Posts Tagged ‘Gillian Ayres’

Blackpaint 191

September 11, 2010

Painting

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

11.09.10

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

20.07.10

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.

Caravaggio

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

11.07.10

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).

Porthleven

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.”

Blackpaint

01.07.10

Blackpaint 154

June 18, 2010

Portrayals of God in Western Art

As promised, comment on Andrew Graham-Dixon’s remark that Michelangelo was the first artist to portray God (ceiling of the Sistine Chapel, touching fingers with Adam):  Wikipedia says portrayals of God started in France in 12th century with “the hand of God”; then there was the Naples Bible showing God in the Burning Bush, addressing Moses presumably; then, in the Rohan Book of Hours.  It shows a 1489 picture by Perugino showing God; that beats Michelangelo by about 19 years (Sistine Chapel done 1508 – 1512).

This, however, is just typical blogger’s hair-splitting; even if Michelangelo’s wasn’t technically the first, it’s definitely the best likeness.

Royal Academy

Another AGD item, this time on the Culture Show; he seems to be on everything to do with art these days, and so does Grayson Perry.  No problem telling them apart, however – Perry has fair hair.

The item showed the judges of the Wollaston(?) Prize at their deliberations, trying to decide who should get the £25,000 prize for the most distinguished work in the show.  This should have been easy, as it was behind them on the wall; Gillian Ayres, of course.  They awarded it to Yinka Shonibare.

Damien Hirst

A re-run of an old South Bank Show from 2 or 3 years ago, with Melvin Bragg interviewing him at Toddington, the vast stately home he bought to turn into a gallery for his work and his collection.  I thought he was really eloquent about the sort of artist that he cheerfully admits he isn’t – the lonely, Van Gogh – type painter, who works in solitary agony, does everything for him/herself, to whom every work completed and sold “is like a little bit of their soul torn off”.

I have a number of bits of torn-off soul available….

Blackpaint

18.06.10

Listening to Willie Nelson, We Don’t Run.

“We don’t run, and we don’t compromise,

We don’t quit; we never do.

I look for love; I see it in your eyes-

The eyes of me, and the eyes of you”.

Yes I know, but it sounds great when Willie does it.

Blackpaint 151

June 14, 2010

Bruegel

Looking at some of the snow scenes, I realised there was a slight resemblance to Lowry’s stuff, if only in the large numbers of little people going about their various businesses.  I suppose this is true of other Netherlands painters, such as Avercamp; probably a very trite observation – sorry.

Before leaving Bruegel, I feel I have to mention Landscape with the Fall of Icarus, in which you can just make out the legs of the falling boy  following the rest of him down beneath the ocean.  A galleon passes him on its way, a shepherd gazes in ignorance at the sky, a ploughman in the foreground continues ploughing his furrow.  The picture occasioned Auden’s poem,  Musee des Beaux Arts:

“…In Brueghel’s Icarus, for instance: how everything turns away

Quite leisurely from the disaster: the ploughman may

Have heard the splash, the forsaken cry,

But for him it was not an important failure….”

Think I’ll do paintings in poetry, when I can get round to the research.

Rude Britannia

Went round this yesterday, and it was great; will do it tomorrow, but just to remark on the critics briefly, who clearly don’t like it.  Laura Cumming in Observer and Richard Dorment in the Telegraph both criticised the excessive range, as they saw it, of stuff on offer, that didn’t somehow go.  The historical bits, the “bawdy” stuff, the conceptual art stuff… again, I think it’s because wide range and tenuous connections make an exhibition difficult to review, though they might make it more interesting for the punter.  Dorment commented that the Tate had mistaken a book for an exhibition.

Three other new things at the Tate worth seeing:

Anthony Wishaw  

80th birthday painting (actually called Landscape drawing, in acrylic with some form of composition); grey and black, like a Lanyon landscape in a Hitchens shape, beautiful and substantial.

