Posts Tagged ‘Hockney’

Blackpaint 647- Three at TB; Bowling, Nelson and VG

June 15, 2019

Frank Bowling, Tate Britain until 26th August

Brilliant show, and a real revelation.  I’d seen Bowling’s poured paintings a few years back at the Tate Britain, when they devoted a single room to them; in addition, there was the huge spiral staircase one that was on permanent display there (and which is in this show, of course), so I knew he’d had a Pop Art period, a sort of Hockney/Kitaj/Blake phase – see the first painting below.  There’s even a girl with a Who-type target on her tee shirt in another one.  The figurative elements gradually receded, however, until he arrived at pure abstraction – for a while, anyway.

 

 

I’d not seen these vast map jobs in screaming colours, though; Africa, South America, Europe, USA, and Asia are all there somewhere – though not necessarily in the usual positions (and, obviously, not all in the example below).

Bowling wanted – I think he still does – to be thought of as a painter, not as a black painter.  The poured paintings, for example, are not really about anything but colour and maybe texture; the properties of the paint.  When he went to the USA, he was out of step – his choice – with some of the black painters who were overtly political – some of their work was recently shown at the Tate Modern.  There is some politics on show here; this one (I think) is called “The Middle Passage”, a reference to the slavers’ sea route – but most of the (often long and oblique) titles are clearly personal, not political.

 

 

An example of the poured paintings, which he did on a tilting table of his own devising.

After the poured paintings, there is an “encrusted” period (see above); thick slathers of acrylic paint, often scraped or shaped into squares that look like slices of bread submerged in pigment.  Chunks or banana shapes of polystyrene are sometimes present, shipwrecked in the paint.  Still the colours though, are paramount.

 

 

These last two – the bottom one is huge, the other a much smaller panel shape – are quite recent; 2014-ish, I think.  So he’s still doing great work in his 80s.  Best in London, in my opinion, depending on whether the Bellany/Davie show is still on at Damien Hirst’s Newport Street Gallery.

 

Van Gogh and Britain, Tate Britain until 11th August

My fourth (or is it fifth?) visit to this show, and it’s still packed  every time.  You can get in OK but you will have to peer over shoulders or use binoculars to read the captions.  I think some of the links that the show seeks to make are rather contentious; I can’t see much similarity or evidence of VG influence in the Bomberg self portrait below, despite the caption.

 

 

Another Bomberg and the only still life I’ve seen by him; I suppose you could make a case for some VG influence here…  Great vase of flowers though. exploding in all directions – makes “still life” a ridiculous description, really.

 

The Asset Strippers, Mike Nelson, Tate Britain until 6th October

Nelson has been round the country, buying up redundant plant and machinery, which he presents as if each piece were a piece of sculpture in an exhibition.  Some are combined, that is, balanced or stacked on top of each other.  Lathes, milling machines, jacks, scales, agricultural machinery – is that a threshing machine? – knitting machines, sequin machines…  You think “Look at that machine!  It’s really complicated and it does one specific job.  What if someone says,” There’s a better way of doing that, we can skip that bit of the process by doing a or b or c…. “; That’s it for the machine – now it IS a piece of sculpture – or scrap.

 

Not sure what the “bed” of sleeping bags is supposed to represent, if anything.  Everyone in the exhibition seemed to be smiling, the old ones (and there were many) wallowing nostalgia; younger visitors trying to work out what the stuff was for.

That’s the three shows currently at Tate Britain; next time, Goncharova at Tate Modern and Huguette Caland at Tate St. Ives.

Three really old ones of mine to finish –

Angelico Tower

 

 

Fish Head

 

 

Red Guard

Blackpaint, 15/06/19

 

 

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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

 

 

 

 

Blackpaint 502 – What’s the Meaning of this?

July 5, 2015

Meaning in Abstraction

Jonathan Jones on Jackson Pollock: Blind Spots (Tate Liverpool) in the Guardian and now Laura Cumming in the Observer, also on Pollock, raise the question of meaning in painting.  Cumming writes eloquently about “Pollock’s leaping black lines – apparently describing nothing – as free as a bird to be purely, sheerly visual as they dance across the canvas”; she then spends much of the rest of her article spotting images in the paintings – “a massive figure powers along against a billowing yellow sky”.

pollock no.12 52

No.12, 1952

Jones, earlier in the week, also wrote about the images in Pollock’s work, quoting him: “I choose to veil the image”… and then commenting, “In other words, the image is there – meaning is there – always.  And in his later paintings it breaks out like a sickness.”

