Posts Tagged ‘Giotto’

Blackpaint 534 – Tom, Dick, Brussels and Sprout

February 26, 2016

Jessie Buckley as Marya Bolkonskaya (War and Peace)

Marya-Bolkonskaya.

The eyes, the hair, the frown – she’s straight out of a Giotto painting.

giotto2

giotto

Now this terrific adaptation has run its course and been replaced by the altogether inferior “Night Manager”, an updated Le Carre novel.  Updated, but still very dated; all these seedy English ex-military types calling each other “dear heart”, clipped sentences, languid beauties lounging about, setting manly English hearts beating; Tom Hiddleston needs to get back to working with Joanna Hogg (Archipelago, Unrelated, The Exhibition) where he’ll be properly stretched – I think he’s too good for this.  Why would he want to appear in a prime time prestige TV serialisation, when he could be in obscure art films, showing at the Ritzy or the ICA?

The Brussels Town Museum (in the old square near Town Hall)

little men

Seen their cousins in a wood carving of the Death of the Virgin in the Victoria and Albert, London.

lion

Bashful lion hiding his shield on stairway.

 

bruegel hoist

Where have I seen one of these before?  Bruegel’s “Big Babel”, below.

 

bruegel babel

See it?  Third storey up, on the right.

 

skinny knight

Skinny armour.

A Life of Philip K Dick – The Man who Remembered the Future (Anthony Peake)

Dick

 

I always thought that Dick wrote brilliant short stories and crap novels (with one or two exceptions); I would have said that his shorts were nearly up there with Ray Bradbury.  It seems from this fascinating book, however, that it wasn’t all imagination.  Many of his main themes – “precognition” (telling the future), simulacra, parallel universes and time flows, false memories, half – death, religious messiahs, government/corporate conspiracies – were extensions of his own beliefs; he thought it was all happening to him, often simultaneously.  Only the (outlandish) names are altered.  An example: “Horselover Fat” in Valis.  Horselover=Philhippus (Greek, sort of); Fat= Dick in German.  Maybe the thinness and rambling nature of his longer texts lend themselves in some way to film versions (Blade Runner, Total Recall, the Minority Report, and now the Man in the High Castle) – great bones, not too much flesh, allowing plenty of interpretive freedom.

My favourite Dick stories:  Pay for the Printer, The Days of Perky Pat.  Novel: Now Wait for Last Year.

 

Hockney museum

David Hockney, Man in a Museum (or You’re in the Wrong Movie). 1962

“Bare Life”, London Artists Working from Life, 1950 – 1980 (Hirmer, 2014)

This catalogue of a German exhibition in 2014, contains brilliant repros of works by Auerbach, Kossoff, Bacon, Hockney, Freud, Kitaj, Uglow, Coldstream, Michael Andrews, Hamilton, Allen Jones and Nigel Henderson.  There are several essays, one of which, by EJ Gillen, mentions the dispute in 1959 over the compulsory  drawing from nature classes at the Royal College of Art: “Ten unruly students were put on probation and eventually expelled.  Among these was Allen Jones, who argued in a 1968 satire entitled Life Class that drawing from nature had become obsolete since photography was able to reproduce human forms perfectly.”  I wonder what the state of play is now in the art colleges, as regards “drawing from nature”; can anyone tell me?

Looking-Towards-Mornington-Crescent-Station---Night

Frank Auerbach, Looking Towards Mornington Crescent Station, Night, 1972 – 3

 

If you’re in London during the next two weeks, visit – 

sprout

angel3

Angel 3 (again)

Blackpaint

26/02/16

 

 

 

 

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Blackpaint 367 – Goya, the Devil and Fear Eats the Soul

November 15, 2012

Songs of Sandy Denny BBC4

What songs they were.  But really only PP Arnold got there on I’m a Dreamer – Maddy Prior hammed it up too much with her Elizabethan dancing and Lavinia Blackwood was too high and Gartside was terrible.  I was surprised by Thea Gilmore’s music using Sandy’s words; result was great, although more Joni Mitchell than Sandy Denny.

