Posts Tagged ‘Joan Mitchell’

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 522 – Cartels, Carpaccio, Cheever

November 27, 2015

Cartel Land, Matthew Heineman (2015)

This compelling documentary, about a self-defence militia in Mexico, set up by a charismatic doctor to defend his local towns and  villages against the Knights Templar cartel, is rather problematic.  There are a number of scenes that must surely be reconstructions, as the camera appears to be always in the right place to get the crucial shot and soundbite for the purpose of the narrative.  If it’s just the result of bravery, luck and brilliant editing, it’s stunning.  I’ve no doubt that the shoot  outs are genuine; at one point, someone appears to give the order on the soundtrack for a suspect to be murdered – and these are the good guys.  In the light of the beheadings, hangings, torture and rape shown and described, it’s not surprising that the “autodefensas” are likely to be merciless to the perpetrators when they catch them, I suppose.

cartel

It all goes wrong, of course; corruption sets in, the “autodefensas” are infiltrated by gangsters,  who form their own cartel within, the doctor turns out to be a sleaze who chats up young women on camera; he ends up in prison, having been betrayed by his erstwhile “officers”, who are co-opted by a corrupt government.

There is a parallel story about Tim Foley and his Arizona Border Recon, an American paramilitary force resisting incursions by “cartel members”.  Their operations seem rather pathetic, in comparison.

More from Venice

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Carpaccio, Accademia

Love those hats.

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Bellini,  Correr Museum

 

Albert Oehlen

Oehlen Hetzler

A beautiful catalogue published by the Galerie Max Hetzler of an exhibition seven or eight large paintings from 2014.  They are all on wood panels, with a white background; gestural, patches and flickering lines of fairly subdued colours, mostly including a grey cloud; no spray or computer work in these.  The trickle downs and freshness or the colours recall 60s Joan Mitchell.  And the cover unfolds into a poster of one of the paintings – pretty good for £14 odd.

John Cheever

I find his short stories just get better every time I read them; I’m on my third trip through the Collected Stories now.  They are polished, funny, often sad, sometimes shocking, sardonic, wise, brilliantly readable and they never pall, which is surprising, given the quite narrow social milieu in which they are set; New York/New England, upper middle class, servants, mansion apartments, holiday homes, leafy suburbs.  I’ve just finished “The Housebreaker of Shady Hill”.  I don’t think he’s a great novelist, however.  I’ve read most of them and the only memorable one, I think, is “Falconer”, his short prison novel.  The others just strike me as the short stories extended unnecessarily.

Finally finished a couple of new paintings:

Ospedale

Ospedale

black storm1

Black Storm

Blackpaint

27.11.15

Blackpaint 503 – UrbanArtBrixton, Neglected AbExes (who happen to be women)

July 10, 2015

Urban Art in the street 

I’m exhibiting in the street in Brixton tomorrow and Sunday with a few other select artists – about 200, I think – between 10.00am and 6.00pm; come and see.

geometry1

Geometry 1 

Evert Lundquist

Swedish Expressionist painter 1904 – 1990.  Someone told me about this painter, who reminds me a little of Munch (can’t stand Munch, but I like this painter for some reason) and sometimes, a little of Van Gogh:

lundquist1

 

lundquist2

lundquist3

Grace Hartigan

Why no book on this great American painter?  She’s as good as Frankenthaler – but maybe not so innovative –

and not far behind the sublime Joan Mitchell, in my opinion.

hartigan1

hartigan2

Pat Passlof

Another interesting AbEx, a pupil of, and obviously influenced by de Kooning – but with a twist of her own:

passlof1

 

passlof2

And just for comparison, here’s a Joan Mitchell:

mitchell - george went swimming

Stunning, eh?  Anyway, desperately trying to sort stuff out for Brixton tomorrow, so will post now.  Few words, lots of pictures for once.

