Posts Tagged ‘Joanna Hogg’

Blackpaint 534 – Tom, Dick, Brussels and Sprout

February 26, 2016

Jessie Buckley as Marya Bolkonskaya (War and Peace)

Marya-Bolkonskaya.

The eyes, the hair, the frown – she’s straight out of a Giotto painting.

giotto2

giotto

Now this terrific adaptation has run its course and been replaced by the altogether inferior “Night Manager”, an updated Le Carre novel.  Updated, but still very dated; all these seedy English ex-military types calling each other “dear heart”, clipped sentences, languid beauties lounging about, setting manly English hearts beating; Tom Hiddleston needs to get back to working with Joanna Hogg (Archipelago, Unrelated, The Exhibition) where he’ll be properly stretched – I think he’s too good for this.  Why would he want to appear in a prime time prestige TV serialisation, when he could be in obscure art films, showing at the Ritzy or the ICA?

The Brussels Town Museum (in the old square near Town Hall)

little men

Seen their cousins in a wood carving of the Death of the Virgin in the Victoria and Albert, London.

lion

Bashful lion hiding his shield on stairway.

 

bruegel hoist

Where have I seen one of these before?  Bruegel’s “Big Babel”, below.

 

bruegel babel

See it?  Third storey up, on the right.

 

skinny knight

Skinny armour.

A Life of Philip K Dick – The Man who Remembered the Future (Anthony Peake)

Dick

 

I always thought that Dick wrote brilliant short stories and crap novels (with one or two exceptions); I would have said that his shorts were nearly up there with Ray Bradbury.  It seems from this fascinating book, however, that it wasn’t all imagination.  Many of his main themes – “precognition” (telling the future), simulacra, parallel universes and time flows, false memories, half – death, religious messiahs, government/corporate conspiracies – were extensions of his own beliefs; he thought it was all happening to him, often simultaneously.  Only the (outlandish) names are altered.  An example: “Horselover Fat” in Valis.  Horselover=Philhippus (Greek, sort of); Fat= Dick in German.  Maybe the thinness and rambling nature of his longer texts lend themselves in some way to film versions (Blade Runner, Total Recall, the Minority Report, and now the Man in the High Castle) – great bones, not too much flesh, allowing plenty of interpretive freedom.

My favourite Dick stories:  Pay for the Printer, The Days of Perky Pat.  Novel: Now Wait for Last Year.

 

Hockney museum

David Hockney, Man in a Museum (or You’re in the Wrong Movie). 1962

“Bare Life”, London Artists Working from Life, 1950 – 1980 (Hirmer, 2014)

This catalogue of a German exhibition in 2014, contains brilliant repros of works by Auerbach, Kossoff, Bacon, Hockney, Freud, Kitaj, Uglow, Coldstream, Michael Andrews, Hamilton, Allen Jones and Nigel Henderson.  There are several essays, one of which, by EJ Gillen, mentions the dispute in 1959 over the compulsory  drawing from nature classes at the Royal College of Art: “Ten unruly students were put on probation and eventually expelled.  Among these was Allen Jones, who argued in a 1968 satire entitled Life Class that drawing from nature had become obsolete since photography was able to reproduce human forms perfectly.”  I wonder what the state of play is now in the art colleges, as regards “drawing from nature”; can anyone tell me?

Looking-Towards-Mornington-Crescent-Station---Night

Frank Auerbach, Looking Towards Mornington Crescent Station, Night, 1972 – 3

 

If you’re in London during the next two weeks, visit – 

sprout

angel3

Angel 3 (again)

Blackpaint

26/02/16

 

 

 

 

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Blackpaint 510 – Jodorowsky’s Dad, Albertine’s Trials, Captain Lee’s Toes

September 4, 2015

Dance of Reality, Alejandro Jodorowsky (2013) at the ICA

jodorowsky

A sort of fictional, magical realist biography of his father, set in a mining town in Chile.  Greek theatre – style masks on extras, his mother – huge breasts, low -cut dress – sings all her dialogue, opera style.  The film has a Technicolor feel; there are clowns, dwarves, rioting amputees (casualties from the mines); scenes of:

  • bullying and violence against a child (the Jodorowsky character);
  • forced sex between his parents;
  • mother urinating on father, to cure him of disease;
  • suicides by shooting and hanging;
  • mother and son, both naked, blacking each other up with shoe polish (don’t ask);
  • a live burial;
  • police attacking and beating amputee miners;
  • graphic torture scenes – hanging by the arms, electrical prongs attached to genitals.