Sven Hassel

From the sublime to…  Read his obit in the Guardian the other day and it brought back a strong charge of my adolescence at Battersea Grammar School, where I championed Hassel and Willi Heinrich against my mates’ preference for James Bond.  I was wrong, of course; Flemings are now Penguin Modern Classics.  Still, “Wheels of Terror” had a real hold on me – The Little Legionnaire, who shouted “Allah Akbar!” as he attacked the Ivans with his knife, Tiny, the giant from Bremen, and above all, Joseph Porta, who went in with his flamethrower, wearing a top hat and monocle.  The tank battle at Cherkassy with the boys from the Penal Regiment.. happy innocent days of childhood.

How the Devil got his Horns (Sky Arts)

Alistair Sooke vehicle in which he seeks to show the development of Satan in art and theology from an envoy of God (as he is, for example, in Job) to the Antichrist, governor of hell and chewer of lost souls.  Sooke visited Padua to examine the Giotto Last Judgement – those endearing squat, square little people and the brilliant, singing colours – and then Orvieto, where the Signorelli version, much lighter, pinker, resembled the Michelangelo Sistine masterpiece in the fleshiness and muscularity of the writhing bodies – although Signorelli’s are much more cartoon – like, in the modern sense.

Giotto

Signorelli

Heroes Square, Budapest 

Cartoons having come up, I was reminded of the horsebacked figures, Arpad and the others, riding around the base of the column in the square, like characters from Lord of the Rings in their winged helmets, waving their swords and bows.

Spain, Renaissance to Goya, Print Room, British Museum

Bullfights, war disasters, witches,  penitents. those “Proverbs” that aren’t proverbs at all.  The slight squatness, stiffness of gesture, solidness of Goya’s figures remind me a little of Giotto somehow.  Lots of boring and elaborate etchings in the rest of exhibition, which suddenly comes alive with Murillo, Ribera and Tiepolo.  St. Anthony of Padua and the Irascible Youth turns up twice as a theme; after insulting his mother the youth cuts off his own leg in a fit of remorse.  Luckily, St. Anthony is passing and rejoins the leg by miraculous means.  Another theme – skinning of St. Bartholomew.  Two versions of that as well.  More skinnings alive in the siege of Lachish reliefs from Assyria on the ground floor.

John Bellany

Beautiful paintings on the Culture Show last night – resemblances to Jock MacFadyean and Peter Howson, I thought, in the distorted figures and faces; and blazing colour.  Apparently, they’ve got more colourful since his liver transplant 20-odd years ago.  He reckons he’s done more paintings than Turner.

Ali – Fear Eats the Soul

Finally caught up with this great Fassbinder film and was impressed and moved.  Lots of those doorway shots that Bela Tarr likes.  The story, fiftyish German cleaning woman begins affair with Moroccan “guest-worker”, suffers racism and family rejection, never slips over into sentimentality.  I loved it.

Chain Bridge

Blackpaint

15.11.12

Blackpaint 262

March 21, 2011

Anselm Kiefer

In Saturday’s Guardian, a pleasing quotation from Kiefer regarding “Salz, Merkur, Sulfur”,  a recent work: “..the salt-covered U boat is my Noah’s ark as the Flood was important to alchemists,…It is made out of the base metal lead; there are seven flames because seven is the alchemical number of perfection, and so on.  It all means something.  Not that anyone needs to know this, but if I’m asked I will tell you.” Well, thank goodness for that – the implication is that the work stands, for Kiefer, on the merits of its visual power alone, without the need to read a lengthy exposition on a gallery wall (or stand in everyone else’s way, gawping, while you listen to the explanation on one of those those audios).

Kiefer is the embodiment of those artists who build a career around a big idea; the core of his has been the exhumation of German history from under  layers of guilt and willful amnesia in the decades after WW2 – a worthy and courageous work in the 60s especially.  So someone asks, “What is this work about?”  No problem; he knows –  and, if he’s asked, he’ll be able to tell you.

Miro

Miro is another one.  As Tim Adams says, in Sunday’s Observer, “He had no interest in pure abstraction…”You get freedom by sweating for it,” he believed, “by an inner struggle…”.  Whatever this second part means, Adams’ piece quotes Miro to the effect that his pictures, even the most surreal, were made up of collections of symbols representing things in the real world: “I’ve shown the Toulouse-Rabat airplane on the left; …I showed it by a propellor, a ladder and the French and Catalan flags”.  The whole display of bacteria-like shapes and squiggles swimming in an orange and yellow background “means something”; everything is representative.

