Posts Tagged ‘Frank Bowling’

Blackpaint 652 – Maurer, Takis, Scherjfbeck, Truffaut and co.

August 28, 2019

Dora Maurer, Tate Modern 

Hungarian artist, specialising in geometric, sometimes highly colourful designs, layering, lattices, lots of theory in the wall notes (that I didn’t read, having learnt that I forget it all pretty quick).  Have a look at the examples below:

 

These look great through the arch as you come in to the gallery – early Albert Irvin with straighter lines?

 

Touch of Hoyland in the colours here…

 

Can’t think of any comparisons, which although not compulsory, makes me faintly uneasy; like it though.

 

Takis, Tate Modern 

Greek artist, but based in London and Paris, real name Panayiotis Vassilakis, heyday in the 60s, died just a couple of weeks ago.  Leaflet describes him as a “sculptor of magnetism, light and sound”.  Exhibition kicks off with the figurines below, which are appealing and a little Giacometti -like here and there, but soon the machines clock in.  Most of them were not working when we went, but an attendant did set one going (a pendulum pointer which strikes at the centre of a resonating metal shield); don’t know if it was for our benefit or if he does it regularly – like the man who fired the Anish Kapoor wax cannon in Guggenheim Bilbao a few years back.

 

 

The contraption on the left looks like a miniature electric chair, I thought,,,

 

Lots of quite beautiful suspended metal spheres, often turning on pendulums due to magnetic forces; also machines that pluck at metal metal cords or strips to produce, unsurprisingly, metallic “music”.

 

Visual hints of Calder at times, and also of Jean Tinguely, although these devices lack the anarchic, self – destructive tendencies of some of Tinguely’s machines.  A bit lightweight, maybe, in terms of emotional freight and social relevance – which can only be good, can’t it?

 

Helene Scherjfbeck again – RA 

I did this Finnish artist in my last blog, as readers will remember, but I’ve been again since and feel that I may have failed to do the exhibition justice last time – so here are some more pictures.  These, with the exception of the first one below, are highly graphic in a sort of magazine style, and I think they are pretty good and worth a close look.

 

I love this portrait – she looks like a Russian intellectual to me, writing a leaflet for a Narodnik party, People’s Will maybe, before going off to blow up the Czar.

 

So by way of contrast, there’s her, about to attend a society wedding, maybe-

 

..or her (no ready-made scenarios spring to mind – but I like the straight forehead-nose profile)…

 

Or her – the young Mrs. Thatcher, perhaps.  Love the shadow on the neck and face.

 

Modernists and Mavericks, Martin Gayford

My favourite art book since the brilliant Walter Hopps interviews a couple of years ago.  It’s based on London painters, notably Bacon, Freud, Hockney, Auerbach, Gillian Ayres, Bridget Riley, etc,  There is absolutely no jargon (except that invented by some of the artists themselves), the doctrinal disputes are covered lucidly, it’s a compulsive read.  You will know most of the stories if you are interested in these artists, but you may not know the connections between them.  It contains some revelations for me, chiefly the almost Stalinist attitudes of one Robin Darwin, the principal of the Royal College of Art in the 60s, who seems at one point to be drawing up lists of students to expel.  Why was Frank Bowling expelled for marrying Paddy Kitchen, a college officer?

On Bowling, it explains the contents of his big picture “Mirror” as a sort of compendium of styles extant at the time; I’m off to the Tate to check it out now – well, tomorrow maybe.  I was interested to read of Bowling’s conversation with Bacon about flat plane and perspective that Bowling thinks may have led to Bacon “blanking” him subsequently.  It’s good on Gillian Ayres too.  One mystifying omission – Albert Irvin.  No mention of him – maybe he’s too abstract for Gayford?  No, can’t be – what about Riley and Ayres?