All this and more, but the film was light, funny and – embarrassing term – uplifting at the end.  Obvious Fellini influence and similarities to Angelopoulos (departure on raft at the end).  The light is so different from the Greek films though; denser, thicker somehow.

The story is basically the trials of Jodo’s bullying, ultra-macho, Stalinist father; his “journey” from this authoritarianism to the acquisition of humanity and gentleness.  Brilliant film.

Little Pictures at Tate Britain

I thought I’d highlight some of the smaller paintings in the current display; the ones that glow at you across the galleries, overshadowed in many cases by huge narrative Victorian efforts.  No further comment required, I think.

tate b ludgate

Ludgate Circus, Jacques – Emile Blanche

 

tate b holman hunt

Cornfield at Ewell, Holman Hunt

tate b ford madox brown

The Hayfield, Ford Madox Brown

 

tate b3

Battersea Reach, Walter Greaves

 

tate b1

Top – Vollendam Holland, Elizabeth Forbes

Bottom – Mounts Bay, Norman Garstin

 

Captain Lee’s feet, Tate Britain

This very strange portrait – it always looks to me as if Lee is in one of those dreams where you’ve forgotten to put your trousers on – is actually a portrait of the whole man, not just his legs and feet.  But I happened to notice that the feet, or rather the toes, are rendered as if copied from a photograph.  They’re very long.  The feet, however. are small – too small, I think.

tate b2

Captain Lee, Geerhaerts

 

Imperial War Museum

Some “new” paintings at the museum; Ceri Richards, the great Leonard Rosoman, Ravilious; there’s a roomful of Peter Kennard’s collaged anti- missile missile posters and paintings. The most striking work, however, is Bruce McLean’s “Broadside”.  It’s the sinking of the Sheffield, I think – but I just like the colours, unreformed abstractionist that I am.

(c) Bruce McLean; Supplied by The Public Catalogue Foundation

 

Clothes Clothes Clothes, Music Music Music, Boys Boys Boys, by Viv Albertine

Last week, I was writing about “Hard to be A God”, the Russian film which is mostly shot in extreme close-up, making it difficult to get context.  Albertine’s book is similar in this respect; it’s episodic and written in present tense throughout, which must be hard to do, because you have to be thinking as you though then. So it often comes across as naive, portentous, and volatile- but it’s also really gripping.  I stormed through it and enjoyed it greatly.  She’s very candid, spends pages saying how shy and self-conscious and lacking in confidence she is – and then reveals things that you can’t imagine yourself doing.  Very brave and not ghosted, like lots of other music bios.  Halfway through a brutal attack by a lover, in which he has her on he knees, with her face pressed to the floor, she tells us she is wearing “a stripy blue-and -white sailor-style Sonia Rykiel cardigan with an appliqued red silk heart on it, knee-length red linen skirt cut on the bias…”; that’s devotion to fashion.

Two other reasons I liked it – Albertine featured in the brilliant Joanna Hogg’s last film “The Exhibition” and was great (as was Liam Gillick, who gets a bit of a rough ride in the book) – and she re-bought the Island sampler “Nice Enough to Eat” second hand – as did I, and very good it is too.

Synapse back

Synapse Back

Blackpaint

 

 

Blackpaint 502 – What’s the Meaning of this?

July 5, 2015

Meaning in Abstraction

Jonathan Jones on Jackson Pollock: Blind Spots (Tate Liverpool) in the Guardian and now Laura Cumming in the Observer, also on Pollock, raise the question of meaning in painting.  Cumming writes eloquently about “Pollock’s leaping black lines – apparently describing nothing – as free as a bird to be purely, sheerly visual as they dance across the canvas”; she then spends much of the rest of her article spotting images in the paintings – “a massive figure powers along against a billowing yellow sky”.

pollock no.12 52

No.12, 1952

Jones, earlier in the week, also wrote about the images in Pollock’s work, quoting him: “I choose to veil the image”… and then commenting, “In other words, the image is there – meaning is there – always.  And in his later paintings it breaks out like a sickness.”

