Posts Tagged ‘Graham Sutherland’

Blackpaint 585 – Vegetable Heaven, Miro at Montjuic, Bacon in Soho

February 3, 2017

still-life-with-orange

Still Life with Sharon Fruit

Blackpaint

 

Barcelona – probably worth two blogs, although only there three days; we’ll see how it goes.

Sagrada Familia

Gaudi’s famous perpetually developing cathedral/folly – first visible from the south-west by two of its towers peering like Triffids over the surrounding roofs.  In some ways, it’s a rather vegetable experience, both inside and out.  The towers (seven, I think) are grey cucumbers; the columns inside are like giant sticks of celery.  Some way up, they swell into diving helmet bulges, with lights behind glass windows (see below); from these bulges, the branches fork upwards, ending in thorn-like fingers slayed against the ceiling, reminiscent of Graham Sutherland’s paintings.

sagrada-1

 

sagrada-2

Over the main entrance, Christ appears to be about to launch himself from the high board.  Other scenes from the crucifixion below the cross; the sad man,  Christ dragging the cross, the mourners…

 

sagrada-celery

Giant celery and diving helmets

The stained glass inside is a stunning spectacle, washing the interior in piercing blues, reds, greens and gold.  I thought it was all abstract, but you can detect figures in some of the designs, and there are one or two constellations.  There is another crucifixion inside, with Christ hanging with bent knees and an Art Nouveau canopy which would look OK in a French period pub.

Outside again, to the other doorways, which are thickly encrusted in decorative carving and studded with statuary depicting other biblical scenes; the Massacre of the Innocents, the Flight into Egypt et al.  Also worth a mention is the Ascension of Christ, the figure perched on the bridge between two of the “Passion Towers” outside.  See my sketch (rough – but not bad from about 80 feet below):

ascension

 

Miro Museum

Spectacular Bauhaus – type white building, in a spectacular setting, up Montjuic, the hill overlooking Barcelona. The chap below was on the door.  Beautiful dark green bluff behind building, cedars, poplars…

miro-man

 

The permanent exhibition covers much the same ground as the huge Miro exhibition in London from a few years back (see Blackpaint 222 and 262): the early farms and village squares that could be anyone; the blue, green and brown backgrounds with spidery line drawings; then into the familiar Miro territory of biomorphic shapes and blazing primary colour (my two favourites below);

 

miro1

miro2

The huge plain canvases with the wandering line, protesting the imprisonment and execution by garotte of the Anarchist in 1974; the black fireworks; the burnt canvases.

The large sculptures below brought home to me the similarities between Miro and Karel Appel.  Since Miro was earlier, the influence must have been his on the Dutchman.  The bird things, the staring eyes and bared teeth of the figures, the primary colours, the painting onto wood, the highly coloured shapes and like carnival figures on floats – the two artists share all these things.

The difference between the two – Appel’s extreme “painterliness” (I saw an Appel in St. Ives on which the paint must have been two and a half inches thick) while Miro’s surfaces are mostly smooth.  He famously said he wanted to “assassinate painting”.

 

miro3

Miro

 

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Appel (figures for The Magic Flute, CoBrA Museum, Amsterdam)

More on Barcelona – Picasso, MACBA -next blog.

Love is the Devil (John Mayberry, 1998)

Watched this again the other night after the BBC documentary on Bacon, which revealed that George Dyer’s death on a French hotel toilet  before Bacon’s Paris exhibition was concealed for two days by Bacon and several of his entourage, to avoid spoiling the grand opening.

Derek Jacobi is astounding as Bacon – Bacon’s chin was more pointed, otherwise he was perfect.  And so was Daniel Craig as Dyer; he’s wasted as Bond. Fantastic (imaginary) shots of Craig, bloody, flayed, tumbling forward as from a diving board.

little-ice-fall

Little Ice Fall

Blackpaint

3.2.17

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Blackpaint 583 – Ignored Women, Mahler and Bloom, Soutine and Schwabacher

January 22, 2017

London Art Fair

Finishes today (Sunday) unfortunately; below, a selection of the best paintings on view:

minton

John Minton

Medieval quality to this, somehow..