Truffaut, Antoine Doinel films

Just watched the whole set, from 400 Blows to Love on the Run.  Truffaut’s alter ego gradually loses his charm as the series progresses, but this is not true of the captivating women with whom he becomes, or fails to become involved, marries, leaves; Claude Jade, Delphine Seyrig, Marie France Pisier, Dorothee. “Mademoiselle” Hiroku.  In Love on the Run, there are flashbacks to the 400 Blows, which remind you of the remarkable magnetism of Jean-Pierre Leaud as a young boy.  Brilliant set of films.

Couple of mine to finish:

Father Time

Blue Cyclone

Blackpaint

28.08.19

 

 

 

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Blackpaint 649 – RA, Valloton, Urban Art and Two Killings

July 9, 2019

RA Summer Exhibition until 12th August

Second visit to the summer show – yes, astonishing to relate, I was rejected yet again this year – but I think I have managed not to let annoyance cloud my judgement.  Several of my favourites below:  apologies to the artist who produced the collection of bizarre figures behind the tiny fence; didn’t get the name.

 

George Blacklock

 

Blacklock again – same size, I think, as the first one, despite the different sizes of the photographs.

 

Frank Bowling, one of his “crusted” pictures

 

???  Tried to think of a comparison for this one – could only come up with two possibilities, both painters:  James Ensor and John Bellany.  Well, maybe, at a stretch…

 

 

Christopher le Brun – paintings, that is; apologies to the sculptor. another one whose name I didn’t get.  The Le Bruns are better “in the flesh” than in the photo.

 

 

RA Students Exhibition – finished now, I’m afraid, but I thought these two were striking…

 

Rachel Jones

It’s all about the colour, to state the obvious.  I should point out that it’s very large, as is the picture below.

 

Lucas Dillon

Christopher Wool meets Day of the Triffids.

 

RA,  Felix Valloton, until 29th September

Swiss artist of multiple talents, member of the Nabi group; some of his paintings resemble those interiors of Vuillard, with less “surface”.  They are composed of flat areas of colour, often lit from within, sometimes verging on illustration or even cartoon; there are several paintings containing nude women – not the painting below – in which the flesh is uniformly grey/white, almost a dead quality.  In my opinion, he’s like Augustus John – that is, hugely talented, but with variable artistic taste.

 

My personal favourite; only a small work, but impressive.

 

Vuillard colours, but flat surfaces…

 

Strangely like Norman Rockwell….

 

Internal lighting – great design. like a print.

 

Still Life, which resembles William Nicholson.  It’s hard (for me, anyway) to think of a painter with more variety of styles.

A Short Film About Killing –  Kieslowski 1987

 

An hour long version of this film comprises The 5th episode of Kieslowski’s “Dekalog“, based loosely on the Ten Commandments; it’s the one. not surprisingly.  dealing with murder – both by the individual criminal and the state.  It seems clear to me that the director considers the hanging of the young killer to be somehow equivalent to the murder.  He is shown to be feckless, randomly violent, relentless, stupid; but he gets on well with children, grieves for his dead little sister and the taxi driver he murders is a sleazy character, possibly a sexual predator; the execution scene is shocking and prominence is given to the lawyer’s horror-stricken reaction and anti- hanging statements.  Nevertheless….

Interesting to compare it to the much longer “Badlands” (Malick); in the latter, the director took no moral stance towards the killer, “allowing” the events and the commentary of Sissy Spacek’s character to speak.  Of course, in neither case do we know how much truth there is in the portrayal.  Both “A Short Film” and the two volumes of “Dekalog” are available on DVD on the Artificial Eye label.

 

Urban Art, Josephine Avenue, Brixton

Sold at the weekend at Urban Art in Brixton. the three Blackpaint paintings below:

 

Storm Front

 

Colunga

 

White Line Fever 2

Another great weekend under the big trees in Brixton – well done again, Tim Sutton (organiser) and all volunteers.  This was the 18th year of Urban Art, I understand…

Blackpaint, 

8/07/19

 

 

 

 

Blackpaint 647- Three at TB; Bowling, Nelson and VG

June 15, 2019

Frank Bowling, Tate Britain until 26th August

Brilliant show, and a real revelation.  I’d seen Bowling’s poured paintings a few years back at the Tate Britain, when they devoted a single room to them; in addition, there was the huge spiral staircase one that was on permanent display there (and which is in this show, of course), so I knew he’d had a Pop Art period, a sort of Hockney/Kitaj/Blake phase – see the first painting below.  There’s even a girl with a Who-type target on her tee shirt in another one.  The figurative elements gradually receded, however, until he arrived at pure abstraction – for a while, anyway.

