Posts Tagged ‘Ingmar Bergman’

Blackpaint 618 – The World is a Den of Thieves – So Stay Behind the Line

April 9, 2018

Gursky at the Hayward

This finishes on 22 April, so go soon.  No concessions for seniors not on benefits, which is bad for me but probably satisfying if you’re a resentful younger person awaiting the demise of “selfish” baby boomers.  Before entry, we were briskly told to keep behind the lines on the floor in front of the pictures, but were given no further instructions on our behaviour in the gallery.

I had thought that Gursky produced huge, intriguing photos of striking scenes – supermarket shelves, winding motor racing tracks in the desert, panoramic harbours – and yes, these are all there; but he also manipulates the pictures,  adding and/or removing elements from a scene – the river Rhine, straight as a road, dull grey, between dull green banks under a dull sky, for example, has had buildings erased from the skyline and a photo of  museum interior with paintings and sculptures and a nude woman posing is a collage of images making up a fictional exhibition.  One of the pictures in this fictional display is Gerhard Richter’s “Ema (Nude on a Staircase)”,  which is apt, since there are echoes of Richter elsewhere.  A large, grey, ridged expanse of surface turns out to be carpet, but reminds you of Richter’s sea and sky pictures.  A few examples of the pictures below:

 

Rather reminiscent of Ansel Adams’ work, I thought; small and untypical of Gursky…

 

That’s more characteristic; huge and busy.

 

Antarctica, based on a satellite image.

Reading over what I’ve written, I’ve made it sound rather colourless.  There are some stunning examples of colour saturation – another composite image of ocean and islands from satellite images that looks almost like a Lanyon painting, for example; pictures of operatic entertainments from North Korea, a Japanese cityscape, a panoramic view (manipulated?) of Salerno harbour.  And a huge image of two teams at a Formula 1 pitstop, changing tyres or whatever on their team vehicles.  Highly recommended, but remember not to step over the lines…

Fanny and Alexander dir.Ingmar Bergman (1982)

Rewatched this on DVD and struck by the lush sets, costumery and so on, so different from most of the other Bergman films I’ve seen, most of which are set on islands with relatively few actors, pulling carts, chopping wood and having breakdowns.

A mixture of eccentric (and wealthy) family saga and magical realism, it suddenly touches Shakespeare, or maybe Beckett, in  Ekdahl’s speech in the scene above:

“Suddenly death strikes.  Suddenly the abyss opens.  Suddenly the storm howls and disaster is upon us… The world is a den of thieves and night is falling.  Evil breaks its chains and runs through the world like a mad dog.  The poison affects us all… No-one escapes… So shall it be- Therefore let us be happy while we are happy…”  How true.

For a more typical Bergman film – almost a two hander, with Liv Ullman and Bibi Andersson, cooped up together as nurse and mute patient in a house on the seashore, see “Persona” from 1966.  It must have been an influence on Roeg’s “Performance”, with the interplay between Mick Jagger’s rock star and James Fox’s gangster.

Persona, dir.Ingmar Bergman (1966)

Not done much painting lately, due to evil breaking loose and running through the world – but here’s the last one I finished:

 

Den of Thieves

Blackpaint 

10.04.18

 

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Blackpaint 575 – The Downs, the Dance, the Serpent and the Spitfire

November 11, 2016

Revisits only this week, on the exhibition front:

Paul Nash (Tate Britain) again – I noticed how Nash often places objects in close-up and often out of perspective with surrounding features (tennis ball, leaves, mushrooms, a cleaver stuck in a wood block).  This achieves a surreal effect, as it were, without anything actually “surreal” going on.  Also, how the clouds sometimes resemble flints or lumps of chalk.  Banal comments, I know; best I can do today…

Nash, Paul; Event on the Downs; Government Art Collection; http://www.artuk.org/artworks/event-on-the-downs-28930

Abstract Expressionism at the RA –  again – anything else to say?  I spent more time with Clyfford Still;  the “torn strip” effect is sometimes painted, my partner tells me – that is to say, the white bits that resemble the edges of torn posters.  Sounds rather contrived for an AbEx, it seems to me.