 

sutherland

Graham Sutherland (of course) – that blue, with the orange…

 

robin-denny

Robyn Denny three piece – before he went geometric/minimalist…

 

leigh

Leigh Davis – just a fabulous little painting, touch of Lanyon, maybe?

 

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William Crozier – I love the dry, spiky roughness of his earlier work.  There was another one that I didn’t get a photo of, again with that fiery roughness; if you look at his images online, they are somehow gentler, more “at rest”; I guess they are later.

 

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A couple of Crozier watercolours, to illustrate what I mean by “at rest”.

audrey

Audrey Grant

I love these rough portraits – there’s a bit of early Hockney there, and Nathan Oliviera and Manuel Neri (Bay Area, 60s ).

In addition to these were : a single flower in a vase against a grey/pink background by Euan Uglow; a beautiful yellow Craigie Aicheson; an Uglow-like dresser (cabinet, not person) by William Brooker;  a couple of unusual Ivon Hitchens – unusual, because they contained figures.  And the brilliant usual suspects, Allan Davie, Adrian Heath, Roger Hilton and a single Gillian Ayres, lozenge shaped and pink – or was it grey? – background.

Mahler, Ken Russell (1974)

mahler2

Robert Powell in the main role, strong resemblance to the real Mahler, judging by the photographs.  Great start; dream sequence of a blazing chalet, Georgina Hale (Alma Mahler) emerging, writhing, from a white cocoon on a rocky shore.  Some vigorously rendered Jewish stereotypes from the likes of Lee Montague, Miriam Karlin and John Bluthal as parents and family of the young Mahler – maybe a little too vigorous for today’s tastes – and Cosima Wagner (Antonia Ellis) , in a German helmet and black bondage bodice, in front of a giant sword, waving a whiplash and yelling commands at a timorous Mahler as he undergoes his conversion from Judaism to Christianity to further his career.  Are there swastikas?  I’m pretty sure there are, maybe carved in the rocks…no, just checked; there’s one on her backside.

I’m sure it happened exactly as Ken portrayed it.  Brings to mind the Nighttown scene in Ulysses, when the brothel madam Bella Cohen bullies the hapless Leopold Bloom, transformed as he is into one of Cohen’s girls…

The music, of course, is fantastic, although mainly, I think, from the first three symphonies, and Kindertotenlieder.

Soutine

At last, found a book on the weird and influential Chaim Soutine; it’s by Klaus H Carl and is published by Parkstone International.  The English is bizarre at times and Carl tends to regard the reader as a complete ignoramus – but the illustrations are great and it’s only a tenner (in Foyles).

Those bent faces and tables and pots, breakneck angles and steps in the landscapes, people walking leaning way over to one side – remind me of Sokurov’s “Mother and Son”.  And if you like texture, Soutine is your man.

Women AbExes

Another book, “Women of Abstract Expressionism”, Joan Marter (ed), Yale University Press 2016.  Based on a Denver exhibition, it documents a number of lesser-known, or ignored, women abexes, beyond Frankenthaler, Mitchell, Krasner, Hartigan and Elaine de Kooning.  I’ve mentioned Pat Passlof before; best of the rest as far as I’m concerned, are Perle Fine, Ethel Schwabacher, Deborah Remington and Mary Abbott.

schwabacher-origins-i-for-web

Ethel Schwabacher – Origins i, 1958

The American Scene – prints from Hopper to Pollock (Stephen Coppel, British Museum Press 2008)

The last book recommendation, this is being sold off cheaply at the British Museum, along with a number of other catalogues.  It has some fantastic stuff –  Grant Wood, James E Allen, Robert Gwathmey – well, they are mostly brilliant.  Also, they have the complete Kitaj prints for a fiver – or they did when I went.

