Posts Tagged ‘Jackson Pollock’

Blackpaint 572 – Kentridge and Kafka, Kooning and Kline

October 17, 2016

William Kentridge, the Whitechapel Gallery

Four or was it five, distinct rooms, each with films showing, one at least with other things to look at:

  • Wooden machine, like a loom maybe, or to me, reminiscent of the execution machine in Kafka’s “In the Penal Colony” – the one on which the prisoner lies on his back and needles write the nature of his crime on his body, deeper and deeper until he is pierced through.  B&W films showing dancer in whirling white robes, doing a sort of dervish dance.
  • Flickbooks – great flick portraits of Kentridge pacing, stroking his chin, looking thoughtfully down at the floor, on book pages, I think.

kentridge-1

  • DaDa film – colour film starting with sliding panels rather like Schwitters collages – a bit – then actors in costume, one in those boxy cardboard assemblages that Oscar Schlemmer made for Bauhaus productions.  Can’t remember what they are doing – something DaDa probably.
  • A surround room of moving images, more WK selfies, moving ink sketches of repeated images, a coffeepot, a typewriter…

kentridge-2

Sounds underwhelming, I know, but definitely worth seeing, if only for the flickbooks.

 

Abstract Expressionism at the RA (again)

Straight to the de Koonings, which are really stupendous, and went all over the red 1955 “Composition” with my eye, bit by bit, instead of just standing in front and absorbing the whole thing in one go, as I usually do; I love the dirty bits, the chunky, scabby black and white squirls, the jagged patch of turquoise – just fantastic.  The catalogue, though generally good, gives you no real idea of the clarity and impact.

dk-at-ra

“Whose Name was Writ on Water” again – the spatters indicating how DK turned the canvas during painting.  The dullness of the dirty crimson against the washed-out blue – I used to think it was “Ok, but..” – not now, it’s great.

The red one next to “Water” – the paint screams at you,  At the top it looks to be still wet; in fact, there is a big chunk of what looks like wet marmalade, right up the top.

Mitchell’s “Salut Tom” – the brushwork on it is great, an indescribable quality to it – of course, or there would be no point in painting it…

There are two lovely Gorkys, the grey-green and white ones, painted in the same year – it looks as if they were done with the same paint.  Similarly with two of the smaller Pollocks, painted in 1945.

I was a little less impressed with Pollock’s “Mural” this time – the colours under the green were crude, fairground colours; not sure if this is a good or bad thing.  For contrast, look at Mitchell; the colours are cold, pure, clear, deep.

Clyfford Still – several of the paintings have a Barnett-like line down them.

Klines – swimming pool ladders, bridges, scaffolding, in stark, rough black and white – one swirling black foggy one, different to the others, rather like a Lanyon in black.

kline-at-ra

Arabian Nights, Pasolini, 1974

paso1

The last of P’s trilogy of films based on ancient tales (Canterbury Tales and the Decameron are the other two); as with the others, it has a patchy, disjointed feel here and there, awkward segues, loads of explicit, .but very static sex by today’s standards – then, you realise how memorable the combination of music and scenarios is and how Pasolini’s images stay with you.  In this one there is a surprise live dismemberment.

Brexit

In these tempestuous and exciting times, two contrasting songs to suit the more radical of the pro- and anti- factions; they are:

“Hawkwood’s Army” by Fairport Convention

“Peppers and Tomatoes” by Ralph McTell

cobalt-window-2

Cobalt Window

Blackpaint

17.10.16

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Blackpaint 570 – AbExes at the RA and the Thin Man in the City

September 30, 2016

Abstract Expressionism at the RA

Fantastic, of course; the best show in London since the RA’s Diebenkorn, which was not that long ago (OK, Auerbach at Tate Britain was also great, but I think the Diebenkorn had the edge, with the three distinct styles/periods/modes, whatever you wish to call them).  Back to AbExes – I went on Saturday when it opened; queued for only 10 minutes and for once, it wasn’t throgged with immovable punters, walkie-talkies clapped to their ears, so you could see some of the paintings.. and sculptures, mustn’t forget David Smith and a few Barnett Newmans.