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Ab Ex discussion – We attended a discussion on the exhibition, in which three current abstract painters took part: Selma Parlour, Lisa Denyer and Gabriel Hartley.  The most common term used was “materiality”; there was much talk about which was more important,  process or outcome (both, not surprisingly) and several artists to watch were mentioned – Tomma Abst was one, Laura Owen another.  Someone asked from the floor whether Abstract Expressionism would have happened without World War II: the artists acknowledged the importance of the European refugees,  but speculated about home-grown American traits such as the huge landscapes of the “Sublime” tendency.

Three (mostly) B&W films:

Embrace of the Serpent (Ciro Guerra, 2015) – echoes of Apocalypto, Aguirre, Wrath of God (especially in the mission scenes),  and Fitzcarraldo. The relationship between the Europeans and the native peoples occasionally brings to mind Dersu Uzala; at the end , there are scenes of drug-induced hallucination which, astonishingly, remind one of Solaris (Tarkovsky’s, that is).  Colour makes an entrance here.

serpent

 

A Canterbury Tale (1944) – weirdness of story, woodenness of acting, especially the American sergeant, who seeks to be reading or reciting his lines – he was a real US soldier, not an actor, to be fair; the sinister glue man, Colpeper  – but the light, the scenery, the history, the hawk becoming the Spitfire…  Like most Powell and Pressburger films, it seems to have a magical quality that compels you to watch, despite the feyness.  I think it must be the cinematography, by Erwin Hillier.

canterbury-1

Possibly the most uncomfortable scene in the film, in which Alison Smith (Sheila Sim, later Lady Attenborough) sits far too close to the self-righteous and sinister Colpeper, the secret glue smearer and unbeknownst to her, her attacker.  Colpeper is played by Eric Portman.

 

canterbury2

Soon to be a Spitfire…

 

The Seventh Seal (Bergman, 1957) – direct line to Corman (Masque of the Red Death), Ken Russell (medieval squalor and hysteria), Monty Python (same) – and any film which ends with dancers in a line against the horizon (Fellini’s “81/2”, Pina..)

The real hero is not Von Sydow’s Block, but his squire, Jon.  Amusing to see Block eating wild strawberries…  Death resembles Gielgud.

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Max von Sydow (the knight, Block)

 

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Dance of Death

 

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Gunnar Bjornstrand (Jon)

 

Planet Earth II

Staggering sequences of course, but the constant music was driving me nuts – until I thought of the Subtitles and Mute functions.  I also find the quality of the photography unsettling – the way it’s in focus throughout the shot, not just the foreground.  I’m just old school, I guess.

Three new pictures to finish, on wood panels:

appelish

The Spheres 1

disharmony-of-the-spheres-2

Spheres 2

spheres-3

Spheres 3

Blackpaint

11/11/16

 

Blackpaint 520 – Bellini, Bruegel, Bosch, Berger, Bromden, Bergman

November 16, 2015

Giovanni Bellini again

Returning briefly to Venice,  I have to post a few of Bellini’s Virgins; it’s so obviously the same young girl modelling the BVM and the same child too, I think – ginger hair and normal proportions.

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virgin1

virgin2

Definitely a different child in this one though.. or much younger.

virgin3

In the new John Berger collection, “Portraits” (Ed. Tom Overton, Verso 2015) , Berger says that Bellini’s Virgins represent a journey towards the open air; they start in dark interiors and progress towards open meadows.

Portraits; John Berger on Artists

Two more startling insights – well, I found them startling – on Bosch and Bruegel:

pieter-_bruegel-

The Triumph of Death, Pieter Bruegel the Elder (1562)

“…Bruegel’s paintings are more relevant to modern war and the concentration camps than almost any painted since.”  I find that hard to contest, looking at the “Triumph”;

hieronymus-bosch-triptych-of-garden-of-earthly-delights

The Garden of Earthly Delights, Hieronymus Bosch (1500 – 5)

Berger compares Bosch’s vision of Hell to “a typical CNN news bulletin, or any mass media news commentary.  There is a comparable incoherence, a comparable wilderness of separate excitements, a similar frenzy.

“Bosch’s prophecy was of the world-picture which is communicated to us today by the media under the impact of globalisation, with its delinquent need to sell incessantly.”

Overstated no doubt, but apart from the last bit about selling, I thought this was pretty close to right, as regards the coverage of the Paris murders on Friday night.  Sky, Euronews, France 24 all overstated the numbers of dead, as if they weren’t bad enough; BBC repeated some story on Twitter about the jungle camp at Calais being on fire (why do they repeat this shit on “social media”?); it seemed to me that Al Jazeera came closest to getting casualty numbers and other details right at the time.

