Posts Tagged ‘Goya’

Blackpaint 599 – A Drink with Bacchus and a Sausage with Goebbels

June 13, 2017

Museo Nacional del Prado, Madrid

Vast hoard of treasures here, so can just give a few examples:  Las Meninas (the Maidservants, below) with its complicated geography – painter on the left, looking towards posing royal couple (reflected in the mirror).  Having read Derrida, I feel I can give my own reading of the painting, totally unsupported by the known facts:  for me, it’s one of those paintings where two or more time zones exist simultaneously – like those Crucifixions where the journey to Golgotha, the crucifixion and the deposition, and maybe Judas’ suicide, are all on show.   So in my reading, Velasquez, having completed the painting, turns in the doorway to glance back at his earlier self, still engaged in the work.  The guide book identifies the figure in the doorway to be Jose Nieto, the royal chamberlain – but I prefer my reading.

Las Meninas, Velasquez

 

The Feast of Bacchus, Velasquez

I don’t know why, but this painting reminds me of Caravaggio’s Supper at Emmaus.  It gives me the impression that Bacchus and the grinning man next to him are travelling, seated, towards us, despite the presence of the kneeling man, who would be ploughed under, were this the case.  There is something about that arm, too…

I don’t quite have a settled view on El Greco; sometimes I think that his elongated figures thrusting up like flames are fantastic and precursors of artists like Kirchner (yes, fanciful…) – other times, the crowdedness and somehow dry surfaces turn me off.

 

The Holy Trinity, El Greco

 

The Annunciation, El Greco

As for Goya, there are some wondrous canvases such as the 2nd and 3rd May 1808 paintings (the Mamelukes and the Executions), the Black Paintings of course, and the Royal portraits.  There are also some terrible paintings – a Flight into Egypt comes to mind.  I think religious themes didn’t inspire him.  A couple of portraits, then:

The Marchioness of Santa Cruz, Goya

 

The Countess of Chinchon, Goya

More on the Prado next time – I’ve barely scratched the surface.

Dance of the Seven Veils, Ken Russell Omnibus (1970) – see it on youtube

Another brilliant example of Russell’s restraint and good taste: Richard Strauss (Christopher Gable) as a Nazi fellow traveller, reaping the rewards under Hitler and pleading coercion after the Downfall.  It begins with Gable, dressed in animal skins, conducting Zarathustra and soon being ravished by crazed nuns.  Later, his wife is raped by crazed Tommies (fantasy sequence, I should point out, as is the nun bit) again, whilst Strauss conducts.  Above, Mrs. Strauss and Goebbels share a German foodstuff…

Ossessione, Visconti (1943)

Visconti’s version of “The Postman Always Rings Twice”.  Gino the tramp shows up at Giovanna’s garage and roadhouse and sweeps her off her feet – although not onto the kitchen table, as in the Jack Nicholson/ Jessica Lange version directed by Bob Rafelson in 1981.  What to do about Giovanna’s fat, much older husband, however?  Lots of smouldering and some excellent dialogue: (Giovanna to Gino, who has removed his jacket) “Your shoulders – why, you’re built like a stallion!”

 

Rift Valley

Blackpaint

12/06/17

 

Blackpaint 525 – Tight Rope, Frenzy and Sex in Gothenberg

December 20, 2015

Tight Rope, White Cube Gallery, Bermondsey Street

This is a great exhibition; it has to do with artists who walk the line between figurative and abstract, I think (I haven’t read the book that goes with it yet – £20.00) – whatever, it has some lovely pictures from the likes of Guston, Bacon, Freud, Baselitz, Matisse, Duchamp et al.   It has one of the worst Picassos I’ve ever seen ( horrible, evil yellow with scrawls) and a terrific Tracey Emin figure on white over two or three panels.  My favourites below, starting with the great Bay Area painter David Park:

david park

Untitled (Portrait of Tom Jefferson), 1957

 

plessen

Magnus Plessen, Untitled, 2015

Plessen seems to have used tape which he has pulled off to get the straight lines.

 

armitage

Michael Armitage, Conservationists, 2015

 

Here’s the Emin –

tracey

Tracey Emin, I think of you all the time

 

– and here’s the Picasso –

picasso mustache

Picasso, Man with a Mustache, 1970

Despite the Picasso, there are loads of excellent pictures here.  Even the ones I didn’t like – Dana Schulz’ retina-burners, for example – made me want to go home and paint immediately; those chunky but slippery brush sweeps, I imagine.