I’ll be going again and again, for sure, so this is nowhere near exhaustive:

  • The Guston and Mitchell paintings made Frankenthaler’s “Europa” look rather dowdy, on the far right of the wall.

guston-prague

Guston, Prague

  • The stunning Mitchell “Salut Tom”; four huge panels of white, blue and yellow, Monet of course and a little bit Cy Twombly, those panels of the seasons that were in the Tate Modern a while back.

salut-tom

  • When you look through the archway at the two small pink, green and yellow de Koonings, they look like Toulouse Lautrecs.
  • The Clyfford Stills, most of them, are great on their own but as Laura Cummings says in the Observer, putting them all in one room next to each other, they tend to drain the others’ glory.

still

 

  • This is NOT the case with the de Koonings, however, before which you can only – well, I can only stand in awe.  Sorry, hyperbole creeping in – I could do lots of things, ONE of them being to stand in awe.  A couple of fantastic Women, “Whose name was writ on water”, “Villa Borghese” with its green sweeps, the yellow and grey one with its yellow sweeps, that juicy red one, the collage with the tin tacks…  He’s the guv’nor, no question.

dk-water

de Kooning  – Whose name Was Writ on Water

  • Pollock’s not bad either.  I’m quite familiar with Pollock’s work, so the one enjoyed most was the 1943 “Mural” with the repeated green figures.

pollock-mural

Pollock, Mural

  • Can’t get on with Barnett Newman, sorry to say; I don’t like that liverish red/brown he uses, or the orange zips.
  • Rothko – an unusual, scrapy, scrappy blue and yellow panel on paper.
  • Lovely, punchy B&W Klines and an unusual wobbly one.

kline

Franz Kline – Zinc Door

  • Ad Reinhardt, pursuing his obsessions to their black ends – one of his, with spidery lines and figures, just like a Constant.
  • Guston’s paint, especially on the cartoon one (yes I know, but they DO look like cartoons) is greasy, dobby and looks moist.
  • And then there’s Jack Tworkov, with the diagonal slashes of colour.

Enough for now.  I’ve been reading “Anti-Matter” by Ben Jeffries, an extended essay about Houellebecq and “Depressive Realism” in which there is a discussion of Faking It – the idea that all works of art are “fake”, even when they are avowedly realist.  I think that’s right in a sense, and particularly right for the AbExes; once you are putting paint on a support, brushing, dripping, blading, flicking, you are faking it, unless it’s a real action picture and even then, you choose the paint, so there is a gap.  Rothko is not in some transcendant state when he paints, at least not most of the time; he’s thinking how to portray his feelings/revelations – the ones he’s already had, that is.  He’s faking it.

Doesn’t matter – they’re fantastic anyway, faking it or not.

Metropolis, dir. Fritz Lang (1927) 

metropolis

I’ve been watching the print found in Buenos Aires, and shown on BBC, in 30 minute chunks – I have a short attention span.  Once you get past the hero’s make-up, curly hair and jodphurs, it’s full of influence: so far, I’ve got montage scenes recalling Grosz; Rotwang the inventor’s false hand in leather glove (Dr.Strangelove);  Frankenstein, of course; the downtrodden, Zombie-like workers have offspring in the Wizard of Oz, Popeye cartoons and  – zombie films; all films with an underground or hi-tec citadel – Indiana Jones, James Bond films, Wallis and Gromit..  No doubt, there will be many more.  And it has another memorable villain to add to the gallery: Fritz Rasp as the “Thin Man”.

rasp

Fritz Rasp – watch the film, you’ll laugh – but he’ll come to you in your dreams….

islares-2

Islares under Cloud

Blackpaint

30.09.16

 

 

 

 

 

 

Blackpaint 526 – the Inevitable (yawn…) Review of the Year

December 31, 2015

Best Exhibitions

auerbach eow on bed

Auerbach, Tate Britain

pollock no14 1951

Pollock, Tate Liverpool

bacon figures in a landscape

Bacon, Sainsbury Centre

 

