Posts Tagged ‘Giacometti’

Blackpaint 597 – Striders and Chariots and Modern Art in Madrid

May 22, 2017

Giacometti at Tate Modern

Well I know he’s great and the creator of unmistakeable, iconic figures that define stillness and movement and contain both humour and pathos – but he is a little repetitive.  You say that the repetition is a mark  of his obsessive drive to attain the unattainable,  a heroic, almost tragic striving for perfection…but he is a little same-y.  Maybe I’ve seen too much Giacometti (NPG a while back, Sainsbury Centre in Norwich more recently); but this is a big exhibition with lots of rooms.  Maybe it’s the breathless hero-worship he seems to inspire in the women art lovers of my generation, that I suspect has as much to do with the brooding, rugged, Italian peasant features as the art.

Anyway, the good things:

  • The dancing, or falling figure on the posters.

  • The Chariot figure on wheels.
  • The flint axe-head sculptures, cut off below the shoulders, several of which, to me, seem to resemble the Duke of Edinburgh, Her Majesty the Queen,  Princess Margaret and Charles de Gaulle.

  • The pictures on board or canvas that he has blackened so that they resemble sheets of lead, from which the even darker features of his sitters loom; a change from his usual ochre, orange, grey and black, with thin, ink-like lines.
  • The outsize figures, including the strider in the last room (a ringer for Prince Phillip, if he’d had his hands behind his back); a welcome change from the usual size.  It’s a good exhibition, essential probably, so don’t be put off by my jaded comments.

 

Reina Sofia Museum (of 20th Century Art), Madrid

I’ve just spent four days in Madrid, three of them in art museums, so pretty much enough for three blogs.  The first of these we entered at 4.00pm, “fresh” off the plane – and emerged at closing time, 9.00pm, hungry and dehydrated.  Not because we couldn’t find the exit, but because there was so much excellent art to see.  I’m just going to put up our photos with, here and there, my perceptive and witty comments to add to your visual enjoyment.

Schwitters

Behind glass, so my partner’s form can be made out in the centre, taking the photo and enhancing the quality of the artwork.

Ortiz

Lovely little cubist picture.

Oscar Dominguez

He of Decalcomania fame – lots of Dominguez in this museum.

 

Another Dominguez – The Thrower.

It’s rather hard to make out, but it’s a legless, headless and handless black torso, with a thick shard of glass chopping into it at the top.  Compare these two little assemblages as Surrealist images with the Dali painting below:

Dali, The Invisible Man

It seems to me that the Dominguez pieces express in each case a clear idea, or at most a couple of ideas, succinctly, rather as Magritte does.  They are surrealistic, that is to say contradictory or paradoxical (to be “properly” Surrealist, I think they should also be dreamlike – not sure they are); but they also have clarity.  That, I think, is not the case with the Dali, despite the facility of depiction and the multiple images detract from the painting.   Then again, I don’t like Dali – but then, I’m not that keen on Magritte either, so moving on –

Picasso – no comment necessary.

Picasso again – just to point out the roughness (or texture, or painterliness) of the grey, orange and red areas in the lower picture; unusual, I think, in Picasso’s work and  the better for it – not that the untextured stuff isn’t stupendous…

 

Angeles Santos, The Gathering (1929)

There were several paintings by Santos and another painter, whose name escapes me, f.rom the 20s and 30s, in this style – I include them because they remind me rather strongly of Paula Rego’s work (although I much prefer Rego’s execution).

And then, a roomful of CoBrA stuff, to my surprise:

 

Corneille – I like the yellow with the red line.

Appel, Figures

And then,  rooms of abstract expressionism, Tachisme and pop Art:

Yves Klein, his version of Nike

Tapies, Blue with four Red Bars.  Does what it says on the can.

 

Guerrero – It’s a (huge) matchbook with a few missing.

There’s a lot more to see (Bruce Connor, Bay Area and LA artist, and the making of “Guernica” – both special exhibitions, so NO PHOTO, por favor!) so you’ll need to go to Madrid forthwith.  Next time, the Prado.

