Posts Tagged ‘Jasper johns’

Blackpaint 613- Degas, Soutine, Orwell, Proust and Brexit

January 2, 2018

Soutine again

Revisited this great exhibition at the Courtauld ; waiters, bellboys, patrons (the french kind), with those dipping shoulders, bending faces, pouting lips, supercilious sneers, rich blue and blood red backgrounds.  You can see the influence he had on de Kooning, and maybe Bacon.  That big, long red one reminds me of Beckmann.

Degas et al at the National Gallery

The Degas is free; it’s on the ground floor, in a room after a collection of beautiful small landscapes, of which more in a moment.  Most of the Degas pictures are pastels but there are at least two in oils that look like pastels.  Some lovely sturdy ballerinas, that big brown/orange one of the maid combing out the woman’s hair (usually on display in the first Impressionism room to the right of the main entrance) and a great one of racehorses with jockeys up, in a downpour; a whirl of Russian women dancers.

 

 

As for the landscapes, I thought the most striking was by Lord Leighton, a jutting outcrop against green, from an unusual angle.

Also, a couple of great Boudins, distant families on the beach, Trouville I think.  He’s a “red spot” man.

Orwell, Notes on Nationalism

Just re-read this essay, written near the end of WW2, but staggeringly relevant today (relevance is something you find pretty much every time you pick up an Orwell book).  I recognised my own mindset immediately, with regard to the Brexit “debate” and resolved to think of Orwell every time I read the Guardian.  Doesn’t work though, unfortunately; still teeth grinding and swearing.  Orwell is often spectacularly wrong; for example, he thought in the early days of the war and maybe later, that Britain was bound to lose unless the war became a revolutionary war, with the Home Guard maybe playing the role of a People’s Militia.  But there is always reason and clarity in his writing and he draws attention to his own errors willingly.

Proust 

I’m still ploughing through the books; on the fourth one now (title?).  It strikes me that the Dreyfus case, which keeps popping up in the salons of St. Germain and elsewhere, divided France in much the same way as the Brexit issue has divided Britain, perhaps not yet with the same degree of venom – but give it time…

Best exhibitions last year

Rauschenberg (Tate Modern)

Jasper Johns (Royal Academy)

Soutine (Courtauld)

Kabakovs (Tate Modern)

Holbein, Da Vinci, the Caraccis et al (National Portrait Gallery)

Best Films 2017

Get Out (dir. Jordan Peele)

Dunkirk (dir. Christopher Nolan)

Blade Runner 2049 (dir. Denis Villeneuve)

Best books 2017

The Dream Colony, Walter Hopps and Deborah Triesman

Road to Somewhere, David Goodhart

Caravaggio (Taschen)

Best TV 2017

Howards End

League of Gentlemen

Babylon Berlin

Best DVDs I’ve seen in 2017

Il Topo (Jodorowsky, 1970)

Caravaggio (Derek Jarman, 1986)

Blade Runner – the final cut (Ridley Scott, 2007)

Mahler (Ken Russell)

Mauve Nude

 

Black and White

Blackpaint

1/1/2018

Happy New Year.

 

 

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Blackpaint 609 – Soutine, Kabakovs, Green Penis Man and Giant Cloth Moths

November 7, 2017

Soutine at the Courtauld: Cooks, Waiters and Bellboys (until 21st January)

A great exhibition of Soutine’s colourful, wonky portraits that are so individual I’m hard-pressed to do my usual spurious comparisons.  Although maybe one or two remind me a little of Max Beckmann… and the ghost of Bacon is hovering about here and there.  I like that shoulder disparity below and, of course, the sticking-out ears, echoing the fall of the chef’s hat.  The sumptious blue of the background in the first portrait is worth mentioning too – Soutine uses it a lot.  He was a favourite of de Kooning; maybe some similarities there?

 

 

Ilya and Emilia Kabakov at Tate Modern: Not Everyone will be Taken into the Future (until 28th Jan)

Also one to see.  Ten rooms of the most varied works:  paintings, wooden model “theatres” that you peer into through little windows, full-size, re-constructed rooms full of artifacts, a winding, half-lit corridor, along which you walk trying to read the captions to the old photographs, led on by the voice of Ilya K himself, humming and crooning old Russian songs from somewhere ahead (Labyrinth (My Mother’s Album), 1990) – and the rear end of a train (the exhibition title piece, 2001).  The exhibition requires you to read the brief captions by the pieces to make sense of some; I don’t normally like doing that, preferring the visuals to do the work, but it’s worth doing here, to get the context of the Soviet setting.

The main tone is set by memory, nostalgia and fairly gentle satire; see the painting below, with its layer of torn, floating fragments, as well as the “Labyrinth” corridor.