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 Exhibition, Tate Britain

 

goya mirth

Goya, Courtauld

dumas helene

Dumas, Tate Modern

diebenkorn seated woman

Diebenkorn, RA

sargent children

Singer Sargent, NPG

hoyland2

Hoyland, Damien Hirst’s Newport Street Gallery

Wreck 1963 by Peter Lanyon 1918-1964

Lanyon, Courtauld

 

Actually a fantastic year in London; all the shows and books and DVDs below have been reviewed in previous Blackpaints, so you can see a proper evaluation – sort of – if you’re interested…

  • abstract geometry following on from Malevich at the Whitechapel with Adventures of the Black Square;
  • Marlene Dumas’ haunting and unsettling portraits and masks and nudes at TM;
  • Barbara Hepworth at TB (rather worthy, but some lovely little torsos from her and her contemporaries – maybe I’ve been to St.Ives too many times);
  • beautiful, modulating colours and shapes from Sonia Delaunay at TM;
  • Singer Sargent at the National Portrait Gallery – one delight after another, throughout;
  • Goya drawings and etchings of witches, penitents, “lunatics” and other unfortunates at the Courtauld (missed the National Gallery Goya, I’m afraid);
  • Giacometti, NPG – good but not THAT good..
  • Alexander Calder, TM – also GBNTG.

But the best:

  • Diebenkorn at the RA;
  • Rubens at the same time, same venue;
  • Frank Auerbach at TB;
  • Marlene Dumas;
  • Bacon and the Masters at Sainsbury Centre, UEA;
  • Singer Sargent;
  • Lanyon at the Courtauld;
  • Pollock at Tate Liverpool;
  • John Hoyland at Hirst’s new gallery near Vauxhall.

 

Best Films

No contest here; Jodorowsky’s Dance of Reality.  Violence, murder, suicide, live burial, plague, the Golden Shower, torture, operatic singing, more masks, Stalinism and nazism – all in the best possible taste and with an uplifting message.  And some wonderful scenery.

jodorowsky

Abel Ferrara’s Pasolini.  William Dafoe is great in the role; the sex is startlingly spectacular; mix of fantasy and reality – and a soundtrack including Tony Jo White of Polk Salad Annie fame (ask your grandparents).

Disappointing, given the hype:

Carol – woman -on- woman love story.  Good acting, good period feel, otherwise conventional.

Star Wars; the Force Awakens – Good action film, with a bit of nostalgia.  Found my attention slipping now and then (as in Carol); realised (I knew, of course, but didn’t know it in my bones) that criticism on TV and in papers is just part of the publicity machine.  They’re all for sale, from the Guardian to the Sun and beyond.

And the worst:

German’s Hard to be a God.

It is as if he deliberately set out to make it impossible to understand, or even to watch; its all too close – you can’t get any perspective.

 

Best DVDs /TV

Wild Tales – portmanteau mayhem in Argentina.

All is Lost – Robert Redford, convincingly against the elements.

One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest – Jack Nicholson against Louise Fletcher.

chief

The Swimmer– Burt Lancaster swims home across Cheeverland.

 

Best Books Read – poetry first

Gil Scott-Heron -Then and Now.  The words are great, even without the music.   What’s the word?

John Cooper Clarke – Ten Years in an Open Necked Shirt.  Evidently Chicken Town and Beasley Street – no more to be said.

Ted Hughes- Collected Poetry.  As Alan Bennett says, he’s not strong on humour, but the imagery is gritty and muscular and totally original.  Who is stronger?  Hughes, evidently…

Gaudete – also by Hughes.  His verse novel about the vicar from hell who visits vigorously all the women of his parish to found his new religion – and the efforts of the shotgun-owning menfolk to curb his enthusiasm…

 

Non – Fiction

Clothes Clothes Clothes, Music Music Music, Boys Boys Boys –  Viv Albertine.  great book – I couldn’t put it down.  Awful title, impossible to remember the right order.