Also on show there are Gilbert and George’s “Fuck You” posters (that’s probably not their proper title, but gives an idea of the content).  Should detain you for a minute or so, long enough to read them all.

 

John Berger on Rembrandt and Goya

I’m reading Berger’s “Portraits – John Berger on Artists” and I find him insufferably precious at times – “It is remarkable how, for those who suffer a desire for art, so much does begin and end in it” (the National Gallery).  He also tends to make confident assertions about doubtful things.  There are examples throughout, but here’s one: “Goya lived and observed through something near enough to total war to know that night is security and that it is the dawn that one fears”; is that really right?  It fits his argument..

However, his comments on Rembrandt’s late self-portraits are interesting; he suggests that R. painted himself from memory, rather than using mirrors – thus avoiding the theatricality that Berger says always creeps in when artists do mirror SPs.  Have a look at the Courbet SP “The Desperate Man” to see what he means.

courbet

OK, it’s an extreme example.  Berger also suggests that Goya painted “the Naked Maja” from imagination – he simply did the clothed Maja without the clothes.  In evidence, he offers the breasts; falling unnaturally to the sides as they had done when she was dressed.  That’s what Berger says, anyway.

Frenzy

Hitchcock’s murder film on TV the other night; the cast was staggering, straight off the Shakespearian stage of the 70s – Jon Finch, Anna Massey, Billie Whitelaw, Clive Swift, Barry Foster et al.  The lewd conversation between barristers and the pub landlady about rape comes as quite a shock to contemporary ears and there is a very nasty rape sequence later.  Great bit in the back of the potato lorry, however.

Star Wars – film critics

They’ve all abandoned their critical faculties; not worth listening to (as I write, Mark Kermode is on TV, shouting and waving his arms about).

Casanova

Fellini, Donald Sutherland in the title role, having sex with a mechanical life-sized doll in Gothenburg, a debauched Dudley Sutton playing a harmonium halfway up a wall…  Now, that’s what I call a film.

 

dirty protest2

I’ve finally finished a picture – here it is; it’s called

Dirty Protest

Blackpaint

19.12.15

Blackpaint 509 – Patti in Helsinki, Ray and Tobias, Hard to be a God

August 28, 2015

KIASMA – Helsinki Museum of Contemporary Art

Concrete ramps receding into the distance inside – a cross between the New York Guggenheim and the sets for “Caligari”.  There is a stunning Robert Mapplethorpe exhibition; the leathery penises on show I thought rather diminutive but the shots of Patti Smith were riveting.  When she was young, one of the most photogenic women I can think of – not beautiful; skinny, hairy legs. but still..

Patti Smith 1976 Robert Mapplethorpe 1946-1989 Accepted by HM Government in lieu of inheritance tax from the Estate of Barbara Lloyd and allocated to Tate 2009 http://www.tate.org.uk/art/work/P13083

patti2

As I’ve said before, a biopic needs to be made featuring Charlotte Gainsbourg, before she gets much older.

Other Mapplethorpe portraits of note – Keith Haring, Arnie, Gere, Burroughs, Capote, Sontag, Leibowitz, Rauschenberg, Hockney, Warhol of course.

Helsinki Design Museum

Interesting that Finland had an Arts and Crafts movement very like that in England driven by William Morris, about the same time too.  20th century stuff is arranged by decade.  Current catwalk designs below – far left rather like my current look.

design museum

Ray Carver and Tobias Wolff

Wolff’s stories are reminiscent of Carver’s – except that Wolff tells you what his people are thinking.  Carver mostly tells you what they do and you draw your own conclusions – unless they are talking straight to you over a coffee, say, and then they follow the conventions of the dialogue.  Wolff’s best stories: “Hunters in the Snow” and “Leviathan” – this week, anyway.  Carver’s?  All of them.

Hard to be a God, Aleksei German, 2013

Russian film, black and white.  set on another planet, on which it appears to be Brueghel/Bosch time; the knobbly, gap-toothed, beaky faces are Brueghel peasants or soldiers, the cartwheel gallows, corpses and infernal machinery of “The Triumph of Death” are all there.  The mud is Flanders 1917; everyone is caked with it and shit, the torrential rain is sticky, everyone treats everyone else with brutality throughout, dwarves abound, bowels slide forth, eyes are gouged, etcetera, etcetera.  Through the chaos wanders a “God” from Earth, who resembles Dave, of Chas and Dave, occasionally blowing an outlandish alto saxophone-thing, sub Albert Ayler.  There is some kind of sci-fi/Game of Thrones-type plot (it’s based on a novel, see Wikipedia for plot summary), but the dialogue is so fractured and disjointed, it seems designed to prevent understanding.

hard to be a god

 

Visual references abound: in addition to Brueghel, there is Goya (the conical hats of the Inquisition victims); Pozzo and Lucky from Godot; Fellini’s Satyricon; the Saragossa Manuscript (the gallows corpses); Tarkovsky’s Ivan Rublev (general look, and the use of a peasant’s head – still attached  – as a battering ram).  Unintentionally I’m sure, and probably for British audiences only, there is a strong odour of Monty Python and Blackadder.