The image is there – meaning is there… so no image, no meaning.  How does this square with his recent championing of Bridget Riley and Howard Hodgkin?  She was doing “science” (opticals etc.), he was doing emotion. What about painters like Hoyland?  just decoration, presumably.

It’s irritating to read critics spotting shapes in the painting, even if everybody does – I was seeing tits everywhere in Diebenkorn’s “abstract landscapes” the other week; but worse is the implication that paintings without images from “reality” are meaningless.  The meaning is the picture, the picture is itself.

Neil Stokoe: Paintings from the 60s on. (Redfern Gallery, Cork Street W1)

What a pity that this finishes today (Sunday)!  I only discovered the exhibition (and the painter) on Wednesday, when I went looking for an upcoming William Gear exhibition at the same gallery.

Stokoe is now 80; he was at the Royal College of Art with – get ready – Hockney, Kitaj, Frank Bowling, Allen Jones, Derek Boshier; Pauline Boty was there and Caulfield the following year.  He was a friend of Bacon.  He had a canvas bought by the Arts Council in 1970 after his first exhibition and then – not very much for 30- odd years.  He went into teaching at Wimbledon, but carried on painting.

The astonishing thing is the size of the paintings he was producing – and stacking against the wall, presumably.  They are massive – “Man and Woman in Room with Spiral Staircase” (1970) is 214 x 214 cms and the others are around that size.

stokoe richard burton

 

The colours are pinks, bright blues, acid yellows sometimes set in dark surroundings, as above; in one or two, the face is “Bacon-ised” but I think the settings show more of the influence of the older painter – the spiral staircases, somehow (a recurring feature in Stokoe’s work; I count seven in the catalogue) and in “Figure with Black Couch” (1968), the couch itself provides an arena very like the rails and circles Bacon used.  Something else that occurred to me is the resemblance to Joanna Hogg’s last film, “Exhibition”.  It’s not just the spiral staircase thing, but the colours as well – that acid, lurid, neon, ice cream palette.

Anyway, I guess it’s finished now, so look him up online – there’s a great photo of him from “The Tatler”, which covered the private view of his earlier exhibition at the Piper Gallery.

All is Lost (JC Chandor)

Got this on DVD, having missed the release.  Redford is pretty good for 79, although I noticed there were a couple of stunt doubles in the credits; I’m sure that was him up the mast though.  Classic American lean, hard, nameless hero against Big Nature, not giving up, fighting on to the bitter end.  Facially, he seemed at times to be morphing into Burt Lancaster.  Great shots, particularly those of the life raft from below, in tandem on the surface with the moon’s reflection.  I wonder how many, like me,  were expecting the oceanic white tips to show up again at the end (see previous Blackpaint on “Gravity”).  Great film; awful, portentous score.

Les Enfants Terribles, Cocteau

I’ve been re-reading this because it’s thin; I was surprised to find how much it reminded me of MacEwan’s “Cement Garden” – or the other way round, I suppose.  No doubt I’m about 45 years late in making that observation.

Hepworth at Tate Britain

Had to put these torsos in – there are three in a case together, but I can’t remember who did the third; Skeaping, I think.

Torso 1928 Dame Barbara Hepworth 1903-1975 Presented by the executors of the artist's estate 1980 http://www.tate.org.uk/art/work/T03128

Hepworth torso

Torso 1914 Henri Gaudier-Brzeska 1891-1915 Transferred from the Victoria & Albert Museum 1983 http://www.tate.org.uk/art/work/T03731

Gaudier Brzeska torso

By the way, if you want to buy a Barbara Hepworth style duffle jacket at the Tate, you can do so for £400+; a sculpting shirt will set you back £300 odd.  Bargains, I think you’ll agree.

red and blue on ochre 1

Red and Blue on Ochre – NB It’s without meaning…

Blackpaint

05.07.15

 

