Posts Tagged ‘Guston’

Blackpaint 628 – Skinned Alive in Dulwich and Striped in Hanover Square

October 21, 2018

Jusepe de Ribera, Dulwich Picture Gallery

The most effective heir to Caravaggio, Spanish painter who worked in Naples (1591 – 1652)

I’ve been looking forward to this exhibition for months, having seen fantastic de Riberas in the Prado last year; vast canvases of stretched, prostrated male bodies undergoing torture… hang on, this is becoming rather weird.  They are not actually all that gruesome and it’s the brilliant rendition (unfortunate term, but the correct one) of the human body that’s fantastic, not the torture or bloodshed.

There are only four or five large canvases in Dulwich – St.Bartholomew, about to be skinned alive (two of those, I think); Marsyas, being flayed by Apollo; St Sebastian, having his arrows pulled out by a couple of women (the women rather perfunctory – de Ribera seems more interested in men).  There is a portrait of a man holding a knife and a flayed human skin, obviously inspired by the Michelangelo self portrait on the Sistine wall.

Additionally, there are a number of beautiful little drawings, some in red chalk, that are reminiscent in style of Leonardo, but Goya immediately comes to mind; the subject matter?  Executions, tortures such as the strappado, hangings, crucifixions, facial deformations…  You can imagine the visitor to Ribera’s studio, after seeing these: “And the one you’re working on at the moment, upstairs – would that be a harbour scene or some nice flowers in a jug, with butterflies?  Oh, a flaying…”.

 

St Sebastian

The sprawling male bodies are the obvious focal point – the skin often white or greyish, grainy, rippled over the belly, livid white and scooped out by shadow in turn.  Wher the flaying is actually in progress, it is the foot or arm that is being “done” and is easy to miss.  De Ribera is also pretty hot on fabric; see the example below.

 

By coincidence, the night before going to this, I watched the film “Bone Tomahawk” (dir. S.Craig Zahler, 2015) on TV, in which cave-dwelling cannibal throwbacks scalp a living man, then upend him and chop him in two from the crutch; it seemed to make an appropriate double with Ribera.

Amy Sillman, Camden Arts Centre, Finchley Road tube

By way of slight contrast, this beautiful set of paintings and drawings, and a cartoon film in the overheated Camden Arts Centre.  Lovely big, green, pink, blue abstract canvases (see below) and cartoony characters, like the crawling, vomiting (?) creature that make their way, like Kentridge’s people and coffee pots, into the film.  The pictures have surface; sometimes hard, smooth and glazed, sometimes rough, scraped, paint in bobbles and rills.  She seems, again like Kentridge and many other artists, to have recurring images; the thing that looks like an old vinyl record pickup in “TV in Bed” below; or is it an unconscious deep sea diver, lying on his back on the sea bed and wearing flippers…

Apart from Kentridge, Guston (the pinks), Oehlen and for some reason, Marlene Dumas came to mind.

 

What the Axe Knows

 

TV in Bed

 

Slant

 

 

 

Sean Scully, “Uninsideout”, Blain/Southern, Hanover Square

For some reason, someone tweeted that Scully “should be ashamed of himself” for this exhibition…  Why?  He did stripes before and he’s doing stripes now – what’s wrong with these stripes?  Too colourful, maybe…

Anyway, they are huge; lush, syrupy sweeps of paint on aluminium supports, very painterly, with a depth of colour like those he showed in that fabulous palace in Venice, at last year’s Biennale.  Additionally, there are a couple of enormous, quilt-like assemblages with inset panels (three pictures down, below).  Downstairs, smaller works on paper in pastel.  In Scully’s handwriting, some guff about clashing colours suggesting The Clash rock band – great art doesn’t, or shouldn’t need explanation or justification.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Two of mine to finish with, somewhat smaller than Scully’s:

Ice Candle

Blackpaint

 

Little Crashing Out

Blackpaint

21.10.48

 

 

 

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Blackpaint 407 – Bloodshed at the RA; is Stoner Perfect?

August 15, 2013

Sorry for hiatus – been away.

Mexico, a Revolution  in Art, at the RA

Not all Mexican – Edward Weston, Tina Modotti, Philip Guston, Cartier -Bresson,  DH Lawrence  et al, all down there on a visit at one time or another.