My favourite piece is the model “Where is Our Place?” (2002 – 2017);  I missed the giant legs and feet completely until I read the caption.  Some of the paintings have a slightly Peter Doig feel to them (probably the “Snow” ones in Room 7) and the attachment of a severed arm to one item – I forget the reason given – recalled the current Jasper Johns show at the RA; very superficial connection,  I admit.

Ilya Kabakov was never imprisoned or persecuted under the Soviet regime, but showed only to “a close circle of artists and intellectuals”.  He married Emilia in 1992, after emigrating to the States.  It is not clear to me what Emilia’s contribution is – most of the pieces appear to be Ilya’s.

Venice Biennale (on until 26th November)

This year, the theme of the Biennale is “Viva Arte Viva”, a suitably Fellini-esque title for the often staggeringly pretentious pieces on show at the various sites.  This year’s theme is “The Journey”.  I quote from the Short Guide: “Along the journey of the Exhibition’s itinerary, the artists encounter each other; they draw near to, or distance themselves from one another, according to the affinities manifested in the impulses and stimuli which move them, in the challenges they must face, or in the practices they have chosen to follow”.  As far as I can make out, this means that some are like each other and some are not.  To give an idea of some of the pieces on display, I reproduce a few of the notes I jotted down as we went round the Giardini:

  • Huge fat blonde disco video (Divine?)
  • Eskimo paintings (Pootoobok)
  • Snow monkey video
  • Green penis man (Uriburu)
  • Trainer plant lattice
  • Hexagonal quartz pillars
  • Giant cloth moths

Plenty of variety, with the usual dubious connections made in the blurb(s):  migration, refugees, threatened ethnicity, climate change…  Below, three of the best from the national pavilions:

Frank Walter, Antigua and Barbuda Pavilion

“Outsider” painter (brilliant) and sculptor (not so good); lived latter part of his life in an isolated shack/studio, no power or running water, churning out the most vivid and exciting pieces on discarded and improvised supports, like old boxes of photographic equipment.  A couple of examples below – his colours are really piercing.

 

 

Geta Bratescu, Romanian Pavilion

This woman, now in her 90s, we knew from an exhibition at Tate Liverpool a couple of years ago – but there, the artworks were nearly all cloth pieces.  This time, her very varied graphic styles (she has at least three) are on display, ranging from the fiendishly detailed and accurate hands and mouth below to animated cartoon style.

 

 

 

Mark Bradford, US Pavilion

Interesting American artist who works on a giant scale, layering and tearing, scraping and sanding at his multi-coloured placards of paintings.  This huge downward bulge of a work requires you (or me, anyway) to stoop low as you enter the pavilion.

This giant head, if that’s what it is, reminds me a little of a Guston made out of Weetabix, or maybe shown on a giant TV with the reception breaking up.  Fizzing with energy.

Nothing completed by me recently, so best I can do is this work in “progress”.

Work in Progress

Blackpaint

5/11/17

Blackpaint 608 – Blade Runner, Blue Lamp, Johns, Dali and Duchamp

October 20, 2017

Jasper Johns 2 (RA)

Second selection from the Johns show at the Royal Academy.  It’s nearly as good as the Rauschenberg at Tate Modern a while ago; the Rausch had the edge for inventiveness and variety, but only just.  I love the splashy colours, the encaustic (waxy surfaces) and the combinations, like Rauschenberg’s – see below:

Johns, Field Painting, 1963-4

Neon light at the top – reminds me of Martial Raysse at the Pompidou a couple of years ago.   I wonder who did it first – probably came up with it independently and simultaneously.

 

Johns, Watchman, 1964

For a while, he liked sticking limbs on paintings; see the spotty arms below.  I think the chair raises “Watchman” aesthetically, though.

 

Johns, Perilous Night, 1982

 

Johns, Green Angel, 1990

Beginning to resemble Sigmar Polke a bit, in this one – but then, Polke was always really hard to categorize too.

 

Dali/ Duchamp (RA)

This is also on at the RA and so is Matisse in the Studio still – so a pretty good selection at the moment.  Dali/Duchamp, however, is thin and tendentious; what’s the connection?  As far as I can see, it is that they were close friends for a long time.  The fact that they are so different as artists is put forward as a further justification for a joint show – very different, but so friendly, there must be something interesting there…

Anyway, the R.Mutt urinal is there, as is the lobster telephone, the moustachio’d Mona Lisa and other old friends; also, the usual contrived “surreal” Dali paintings, like the one below.  I think Orwell got him about right in his essay “Benefit of Clergy”, back in the 40s.

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Dali, Apparition of Face and Fruit Dish on a Beach (1938)

 

Duchamp, The King and Queen Surrounded by Swift Nudes (1912)

 

The Bride Stripped Bare by her Bachelors, even.