 

 

 

Blackpaint 499 – The RA, the Internationale, Milk Cartons and Laundry Baskets

June 14, 2015

The Royal Academy Summer Show

Last blog, I identified the best picture in the show, which happened to be that of my partner, Marion Jones (Bars and Triangles, sold already).  It had a fleeting appearance on the Kirsty Wark BBC programme about the exhibition last night; about half a second, I think, so here’s another chance to see it:

marion RA

However, I feel I should I should mention some other pictures on display, so here goes:

Rose Hilton – Red Studio

rose

 

Hughie O’ Donoghue – Animal Farm

hughie

 

Frank Bowling – Pickerslift

frank

(It’s much bigger than this)

Christopher le Brun – Can’t or Won’t?

chris

(and so is this)

These are all big nobs; of the non – RAs and unknowns (to me, anyway) these two are the ones I liked best:

Arthur Neal – Studio and Garden

arthur

 

John O’Donnell – Winter

john

 

The BBC at War, BBC1

Just watched the first episode of this; interesting that William Joyce (Lord Haw Haw) had a British audience estimated at six million for his propaganda broadcasts from Germany; the JB Priestley broadcasts were set up by the BBC in competition.  Also, When the Germans invaded Russia, Churchill forbade, for a time, the playing of the Internationale as one of the anthems of the Allied nations; the music played on the programme to illustrate the eventual rescinding of the ban was NOT the Internationale, however, but the Soviet National Anthem.  Maybe the BBC doesn’t know the difference.

The Saragossa Manuscript, Wojciech Has (1965)

This Polish film is pure Bunuel, which perhaps explains Bunuel’s approving comment on the DVD box.  I think it contains the original delayed -action joke, where something happens mysteriously in one scene – and then is explained much later.  Guy Ritchie did it in “Snatch”, when a milk carton inexplicably explodes on a car windscreen and gets then chucked at the car later in the film.  In “Manuscript”, it involves a laundry basket.

Jonathan Jones

Another VERY definitive position adopted by Jones, this time regarding Bridget Riley.  Apparently, she’s more important than the figurative masters Bacon, Freud and Hockney because she provided the public with a new reality, based on a “scientific” approach to optical effect.  Only Howard Hodgkin is as important – his approach is poetic, though, whereas hers is (sort of) scientific.  The approach is quite reminiscent of Brian Sewell; black and white.  Anything reviewed is either brilliant and exposes the shoddiness and the bogus nature of some other artists – or it’s bogus and “silly” like Bacon at the Sainsbury Centre and is exposed as such by the brilliance of some other artists.

I’ve just seen “Fighting History” at Tate Britain, a show panned by Jonathan Jones as “moronic” in the Guardian the other day.  He’s right that it’s not great, but it’s nowhere near as bad as he says; my take on it next week.

 

geometry1

Geometry 2

Blackpaint

14.06.15

Blackpaint 398 – Murder on the Ark, Merkel at the Tate

June 13, 2013

Michelangelo

noahs sacrifice

Mich himself reminded me that I haven’t mentioned him much lately – I was dusting the bookshelf when the giant Taschen fell on me.  Sorry as I am to be disrespectful,  the first thing I noticed on flicking through was the comedy cow’s face in the “sacrifice of Noah” section of the ceiling (see above); that eye isn’t right, surely – and what about the horse’s head behind?  I know I’ve said this in previous blog, but what is going on at the end of the Ark?  It looks like an axe murder to me.

ark

Tate Britain Re-hang – Caro, Hockney, Cragg

Looking at the Caro sculpture again, positioned as it is, in front of Hockney’s “A Bigger Splash”, it looks as if short red diving boards are positioned above the pool in the painting.  If you’re really being fanciful, the thin, curly, red bits echo the streaks of water flying up in the painting…

The Tony Cragg “Stack” could be a four- (or five, with a top shot) faced painting, with the bucket or the blanket like a Turner red spot.

cragg

Blake- William, not Peter

In the Blake room – easy to miss, tucked away – I was looking at that body of Newton’s, in the picture where he’s using the calipers; the muscles under the skin make his body look like a snake’s – or rather, how you would imagine a snake’s body to be.