Just Kids –  Patti Smith about her and Robert Mapplethorpe.  Surprisingly restrained and almost Victorian prose at times.  By the way, lovely exhibition of Mapplethorpe, featuring photos and film of the young Patti at Kiasma, Helsinki.

patti2

 

Fiction

Raymond Carver, Collected Stories – he just wipes everyone but Cheever off the map.

John Cheever, Collected Stories.  Torch Song, the Duchess, the Little Red Moving Van, The Country Husband, The Swimmer… no, Cheever’s the best.  Unless Carver is…

House of Leaves, Mark Danielewski – a sort of horror story, pretentious, experimental in form.

Shark, Will Self – pretentious and experimental in form and language.

Finders Keepers, Stephen King – the absolute master of plot and narrative drive; once you start any SK story you will finish it, unless you die first.

 

And the worst;

The Enormous Room, e e cummings – the archness of the language is unbelievable; a prison novel set in WWI, which is, so far,  a series of “comic” character sketches.  It’s driving me mad and I may give up on it.  The Penguin Modern Classic cover is a great Paul Klee, though…

 

And My Best of 2015

heaven only knows 2

Heaven Only Knows II

 

pellet1

A Pellet falls from Outer Space

Blackpaint

31.12.15

Happy New Year to all readers for whom it is New Year.

Blackpaint 511 – Pollock, Fury and One-Note Plinky

September 14, 2015

Jackson Pollock, Blind Spots (Tate Liverpool)

This is a great little exhibition – about fifty pictures? – mostly from 1951 – 55, when his best stuff was supposed to have been done and decline set in.  There are a few drip paintings from 1947-9, by way of context; staggering delicacy and intricacy in the twining of the coloured skeins, rendering laughable the comment in the Telegraph Review section that there is “more to Pollock than flinging paint violently onto canvas”, as if that is what he had ever done.

The large drip painting, although beautiful, does remind you (or me, anyway)of a Formica table top from the fifties.  It’s the size, shape and the continuation of the pattern on the edges (because he did them on unprimed canvas on the floor and stretched them on supports afterwards).

Some favourites below:

pollock no 8 1952  

No.8, 1952

This one strongly reminiscent of Asger Jorn – I’m thinking “Letter to my Son” (Tate Modern).  It’s the little heads swimming about.

pollock no14 1951

No.14, 1951

Is that a chameleon, stepping through the undergrowth? Probably not…

 

Pollock no 12 1952

No.12, 1952

The big colourful one that Frank O’ Hara called a great “gigolo of a picture”.

As well as Jorn, you can see Picasso here and there.  There are a couple of sets of prints, which I think  conflict a little with Pollock’s spontaneous ethic; not just a driven genius then, a bit of business acumen there.  A bit like De Kooning, deciding to “harvest” the newspaper sheets he placed on his paintings in the 60s, to keep the paint from drying too quickly; shift them a little to smear the image and you have a “Monoprint” that can be signed and sold, instead of chucked away.

Constellations, Tate Liverpool

The paintings in this collection are arranged in “constellations”, which ignore chronology and geography and bounce off each other in some not always apparent fashion.  Fine, if you know plenty already but not helpful if you want a more art-historical approach.  I realise this sounds like the eternally carping Jonathan Jones, but in this respect, he has a point.  Some highlights below:

gaudier brjeska

Henri Gaudier Brjeska

 

dieter roth

Dieter Roth – I think it goes this way round.

 

bonnard window

Pierre Bonnard

pistoletto

Michelangelo Pistoletto

What’s she feeling for there?  Rather like my partner’s side of the bed.

Billy Fury

billy fury

Superb statue, by Tom Murphy,  of the great singer on the Albert Dock; the stance and the profile are perfect – I missed that lop-sided sneer/smile he used to do, though.  “So near, yet so far away”..