The film is around 3 hours long and seems longer – as well as the impenetrable plot, there is the relentless use of close-up.  Most of the time, you are struggling to make out what is going on and when the camera draws back, you sigh with relief.  The actors keep peering and poking at the camera lens which is amusing, at first.  The sub-titles are occasionally adolescent – “zits”, for example – which adds to the Thrones/steampunk/video game feel. German, who died aged 75 in 2013, was no punk wunderkind, however; he never emigrated, but faced a constant struggle to get his films made and shown.

So, it’s probably a critique to some degree of Putin’s Russia and no doubt a masterpiece – I’ll get the DVD when it comes out and watch it in 30 minute bursts; might be bearable, or even brilliant like that.  At the last, beautiful, snowbound scene, I was getting that thing where you pray that nobody will come on or start the dialogue again, so that it can fade out.  Last had that in “Once Upon a Time in Anatolia”, which was definitely a masterpiece.  My advice is to read the Wiki plot summary a few times before you go, if you feel you really have to…

shoreham dog

Shoreham Dog

 

down by the river

Down by the River – rather Expressionist for me, but still.

Blackpaint 

28.08.15

 

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

December 15, 2014

Gemaldegalerie, Berlin

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

BotticelliVirginEnthronedx1Whole

 

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

 

dwarves last supper

 

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

veneziano germany

 

 

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

long-haired madonna

 

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

Alte Nationalgalerie

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

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

mommsen

 

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

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

 

menzel2

 

menzel3

 

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

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

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

Frank Phelan, Messums Gallery, Cork Street

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

phelan

 July Heat, Frank Phelan

 

 

And one of mine, to end with-

slink away

 

Slink Away

Blackpaint, 15.12.2014 

 

 

 

 

 

Blackpaint 368 – Dancing with Death, Small Talk at Parties

November 22, 2012

Death at the Wellcome Centre

Yes, “Death” is the title of the exhibition.  It’s the collection of one man, Richard Harris, and it’s astonishing that he can live with all this stuff; I managed about half an hour before depression drove me outside into the rain.

Not that the exhibits themselves are depressing – many are amusing, some beautiful and all are interesting.  It’s what isn’t there that’s a downer, since you can’t get it out of your mind (I can’t anyway).

So, what is there?  As may be expected, skulls are omnipresent, Dances of (and with) Death, Deaths and Maidens, Death (i.e. skeletons) playing the fiddle.  Dancing skeletons seem to have penetrated all cultures – excellent Japanese and sub-continental examples here; simple but somehow beautiful death dolls from C19th USA.  A fantastic sort of diorama from Argentina, including miniature novels, corpses, monks, towns and villages, made in 2011 but looking archaic, if it wasn’t for the modern dustjackets on the little books…  It was only when I looked back from across the room that I saw the whole thing was in the shape of a skull.

There are 50 small etchings or prints made by Otto Dix, showing the horrors of the trenches and inevitably, some Goya etchings with his own atrocities.  A set of playing card-sized depictions of military life by Callot, I think; rapes, murders, executions all depicted.

The centrepiece is a horrible wax sculpture by John Isaacs, entitled “Are You Still Angry with Me?”; a corpse is sitting on a crate, partially flayed, great sections of flesh removed from the long bones, as if butchered for an anatomy lesson, perhaps, or, in line with the title, a victim of shellfire or bombing.

All the worms, bones and dancing skeletons, however, depict a sort of life-in-death; what’s missing is that suggested by the work of Rothko, or Ryman, or Malevich; oblivion, nothingness.  I know that’s not what Malevich intended in his black canvases, or Ryman with his white ones; that’s what they suggest to me, though – sometimes.  Best done in poetry, Larkin’s “Aubade”; “Not to be here, Not to be anywhere, And soon; Nothing so terrible, nothing so true.”