(Duchamp 1915 – 23, reconstructed by Richard Hamilton)

 

Blade Runner 2049 (Denis Villeneuve, 2017)

Since I am in a dismissive mood, I might as well do this, as it has been roundly praised by all the critics I’ve read.  Not a patch on the original; it lacks the kinetic energy and whirling colour of Scott’s film and I found myself checking my watch about 40 minutes in.  There’s a crap Bond-type blind villain trying to create the perfect cross-over android (I think – attention strayed at this point)  There’s an entertaining blitzing battle in a scrapyard – but I’m sure I’ve seen something similar in a “Star Wars” somewhere or other.  There is dust and gloom and red haze (like last week here in London on Ophelia day – dust from the Sahara and smoke from Portuguese forest fires, apparently).

Strangely, towards the end, I felt the director thought it was taking too long to resolve; we were suddenly in small fighting rocket ships shooting at each other, just like the original Star Wars and then in a hand-to-hand fight to the death in a craft filling with water – so that was the reason for those earlier spectacular shots of the dam…  What is true of the film is that it is truly Dick-like in the ramifications of the story; much more coherent than Dick, in fact.  I’ve said elsewhere in this blog that Dick has great ideas and writes brilliant short stories, but his novels are all over the place.

The Blue Lamp (Basil Dearden, 1950)

This popped up on TV the other night and for the first time, I stayed with it, and was glad that I did.  First, it was a beautiful, clear, clean print, sharp and sparkling, as if made yesterday.  The story was tight and mostly credible and there was a great car chase around Ladbroke Grove, police bells ringing, schoolgirls crossing the road as the police car screams round the corner.  It was out of a past that felt very distant; the villains, the sweaty Bogarde and his mate spud (Patric Doonan) use a music hall appearance by Tessie O’Shea as an alibi for the robbery and shooting of PC Dixon; scruffy, dirty kids in long shorts and hand me downs play in the streets and by a canal.  Everyone  (adult) smokes, there are horses pulling various vehicles, there are real bomb sites.  Bogarde (Tom Riley, the shooter) looks like a desperado from an Italian neo-realist picture, with his mop of unruly hair and shabby sweater.

I wrote “mostly credible”; it went into fantasy a little way in the White City dog stadium sequence.  When the petty villains and tic-tac men (google it) join with the police in the search for Riley and signal his whereabouts in the stadium, I was reminded of Fritz Lang’s “M”, in which the hapless (and also sweaty) child killer Peter Lorre is hunted down and put on trial by the underworld; at least, I think that’s what happens – it’s hard to see through the cigarette smoke.

Did you notice the rhyming title?  Slick, eh?  Oh well, please yourselves…

Ophelia

Blackpaint

19/10/17

 

 

 

Blackpaint 607 – Dream Homebase, Queer Tate

October 2, 2017

Jasper Johns, RA

Unsurprisingly, the best art show in town (apart from the magical Holbeins at the NPG).  It doesn’t quite have the impact and variety of the recent Rauschenberg at TM, but maybe it suffers a bit by coming after.  I’ll be going again, probably several times, so below are just a few of the delights on display. They are mostly of one type, the splashy, multi coloured early ones.  In addition, there are (of course) the flags and targets; the metal beer cans, torches, paintbrushes, spectacles; the combinations (broom, severed, spotted arm, piece of wire); the several-panelled pieces combining paint and silkscreen, again, like Rauschenberg.  Anyway, I shall return…

 

 

Painting with Two Balls, 1960

 

No (I think); note the wire structure attached, hard to see in this photo, reminiscent of Rauschenberg.

 

Rachel Whiteread, Tate Britain

This is like a visit in a dream to Homebase; or no, more a building supplies warehouse, Jewsons maybe?  Doors and windows and little model houses made of mauve, orange or green resins; fireplaces and bathtubs and mattresses made of moulded concrete or plaster or plastics; a little group of moulded hot water bottles in pastel-shaded plaster; great piles of shuttering, is it? in white concrete; also in white concrete, a central block of upside-down stairs.  There is a block of resin in the exact shade of those cider ice lollies you used to get, that lost their colour as you sucked on them and some intriguing dark grey moulded (actually, pretty much everything is moulded) plaques made from papier-machee, “spattered” with primary colour.  A selection of her rather delicate drawings and plans down at the far end of the warehouse.

 

Queer Tate Britain

The Queer Art exhibition is still on at TB; I notice that there are now a series of toilet options, a development perhaps related to the show .  The old male and female (though indicated by picture, I think, rather than the somewhat brutal categorising terms I have used) and two “Non-gendered” options.  These last also have pictures of wheelchairs, so it may be that they have always been there and I never noticed them; I am sure the non-gender descriptions are new, though.