Carver and Kidman 

A very tenuous connection – rather like Constellations – here: I’d just been reading the Raymond Carver story about the boy who is run over on his birthday and slips into a coma, when Nicole appeared on TV in a film called “Rabbit Hole” – in which her son has been run over, chasing his dog across a road.  The film is actually about his parents “coming to terms” and it employs that awful, universal, plink-plunk sequence of slow, single piano notes to signify melancholy – I think I’ve actually heard it in news bulletins, behind “special reports” by journalists “on the spot”.  Thank goodness for the likes of Carver and Cheever and Wolff ; you couldn’t do one-note plinky behind films of their stories (I can think of three, “the Swimmer”, “Short Cuts” and “Jindabyne”).

Jodorowsky, Santa Sangre

Mexico, circus, clowns, knife-throwers, women wrestlers, ecstatic religion… arms chopped off, throats cut, murder by throwing knife and samurai sword, acid flung on genitals…the funeral of an elephant, the resurrection of a host of murdered “brides”…and it manages to be sentimental too, with an accompaniment of emotive Mexican song.  Possibly some one-note plinky, even.

sidelined WIP

Work in “Progress”

Blackpaint

14.12.15

 

 

 

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 465 – Boyd’s Law, Nazis, Eyeballs and Ticky Tacky

October 17, 2014

William Boyd on Schiele

Boyd, writing in  last Saturday’s Guardian Review, praises  Egon Schiele (Courtauld Gallery exhibition opening on 23rd October) as a “phenomenal draughtsman”; fair enough, but he then goes on to revisit his argument that only great draughtsmen – there are only men in his list – can be “truly great”  painters:  “I believe that you can’t be a truly great painter if you’re not an excellent draughtsman.”  He cites Robert Hughes in support of this proposition: “..the naked figure, male and female (is) the ultimate test and validation, so the critic Robert Hughes has stated, of any artist.s merit and painterly ability.”   He (Boyd) goes on to single out Pollock: “Jackson Pollock, to name but one giant of modernism, is a pre-eminent example – he was a shockingly inept draughtsman – but there are dozens of others.” From the work of Pollock and these others, Boyd can tell – and so can we, he says –  that there is something “fundamentally lacking”.

Surely, this is nonsense.  How can you tell from Pollock’s “Lavender Mist” that he was a bad draughtsman?  Bridget Riley?  John Hoyland?  Joan Mitchell?  Gillian Ayres?  Rothko? All great painters, I would argue – but I’ve no idea if they could do a good figure drawing (apart from Rothko, who was no great shakes, I know).

To drag in Hughes is misleading, too, if you are going to have a go at Jackson – Hughes leaves little doubt in his essay on Pollock in “Nothing if not Critical”, that he regarded him as a true great, in spite of his limitations as a “draftsman”: “When he set up a repeated frieze of drawn motifs, as he did for Peggy Guggenheim in 1943, the result – as drawing – was rather monotonous.  But when he found he could throw lines of paint in the air, the laws of energy and fluid motion made up for the awkwardness of his fist, and from then on, there was no grace that he could not claim.  Compared with his paintings, the myth of Pollock hardly matters”.

The Schiele looks good, though; but a bit freaky, as if made for repro as posters for student bedrooms.  I think you’d soon get sick of them, despite the “phenomenal” skill involved.

schiele

 

 

Richard Tuttle at the Whitechapel Gallery

I went to the private view, sunk the regulation three glasses of fizzy wine, and now I’m going to be ungrateful;  I found this exhibition of the US minimalist to be very disappointing.  There are some beautiful prints, lithographs, or maybe monoprints, reproduced below; didn’t like the rest.  Tiny wall plaques with ticky-tacky little constructions stuck to them – one looked like a bed of cress; a sort of Schwitters construction like a giant mousetrap; bits of string in shapes on the floor; a few paintings combining blue and red marks on a white background with a lower section in black, oil stick maybe; sagging lumps of fabric, cut into odd shapes; some pieces that looked broken or collapsing on themselves (someone did similar stuff in a Turner Prize exhibition some years ago-can’t remember the name).  And poems, I think, on the walls, to go with the exhibits.  Didn’t read them.

