Posts Tagged ‘Gillian Ayres’

Blackpaint 512 – Walker Gallery, Pasolini, Andrei and two Enricos

September 20, 2015

Walker Art Gallery, Liverpool

Excellent collections, notably of previous John Moores winners; the Roger Hilton is still the best for my money, but then I’m a fleabitten retro.

hilton moores


Other treasures, ancient and modern, below:

Gillian Ayres, Aeolus

gillian ayres aeolus

Fantastic; texture, colour, control – but not too much…

Allen Jones, Hermaphrodite

allen jones hermaphrodite

This Jones reminded me of the Chagall below, which is in the Pompidou Centre collection.  Not a serious comparison, just the panel shape and the shape of the images, somehow…


chagall pomp


Attributed to Nicholas Hilliard, Elizabeth I


Hilliard is known as a miniaturist, of course, but this is full size.  It’s still has that jewel-like intensity of the miniatures.



These “two pictures” in the Roscoe Collection were bought separately but were part of the same altarpiece (see pattern on dress).

Nostalgia, Tarkovsky

domiziana giordano

Poor Eugenia (Domiziana Giordano, above); she’s desperate to sleep with Andrei, the Russian poet she is translating for, but he, understandably, is more interested in the mentally ill man who is trying to save the world by walking through the water of a spa baths with a lighted candle.  The ending is still harrowing, as Domenico (the mad man) sets fire to himself and crawls, screaming, in flames, through the Roman square.  The very last scene has the poet in a Russian(?) landscape with horses, his family and that of Domenico’s looking on in silence – the whole landscape enclosed by the cloistering walls of a gigantic abbey.  Stunning, but what does it mean? Something mystical, probably, but what does it matter?

Pasolini, Abel Ferrara 

Not really a biopic, this is concerned with the period leading up to Pasolini’s murder in a seaside carpark in 1975, beaten and run over with his own car – opportunistic, homophobic or political (inevitable conspiracy theories).  It should be said, though of no interest to me, that there’s some spectacular close-up oral sex (male on rent boy) and more sex in a fantasy sequence from the film that Pasolini never got made; beautiful lesbians and gays copulating in a one-night-only festival to “propagate the species”; spectacular sex, spectacular fireworks.

William Dafoe is made for the part and brings his usual intensity (today’s word) to the role – but not much is made of the director’s  rather interesting politics.  I understand that Pasolini, a Marxist, was unusual – unique? – among European left intellectuals in NOT supporting the student movement in 1968; he saw the students as bourgeois and the police fighting them as members of the working class.  There is some socio-political chat, not terribly clear , and some spectacular images, notably of the Fascist building and statuary in Rome, the Palazzo della Civilta Italiana.

fascist palace

Midnight Cowboy, John Schlesinger, 1969

Bought the DVD for relief from Tarkovsky, put it on late Friday night and forced myself to turn it off at 2.00am.  Then hadto start it again last night and watch it straight through.  Voigt and Dustin Hoffman are brilliant of course, and Sylvia Miles and Brenda Vaccaro – I love the switching from colour to sepia –  although not new, maybe it was in Hollywood.  Voigt’s buckskin jacket getting greasier as he walks the mean streets, Enrico’s filthy apartment. the sweat on his feverish face as he lights yet another butt.  Then, just for a second, I thought I saw Bob Odenkirk’s  Saul in Hoffman.  I don’t know, really.

midnight Cowboy


The other Enrico.  I’ve got a collection of his singles on cassette – most of them recorded over 100 years ago!  Fantastic, creaky orchestras, crackly, dramatic delivery, sobbing, soaring, sometimes surprisingly sweet – “Vesti la Giubba”,  “E lucevan le stelle”, Handel’s Largo. Brings tears to the eyes, still.

Grongar Hill

I love these lines from Dyer’s “Grongar Hill” ; similar sentiment to Shelley’s “Ozymandias”:

“A little Rule, little Sway,

A Sun-beam in a Winter’s day

Is all the Proud and Mighty have,

Between the Cradle and the Grave.”