Also, there is a sketchbook on sale, entitled “Erotic Fantasies” or some such, by the great Keith Vaughan.  These are not stylised, Tom of Finland-type cartoons, but naturalistic depictions of  various sex acts between males.  I would say “realistic”, but the equipment on display in the drawings is rather small…  Good to see that TB isn’t afraid to sell gay porn; maybe they think the quality of the drawings is justification (maybe it is).

Victoria and Albert Museum Theatre Room

This is a brilliant, quiet bit of the museum, top of the stairs and through the darkened jewellery room; videos, miniature stage sets, posters, costumes – Fred Astaire must have been really short, judging by the tails he wore in “Shall We Dance?” – puppets, memorabilia.  Some images below, including my favourite poster for “Bartholomew Fair” and the poster that provided title and characters for “Being for the Benefit of Mr. Kite”, from the Sergeant Pepper album.

 

 

While there, see the fantastic tapestries next door, and the Turner and Constable oil sketches in another adjacent room – much better than many of their more elaborate “worked-up” paintings in ornate gold-leaf frames.

 

Constable

 

Sluice Biennial

This art fair is taking place at various venues (a container block tower, underneath arches) around Hackney Central.  It ends tomorrow.  I was struck by those paintings which were representational in some way – they looked to be strongly influenced by one or more of the following: George Condo, Luc Tuymans and William Sasnal.  Maybe a little bit of Ryan Mosley too.  This seems to be a common matrix of influences these days; at the Saatchi Gallery, for example.

Two new ones of mine, to finish with:

Bridge

Blackpaint

Green Split

Blackpaint

02/10/17

 

 

 

 

 

 

Blackpaint 578 – Rauschenberg, Johns, John and Schvendel

December 13, 2016

Rauschenberg at Tate Modern

Have now visited this three times; it is FANTASTIC (sorry to shout).  There is one beautiful room with a huge Combine called “Ace”, which I wrote about last week; see below.  you have to visit though, because the photo doesn’t do it justice.  Blues, yellows, rose red swatches and swags of paint; a wooden plaque with the title stuck at the top. a screwed-up rag rather like a dragon crouching on its surface.

ace

Ace, Rauschenberg (1962)

In the same room, a pair of panels in red and white, one  with a pair of electric fans attached on opposite sides of the painting, a swirling mass of silver, cream and pink brushstrokes enclosed between; the other (below), with wire coils, a watch and a piece of metal bolted on.

 

rob-combine

Also in this room, see and marvel at “Gold Standard”, the gold screen with an HMV dog attached (also an old boot).  “Black Market” and the one in the corner with the two panels divided by a short ladder – they are all great.  This room alone is a breathtaking exhibition, but there is much more:

The silkscreens with paint on, best of which is “Estate” –

rob-estate

Estate 

The cardboard sculptures, like the one below, with the “exploded” section:

rob-cardboard

The “Gluts”, metal scrapyard pieces (see below):

rob-sunset-glut

Sunset Glut

rob-stop-sign-early-winter-glut

Stop Side Early Winter Glut, 1987

And the “Jammers” (flag/banner pieces), “Oracle”, a five-piece sculpture made from stripped-down car door, air conditioning unit et al, all mounted on little wheels, several landmark pieces, such as the erased de Kooning drawing, the “crime scene” bed, “Monogram” (the goat in the tyre, which Alistair Sooke described as a metaphor for homosexual intercourse – a suggestion which visibly shocked a woman curator on an excellent BBC2 documentary on Rauschenberg the other day) – and loads more (dance videos, old socks, parasols and parachutes, bubbling mud, a ladder to a porthole to the wall, a sketchy toothbrush…).

What I like about Rauschenberg is the colour – and the texture, of course, but the colour is beautiful.  He uses that yellow over and over again, the one on the bent fenders in “Sunset Glut”.  They are sort of industrial, but beautiful.

Interesting to see his clear influence on Johns – not surprising, really – who was hanging brooms on his pictures and inserting balls into crevices within pictures, and painting in those big swatches too; maybe he was the influence, but my money is on Rausch, given his later diversity.  Also, there was an Appel abstract, with a bucket dangling from it, which I wrote about some time back; must look it up.

johns-according

According to What, Jasper Johns (1964)

Schvendel

I have to mention “Schwendel” again; in the film “Painters Painting”, Rauschenberg is interviewed about his Red Paintings and speaking about how red has a lot of black in it, he says something like “..it’s the abundance of colour in the painting, rather than the schvendel of the painting…”??  I can’t find the word anywhere; does anyone know what schvendel is?