richard tuttle

Sculpture at the Whitechapel

Don’t miss this.  There’s a de Kooning mud figure, a Schutte head on a tripod, some flayed figures by the Polish guy who was at the Biennale last year, a Louise Bourgeois that looks like a sawfish blade, a Henry Moore reclining figure…

Downfall

Had to watch it when it was on last week; third time, I think.  Goebbels and Magda are terrifying, Mohnke is great (the actor, not the real man; implicated in murder of British POWs at Wormhoudt) – and Traudl looks lovely in the German helmet…

downfall

Julia’s Eyes

Del Toro film, with some ludicrous bits, strongly relying on three “horrific” scenes: a knife through the mouth, a needle through the eye and a throat- cutting suicide (not as shocking as the one in “Hidden”).  Below, for your pleasure, I reproduce the needle moment and the eyeball cutting from Un Chien Andalou, by way of comparison.

julias eyes

un chien andalou

I think Chien still has the edge (pardon the pun).

Shark, Will Self

So, you’re reading away, inside someone’s head, hanging on and understanding maybe 70% – then, it all goes pear-shaped.  You’ve gone into someone else’s head without a signal and you might go a page or two without realising.  Then, you go back to look for the bit where it changed…  most annoying, but that’s experimental writing for you.

 

002

Samonas

Blackpaint

11.10.14

 

 

Blackpaint 329 – Manly Women and The Rear View

March 6, 2012

Leonard Rosoman

Obituary for the above today in Guardian. Fireman during the Blitz, painted the famous picture of the wall collapsing on two firemen during a raid (which he witnessed).  A beautiful picture of an aircraft with folded wings, Sutherland – ish, a luscious rose-pink; was in the Imperial War Museum some time back, maybe still on show.

Robert Motherwell

Looking at Motherwell’s art, you really come to understand what is meant by “gestural” painting – that’s exactly what many of his pictures resemble; a deliberate, sometimes violent, always deliberate gesture, usually in black, often with spatters, on a plain background.  His colours, unlike those of, say, Hoffman, are limited to maybe three or four at the most.  The Spanish Elegy series ran to over a hundred pictures, all with the same central image, based apparently on the dead bull’s testicles in the bullring.  This (below) is his Ulysses, in the Tate, which I have mentioned several times; it’s the most striking image in the surrealism bit (what’s it doing there?)…

Joan Mitchell

Every day, I change my mind – yesterday, I would have sworn de Kooning was the best of the AbEx bunch – OK, I know he wasn’t really an AbEx, not even an abstractionist for a lot of the time, but for convenience’ sake…  Today, I’ve picked up the Joan Mitchell book and it’s page after page of beautiful, fresh, intertwined tangles of bright paint, green, gold, blue, that somehow avoid bleeding into each other and becoming muddy and sludgy – Hemlock, Evenings on 73rd Street. George went swimming, Hudson River Day Line – and then the ones assembled out of colour blocks that look as if they are glowing with fire – Salut Sally, Wet Orange, Belle Bete, all with thin colours dribbling over and through the blocks.  They look good enough to eat.

Hudson River Day Line

She’s sort of the Anti-Auerbach; even when the canvas is covered, there’s light and space and air, somehow.  I love Auerbach’s sludgy paintings too, I hasten to add.

de Kooning

I’d assumed that he put his paintings together on the canvas, so to speak; that the charcoal and paint lines left in or only partly erased or obscured were evidence of an improvisatory approach – wrong.  He left some in, painted over others,  He traced or enlarged elements from one picture or sketch to another.  He appears to have borrowed images from other painters on occasion, a notable example being the screaming woman looking up to the sky in “Guernica”.  He mixed his paints with plaster of paris to achieve particular effects. 

It seems that few American Abstract Expressionists fitted the stereotype of the gestural painter, who improvises as he/she goes along.  Maybe only Pollock and a couple of othersMotherwell?

