Posts Tagged ‘Jeremy Deller’

Blackpaint 451 – Folk Art, Deller, Bond and the Fatal Train

June 20, 2014

Folk Art at Tate Britain

This is a great exhibition, but is pretty much historical  – that’s to say, there’s nothing in it later than the skull and crossbones score-sheet of the WW2 submarine, apart from the giant straw King Alfred made in 1961 (an example of a tradition going back a couple of hundred years).

Many of the exhibits are articles with a use value; shop and pub signs, trays, quilts, really ugly leather toby jugs..There are, however, a number of things that are “true” works of art – that is, they have no function other than to be themselves as art objects.  The paintings of Alfred Wallis are the obvious examples; there are also the French POW cockerel made out of bones, the Wesleyan preacher painted on the vertebra of a horse, the “gods-in-a-bottle” (bizarre assemblages, akin to African fetishes).

folk art 1

What about the ship’s figureheads?  They are decorative – very beautiful, in fact – but arguably, they have a use value too; identification and maybe a symbolic guardian angel function, like the bottle gods.

Anyway, a few examples:

The shop signs, for illiterate patrons – giant boots, padlocks, a saw, an arm and hammer (blacksmith?) a sun with those wiggly beams (?)… a black sweep sculpture, tobacco shop Indians.

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The quilts – the Bellamy one, with Ally Sloper at the centre and the fabulous Menai Bridge one.

The signs – We Rule you, We Fight for You, etc. – and a very odd one, in which dogs appear to be about to attack someone who is having a crap behind a tree.  there is a text on the board explaining, but my eyes weren’t up to deciphering it.

The figureheads – several beautiful ones, the giant Indian warrior (I guessed Turkish, wrongly); the Elvis lookalike with the sideburns; and the extraordinarily beautiful and delicate one with the brown hat.

folkart2

The Culture Show, BBC2

Jeremy Deller and Alan Kane visited the Tate exhibition and also Blackpool, where they argued that the various fairground entertainments provided living examples of folk art.  Kane seemed to be saying that cheap novelties such as fake cigarettes and giant rubber turds could qualify – think that’s pushing it a bit, but who cares.  They also came up with a man who specialises in customising motorbikes and helmets with airbrushed nudes, dragons, snakes, skulls and so on.  Fascinating programme.

Here’s a Health to the Barley Mow (BFI DVD)

On sale at the Tate, this is the filmed record of “a century of folk customs and ancient rural games”.  The film of Cecil Sharpe and Butterworth folk dancing in 1909 is funny; the Norfolk step dancer and the various sword dance teams are great; the Bacup Coconut dancers are there, of course;  the fiddle music by the great Pete Cooper, plaintive, perfect; but the sequence “Oss Oss Wee Oss”, filmed in Padstow in 1953 by Alan Lomax, is just unbelievable – those locals dancing to drums in the pub; they look as if they’ve been eating magic mushrooms.

Damnation, Bela Tarr

I love it – the rain slashes down in torrents onto the mud and empty lots in the forsaken Hungarian mining town, where the packs of dogs roam outside the Titanic Bar; the femme fatale sings a dismal torch song about it all “being over” as the bedraggled punters, especially Karrer, thin -faced, pining for her; the sullen, beaten faces stare out at the viewer as the heart-rending accordian dirge grinds on; everyone betrays everyone else – the femme (who is Karrer’s on-off lover) is last seen slipping down in the front seat of the barkeeper’s posh car, as the keeper leans back; Karrer goes to the police and informs on everyone and goes to wallow in the mud with the dogs… There is a long, slow, circular dance, a  slo-mo conga line of all the punters round the bar, which is a sort of anti- Fellini dance – those happy-sad circular dances to little clown combos in which everyone joins, like at the end of “8 1/2”.

That’ll Be The Day

The old David Essex rock n’ roll film – full of faces, Billy Fury, Ringo Starr, Keith Moon – and one, just fleeting, with a sax in his mouth, during “Long Live Rock”, I think – Graham Bond!  I used to go to see the Graham Bond Organisation at the 100 Club in Oxford Street in the 60s; Ginger Baker on drums, Dick Heckstall-Smith on tenor, Jack Bruce on bass and vocals, Bond himself on organ and alto sax, often simultaneously.  “Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf” and “Early in the Morning”…  He got into Aleister Crowley apparently, as well as drugs, and threw himself in front of a tube at Finsbury Park.  Christopher Wood, whose exhibition with the Nicholsons is currently at Dulwich, also died under a train (at Salisbury, in 1930).  But he wasn’t a Crowley fan , so far as I know…

Proust

I’m up to 3% on the Kindle now; I’ve passed the madeleine and tea bit- hope something happens soon.   Should finish some time in 2016, if I live that long….

