’s “abstract landscapes” the other week; but worse is the implication that paintings without images from “reality” are meaningless.  The meaning is the picture, the picture is itself.

Neil Stokoe: Paintings from the 60s on. (Redfern Gallery, Cork Street W1)

What a pity that this finishes today (Sunday)!  I only discovered the exhibition (and the painter) on Wednesday, when I went looking for an upcoming William Gear exhibition at the same gallery.

Stokoe is now 80; he was at the Royal College of Art with – get ready – Hockney, Kitaj, Frank Bowling, Allen Jones, Derek Boshier; Pauline Boty was there and Caulfield the following year.  He was a friend of Bacon.  He had a canvas bought by the Arts Council in 1970 after his first exhibition and then – not very much for 30- odd years.  He went into teaching at Wimbledon, but carried on painting.

The astonishing thing is the size of the paintings he was producing – and stacking against the wall, presumably.  They are massive – “Man and Woman in Room with Spiral Staircase” (1970) is 214 x 214 cms and the others are around that size.

stokoe richard burton

 

The colours are pinks, bright blues, acid yellows sometimes set in dark surroundings, as above; in one or two, the face is “Bacon-ised” but I think the settings show more of the influence of the older painter – the spiral staircases, somehow (a recurring feature in Stokoe’s work; I count seven in the catalogue) and in “Figure with Black Couch” (1968), the couch itself provides an arena very like the rails and circles Bacon used.  Something else that occurred to me is the resemblance to Joanna Hogg’s last film, “Exhibition”.  It’s not just the spiral staircase thing, but the colours as well – that acid, lurid, neon, ice cream palette.

Anyway, I guess it’s finished now, so look him up online – there’s a great photo of him from “The Tatler”, which covered the private view of his earlier exhibition at the Piper Gallery.

All is Lost (JC Chandor)

Got this on DVD, having missed the release.  Redford is pretty good for 79, although I noticed there were a couple of stunt doubles in the credits; I’m sure that was him up the mast though.  Classic American lean, hard, nameless hero against Big Nature, not giving up, fighting on to the bitter end.  Facially, he seemed at times to be morphing into Burt Lancaster.  Great shots, particularly those of the life raft from below, in tandem on the surface with the moon’s reflection.  I wonder how many, like me,  were expecting the oceanic white tips to show up again at the end (see previous Blackpaint on “Gravity”).  Great film; awful, portentous score.

Les Enfants Terribles, Cocteau

I’ve been re-reading this because it’s thin; I was surprised to find how much it reminded me of MacEwan’s “Cement Garden” – or the other way round, I suppose.  No doubt I’m about 45 years late in making that observation.

Hepworth at Tate Britain

Had to put these torsos in – there are three in a case together, but I can’t remember who did the third; Skeaping, I think.

Torso 1928 Dame Barbara Hepworth 1903-1975 Presented by the executors of the artist's estate 1980 http://www.tate.org.uk/art/work/T03128

Hepworth torso

Torso 1914 Henri Gaudier-Brzeska 1891-1915 Transferred from the Victoria & Albert Museum 1983 http://www.tate.org.uk/art/work/T03731

Gaudier Brzeska torso

By the way, if you want to buy a Barbara Hepworth style duffle jacket at the Tate, you can do so for £400+; a sculpting shirt will set you back £300 odd.  Bargains, I think you’ll agree.

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Red and Blue on Ochre – NB It’s without meaning…

Blackpaint

05.07.15

 

 

 

 

Blackpaint 437 – Platypus, Nest Eggs, Algerians, Burmese Days

March 7, 2014

Brett Whiteley

I’ve been looking at this artist’s work again, and I must say I love the way he draws – sometimes!  he has a bold, clean line when he wants, and it mixes with areas of tangled line that have been erased and sometimes picked out with ink or pencil.  He’ll elongate and distort as the fancy takes him, like a cartoonist, Scarfe maybe.

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A lot of his work is in dubious taste (I don’t mean porny, that’s fine as far as I’m concerned); for instance, the Christie drawings and paintings, based on the 10 Rillington Place murders, that he actually mixed with zoo drawings, for example “a Cheetah at Ten Rillington Place” – good painting, though.

I love some of his Lavender Bay verandah-scapes and the series of landscapes he did with an “S” shaped river included.  he’s also notable for the number of different objects he stuck on his canvases; birds’ eggs (often in nests), birds, his own ginger hair on a self-portrait, coins, a brain, a duck-billed platypus (stuffed)…..

The boxing and cricket paintings reminded me of Francis Bacon, as did the Zoo paintings.