Gillian Ayres 

Three big paintings, two of which can be seen through the archways of the other rooms; one at the end of the Fundamental Painting room, making a splash of reddish-brown and yellow colour at the end of a dark tunnel.  The best is Break Off (also  the earliest, 1961) in which, on an ochre/buff background, 5 or 6 floating objects resemble breakfast items, to me anyway.  Phaethon is a huge, crude, coloured plaque of pink and yellow and blue and white, with zig-zag patterns gouged in the thicknesses of the paint.  Sang the Sun in Flight is the one at the end of the tunnel. 

Francis Bacon, early works

From his “first career”, the period with Eric Hall and Roy de Maistre, paintings and furnishings.  There is a dark tree trunk like a Paul Nash (quite crudely painted); three Picasso-esque rugs; a screen with black, Leger-like shapes; a painting called Figures in the Park, with a tree, a very rudimentary dog(?) thing, and a squareish sort of figure; it’s alternative title is “Herman Goering and his Lion Cub” which, on close inspexction, makes sense.  It’s not clear whether this was Bacon’s idea or someone else’s interpretation.  On the end wall is the famous “figures at the foot of the crucifixion” tryptich.

Blackpaint

14.06.10

Blackpaint 113

April 18, 2010

Ten women artists who should have a cheap Taschen or Tate book written about them

With loads of their paintings in, of course.  Google each of them for an afternoon’s inspiring viewing.

  • Gillian Ayres
  • Grace Hartigan
  • Prunella Clough
  • Wilhelmina Barns-Graham
  • Sandra Blow
  • Helen Frankenthaler
  • Roni Horn
  • Cecily Brown
  • Margaret Mellis
  • Joan Mitchell

This list is based purely on personal choice and prejudice, of course, and has no pretensions to objectivity.  

Wallander 

The Swedish version of course – Branagh’s angst is far too near the surface.  Very bad slip last night, when Kurt made a joke about blow jobs with women present (albeit police officers).  This isn’t what we expect from a kindly, suppressed, approaching retirement police officer in a liberated country like Sweden.  Contrary to what my partner says, these are real people who live in the real town of Ystad and frequently have to send to Malmo – or Malmer, as it is apparently pronounced- for reinforcements.

Painting

I’ve just looked round the room at my latest paintings and realised that they are all the same – in some cases, turning them from lanscape to portrait or vice versa makes them just about identical to another.  So, here is the last in my current “style”; I am going to ring some radical changes in the days to come.

Listening to 1952 Vincent Black Lightning by Richard Thompson.

“I see angels and Ariels in leather and chrome,

Swinging down from heaven to carry me home.”

And he gave her one last kiss and died,

And he gave her his Vincent to ride.

Blackpaint

Sunday 18.04.10

Blackpaint 63

February 9, 2010

Roni Horn

I was thinking that what the Van Doesburg exhibition lacked, apart from green, was a serene, white, minimalist show across the way that you could rest your eyes in, after all those loud primary colours.  When the Constructivist show was on a while ago, Rodchenko and  Popova and all those triangles, there was the Roni Horn performing that function – as well as provoking thought, visual pleasure, etc., of course!  That Icelandic girl’s face, repeated over and over (I know with slight changes, but the repetition is what stayed with me), the water surfaces and the small drawings on white walls just what was needed.  And vice versa, I suppose, if you did the Horn first.

Reading that paragraph over, I am rather ashamed of it – it reads like Alan Bennett without the humour: “it’s always nice to see some lovely white walls and attractive faces after all that loud colour”.  But there is some truth in it.   If you Google images for,say, Gillian Ayres or even more, Asger Jorn or Appel, you find that they are too much en masse; too much colour, too busy – they give you indigestion of the eyes. One at a time, though –  fantastic.

Actually, looking round the room, I’m getting the same from my stuff – too many colours and shapes, too promiscuous.  I need to do some cool, clean blacks, whites, browns, greys, something classy that I can put in a steel frame.  Bit of the old rain-soaked, cold, misty British restraint needed.

Listening to Special Agent by Sleepy John Estes;

“Special agent, special agent, put me off close to some town (*2)

I got to do some recordin’, and I ought to be recordin’ right now”.

Blackpaint

09.02.10

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