I’ve always loved Miro’s work, for its colour, movement, humour – and Kiefer’s, for almost completely opposite qualities, darkness, weight, gravity of purpose. I had no idea about the Toulouse – Rabat airplane and not much specific about alchemy; but the lack of detailed information didn’t stop me liking the work and knowing more hasn’t enhanced my appreciation.

I think it’s enough to say “It’s about itself”.  Paintings that are only about visual things like image, structure, texture, colour, movement, balance – pure abstraction –  are as valid as the “hidden meaning” efforts; and you don’t have to read the spurious Artspeak expositions.

Some early paintings that I think are stunning – and no problems with meaning:

Fra Angelico

St Nicholas of Bari (1437) – look at the castle and the pink mountain with the folds.

The Mocking of Christ (1441) – disembodied head spits in Christ’s face.

Giotto

The Stefaneschi Altar, the Martyrdom of Paul – yes, the decapitated head does still wear the halo; and the Martyrdom of Peter – upside down on his cross, as if diving, an angel reading the bible to the assembled watchers, from the sky.

The Arrest of Christ, Padua. – the Judas kiss, Judas enveloping Christ in that yellow cloak.

The Master of Flemalle (Robert Campin?)

The Annunciation, Merode Altarpiece – look at the folds in the fabric of both the angel’s and Mary’s gowns; and the tilting forwards of the table – like a Bonnard or Cezanne a few years later.

Jean de Florette and Manon des Sources

Finally got round to seeing these after meaning to for years; Yves Montand (I remember him in “Z”) and Daniel Auteuil, as the Soubeyrans -great, tragi-comic pairing. For some reason, keep watching films about peasants – Provencal, Iranian and Ozark hill folk so far.

Blackpaint

21.03.11

Blackpaint 235

December 26, 2010

Banksy

Watched the Banksy-related DVD “Exit Through the Gift Shop” yesterday and was taken in for the first 40 minutes or so; then Thierry put the camera down and became Mr. Brainwash and the film suddenly looked too much like Spinal Tap to be true.  We were interested enough to check on Wikipedia though and it says there was a show by Brainwash in LA which attracted thousands – so concluded that it was cooked up by Banksy and the American with “Thierry” as the front-man.  But then it’s Wikipedia, so could be a false entry….

Banksy’s stuff is good; accessible, funny, provocative, daring and well-executed.  If he makes a few bob out of his art and stunts, good luck to him.  I think you only sell out when you join the other side and/or start criticising others who come after you – other than saying, “I did that first,” which is fair enough (assuming you did, of course).  It’s not his fault that he became the next big thing for a while.

Van Gogh

Have got a copy of VG’s selected letters, so will be able to check on comments made by Richard Dorment in the Telegraph about the letters and paintings exhibition at the RA early in the year (see Blackpaint 230, 13th December 2010).  Only just started, and already I notice a sort of prissy, bossy tone in the letters to Theo – a great long list of mostly obscure painters he (Theo) should look at.  Funny really, considering Theo ended up supporting him throughout his short life.

Paul Morley also does this – makes lists of artists, not supports Van Gogh financially –  in his Observer music column every week; personally, I don’t think this is good journalism.  I am sometimes tempted to make lists of painters I admire – de Stael, Jorn, Appel, de Kooning, Lanyon, Sandra Blow, Joan Mitchell, Diebenkorn, Heron, Hoffman, Rauschenburg, Auerbach, Kitaj, Giotto, Fra Angelico, Michelangelo – but I manage to avoid it.

Blackpaint

26.12.10

Blackpaint 202

October 4, 2010

Michelangelo’s serpent

Looking at the Sistine ceiling version of the Adam, Eve and serpent story (the section in which Eve appears to have been engaging in oral sex), I see that M. represented the serpent as a woman.  Incredibly, I have only just noticed this.  It appears from a perfunctory check on Google that this is the case with other versions of the story; artists show the serpent either as a snake, or as a serpent- or lizard-like female.  In the Hugo van der Goes version, it’s true, the lizard thing looks to me a bit like Max Wall, but the artist was clearly going for female.