Barbaric Genius, Sky Arts

Film on last week by Paul Duane about John Healy, the author of “The Grass Arena”, about his life as a drinker, rough sleeper, criminal, writer, chess master, yoga adept; a brilliant book, episodic, filmic – it’s been filmed, starring Mark Rylance – and a Penguin Modern Classic, despite Faber, his original publishers, having junked it, following a confrontation with Healy a decade ago.  I was introduced to him at a party some time ago, the only author of a Penguin Modern Classic I’m likely ever to meet; we talked about how much he liked cheese.

A Bigger Splash

The Tate Modern has  a show about action painting that I visited briefly last week; it’s very big and packed with info.  Unfortunately, the whole point of action painting is the action, so without it, you have only the remnants and the photographs, and sometimes the commentaries.  Nevertheless, it looked really interesting, if not visually stunning and I’m looking forward to going again.  Felt unwell halfway round, not the result of the Austrian Actionist photos, and had to cut it short.  What I do remember was the photos of the Yves Klein event in Paris at which a number of stunning naked models rolled in blue paint and left impressions of their bodies on great sheets of paper – all before a seated audience of bourgeoisie in evening dress.  Klein himself in dinner jacket and black tie, being the master of ceremonies.

More on this next time.

 

My Kitchen at Home

Blackpaint

22/11/12

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 288

August 11, 2011

Santiago de Compostella

It means Saint James of the Field of Stars and refers to James the Greater (there were two disciples  named James, the Greater and the Less), whose bones allegedly rest here in the Cathedral, having been stolen and smuggled away from Alexandria in the night.  Perhaps at odds with the disciple image is James’ reputation as the Moor Killer; he is supposed to have turned up to support the Christian side in a battle with the Moors  and killed 60, 000 of them.  There is a statue in the cathedral of him on horseback, slashing his sword down, presumably on the head of an enemy; in  his big, floppy pilgrim’s hat, he resembles a Remington version of General Custer or Buffalo Bill.

The Cathedral has some curious sights for those not of the faith; there is no escaping an Indian, or perhaps Thai aspect to the numerous turrets, the elaborate altarpieces and the general profusion of decoration;  It reminded me of Fatehpur Sikri in Rajahstan.  The figures of Christ and the madonna were strangely doll-like; one, Christ with sword and orb (actually it might have been a Spanish king, but I think it was Christ) looked as if it might step down stiff-legged like a Golem and start slashing away.  There were several booths containing priests ready to hear confession – one had a placard listing the languages he spoke, another was apparently fast asleep – giving the impression of fortune tellers awaiting clients.

You go up the narrow steps behind the gold – is it the sun, or the head of Christ or the Virgin? – thing on the main altar and straight down the other side, no time to linger.  As you descend, you look up and there are two huge cherubs hanging above your head like Ron Mueck babies, but not quite so lifelike.  The descent into the crypt, to pass the silver box containing relics of the saint, is conducted at a similarly brisk rate.

Tapestries

There are threee sets of tapestries in the Cathedral museum which are  “based on” designs by Rubens, Teniers and Goya.  The Rubens ones have the usual Pugwash women, but with rather crude facial features; they show Achilles being dipped in the Styx, and some Greek love myths.  The Teniers are scenes of village life; dancing, drunkenness, rowdies being chucked out of celebrations, a man urinating discreetly in a corner, a skating scene and possibly some work going on.  The Goyas were various; a boy trying to trap a bird, children playing drums – the characteristic things were the hats, tall and pointy for soldiers, curling and oddly drooping at the  sides for those matador jobs.  Also the stance – that shoulders back, bum thrust out, hand on hip stance for the bully-boy soldier.

Picasso 

Free to see, in a private gallery nearby, 60-odd etchings by Picasso from 1931 – 33.  They contain some wonderful images of course; the one I know best is the Minotaur relaxing with a glass of wine and a female admirer.  Many are on the theme of the artist and model, but the one that stuck in my mind was one that contained two Guernica horses, done several years before the famous painting.  There were also two that showed a woman asleep on a table or the artist’s lap, which foreshadowed the famous Dream (the one where half her face appears to resolve into a penis).  They were entitled the Vollard Collection.

Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep?

The Philip K Dick book on which “Blade Runner” was based, of course.  I’d never read it before and was surprised to find he never used the term Blade Runner (it comes from William Burroughs, via the script writers presumably).  They must also have come up with Roy Baty’s famous lines about the shoulder of Orion and the Tannhauser Gate – they are nowhere to be found in the Dick original.  On the other hand, the film left out the cult of Mercerism, Buster Friendly,  the coveting of animals and  the philosophising.