RIP Brian.


Work Still in Progress







Blackpaint 412 – Talent and Taste and the Darkling Plain

September 19, 2013

Jonathan Yeo at the National Portrait Gallery

Saw the Culture Show programme on Yeo last night and was suitably impressed by his technical skill.  a whole bunch of political, arty and acting celebs, instantly recognisable, in a surface spectrum from creamy smooth (Sienna Miller) to Freudian fractured – assemblies of small, variegated  planes (George W Bush).



Only when reading Yeo’s Wikipedia entry, did I discover that the Bush “variegated planes” are actually images from porn magazines, a technique that Yeo has used several times.

I think I would say the same thing about Yeo as I said about Augustus John last blog; loads of talent, dubious taste.  By that, I don’t mean the use of porn images, or painting the pregnant Sienna Miller naked; more that they seem to flatter the subjects and include little tricks and flourishes – see the Nicole Kidman above.  Apart from Bush, maybe, I can’t imagine any of his subjects being dismayed or upset at the way they have been portrayed.  Have to go and see for myself now, at the NPG.

Paul Feiler

He died this summer, when I was abroad. so I missed the obits.  The last, I think, of the 50s and 60s St. Ives generation. I considered him for a while to be the greatest living British abstract painter.  Then I “discovered” Albert Irvin – and there’s Gillian Ayres of course – but he’s still up there, I think, in terms of “the greatest” – but no longer living…


Paul Feiler

John Bellany

Another painter recently dead is Bellany.  As utterly unlike Feiler as you could imagine, his odd figures in awkward poses remind me, a little, sometimes, of Paula Rego – and RB Kitaj in his cartoon style, Unlike Rego, he often used harsh, garish colours.


bellany 2

Well, not sure about Kitaj…  Apparently, his (Bellany’s) paintings got brighter and more optimistic in tone after his liver transplant.

Old Masters, Thomas Bernhard

I recently made a facetious remark about this great book, comparing the protracted rant that it mostly is, to John Cooper Clarke’s “Evidently Chickentown” – and concluding that Clarke’s poem(?) is the greater work.  About 60% of the way through, however, certain changes begin to occur in the Bernhard book and it takes on greater depths.

Consider the following, on the uses of art after bereavement: “None of those books or writings which I had collected in the course of my life …were ultimately any use, I had been left alone by my wife and all these books and writings were ridiculous.  We think we can cling to Shakespeare or to Kant, but that is a fallacy, Shakespeare and Kant and all the rest…..let us down at the very moment when we would so badly need them, Reger said…. everything which those so-called great and important figures have thought and moreover written leaves us cold…”  So, art is no help or cure for pain – echoes of “Dover Beach” and “The Green Linnet”.

We are soon back to ranting. however; and I am gratified to find that Reger, the protagonist, believes that every great work of art is mortally flawed (see Blackpaint 387, the theory of validating crapness) and that many artists, notably El Greco, can’t do hands.  According to Reger, “El Greco’s hands all look like dirty wet face flannels”…


Tenby, Wall to Fort



Blackpaint 407 – Bloodshed at the RA; is Stoner Perfect?

August 15, 2013

Sorry for hiatus – been away.

Mexico, a Revolution  in Art, at the RA

Not all Mexican – Edward Weston, Tina Modotti, Philip Guston, Cartier -Bresson,  DH Lawrence  et al, all down there on a visit at one time or another.

Starting with the inevitable sepia photos of firing squads and their dead victims, one sequence showing the shooting of four Mexicans, one after the other, at the moment the bullets strike; violent death somehow seems more prevalent in Mexican revolution, the executions routine and casual – maybe a reflection of the ubiquity of photographers.  Also strikers, prostitutes peeping from windows, semi-surrealist street shots…

A few lurid, blood-raw landscape pictures, and one snow-capped peak that recalled the Canadian “Seven” painter, Lawren Harris.  Maybe the landscape really IS that raw, blood orange colour – best to leave it to God, perhaps, like those lurid American Sublime sunsets.