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The Brits Who Built the Modern World (Rogers, Foster, Shuttleworth etc.) BBC4

TV progs about these; thought some of their stuff was brilliant, for example, the Pompidou Centre, for which they claimed there wasn’t even an overall drawing existing when they excavated the vast hole in the middle of Paris for the building – yeah, hippy architects, cool…  They, well, Rogers anyway, claim to have been lefties in the 60’s, building workers’ recreation projects and the like.  Now, however, they do prestige airports and such for the Chinese, which is much better in many ways, because they carry long-term projects through, being a dictatorship.  Over here, you have to worry about democracy; governments, and hence plans changing, unions being a pain, people refusing to move….  The Chinese can guarantee you a cleared site for your shiny project, no problem.  And they’re communists, Chinese gov. that is, so it’s all in the Peoples’ interest.

Good Men (Ismael Ferroukhi)

Great film (2011) set in WW2 Paris, concerning Algerians.  It stars Tahoor Rahim, the young gangster in Audiard’s “A Prophet”, doing a similar turn; he’s a black marketeer and informer, naive, poorly educated, amoral (to start with), ducking and weaving, an eye to the main chance; slowly, he acquires a conscience and a loyalty to his compatriots.  There’s something of Pontecorvo’s “Battle for Algiers” to it – I suppose it’s the similarity of Rahim’s character to that of Ali la Pointe, and their “journey” towards activism.

The music in the film is staggering; I had the volume low on the the first song and couldn’t hear the words – it sounded like a ballad done by the Watersons or Martin Carthy.

Burmese Days

Just finished the Orwell book and of course, now I’m going to have to read the lot again – Clergyman’s Daughter next.  I thought it a much cruder portrayal than Passage to India, but of course, Orwell was an officer in the Burmese police while Forster was a visitor to India, so maybe Orwell’s first-hand knowledge of the Burmese and the ex-pats was superior.  I thought the characters of Verrall, and Elizabeth were beautifully drawn.  From reading the Crick biography, it appears that the incident in which Ellis attacks the students with his stick might have been suggested by a similar incident in which Orwell, or Blair, himself laid into a Burmese youth at a railway station.

??????????

RK Back – An old one, I’m afraid.

Blackpaint

07.03.14

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.

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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.

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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 319 – The Slipping Glimpser

January 16, 2012

De Kooning

I gave myself the Thames and Hudson Retrospective of DK for Christmas.  It seems to me that you need a label different from Abstract Expressionism to fit him – a third part of his work seems to me to be figures, another third landscape in some way and only maybe a third abstract.  Proportions probably wrong, but you get my drift, no doubt.  I was interested to read that he called himself a “slipping glimpser” – nice phrase, which I take to mean he tried to capture some fleeting moment, or movement, or impression that he received on the corner of the eye or maybe was gone before he could even identify it, like catching hold of a dream.  I’m not sure this would make any sense in the context of abst ract painting – but it certainly does with figurative.  Trying to think of other painters who do that, and Bacon and Auerbach come to mind. 

Sometimes it’s hard to describe or pin down painters’ techniques (or tricks – or is that the same thing?)   I remember in the Diebenkorn book, Jane Livingston talks about Dieb.’s subversion of his own graphic skills, to draw intentionally awkwardly, “even clumsily”, to achieve the effect he wanted.  I think that she means the achievement of a rich surface by means of  smeared or broken lines, reworkings with “ghost” marks left in, clotted, grooved or scraped areas.. or maybe she is referring to his figurative paintings, his drawing style. 

The Artist

Saw this last week, and was unable to understand the universal acclaim.  I found the jaunty music and silent movie cliche really irritating at first, but as the story deepened and the charm of the two stars took hold, I enjoyed it more.  Nevertheless, an hour after seeing it, it was fading from my mind.  The French do pastiche very well, though.  I used to go to the Django Reinhart Gypsy Jazz festival at Samois every year, and whatever type of jazz was being performed – blues, jug band, Glenn Miller, bebop – a French ensemble was there to do it perfectly.

Bloomberg New Contemporaries at the ICA

Website tells me this is now finished, but I was intrigued by the relatively few paintings and sculptures on show.  There was one that resembled a Frank Stella; dreamcatcher shape, smooth surfaces, straight lines, airbrushed – “cherry” as the Cool School would have called it; another, the opposite, roughly painted, crude colouring, called “Garden ghosts” I think; another composed of long green and brown and yellow(?) streaks, like an abstraction of a tropical tree, a bit Richter or Irvin maybe.  What occurred to me was that, despite their differences, they shared with the smaller sculptures the advantage of being easily saleable, transportable and hangable;  Ideal commodities, that is to say.  How the hell do you sell a shallow flight of stairs, leading to a narrow window, which lights up every few minutes? 