 

 

I’d not seen these vast map jobs in screaming colours, though; Africa, South America, Europe, USA, and Asia are all there somewhere – though not necessarily in the usual positions (and, obviously, not all in the example below).

Bowling wanted – I think he still does – to be thought of as a painter, not as a black painter.  The poured paintings, for example, are not really about anything but colour and maybe texture; the properties of the paint.  When he went to the USA, he was out of step – his choice – with some of the black painters who were overtly political – some of their work was recently shown at the Tate Modern.  There is some politics on show here; this one (I think) is called “The Middle Passage”, a reference to the slavers’ sea route – but most of the (often long and oblique) titles are clearly personal, not political.

 

 

An example of the poured paintings, which he did on a tilting table of his own devising.

After the poured paintings, there is an “encrusted” period (see above); thick slathers of acrylic paint, often scraped or shaped into squares that look like slices of bread submerged in pigment.  Chunks or banana shapes of polystyrene are sometimes present, shipwrecked in the paint.  Still the colours though, are paramount.

 

 

These last two – the bottom one is huge, the other a much smaller panel shape – are quite recent; 2014-ish, I think.  So he’s still doing great work in his 80s.  Best in London, in my opinion, depending on whether the Bellany/Davie show is still on at Damien Hirst’s Newport Street Gallery.

 

Van Gogh and Britain, Tate Britain until 11th August

My fourth (or is it fifth?) visit to this show, and it’s still packed  every time.  You can get in OK but you will have to peer over shoulders or use binoculars to read the captions.  I think some of the links that the show seeks to make are rather contentious; I can’t see much similarity or evidence of VG influence in the Bomberg self portrait below, despite the caption.

 

 

Another Bomberg and the only still life I’ve seen by him; I suppose you could make a case for some VG influence here…  Great vase of flowers though. exploding in all directions – makes “still life” a ridiculous description, really.

 

The Asset Strippers, Mike Nelson, Tate Britain until 6th October

Nelson has been round the country, buying up redundant plant and machinery, which he presents as if each piece were a piece of sculpture in an exhibition.  Some are combined, that is, balanced or stacked on top of each other.  Lathes, milling machines, jacks, scales, agricultural machinery – is that a threshing machine? – knitting machines, sequin machines…  You think “Look at that machine!  It’s really complicated and it does one specific job.  What if someone says,” There’s a better way of doing that, we can skip that bit of the process by doing a or b or c…. “; That’s it for the machine – now it IS a piece of sculpture – or scrap.

 

Not sure what the “bed” of sleeping bags is supposed to represent, if anything.  Everyone in the exhibition seemed to be smiling, the old ones (and there were many) wallowing nostalgia; younger visitors trying to work out what the stuff was for.

That’s the three shows currently at Tate Britain; next time, Goncharova at Tate Modern and Huguette Caland at Tate St. Ives.

Three really old ones of mine to finish –

Angelico Tower

 

 

Fish Head

 

 

Red Guard

Blackpaint, 15/06/19

 

 

Blackpaint 611 – Caravaggio, de Ribera and the Catflap

November 28, 2017

National Gallery – de Ribera, Caravaggio

I got the Taschen Caravaggio for my birthday and I have to say that I’ve revised my whole system of preferences on 16th/17th century art: the stylistic realism (Death of the Virgin, for instance; an actual dead body, no choirs of angels on cloudbanks), the drama and focus of the figures emerging from the gloom and the subtle use of colour (green, blue, red and ochre in The Entombment of Christ) – and those muscular arms, hands and feet (The Crucifixion of St. Peter); fantastic.  Unfortunately, only two Caravaggios currently on display at the NG and none of those I’ve mentioned.  The NG has The Boy Bitten by a Lizard and a Supper at Emmaus; both brilliant but very familiar.