Why is this?  Presumably,  it reflects the misogyny of the Early Church – and the artists – but I would have thought a predatory male serpent would be more appropriate for the seduction and suborning of Eve.  As to Michelangelo’s treatment, what is Adam doing there anyway?  Well, we know what he’s been doing – see above – but he’s definitely not there with Eve and the serpent in Genesis; if they were both there, the serpent’s job would have been that much harder and Eve wouldn’t have had the opportunity to corrupt Adam and the sexual politics of the whole thing would be much more complicated.  The Genesis story is nice and simple; serpent (sexless or male in sense of being phallic) corrupts Eve; Eve corrupts Adam.  Men beware women – they are weak and a corrupting force, given half a chance.

Milton and Genesis

In Paradise Lost, the serpent’s body is “occupied” by Satan for the purpose of seducing Eve, and Milton refers to the creature as “he” throughout.  The serpent is also “he” in Genesis, but there is no identification with Satan; the serpent is merely “more subtil than any beast of the field which the Lord God had made”.

Job

While I’m on the subject, Satan in the book of Job is clearly not the Devil but a trusted servant of God, who is sent to arrange the trials of Job on the instructions of the deity.  Not sure where or how the two – devil and Satan – became fused.

Angels

I have three favourite depictions:

1.  Giotto’s “Lamentation of Christ”, in which the angels in the sky look as if they are doing “grief”  in an acting class;

2.  Fra Angelico’s “the Annunciation”, in which the angel (Gabriel, was it?) has a lovely pair of butterfly- like wings, red, black, grey and cream, and

3.  Carlo di Braccesco, another “Annunciation”, in which the angel body surfs through the sky on a board, with a long-stalked flower, a lily I think, over his (its?) shoulder.

Listened to Angels Love Bad Men, by the Highwaymen.

“Angels love bad men, that’s how it’s always been,

They give their whole hearts when they fall;

Angels love bad men, that’s how it’s always been,

Love pins their hearts against the wall.”

Poor Tom (again, but I like it) by Blackpaint

4/10/10

Blackpaint 199

September 26, 2010

Giotto again

“The Renunciation of Possessions”, one of the St.Francis frescos in San Francesco, Assisi – Francis with a dubious looking bishop holding up a towel(?) around Francis’ midriff.  Francis’ father, like an assistant in a clothes shop, trousers over his arm, looks on.  God’s hand poking down through the sky; quaint angles of columns, steps and canopies on the buildings – or bits of buildings – nearby.

“Judas’ Betrayal” – Judas receiving his bag of gold, with a bearded, completely black devil peering over his shoulder.  Two bystanders discuss Judas, one pointing over his shoulder at Judas, as if to say, “Who is his mate?”

Vasari’s “perfect circle” story; Giotto proves his artistic prowess to the pope’s representative by drawing a perfect circle in one movement, but moving only his wrist, not the whole arm; quoted in the Penguin Book of Art.  I think Giotto was certainly in the genius zone, but for his use of colour and for his compositions and emotional power.  The idea of him as some sort of master of drawing technique, or “magic hand” may be true, but is misleading.  that’s more Michelangelo, somehow.

Sam Francis

been looking at his stuff from the late 50s, 56 and 58 – usually called “Untitled” irritatingly – so like some of Joan Mitchell’s stuff (again, who first, Joan or Sam?) – the flaring colour lozenges, the dribbling paint lines, the spatters… except that Francis uses those vivid blues and orangy reds.  Hold on – back to Giotto again! Actually, not really, Francis’  blue is more like a Klein blue than Giotto’s greenish one.

Huang Yong Ping

“The History of Chinese Art …. after two Minutes in the Washing Machine”.  done in 1987, this is a pile of pulped paper in a trunk, with sheets of glass and Chinese writing on the lid.  The pulp is the remainder of two books, “The History of Chinese Art” and “A Concise History of Modern Art”.  Dada of course, but impressive in the context of China in 1987.  Needless to say, his work is censored in galleries and shows at home.  Wonder how he is doing – must look him up on Wiki.