Patrick Caulfield and Gary Hume

There’s a double exhibition of these two painters at Tate Britain at the moment, and it seems an appropriate pairing, although I can’t quite work out why.  Surface, I think – they’re both about surface, Gary Hume avowedly so.

Caulfield’s paintings have perspective but are mostly rendered in thick dark diagrammatic lines, with insets in a photographic or painterly style as contrast.  The effect is all in front, no depth.  The diagrammatic bits depict restaurant rooms or complicated terraces and staircases, empty of life except for a linear proprietor, lounging through a serving hatch, strangely effective as part of this set of lines.  The Alpine lake and castle scene, “caged” with the fish tank by these lines, looks like a blown- up photograph; I’d always assumed it was, but on close inspection, it looks like a screen print touched up, or maybe even hand painted, super realist-style.  Other insets include Kalf lobsters and drinking glasses, surfaces precisely rendered.  He loves doing different styles; the catalogue roses, for example.

At times, it looks as if he’s doing impossibilities with perspective and architecture, like Escher – but no, on close inspection, it’s all right and accurate; just complicated.

Hume, famously, paints on aluminium panels, using gloss paint, often in sickly pastel shades, poured on to avoid brush marks.  I think that he uses some sort of string or filament to  stem the flow, forming ridges where two colours meet, or patterns under the paint.  Maybe it’s some sort of cut-out or stencil.  One painting looked like poured toffee or caramel, gone hard.  I only really liked one – the “portrait” of Angela Merkel, with its curved white border.

Dubliners

I’d always thought these stories were beautifully written, but that their beauty lay in the characters and the stories.  Re-reading “A Mother”, however, I find it’s full of great images: “She sat amid the chilly circle of her accomplishments, waiting for some suitor to brave it and offer her a brilliant life”.  Or: “His conversation, which was serious, took place at intervals in his great brown beard”.

Point Break

Surfing, sky-diving, bank robbing film directed by Katherine Bigelow; ridiculous story, fantastic surfing and free falling.  The bank robbery scenes, with the ex-president masks, are straight out of “The Friends of Eddie Coyle” and the chase through the back gardens reminded me strongly of “Straight Time”, the great Dustin Hoffman/Theresa Russell film.  There is a link to the Bigelow film in the presence of Gary Busey, who gets shot in both.

The Fall

Watching Gillian Anderson’s highly sexualised performance in this serial, I wondered if the writer or director had seen the down- market Swedish crime series “Those Who Kill” (see previous Blackpaints).  Laura Bach, as the woman detective, wears a similarly sexy “uniform” and at one stage, is actually having sex with the serial killer she is hunting – unwittingly, of course.  To be absolutely clear – she knows she is having sex with him; but not that he’s a serial killer.  I hope that we don’t get something like this in the second series of “The Fall”.

001

Headlong Changed

Blackpaint

13.06.13

Blackpaint 376 – Naked Wallowing and a Brown Smudge

January 10, 2013

A Bigger Splash at Tate Modern

Second review of this exhibition, which I only got half-way round the first time.  I wrote then about Yves Klein orchestrating his women body-printing on paper and the film of Jackson Pollock painting “Summertime”.  Niki de Saint Phalle, looking beautiful as she fires a rifle at her white plaster dummy to release dribbles of brilliant paint; Pinot Gallizio’s loom with the long random print spooling out; photos of Shiraga preparing to bombard his huge canvas with paint bombs and the thickly plastered, surprisingly effective result of one of his missions; the “shocking” photos of Herman Nitsch, Otto Muhl and their associates in the Viennese Actionists, wallowing naked in animal blood, fake(?) ordure, slithery piles of – organic matter; Stuart Brisley, doing something similar but in a more acrobatic fashion against the wall and floor in the corner of a house or studio (the result looking quite good – like to have seen it for real).

Then the women and drag artists who transform their faces and bodies and adopt personas:  Valli Export ,Cindy Sherman and others, mugging at the camera, painted and disguised to exhibit themselves as art objects.  Thus far, I made it last time.