One of mine to end with:

time-and-place-no-7

Time and Place, No.7

Blackpaint

22/01/17

Blackpaint 563 – Khakhar, Sutherland, Malick and Corbyn – Solicitors

July 22, 2016

Bhupen Khakhar, Tate Modern

khakhar tiger

Tiger and Stag

X 8

Man with Five Penises Suffering from Runny Nose

Douanier Rousseau, Chagall (a bit), Ben Nicholson in his panto horse phase, that big fresh green hill in the Dora Carrington painting in Tate B.  Maybe Hockney in his cartoony  “boys together” phase, but without the painterliness – or maybe that’s just the gay subject matter.  Man with five penises (all arising from same area) quite an arresting image – not sure if it’s anatomically correct, though..  There’s a portrait – not sure if it’s a self portrait – that’s very reminiscent of Lowry.

khakhar2

Man in Pub (that’s a glove he’s holding)

Graham Sutherland

Writing last blog about Georgia O’Keeffe, I was rambling on about how I didn’t like her skull and antler paintings, because they just replicated the correct details of same, against a pastel background.  Looking at a book of Sutherland’s work, I see what can be done with objects like skulls and bones beyond anatomical accuracy, and also with landscape:

Horned Forms 1944 Graham Sutherland OM 1903-1980 Presented by the Friends of the Tate Gallery 1966 http://www.tate.org.uk/art/work/T00834

Horned Forms 

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Twisted Tree Form

 

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Stone in Estuary

 

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Sunset between Two Hills

The main thing is that they have some texture and weight and they don’t have that awful smooth Lempicka finish, like Athena Reproductions (are they still going?  Probably not – you would need to be old enough to remember the tennis girl walking away…).

tennis girl

The Tree of Life, 2011 (dir.Terence Malick)

After watching Sorrentino’s “Youth” last week and comparing it stylistically to Malick’s film, I thought I should check the source again.  I think the comparison holds (although Malick’s is the superior film) – but I was even more struck by the similarities of Malick’s to Tarkovsky’s style.

Brad Pitt’s performance as the father is very good; decent, talented, sensitive, loving – but with a streak of cruelty, wilfulness, self-pity, self-righteousness and self-regard.  you see him through his children’s and his wife’s eyes and feel the weight of his benign oppression.

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And beautiful, troubled Jessica Chastain, always cuddling the boys and hanging up billowing washing, it seems – reminds me of the wife in Bo Widerberg’s “Adalen 31”, tearing up her dead husband’s shirt to polish the windows…

Jeremy (Corbyn, of course)

Apart from a couple of minor disagreements over Trident and Brexit, I’m a great admirer of Corbyn; he always seems reasonable and unruffled and polite and never more than a bit tetchy, considering the unrelenting shower of abuse he’s getting from Labour MPs and the media.  The other day in the Trident debate, he sounded remarkably sane and May sounded barking mad.  I agree with May, but I could well be mad too.

corbyn

But who are these women in their long summer dresses with the beatific smiles who seem to drift along behind him in the photo?  Very disquieting – touch of Manson about it. And they should ditch the “Momentum” tee shirts and Jeremy should stop clapping with them when they applaud him – looks like North Korea.  Actually, that’s a bit strong; everybody does it on British quiz shows now, don’t they?  They clap themselves for getting the answer right, or for being “absolutely brilliant contestants”…

Life Drawings 

Haven’t finished a decent (or indeed, any) painting for weeks, so I’m reduced to posting my life class efforts again.

male nude back

Jeremy Corbyn, back view – no, not really….

sad man nude

Sad Man Sitting

 

fat man nude

Fat Bloke Nude

That’s it for now; no political comment next time, I promise.

Blackpaint

22/7/16

 

Blackpaint 447 – Ken Clark’s pictures, Theory and Non-Theory, Capitalism, Fellini and Orwell

May 23, 2014

Kenneth Clark Collection at Tate Britain 

This is an astonishing exhibition; four and a bit big rooms of great art, most of it actually owned by Clark.  Some of the treasures on show listed or shown below:

pasmore clark 1

Victor Pasmore

A couple of portraits and nudes by Pasmore that are new to me, along with the more familiar river side pictures like Hammersmith and “Evening Star” in which, unlike the Turner of the same name I saw the other week at Margate, the star in question is readily visible.  The rear view nude on the bed (which I can’t find a picture of) looks like a fore-runner of Uglow.