Starting with the inevitable sepia photos of firing squads and their dead victims, one sequence showing the shooting of four Mexicans, one after the other, at the moment the bullets strike; violent death somehow seems more prevalent in Mexican revolution, the executions routine and casual – maybe a reflection of the ubiquity of photographers.  Also strikers, prostitutes peeping from windows, semi-surrealist street shots…

A few lurid, blood-raw landscape pictures, and one snow-capped peak that recalled the Canadian “Seven” painter, Lawren Harris.  Maybe the landscape really IS that raw, blood orange colour – best to leave it to God, perhaps, like those lurid American Sublime sunsets.

The Guston (early figurative mode) and the one opposite of a man in a cat’s suit the best, along with a portrait by Siqueiros of Zapata – like a hooded-eyed, ancient deity.  Also an Orozco and a Rivera; both better as murals, I think.

Guston in Mexico

The RA Summer Exhibition

Overall, not inspiring.  Lots of well-known RAs doing their usual thing; some beautiful Irvins, especially the small, marmalade orange prints called “Shakespeare” (presumably after Shakespeare Road, rather than the playwright) – and a huge, penetrating blue canvas by Barbara Rae,   I think the most striking painting – in a good way – in the show.  But I didn’t record the title.

Gillian Ayres’ flower-shaped images on prints, Tracey Emin’s broken-line etchings, John Carter’s Oiticica-like wobbly squares… A number of John Bellanys in garish, livid colours, humans with seabirds’ heads.. a big, brown, messy, lovely Basil Beattie.

Jock MacFadyen’s paintings were interesting – none of the cartoon-like tattoo’ed thugs with pit bulls; instead, a realist derelict factory with graffitti and a minimalist portrait if Humphrey Ocean – good, but I think I prefer the cartoon stuff – speaking of which, A big Rose Wylie over the door in her usual style.

Most striking of the non – RAs was a small yellow, patchwork print by Hetty Haxworth, called “Rig and Furrow”, loads of prints of which already sold.

haxworth

Worst painting by famous artist; Per Kirkeby’s “Laokoon”, a roughly executed serpent in ugly colours.  Also Pete Tonkins’ acrylic abstract.  Ugliness, whatever that is, not necessarily bad in a painting, of course, but should be something else to carry it; coherence, structure, something anyway.

Stoner by John Williams

First published in 1965, a campus novel set in University of Missouri in years from WW1 to the 50s.  I thought it was stunning – I normally read a bunch of books a few pages each every day, but I put others aside until I finished this, in maybe four days, really fast for me.  It’s not flawless; the dialogue in the love scenes a little shaky, perhaps, and a death scene seems prolonged; but it made me reflect on my own time as a student and teacher, with some very depressing and uncomfortable results.

Something that occurred to me, but apparently to no-one else who has written about the novel on the internet, was that Lomax’s campaign against Stoner through Walker could be read as a metaphor for the ideological struggles between radical movements and more conservative forces on campus, which became common a little later in the 60s; I was thinking particularly of the accusations of racism or misogyny that were often deployed against conservative and liberal academics.  No doubt this take is somewhat crass; all other reviews stress the universality of the themes and the perfection of the novel.

I couldn’t help casting some of the characters mentally, in the film that must soon be made; Stoner himself, as a young man, I see played by Paul Dano (There Will be Blood); Finch could only be Philip Seymour Hoffman (The Master).

Great book; best of its kind I’ve read since Richard Yates.

??????????

 

Montreuil, Blackpaint

15.08.13

Blackpaint 233

December 22, 2010

British Museum – Drawings; Picasso – Mehretu

Total surprise, this; free alternative to spending £12 on the Book of the Dead exhibition.  And one of the best exhibitions I’ve seen this year (review of the year to follow after Christmas).

Straightaway, I have to mention Jim Dine – “The Diemaker”.  Beautiful drawing, white shirt and tie barely suggested, slumped seated pose, one hand a grey cloud, heavy shading on face and left side, which looks strangely collapsed in shadow.

RB Kitaj – “Sides”, 1976.  Three depictions of male right side, from about chin to mid thigh, chalks on yellow paper; just stunning life drawings, class of Michelangelo.  Lean, muscular body, great, sweeping curve of lower back into buttocks – fabulous.

Picasso – sketch in red chalk for “Desmoiselles d’Avignon”, an upperbody and head, and separate face, latter recognisable as a desmoiselle, former not like P. at all – heavy overdrawing, more like Rouault, say.

Matisse – “Lady in Taffeta Dress”, charcoal on paper, dress folds suggested with usual economy, fewest lines throughout – but solid.

