Posts Tagged ‘Frank Phelan’

Blackpaint 474 – Kiefer, Hambling and Balke: walls of mud and water

December 21, 2014

Anselm Kiefer, Over Your Cities Grass Will Grow

I watched this DVD in disbelief; every artwork, every scene – it was permeated with images that to me were about the Third Reich and yet, they seemed to him to be about other things entirely.  As the artist, I suppose his own ideas have some claim to privilege here; I’ve written about this before in relation to Kiefer and other German artists and also Balka, the Polish artist.  Their recent catastrophic history tends to colour interpretation of their work, regardless of the artist’s intention.  Here, though – his colours are mostly earth colours, mud, brown, grey, black; he has excavated tunnels and pits, underground passages like torture chambers; the pits are like graves, containing sometimes, stiffened and smeared articles of clothing; he burns books; there’s razor wire, great sheets of broken glass, wreckage; in one shot, he prods at a great fire with a long iron bar, looking just like those photos taken secretly of the sonderkommando in Auschwitz, burning bodies in 1944.

Kiefer, however, maintains that the works relate to alchemical processes and the mysteries of the universe to be read in the stars, the transmutation of materials, legends like that of Lilith – nothing relating to the camps and the holocaust.  Since he HAS dealt explicitly with these topics – notably in his pieces relating to the poems of Paul Celan – his word must be respected; interesting though, that this process of dual meaning can unfold.  Or perhaps it’s commonplace…

In the final shots of his abandoned, wobbly towers returning to “Nature”, I saw the ruins of bombed German cities.

kiefer cities

 The Missing, BBC1

In the closing episode of this serial, it seemed to me that James Nesbit was transforming into the George Clooney of “Oh Brother, Where Art Thou?”; when he popped up at the end in a snowbound Russian town wearing a heavy beard and staring eyes, the transformation was somehow complete – even though Clooney had no beard.

Actually, this week I’ve had this experience several times – on TOTP2 (BBC4) the other night, the Mick Jagger of the late 60s was turning into George Melly… and Kennedy on PBS was becoming FDR…

Maggi Hambling’s  Walls of Water

There are eight large paintings in the National Gallery under this title, black, white and grey with shreds and streamers of bright colour intertwined; they do indeed represent walls of water (except for one to dedicated to Amy Winehouse. that I presume represents her in some spiritual way).  I have to say that I was disappointed; the “water” didn’t look solid enough to be a wall, nor was it dark enough to be ocean.  More like exploding shower water, in fact.  Pity, because they looked impressive in the paper.

maggi hambling

See what I mean – looks great in a photo, doesn’t it?

Peder Balke

The Hambling is free, and so is the exhibition of this Norwegian painter’s work, from the 1850s; his most impressive sea- and landscapes are virtually monochrome – massive mountains looming up from sea mist, thunder black and blue skies, lonely forts on headlands, the massive blocks of the North Cape, painted from the same viewpoint in different (but not very different) weathers.  Some, like the one below, are really impressive, even allowing for the solid, rather plastic-looking rollers coming in.

Also impressive are the little pc sized ones that look like old sepia photos.  It’s when he’s got hold of some colour that everything goes to pot – the coloured ones look like bad Caspar David Friedrich, or maybe the woods in the old Rupert annuals of the 40s and 50s.

Balke

 

Messums Gallery, Cork Street

While at the Frank Phelan exhibition (see last blog), I came upon this still life by William Brooker.  Seen it before at an art fair; I think it’s brilliant, reminds me somewhat of Uglow.

Brooker

 

And finally, at the National Portrait Gallery, this painting by William Nicholson, of Max Beerbohm;

NPG 3850; Sir Max Beerbohm by Sir William Newzam Prior Nicholson

 

tromso

 Islares,

Blackpaint 21.12.14

 

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Blackpaint 473 – Big Babies, the Seven Dwarves and Dead Generals in Berlin

December 15, 2014

Gemaldegalerie, Berlin

This place is absolutely packed with masterpieces; it’s nearly as good as the National Gallery (but not quite).  About 5 or 6 Botticellis, including the following Virgin and Child with two saints – look at the grossly enormous baby; his head’s as big as her’s.  There’s another , Mary with Child and Singing Angels, with the most beautiful Mary, face outlined with a thin dark outline, like the Veroneses in the NG.  Couldn’t find a decent picture on line – it’s a tondo.

BotticelliVirginEnthronedx1Whole

 

Then there’s the Last Supper below – By the Master of the Housebook(?).  Jesus entertaining the Seven Dwarves – or rather nine.  Not sure who the two big ones are, nor what’s going on with the disciple on his lap.

 

dwarves last supper

 

A great Veneziano, Adoration of the Kings, featuring a huge white horse’s arse resembling a face…

veneziano germany

 

 

This great hairy Mary; can’t find the painter.

long-haired madonna

 

And so on, down through the centuries, to about 1800; Canaletto, Rembrandt, Rubens, Gainsborough.. no doubt I’ll be revisiting.

Alte Nationalgalerie

This is on Museum Island, in the old East Germany; massive classical building, beady-eyed, beetle-browed and suited old attendants, always behind you.  A roomful of Caspar David Friedrichs – becalmed ship, moon over forest, mountain with snow, solitary leafless, limbless tree, etc., etc. – usual Friedrich thing.  A clutch of Bocklins, including one of the Isles of the Dead, of course; a bunch of Liebermanns, some Corinths, and a host of really dark, depressing German rural scenes, peasants, cottages, landscapes…

There are several nice (because unfinished, partly) portraits, for instance the one of Mommsen below by von Lenbach.

mommsen

 

The artist who has more pictures featured than anyone else is Adolph Menzel.  All sorts of pictures – military ceremonies, concerts, troop reviews, interiors, portraits, landscapes, woodland – some are vast, the historical ones of course, some tiny.  There are some amazing horses’ heads from some very strange angles.

The most interesting pictures were his drawings of dead generals lying in state and of dead soldiers, following battles in the Prussian wars of the 1860s & 70s; definitely forerunners of Dix, although strangely, it’s the faces of the generals, faces fallen in, caves for eyes, that remind one of Dix, rather than the battlefield casualties (see below).

 

menzel2

 

menzel3

 

There are several French Impressionist and Post-Impressionist paintings – Degas, Renoir, Cezanne – and it is immediately noticeable how the tone and the colour lightens; light seems to flood in.  The influence of the Med, maybe and the absence of enormous fir forests…

Some interesting pictures on the ground floor: a Courbet seascape, great, rolling cabbagy waves; a dark Goya, The Maypole; a lovely grey Constable; and  a couple of really unusual Beckmanns – one, “The Death Scene”, I think, similar to  Munch, with the paint “patted” on.  Also an even stranger de Chirico, nothing like his more well-known work.

Enough Berlin for now; Bauhaus Museum still to come, but I’ll leave that until next time.

Frank Phelan, Messums Gallery, Cork Street

New to me, a St.Ives painter I believe, though born in Dublin; I think his pictures are great.

phelan

 July Heat, Frank Phelan

 

 

And one of mine, to end with-

slink away

 

Slink Away

Blackpaint, 15.12.2014