Entombment of Christ

Crucifixion of St. Peter

Akin to Caravaggio in style, born 20 years later  in Spain but moved to Rome, de Ribera is another stunning painter of twisted bodies emerging from a surrounding darkness.  His bodies tend to be white, shading into the murk in a sort of dry sfumato; they are often sprawling across huge canvases, as in the Prado.  Exhibition coming to Dulwich Picture Gallery next year, which will be one not to miss.

Lamentation over the Dead Christ, Jusepe de Ribera

Again, only two Riberas on show in the NG; this one, and another of some biblical character – Laban? – with a goat.  No chiarascuro (the Spanish followers of the Caravaggio style were called Tenebrists); looks like a completely different painter.

In Holofernes’ Tent, Johann Liss

I had to include this; Caravaggio did the same subject, setting it a few seconds earlier, when Judith was sawing the head off.  This one though has the most remarkable rendering of the folds and billows of Judith’s white chemise.  The detail hasn’t come out so well in the photo – it needs to be seen on the wall.

London Group Open Exhibition, The Cello Factory, Cornwall Road – last day Friday, 1st December

Great little gallery in the streets behind the South Bank opposite the ITV tower.  London Group venerable, founded by Camden Town and Vorticist painters (Gilman, Gore, Wyndham Lewis et al).  There is a Frank Bowling – you can see it below, pink, grey and yellow in the middle, end wall on right – at £48,000, but the others are more reasonably priced;  my partner’s diptych, “Catflap” (below) , for example.

 

Catflap (diptych) Marion Jones

It’s a very eclectic collection; the one thing I noticed was that there were a lot of windows in the paintings.

Monochrome, National Gallery

If the London Group was “diverse”, this outstrips it by a mile; Mantegna, Van Eyck, Bruegel, Memling, Moreau – to Stella, Malevich, Ellsworth Kelly, Picasso, Marlene Dumas.  It ends with a room suffused with orange light, by Eliasson.  It goes from grisaille and drypoint to the black square, Stella’s thin white geometric lines, a Las Meninas sketch by Picasso.  Some great works but a little colourless….

Ingres

 

Dumas

My latest to finish with-

Crossfire

Blackpaint

28/11/17

 

 

 

 

 

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.

red and blue on ochre 1

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

Blackpaint

05.07.15

 

 

 

 

Blackpaint 499 – The RA, the Internationale, Milk Cartons and Laundry Baskets

June 14, 2015

The Royal Academy Summer Show

Last blog, I identified the best picture in the show, which happened to be that of my partner, Marion Jones (Bars and Triangles, sold already).  It had a fleeting appearance on the Kirsty Wark BBC programme about the exhibition last night; about half a second, I think, so here’s another chance to see it:

marion RA

However, I feel I should I should mention some other pictures on display, so here goes:

Rose Hilton – Red Studio

rose

 

Hughie O’ Donoghue – Animal Farm

hughie

 

Frank Bowling – Pickerslift

frank

(It’s much bigger than this)

Christopher le Brun – Can’t or Won’t?

chris

(and so is this)

These are all big nobs; of the non – RAs and unknowns (to me, anyway) these two are the ones I liked best:

Arthur Neal – Studio and Garden

arthur

 

John O’Donnell – Winter

john

 

The BBC at War, BBC1

Just watched the first episode of this; interesting that William Joyce (Lord Haw Haw) had a British audience estimated at six million for his propaganda broadcasts from Germany; the JB Priestley broadcasts were set up by the BBC in competition.  Also, When the Germans invaded Russia, Churchill forbade, for a time, the playing of the Internationale as one of the anthems of the Allied nations; the music played on the programme to illustrate the eventual rescinding of the ban was NOT the Internationale, however, but the Soviet National Anthem.  Maybe the BBC doesn’t know the difference.