One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest

ratched

I was roundly criticised by women friends for praising this “misogynist and racist” film when it was first released back in 1975 – and no doubt some of the criticism was justified.  Nurse Ratched (Louise Fletcher) is the embodiment of controlling, malignant authoritarianism; the thuggish, cynical guards are black, the mental patients are white (exception being Chief Bromden, played by Will Sampson) and the anti-hero McMurphy (Jack Nicholson) treats his girlfriends as chattels, to be smuggled into the institution for sex – with himself, Turkle the corrupt guard (the brilliant Scatman Crothers) and, disastrously, with Billy (Brad Dourif).  McMurphy comes close to strangling Nurse Ratched near the end, so violence against women too.

After watching it again on DVD, I have to say that it was even better than I remember; the fishing expedition, the after-hours orgy and the rousing ending were the highlights.  They don’t make them like that any more; tried to think of something similar and the best I could do was Mark Rylance as Rooster in Jez Butterworth’s play “Jerusalem”.

chief

I was sad to read on Wikipedia that Will Sampson died of scleroderma at only 54, after a heart and lungs transplant.

Ingmar Bergman

I wrote last week that a lot of Bergman’s films seem to be set on islands; I did a bit of research and found there are at least seven, starting with “Eva” in 1948 to “The Passions of Anna” in 1969.  Bergman moved to the Swedish island of Faro in the early 60s and founded a studio there – but there were already three films that were wholly or partly island -bound. Something to do with isolating the characters and developing the tensions or attractions between them, maybe; or, as in “Shame” (1968), watching the effect of the outside world bursting in on them – civil war in this case.

shame

Bergman was arrested for tax evasion in 1976; although the charge was dropped, he closed down Faro and said he would make no more films in Sweden.

I was going to write something about Kitaj, but since he doesn’t begin with a “B”, it would mess up my title – so next time.

life2,

 

life6

A couple of life drawings/paintings – yes, I know, but I can assure you the model is alive – or at least, he was when I did it.

Blackpaint

16.11.15

Blackpaint 519 – Agnes, Auerbach, Ten and Patti Again

November 8, 2015

Master John, NPG

These fantastic paintings by “Master John” or from his workshop – whoever he was.  Not Holbein for sure, but brilliant. I think.

master john 2

 

master john 1

Patti Smith, Just Kids

This is turning out to be a fascinating read; she completely confounds your expectations.  I thought she’d come across angry, tough, scathing – punk; not at all.  She’s sensitive, kindly, vulnerable, a bit pretentious, a bit awkward.  She knew everyone, remembers everything.  It’s a great companion and contrast to Viv Albertine’s book, which is also great in a different way.

Lines for Agnes, exhibition and discussion at Marylebone Church

Attended this last Saturday.  A small exhibition of small paintings with some perceived relationship to Agnes Martin; minimal but not minimalist, somewhat geometric, patterns or colour fields darkening at bottom…  One speaker mentioned the problem of taking too much out; erasing until you have nothing left.

It struck me that there are at least two completely opposite tendencies in abstract painting – or maybe just painting – with one going towards the erasure of everything, the other chucking in the kitchen sink.  One end is occupied by Agnes Martin, the other by, say, Appel or, if figurative, early Auerbach.  It’s a spectrum of course.  Won’t pursue this further, since it has already involved me in one heated argument.

Auerbach, Tate Britain

Since I’ve mentioned him,   I’ve been to the exhibition for the third – or is it fourth? – time today.  First, I noticed that the one with the red “worms” crawling across it; they look as if they are squeezed straight from the tube.  There’s a sort of broken shelf of paint built up under them, and it’s tempting to think that they would have simply fallen off without this shelf.  As for ” Building Site, Earls Court” (1953), I’ve realised what that black mass reminds me of – black olives, trodden into an oily mash.

“Ten”, SLWA, Gerald Moore Gallery, Eltham College, until 6th December

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Marion Jones

“SLWA” stands for South London Women Artists – although with a couple of possible exceptions, these are paintings by artists who happen to be women – no feminist themes as far as I could make out.  I have to declare an interest; the above very excellent painting is one of my partner’s.  There are other good works, but you’ll have to go along to see those.