The Guston (early figurative mode) and the one opposite of a man in a cat’s suit the best, along with a portrait by Siqueiros of Zapata – like a hooded-eyed, ancient deity.  Also an Orozco and a Rivera; both better as murals, I think.

Guston in Mexico

The RA Summer Exhibition

Overall, not inspiring.  Lots of well-known RAs doing their usual thing; some beautiful Irvins, especially the small, marmalade orange prints called “Shakespeare” (presumably after Shakespeare Road, rather than the playwright) – and a huge, penetrating blue canvas by Barbara Rae,   I think the most striking painting – in a good way – in the show.  But I didn’t record the title.

Gillian Ayres’ flower-shaped images on prints, Tracey Emin’s broken-line etchings, John Carter’s Oiticica-like wobbly squares… A number of John Bellanys in garish, livid colours, humans with seabirds’ heads.. a big, brown, messy, lovely Basil Beattie.

Jock MacFadyen’s paintings were interesting – none of the cartoon-like tattoo’ed thugs with pit bulls; instead, a realist derelict factory with graffitti and a minimalist portrait if Humphrey Ocean – good, but I think I prefer the cartoon stuff – speaking of which, A big Rose Wylie over the door in her usual style.

Most striking of the non – RAs was a small yellow, patchwork print by Hetty Haxworth, called “Rig and Furrow”, loads of prints of which already sold.


Worst painting by famous artist; Per Kirkeby’s “Laokoon”, a roughly executed serpent in ugly colours.  Also Pete Tonkins’ acrylic abstract.  Ugliness, whatever that is, not necessarily bad in a painting, of course, but should be something else to carry it; coherence, structure, something anyway.

Stoner by John Williams

First published in 1965, a campus novel set in University of Missouri in years from WW1 to the 50s.  I thought it was stunning – I normally read a bunch of books a few pages each every day, but I put others aside until I finished this, in maybe four days, really fast for me.  It’s not flawless; the dialogue in the love scenes a little shaky, perhaps, and a death scene seems prolonged; but it made me reflect on my own time as a student and teacher, with some very depressing and uncomfortable results.

Something that occurred to me, but apparently to no-one else who has written about the novel on the internet, was that Lomax’s campaign against Stoner through Walker could be read as a metaphor for the ideological struggles between radical movements and more conservative forces on campus, which became common a little later in the 60s; I was thinking particularly of the accusations of racism or misogyny that were often deployed against conservative and liberal academics.  No doubt this take is somewhat crass; all other reviews stress the universality of the themes and the perfection of the novel.

I couldn’t help casting some of the characters mentally, in the film that must soon be made; Stoner himself, as a young man, I see played by Paul Dano (There Will be Blood); Finch could only be Philip Seymour Hoffman (The Master).

Great book; best of its kind I’ve read since Richard Yates.



Montreuil, Blackpaint



Blackpaint 385 – Light and Resurrection

March 14, 2013

More from Tate Collection at yourpaintings

Another selection of recommendations from pages 11 – 20 of the above:

Arthur Boyd, Bride Drinking From a Creek (1960).  Looks surreal, the bride in her wedding dress kneeling at the creek. a crow in a thorny thicket  to her right – ominous? – but I’ve got an idea it might be something he really had seen.

Gillian Ayres, Break Off (1961).  Another Ayres, but I love this one – reminds me of breakfast, slice of toast… see below.

gillian ayres break off

Alan Green, Check (1973).  New to me – love it.  See below.

alan green


Finally, John Golding, CV (1973) – see below.  Looks simple, but there’s a lot going on round the edges of the yellow bit.

John Golding; (c) John Golding; Supplied by The Public Catalogue Foundation


Light Show at the Hayward

Light sculptures as the name suggests; some of it just novelty, clever but no real impact.  There are, however, four or five pieces that I found striking or beautiful.  The first is Dan Flavin’s   piece from 1966 -8, Untitled (to the innovator of Wheeling Peachblow).  It’s a rectangle of neon tubing forming a “painting ” of light on the wall – very familiar, but it has grown on me over the years.  