Bonnard – “Dining Room at Cannet”, coloured drawing, 1940.  Actually a laid table, but done in perspective rather than dropped down, or forward, at this late date.  Chairlegs on right rather dodgy, though.

Anselm Keifer – “Dein goldenes Haar Margarete”, a line from Paul Celan’s Holocaust poem “Todesfuge”.  Ground level cornstalks against a blue sky, the words of the title painted across it.  The blue of the sky a surprising (to me) soft note from this artist.

Guston – Two Guston drawings, the first one of his KKK crowds, milling about in a cave, their button eyes looking somehow startled; the other, “Hooded”, a single head in a non-Klan covering, suggesting torture today, obviously.

David Smith – A drawing very like his “landscape” sculptures, a framework with dangling bits and screwed-on ratchets(?).  They remind me of those Airfix kits with the plane parts stuck on plastic frame for you to twist off.

Dorothy Dehner – Smith’s 1st wife. “The Great Gate of Kiev”, an exploded plan of a wooden structure – but it’s flying!

Kirchner – Three, I think, and interesting to hit his gestural, expressionist style first, as you pass from the little ante room with the permanent collection of early drawings, etchings and mezzotints, showing evidence of sheer, painstaking effort.  Kirchner like a draught of cold, strong wine or a release of breath.

Enough for today – rest of drawings tomorrow.

Michelangelo

Looked at the Epifania cartoon again, in this section – I’m sure that the standing figure on the viewer’s right is a self-portrait.  The broken nose is there and it looks to me like a pumped-up version of the famous St.Bartholomew’s skin self portrait on the Sistine wall – only grinning.

Blackpaint

22.12.10

Blackpaint 129

May 8, 2010

Bomberg (again)

Just to demonstrate how wrong your (actually my) assumptions can be, I read on Wikipedia that the first version of his “Sappers at Work” was rejected as a “Futurist abortion” and he came up with a more figurative one, presumably based on the one hanging in the Tate Modern (Blackpaint 128).

Actually, Bomberg is rapidly becoming one of my heroes, for the following reasons:

  • I like his paintings.
  • His work, hung outside a gallery in Chelsea, frightened the horses that drew the 29 bus.
  • He was one of the most “brutally excluded” British artists ever – expelled from the Slade in 1913 for being too avant-garde, unable to get a teaching job at an art school after WW11 – Wikipedia doesn’t explain this, which is odd because his paintings by then were far more conventional, although brilliant.
  • He died in poverty.

Guston

Philip Guston was another artist who comes to mind as one who turned from abstraction to figurative painting around 1970.  He was already an established and lionised figure of abstract expressionism and attracted deep hostility when he went figurative, rather like a jazz musician going “modern”, or Dylan going electric in 1966, was it?

Why the change?  Politics seems to be the answer.  with the Vietnam war in full swing, Nixon as president, the recent memory of the Chicago Democratic Convention, Guston felt he could no longer paint paintings about painting.  Hence the change, the cartoon figures, the big boots, KKK hoods, cigarettes, seas of blood, Nixon’s bandaged leg, prick nose, testicle cheeks.  The only thing which stayed similar, it seems to me, was the general “pinkness” of his paintings, pinks, reds and greys being distinctive (but by no means exclusive) in his abstracts.

Blackpaint, Election Day.

OK, that’s it, I’m fed up with art for today – so here in no particular order, my 10 favourite rock records.

  • 20 Flight Rock, Eddy Cochrane
  • Crazy Legs, Gene Vincent
  • Hot Dog Buddy Buddy, Bill Haley
  • Bye Bye Baby, Johnny Otis
  • Rave On, Buddy Holly
  • Whole Lotta Woman, Marvin Rainwater
  • That’s Alright Mama, Elvis
  • Round and Round, Chuck Berry
  • Down the Line, Jerry Lee Lewis
  • Midnight Shift, Buddy Holly
  • Ready Teddy, Little Richard

Alright, that’s eleven, but mine goes up to eleven.

Listening to all the above,

Blackpaint

From the Socialist Republic of Tooting

08.05.10

Blackpaint 128

May 6, 2010

Abstract and Figurative

In the Tate Modern yesterday, I wandered into the Futurist gallery, killing time more than anything else.  Not that the paintings (or some of them) aren’t good, but I’m sort of familiar with them – or I thought I was.  There was David Bomberg, a picture very much like “The Mud Bath” in form – zigzag solid forms that turn out on close inspection to be people.