The Mystery of Appearance, Haunch of Venison, Bond Street

Free exhibition of English painters of 60s on – Auerbach, Freud, Bacon, Kossoff, Hockney et al.  Three beautiful Auerbachs, two of Primrose Hill, but the best a very small picture of a prone male(?) figure lying face down, it appears.  The background is dark grey or brown, with a raised central square panel, and the figure is picked out in loops or petals of white, green and blue-maybe yellow too-paint.  Then, there is a large Andrews, a reach of the Thames or some such that has a tract of mud and shifting sand that recalls the surface of the early Sandra Blow pictures.  Another Andrews is a large reception at Norwich Castle, showing Frank Thistlethwaite, the VC of University of East Anglia when I was there.  I recognised the painting – I think it hung somewhere at UEA, the Union maybe.  What I didn’t know was that the blobby nature of the faces wasn’t just bad brushwork, but a comment on the old Victorian- style VIP painting. Like Diebenkorn, intentionally clumsy.

Blackpaint

16.01.12

Blackpaint 301

October 21, 2011

Tacita Dean in the Turbine Hall

..of the Tate Modern, of course.  Must be enormous pressure to do something spectacular.  She’s chosen to celebrate the medium of film and the display is a tall, window-shaped projection on the back wall, with film sprocket holes on either side.  Critics have variously described it as a cathedral window or a lift shaft – I tend to the latter.  So, what happens is that a series of images come and go for 11 minutes, then the sequence starts again.

The images include (from my memory):

Shaggy Ink Cap mushrooms; rapids, with the middle section flowing backwards); pink flower; lump of resin(?) suspended on string or wire; mountain (Matterhorn?) pictured in different colours; a human eye, opening and closing; large orange dots.  I’ve resisted the temptation to add more, gleaned not from memory, but other critics’ lists – and that’s the thing; you can’t help doing a cuddly toy – listing what you remember.  Not really what you ought to be doing when contemplating a great work of art.

So- it’s nice, but it’s not Eliasson; more in the class of the Rachel Whiteread.  Better that that thing with the bunk beds and paperbacks or the Salcedo split in the floor;  but I think the Balka was more memorable.  Actually that’s a lie; the Balka thing came to mind after I’d thought of all the others mentioned.

Gerhard Richter

Interesting that Richter is now the greatest living artist, according to various critics (Laura Cumming, for instance), when a while back, it was Boltanski, when he had his installation in Paris.  Latest thing, I suppose.

But the Richter at TM is great, and I’ll be going again, several times (we get in free as my partner is a member – cheap, if you go a lot).  I’ll take it in sections:

First, there’s the blurred photo paintings; bomber raids, Wehrmacht Uncle Rudi,  victim Aunt Marianne, with a baby in arms – is that Richter? – , the creepy, smiling dog with the clown face, couples, tiger, ruins… must stop this, making lists again.

Next, grey/black curved liquid spurt, reminded me of Bacon painting about which he was gleeful, apparently, at bringing off a perfect squirt of water. Also,  a grey swirl, with orange-green splats.

Next, “Damaged Landscapes” – Turner-ish grey Alps; Paris decomposing into curling, black and white squares and L shapes, like melting wax mixed with ash; kitsch snowy mountains; an empty, anonymous concrete city.

Grey Paintings – a dense undergrowth of grey sword-like strokes, recalling both Laurie Lee’s childhood jungle-garden memories and Christopher Wool’s paintings – although Wool’s are more slippery and soft-edged.

Figuration meets abstraction – brown cloudscapes, enlarged and smoothed out; two large coloured paintings that were originally little painterly sketches of – something that escapes me now – enlarged, blurred and smoothed until just two oblong blobs in pink and white.  A blurred Annunciation, based on Titian, apparently.

Genre Paintings and Early Squeegee – and the exhibition explodes into colour.  Blazing greens, reds, yellows, pinks; green tendrils of paint.  Completely overwhelming the little skull and candle paintings, and a fantastic iceberg.

Landscapes and Portraits – A huge abstract with seething red and orange on the right (of the picture) and cool, squeegee’d blues and greens sliding and curving on the left – can’t remember what’s in the middle.  Another with a shower of fat, purple bloody drops.  Betty turning away – apparently she’s looking towards a grey painting, although it looks like a plain dark background –  and another of her reading; both very slightly blurred “photographs”, it seems to me.  Some blurred landscapes with houses.