 

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Overground to Atlantis

Blackpaint

20.06.14

Blackpaint 415 – Sandra Blow and the Pavilions at Venice

October 5, 2013

Sandra Blow at Kings Place

Went to see the Long Notes, great Irish/Scots folk group, at Kings Place last night and was delighted to find an exhibition of Blow’s work had opened the same day.  The earliest painting was from 1959, when she was part of the St.Ives set, and the latest from 2006, the year she died.  There are a number of huge canvases that are painted in acrylics and collaged with strips of tape, sacking and canvas patches; rich earth and water hues, ridges of rough texture, chevrons and ingots of high colour piercing through, a little reminiscent of Terry Frost – and of Burri (a partner) and Tapies.

The highlights of this group are:

Breakwater

Blow1

Glad Ocean (1989)

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Brilliant Corner (1993 – detail)

blow3

There are also some beautiful prints, brightly coloured, wobbly geometrics.  A fantastic exhibition, and we only saw part of it – the gallery was closed, we only saw the stairwells and balconies.

Venice Biennale – the Pavilions

I think four are worth a mention; first, the British one (of course), featuring Jeremy Deller.  You get a free cup of tea and mini prints of the two big pictures on display, which you stamp out yourself with a rubber stamp.  The pictures, covering a wall each, are of a giant harrier, grabbing and lifting a Range Rover in its talons, and an angry, giant William Morris, standing in the ocean and thrusting a cruise ship, bows downward, into the water.  The first refers to an incident when a harrier was shot on a royal estate, the second, I think, to the ships of the wealthy that blight Venice and other Med resorts.  Additionally, there is some very satisfying film of Range Rovers being pulped, to the strains of Bowie’s “the Man who Sold the World”, played  by a steel band.  It’s one of the few pavilions which have a truly national feel to it; the Danish one, for example, is a fantasy about African migrants, lost in a facsimile of Paris, actually built in China.

Next, Belgium; “Cripplewood”.  In a dark chamber, a giant wooden and wax entity, fabric like bandages at the joints of limbs, twisted, arthritic bundles of twigs and branches – a little like Kiefer’s supine trees, or a huge, beached whale – made me think of Bela Tarr’s “Werkmeister Harmonies”… or even the Elephant Man.

The most sinister pavilion show was that of Indonesia.  There were life-size shadow puppets, a Paul McCarthy – style assemblage of a man with a TV head and a flower-covered figure rolling a bamboo roller “raft” – baffling – but then…

A dark, church-like space with desks on which enormous white books lie open, the whole surrounded by pictures of rough forest/jungle, charred, like the woodwork..

AND – a group of officers, ex-presidents apparently, seated around a table, a uniformed woman standing as if presiding.  One figure lies face down, apparently dead, another gestures towards a third with a knife, as if inviting him to kill himself with it.  Their faces appear bashed in – “distorted”, according to the guide book.  The commentary in the guide book has no mention of politics; instead, it goes on about Shakti, a religious principle which, it says. governed the creation of the works…

Finally, there is the Romanian pavilion – which is empty; EXCEPT for a group of (I think) eight young dancers, four men, four women.  They announce, with great solemnity, the title of a Biennale prize work from years gone by and then proceed to mime its content.  Sounds mildly amusing but is actually very funny, because of the limitations, as much as anything.

Enough Venice now.

The 70s, presented by Dominic Sandbrook

Odious presenter, explaining with relish how working people in the early 70s caused their own hardships by buying things on HP, wanting houses and cars and holidays that they should have known were not for them, but for the people who could afford to buy them outright.  I don’t remember the people I knew running to the shops waving Access cards.  I hate hearing glib generalisations presented with certainty, by smug academics who were (maybe) at school at the relevant time.