Elton John’s photo collection, Tate Modern

Rather gone over the top on Rauschenberg, and will be going back there, so only a quick superficial mention of this exhibition in the Switch Room.  Several Penns, mostly, like Stravinsky, celebrities squashed into a corner of a bare room…

penn-stravinsky

Igor Stravinsky, Irving Penn

John seems to have Hoovered up a set of the most well-known images from the USA, USSR (Rodchenko) and elsewhere;

1936 --- Florence Owens Thompson, 32, a poverty-stricken migrant mother with three young children, gazes off into the distance. This photograph, commissioned by the FSA, came to symbolize the Great Depression for many Americans. --- Image by © CORBIS

Dorothea Lange

Also, several of those Man Ray photos with the thin black line round the image, like that of Sir Kenneth Clark’s wife.

The Godfather 

At my eldest son’s wedding on Saturday, speeches over, sitting waiting for the food, on my fourth (or fifth) prosecco refill; looking around –  radiant bride in white, no.1 son, lovely wife, the other two “boys” in sharp suits with cream ties, deep in conversation with their neighbours at table, I had that slow-motion film cliche moment again: a huge, tongue-tied minion, uncomfortable and sweating in his tight suit, approaches me deferentially, hands me an envelope stuffed with banknotes and addressing me as Don Chich, assures me of his everlasting loyalty on the occasion of the marriage of my son….and then I woke up, prosecco coming round again..

lvg1

First of a set of ten paintings on theme of time and place, this is November Lisbon.

Blackpaint

13/12/16

Blackpaint 486 – What’s Left of Cork Street and Singer Sargent at the NPG

March 14, 2015

Cork Street Galleries

Arriving at the RA on Thursday for the Diebenkorn, I found that it didn’t start until the weekend, so went round the remaining Cork Street galleries to see what was to be seen:

Allen Jones 

At the Redfern Gallery, a beautiful sketch of a headless woman that sent me looking for more on the net – couldn’t find more drawings though, other than sketches of dress designs.  Also at the Redfern, some lovely Adrian Heaths, John Wells, Paul Feiler, Roger Hilton.

At Waddington’s,  great Milton Avery, Dubuffet – an enormous statue of one of his black and white men – a couple of big Rauschenbergs and a great little messy Tapies, a bit like a miniature of Gillian Ayres’ big breakfast in Tate Britain (it’s not called that, but if you see it, you’ll see what I mean).

Richard Long –  Spike Island 

At Alan Cristea, some great Longs, prints on paper with aluminium support; two red swirling lines, reminiscent a little of the Twomblys in Tate Mod, and a brown one with dirty protest overtones, as if Jasper Johns had been imprisoned in the H blocks (look it up, younger reader) and joined in.

richard long

Carole Hodgson

At Flowers, some beautiful drawings – or paintings – of hulking, indistinct human forms blending into dark backgrounds; rather like Piper’s Welsh rockscapes.  Small, interlocking sculptures and some bigger ones, rolls of some stiffened paper and sacking mixture,  in ginger and rust colours.

Singer Sargent at the National Portrait Gallery

NOT full, as I had suspected, of loads of SS paintings normally on show in London; I only recognised Ellen Terry as Lady Macbeth and the kids in the garden with the lanterns – all the rest were new to me and a good proportion were wonderful.  No-one can do white silks and satins like Sargent, with the exception of Millais maybe; Millais does a super realist rendition (see the Black Brunswicker below), Singer Sargent does a few strategic strokes.  His subjects often look as if they have turned towards a call and he has captured them with a snapshot; Madame Allouard – Jouan (below) is the best example.

sargent jouan

See also Madame Ramon Subercaseaux, turning to us from her seat at the piano, the black Franz Kline lines on her dress…

Madame Edouard Pailleron, the beautiful, but rather drained – looking redhead in the meadow (maybe its the outdoor location)…

Next to her, the staggering portrait of her children; the girl, about to step out of the canvas in her fancy white dress, the boy staring out with a strange intensity…

sargent children

 

The Rodin portrait – could be a Rembrandt…

sargent rodin

Vernon Lee; I know her from “the Virgin of the Seven Daggers” Corgi paperback from the early 60’s.  he did this in three hours according to the booklet…

sargent vernon lee

 

Robert Louis Stevenson and his Wife; Stevenson is walking out of the picture – Degas?  Sickert?

sargent stevenson

 

Self Portrait ; George V or maybe Tsar Nicholas II come to mind…

Edwin Booth; look at those hands! I’m always impressed by painters who give good hand.  For a laugh, I said to my partner he was John Wilkes Booth’s brother – wish I’d said it louder, it turns out he was...

sargent booth

Group with Parasols; composition like a Rubens sketch, colours totally different…

sargent parasols

And lots more – fabulous, beautiful exhibition; I’ll be going again.