The image is there – meaning is there… so no image, no meaning.  How does this square with his recent championing of Bridget Riley and Howard Hodgkin?  She was doing “science” (opticals etc.), he was doing emotion. What about painters like Hoyland?  just decoration, presumably.

It’s irritating to read critics spotting shapes in the painting, even if everybody does – I was seeing tits everywhere in Diebenkorn’s “abstract landscapes” the other week; but worse is the implication that paintings without images from “reality” are meaningless.  The meaning is the picture, the picture is itself.

Neil Stokoe: Paintings from the 60s on. (Redfern Gallery, Cork Street W1)

What a pity that this finishes today (Sunday)!  I only discovered the exhibition (and the painter) on Wednesday, when I went looking for an upcoming William Gear exhibition at the same gallery.

Stokoe is now 80; he was at the Royal College of Art with – get ready – Hockney, Kitaj, Frank Bowling, Allen Jones, Derek Boshier; Pauline Boty was there and Caulfield the following year.  He was a friend of Bacon.  He had a canvas bought by the Arts Council in 1970 after his first exhibition and then – not very much for 30- odd years.  He went into teaching at Wimbledon, but carried on painting.

The astonishing thing is the size of the paintings he was producing – and stacking against the wall, presumably.  They are massive – “Man and Woman in Room with Spiral Staircase” (1970) is 214 x 214 cms and the others are around that size.

stokoe richard burton

 

The colours are pinks, bright blues, acid yellows sometimes set in dark surroundings, as above; in one or two, the face is “Bacon-ised” but I think the settings show more of the influence of the older painter – the spiral staircases, somehow (a recurring feature in Stokoe’s work; I count seven in the catalogue) and in “Figure with Black Couch” (1968), the couch itself provides an arena very like the rails and circles Bacon used.  Something else that occurred to me is the resemblance to Joanna Hogg’s last film, “Exhibition”.  It’s not just the spiral staircase thing, but the colours as well – that acid, lurid, neon, ice cream palette.

Anyway, I guess it’s finished now, so look him up online – there’s a great photo of him from “The Tatler”, which covered the private view of his earlier exhibition at the Piper Gallery.

All is Lost (JC Chandor)

Got this on DVD, having missed the release.  Redford is pretty good for 79, although I noticed there were a couple of stunt doubles in the credits; I’m sure that was him up the mast though.  Classic American lean, hard, nameless hero against Big Nature, not giving up, fighting on to the bitter end.  Facially, he seemed at times to be morphing into Burt Lancaster.  Great shots, particularly those of the life raft from below, in tandem on the surface with the moon’s reflection.  I wonder how many, like me,  were expecting the oceanic white tips to show up again at the end (see previous Blackpaint on “Gravity”).  Great film; awful, portentous score.

Les Enfants Terribles, Cocteau

I’ve been re-reading this because it’s thin; I was surprised to find how much it reminded me of MacEwan’s “Cement Garden” – or the other way round, I suppose.  No doubt I’m about 45 years late in making that observation.

Hepworth at Tate Britain

Had to put these torsos in – there are three in a case together, but I can’t remember who did the third; Skeaping, I think.

Torso 1928 Dame Barbara Hepworth 1903-1975 Presented by the executors of the artist's estate 1980 http://www.tate.org.uk/art/work/T03128

Hepworth torso

Torso 1914 Henri Gaudier-Brzeska 1891-1915 Transferred from the Victoria & Albert Museum 1983 http://www.tate.org.uk/art/work/T03731

Gaudier Brzeska torso

By the way, if you want to buy a Barbara Hepworth style duffle jacket at the Tate, you can do so for £400+; a sculpting shirt will set you back £300 odd.  Bargains, I think you’ll agree.

red and blue on ochre 1

Red and Blue on Ochre – NB It’s without meaning…

Blackpaint

05.07.15

 

 

 

 

Blackpaint 476 – Blackpaint’s Best and Worst Films 2014

December 31, 2014

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Best Films and DVDs

Exhibition,  Joanna Hogg

Both Viv Albertine and Liam Gillick are great in this third brilliant film by Joanna Hogg (the other two being Archipelago and Unrelated), this one focusing  on two practising artists living in a designer house somewhere in Kensington, I think.  It’s funny and touching; I love the pretentious and yet stilted way they talk to each other about art; self importance, coupled with inarticulacy – reminds me of my partner and I.