18 October 1977 – the Baader-Meinhof pictures.  Some Warhol-ish repetition of Meinhoff dead, although unlike Warhol, minor variation and blurred surface.  These, and the earlier, “Uncle Rudi” ones, brought to mind those blurred, sometimes touched-up photos you used to get in True Detective magazine, like Ruth Snyder in the electric chair or Charles Starkweather under arrest.

Abstraction in the 90’s – a huge beetroot – coloured squeegee job; a grey picket fence pattern; eight small, piercingly colourful scrapy abstracts, one with folds of scraped paint resembling bright leaf insects. 

2001 and beyond – the September picture that I have already written about (the planes hitting the WTC); the booklet appears to contradict the Guardian McCarthy article I cited – maybe I misread it.  OK, have reread it and I did misunderstand- it was a number of sketches that Richter thought to be abstract, until a friend pointed out that they showed the attack on the WTC;  Richter then based this picture on them.  Also, some great small ones in white with black line markings, like atom particle tracings on a metallic plate.

Cage – exhibition ends across cafe, in the room with the 6 huge scrapeys that are on permanent display.  Inspired by John Cage’s music, they look to me like swamp, scraped out in varying colours.

Bunuel

My mate Paul tells me he was deaf, which is why there’s not much music in his films.  Not many people know that.

Blackpaint (Chris Lessware)

20.10.11

Blackpaint 242

January 16, 2011

Tate Modern

Dropped in the other day for a quick look; at first, same old pictures – although Jorn’s “Letters to my son” gone, and Dubuffet’s scraped pink picture there instead.  But there are a few new ones:

Shiramoto – “Holes”.  A grey and white abstract surface with holes bashed through – Shiramoto a member of Gutai, a movement that liked the tension and contrast of “delicacy and violence”, “destruction and creation” – very Japanese, that, chrysanthemums and samurai swords; it’s the delicacy bit.  Loads of others, The Austrians like Nitsch for instance, did the violence; not the delicacy, though.

Carol Schneeman – Video installation, bikini-clad girls slipping and sliding in a treacly substance – paint? Hard to tell, it’s black and white.  Engaging.

Francis Bacon – A big triptych; Dyer on the left panel, indistinct sexual wrestling in the centre, Francis on the right.  Dyer’s left leg is elided to a point, Bacon’s melting into a sheet of pink ectoplasm, echoing the disappearing lines of the Sarmantos in the adjoining room.

Beuys – His herd of sledges, loaded with felt and fat, escaping from the Volkswagen van – have escaped, and so has the van.  In their place, three or four new pieces: a photo of Beuys in his hat and long, heavy coat; “Campaign Bed”, institutional grey blankets with batteries(?) rolled underneath; “Accumulator”, a cell with wires attached to two clay balls, the source of power; and “Monument to a stag”, metal antlers, or rather some horn-like metal pipes and appendages.  The squad of red-brown turds by the girder are still there, though.

Lee Krasner – “Gothic Landscape”, dominated by crude black lanceolate blades, driving diagonally across canvas has little patches and touches of white, mint green and pink can be detected in the interstices.  Never noticed them before, which is why I’m mentioning this painting – it’s not a new, or newly-hung one.

Uffizi

Two strange paintings:

Pontormo – “The Supper at Emmaus”.  Floating above Christ’s head is a glowing pyramid, with an open eye in the centre of the outfacing plane.  The commentary says it is the symbol of the Trinity and was added later, but I think it is a Freemasonry symbol.  Presumably the Freemasons adopted it. On the floor, a skull-like dog face peers out, chewing in a bone and a couple of cats lurk amongst the human and table legs.

Rosso Fiorentino – “Madonna dello Spedalingo”.  The eyes of the Christ child and, to a lesser extent, those of all the surrounding figures, are large and sooty black – the effect, in reproduction, is as if someone had taken scissors to them.  The saint on the right looks like Death, from a Death and the Maiden.

Leonardo – The Fiorentino has to be the creepiest Christ child in Renaissance art – but the boy in “Madonna of the Carnation” must be the fleshiest (although Leonardo’s babies are always on the heavy side; see “Madonna Benois” or “The Virgin if the Rocks”).

Cezanne

A couple of Cezannes that you would never recognise as C’s if you didn’t know.  “The Orgy”, informed by Veronese’s “Wedding at Cana” – fleshy, writhing bodies round a white, tilted table against a cold, darkening blue sky; and “Temptation of St. Anthony”, more fleshy buttocks and bellies, poor St. Anthony accosted by a naked. writhing woman – the whole thing against a black background.

Listening to “Carrickfergus”, Van Morrison:

“I’m drunk today and I’m rarely sober;

A handsome rover from town to town,

Ah, but I am sick and my days are numbered,

So come all you young men and lay me down”.

Blackpaint

16.01.11