Posts Tagged ‘Gregory Woods’

Blackpaint 272

May 8, 2011

Bela Tarr

A top shot, from a bridge maybe, of travellers disembarking with suitcases from a ferry and boarding an old dockside train; it’s twilight, puddles, cobbles, steam…  Yes, they’re still coming – how many is that?  A mournful, haunting accordion plays a slow melody, over and over.  We watch the back of a man’s head as HE watches through steamed-up glass…  Later, a violent incident happens away at the top of the screen, in the darkness, on the quay – something, or someone hits the water…  A violent argument takes place between the man and the proprietress of a grocery, in the shop itself.  As they scream and tussle,  a man emerges from the freezer room at the back with a giant fish on his shoulder, slaps it on a slab and starts to chop it up.  The fight ends, the two antagonists leave – and the camera lingers on the man chopping.  He chops the fish 47 times before the scene changes…  We watch, through the window of a shabby room, with another smoking man, cable cars going to and from a factory or colliery, across a smoke -stained landscape, many times.  Mournful music plays.  Outside a dingy neon-fronted bar, ferocious rain teems down and ferocious scavenging dogs scour the mud…

These are moments – all in black and white. and beautifully shot and recorded – from the fims of Bela Tarr, my current obsession.  More to follow.

Violence in paintings

Since last blog, or maybe the one before, I have come across a number of old paintings depicting violent incidents in surprising ways – or perhaps with surprising subjects.  I was writing about Caravaggio’s “Abraham and Isaac” in the Uffizi, how brutally realistic is the violence, even though the angel prevents the “sacrifice” before Abraham can use his knife.  In the Domenichino version of the same scene, the angel, flying across the picture, brushing against Abraham’s shoulder, and grabbing the knife in his hand.  It actually looks as if Abraham is doing a judo throw on him – a poorly executed Kata-Guruma.  Everyone, including the ram, looks skyward piously- Abraham mildly startled, though.

Bernardino Luini tackled “The Executioner presents John the Baptist’s head to Herod” around 1530.  The headsman holds it by the hair, as if scrutinising it for nits, while Salome, looking very like a Leonardo saint, turns her gently smiling face away with lowered eyes, too modest, it appears, to accept the gift (Herod not in my version – must be a detail).  Even John looks demure and thoughtful – politely, he refrains from bleeding, though there is  a basin, which Salome caresses.

Rosso Fiorentino – “Moses and the Daughters of Jethro”.  From 1523,  a near naked young Moses gets stuck in to the seven shepherds who are being mean to Jethro’s daughters.  In an amazing Mannerist triangular pile of flesh, he is putting a shoulder hold on one, while two more are already laid out on the ground.  Behind him, another shepherd appears to be hurling a bludgeon at a mildly alarmed daughter in the background, clad in a blue gown, revealing the right breast.  Luckily, it looks as if it will miss her – the bludgeon, I mean.

Domenichino is in the Prado; the other two are both in the Uffizi.  More violence next time.

Gregory Woods

Attended the launch reading of his new poetry book, “An Ordinary Dog” in Honor Oak last evening; brilliantly structured, very funny, moving, full of classical references and pretty explicit in several verses.  It reminded me of the best of Thom Gunn’s work.  On sale from next month and I did the painting on the cover – which, of course, has no bearing on my opinion of the work.

Blackpaint

08.05.11

Blackpaint 266

April 11, 2011

Susan Hiller

Revisited this exhibition, and found several whole rooms I missed the first time.  In one, a series of different films were playing, each showing a young girl – I think they were all girls – displaying psycho-kinetic powers; moving things until they fell off tables, causing things to burst into flames (think I recognised Drew Barrymore in “Firestarter”).  Then,  a burst of what the catalogue calls white noise and everything changes place.

The fact that they were all girls or young women is interesting; I suppose Stephen King appropriated the idea with Carrie and then Firestarter.  The first example I remember, however, was a short story about a boy with such powers, who destroyed or “rearranged” things horribly when he heard his family or neighbours complaining – so they had to spend all their time saying how good everything was.  Can’t remember the author – Ray Bradbury maybe, or Richard Matheson.

The next room was another video display, this time of characters from Punch and Judy shows, blown up and slightly blurred, to the soundtrack of “Night of the Hunter” – the bit in which Robert Mitchum delivers a sermon based on the “love” and “hate” tattoos on his fingers.

Finally, there was a video of tourists and shoppe rs passing through a number of Juden Strasses in Germany or Austria.  The bright, chilly blue skies, shops, strolling tourists, backpackers.. generally, everyday, banal scenes make a powerful comment on the vanished history implied in the street names.

So, some memorable images – but I still found, on looking at the catalogue, that I’d missed most of it!  Get this more and more, the feeling that I’d been to a different exhibition to the one described.

Emil Kusturica, Underground

Exhausting, full-tilt charge through from WW2 through to the civil war(s) and the break-up of Yugoslavia – comic, surreal, tragic by turns and the source, perhaps, of that Balkan Brass/turbo-folk style that you hear all over the place, from the Django festival at Samois to that manic gypsy band  on “Later”, to the trumpet-based buskers by the Millennium Bridge.  At the end, all the dead come alive again underwater, climb out onto Yugoslavia island and float off together into memory.

Four great under (fresh)water sequences – L’Atalante of course, Underground, Atonement (the fountain and Balham underground station) and Oh Brother Where Art Thou? (the flooding of the valley).  Saltwater – Jaws of course, Tabu, Gallipoli …

Laura Cumming’s Watercolour top ten

In the Observer;  The Turner, Palmer, Melville and Blake all good choices.  Ravilious boring – a greenhouse? – Gwen John OK.  Cumming’s number one was the Hockney self-portrait; not particularly watercolour, could have been oil or pastel, but a great SP – that intense stare that you get when you try to do a likeness of yourself.. like those descriptions of murderers – “But what I remember most, Officer, was his staring eyes”…

Michelangelo

At the time of his death, Michelangelo was still working on the Rondanini Pieta, now in Milan.  In it, the body of Christ is supported by the Virgin Mary – but it looks, in fact, as if she is being carried on the dead Christ’s shoulders.  In addition, Christ has a free-floating right arm, done in an earlier phase (the sculpture was begun in 1552 or 3), indicating a much bigger Christ figure.  It looks strangely modern, like a Rodin perhaps, and with a lovely, curving, downward sweep – echoing at the end the apparent modernity of Matthew, done in 1506.

Below, my cover for Greg Woods’ new collection, “An Ordinary Dog”, to be published by Carcanet Books this coming June.

New Rose

Blackpaint

11,04.11