Leviathan, Paravel and Castaing – Taylor

This is the documentary about deep-sea fishing from an American trawler (?) in the North Atlantic; staggering shots from above and BELOW the water – no clearly audible dialogue, mostly at night; hypnotic.

Leviathan, Zvyagintsev

Russian Barents Sea coast; municipal gangsterism and corruption, allied to the Russian Orthodox church, prodigious vodka, cigarette and herring consumption, firearms, violence, pathos and whale skeletons.

The Travelling Players, Angelopoulos

Classic Greek film; a travelling theatre group steer a precarious journey through the years of WW2, the British intervention and the ensuing civil war.  Operatic; fantastic.

A Separation, Farhadi

Enthralling Iranian film, concerning an urban middle-class couple, their crumbling marriage and the daughter in the middle.  Sounds unpromising – watched it twice (on Film4).

Inside Llewyn Davis, Coens

The film inspired by Dave Van Ronk – very loosely – downbeat, very funny, surprisingly good “folk” music; the only problem for me was a cameo from John Goodman, doing one of his huge, threatening eccentrics, for no apparent reason.  My friends in the Pretentious Marxist Book Group thought it was crap because it didn’t explore the political dimension of the 60s US folk boom – fortunately, in my view.

The Great Beauty, Sorrentino

Saw it on DVD; features Tony Servillo, which puts it up there immediately; features old men dancing in an embarrassing manner, a frequent Sorrentino trope.  Obvious homage to Fellini and none the worse for that.

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Worst Films

Julia’s Eyes, Del Toro

Dialogue and situations seem OK in Spanish, but the subtitles demonstrate how ridiculous and cliched they are; the eyeball horror doesn’t carry it.

The Killer Inside Me, Winterbottom

This is actually a well- acted and directed film, but the violence perpetrated on the women in it is horrible and unwatchable.  The ending is ridiculous.

Two Days, One Night, the Dardennes

Not a terrible film (Marion Cotillard is great), but a disappointment and not the masterpiece that the Guardian and Observer critics sat.  The problem is that there is no story arc – you know she has to visit a bunch of her work mates over a weekend and try to persuade them to vote for her reinstatement instead of their bonuses.  Straight away, you are thinking – or rather, I was thinking – “one down, twelve more houses to go”.  It looked like a telly film too.  still, the politics were right on….

Mr. Turner, Mike Leigh

Again, not terrible by any means – but a disappointment.  Too Dickens-y, especially his estranged partner, who keeps popping up with her (and his) daughters, demanding quite reasonably, some support from the artist.  Famous artists et al introduce each other to each other, famous incidents come along like buses, as they tend to do in biopics.  It looks brilliant sometimes – the Temeraire boat trip, for instance – and Spall is great, but I think Leigh’s other historical film, “Topsy Turvy” is far better.

Happy New Year.

watercolour5

 

watercolour6

Life Drawings

Blackpaint, 31.12.14

Blackpaint 446 – Poured Paint, Pigs, Saddam and Crocodiles

May 16, 2014

Helen Frankenthaler and Turner at Margate

A fantastic exhibition at Margate, unfortunately just finished.  I thought the comparisons between the two artists were totally fortuitous, but this didn’t matter at all, given the quality of work on show.  The Turners were all well known, I think; my favourites as always were the  watercolour sketches – and of the paintings, “Evening Star” and “Calais Sands at Low Water; Poissards Collecting Bait”.

The Frankenthalers were a revelation; the earlier ones from the 50s and 60s were oils, the later acrylics.  there was a wonderful film playing of her producing a painting by pouring thinned paint on a canvas on the floor and pushing the puddles around with sponges and mops.  A few below:

frank lorelei

Lorelei

frank 2 cromagnon

Hotel Cro-Magnon 

frank 1

 For E.M. (Eduard Manet)

Frank mountains-and-sea-1962

Mountains and Sea

This last one wasn’t in the exhibition; I include it because it was her famous “breakthrough” picture, painted (or poured and painted) in 1952.  In the literature, there is, as with several other abstract expressionists, a degree of dispute over representation and abstraction.  No problem here, though; it’s clearly a green rhino with blue feet and a body made of flowers, charging towards the sea.