Here are a couple of mine:

Seated Back, pastel blue

 

Seated Front, pastel green

Blackpaint

21/05/17

 

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Blackpaint 565 – Giacometti at UEA, Redford, Boris and Eating Livers

August 11, 2016

Giacometti et al at Sainsbury Centre, (UEA, outside Norwich)

Great exhibition, if you like Giacometti; it strikes me that some people, especially women,  have a sort of religious regard for him – I think it might be that craggy, handsome face, bit like Michelangelo but apparently heterosexual.  And he’s sort of Italian…

 

giac1

There’s no denying the appeal of his “strider”; see the great Cartier-Bresson photo of G striding past his strider sculpture.

giac2

Great self portrait, before the marks and lines of age made him craggy/distinguished; the older G always reminds me of the late British/Austrian blues populiser Alexis Korner.

giac3

I love this sculpture of his brother in a thick sweater, BUT…

 

giac4

..I have a bit of a blind spot about his drawing – I think it’s insipid.  Anyway, it’s well worth a visit, accompanied as it is  by a number of comparable sculptures by the likes of William Turnbull, Kenneth Armitage, Lynn Chadwick, Bernard Meadows and others.  There are also several paintings by Isabel Rawsthorne, famous for Bacon’s pictures of her.  Also see the fabulous Picasso naked woman and the Soutine Blue portrait in the permanent collection upstairs.

Jeremiah Johnson (Dir. Sidney Pollack, 1972)

Finally saw this film the other night on TV and was most impressed.  Surely the director of “The Revenant” must have been familiar with it; there are  many parallels in the stories, both based on fact, allegedly.  And the scene where Johnson (Robert Redford) discovers the frozen corpse of Hatchet Jack and takes his Hawken gun – it’s Jack Nicholson, frozen to death in the maze at the end of “The Shining”.

Below, some lookalikes:

 

jonson

Redford as Johnson.

Tube strike...Mayor of London Boris Johnson and commuters cross the Victoria Embankment, in central London, as a 48 hour strike by the RMT union causes widespread disruption to the London Underground. PRESS ASSOCIATION Photo. Picture date: Wednesday June 10, 2009. The 48 hour strike started at 7pm last night after last-ditch talks over pay, jobs and disciplinary issues, broke down. See PA story INDUSTRY Tube. Photo credit should read: Dominic Lipinski /PA Wire

Johnson as Johnson – a strong resemblance, surely?

Finally-

liver_eating_johnson450

The real Johnson – known as Liver Eating Johnson, because of his unsavoury treatment of the Crow tribesmen who attempted to kill him- obligingly, one at a tine, as someone in the film remarks.

The Guardian:  “Labour in Turmoil…”

Said I would avoid politics, but I have to comment on the Guardian’s article today, about Tom Watson’s spurious accusations of Trotskyist entryism in the Labour Party.  That “Labour in turmoil” tag – typical Mail or Telegraph.  Labour is ALWAYS in turmoil.  The Guardian’s just the Sun for snobs.

A Study in Scarlet. Conan Doyle

Since I’ve been told that those, like me, who voted for Brexit, read books mainly for the stories, I thought I’d better put Proust and Finnegans Wake to one side for the time being and read a rattling good narrative.  And so the above is.  I was fascinated to discover that Holmes by no means knows everything – Watson tells us that he knows nothing about fictional literature, little about politics, little about botany other than poisonous plants – in fact, his knowledge is purposely patchy.  He believes that when you learn one fact, it pushes another out, so you must be careful about what you learn.   This, I’m informed, is also the Homer Simpson theory of knowledge…

I’ve finally finished a painting, and this is it:

I Mailed it in the Air 2

I Mailed it in the Air 2

Blackpaint

12.08.16

 

Blackpaint 526 – the Inevitable (yawn…) Review of the Year

December 31, 2015

Best Exhibitions

auerbach eow on bed

Auerbach, Tate Britain

pollock no14 1951

Pollock, Tate Liverpool

bacon figures in a landscape

Bacon, Sainsbury Centre

 