Bergman, The Passion of Anna

Another highly fraught piece starring Max von Sydow and Liv Ullman; again, it’s set on an island.  Three out of four of the films in the Bergman box set I bought are set on an island – and I’ve got an idea some others of his are also island-bound.  I’ll investigate and speculate further on this – no doubt it’s well known and someone’s already done a thesis on it.

Haven’t completed any new paintings this week, so here are four of my recent life drawings – I think I’ve captured a good likeness….

 

drawings 4

 

drawings 3

 

drawings 2

 

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Blackpaint

8.11.15

Blackpaint 514 – Hoyland’s Cakes, The Serpent’s Egg, Auerbach’s Mustard

October 12, 2015

John Hoyland at Newport Street Gallery

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These huge, voluptuous colour field pictures, around 40 of them, are on display at Damien Hirst’s new gallery near Vauxhall.  It’s enormous; white walls of course, lovely staircases, a line of big toilets with heavy doors as if he’s expecting coachloads of pensioners.  The paintings are from Hirst’s own collection and it’s great to see them here for free.

Acrylics for the most part – there are two oils, I think.  Several maroons with orange, leaf green (ugh!), turquoise, grey-blue, reds and greys, arranged in blocks or columns; a few with scraped edges and splatters, “smoking” tops (the result of trickle- downs and reversal of the canvas).  The central section upstairs I think of as the cake room; pinks, beiges and whites, like huge cake slices smashed and splattered against the canvas.  In the last room, deep, singing blues, reds and oranges, scraped to reveal gold, like clouds of fire; colours arranged in blocks and diagonals.

For an alternative view, try Jonathan Jones online – “Why is Damien Hirst opening his new gallery with this second-rate artist?”  He makes the laughable claim that Hoyland is trying to do Rothko, or Pollock, or Barnet Newman.  Actually, the painters who came to my mind were Hans Hoffman and John Golding (a bit).  Hoyland, says Jones,  is simply “messing about with paint”.

hoyland2

The Serpent’s Egg, Bergman (1977)

Falls into that genre of films like “Cabaret” and Visconti’s “The Damned”, in which the story is set in Weimar Germany, in this case, Berlin – sleazy drinking clubs, cabarets and brothels (often combined), cross- dressing, prostitution, obscene night club turns, dwarves, smeared, garish lipstick, lost innocence, sudden shocking violence, crazed Nazi bands, wet cobblestones, sense of doom…  Bergman’s film is set earlier than the others- 1923 I think, the time of hyper-inflation- but the similarities are apparent.  It becomes suddenly Kafka-esque towards the denouement; David Carradine is chased around a mysterious underground laboratory-labyrinth and confronts a mad scientist, more Nazi than Hitler himself (who is a minor demagogue at this time, about to launch his Munich Putsch).

Unlike any other Bergman film I’ve seen; sort of a low budget feel, strangely, since it was made in Hollywood, and the sound on the DVD is terrible.  I ended up watching it with subtitles for the hard of hearing, which improved it no end.

That Obscure Object of Desire, Bunuel (1977)

The story of this great Bunuel is well-known; Fernando Rey’s pursuit of the young Spanish flamenco dancer to Seville and eventually to Paris, her continual promising and then avoiding/refusing  sex with him (in one sequence arriving naked in his bedroom – apart from an impregnable, tightly-laced corset); the gifts of money he constantly makes to her and her complicit mother, culminating in his buying her a house.  After another provocation, he attacks her; she grins up at him through her bleeding lips and says, “Now I know you really love me!”  Dodgy sexual politics, to be sure.  I had forgotten the little “surreal” bits in the film – the mousetrap that goes off during one of Rey’s intense scenes with Conchita; the sack that he lugs around inexplicably in several scenes.

Conchita, the girl, is famously played by two completely different actresses –  the elegant, glacial Carole Bouquet and the effervescent Angela Molina.  This caused me great consternation when I first saw the film.  I rationalised it along these rather obvious lines: they represent the two halves of Conchita’s character; cold and hot.  That didn’t work though.  So, they represent the two ways she responds to Rey.  But that didn’t work either, for the same reason (they both encourage and reject him, rather than “taking turns”).

Wikipedia says that Bunuel got the idea to use different women in response to difficulties he was having on set with another actress,  Maria Schneider apparently, and that it had no deeper significance than that he thought it was an amusing idea and would” work well”.