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Pellet

Blackpaint

5.10.13

Blackpaint 337 – Orgreave, Iscariot and “The F-Word”

April 16, 2012

Jeremy Deller at the Hayward

Collection of his various projects in which he has played the role of interviewer or organiser or visionary – a term not too strong for the “Battle of Orgreave” re-enactment.  The exhibits include:

the flattened car from Iraq that was previously exhibited in the Imperial War Museum (see earlier Blackpaints) and was toured through the States;

Adrian Street, the “flamboyant” Welsh wrestler, his costumes, fights on video and struggles with machismo in the Valleys;

Deller’s “Open Bedroom”, with jokes copied from the walls of the British Library toilets;

The reproduction of Valerie’s Snack Bar, open and functioning, in which the customers looked like living sculpture exhibits the day I went.  Maybe they were particularly theatrically clothed (very arty crowd that day) – or maybe that’s always the effect.

Overshadowing, or maybe drowning out everything else. however, was the Orgreave video and photos that went with it.  Somehow, he got redundant miners who were there, together with military re-enactment groups and at least one policeman, interviewed on film, to reconstruct the “battle” – more a mounted assault, really – and won the 2004 Turner Prize with the filmed record.  Staggeringly realistic and powerful to those who remember the events, now back in the news, linked to the Hillsborough disaster.  The South Yorkshire force was responsible for order on both occasions and lawyers for the families of the Hillsborough dead allege similar tactics of lying and cover-up.

The film of Thatcher at the end, in tight-lipped, glaring, defiant mode brought back vividly her stance at the time; black and white, all or nothing, strikers were the “enemy within”.  She clearly knew nothing about, and cared nothing for the mining communities involved in the strike and this was her great asset – “Ignorance is Strength” (1984, Orwell).

David Shrigley (also at Hayward)

The Orgreave exhibit totally wiped out the David Shrigley exhibition for me – couldn’t be bothered with the little jokes, cartoons, insects with cannons, stuffed dogs…  Very unfair, of course; the leisure centre made me laugh out loud and so did a couple of other things, but the miners’ strike sucks the emotional oxygen out of the surroundings every time for me.

Damien Hirst

On TV Friday night, I glimpsed a shot of a young Hirst in front of his first dot painting, (the one that had run), hung or maybe painted direct onto a scabby, disintegrating, white tiled wall (shades of Deep End).  It looked great and revealed to me what was missing from his show – textural grime. 

Sounds odd, considering the rotting cow’s head, the blood, the massed dead flies, the stink, the disgusting fluid streaks down the walls in the butterfly room… but yet, it’s all too cleanly encased and clinical and glassed in.  Even the huge, black, circular cake of dead flies was neat and tidy.  For some reason, everything looks more exciting to me when it’s half-destroyed – for instance, those giant imitation stained glass windows, made from butterfly wings; destroy the pattern, leave it intact only here and there, bring a bit of entropy in – I think it would look better, might say more.  Then again, he’s the millionaire (billionaire?)…

Incidentally, on the same programme  (the Review Show, BBC2), the presenter Martha Kearney was clearly uncomfortable when one of the reviewers used the word “farking” , quoting Irvine Welsh’s take on how the English say “fucking” – she also panicked when another guest referred to some incident in Welsh’s new book; it was clearly deemed not fit to be repeated.  This is on a cultural review on BBC2, going out after 11.00pm.  Nursery school?  I hate all the bleeping you get on TV and especially the use of the formulation “The C-word”, “The F-word” and “The N-word”.

Kings Place – “Abstract Critical – Newcomer Awards”

Five lovely canvases by Iain Robertson, white base, faux-clumsy, slapdash figures, sweeps, circles, triangles, crosses in glowing, burning colours – a lot of Gillian Ayres, more than a touch of Albert Irvin, CoBrA peering through…

A couple of huge (and hugely priced) colourful, feathery swatches and tangles like Albert Oehlen by Gary Wragg. both entitled “Rue Gambetta”, one of them a cool 40 grand.

These were the selectors, however – of the selectees, it was Dan Roach’s pictures in oil and wax on paper that stood out, recalling Clough and Ian McKeever, somewhat.

National Gallery

Some random observations:

Only the Constable sketches look good to me – the wagons and little boys and rainbows spoil the finished paintings.

Guido Reni – “Europa”; what a duff painting.  The bull is terrible and so is the cherub.

The Veronese “back” in “Unfaithfulness” – fantastic.  Also Veronese – the size of that horse in the right of the picture of Alexander!  Maybe it’s on a step?  Also the big heads on the left and the “ghosts” wafting about in the centre.