The Saragossa Manuscript, Wojciech Has (1965)

This Polish film is pure Bunuel, which perhaps explains Bunuel’s approving comment on the DVD box.  I think it contains the original delayed -action joke, where something happens mysteriously in one scene – and then is explained much later.  Guy Ritchie did it in “Snatch”, when a milk carton inexplicably explodes on a car windscreen and gets then chucked at the car later in the film.  In “Manuscript”, it involves a laundry basket.

Jonathan Jones

Another VERY definitive position adopted by Jones, this time regarding Bridget Riley.  Apparently, she’s more important than the figurative masters Bacon, Freud and Hockney because she provided the public with a new reality, based on a “scientific” approach to optical effect.  Only Howard Hodgkin is as important – his approach is poetic, though, whereas hers is (sort of) scientific.  The approach is quite reminiscent of Brian Sewell; black and white.  Anything reviewed is either brilliant and exposes the shoddiness and the bogus nature of some other artists – or it’s bogus and “silly” like Bacon at the Sainsbury Centre and is exposed as such by the brilliance of some other artists.

I’ve just seen “Fighting History” at Tate Britain, a show panned by Jonathan Jones as “moronic” in the Guardian the other day.  He’s right that it’s not great, but it’s nowhere near as bad as he says; my take on it next week.

 

geometry1

Geometry 2

Blackpaint

14.06.15

Blackpaint 489 – Slagging Tate Britain, Rain in Hong Kong and Rioters on the Roof

April 4, 2015

Penelope Curtis Leaves Tate Britain

I’ve been rather taken aback at the vehemence with which the Guardian critics, Jones or Searle or both, have attacked the regime of this person at TB; you would think the place was devoid of visitors, who have taken their business elsewhere, alienated by a succession of misconceived, dull or just plain bad exhibitions.  In fact, it’s always busy, thronged with school parties, parents with buggies and kids called Oliver and Rosie, and old gits in jeans with white hair and day bags (like me). Like most visitors, no doubt, I’d never heard of Penelope Curtis – I love Tate Britain, however, and much prefer the light, white galleries to the stuffiness of the Royal Academy and the gloom of the V&A.  I sort of resent the slagging off that the critics feel entitled to dish out; I hope no-one takes any notice of it.

Recent good or great things at Tate Britain – Deller’s Folk Art; the Turner exhibition; the Paolozzi and Henderson stuff; the fabulous Auerbachs of the Freud bequest; the Phyllida Barlow thing in the main hall; the Frank Bowling pictures; the life drawings in the Archive Room; the permanent collection, of course.  I think the Sculpture Victorious exhibition is interesting and funny, although not necessarily stuffed with great art.  I suppose a punter is satisfied if there’s something good to look at – s/he is not always worried if the focus isn’t sharp enough, or it’s got too much or too little stuff in it, etc., etc….

auerbach

 

barlow2

Salt and Silver, Tate Britain

Early photos, on now.  In the architectural ones and some of the landscapes, a little figure present, presumably for scale or maybe it wasn’t a proper picture without a human presence.  By 1860s, that seemed to have changed.  I was surprised to see an Indian rowing team, apparently about to plunge  their oars simultaneously into the water; I thought you needed a long exposure.  Then it was pointed out to me that the surface of the water was unbroken – they must have been frozen in the pose.  Some treasures here – but rather a lot of buildings and ruins…

salt and silver

 

Nick Waplington and Alexander McQueen,  Working Process, Tate Britain

Third TB exhibition; the fashions are extreme and interesting – some of the dresses recall Dubuffet – but for me, the real interest lies in Waplington’s huge, sharply focused rubbish photographs (i.e. photos of rubbish).  From the distance of the next room, they look to me just like de Koonings;  go and see.