Megiddo

Megiddo

Blackpaint

10.07.15

 

Blackpaint 497 – Metzger on Metal, AbEx Women

May 31, 2015

Gustav Metzger at Tate Britain

They’ve reorganised some of the rooms at TB and I was surprised and delighted to see a whole roomful of great Metzgers.  I thought the second and third were abstract but apparently they are pictures of a table.  I knew of Metzger as one of those Auto-Destructive artists from the 60s who set fire to things and smashed up pianos and the like – in the recent “Art Under Attack” exhibition at TB, there was a film of Metzger with a big screen up opposite St. Pauls, which he destroyed with acid (the screen, not St.Pauls) so that the cathedral slowly appeared through the growing holes.  Before this, he was one of Bomberg’s disciples and there are a couple of paintings which are instantly recognisable as school of Bomberg.  Is there any other painter who had such an iron grip on his followers as Bomberg did?

metzger1

 

This one is on metal.

metzger3

 

metzger2

 

Yes, easy to see the table now – but I had to be told.  My partner thinks he’d seen Matisse’s “La Table de Marbre Rose” (1916);

matisse table

 Matisse

 

Also new at TB, a darkened room containing Ralph Peacock’s brilliant “Ethel”:

Ethel 1897 Ralph Peacock 1868-1946 Presented by the Trustees of the Chantrey Bequest 1898 http://www.tate.org.uk/art/work/N01672

Look at that face: “How long am I going to have to sit here?”

Mitchell, Frankenheimer, Hartigan

Last blog was half about the imbalance of “influential” male and female artists in the 80s and 90s, at least as it was reflected in Taschen books.  It didn’t allow me to include any abstract expressionist painters, so here are works by these three women, fighting their corner in the famously macho AbEx “community”.  Joan Mitchell is my favourite painter. Helen Frankenthaler is also a seminal figure, of course – Grace Hartigan much less well-known, but also fantastic (see below).

frank lorelei

 Frankenthaler

joan mitchell gug

Joan Mitchell

Hartigan

Grace Hartigan, Paper Dolls

Beckett – Fail Better

I keep hearing and reading people quoting Beckett’s famous phrase as if it’s some sort of positive guidance.  He’s taking the piss, surely – if you fail, you fail.  Consider this exchange from “Rough for Radio 1”:

“She (astonished): But he is alone!

He: Yes.

She: All alone?

He: When one is alone one is all alone.”

When you fail, you fail.  And on that note –

asger's revenge

 

Asger’s Revenge

Blackpaint

31.05.15 

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.

 

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Samonas

Blackpaint

11.10.14

 

 

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

July 11, 2014

Radical Geometry at the Royal Academy

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

Brazil

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

oiticica1

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

lygia pape

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

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

de castro1

Looks much better than this in the gallery.

Uruguay

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

torres-garcia

 

Venezuela 

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

Asger Jorn – Restless Rebel

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

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

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

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

dead-drunk-danes

Asger Jorn, Dead Drunk Danes

Ingmar Bergman, Fanny and Alexander

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

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

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

Urban Art

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

 

 

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Islares Farewell

Blackpaint

11.07.14

Blackpaint 413 – Venice; Three Saints and their Beastly Companions

September 30, 2013

Guggenheim Museum in Venice

Just back from a week in Venice to visit the Biennale (bit late – it closes next month).  Venice full of German, American and Japanese tourists and very few native Venetians; the streets were practically deserted by 8.30 pm, apart from rather subdued groups and pairs of lost tourists.  The Biennale, both the Arsenal and the park pavilions, more impressive than last time; I’m going to blog every couple of days this week until I’ve done everything worth mentioning.  Some of the very best things we saw were not part of the Biennale however, but were at the  Guggenheim; four, no five new pictures hung last year.First, Hans Hoffman’s “Spring on Cape Cod”.

hans hoff at the gug

Next, de Kooning’s “Woman, seated”.

DK at gug 2

Joan Mitchell, Untitled, in her amazing, clean, cold greens, oranges, reds and blues.

joan mitchell gug

And Burri, brown and black, underneath a sheath of cellophane.