The Titian Vendramins – the figure on the left has a head just like a French soldier at the time of the Dreyfus case.

The Campin Virgin with the improbably long, straight nose and the Van der Weyden Virgin – those fabric folds!

The Duccio pinks and the Giotto Pentecost legs, like spindly insect legs under the square bodies.

A grey-bodied Jesus as the Man of Sorrows, with massive chest and shoulders like a body builder.

Tree of Man and Pasolini

I was a bit hard on this the other day – called the beginning and the end “crap”.  Not so – it was the air of religiosity that I found unbearable, all that holy, churchy choir stuff and white floating linenLast weekend, I watched “The Gospel According to St. Matthew” by Pasolini – that’s the way to do religion on soundtrack; Bach, Blind Willie Johnson, Congo Mass; and the faces, particularly the young and old Marys and Judas Iscariot (Pasolini look-alike?), and the angry, intense, studenty Jesus.

Work in Progress (I know – too much brown).

Blackpaint

16/04/12

Blackpaint 193

September 14, 2010

Jeremy Deller

Article on above’s new work  by Jonathan Jones in today’s Guardian.  It consists of the hulk of a private vehicle, blown up in a car bomb explosion in Baghdad in 2007.  Deller acquired it and it is now on display at the Imperial War Museum.  Jones approving article compares it favourably with Mark Wallinger’s display of Brian Haw’s anti-war stuff in the Tate Britain a while ago; Wallinger’s exhibit, says Jones, was home-grown, concerned with domestic attitudes to the Iraq war, civil liberties here – Deller’s work brings the war directly to us, it’s “not rhetoric, but reportage”, it’s up to the punter to interpret. 

There’s something unsaid here,  surely.  The sense in which Deller is being an artist here is the same sense in which he is a reporter; he chooses.  He could have chosen some other example of destruction, a damaged British or American armoured vehicle or articles of bloodied uniform or equipment (no doubt, there are practical reasons that might have prevented that, but I make the point for the sake of the argument); that would have sent a different message.  Reportage can sometimes do the job of rhetoric, but it claims to be The Truth. 

Jones is, clearly, perfectly aware of this and says, “Anyone is entitled to interpret what it means”;  he’s not primarily concerned with possibilities of bias, but with the nature of “war art” – its immediacy or otherwise. 

My main point is to question whether this is art.  I have no problem with the concept of ready -mades, but by displaying the vehicle in the Imperial War Museum, he gives it the status of a historical document, not a work of art (unless it was up in the gallery bit, with the Orpens and Nashes – but Jones says it’s in the main hall).   Down on the ground floor, with the Tiger tanks and T34’s and mini – subs, it’s another interesting historical document.  Indeed, that is how Jones describes it – “A historical document, dragged from hell..”.  You could argue it’s different,  because the rest of the stuff is in pristine condition, showing little or no sign of violence – it’s still documentary, though.

Take Fiona Banner’s warplanes in Tate Britain.  She has decorated them and chosen how to display them, but had she not, they would still be works of art, to be judged as such, by virtue of being displayed in an art gallery.  Context is everything.

Then again,  it can be given context, separated  from the “historical documents”, by a plaque with a title, “Baghdad, 5th March 2007” and Deller’s name, as artist.  That would make it a work of art, because it would tell the public that’s what it is, or what is intended.  I’m going up to the museum today, to see if that’s what’s been done.

I’ve visited the museum; the exhibit is right at the front of the hall.  There is a folder of photographs from Baghdad, centreing on the bombing that smashed the car, but with no pictures of bodies, blood or body parts, or injured people in distress.  There is some background history to the Iraq war and of the booksellers’ district where the bombing happened. It’s described as a display, I think, although that might refer to a number of videos under Deller’s name, relating to the war, which I didn’t see.  The exhibit is at no time referred to as art.  It’s clearly NOT art: it’s reportage, as Jones says, with some interesting contextual background.  There IS an interesting contrast with the brightly painted and polished guns and tanks around it.

I referred to the car as being “smashed”; actually, it is more crushed as in a compacter – except that it is a uniform rusty orange/brown and looks as if it may crumble to the touch, like a brick of burnt paper.  I didn’t experience the visceral, horrified reaction that  Jones describes – I think photographs might have done more to convey the horror.

Blackpaint

14th September 2010