I’m in the Mood for Love, Wong Kar -wai

The real interest of this hypnotic film is threefold:  first, the seemingly endless series of high necked dresses Maggie Cheung wears – I think she only wears one twice; second, the torrential rain storms that beat down on the dark alleys; third, and most important, the haunting theme tune.

in the mood for love

Strangeways: Britain’s Toughest Prison Riot (BBC2)

There was some fascinating film here of the rioting prisoners on the smashed up roof, wearing balaclavas, captured prison officers’ caps and various pieces of fancy dress, dancing to a loudspeaker and waving wooden clubs at the helicopter buzzing them: the footage reminded me of film of the miners’ strike (no, I’m not equating the miners with the prisoners, neither with regard to the cause or the behaviour – just the carnival atmosphere and the defiance).  There were chilling accounts from one of the prisoners of assaults and near-murders of sex offenders, who were dragged from their cells and injuries inflicted on guards with scaffold poles and slates hurled from the roof.

It was instructive to hear from the reforming governor of the prison, Brendan O’Friel, who seemed an enlightened soul (he introduced women prison officers to the Strangeways, stopped the officers wearing racist golliwog badges and actually spoke to the prisoners informally on occasion).  He recognised the acute problem of overcrowding in the prison; yet when the riot broke out and the occupation of the prison by the rioters became prolonged – I think it lasted 25 days – he seemed to lose his liberal attitude; he described it as “pure evil”.  This sounds a bit extreme to me, in the era of Islamic State and al-Shabaab and Boko Haram…

John Renbourn

Hero 60s guitarist, up there with Davy and Bert and Roy Harper.  I have a tape somewhere of him backing Doris Henderson on TV, doing “the Leaves that are Green”  – trouble is, I haven’t got a tape recorder any more.  RIP.

Albert Irvin

One of the greatest, and an untimely death – he was only in his early 90s.

irvin empress

One of mine, to finish:

burnt norton

Burnt Norton

Blackpaint

4.04.15

Blackpaint 396 – Mummy Goes to the Tate

May 30, 2013

Tate Rehang

A couple of dozy errors last week – obviously getting old.  first, Gainsborough.  I said there was a picture by G that looked just like a Hogarth, and nothing like the feathery, impressionistic portraits that characterise Gainsborough.  But of course, G did “Mr and Mrs Andrews”, which is similar in style to the family group in the Tate, and which I’d forgotten about.  So, Gainsborough changed his style between 1750 and 1780; not very earth-shattering.

And Fiona Rae – I wrongly located her next to Frank Bowling and opposite the Anthony Caro red metal sculpture.  She’s actually in a different room, opposite Peter Doig. It’s Peter Blake’s portrait of David Hockney with coloured balloons that is near the Bowling.  So what? you ask – well, the room with the Caro, Bowling and Blake is by far the most attractive room in the whole Gallery when viewed as a whole from the archway at the end; and I said as much last week.

Rose Wylie

There is a whole room full of Wylie’s huge, rough, cartoon-y paintings, reminiscent (a bit) of Guston and cartoonist Barry Fantoni; they look like they are done on board or cardboard by a punky youngster – Wylie is 77 years old, a trained artist and ex-lecturer.  I like them, especially her Nazi generals (see below), a painting inspired by the Tarantino film “Inglorious Basterds”.

wylie

Why are they there, though?  There seems no obvious reason why her pictures should get a room in the Tate rather than any other artist – apart from the fact that, being huge, they look good.  Maybe the answer lies in Germaine Greer’s support.  In 2010, she wrote a big puff for Wylie in the Guardian, pointing out that she had deferred her painting until her children were raised, Greer had bought a couple of her pictures and that there were others available.

Greer began her article by saying that in Wylie’s house, there were two working artists.  She then wrote exclusively about Wylie, not naming Roy Oxlade, Wylie’s husband.  Why say there were two artists, then write about only one?  Pathetic.