Carpaccio

Going back a little, there were the Carpaccios at the Scuola di Giorgio dei Greci; the famous St. George and Dragon with various scattered body parts – the lance seems to be on the wrong side of the horse’s head; wrong, that is, for martial, not artistic purposes.  In the next panel, George again, with the dead dragon, about to strike off its head for the assembled, be-turbaned crowd.

carpaccio1

Next, we have St.Tryphon, just like a little boy, with the Basilisk demon he has just exorcised from the little girl’s body.  It looks rather like a little donkey – pity it wasn’t a Gryphon, for reason of rhyme.

carpaccio2

St. Jerome next, with his newly tamed lion, trying to introduce it to a group of elders, who appear strangely reluctant to meet it.  And then, a much younger Jerome in his study, fine red leather chair, all sorts of scientific instruments at hand and a little white dog, looking on while he has his vision.

Don’t Look Now

Watched this again as soon as I was back from Venice and not much evidence of change in the last 40 years – the water ambulances are different and there were no giant cruise ships obliterating the views, but otherwise the same.  What I did notice was how everyone in Venice appeared to have some sort of secret personal agenda, signified by meaningful looks, gazings into the distance (priest), murmurs of “Ah, yes, of course” (police inspector)…  Only the English headmaster and his wife were free of the air of mystery – but they were in England.

More on Venice, particularly the Biennale, this week.

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Work in Prog

Blackpaint

30.09.13

Blackpaint 380 – Adams, Attenborough and Lady Chatterley

February 7, 2013

Schwitters again

As threatened, I have visited this exhibition at Tate Britain again.  Second visit confirmed my first opinions – paper and material collages brilliant, straight lines good, curves and circles bad (unless rubber or cardboard or metal rings glued on), human figures or faces pasted in detract from the collages, paintings not good, poetry great .  Here’s an example: “Fumms Bo Wo Tiu Ziu UU”… actually, I can’t do umlauts on my keyboard, so this must look ridiculous – but it gives you an idea of Schwitters’ verse.

My favourites were:  “Opened by Customs”, “Mask”, “The Nipple Picture”, “Pine Trees”, “Horizontal”, “Windswept”…  Well, go and see for yourself.  Collage sounds childish to some people; sticking bits of paper in primary school, we all did it.  But Schwitters actually makes abstract pictures, where others might just have random bits of stuff stuck on a sheet of paper.

Ansel Adams at the National Maritime Museum

You expect a nature photographer – THE nature photographer, maybe – but in a sense, he is something more than this.  As the film which accompanies the photos makes clear, Adams considered himself an expressionist artist.  The photographs were supposed to  convey mood and emotion; consequently, he spent hours developing versions of what he’d photographed, darkening or lightening skies, creating pictures that did NOT show the river or the mountain or the sky that had been in front of his camera, but an adapted variation.

What you notice is the sharp edge or “cut” of the prints, the dense blacks, the textures of the rocks.  There is one picture which resembles a samurai in a kimono, sitting on a bank of sand or gravel by a fast flowing, Alaskan (?) river, with a dense layer of black bringing it into relief.  Another, of a rock with limpets or mussels attached, like a curving human back or elephant’s head; another “Japanese” looking picture, with “rushes” piercing bleached-out water surface that are really submerged trees.

These are the ones that impressed me most; there are also the dramatic mountain- and skyscapes, storm clouds billowing in the gaps between the peaks – no doubt, enhanced in the darkroom.  No little people to give scale; as far as I remember, no animals either.

ansel

Interesting to compare this exhibition to the

Wildlife Photography Prize at the Natural History Museum 

These are of such staggering technical brilliance that you are awed – or you would be, if you didn’t watch Attenborough’s current “Africa” series and/or the last one, the title of which escapes me for the moment.  In fact, this exhibition is rather like a collection of Attenborough stills and enlargements.  In one way it is better – you don’t get that terrible, jaunty penguin music, or the polar bear cub tubas, or the waltz for the fighting giraffes…  I prefer to watch it with the sound down now – you don’t hear the commentary, but that’s also taken a dive lately, with Attenborough anthropomorphising, which he said he’d never do…

Whilst at the NHM, there is an exhibition of paintings and drawings by early 19th century naturalists and some gifted amateurs, some of which are very beautiful; the Audubons of course, the Bird of Paradise plant, the various sketch books (more staggering brilliance), and the renditions of native Australians and ships at sea by the anonymous group called “The Port Jackson Painter” – an echo of those medieval Masters of here and there in the British Museum.