Orwell – Animal Farm

Must be the sixth or seventh time I’ve read this, but I found I had tears in my eyes after the first of the massacres, when the dogs that Napoleon has been rearing in secret rip the throats out of the pigs who have been “assisting Snowball”, in his sabotage activities.  Robert Colls, in his “George Orwell:  English Rebel”, describes how Orwell was criticised for implying there was something inherently bad about the pigs (the Communist Party) in the book; there is no “mechanism” to explain why they behave as they do.  In reality, the revolutionaries in Russia came from a long tradition of clandestine, disciplined activity against the Tsars, involving terror and counter-terror, assassination, ruthless self-sacrifice and a readiness to use violence to further their ends.  This must surely go some way towards explaining the way events developed under Lenin and Stalin; you can’t blame Orwell for leaving this out – the book’s an allegory, not a history.

It brought back to me that appalling film of Saddam Hussein addressing a meeting of his Ba’athist party, while secret police tapped a succession of unfortunate members of the audience on the shoulder and led them out of the meeting to be shot.

As Orwell’s allegory stands, of course,  it seems that the pigs, under Napoleon, take over leadership and exploit the other animals because they are the most intelligent and organised and this leads to corruption – eventually, they are indistinguishable from the humans.  It’s unlikely that Orwell would have thought this an adequate explanation – to that extent, the criticisms are justified, to my mind.  Still one of the greatest works of the 20th century, though.

Autumn of the Patriarch, Marquez 

The author’s recent death sent me back to this book to finish it, after 20+years; should be easy, since it’s full of colourful sex and violence, skinning alive, feeding to crocodiles, assassinations and terrible revenges – but it’s hard going, there being no paragraphs and only one full stop every 5 – 10 pages.  I thought Krasnahorkai was tough going.  Makes Conrad seem like Stephen King…

Exhibition (again)

Re-visited Joanna Hogg’s new film at the ICA (see previous) and some new thoughts; the “trouble”, whatever it is, depression maybe, is his, not hers.  I’d forgotten the scenes in which she is obviously afraid for him when he’s locked in the toilet or bathroom and when she is so afraid that something has happened to him in the street that she runs out of the house in her underwear, barefoot.  The artspeak is good –  “Yeah, she’s totally into what I do…” – and the excruciating little exchanges on the intercom – “Do you still love me?”  “I’m cold”  “Do you want me to turn the heating up?” (pause) “Wouldn’t mind…”

I mentioned the “crazing” on the window pane in some of the shots – this was actually the reflection of thick, small shrubbery on the glass.

I’m really struggling with my latest canvas, which is a raucous blast of blood red, black and grey at the moment, so an old one to be going on with…

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Blackpaint

16.05.14

Blackpaint 445 – Ashmolean again, and Joanna Hogg’s Exhibition

May 8, 2014

Ashmolean Permanent Collection

As promised, a selection from the above:

di lorenzo

di Lorenzo – “St Nicholas of Bari banishing a storm”

Check out the mermaid in that pea green sea – and the C shaped boat.

uccello ashmolean

Ucello – “The Hunt in the Forest”

Cartoon – like, reds on dark green; flying hounds – like a Russian folk tale illustration.

michelangelo ashmolean

Michelangelo (possibly) – “Holy Family with John the Baptist”

The bloke on the left looks like an M, but not sure about the others…

master of bielefeld altar

Master of the Bielefeld Altar – “Christ Before Pilate”

Strange, Bosch-like figures…

daisy linda ward

Daisy Linda Ward – “Still Life with Matchbox” (or similar title)

This beautiful little assemblage on a pristine tablecloth is the exception in a roomful of full-blown blooms, fruit and lobsters, overwhelmingly Dutch, on black “varnished” backgrounds.  They like beer in steins, crabs and lobsters, flies and crickets and butterflies, lemons with peel hanging in ribbons, shrimps, areas of rot on fruit..  there’s that bundle of asparagus, by Coote, that was on the TV prog on still lifes…

rembrandt ashmolean

 Rembrandt, of course – portrait of Catrina Hoogsaet

Nearly missed this one; it’s huge, but behind the stairs as you come into the room.  Also, a fantastic Manet, a woman in white on a balcony, I think she’s Berthe Morisot.  It looks unfinished and all the better for it, in a way.