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 Exhibition, Tate Britain

 

goya mirth

Goya, Courtauld

dumas helene

Dumas, Tate Modern

diebenkorn seated woman

Diebenkorn, RA

sargent children

Singer Sargent, NPG

hoyland2

Hoyland, Damien Hirst’s Newport Street Gallery

Wreck 1963 by Peter Lanyon 1918-1964

Lanyon, Courtauld

 

Actually a fantastic year in London; all the shows and books and DVDs below have been reviewed in previous Blackpaints, so you can see a proper evaluation – sort of – if you’re interested…

  • abstract geometry following on from Malevich at the Whitechapel with Adventures of the Black Square;
  • Marlene Dumas’ haunting and unsettling portraits and masks and nudes at TM;
  • Barbara Hepworth at TB (rather worthy, but some lovely little torsos from her and her contemporaries – maybe I’ve been to St.Ives too many times);
  • beautiful, modulating colours and shapes from Sonia Delaunay at TM;
  • Singer Sargent at the National Portrait Gallery – one delight after another, throughout;
  • Goya drawings and etchings of witches, penitents, “lunatics” and other unfortunates at the Courtauld (missed the National Gallery Goya, I’m afraid);
  • Giacometti, NPG – good but not THAT good..
  • Alexander Calder, TM – also GBNTG.

But the best:

  • Diebenkorn at the RA;
  • Rubens at the same time, same venue;
  • Frank Auerbach at TB;
  • Marlene Dumas;
  • Bacon and the Masters at Sainsbury Centre, UEA;
  • Singer Sargent;
  • Lanyon at the Courtauld;
  • Pollock at Tate Liverpool;
  • John Hoyland at Hirst’s new gallery near Vauxhall.

 

Best Films

No contest here; Jodorowsky’s Dance of Reality.  Violence, murder, suicide, live burial, plague, the Golden Shower, torture, operatic singing, more masks, Stalinism and nazism – all in the best possible taste and with an uplifting message.  And some wonderful scenery.

jodorowsky

Abel Ferrara’s Pasolini.  William Dafoe is great in the role; the sex is startlingly spectacular; mix of fantasy and reality – and a soundtrack including Tony Jo White of Polk Salad Annie fame (ask your grandparents).

Disappointing, given the hype:

Carol – woman -on- woman love story.  Good acting, good period feel, otherwise conventional.

Star Wars; the Force Awakens – Good action film, with a bit of nostalgia.  Found my attention slipping now and then (as in Carol); realised (I knew, of course, but didn’t know it in my bones) that criticism on TV and in papers is just part of the publicity machine.  They’re all for sale, from the Guardian to the Sun and beyond.

And the worst:

German’s Hard to be a God.

It is as if he deliberately set out to make it impossible to understand, or even to watch; its all too close – you can’t get any perspective.

 

Best DVDs /TV

Wild Tales – portmanteau mayhem in Argentina.

All is Lost – Robert Redford, convincingly against the elements.

One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest – Jack Nicholson against Louise Fletcher.

chief

The Swimmer– Burt Lancaster swims home across Cheeverland.

 

Best Books Read – poetry first

Gil Scott-Heron -Then and Now.  The words are great, even without the music.   What’s the word?

John Cooper Clarke – Ten Years in an Open Necked Shirt.  Evidently Chicken Town and Beasley Street – no more to be said.

Ted Hughes- Collected Poetry.  As Alan Bennett says, he’s not strong on humour, but the imagery is gritty and muscular and totally original.  Who is stronger?  Hughes, evidently…

Gaudete – also by Hughes.  His verse novel about the vicar from hell who visits vigorously all the women of his parish to found his new religion – and the efforts of the shotgun-owning menfolk to curb his enthusiasm…

 

Non – Fiction

Clothes Clothes Clothes, Music Music Music, Boys Boys Boys –  Viv Albertine.  great book – I couldn’t put it down.  Awful title, impossible to remember the right order.

Just Kids –  Patti Smith about her and Robert Mapplethorpe.  Surprisingly restrained and almost Victorian prose at times.  By the way, lovely exhibition of Mapplethorpe, featuring photos and film of the young Patti at Kiasma, Helsinki.

patti2

 

Fiction

Raymond Carver, Collected Stories – he just wipes everyone but Cheever off the map.