Carlos Cruz-Diez, who was born in 1923 – for some reason, I find it surprising that old artists make these sculptures. spaces, whatever – and who over the years from 1965 has created a number of “Chromosaturations”.  They are suites of empty rooms, each infused with a different, intense colour. icy blue, red, green, yellow; in the connecting zones the colours blend.  If you look at small reflecting cubes suspended from the ceiling, the light appears to change hue – it’s your eyes adjusting.

Perhaps the most spectacular exhibit is Olafur Eliasson’s “Model for a Timeless Garden” 2011.  A pitch-black room, and a line of water features, boiling up like miniature aereated fountains in different shapes, caught in a strobe light.  There is an arcing jet of water, the droplets of which appear like suspended diamonds in the strobe.  It strikes me that one advantage these artists have is that your attention can’t wander; while you’re in that room, there is the “sculpture”, the light, and no escape.

Also worth noting are the James Turrell from 1974, Wedgework V, like a huge Albers made of light – and Bill Culbert’s Bulb Box Reflection II (1975); it took me two or three minutes to realise that the bulb in the mirror was lit up and the one it was apparently reflecting, was not.  How does he do that?

Interesting that, apart from the Eliason, these are all old pieces – it’s a historical exhibition.  Nothing new about light sculpture.

Schoenberg’ s 2nd Chamber Symphony and Elgar

Listening to the Schoenberg the other day, I noticed a repeated phrase that I thought was from an Elgar piece.  I googled “Schoenberg and Elgar” and was gratified to find a Guardian article by Tom Service in 2010; in it, Service pointed out that the opening few bars of the Nimrod Variations appears in some fragmentary Schoenberg transcriptions, almost note for note.

The phrase I think I have identified is from Elgar’s Falstaff.  It appears repeatedly, but the Schoenberg piece imbues it with a feeling of unease which is absent from the Elgar.  I don’t know enough about music to describe how he does this.  It’s a beautiful piece, not much like the twelve tone experimentation he is known for.


This astounding film from Carl Dreher, made in Denmark in the 50s, was on TV the other day.  I recorded it and watched it from a sense of duty at first – black and white, harsh dunes landscape, devoutly believing Danish farmers, an obsessive who thinks he is Christ come again, driven mad by studying the works of Soren Kierkegaard(!).  I laughed at the absurdity at first and then found I was gripped by the story – would the daughter-in-law die after the stillbirth… yes.  Would the obsessive try to resurrect her?…yes.  Would he manage it?   not going to tell you.






Blackpaint 384 – I Hate Lists.

March 7, 2013


Great film, directed by Park Chan-wook, starring Eva Wasikowska,  which seems to be dividing critics; Philip French in the Observer seemed to think it was just too much of everything, especially the Philip Glass score.  It’s full of references, visual and verbal, to other films  and it would be tedious to list the few that I got – so, here goes:

Psycho, throughout- Uncle Charlie’s appearance in distance on the hill,  echoing the Psycho poster, the motel, the shower scene; Carrie – India’s white dress stained red by the light outside the diner where she talks to the biker; Edward Hopper, the same scene (not the biker, the diner-and I know, Hopper a painter, not a film); Marnie (maybe) –  the red staining of the flowers recalling Tippi Hedren’s half-memory of the blood staining the back of Bruce Dern’s sailor’s suit…; Deliverance –  the policeman speaking to India, recalling the sheriff’s conversation with Jon Voigt – “Oh, he’ll come in drunk  probably…”..  A few fanciful ones – Deer Hunter?  Grease?  Stand by Me?  I’m sure I’ve missed a bunch of teen vampire refs in there and I read that Shadow of a Doubt, another Hitchcock that I haven’t seen, has a murderous Uncle Charlie.

There are some visual moments that have to be mentioned; the spider disappearing up India’s skirt, Nicole Kidman’s hair turning to grass, the blood spattering the flowers – sorry, done that one already.