Apart from three canvases, my paintings are totally improvised – when I start, I’ve hardly any idea of where they are going to go.  No sketches, it all takes place on the canvas or the paper.  First thing – get the canvas dirty with a swatch or slash of paint.  After that, it proceeds by trial and error and correction, scraping and plastering.  Shapes emerge and are incorporated or painted over, tracts of paint have to be concealed, scraped off or cut back.  Eventually, an image or set of images emerges, that I think constitutes a picture.  I’m sure that, if I did sketches or preparation, the end result would be better – but the process would be like work and I’d have to stop.  I’d rather keep painting.

Michelangelo

I haven’t written anything about the maestro for ages, so had a flick through the picture books tonight.  Two things struck me, both very banal, I’m sure.  First, most of his women, with the exception of Virgins, are really men with breasts stuck on (I think Alan Bennett put that observation into “The History Boys”) – and one of the images of God in the 8th bay of the Sistine ceiling is showing his bare backside, for no good reason.  Given that lots of genitalia were later painted over, how did that get past the censors?

Goodfellas

Paging through the channels aimlessly the other night, came across Paul Sorvino’s pouchy face peering at the garlic clove, as he shaves it into thin slices with a razor blade – and that was it, hooked again; only seen it about twenty-three times.  Astounding that he never got an Oscar until The Departed.

A really early one.

Some of my stuff in the WhatIf Gallery, Dartford.

Blackpaint

06.03.12

Blackpaint 279

June 11, 2011

Franz Kline

Time, surely, for a Taschen book on Kline; I’ve just come across a painting by him called “Gay Street Rooftops” dated 1941.  Good, but pretty conventional cityscape stuff.  I’d like to know how he got from that to those black and white structures (Chinese letters, some compare them to) for which he is known.

Riopolle

“Vol de Chute” from 1961, a fantastic, Appel-like painting, lozenge shapes of colour with that spidery black scoring outlining them in bands, like barbed wire; blue, yellow, orange, white, green , grey…  it’s all there.

Pollock

“Grey Center”, (I know, but it’s an American picture) 1946, one of the Accabonac Creek series; lots of leggy, angular shapes – maybe more like  knees and elbows, I thought at first by Lee Krasner, rather than Pollock;  it’s in white, grey, pink and ochre – de Kooning colours.  Still appears to have vestiges of the figures he used to put at either side of his paintings; “Pasiphae”, for instance (name of the painting was supplied by his dealer, Pollock not being familiar with Ovid at the time).

Fra Angelico

A while back, writing about violence in paintings, I mentioned Caravaggio’s Abraham and  Isaac, saying that C ‘s painting showed a brutal realism. It is exemplified  in the way Abraham grasps the boy’s face and throat in preparation for the killing stroke with the knife.  Of all artists, Fra Angelico matches this in his “Massacre of the Innocents” (San Marco, Florence).  The soldier on the far right grasps a woman’s throat while thiusting the dagger into her baby’s throat; she is holding the blade, trying to push it away.  Expressions of grief and horror, and violence all around.

This contrasts strongly with Piero della Francesca, who was being discussed, I think by Tim Marlow on TV the other night.  The painting in question was a battle scene but it appeared to me to be absolutely static – something in the way Piero paints seems to drain all movement from his paintings.  And the faces appear expressionless; they don’t engage with the other figures, but usually stare out from the canvas.  I think they look like figures in surrealist paintings, say Delvaux or de Chirico.

Le Quattro Volte

Film by Michelangelo Frammartino.  A sort of seasonal portrait of an Italian mountain village, almost silent – the camera views from a distance much of the time.  It has the Brughel snow scene (cf. Tarkovsky’s “Mirror”); close-ups of wood surfaces, like a tree trunk with lichen and scrambling ants, drifting smoke, a spectacular sky – and lots of goats – those amazing rectangular retinal slots in their eyes.  It seems as if nothing much happens, but it does: a goatherd looks after his flock, coughs, and dies eventually-  we accompany him into the catacomb and hear the door shut on us.  There is a crucifixion festival, a tree felling and climbing festival, and eventually – second time I’ve said that, must say something about the film – we find out what they’re making and why all the smoke.