John Cheever, Collected Stories.  Torch Song, the Duchess, the Little Red Moving Van, The Country Husband, The Swimmer… no, Cheever’s the best.  Unless Carver is…

House of Leaves, Mark Danielewski – a sort of horror story, pretentious, experimental in form.

Shark, Will Self – pretentious and experimental in form and language.

Finders Keepers, Stephen King – the absolute master of plot and narrative drive; once you start any SK story you will finish it, unless you die first.

 

And the worst;

The Enormous Room, e e cummings – the archness of the language is unbelievable; a prison novel set in WWI, which is, so far,  a series of “comic” character sketches.  It’s driving me mad and I may give up on it.  The Penguin Modern Classic cover is a great Paul Klee, though…

 

And My Best of 2015

heaven only knows 2

Heaven Only Knows II

 

pellet1

A Pellet falls from Outer Space

Blackpaint

31.12.15

Happy New Year to all readers for whom it is New Year.

Blackpaint 521- Mediating Between Nothingness and Being; Calder and Giacometti

November 23, 2015

Alexander Calder, Performing Sculpture,  Tate Modern

This is one of those exhibitions that you go round with a smile on your face; probably childhood associations with mobiles or, if you’re a mature adult like me, with kites and novelty items on top of the TV.  His portraits are staggeringly good, done as they are with a few lengths of wire; if you go underneath them and look up, you can see how well they work, even from below.  I loved the fish in the wire tank, too.

calder1

Some of the works were like models of Picabia dream machines (although none of them seemed to be working when we were there;  the aerial mobiles, assembled from wire and coloured metal discs, reminded me of Chinese dragon creatures, lobsters and, oddly, of tapeworms – the segmented bodies, I suppose.  Reminders of Picasso everywhere, of course.

Antennae with Red and Blue Dots 1960 Alexander Calder 1898-1976 Purchased 1962 http://www.tate.org.uk/art/work/T00541

It’s a pleasing exhibition, but ultimately lightweight (sorry); I think Calder’s work is better seen with the work of his contemporaries, to add variety – but then, you could say that for rather a lot of artists.

Giacometti, Pure Presence, National Portrait Gallery

Rather a small exhibition to weigh in at sixteen quid odd, I thought ; we had a two-for-one from Cass Arts that eased the pain.

The title comes from something Sartre wrote; it refers to Giacometti’s practice of putting the subject right in the middle of his drawings and keeping any background confined to  a few sketchy lines, a chair or door, say, floating and fading in a corner.

giacometti1

Sartre also describes Giacometti as constantly “mediating between nothingness and being”.  Not sure what he means by this; it could apply to just about any artist.  I suppose it’s something to do with this faintness of background – and with the sculptures, the rough,  finger-and thumb-worked nature of the clay from which the perfect little heads and faces emerge.  They were kneaded into being, Sartre is saying (maybe): they could just as easily be kneaded out of being.

giacometti2

There is a film from 1967 of Giacometti working, with a commentary by David Sylvester.  Sylvester observes that, in the sculptures,  his women are all motionless, standing straight-legged (where they have legs) bolt upright, receiving the gaze of the sculptor and returning it impassively.  The men, however, like Giacometti himself, are “striving” – perhaps he said “striding” – restlessly.  This can’t be observed in the current exhibition, however, since only one sculpture, I think, has legs; it’s a woman, in that characteristic “one-legged” stance.

The paintings, all in that muddy ochre/grey/black/orange palette, are really drawings; thin, whippy, B&W lines delineate the figures and faces, which often have a grey-black “wash” across them.  Sylvester says that many of the sculptural portraits seem to resemble Giacometti himself; other lookalikes for me are General de Gaulle and the Queen, when she was young.

Here’s the sacrilege: I thought this exhibition was also lightweight.  The drawings looked tricksy somehow, and I missed the striders and the bigger sculptures  (I suppose because this IS the NPG, and the striders aren’t portraits).  Seen Giacometti displayed much better in,say, Louisiana near Copenhagen.