martineau ashmolean

Martineau – “A Poor Actress’s Christmas Dinner”

She’s staring across the bedclothes at a Christmas pud.  Lovely drawing, in that highlighted, half-completed style.

inchbold

Inchbold – “Study in March”

A piercing, cold, blue sky; an almost photo -realist, Victorian painting.  Reminds me of Glasgow Boys.

sickert ashmolean

Walter Sickert – “Gaiete Montparnasse”

A theatre balcony from below right; unusual angle – maybe Degas or Toulouse Lautrec might have done similar? Some other great Sickerts; a rough-ish “Ennui” and “Pierrots”, both second versions of the ones at the Tate Britain, and a “Self-Portrait with Bust of Tom Sayers”, another good painting.

Also a balustrade by Singer Sargent, a cockatoo by William Nicholson, Samuel Palmer meadows, Boudin beaches and great Dutch interiors with pipes and armour.  There’s loads more, so go and see it.

Exhibition, Joanna Hogg (ICA)

hogg exhibition

As I said in last blog, this film is claustrophobic compared to “Unrelated” and “Archipelago”;  it’s just the two characters, artists, in their Bauhaus-y, but rather tacky and ramshackle private house, “somewhere near South Ken”, I read – somewhere.  The sliding doors rumble, the lift is rackety, the boiler needs attention; they work in different sections of the house and communicate on intercom.  Outside, emergency sirens wail, people shout and argue, cars with thumping sound systems roar past, female Eastern European voices issue instructions repeatedly and stridently into mobile phones…

I mentioned the several instances of female masturbation, undertaken (or attempted) lying back on a stool, then in bed, using sheer materials, oil massaged into breasts, high heels worn in bed – sometimes I was unclear at first whether Viv Albertine’s characters WAS masturbating – maybe she was practising a piece of conceptual art… she binds herself with tape for some pieces.

There are great shots of the spiral staircase (reminded me of those Soviet buildings photographed by Richard Pare – see previous Blackpaint) and the interior and balconies of the building, especially reflection shots, through and on top of the venetian blinds, “crazing” on glass – colours are a sort of dark but garish, livid German 80’s Expressionist, Kippenburger, say.

The film has been compared to Haneke’s “Hidden”, but it has no narrative thrust like Haneke’s; there is a suggestion that Something Bad has happened; Gillick occasionally appears to have depressive fits or fugues; once, I thought Albertine was agorophobic, then realised she’d been out several times… maybe she’d been raped?  But no, too crass, too “narrative”.  At some point, she ditches the jeans, starts wearing shiny dresses, suddenly looking “sexy”; this, on reflection, coincides with the successful completion of the sale of the house and the resumption of sex with Gillick – previously, she’d declined to participate actively.

Anyway, I’m seeing it again tomorrow, so may have more to say then.

Escape From Alcatraz

Made in 1979, Clint Eastwood as Frank Morris; I saw it when it came out, forgot how brilliant it was, discovered it again in TV last week; not a single wasted second.  I hope the real Morris, and the Anglin brothers, made it; Morris would be 89 now – hope he’s alive and happy somewhere.

 

 

 

 

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Plesiosaur

Blackpaint

9.05.14 

Blackpaint 444 – Matisse, Soutine, UKIP and Exhibitionism at the ICA

May 2, 2014

Matisse Cut outs, Tate Modern

Brilliant colours, some fantastic images – but occasional hints of custom wallpaper and, for ex – art teachers (my partner tells me), the memory of those lessons when you would grab a wad of coloured paper from the cupboard and get the kids to cut out Matisse-like patterns and images and collage them.  The highlights, for me, are:

Memory of Oceania

oceania

 

Zulma

matisse zulma

 

Blue Nude

matisse blue nude

 

The top two are very large; Oceania smaller than the Snail, but not by much, I think.  The blue nude is one of three or four, slightly different – I like this one best.  It sounds odd, but the charcoal or pencil marks on Oceania make a big difference for me; don’t quite know why.  Maybe they add interest, add a bit of roughness – same for Zulma.  I  loved the stained-glass window “sketches” too.  Perhaps it’s because the whole exhibition is too brilliantly coloured and light-suffused.  There’s plenty of black, but it’s brilliant black, not dirty, grey/brown black.  That’s it – dirt.  I want a bit of dirty texture in among the bright colours; de Kooning or Jorn or Appel.  Pity there were no paintings – but then it wouldn’t be “the cut-outs”…  Still, great exhibition.