It skirts sentimentality – the little lost goat, the doughty dog, life and death, life goes on, the men  shake hands with each other  before doing business….  I suppose all films are romantic in one sense, though, as soon as you frame a scene and a narrative emerges.  What about Chien Andalou and l’Age d’Or?  Probably they’re romantic too – have to think about that one.

Blackpaint

Saturday

Blackpaint 164

July 8, 2010

Warrior Taking leave of his wife, 440BC

It’s painted on an oil jar in the museum in Athens.  The warrior appears to be handing his helmet to his wife, who sits impassively before him, one arm casually thrown over the back of the curly chair.  Surely she should be handing him the helmet?  The thin white slip coating the jar gives a matte surface to paint on.  like many of these artefacts, this one looks as if it was made some time last week, rather than 2500 years ago, give or take.  See it in Phaidon’s “30,000 years of art”, if you don’t live in Athens.

Pollock

Looking at “Croaking Movement” and “Shimmering Substance” from “Sounds in the Grass” series 1946; the first with its white triangles and globes, the second with its squirming yellow worms of paint – he must have been trying to express sound, like Kandinsky and others, that idea of synaesthesia.  he did one later called “Untitled (scent)”, which is a strange sort of title, but implies he was trying to do the same with smell.  That seems to me to be a very tall order, harder than sound which can be harsh, jerky, smooth, soft etc.

Have to be cautious here, however, since it’s well known that others, dealers and gallerists, supplied some of the names for his paintings, such as those with a mythological title.

Roger Hilton

Very characteristic of Hilton’s paintings from early 50s is that mottled, fluffy whiteness, forming a background to the floating, disparate shapes he was doing in 1953.  Later, from about 61, there are the areas of bare canvas, the scruffy charcoal lines and splashes and lozenges of colour, blues, brown, reds. 

Have to stop now – private view tonight. 

Elgin Movements,  Blackpaint

08.07.10

Blackpaint 141

May 26, 2010

Tate Modern’s  10th anniversary

Saw the programme fronted by Matthew Collings on the above last night and had the pleasure of hearing Joan Mitchell described as a “lady abstract expressionist”;  Collings also offered the opinion that she was “not on the same level” as Pollock or Rothko.  Whilst this is arguably the case with Pollock, at least for those few years that he was producing the incomparable drip paintings, I have to ask, why Rothko?  Because he always insisted on the importance of his paintings, and conducted himself with almost insane self-importance, surrounded himself, or was surrounded by, an air of religiosity?  Joan Mitchell, I submit (members  of the jury), was “not on the same level” because she was a woman in a mad, macho bunch of egotists and because she chose to go to live and work in France.  I think Collings has been influenced (unconsciously,no doubt) by the misogyny of the movement, and I think her work stands comparison with the best of the ab exes.

Rothko

The thing about Rothko, though, is this: maybe, when you find that thing that you paint, there really is no point in painting anything else.  Just about everything he did, after discovering the panels of colour, was variations on that same theme.  Some of them are very beautiful and provoke profound reactions in the viewer, some are just the variations.  Ingots with slots or panels of different, shimmering colours; archways of light or darkness.  He hit it and stuck with it, and that obsessiveness has a power in itself, creates its own beauty (or horror) – neither the right word; validity maybe, but that’s a bloodless term to use.

Lorenzo Monaco

Should have mentioned the beautiful virgin and child by the above at Edinburgh; a rather well-developed baby (actually, could have been up to 10 years old) with a mop of curls rather like Titian’s Joseph.  Also, several small Duccio- like panels with that dusty pink that he does – but it was someone else, whose name escapes me.

Photographs really “glamourise” pictures sometimes; those snotty remarks I made about Titian’s surfaces seem nonsense when you look at the photos in the Companion.

Blackpaint

26.05.10