The second half of the exhibition is about the creation of environments and performances within these.  The most striking exhibit is the Cocteau bedroom, a sort of sky-blue, dreamlike room, created by Marc Camille Chaimowicz, and fitted out with paintings and objects that Cocteau might have liked(!) – Vuillard, Duncan Grant, but also a Warhol electric chair print.  Very camp but probably right for Cocteau.  In the same vein, Karen Kilimnik’s “Swan Lake”; a bedroom, dressing table bathed in electric, mauve-ish light, objets again, recording of Swan Lake on a loop and, for some reason, an overpowering musty pong around this exhibit; part of the exhibition or left by some other visitor?

There are more such exhibits from Joan Jonas, Guy de Cointet and others.

It felt to me like two different exhibitions stuck together – the action stuff at the beginning and the theatrical rooms and sets in the second bit – with, maybe, the self-transforming crew providing a bridge between the two.  Hockney’s inclusion initially mystified me; not only “inclusion” really, given the title of the exhibition!  The explanation in the little free booklet you get is that “Hockney’s paintings – hung in homes and galleries – act in the film (Jack Hazan’s documentary “a Bigger Splash”) as a provisional stage set.  They create an environment that seems to encourage the self-consciously flamboyant behaviour of the artist and his associates…”.  I’m not convinced by this, but it’s a rich exhibition, lots of interesting spectacle and there is enough content for several visits; pity it’s not free.

Jonathan Jones and Titian

A startlingly upbeat and assertive report in the Guardian on Tuesday from the above critic, about a portrait of one Girolamo Fracastoro, which the National Gallery has owned for years, but has just decided  is definitely a Titian, and not just an “attributed to”.  Nicholas Penny, the director of the NG, has no doubt it is a Titian – neither does Jones, it appears.  If it is a Titian, it means the NG now has “the finest collection of Titians in the world”.  Jones refers to discoveries in the restoration lab about “the canvas and  technique” which “blaze the name of Titian”.  The only detail of these discoveries that Jones describes relates to the fur collar: “we are feasting our eyes on a flecked mist of white, gold, brown and black, a virtuoso, nearly abstract(?) performance which has all the magic of Titian.  With joyous freedom and a casual command of fluffy gossamer colours, the master sensualist has recreated the richness of a lynx fur on Fracastoro’s shoulders”.  After this flight, reminiscent of Daily Telegraph advertising, Jones has this bathetic quote from Penny: “The great thing about the lynx is that it has got this brown smudge as well as black and white”.

I was at an exhibition just about a year ago, at the National Gallery, which was entitled “Fakes”.  It highlighted works that had been wrongly attributed, cut up and stitched together or were outright  fakes and quoted surprising estimates of the number of errors and fakes undetected in galleries and museums worldwide.  Big change in outlook at the National Gallery, then, and Jonathan Jones obviously approves.

003

Blackpaint

10/01/13

Blackpaint 296

September 28, 2011

Gerhard Richter

Tate Modern exhibition of above starting in October and an article by Tony McCarthy in Guardian Review on Saturday.  He identifies the “blur”in his pictures as a characteristic – but of course, Richter’s work is so diverse – some figurative, some abstract – that it’s impossible to say he just does this or does that; he does nearly all of it!

One thing that is annoying in the article – McCarthy suggests that “September”, series no.911 was regarded by Richter as an abstract image, until a friend pointed out that it was the planes hitting the World Trade Center.  Once it is said, the towers and the planes are apparent (the image is included in the article) – but it’s a stretch to believe that the artist could have done it unconsciously and just not noticed.  It suggests that abstract works – or Richter’s abstracts, anyway –  should be treated as “Where’s Wally” exercises; look for the hidden picture.

The huge Richters in the Tate Modern, for example; light filtered through the foliage onto the surface of water, down in the bayou, maybe?  Or the one called “791-4 Abstract Painting” in the Phaidon 20th Century Art Book (actually, that one looks pretty much like the Tate ones, acid colours and scrapes).

John Martin

The other Tate has the Martin exhiition on now – I intend to go tomorrow.  His huge Apocalyptic canvases were displayed as events, people paying an entrance fee and then filing past in awe – which of course, describes a modern exhibition; well, maybe not the awe..  But there was something different about these Victorian shows, in that people paid to see a phenomenon, a spectacle, rather than a work of art.  Parallels were perhaps the paintings of Frederic Church, the American landscape artist, whose blinding sunsets were in the American Sublime exhibition a few years ago – or Cruickshank’s Temperance work, which he toured in a crusade against the demon drink.