Nicolas de Stael

No apologies for writing yet again about this great painter.  “Countryside” – yellows, oranges, reds, brown, cream, in scraped ingots with roughened and sometimes blackened borders.  Beautiful, abstract work.

Second to Last Judgement (WIP) by Blackpaint

25.09.10

Blackpaint 198

September 24, 2010

Giotto

I’m looking at the Anne Mueller von der Haegen book on G. in the “Masters of Italian Art” series – those reds and blues are just beautiful.  The blue has a touch of green showing through and the reds are actually more dark orange, shading down to raw sienna almost.  The Last Judgement fresco in the Cappella degli Scrovegni in Padua strikes me as the best today – tomorrow it’ll be a different one.  On the right,  a fat blue devil stuffs the damned into his mouth as they cascade down to him as if washed there by rivers of blood and fire.  Here and there, men and women dangle naked from gallows in various recesses of hell, two upside-down and facing each other, as if having a conversation.  Another is horizontal on a turning spit.

Opposite, beneath an assembly of saints and martyrs, little, squat, bewildered people are rising naked from the ground or their tombs, as if from trunks.  they turn reverently, arms raised in supplication.

way up, on either side of the window, armoured angels clutch the edges of a red scroll, very much like giant sticks of rock.  Staggering, beautiful, weird; I will certainly be returning to these pictures again and again.

Chaldon

By way of contrast, I visited the church at Chaldon (1086), near Coulsdon in Surrey, to see that mural again (see Blackpaint 44).  Dark red/purple background, white figures that I suppose may once have been painted, and those strange, huge, big -eyed, three – toed demons that Eric Von Daniken would certainly have selected for his “Was God a Spaceman?” books, back in the 70’s, 80’s or whenever it was.

Tate Britain rehangs

That fantastic St. Ives room at the above – with the red and black Hilton, the black and white sand Blow, the Lanyons – green and blue water pulsing through them – the black Scott and the penis salt pots, the exploding black octopus Alan Davies, the lime green yellow Heron with the ingots showing through – all great, but they’ve been there over a year (except for the Bryan Wynter that was changed so that “Riverbed” could go to St.Ives). 

Why don’t they change a couple of the paintings every 2 or 3 weeks?  They must have several by each artist, maybe dozens.  Surely it can’t be too much work to change a few paintings regularly – where do they keep them; down below in the cellar?  Come on, more paintings by the same people, give the collections a proper workout and let the people see them.  Same goes for Tate Modern, and for all I know, for National Gallery too.  If there are problems with this, I would love to hear them.

Well done by the way; great paintings, free of charge – but let’s see more!

Basquiat (see Blackpaint 46 and 70)

I think Robert Hughes really screwed up badly by misjudging this artist as a lightweight, who only made it because he was black and in the right place, etc.  Lovely sense of colour and design, great drama, the words, the structures and textures; they are colour bombs, remind me of Miro Spain posters and Appel, a bit.  Not as “good” (rich, complex, sustaining) as either, but way up there nevertheless.

Hereward again – Blackpaint

24.09.10

Blackpaint 88

March 16, 2010

When is a picture finished (2)

I stick it on the wall in the front room, and leave it for a few days to decide.  BUT – this doesn’t work really, because you get familiar with it and it acquires a sort of integrity in your eyes.  Same as repetition – if you repeat an image in several paintings it can acquire status, like those comedy programmes on TV, where a catchphrase is repeated week after week.  You get input too – “I don’t think it’s quite finished yet”, or “I really like this bit” – invariably the bit you were just going to paint over.  SO – I don’t have the answer to this either.  There are no answers, I suppose.

Anyway –

It was like this:

Then it was like this:

But now, it’s like this:

I don’t think it’s finished yet.

Giotto

I’ve been looking at his stuff which I love, but I can’t get away from the cartoon (in the modern sense) aspect of it: the little square figures – although not in the picture below-  their rudimentary expressions of grief or surprise, the sawn-off angels doing yoga positions in the sky, all in those rich, deep colours.

Listening to No More Doggin’, the John Lee Hooker version on Riverside, distinguished by being one of the few songs where he knowingly rhymes the ends of lines.

“Honey, no more doggin’, foolin’ round with you (*2)

I’m gonna let you go baby, that’s what I’m gonna do”.

Blackpaint

16.03.10