This is the Millais I mentioned, by the way; check out that dress, as the young people say;

millais the black brunswicker

 

Deep End, Skolimowski

I know I’ve written about this before, but the swimming pool looks like something out of 1930s Yerevan (I imagine): all greens, blues and oranges that match Jane Asher’s hair…

deep end

And some life drawings to be going on with…

richard1

 

 

richard3 richard4 richard5 richard6

 

Blackpaint

14.03.15 

Blackpaint 330 – Guns, Knives, Spaghetti and Rubbish

March 12, 2012

Niki de Saint Phalle

I have been looking at her “Shooting Piece” for many short periods, during the last 11 days – reason being, it’s on the March page of our Tate calendar, which hangs on the toilet door.  On Saturday, at the Tate, I had the chance to look at it in the flesh, or rather, plaster.  It’s a white plaque of thick, rumpled plaster, down which several trails of paint –  red, blue, yellow, violet – have been allowed to dribble.  It seems that she put paint into polythene bags, buried them in the plaster, and invited fellow artists – Jasper Johns and Robert Rauschenberg – to fire bullets into the work.  The paint released then ran down, in and out of the ridges randomly (sorry about the inadvertent alliteration).

I like the work; I find it pleasing visually and quite memorable.  I think I could have gone on liking the work and not knowing how it was produced, without being troubled by it.  Or rather, now that I know, it doesn’t alter my feelings in any way.  Is it now a joint work by Saint Phalle, JJ and RR?  Does the element of chance add or subtract meaning?   Not for me; I respond to its looks, not the information I have about its origins, the intentions of the artist, its context, in short.  Very shallow, maybe, but a good rule of thumb in galleries – unless you want to spend a lot of time peering at wall info, or blocking everybody’s view while you listen to some long audio commentary.

Igor and Svetlana Kopystansky

I watched their film, made in Chelsea district of NY over 2 years.  Called “Incidents”, it’s basically rubbish blowing about the streets in strong winds.  It’s hard to avoid the thought that they may have cheated by introducing particularly interesting bits of rubbish – why is this cheating?  Don’t know – it turns the film into something manufactured, rather than observed (but editing, which they of course did, does that as well).  Completely contradicts what I said about Saint Phalle, but blogger’s privilege…  Anyway, these plastic bags, cartons, bits and pieces slide and whirl about, occasionally pouncing on other bits like predators or mating insects.  Reminded me of one of those Czech cartoons you used to get on TV when they had a slot to fill.

Alighiero Boetti

At the Tate Modern.  Starts with a bunch of Arte Povera pieces, such as a perspex cube containing a sort of chest made from a variety of brown materials like bamboo and spaghetti; huge rolls of stiff paper, pulled out like a giant’s toilet roll.  Lots of writings on large yellowing paper sheets, noughts and crosses, alphabets, little broken symbols like Braille crossed with pixcels (not easy on the eye. requiring close study); letter/word colour tiles, that were almost the same as pieces by Gavin Turk, shown in a weekend paper a couple of weeks ago – some sort of hommage, presumably?

Aircraft drawn on blue in biro, apparently,; “Tutti” – tapestry wall hangings with everything in them, crammed in – bones, horses, people, trumpets…..; and the famous Afghan map hangings in bright colours, countries with flags embroidered on them.  Did it in 20 minutes, having not been stirred to serious thought or moved to tears by visual splendours.  I’d put it in the same slot as the Orozco show, a while back.

Colquhoun and MacBryde

I was interested to read in the Bristow book, “The Last Bohemians”, that Ken Russell made a BBC film about them for Monitor – only 10 minutes long, entitled “Scottish Painters”.  From Bristow’s description, it sounds like a serious study of their painting techniques and work.  A few years later, when Ken was in more florid mode,  would he have included the scene, related by Bristow, of a drunken, naked Colquhoun chasing a drunken, naked MacBryde around a front garden in Wembley, waving a knife. and lit up by occasional lightning?  I don’t think he could have resisted..

Stained Glass

Blackpaint

12/3/12

Blackpaint 295

September 19, 2011

Degas

Laura Cumming, reviewing the new show at the RA, says that Degas is more Michelangelo than Leonardo – what does she mean by this?  Maybe that Leo was more concerned with physical accuracy, the exact position and function of muscles, bones and flesh than Michelangelo; M was more ready to distort, exaggerate, generalise, to enhance the presentation of physical effort, posture. dramatic action… that seems fair enough comment.  She says that Degas seems to somehow project himself (spiritually, mentally) into the bodies of his ballet girls, to partake in their physical being in some way; that seems to me to be fanciful.  Surely it’s what anyone drawing a figure does, sort of, isn’t it?