I love that phrase; I’ve heard it so many times from different artists and said it often myself, in response to those who ask “What does that represent?” or “Why did you do that there?” – the answer is invariably mundane or unhelpful; it “looked good”, or “I thought it was black and when I put it on the canvas,  it turned out to be prussian blue”.  As often, a Jonathan Jones piece is instructive; reviewing the new Auerbach at Tate Britain, Jones recycles the old “colourless 50s” cliche: “Back in the 1950s, he (Auerbach) saw very little colour in the world.  Frankenstein faces loom like monsters in his early paintings.   Gradually came the colours: blood red, mustard yellow, and eventually orange, purple, blue, the lot – a rainbow slowly spreading…”.  Auerbach himself, speaking on his son’s film about him, explains that the new colours were the result of his progressively having more money to spend on paint.

Jones’ review is otherwise not bad, apart from his habitual thumping overstatement and childish posturing – “My generation owes Auerbach an apology..”…

serpents egg of obscure desire

The Serpent’s Egg of Obscure Desire

Blackpaint

12.10.15

 

 

Blackpaint 488 – Ingrid and Ingmar, Liz and Phil and Eleanor at the Tates

March 29, 2015

Marlene Dumas

OK, I know I’ve done this twice already, but I’ve got a member’s card for Tates Brit and Mod, so it feels like free when I go.  Anyway, two things – no, three – to say in addition to previous: first, the picture of the woman in tears, entitled “For Whom the Bell Tolls”; it’s not Dumas herself, as I’d thought, but Ingrid Bergman (of course, because she stars in the film, but it got past me); secondly, the paintings of her daughter Helene – the facial portrait titled “Helene’s Dream”, in which the lips, the nose and the closed eyes seem to be floating on a somehow convex surface of smooth coffee and the full-length picture of her wrapped in a bath towel, looking irritated (girl, not towel).

dumas helene's dream

dumas helene

 

I like the way she’s painted the hair in the top one; single, square-edged strokes of a drying brush.  And in the second one, it’s the knees – it looks rough at first, but it’s precise and subtle.  There’s a lot of “looks rough at first” in this exhibition, but it’s mostly (not always!) subtle underneath, so to speak.

And third thing is the little, quick, brush drawings; the one on the far left of that little group opposite the full-length prone body drawings – can’t find a picture of it, so go and look.

Sculpture Victorious, Tate Britain

This is interesting and funny, rather than jam-packed with great art.  The pieces on show suggested novelties turned out for Great Exhibitions, which they were in some cases.  There are miniature busts of the young queen, turned out by Chevenor’s Reducing Machine – you put a big one in and a sort of pantograph affair carves a perfect small version out of a soft -ish medium.  Ivory was good, unfortunately for “up to 6000 elephants a year”.

There’s a statue of some baron, Winchester possibly, who was at Runnymede for Magna Carta, which was coated with copper by an electro-plating process (the statue, not Magna Carta – or Runnymede); an Eleanor of Aquitaine, lying comfortably on her back, atop her tomb presumably, reading a prayer book or bible, as if she was reading “Gone Girl” on the beach; and there’s a life size piece of Elizabeth I playing naval chess – the pieces are galleons – with Philip II of Spain.

sculpture victorious

 

It looks like one of those clockwork – or maybe magic – pieces you get in a necromancer’s workshop in a Polish film, where the players “come to life” with a lot of clicking and whirring…  I’m thinking “Saragossa Manuscript” or maybe Bergman’s “Nicholas and Alexander”.

There are two slave women in chains; one white, one black.  The white woman, a captive of the Turks in the War of Greek Independence, is beautiful of course, with a very shapely bottom and downcast eyes and is completely naked.  The black woman, also beautiful, but with slightly odd features, the eyes I think, wears a sort of skirt.  I find this interesting, in that it is a reversal of the old National Geographic racialism; in the 1950s and before, magazines would show “native peoples”, male and female, naked, whereas white people had to be clothed, except in pornography, which was illegal anyway.  Maybe because the white slave resembles a classical Graeco-Roman statue in pose, Hiram Power thought he could get away with it.  The black woman, or American Slave, was done by John Bell in answer to Abolitionist demand; apparently, the white slave was interpreted as an attack on slavery too.  Surprising to me; it strikes me more as an opportunity for the sculptor to do a provocatively naked woman in a submissive pose and dress it up with a moral message – then, that could be said of a lot of sculpture, Victorian and earlier…

sculpture victorious white girl

 

White Slave

sculpture victorious black girl

 

 

Black (American) Slave

Some of the other sculpture on show – big muscles, heroic poses, firing arrows, struggling with snakes, gazing fiercely into distances – looked distinctly pre-Nazi to me; would have fitted in at Goering’s hunting lodge.