Mummy

At Tate Britain, with my 90 year old mother-in-law, ex- 1st violinist with Amsterdam Philharmonic and Liverpool Philharmonic, bit deaf but as sharp as a razor – addressed by the attendant as “Mummy”… “Shall I get Mummy a wheelchair?”  Thank goodness she didn’t hear him.  I suppose he was being kind, but still…

James Salter

Reading three Salters at once; “Light Years” and “Burning the Days” I’ve read before.  I’m interested to find that the new book, “All That Is”,  is actually an easier read than the first two, despite the fact that Salter is now 87 years old; maybe he’s more interested in getting the story told now, than in coming up with surprising and original metaphors.  All three are beautifully written, though.  I read a short story by him in the Saturday Telegraph Review – about a long affair and its end.  Only two pages long. but halfway through, Salter states that the woman let her lover whip her once.  Why?  Seems odd just to bung a whipping in gratuitously….  Maybe it went on more in Salter’s younger days….

Dan In Real Life

This Steve Carell/ Juliette Binoche vehicle on TV the other night; one of those US films, usually set in New England (this one’s Rhode Island), where there’s a huge. talented, odd, kind, musical/theatrical/literary family, all living with their precocious kids in a huge, rambling, ramshackle mansion, bitter-sweet, working out issues, playing games, being lovingly eccentric.. I hate them with a burning hatred and blame John Irving of “Garp”, if he founded the genre, as I think he did.  Mind you, sounds a bit like Dickens, when you think about it.

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Headlong

Blackpaint

30.05.13

Blackpaint 353 – Diana, Fidelio and the Long Shot

August 2, 2012

Titian et al at the National Gallery

The first striking thing in the exhibition is in the Callisto painting, the one on the far left as you enter.  It’s the massive right arm of the nymph in the foreground, with her back to us – the one who holds the equally large arrow.  The right arm is worthy of a shotputter and is out of proportion, but in a good, Michelangelo’s David sort of way (also substantially meaty are the arms of the goddess herself, as she fires the arrow at Actaeon in the “brown” picture).

In the centre of the Callisto painting is a glass object – an orb, globe or mirror – painted with the icy clarity of a Kalf still life.  It sets off the slightly misty “seethingness” of Titian’s surface seen close up.  In the autumnal tones of the painting depicting Actaeon’s death, the blurring is obvious, but can only be seen close up in the others.

In the painting where Actaeon surprises Diana, her small head and the odd angle at which it sits on her neck are, as always, striking; as with the arm, I point out distinctive, peculiar features which help make the pictures memorable for me.

Chris Ofili

There is a series of huge paintings which he calls the Ovid works.  Several display that Art Nouveau, Beardsley – like line he used in the paintings in his last exhibition and that dry, thin surface with the dark blue/mauve ground.  An enormous, light blue phallus in one – “Ovid; lust”, I think and a striking floor of red and white irregular “tiles” in another.

Conrad Shawcross

The Shawcross robot, smoothly running, with echoes of Epstein’s Rock Drill in its general appearance;  while I was there, its movements resembled those of a dog sniffing its crotch with the light probe.  For this reason, I took it to represent one of Actaeon’s hounds, but have since heard that it is supposed to be Diana herself.

There are also ballet costumes by several of the artists and a huge video of beautiful dancers and the directors rehearsing the ballets.  And all free.

Albert Irvin; Fidelio

At Gimpel Fils in Davies Street W1 until September.  Twenty six paintings, I think, that are great.  A couple of years ago, I saw my first Albert Irvin at the top of the stairs in the Tate Britain and it left me completely unmoved.  I thought it was boring; flat and brash, at the same time. Don’t know what happened – the “scales fell from my eyes” (where does that come from?) and now he’s my favourite living abstract painter, with Paul Feiler.

The “usual” fluorescent reds, greens, yellows, motifs that resemble flowers, crosses, pinnate leaves, stripes, squiggles, badges, circles – but amonst them, four stupendous paintings: “Rampart”, a tidal wave of wine or blood in a fluid block (?), “Brady”, yellow base with huge half-circle of green, covering left side; “Beacon”, with the grey/mauve ground and yellow-white cross hatchings like a cake – tiramisu maybe – spatched down on top; and “Trophy”, luminous green and red patches with a huge blue keyhole shape painted on it, for us to see through.