Edward Lucie – Smith

I’m getting a lot out of his “Art Movements since 1945” (see previous blogs); he makes the connection between Kurt Schwitters and his Merzbauten and people like George Segal and Ed Kienholz, who produced environmental artworks in the 50s and 60s – that is, works that you walk through and round.  I’d thought of him as someone who produced beautiful little collages of wood, cloth etc.

Jasper Johns

Looking at those works of his from the 60s in which he “quotes” from art history – notably the Isenheim Altarpiece (Grunewald) in “Perilous Night”, but also Leonardo, Picasso and others.  These are quotes however, rather than the “re-imaginings” of earlier works by Picasso himself (Manet, Delacroix, Velasquez) or Auerbach (Rembrandt et al).  I suppose the most recent of this school would be Dexter Dalwood – he quotes like Johns, rather than doing his own versions.

As for Johns, the works which are my favourites are the big canvases with attachments like brooms, and collaged bits, those bolts of colour, red, yellow, orange, often on a blue background; the grey curtains of thinned paint soaking down into the fabric (see  “According to What” 1964), the stencilled lettering….

Bruegel

In “The Fight Between Carnival and Lent”, according to the Taschen book by the Hagens, the fat Lord of Carnival astride the barrel represents Protestantism, while Catholicism is personified by the lean, haggard, hungry figure with a beehive on his head (no explanation of the beehive offered!).  This is a novel presentation; Prots – or rather, the Puritan variety – are more usually lean, stern killjoys, the Catholics happy to feast and keep Christmas.  I suppose this is an English, or more precisely, Shakespeareian representation.

Willem de Kooning

I’ve never seen a contrast more clear and tragic than that between his paintings of 1983 onwards, as Alzheimer’s or whatever variant it was, took hold, and those from before.  The later ones are cleanly painted snakey loops of pastel colour on empty canvas, tangled but spaced out, textureless.  Go back to 66/67, say, “Two Figures in a Landscape” or “The Visit” – splotches, streaks, swathes, bleeds and trickles, pink, green, yellow, white, blue-black, scratched, scored and worked like Appel but much more subtle somehow; rich, swarming texture… fantastic.

Larry Rivers

I love the loose way he paints figures and faces – reminds me of Jim Dine or even more, Kitaj’ s figure drawings.  See “Parts of the Body; French Anatomy Lesson”.

Far From the Madding Crowd

Reading this, it strikes me that the old film was perfectly cast.  I can’t imagine any actors better than Stamp, Christie, Bates and Peter Finch in their respective roles as Troy, Bathsheba, Gabriel and Farmer Boldwood.  And of course, Dave Swarbrick as the fiddler at the post-harvest piss up…

Blackpaint

19/09/11

Blackpaint 170

July 22, 2010

Alice Neel at Whitechapel

At first glance, I thought these would be mediocre, a bit sketchy, not finished off properly, dull colours like Neue Sachlichkeit stuff – portraits, boring.  Second glance proved me drastically wrong. 

They look as if done quickly, impressionistic, an element of caricature and definitely a touch of NS, Christian Schad, Modersohn – Becker.  I even got a taste of Diane Arbus from the flat stares and awkward poses.  Sometimes, they taper off into mere outline (hands,  legs, sofas).  However, they clearly capture the idiosyncracies of the subjects – a frown, slight sneer, complacent smirk, nervous glance, effusive smile… 

The best portraits: the youth Hartley, Andy Warhol with his scars and several inches of underpants,  the two men immediately on your right as you enter – the serious man in the sleeveless pullover against the Duccio yellow background (or is it more Van Gogh sunflower?), and the fierce man with the slight sneer in the next picture.  Look at the shiny patch on his forehead. 

Her flesh tones are greenish, apart from the pregnant women and babies upstairs.  She used a heavy black outline in the 50’s and 60’s, changing to a Van Gogh-like light blue outline in the 70’s and 80’s.

Upstairs are the pregnant women, mothers and fat, staring, slightly sinister babies (Small Assassin, Ray Bradbury would have recognised them).  one of the women in particular looks dazed and desperate, the picture earning Neel feminist acclaim.  There is a beautiful, young, pregnant woman on a sofa facing the doors, the line of her figure strong and confident, as if done with one sure, single stroke.

In the next room, old age; dim eyes, arthritic knuckles, hunched postures – but still, all recognisable individuals with their vanities and concerns.  Her own self portrait is here, naked and unflattering (of course, stupid to think it might be).

There are some clinkers here, though; I thought the buildings were poor, as was most of the stuff from the thirties and the man with three pricks was like a really bad imitation of R. Crumb.  There were a couple of nasty caricatures, both of arty women.  A flattering portrait of a woman academic she obviously liked had a big patch of red, some ochre I think, and some grey scribble in the background, prompting someone to say on the blurb that this showed Neel could have been an Abstract Expressionist – utter rubbish on this evidence.  But, on the whole, a great exhibition.  I’d like to see it with some Lucian Freuds, to compare their approaches.