The Lair of the White Worm

A Bram Stoker book, appropriately; Ken Russell directed a 1988 “version” which was on TV last week and providentially, I happened on it whilst trawling the horror channels.  It has to be seen to be believed, and even then..  Hugh Grant as Lord d’Ampton – the whole thing is inspired by the legend of the Lambton Worm – and Peter Capaldi as Angus the archaeologist, who digs up the snake’s skull and the Roman temple remains.  The acting of the entire cast is reminiscent of the Five Go Wild series; you are contemplating switching channels, thinking how sad to see Ken in decline, when suddenly – a psychedelic interlude!  Christ bleeding on the cross, entwined by a revolting giant white worm thing, surrounded by screaming, bloodstained nuns being raped and slaughtered by Roman soldiers, all in acid colours – and we’re back in Russell territory.  In a later vision, the nuns are impaled on stakes, like victims of Vlad.

A later dream sequence has Amanda Donohoe wrestling with Catherine Oxenberg as a pair of sexy air “hostesses” on board a jet in which Hugh Grant sits tied up, playing with his pencil…  And Capaldi, in kilt, charming the serpent by playing the tune of the Lambton Worm to it on the bagpipes and suddenly producing a hand grenade – where did he get that?  Before leaving the film, I must mention that the virtually naked Donohoe drowns a harmonica playing boy scout in her bath.  Actually, he’s finished playing – she does a little snake dancing to it and then snatches his harmonica away, irritably, before pushing him under the water with her foot.

For me, it’s up there with The Wicker Man (Roeg version, of course); what a double bill that would make. NB – correction!  Wicker Man directed by Robin Hardy, NOT Nick Roeg.  Sorry – mix-up, because Wicker Man was originally released in a double bill with Don’t Look Now – which was, of course, directed by Roeg.

BBC yourpaintings website

I’ve just been browsing this website and the following paintings caught my eye from the first 10 pages of the 99 devoted to Tate collections:

  • A Man Who Suddenly Fell Over, Michael Andrews, 1952  
  • A Singer at the Bedford Music Hall, Spencer Gore, 1912 – is that the Bedford in Balham?  Looks a bit Keith Vaughan…
  • Abstract Painting, Vanessa Bell, 1914 – that pink and dark yellow very like a much later Ben Nicholson; love the roughness.
  • A Tree Study, Robert Medley, 1959 – never heard of him.
  • Abstract, Gillian Ayres.

(c) Gillian Ayres; Supplied by The Public Catalogue Foundation


This website is the sort of place where you might end up browsing for hours, days, months…






Blackpaint 258

March 9, 2011

Cumming on Spero

Laura Cumming on Nancy Spero at the Serpentine in Sunday’s Observer says the following: ” She did not paint with oil on canvas – the canonical male medium – and she did not sculpt.”  Instead, Spero used paper as a feminist statement.  I assume that the words “the canonical male medium” are Cummings’, since they are not in parenthesis in the paper.  It’s nonsense, isn’t it?  All of the women artists that I can think of paint with oils on canvas at least sometimes.  Ayres, Mitchell, Clough, Blow,  Frankenthaler, Krasner, Dumas, and on and on…..  Canvas is not “gendered”, as far as I can see, and neither are oils.  It’s OK – desirable, really – for Spero to have been a bit mad; she was an artist, after all.  Critics surely should maintain a – critical stance.

Having said that, the exhibition sounds worth a visit – “Men and women wheel through the air, impaled on helicopter blades.  Scorched bodies, the colour of burnt bacon…” – sounds like” Salo” without the shit eating.

Greer on art in the Guardian

Interesting article by Germaine Greer on above, in which she concludes that graffiti artists are true artists.  The sentence that caught my eye was this one: “(the graffiti artists) are working within a demanding tradition that requires the sequence of execution to have been worked out in detail in advance, before any mark can be made.”  This may well be so; it reminds me of Richard Dorment on Van Gogh, how (according to Dorment) VG worked out every colour and mark before starting a painting.  What a dispiriting thought!  No improvisation, no accidents, no going with the development, no errors and corrections, no intuition, no flying by the seat of the pants – sorry, cliche – what IS flying by the seat of the pants, anyway?  Sketches are usually better than worked-up paintings, anyway; more life, more fun.