The first three are old – 76, 86 and 94 respectively – but “Trophy” is dated this year and all the rest are 2011 or 2012.  He’s 90 years old; not much development, but pretty consistent.

It strikes me that you could group him with Hoyland, Bowling, Paul Jenkins and maybe Richter (the abstracts anyway) in that they don’t use earth colours much or at all – their colours are airborne and sizzling.

More Irvin at Kings’ place until 24th August.

The Passenger, Antonioni

Watched the last, long shot through the barred window three times and couldn’t see the assassin or make out a shot.  Finally, watched it with Jack Nicholson’s commentary over the top; he points out – or at least, asks the question – “Was that a shot?”  At some point, the camera goes through the bars and turns round to follow the women and police into the dead man’s room.

Blackpaint

2/08/12

Blackpaint 349 – Malevich, Stalin and Fred and Ginger again

July 6, 2012

Sorry, a day late publishing, owing to basic idleness.

Frank Bowling

Good to see an article in the Guardian on Bowling’s poured paintings at the Tate Britain.  I knew him only by the single flag painting in the “Migrations” exhibition, which is not at all typical of his work.  He tends more to a sort of abstract Expressionism and uses colours that remind me of John Hoyland – although he doesn’t mention knowing Hoyland; Hockney was one of his art school contemporaries.  I’m going to see the Tate thing again tomorrow.

Paul Jenkins

My Australian blogger/painter friend Paintlater posted an item about this US AbEx artist, again unknown to me, who has just died.  Fantastic, large canvases with swathes of paint unfurling across them, guided with a knife apparently.  A little like Morris Louis – the paint looks as if it has been hurled but it doesn’t spatter – a bit like huge silk scarves, although not in the one below, which is untypical, but nice.

Malevich

Been reading Boris Groys’ book “The Total Art of Stalinism”, which is a reading of the the Russian avant garde and it’s relationship with the Stalinist state and Socialist Realism.  Malevich’s famous Black Square of 1923 was, according to Groys, a “Ground Zero”, painted by M as a sort of barrier of nothingness designed to put an end to further proliferation of art movements in Russia, enabling the mobilisation of artists for the construction of a real, unitary “work of art” – the socialist state itself.  Groys sees this as the self-imposed task of the Russian avant garde.

Unfortunately for the AG, their formalism was not seen as useful by either Lenin or Stalin, who disengaged with the AG in favour of the proponents of Socialist Realism – which was handier for propaganda purposes.

I’d always thought of the Russian avant garde as vaguely libertarian and radical; radical they were -but libertarian, no.  Totalitarian, more like.

Groys’ book is about Soviet Russia (published in 1987), so it largely ignores the similarities (and differences) between Socialist Realism and Nazi and Fascist art.  An interesting book to be written there – no doubt, it already has been.

 

Critics

Barnett Newman famously said that the relationship of critics to artists was like that of ornithologists to the birds – the birds do, the ornis watch and interpret.

Seems to me that this is right – artists (Bacon, Pollock, de Kooning)are great on the processes of production but are often vague and reluctant to analyse deeply what they do – in case the magic goes away, presumably.  I think its for the artist to do and the critic to analyse; its a pity that some of the critics insist on mystifying the work by “reading” it in an arcane vocabulary that is spoken only by other critics.

Fred and Ginger

“Swingtime” has got to be the best; “Pick Yourself Up” is just an unbelievable joy, when Fred does that saunter – sudden kick thing, and later swings Ginger over the barrier.  But then there is “Never Gonna Dance”, a perfect little ballet quoting all the previous numbers.  Ginger’s back in that dress is the third great back in art history; Veronese’s “Unfaithfulness”, Kitaj’s wonderful drawing are the other two (see previous Blackpaints).

Some old ones to end-

 

Blackpaint

06.07.12