Painters on Painting 

DVD on sale at the Whitechapel; saw it at the ICA some months ago.  The magnificence of some of the paintings is too great to exaggerate; Hoffman, de Kooning, Rauschenberg, Johns, Pollock, Frankenthaler, underlining the sheer offensive silliness of that snide remark on the caption in the Neel exhibition.  Unfortunately, some of these boys can really ramble on.  Frank Stella is like Woody Allen, obsessed with critics who found his work cold compared with Ab Exes.  Jasper Johns, like a drawling character from Frasier and Jules Olitsky, obsessed with the edges of his paintings and brandishing a huge cat (as if about to dip it in paint and swipe it across the canvas.

Adrian Searle

In the Guardian, reviewing a drawing exhibition at the White Cube and a book by Deanna Petherbridge “the Primacy of Drawing” (says it all, really), quotes her as follows: “Drawing is the basis of all art and visual thinking…Drawing renders thoughts visible”.  Sorry, when I draw, I draw – when I paint, I paint.  I don’t, usually, do sketches.  I think painting is a different, but not lesser, process; unless, of course, you define sweeps of the brush or dabbles in the paint as drawing.  I think, unlike Robert Hughes and his followers, that you – sorry, some painters –  can produce magnificent paintings that are not based on drawing prowess, and many Ab Ex and others have done just that.

I’m pleased to say that Kenneth Noland more or less says just that in the DVD.  He calls it One Shot painting.  Good on you, Kenneth; RIP.

Hereward 1, by Blackpaint

Blackpaint

22.07.10

Blackpaint 169

July 20, 2010

Gillian Ayres

I compared one of my paintings to an Ayres picture called “Hinba” the other day; quite wrong.  Her surface positively seethes, mine is inert – Andrews Liver Salts compared to still water. 

Kiefer, Jorn etc.

The thing about German and Scandinavian artists like the above is that they have that “dark” mythology to fall back on.  It was a brilliant idea (whoever had it first) to start mining this sort of stuff for pictures – you can have, for example, childlike figures in bright colours and amusing shapes looming out of foggy, gloomy backgrounds, great  flares and swirls of colour making ghosts and maelstroms, erupting insect figures… a great combination of innocence and menace, hidden depths and all that.  I’m thinking of pictures like Kiefer’s “Song of the Wayland” and the Jorn “Out of the Silent Myth” series.

Not a path really open to an English artist; plenty of history, of course, but all a bit pageanty, kings and queens, not much in the way of mythology.  Stonehenge, of course, Robin Hood, Hereward the Wake, King Arthur…..   OK, that’s it, I’m going to do an abstract mythological series based on England – Druids, Blake, satanic mills, soldiers of the Empire slogging through Burmese jungles behind giant moustaches, and its all going to be abstract.

Oil Surfaces

Fairly encouraged by the early results with oils; the thickness and richness as it is forced out out of the tube, the way it slides about on the canvas and stays slimy – a bit disgusting really, like a snail trail or something more obscene…

For oil surfaces, it has to be Christopher Wool, with his black and grey sweeps, or Bram Van Velde (the slidy triangles), or see Raimunde Girke’s “Contrast” 1992, in Taschen Art of the 20th Century – or Jasper Johns’ paintings, or de Kooning, of course.

Corneille and Eva Hesse

Latest pair arriving at same point at same time (moving apart later, but similarities startling in early 60’s);  abstract land- or city scapes with knots of multi coloured blocks like warehouses, tied together with faux rail lines, coiling around humps and ditches.  See “The Big Red Sun’s Voyage” 63 or “On the Outskirts of the Big City” 60, both by Corneille and Eva Hesse’s two “No titles” (annoying!), done in 1963 and in “Action Painting – Jackson Pollock”, Hatje Cantz, 2008.

Alice Neel

At the Whitechapel Gallery.  Saw it today, lots to say, so will review tomorrow.  However, I was most impressed by an installation of Maria Abramovic elsewhere  in the gallery.  Five TV screens piled on top of each other,  in each one part of the process of washing and scrubbing a skeleton clean.  At the top the jaws and teeth, at  the bottom the toe bones.  Greyish, soapy water sluicing down, a woman’s hands scooping and scrubbing inside the ribcage, beteen the finger and toe bones, the coccyx (or was it the end of the sternum?)…  I could feel the fingers on my own bones and had to be called away by my partner.  Rather worrying, really.

First Oil, Blackpaint

listening to Death Valley Blues by Big Joe Williams

“I went down in Death Valley, Weren’t nothing but tombstones and dry bones…

Blackpaint

20.07.10