24 Hour Party People, Michael Winterbottom (2002)

Watched this brilliant film in which Steve Coogan plays Tony Wilson, the Manchester – based impresario, except that “impresario” isn’t at all the right word…club owner, record producer, visionary, idealist, loser –  the Manchester -based Tony Wilson is the best description, maybe.  Is it really true that Ian Curtis hanged himself while Werner Herzog’s “Strozzeck” was on the telly and, if so, was there some connection between the two events?

falling man

Falling Man

 

black surround

Black Work in Progress

Blackpaint

23.11.15

 

 

Blackpaint 263

March 25, 2011

Burning Backs

In “A Prophet”, the ghost of the Arab that Malik is forced to kill has a burning back in a dream sequence – and in “Shutters Island”, the ghost of deCaprio’s wife has a burning back – in a dream sequence.

Neither of these facts mean much, except, perhaps, an interesting case of convergent imagery – but they do bring me quite nicely to surrealism.

Surrealists

I used really to love surrealism, but now find the pictures rather boring, for the most part.  I think the problem is the lack of painterly qualities inherent, or required by the concept. There are no surfaces; since the purpose is to explore and exploit the subconscious, the skills required are those of the imaginative illustrator.  The juxtaposition of unlikely objects demands the ability to depict those objects as clearly as possible – hence, the realism in surrealism.  With a few exceptions, the attraction of the paintings and objects rests in the mystery and atmosphere created by the images – the empty, night-time squares and porticos of de Chirico, the nudes on escalators of Delvaux – not in the qualities of the painting itself. The exceptions that occur to me are Gorky, Matta, Lam, Tanguy and Dominguez in Decalcomania mode.  You could make a case that the first three are hardly surrealists at all.  What about Miro and Picasso?  They passed through the movement on their way elsewhere.  Dali?  Staggering draughtsman, fantastic, memorable images but fits the above description, surely.

Anyway, for interest’s sake, my top ten surrealist pictures (or objects) in order of preference:

1.  Joan Miro – Person Throwing a Stone at a Bird (1926).  The one with the blobby figure, huge foot and line showing stone’s flight.  I’m not even sure it’s surreal – but it’s a great image.

2.  Max Ernst – Two Children are Threatened by a Nightingale (1924).  Tiny construction, man fleeing across a chalet roof – dreamlike, touch of menace.

3.  Man Ray – Gift  (1921).  The iron with the nails on the bottom.  Simple, elegant, funny, dripping with irony.

4.  Meret Oppenheim – the furry cup, saucer and spoon (1936).  As per Man Ray.

5.  Giacometti – The Palace at 4.00am.  Like a birdcage – there is a bird in the top section.  I love the title; I always get it confused with the Max Ernst Nightingale.

6.  Toyen – Silken Feasts (1962).  There’s a lot of sex and fetishism in surrealism, of course, since it deals with the subconscious (see Bunuel and footwear); this is one of the sexiest and most fetishistic works.

7.  Richard Oelze – Expectation (1936).  A crowd in 30s hats and raincoats stare at gathering black clouds across heathland – waiting.  I’ve not heard of him other than this, but I found, when I thought of doing this, that this picture sprang to mind before any other.

8.  Paul Delvaux – The Iron Age (1951).  A naked woman (surprisingly) sits, legs stretched before her, while in the night-time background, a goods train bears down on her from the marshalling yards.  Penguin used the background for the cover of Celine’s “Journey to the End of the Night”; even without the woman, it still somehow has a surreal eeriness.

9.  Dali – Sleep (1937).  The long, sleeping head, propped up on sticks.  There could of course, have been several more; the soft watches, the elephants, the crouching figure by the egg, the figure ripping itself apart – but this one came to mind instantly.

10.  Magritte. There has to be a Magritte, since he was the most consistent and faithful surrealist in the sense of the juxtaposition of unlikely objects – but I really hate the way he paints women’s nipples, red and angry as if infected.  Puts me off him totally; I suppose the one with the broken window, in which the fragments are pieces of sky….