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Graham Sutherland, Sun rising between two Hills

A number of great Sutherlands, landscapes, foundries, Blitz damage, portraits (of Clark himself); also Pipers on similar themes, and Paul Nash – especially his magisterial “Battle of Britain” with it’s vapour trails making a great, plant-like shape in the sky above the Thames and the coast.

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Graham Bell, Brunswick Square, 

A new one on me – love that violet blue.

Just too much to list really – Cezanne drawings. Coptic tapestry figures from the 5th – 7th century AD, a Lippo Lippi Moses striking the rock, a couple of Nolans, one horrible the other fantastic, a couple of great Seurats, a Samuel Palmer, Cornfield by Moonlight and Evening Star (again), Henry Moore in the shelters and the mines, oh, a couple of Leonardo drawings…  It’s amazing that one man could have amassed all this in the 20th century.

Theory

I attended a symposium at UCL a couple of weeks ago, on “Real Abstraction”.  A series of distinguished academics, who discussed matters like materiality in very abstruse terms, assuming familiarity with the terms on the part of the audience (many of whom looked as if they were up to speed on the topic).  All the speakers, I think, mentioned Adorno; Capital also made an appearance in every presentation.  It was soon clear to me that the real subject was how abstraction in art could be accommodated by Marxist theory of the Frankfurt school – for the first speaker anyway.  We listened to six of the speakers and none of them made any attempt to define what “Real Abstraction” was. We listened quietly, applauded politely and visited Habitat in the lunch hour, buying a nice glass flask for £8.00.

More Theory

My painting has always taken account of “theory” – Foucault, Barthes, Derrida, Baudrillard, Deleuze – I suppose it’s obvious from the content.  At my book group the other day, I discovered from one of the academics that there are “theory” and “non-theory” people in the universities; the latter would be traditionalists, liberals or conservatives, using analytical processes not determined (although perhaps informed) by the writings of the above and their followers.  Glad I’m not one – now I can add Adorno to the list too.

Orwell, Eileen and 1984

Perhaps the ultimate non-theory person; I was interested to read in the great Crick biography that Orwell’s wife Eileen worked for the Ministry of Food during the war, persuading the people to eat whatever vegetables were currently plentiful – one month, she might be stressing the health benefits of potatoes; the following month, there may be a shortage, and she would switch to pointing out how fattening potatoes were.  Crick suggests plausibly this filtered into Nineteen Eighty-Four.

Fellini, The Ship Sails on

Watched this again and was freshly impressed by the performance of Freddie Jones  as the reporter-narrator, who ends up in the rowing boat with the rhino (you have to get the DVD and watch it, too complicated to explain) and Barbara Jeffords as the suppressed operatic diva.  Fantastic.

 

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For Derrida

Blackpaint

23.05.14

Blackpaint 314

December 22, 2011

Sutherland

Laura Cumming in her review of the Sutherland show in Oxford (see Observer last Sunday) remarks on his adoption of  realism with the outbreak of WWII, or at least, the Blitz.  I remarked on this in Blackpaint 128, in relation to Bomberg, with his involvement in the First World War – it’s as if the sights of warfare call for a more realistic depiction, or some artists no longer feel that an experimental approach can do them proper justice.  Maybe this is understating it, in the case of Bomberg – according to Robert Hughes in his book on Auerbach, Bomberg was so traumatised by his time in the trenches that he shot himself in the foot, a capital offence at the time.