Van Gogh

Probably mentioned this already, but I was struck by the description of his shading marks in drawings as being like iron filings arranging themselves around a magnet.  Read it in the Taschen double volume, but can’t  remember the source; good though.


A while back, I mentioned how there’s an obvious figure in Lanyon’s “Lost Mine” (in the Tate Britain), but I couldn’t see it for years until someone pointed it out.  Same with Turner’s “Sea Monsters” – I’d always seen it as one big fish face, staring out at the viewer; now, after reading the Taschen (I know, still no shares),. I can’t see it as anything but two fishes side on, sort of jumping at each other.

Entrance fees for London galleries and museums

Tristram Hunt’s bad idea.  Someone said to me its mostly foreign tourists who go – they expect to pay and can afford it.  Even if this were so, it seems to me to be something of a cheek to charge them on this basis; if they’re Greek, Iraqi, Iranian, Egyptian, Turkish, Afghan, Indian etc., they would be paying to see treasures that our forefathers disassembled and shipped home in dodgy circumstances.  We nicked most of it, didn’t we, one way or another.


Shrove Tuesday





Blackpaint 191

September 11, 2010


You know that feeling you get when you take a clean towel into the shower and when you step out dripping and bury your face in it, you find it smells of onions because you put it on the line when next door was cooking?  That’s how I feel when I finish a painting at night, think it’s OK and then look at it in the dull light of day.

I’m a bit worried about the lack of theory in my painting; it seems to be purely instinctive, a sort of physical process in which colours and marks are chosen by reference to what’s happening on the canvas, not some overall plan.  It could be that I’m an overgrown child, wallowing around in a paintbox, making a mess.  Its all meaningless decoration, maybe, but some (all?) paintings draw your eye to them by their physical properties, marks, texture, shapes on canvas – that’s meaning enough in itself, perhaps.

All abstract painters are overgrown children, I think; some of them sling the paint around, slap it on wildly, others control their crayons carefully, not going over the lines, tongue poked  out in concentration.  Sort of Joan Mitchell v. Agnes  Martin.

Raphael at the V&A

Wrote about this a couple of blogs ago; I thought you had to pay because a booking number was included in the review, but it’s free – booking advised, expected pressure of numbers.  Everything else I said stands.

Basil Beattie

I remember going to his exhibition at the Tate Britain a few years ago and being bemused by a small number of huge canvases with crudely painted doorways and lozenges on them.  Now, I think he’s great – just looked at his stuff online and it reminds me of Prunella Clough magnified a dozen times; and the older stuff, maybe John Hoyland.  The Tate website reckons he’s a bit like Philip Guston, but I can’t see it. 

These lozenge shapes, like  inverted cakes, they appear over and over in his work – I wonder if he means to put them in, or if he does a canvas and then thinks; “Something missing, here – it needs a bold shape in black, something like this…Oh no, I’ve done that shape again!”  Probably not, because some of his paintings show them piled on top of each other to make “Ziggurats”.  Proper painters probably paint what they mean to paint.

“Positively seethes”

Looking back through blog, I find I have used this twice, or three times, in relation to surfaces of paintings by Gillian Ayres and Leon Kossoff.  One day, I’m going to go through the blog with a fine toothcomb and eliminate  all such cliches.

WIP Blackpaint – smell of onions



Blackpaint 169

July 20, 2010

Gillian Ayres

I compared one of my paintings to an Ayres picture called “Hinba” the other day; quite wrong.  Her surface positively seethes, mine is inert – Andrews Liver Salts compared to still water. 

Kiefer, Jorn etc.

The thing about German and Scandinavian artists like the above is that they have that “dark” mythology to fall back on.  It was a brilliant idea (whoever had it first) to start mining this sort of stuff for pictures – you can have, for example, childlike figures in bright colours and amusing shapes looming out of foggy, gloomy backgrounds, great  flares and swirls of colour making ghosts and maelstroms, erupting insect figures… a great combination of innocence and menace, hidden depths and all that.  I’m thinking of pictures like Kiefer’s “Song of the Wayland” and the Jorn “Out of the Silent Myth” series.