Joan Mitchell

joanmitchell

A documentary on Sky Arts the other night sent me straight back to the Livingston book on JM:  the beautiful, cold freshness of the greens, blues and pinks in the early ones; the ones built of interlocking swipes of blue, white and black; the floating, black or grey masses in the midst of frenzied streamers of colour in the “depression” pictures early 60s.  Sometimes her pictures remind me of dyed and shredded paper.

Lady Chatterley

Watched  this French film, directed by Pascal Ferran, noticing some baffling differences to the famous book – notably, the priapic gamekeeper was called Parkin, not Mellors.  Then, I discovered on Wikipedia that it is based on an earlier version by Lawrence, entitled “John Thomas and Lady Jane.”  So, that cleared that up.  The naked romping in the forest in the rain and the garlanding of various body parts were present and correct, however.    Haven’t yet seen the English effort, made for TV in 1993, directed by Ken Russell –  the master of naked forest romping – with Sean Bean as Mellors and Joely Richardson as Lady C; I expect Ken, Sean and Joely do a better job – chauvinism on my part, no doubt.  But surely the definitive version would be that of Just Jaeckin, starring the late Sylvia Kristel.

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Blue Billboard

Blackpaint

07.02.13

Blackpaint 355 – Shark Penis of the Fish God

August 16, 2012

The Tanks at Tate Modern

The cement walls alternate in texture, smooth and rough, and colour, white, grey, honey – like walking through chambers cut from hard cheese.  Along with the massive black, bolted girders the tanks are an artwork in themselves.  You could take photos of corners and crannies, bung them in frames and flog them at craft fairs.

The first “room”, The Crystal Quilt by Suzanne Lacy, shows a speeded-up top shot of figures flicking in and out of a seated area in a church or concert hall with a red polygonal centre.  On the wall is a tapestry of the same pattern.  I thought the film was of Tate Modern itself but it was made in 1987.  Turns out it was Mother’s Day in Minneapolis; 430 women over 60 gathered in a shopping centre around a giant quilting pattern.

Next “room”, Temper Clay by Sung Hwan Kim; massive, lots going on in corners, against wall; videos on several TVs, sound (some intriguing harmonies and rhythms, Korean presumably, narratives and poetry on different screens, misty white park scenes, skyscrapers in sharp focus, prostrate youth looking soulful…  An exhibit to wander into again and again, I suspect something different every time – very satisfying, so long as you don’t look for joined-up intellectual meaning…  “Temper Clay” is a quote from King Lear and there is a long article in the Tanks programme notes explaining – can’t be bothered, I’d rather just enjoy what’s there without having to read what it all means.

Upstairs to the AbEx room again – that Guston “Head” with the tangled grey brushstrokes sort of thatched around it.  The Alan Davie “Image of the Fish God”.

Always gives me a shiver, this one; I think its the shark-like shape on the left, rising out of the black figure like a penis.  A while ago, there was a documentary on the Discovery Channel about one of those mad Americans who messes about with Great White Sharks.  He was towing a seal-shaped dinghy in waters frequented by Great Whites, in order to find out if…WHAM!! A huge, columnar, penis shape, with a lemon slice mouth full of teeth just hurtled straight up, gushing sea water, sending the dinghy skywards (probably with a great bite out of it) and sank straight back to the depths, leaving the shark botherer whimpering with shock.  Anyway, the Davie picture gives me just the slightest sliver of that sensation.

Campbells, near Tate Modern

Flogs old catalogues for two quid a throw – have recommended it before – got Sotheby’s for 2004 today, with three pictures that justify a love for abstraction and demand no figurative associations to get a response – from me anyway.

First, Diebenkorn, a little Ocean Park picture on paper from 1952, sky blue and terracotta, yellow and red in the geometric “frame”:

Next, Joan Mitchell, Untitled 1960, great clots of midnight and Prussian Blue shot through with red and thin white lightning strikes emanating from it:

Lastly, Guston, another “Untitled” from 1952, rusty brown, red and yellow streaks and worms, on grey, texture like a metal plate.  Couldn’t find these online, and batteries in camera dead, so will include photos next blog.

Blackpaint

Blue on Ochre Rose

16.08.12