Worth a visit then, despite Richard Dorment’s blistering Telegraph review, which I recommend, online.  Dorment roundly berates the curators for lack of focus, stating the obvious and getting major things wrong; for instance, the reason why Alfred Gilbert  resigned from the Royal Academy.  He knows, because he’s written a book on Gilbert, and  catalogue notes for the RA.  it’s a pity Tate didn’t ask him to advise, before rashly going ahead with the show.  He does describe the black slave as a nude statue, however.

Other things new at the Tate, in the permanent galleries:  Phoebe Unwin, “Man with Heavy Legs” or something;  Vicken Parsons, tiny room paintings; a huge Rose Wylie pattern painting; and a new Kitaj, a man as a cat…

Next blog – two more Tate Britain shows, Salt and Silver and the Waplington/McQueen show.

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vanessa6

Vanessa, standing and stooping

Blackpaint

29.03.15

 

Blackpaint 454 – South American Abstracts, Magic Realism and Dead Drunk Danes

July 11, 2014

Radical Geometry at the Royal Academy

South American geometric abstract art from Brazil (Sao Paolo, Rio), Uruguay and Argentina (Montevideo and Buenos Aires) and Venezuela (Caracas).  I’m always surprised to see this sort of art, geometric and minimalist, coming from SA – I suppose I expect it to be sort of wild and profuse, colourful like the Amazon jungle; Mireilles maybe.  This exhibition is nothing like that at all; collectively, it reminded me of modernist decor in a Corbusier mansion – some of the ceramic wall plaques have overtones of the Festival of Britain.  The highlights for me were:

Brazil

Oiticica’s wobbly squares – indeed, everything on Oiticica’s wall.

oiticica1

Lygia Pape’s lovely woodcuts – surfaces of wood and unique in this company.

lygia pape

Lygia Clark’s triangular works, in a variety of formats, opening out in surprising ways.

Willis de Castro’s minimalist, single colour plaques with tiny marginal “bits”.

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Looks much better than this in the gallery.

Uruguay

Torres-Garcia’s Klee – like tablets of images.

torres-garcia

 

Venezuela 

Carlos Cruz-Diez – this is the man who does the light saturated, coloured rooms (see Blackpaint on the Hayward light show some time back).  A wall- length series of graduated coloured light slats, glass I think, or maybe perspex, to finish the exhibition.

Asger Jorn – Restless Rebel

This book of essays and great pictures about my Scando hero is a revelation; I knew he did a whole lot of different stuff – the paintings of trolls and mythic animals, the ceramics, the mosaics and murals at the house in Albisola, the illustrated books, the altered (“detourned”) kitsch pictures – but I didn’t realise that there was always a philosophical underpinning to what he did.  Even if it was – well, a bit eccentric.  He kicked off with Marxism, but wasn’t content with dialectical materialism; he invented “triolectics”, that’s three forces involved in the conflict – thesis, antithesis and something else (artistic creativity, I think).

Famously, he was a founder member of Cobra – he also contributed to the split, by taking up with Constant’s wife and alienating the Dutch contingent.  No doubt there were ideological differences too. There was his “Scandinavian Institute of Comparative Vandalism” and the liaison with Guy Debord in the Situationist International, which he funded, despite Debord’s opposition to artists’ involvement(!).

Then there was the telegram he sent to Harry Guggenheim, who had the nerve to award him a prize of $2500 in 1964: “Go to hell with your money bastard.Never asked for it.  Against all decensy mix artist against his will in your publicity….Jorn.”

So – full ideological back up throughout.  But I still like him because he did really colourful, vigorous, writhing paintings with birds and trolls and other things lurking in them and he mixed a whole load of different colours successfully, like de Kooning and Joan Mitchell, say, and of course, Karel Appel.

dead-drunk-danes

Asger Jorn, Dead Drunk Danes

Ingmar Bergman, Fanny and Alexander

This appears to be turning into the Scandinavian post – apart from all the South American stuff above, of course; but maybe there’s a connection here too.  I’d always thought Fanny and Alexander was one of those lush Visconti-type films, Death in Venice or the Leopard maybe, and was set in Russia.  Wrong – it concerns the Ekdahls, a wealthy Swedish family and it has a very dark Gothic story-line and strong elements of magic realism in it.