Modern parallels?  I was thinking maybe Hockney’s recent giant treescapes, Anish Kapoor’s wax cannon and Marsyas, and the Eliasson Weather installation in the Tate Turbine Hall.

Women in Love

Re-acquainted myself with Ken Russell’s version the other day and I was amazed at the restraint of the film, compared to “The Devils” or the Tchaikovsky one.  I’d forgotten how powerful Glenda Jackson and Oliver Reed were together, and the brilliant set pieces – the Eleanor Bron dance, Alan Bates running down to the river bleeding, Glenda Jackson frightening the Scottish Longhorns, and of course, Bates and Reed wrestling starkers in front of the blazing hearth; watch out for sparks, you two.

Gerald Crich freezing to death in the snow was echoed in “The Shining” by Jack Nicholson (or rather, King and Kubrick).  Watched this again on TV a week ago and really noticed how outlandish Nicholson’s changes of expression are in the scene where Delbert Grady (Philip Stone) cleans his jacket and gives him – advice – in the toilet.  I think it is the intensity of Grady’s manner contrastng with Torrance’s naughty boy demeanour…

Blackpaint

28.09.11

Blackpaint 292

September 5, 2011

Edward Lucie-Smith

I’ve just acquired a used copy of his “Movements in Art since 1945” (Thames and Hudson, 1970); I’ve no idea if it’s still in print – it would have been updated, of course – but it contains a whole load of colour illustrations of paintings I’ve never seen before, in a beautiful matt finish, much nicer that the usual glossy.  Some listed below:

  • Gorky, the Betrayal (47);
  • Hofmann, the Rising Moon (64) – the characteristic “push-pull” rectangles on a red background;
  •  De Kooning, Woman and Bicycle (52-3) – ELS links De Kooning’s sharp-toothed women to Warhol’s later Marilyns;
  • Heron, Manganese in Deep Violet (67) – glowing, of course;
  • Sam Francis, Blue on a Point (58);
  • Asger Jorn, you Never Know (66) – swirling yellow, blue, red;
  • Appel, Women and Birds (58) – swirling blue and red, a little less yellow than Jorn;
  • De Stael, Agrigente (54) – eye-burning, “abstract” landscape…

and loads more.

Some of his remarks are interesting, given the time at which he is writing; he says that Hockney’s then current works of the California, lawns and pools,”Bigger Splash” phase lack the irony and bite of the earlier, cartoon boys period.  He yokes Balthus and Bacon together as figurative outsiders, dealing in comparable, transgressive or shocking images (surely Bacon is by far the superior of the two).  He notes the intriguing mixture of nostalgia and modernity in the work of Pop artists, such as Peter Blake, and the way that British Post -Painterly abstractionists like John Walker were still prepared to use perspective in their works, whereas such  use was banished from the Americans’ work.

He has a 1962 quotation from Duchamp, regarding the “Neo-Dadaists”, which is simple, but hugely important:  “This Neo-Dada, which they call New Realism, Pop Art, Assemblage,vetc., is an easy way out and lives on what Dada did.  When I discovered ready-mades I thought to discourage aesthetics.  In Neo-Dada they have taken my ready-mades and found aesthetic beauty in them.  I threw the bottle rack and the urinal into their faces as a challenge and now they admire them for their aesthetic beauty” (ELS. p.11).  What better expression is there for the problem I was on about in the last blog – how you make things look “good” in a painting by making them look like something somebody has done before?  There’s the answer – paint something which looks crap, then do it over and over again until you get used to it and it becomes a style….

St. Martin’s MA show

Beautifully produced catalogue for this, “on sale in the foyer”, and only two quid.  Here are some exhibits I remember:

Helen Sorensen, Peas and Music – green shoots from a huge soil bed, surrounded by speakers that weren’t playing when we visited; oddly touching, for some reason;

Oliver Guy-Watkins – don’t know title – a stairwell and whole section of basement smothered with fake snow; reminded me of the inside of my un-defrosted fridge;

Elsa Philippe, the Conductor – a video in which the artist (if it is she) resembles a member of the Incredible String Band in one of their early 70’s entertainments;

Laura Degenhardt, Thames Boat – didn’t see this in the flesh, but liked it in the catalogue for it’s painterly qualities – but I’ve just noticed the dimensions; 20*25 cms!  That’s about a postcard, isn’ it?