So, two distinct works of art; Ridley Scott’s stripped-down, cold-hearted action thriller film and Dick’s original – little character development,  perfunctory in places, but fizzing with ideas.  I think all his novels are like this; he can’t be bothered to finish them before starting to develop some new idea that has occurred to him.  The short stories, conversely, are beautifully succinct and focused.

Blackpaint

11.08.11

Blackpaint 276

May 26, 2011

Jonathan Jones’ review of Mark Leckey at the Serpentine Gallery

I haven’t yet seen the show, but Jones’ review in Tuesday’s Guardian has to be the most damning I have ever read:  I have to recommend it for the degree of vehemence contained – it’s an artwork in itself.  Several reader comments on Jones’ review assumed it was some sort of post-modern satire (he denies this and asserts it’s a genuine opinion).  A few extracts: the headline refers to “farting about with speakers and screens”; “…how terrible an exhibition I had stumbled into”; “The installation GreenScreenRefrigeratorAction with its bonkers talking gadgets…. is one of the worst works of art I have ever seen in a serious gallery”;  “Nothing prepares you for the stupidity and arrogance of the central exhibit…” – and so on.  Read the review on the Guardian website to feel the heat.

What makes this really intriguing is the review posted under Jones’ name for the 2008 Turner Prize, later won – by Leckey.  Here are some extracts:  “This year I care (about the Turner Prize) because Mark Leckey is on the shortlist..”; “Mark Leckey is a fantastically creative example..”; “I find this artist irresistible..’; and he refers to Leckey’s art as “captivating, mysterious, soulful and provocative.”

I checked and, yes, it’s under Jones’ name on the site, dated 13th May 2008.  So what’s happened – has Leckey deteriorated, or has Jones had a Road to Damascus?  The degree of hostility in the recent review suggests the latter.

Violence in Painting (2)

Wrote about this recently in relation to the Caravaggio Abraham and Isaac in the Uffizi.  I was going to do more on pre-20th century paintings of violence – then I realised the scale of the job! Consider the following:

Goya’s horrors of war, Saturn scoffing his young, the witches, the cudgel fighting, the firing squad;

Various Massacres of the Innocents (Rubens comes particularly to mind);

Crucifixions and scourgings of Christ (Grunewald for instance);

Beheadings, sawings, grillings, stonings, skinnings, piercings by arrow of numerous saints – Catherine, John the Baptist, George, Ursula with her Virgins – 11.000 was it?  Agatha with her breasts on a plate…  that  saint having his thin intestine wound out round a tree.

And none of this is shocking to see; we look at it with perfect equanimity in the National Gallery et al, with maybe a wince at the idea of poor Agatha, say.  So what about the 20th and 21st centuries?

Beckman’s Night;

Grosz’s scenes of murder and suicide in Berlin;

Dix’s mutilated Card Players and corpses in the trenches;

The War artists’ pictures of the two World Wars;

Warhol’s car crashes and fallers;

Marlene Dumas’ Dead Marilyn.

Again, none of these are shocking to us, except perhaps the Warhols, because they are prints of actual photographs.  Bacon’s paintings are still more “violent” and shocking than these actual depictions.

The same can perhaps be said of cinema.  How many genuinely shocking instances of violence in recent TV or cinema?  Very few, since Reservoir Dogs started the intensification process in cinema and CSI followed suit on the small screen; we (or at least, I) have become unshockable – nearly.  So in cinema, this is my short list of shocking moments:

Antichrist, the self mutilation of the Charlotte Gainsbourg character;

The Pianist. Again, self harm, this time Isabelle Huppert:

The Orphanage, when the car hits and kills the old woman;

Salo, the scalpings and blindings at the end – but like St.Agatha, this is more the idea than what is actually seen;

Man Bites Dog, the rape and murder scene;

As for TV, I can only think of the John Lithgow killings on Dexter, which I think really pushed the limits.

The knowledge of reality is all – genuinely shocking and distressing, and destined to remain so, is the footage of people falling on 9/11 and the few seconds of the einsatzgruppen in action and the Kovno murders.

So – that’s enough of this unsavoury topic; didn’t set out to dwell so much, but things kept popping up in my head (worrying, in itself, really).  Next blog on still life and flower painting.

Blackpaint

26.05.11

 

Blackpaint 273

May 11, 2011

Ai Weiwei

I understand that the Tate Modern has “Release Ai Weiwei” in enormous letters on the outside of the building; if this was the case when I wrote, criticising the management, I hope they will accept my apologies.  I was up there the other day – Sunday, I think – and didn’t notice it; maybe it was on the other side.  Good to see two new exhibitions at Somerset House and Lisson Gallery and campaign for his release gaining momentum.