Not a path really open to an English artist; plenty of history, of course, but all a bit pageanty, kings and queens, not much in the way of mythology.  Stonehenge, of course, Robin Hood, Hereward the Wake, King Arthur…..   OK, that’s it, I’m going to do an abstract mythological series based on England – Druids, Blake, satanic mills, soldiers of the Empire slogging through Burmese jungles behind giant moustaches, and its all going to be abstract.

Oil Surfaces

Fairly encouraged by the early results with oils; the thickness and richness as it is forced out out of the tube, the way it slides about on the canvas and stays slimy – a bit disgusting really, like a snail trail or something more obscene…

For oil surfaces, it has to be Christopher Wool, with his black and grey sweeps, or Bram Van Velde (the slidy triangles), or see Raimunde Girke’s “Contrast” 1992, in Taschen Art of the 20th Century – or Jasper Johns’ paintings, or de Kooning, of course.

Corneille and Eva Hesse

Latest pair arriving at same point at same time (moving apart later, but similarities startling in early 60’s);  abstract land- or city scapes with knots of multi coloured blocks like warehouses, tied together with faux rail lines, coiling around humps and ditches.  See “The Big Red Sun’s Voyage” 63 or “On the Outskirts of the Big City” 60, both by Corneille and Eva Hesse’s two “No titles” (annoying!), done in 1963 and in “Action Painting – Jackson Pollock”, Hatje Cantz, 2008.

Alice Neel

At the Whitechapel Gallery.  Saw it today, lots to say, so will review tomorrow.  However, I was most impressed by an installation of Maria Abramovic elsewhere  in the gallery.  Five TV screens piled on top of each other,  in each one part of the process of washing and scrubbing a skeleton clean.  At the top the jaws and teeth, at  the bottom the toe bones.  Greyish, soapy water sluicing down, a woman’s hands scooping and scrubbing inside the ribcage, beteen the finger and toe bones, the coccyx (or was it the end of the sternum?)…  I could feel the fingers on my own bones and had to be called away by my partner.  Rather worrying, really.

First Oil, Blackpaint

listening to Death Valley Blues by Big Joe Williams

“I went down in Death Valley, Weren’t nothing but tombstones and dry bones…




Blackpaint 165

July 11, 2010

God in the Brain – Michelangelo

My youngest son told me a week or so ago that some scientists had recognised the odd surround from which God reaches to Adam on the ceiling of the Sistine Chapel as being an exact match for a cross section of the brain.  Then, last night, the same theory popped up on QI – Stephen Fry said it was three or four scientists and the whole thing was the more plausible because Michelangelo famously conducted (illegal) dissections.

So it’s clearly nonsense, according to Blackpaint’s Law of Spurious Plausibility.  This states that the likelihood of a theory being bullshit increases proportionate to its plausibility (to a disinterested and rational public).  We’re talking here about plausibility, not evidence, I emphasise.  The fact that  four scientists believe something is true is not evidence, unless its in their own field – maybe not even then; professional magicians love to have scientists observe their tricks, because they are really easy to fool – I suppose because they take a linear approach.


Blackpaint’s Law probably applies to the Caravaggio camera obscura theory too.  Martin Gayford was writing about this in the Telegraph yesterday – the gist was that certain oddities in the way C. paints could be explained by his having used a camera obscura to “trace” some figures and then sort of reassemble them on canvas – an early variety of cut and paste, I suppose.  Sounds plausible – I think Hockney came up with it in that book he wrote a few years back.  There’s that question of the outstretched left hand in the “Supper at Emmaus” (too small in relation to the right one – see Blackpaint earlier this year) – not sure how that fits in.  Anyway, it’s plausible, but no evidence, so Blackpaint’s Law says BS.