 

In the Dark Australia

Blackpaint

5/09/11

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

Blackpaint 231

December 16, 2010

Norman Rockwell

Wrote about him in last-but-one blog (Blackpaint 229) and now I hear there is an exhibition at Dulwich Picture Gallery, on now.  I compared him to the Soviet Socialist Realists, in regard to his presentation of American life – fine and dandy, the American Dream – just as the communists portrayed life in the Soviet Union.  Jonathan Jones in the Guardian, however, recalls his 1964 painting of the black girl Ruby Bridges, going to her school, defying the rotten vegetables thrown at her by southern whites opposed to desegregation.  So I was being a little unfair to Rockwell; the Dulwich show leaves this picture out, according to Jones, and sticks to the conservative stuff prior to 1964.  In these Evening Post covers, American life is shown in a glowing, nostalgic light.

Doris Seidler

She has died in the US, aged 97.  Never heard of her until I read the Guardian obituary and saw that beautiful, rectangular, black, ochre and grey collage entitled “Comp with Etched Fragment”, they used to illustrate it.  Its a shame to find out about these artists only when they die.  Not much on the web, either.

Sandra Blow

On the other hand, there are several great paintings by the above, if one goes to Google images.  Right in the middle of page 4, however, there is an interesting image that has nothing to do with the artist, but clearly relates to her surname; there are more throughout the rest of the entry.   Lovers of abstract art should not be deterred by this.

Tate Britain rehang

Some of the rooms have been reorganised on chronological lines.  In the Sickert “end of the pier” room, there is one of the geometric Bombergs entitled “Ju Jitsu” – can make out the interaction of the fighters, but not what the moves are.  There is a nude Spencer on a bed with his nude wife and a joint of lamb, I think – could be beef, though.  Also, his remarkable “Woolshop”, in which the hanks of wool seem to intertwine with the women’s hair.   There is a four panel Eileen Agar, shades of Miro a bit, something to do with the development of an embryo; and a lovely Tunnard, mustard yellow, geometric, entitled “Fulcrum”.  Finally, a picture by Winifred Knights, called “Deluge”, in which women and girls are doing some sort of slanting eurythmic dance.  All vthese pictures are very distinct from each other, the beauty and drawback of a chronological approach.

A large Keith Vaughan in the next room attracts the attention; There’s a reclining and a standing figure, rather featureless and flabby pink – it’s Theseus and the Minotaur, although can’t see it myself.  Not a patch on his de Stael – type pictures.  There’s an Alan Davie, “Black Mirror”, in which the brushwork is very like Bacon’s, say, on his black ones with writhing figures and metal rails; a Hockney pyramid and giant palm in front of it; and a beautiful Auerbach building site in jewel-encrusted orange.  There’s a Heron, one of those in which he uses straight white lines to delineate figures and a Bacon dog, a little, fizzing grey ball of energy, in a frame of course.

Blake

Adjoining these rooms, there is a Blake room, with Nebuchadnezzar crawling, Newton measuring and the Good and Bad Angels, all instantly recognisable and fantastic (in every sense).  There are also several paintings that formed illustrations for Dante’s “Divine Comedy”.  Plutus, the guardian and tormentor of those who have committed sins of avarice, has distinctly Jewish features says the label – although I must say, I couldn’t make this out clearly.  Apparently Blake had an interest in phrenology, which was fashionable at the time.  Thieves are being tormented by snakes, one of which appears to be emanating from a woman’s vagina (this is not just me; the label points it out) – a reminder of Michelangelo’s linkage of snakes and sexuality on the Sistine wall.  There is Brunelleschi being tormented by a 6 footed serpent and a barrator (political power broker) having his skin torn off in lumps; all good stuff – but dodgy on the phrenology front.

Blackpaint

16.12.10