What it also has is a magnificent speech at the end, going for (and touching) Shakespearian once or twice: “We must live in the little world… The world is a den of thieves and night is falling….Evil breaks its chains and runs through the world like a mad dog….The poison affects us all…no-one escapes…Therefore let us be happy while we are happy…

Well, maybe more Beckett than Shakespeare, except for the last bit, of course.

Urban Art

Exhibiting tomorrow at Urban Art, Josephine Avenue, Brixton London – in the street with 200 other artists, 10.00am to 6.00pm, Sunday too.  Please come and buy the painting below and many more that have appeared in this blog.

 

 

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Islares Farewell

Blackpaint

11.07.14

Blackpaint 267

April 15, 2011

Hans Hofmann

Yes, one “f”, two “ns” – I think I’ve been mis-spelling it for a year or so; maybe not.  Anyway, I’ve bought a stunning book about works he did in 1950, a pivotal year for him.  He wrote an essay or article entitled “When I start to paint..”, which is worth quoting from, I think:

  • When I start to paint, I want to forget all I know about painting.
  • What I would hate most is to repeat myself…
  • As a painter, I deny any rule, any method and any theory.

Because Hofmann is famous for his influence as a (highly theoretical) teacher and the development of his famous “push-pull” praxis, these are perhaps surprising statements – but they are not contradictory, since he also says “(While painting) I take for granted that my knowledge has become second nature”.  The paintings are great, swirling patterns of bright colour, in combinations you would think would hurt your eyes, yet highly structured and textured; the text describes their surfaces as open and breathing.  They are like the paintings of Appel and Jorn in this respect.

The real beauty, however, is in the close-up detail extracts.  It’s only £23.00 odd; “Hans Hofmann, circa 1950”, the Rose Art Museum 2009.  I’ve not seen it anywhere  but Waterstones in Piccadilly; only one copy there, I think – and I’ve got it.

Cork Street Galleries

Some terrific stuff in these posh galleries at the moment; Green Park tube, walk through Burlington Arcade past the Royal Academy and there you are.  Hofmann’s comment about not repeating himself very apposite in several cases, however.

John Hoyland

Acrylic on cotton duck, mostly big, square-ish works, 50*50 ins maybe?  Almost fluorescent colours; turquoise, raspberry, acid yellows, purple – and some with thick, glabrous centres of black and brown, like sawn-off tree trunks coated with lumpy creosote; circular splotches of dazzling white, pink, red with coronas of tiny splatter marks.  On some, little flattened discs of multi-coloured acrylic, like trodden-in plasticene.  Electric colours, spacey titles.  Individually, striking and exciting – collectively, the impact drains away.  You need to hang a Hoyland between a muddy Auerbach and a Lanyon, say.

Harold Cohen at Bernard Jacobson Gallery

Again, the vivid acid colours;  patches, snakes, rivers, bent elbows of paint, dashing about all over the canvas.  And again, the cumulative effect of twenty or so is less than that of one big one, seen from the street.  Cohen invented the AARON computer painting program, but these are a sort of collaboration between the computer, which does the basic pattern with inkjet, and the painter, who finishes the work by hand.  For some reason, that seems better to me.

Picasso at Alan Cristea Gallery

Black, grey and white “Portrait Lithographs”.  Fantastic, of course, but with the exception of three done in a rougher, more textured style, very similar variations on a theme.  Less is more, then, is today’s thought.

The Seventh Seal

Watching this the other night, I was struck by how Japanese it looked (and sounded);  the landscape, the riders, the tumblers, the wagons, the bits of music, the mediaeval setting – could have been Kurosawa.  Then again, he was reckoned to have very Western sensibilities, I think.  They were working about the same time.

Ai Weiwei

Has he been released yet?  It seems incredible that they can just drag him off somewhere and lock him up for “economic crimes” – medieval really.  He must be one of the world’s best-known artists.  Maybe if the Chinese government read this, they’ll realise their error and release him.

Blackpaint

15.04.11

PS – Saturday.  Last night, visited the Miro exhibition at Tate Modern, of which more in next blog.  Ai Weiwei’s sunflower seeds still on display, but not a word about his arrest – no petition, posters, nothing.  Shameful, I think; is the management afraid of offending Chinese visitors?