Gillian Ayres

Below is my latest painting, that I thought was a pretty good effort, a re-working of an old canvas called “Bad Boy” that was OK at the time I did it but crap in retrospect.  The new one is called Bad Boy 2 (Falstaff), for obvious reasons.  After finishing it, and sticking it on the wall for appraisal, I happened to see a painting by Gillian Ayres, entitled Hinba, in a book.  Same reds and pinks, infinitely more interesting.  I wasn’t conscious of any influence, but it seems to me that I must have registered the Ayres somewhere in the back of my skull before painting; bit of a choker, really.  I suppose that sort of thing happens all the time.

Private View 

Last Thursday, in a swish health centre on Chelsea Wharf.  Amazing how much better your pictures look when they get a big chunk of pristine white wall to themselves.  A few glasses of red wine also improves their appearance, but best of all is a cheque (rare occurrence).

BB Falstaff by Blackpaint

Listening to Friends in Low Places, by Garth Brooks

“Blame it all on my roots – I showed up in boots

And ruined your black tie affair…”




Blackpaint 161

July 1, 2010

The planes at the Tate

To the Tate Britain to see Fiona Banner’s ultimate readymades.  One is a chrome-plated Jaguar lying upside-down on the hall floor like a discarded toy.  It’s smaller than I expected; a lady passing with a young child asked me if I thought it was bigger or smaller than a dinosaur.  As an expert, I told her smaller, confidently.  With this abandoned air, it had something of an electric toaster about it.  I peered into a large, box-like attachment on the fuselage – nothing but darkness.

The other one, the Harrier, hangs nose down a little way away.  It is grey, with swirly marks on the wings (made, I think, by Banner – so, not entirely readymades, some artist input beyond the choice); it resembles, quite strikingly, a giant ray or shark, hanging from a fisherman’s gibbet, or gallows or whatever they have.  The glass or plexiglass of the cockpit was smoked, like a blown lightbulb.  The grey body looked organic, with bumps and scars and blisters.  I didn’t lie underneath the nose lance, like Adrian Searle, although there were plenty of amateur photographers lying about, taking artistic views.

I thought the information about the exhibit was quite funny, in an ironic way: Banner apparently does a lot of work relating to language and communication – the blurb said the two planes represented a “lack or breakdown in communication” – if you imagine these objects tearing through the skies towards you with destructive intent, you can see what she  means.  i was most struck, I think, by the contrast between the tinny shininess of the one and the organic, fleshy greyness of the other.

Of course, this is not the first time a plane has been on show in the Tate Britain; just a while back, Roger Hiorns had a powdered jumbo jet there, as part of the Turner Prize show. 

Gillian Ayres

One of the portals off the main hall perfectly framed her “Phaethon”, and I suppose the contrast worked to enhance the impact of it; the thickness of the slabs and squiggles of lurid colour seemed to be a sort of exaggerated denial of the clean(ish) lines and hard(ish) edges of the planes – as if she was saying, “No, that’s not art – THIS sort of thing is art!”

St.Ives Room

There’s a new Bryan Wynter – “Riverbed” has been replaced by another, very similar, Wynter.  And I noticed, for the very first time, that Lanyon’s “Lost Mine” has two human figures in it – presumably miners.  They are huge and quite clear; impossible to miss, really, and I’ve stood in front of this painting for probably 30-40 minutes, if you add up all the times I’ve been there, and not seen them.  Maybe I was distracted by the Orion-like shape of the central motif (well, it isn’t the central motif, of course, but was to me until I made out the figures).


Which brings me to the last thing this visit; there’s a little exhibition in a side gallery about Lanyon’s painting of this picture.  it took several months and was meticulously planned with a number of sketches, photographs, and maquettes of different aspects of the town – several of them lovely drawings and objects in their own right.  You really get the feel of Lanyon’s meticulous, engineer’s approach.

Listening to Faithful  Departed, Christy Moore.

“Faithful departed, we fickle hearted,

As you are now, so once were we,

Faithful departed, we the meek hearted,

With graces imparting, bring flowers to thee.”