Then, at the end of the gallery, I looked at the other Bomberg; a giant picture of soldiers at work under a light blue sky, it’s called something like “Canadian sappers mining Hill 60, in the St.Eloi sector” and it was painted in 1919-20.  It’s a strange picture, a sketch apparently, and it reminded me a little of a Spencer/Kitaj cross.  The soldiers appear to have slightly wobbly arms.  It is, however, conventional in its depiction of the human figure, compared to “The Mud Bath” paintied four or five years earlier.

What had happened in between, of course, was the Western Front and Bomberg’s participation in it.  Perhaps it seemed somehow inappropriate (strange word to apply to painting – who would want to paint “appropriate” pictures?) to render the troops in his abstract style.  After the industrial-scale slaughter, perhaps it seemed right to one who had been there to paint them as individual people rather than anonymous, semi-geometric shapes. 

After the war, there were the Palestine  landscapes, then Spain and Cornwall.  I think these paintings were more conventional than the pre – war paintings; my partner says no – the Vorticist stuff was faddy and superficial, a sort of blind alley; the landscapes more exciting in the use of paint and structure.

Either way, I was interested in this apparent abandonment of abstraction by one who had been so “radical”.  An obvious parallel – on the face of it, anyway – is Philip Guston and I’ll look at him tomorrow as I have urgent business to attend to at the polling station.

Interesting that Susan Philipsz’ entry for the Turner Prize is a recording of her singing “Lowlands” under a Scottish bridge (sorry – unclear.  She’s not singing under a bridge – The recording is played under a  bridge).

The Cock Crew by Blackpaint

“I dreamed a dream the other night;

Lowlands, lowlands away my John;

I dreamed a dream the other night;

My lowlands away.

I dreamed I saw my own true love;

Lowlands, lowlands  away, etc.

He was green and wet with weeds so cold,

Lowlands, lowlands away,” etc.

Blackpaint

06.05.10

Blackpaint 114

April 19, 2010

Ten Male Artists whose work  should be published in cheap editions by Taschen or Tate or anyone good

Partly to demonstrate the anti-sexist credentials of Blackpaint’s blog, but also to mention a slew of painters I like but can’t get cheap books about:

  • Hans Hoffman – I can only find one book on this seminal colour field artist and teacher (in Henry Pordes, Charing X Road) and it’s 65 quid! 
  • Richard Diebenkorn – highly desirable book by Jane Livingston, but it’s 35 quid.  Bit cheaper on Amazon, but I like to  buy the old-fashioned way.
  • Richard Guston
  • John Hoyland
  • Graham Sutherland
  • Pierre Bonnard – the colours in the Phaidon are dead; Taschen required urgently.
  • Eduard Vuillard
  • Asger Jorn, Appel – all the CoBrA people, really.
  • Keith Vaughan
  • Albert Oehlen

A mixed bunch, to be sure; but I have actually  searched for cheap editions of all these and have only really been lucky with odd ones in catalogues.

Michelangelo  and Trees

I missed one (see Blackpaint 112) ; there are actually two pretty basic and dead trees in the Flood (Sistine).  I have amended the blog accordingly, but my point remains, I  think.

Goldsmiths

Watching the BBC4 programme on Goldsmiths, I was struck with the obsession they – both tutors and students – have with “meaning” in art.  They construct their tableaux or objects or  whatever and  then worry that the public won’t get their meaning.  one said,”They won’t think hard enough about it”.  The prof, however, when pressed, said, “It’s all about the art, really; the rest is bullshit”.  This I  found reassuring, but I’m told  by those who know, that art schools require context and meaning and argument and that  artists who refuse to discuss their work in these terms and assert that a work of art should, as it were, speak for itself, will not get far in academia.

Strange really; it’s a sort of marxist or pseudo-marxist position, that art has to be experienced and appreciated in context.  I remember writing an essay arguing just that,  several years (well, decades) ago at university.  The tutor’s comment  was “Interesting – but I don’t think you would convince a purist.”  Now I’m the purist, I suppose.

I also find it interesting that what I  do, a lot of the general public regard as “modern art” – but it’s really old-fashioned, of course, abex or colour field stuff being the equivalent of, say, modal jazz, Coltrane doing “My Favourite Things” or Miles Davis’ “Kind of Blue” – 51 years old!

Blackpaint

19.04.10