Irvin

I mentioned the Alice Correia essay I read in the Irvin book – she quotes Roger Hilton as follows: “Words and painting don’t go together.  The more words that are written about painting, the less people will see the painting.  Half the difficulty that people find in “understanding” painting is that they think they have to put it into words.”  The truth of this  is easily demonstrated – just think of the number of times you have gone to an exhibition and spent more time reading the labels and info on the walls than looking at the pictures.  A bit of context is OK, but a work, especially an abstract one, should speak through the image – otherwise, why bother?

Unfortunately, she spoils it for me on the previous page: “Why is it that that non-representational art draws so much negative attention? …The work of Jackson Pollock… still has the ability of infuriating viewers who feel they are being duped in some way….It could be because abstraction does not have any easy answers.  The question is not “what is it of?” but rather, “how does it make me feel?” ”  

Well, no.  Back to words again!  The “feelings” proposal negates Hilton’s comments entirely.  Pictures don’t need to represent feelings either.  She asserts that Irvin’s pictures are about hope, an easy conclusion to reach, since they are vibrant, bright colours and contain little black. But  he was in the RAF during WW2; some of them could easily represent burning German cities from a plane, with daisy-like bomb explosions (Plimsoll, Skipper and Brandenburg, for example).  Let the pictures speak for themselves.

Van Gogh

I’m sure I have remarked on this before, and that loads of others have also noticed it, but some of Vincent’s late paintings look as if he is painting  LSD experiences.  The blazing stars, of course, but also tree bark, meadow grasses, fields and hedgerows seem to swarm, somehow, or are outlined in light, in a way that I remember from long-ago “experiments” with hallucinogens.  Not to suggest that he was an early adopter; maybe a chemical imbalance made him see in that way.  Then again,  not all painters paint what they see – probably not even most.  Certainly not me, even in life drawing; I’m happy with anything that looks halfway OK, even if it’s nothing like what I see. 

The Music Lovers

Sample reviews,  from Wikipedia:

Dave Kehr of the Chicago Reader described the film as a “Ken Russell fantasia – musical biography as wet dream” and added, “[it] hangs together more successfully than his other similar efforts, thanks largely to a powerhouse performance by Glenda Jackson, one actress who can hold her own against Russell’s excess.”

TV Guide calls it “a spurious biography of a great composer that is so filled with wretched excesses that one hardly knows where to begin . . . all the attendant surrealistic touches director Ken Russell has added take this out of the realm of plausibility and into the depths of cheap gossip.”  Ken Russell must have been immensely proud of these, and other, worse, reviews.

My own realist efforts.

And latest, abstractified Figures in a (winter) landscape.  This was called “Life Drawing 1”, a couple of blogs ago.

Blackpaint

22/12/11

Blackpaint 227

December 6, 2010

Cezanne’s Card Players

At the Courtauld Gallery.  There are maybe 12 pictures, 5 of card players, the rest pipe smokers and sketches.  What I noticed particularly was the way that the grey or brown jackets were not just grey or brown, but contained patches or layers or streaks of quite different colours, so that if you took an extreme close-up you’d have an interesting abstract picture in itself.  Elementary now, I suppose, like breaking up the outline; but still instructive to the untutored like me.  Also, the bare canvas showing through in most of the paintings, like snowflakes (or dandruff) on their clothes.  The best card players, which are the two paintings on the wall to your left as you enter, are really solid in aspect – the tablecloth looks like wood, or maybe leather.

Also of note

I’ve done the Courtauld  fairly recently (see Blackpaint 77, Feb. 2010), but there were a couple of paintings that were newly displayed.  There was Keith Vaughan’s “Delos, 62”; de Stael – like blocks against a striking blue background.  In the same room, Graham Sutherland’s “Study for Origins of the Land”, 1950, which was a sketch for the Festival of Britain.  Scarlet/pink bricks or blocks, scattered amongst  which are various objects, one like a button, another the skeleton of a bird.  It’s supposed to be a cross section down through the earth – you can see a little sun on the top of the picture; the earth’s surface.