The Killing

I think its Morten, Troels’ researcher.  Find out tomorrow.

Listening to Jelly Roll Morton, Sidewalk Blues.

“You’re so dumb, you should be president of the Deaf and Dumb Society!”

“Sorry, Boss; but I’ve got the Sidewalk Blues” – a non sequitur fit for a piece on surrealism.

Sorry – no new paintings yet.

Blackpaint

25.03.11

Blackpaint 182

August 25, 2010

Louisiana again

Just a few more artists to mention from this catalogue (see yesterday’s blog):

Rauschenberg

Two great pictures with those downpours or waterfall effects he has in blacks or greys, over the composite pictures he transfers to canvas from photographs – one called “Tideline”, the other “Untitled” (the 1st Apollo Landing), which is odd in itself.

Niki de Saint Phalle 

A tall, narrow colourful panel called “Drame de Coup de Feu” – what’s that, “drama of the fire strike”?  Sorry, schoolboy French inadequate.  Take a look at the picture, anyway.

Anselm Kiefer

Several typical huge, ominous works by Kiefer; best are “Ausgiessung”, dark grey, white, green, like a field of corn stalks below a louring, scratchy sky with a big black, dripping blob low and dead centre over it.  Looks like a grey, cone-shaped trumpet set in the “earth” below it.

“Saulen”, browns, blacks, whites, greys; a scratchy, splintered surface; the facade of a ruined brick building beneath a grey-black sky – impossible not to think of the fall of Berlin.

Per Kirkeby

a whole bunch of beautiful works from this painter, with his patches, lines and slurs of bright reds, greens, blues on black or brown or grey.

Arnulf Rainer

A series of “deathmasks” and “blind und Stumm”, recalling Marlene Dumas, somewhat.

Etc.

Picasso, Bacon, Warhol, Morris Louis, Tapies, some great Sam Francis, Jim Dine……

And

Sculpture.  Giacometti (loads, including that striding thin man), Miro, Arp, Ernst, Calder, Caro, Moore…..

Red

In that film “Painters Painting”, there are some really intense red paintings by Rauschenberg.  They look like caves of red.  He says on the soundtrack “There’s a lot of black in red”; I didn’t understand at first, but now I see it’s a dark colour, even (especially) when its glaring at you like a furnace.  Maybe the black is in your eyes or brain; or is that stupid to say, because all colour is in your eyes and brain…?

Poor Tom

Blackpaint

25.08.10

Blackpaint 58

February 4, 2010

Penguin Covers

I love those old Penguin Modern Classic covers from the 60s and 70s, I think when Germano Facetti was in charge, when they used modern (ish) paintings.  At the moment, I’m reading At-Swim-Two-Birds by Flann O’Brien and it has a great Jack Butler Yeats cover; “the Bus by the River”, in fleshy creams, red-browns, light green and Prussian Blue, done with slices of a thick brush and maybe a knife, showing a capped man and hatted woman peering out from the bus at the passing houses – I’ve already nicked the colour scheme, but it didn’t come out as well as Yeats’, needless to say.

If you have any sort of collection of these old paperbacks, you should lay them all out face up on the floor – you’ll have  a fair set of great art repros, including some fairly obscure names; John Brack for instance, from the cover of Patrick White’s “The Vivisector”.  I’m going to go through my lot over the weekend to see what else there is (yes, sad, loser, all the other variations).

Gillian Ayres

Another fantastic painter, I’ve been admiring the Patrick Heron (as I thought) cover of our phone book – turns out it’s Gillian Ayres “Lure”.  look it up, you’ll see why i thought it was Heron.  Beautiful picture, throbbing colours; its easy to see why she couldn’t stand the Euston Road people who taught her, according to Martin Gayford’s Telegraph article last week.

Giacometti 

Worth every penny.  it’s going to look very striking in my entrance hall.

Gambling Man trad. arr.by Lonnie Donegan

“Well, I’ve gambled down in Washington,

And I’ve gambled up in Maine,

I’m goin’ down into Georgia to knock down my last game….

I’m a gambling man, man, man,

I’m a gambling man…”

Blackpaint

04.02.10