Tate Modern

The Rothkos are back in their central “temple” after being temporarily replaced by Agnes Martin and the bloody Austrians.  Looked a long while at the Dubuffet, “Busy Life” –  saw the boulder thing.  The figures, scattered at all angles, look as if they are scraped into rock.  Maybe this is because I saw Herzog’s “Cave of Forgotten Dreams” the other day (see 270).

Stanley Spencer

His “St. Francis Feeding the Birds” looks very much like a portrait of Mike Leigh in costume – unlikely, given the disparity of dates.  This brings me to today’s main theme, which is top ten portraits.  I have two lists of my favourites:  20th Century and pre – 20th century.

Portraits pre 20th Century

1.  Holbein – Thomas Cromwell.

2.  Holbein – Unknown Lady with Squirrel and Starling

3.  Velasquez – Pope Innocent X

4.  Rembrandt – self in age.  Any of them – but especially at the age of 63.

5.  Gainsborough – Mrs.  Siddons, or the Linley Sisters

6.  Leonardo – Lady with an ermine, Cecilia Gallerani (doesn’t the ermine resemble her?)

7.  Ingres – the landlady in the National Gallery.

8.  Goya – Duchess of Alba

9.  Salvatore Rosa – Self portrait.

10.  Whistler – Symphony in White no.2

20 th Century Portraits

1.  De Kooning – Marilyn Monroe.

2.  Marlene Dumas – Jule the Woman.  The red face.

3.  Francis Bacon – 3 studies of Muriel Belcher, or 3 studies of George Dyer.

4.  Gerhard Richter – Betty.

5.  Lucien Freud – Harry Diamond next to the Aspidistra – it’s called “Interior in Paddington”.

6.  Larry Rivers – David Sylvester.

7.  Frank Auerbach – all of them!

8.  Otto Dix – Von Harden

9.  Singer Sargent – Ena and Betty Wertheimer.  And, of course, Lady Agnew.

10.  Joyce’s father – Patrick Tuohy.

Bela Tarr (cont)

The accordion plays the melancholy, repetitive tune, while two drunken old men execute a dance by a snooker table, involving brandishing a chair.  A crowd of unshaven, capped, feral, moustached, semi-drunken men wait in a cobbled square; one forces spirits down the throat of a timid youth who is foolish enough to approach him.  The same youth comes eyeball to eyeball with a rotting, stinking whale in a huge wooden container in the same square – it resembles the recent Balka installation at the Tate Modern (container, not whale).  A drunken mob invades an asylum and lethargically beat the occupants with sticks, fists and feet.

The Banks of the Nile

Blackpaint

11.05.11

Blackpaint 70

February 16, 2010

Art in Fiction 2 (see also Blackpaint 65)

“Young Hearts Crying” by Richard Yates.  Set in New York, there are two great portraits of post-war American painters. The first is Paul Maitland, an effortlessly charming, bohemian Abstract Expressionist living in the Village.

 The second is Tom Nelson, who does ink drawings with watercolour washes on his kitchen floor – using saturated shelf-lining paper.  They take him between 20 minutes and “a couple hours, sometimes a whole day”.  Every few weeks, he carts the good ones uptown to the Museum of Modern Art, where they usually buy a couple for the permanent collection; sometimes, the Whitney takes some – the rest go to his gallery for his regular one-man exhibitions. 

The pair are seen through the eyes of the two protagonists, Michael Davenport and his wife Lucy.  The book is so good that I’ve started it again for the third time, as a result of checking the names for this blog.

Yates’ mother was a sculptor and he writes about art in, I think, “the Easter Parade”, and at least one of his collected short stories.

Art Biopics (see Blackpaint 64)

Since 1990, Wikipedia lists 11 biopics of artists, not including those I write about in 64.  They are:

Vincent and Theo, Carrington, Basquiat, “Surviving Picasso”, Modigliani, “Factory Girl” (Edie Sedgwick and Warhol), “Fur” (Diana Arbus), “Goya’s Ghosts”, Klimt, El Greco, “Dali and !”.  I’ve only seen “Factory Girl”, Sienna Miller (brilliant).

Listening to Too Many Drivers by Lowell Fulsom:

“Oh babe, something is wrong with your automobile, (*2)

You know you got a good little car, but there’s too many drivers at your wheel.”

Blackpaint

16.02.10