Bacon

There was a Bacon: two figures or half – figures wrestling (maybe) on the ground, against a black background.  Strokes of paint, like straw or grass, reminiscent of the strokes in the Bacon version of the lost Van Gogh picture, the one in which the straw-hatted painter walks along a sunlit lane with his easel  under his arm.  Nearby, the Daumier picture of Don Quixote and Sancho Panza, which Bacon apparently regarded as a major work.  The sculpting of the painting and the skeletal quality of Quixote and his horse vaguely resemble some of Bacon’s work.

Rubens

There are two fantastic versions of the Deposition – in both, someone is chewing on the shroud, or rather holding it in their teeth while they lower the body with their hands.  Finally, I should mention “The Birth of Saint Augustine” by Murano, down on the ground floor with the Gothic stuff – Augustine’s mother looking very dubious about the vertical, grub-like baby in tight swaddling, being presented to her, eyes wide open.  Shades of Eraserhead.

Quiz

In Grunewald’s “Crucifixion”, who points a finger at the crucified Christ?

Blackpaint

06.12.10

Blackpaint 176

August 16, 2010

Rauschenberg

Last blog should have read “Ruscha’s OLDER vandal brother” – although doesn’t sound so good.  Rauschenberg was born in 1925 and is dead; Ruscha was born in 1937 and is still alive – important differences (to the artists anyway).

Rausch. is included,with Ruscha and Rosenquist et al, in the Taschen “Pop Art”.   I  think I’m right in saying he’s  the only one with any real texture to his surfaces – the others are all smooth and glassy, some airbrushed.

Tate Britain

 A Mary Feddon, mauve table floating at a Cezanne angle, floating on it a red-orange fruit and other objects I can’t recall – and an Arthur Boyd, “Bride drinking from a creek”, depicting exactly that; a ghost -like figure with, a stiff white lace veil sticking up behind her, face in the river, surrounded by blackened stumps and sticks of trees burnt in some bush fire.  Both fabulous painitngs.

Blake

There is an exhibition of beautiful small pictures by William Blake, mostly from the Book of Urizen, including one that looks like God using a bowling ball, another of a highly stylised skeletal figure with a patriarch and one of those squareish, massively muscled, but huddled and  troubled (sorry) figures with the staring eyes.  Also a single page of beautifully etched trees and pastoral scenes, each the size of a pair of dominoes, and showing clearly Blake’s influence on modern artists like Graham Sutherland.  We have a copy of the book at home with tipped in illustrations, that are clearly different versions of the ones on show here; apparently, he did a number of versions in different media.

Sutherland, etc.

In the next room are works by Sutherland, Michael Ayrton, John Piper and Keith Vaughan, which seem to follow naturally somehow; Vaughan’s figures, in particular, are solid and chunkier than the more abstract figures of the 60s I’m used to (see various previous Blackpaints).  The main Ayrton is a Temptation of St. Anthony, which is a wonderful drawing  in terrible  colours, to my eyes anyway.

The Sutherlands include the Welsh(?) landscape with the cow’s skull in those Bomberg-like orange-reds and ochres, the green, white and black tree tunnel and the long, green log which always looks to me like a pig’s head on the end of a battering ram.

Finally, in this room, there is a glass case, full of  sketchbooks by Sutherland, Vaughan and Robert Colquhoun which have some of the best pictures, as always.

John Riddy

Next room, have a look at one particular picture by Riddy, the shot of a brick wall in Weston Street.  It looks just like a painting to me, the brickwork and old poster tatters making an illusion of paint texture.

Lanyon

The great little exhibition of Lanyon’s preparatory works for the 1951 “Porthleven” is still up and it makes me doubt whether Lanyon’s work  is in any sense abstract.  Everything he paints is there in the world, apart maybe from sweeping lines representing a glider’s trajectory; it’s just  cut up and jumbled, “abstractified”, I suppose.  Margaret Garlake in her Tate book goes for “near-abstract”.  An interesting bit of info is that Lanyon claimed he was unaware of the presence of the fisherman and his wife, the two figures that “contain” the town, until he’d  finished.  Sounds far-fetched, but I believe it – happens  to me all the time.

Blackpaint

16.08.10