Cezanne et al at the Ashmolean Museum Oxford, 

I wrote in  last blog about the “Cezanne and the Modern” at the Ashmolean, but forgot to include some of the great Soutine paintings that were in it – so here are a few:

soutine 2

soutine selfie

soutine1

 

I think he’s a stunningly good painter; only really knew him for the sides of meat before.  Why isn’t there a Taschen on him?  Next blog, the Ashmolean permanent collection, which is also great.

Exhibition, Joanna Hogg

Saw this on Sunday, and I have so much to say that I’m leaving it to next blog too.  Unlike Unrelated and Archipelago, it focuses on a couple, rather than a family and friends;  it’s set indoors mostly and these two factors make it rather claustrophobic to watch; might be more comfortable to watch on DVD.  Still very highly recommended  though.  Be prepared for a lot of masturbation (on the screen, that is).

Orwell, Fascism and Racism

There was a wonderful example of the sort of political writing that Orwell ridiculed in the Guardian on Monday; Owen Jones, attacking UKIP, referred to its supporters “vomiting” racist remarks, and to the one who attacked Lenny Henry, as “dragging his knuckles”; this stuff is clearly not working, if it’s meant to hurt UKIP. During the Spanish Civil War, Orwell and his fellow fighters in the POUM were attacked as Fascists by the Communist movement and fellow travellers of the day – first, they were “objectively Fascist” (i.e. unconsciously supporting Franco by differing from the proper Communist position) – that soon slid over into really Fascist (secretly in the pay of Franco).

UKIP is not the POUM and Farage is definitely not Orwell; UKIP clearly attracts a lot of support from people with racist views; however, there’s no reason to think most of its supporters are racist. For years, any misgivings about immigration, positive discrimination or “positive action” for example, have been attacked as racist by campaigners.  All the mainstream parties have recently claimed to want an “open debate” about immigration; now that UKIP is attracting a lot of support, they want a cross-party campaign to freeze it out and undermine its support by labelling it racist.  Not many people want to be called  racist, or identified with fascists and Nazis, so the accusation has been powerful in the past (interesting to see the ethnic Russian militants in eastern Ukraine using it against the  government and its supporters); now,though,  concern in the UK about border control and numbers appears to be growing among earlier generations of non-white immigrants as well as the white population, so that might be sticky for any anti-UKIP cross-party coalition.

There’s no doubt that there is a strong swing to the right in parts of western (and eastern) Europe; if there is a danger to liberal democracy, it is obviously from the extreme right and not the left.  In the UK, however, simply shouting Racist! at UKIP and abhorring the indiscretions of their supporters won’t be enough; even the Guardian seems to have “clocked” that.

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Fall From Grace

Blackpaint

2.05.14

Blackpaint 418 – Whiteley, Schendel, Shining and Drowning

October 24, 2013

Brett Whiteley

I’d hardly heard of the above Australian artist until I saw “Art of Australia” this week.  What a brilliant painter he was  (died of an overdose in 1993); earlier stuff looked like Diebenkorn a bit – later, shades of Roger Hilton, Bacon and, I think, Scarfe and/or Steadman.  He mixed abstract, figurative, letters, techniques in a manner reminiscent of Albert Oelhen (but before Oelhen?).  Fantastic.

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Mark Bradford and Larry Bell at the White Cube Bermondsey

Bradford does huge canvases – I estimate the largest are 20ft * 18ft (dimensions not given and attendant didn’t know).  He plasters them with paper, paints it and then rips and shreds it down with a power sander.   The results resemble road systems and landscapes – one is like a coastline, another a tsunami investing a coastal city, another, Turner’s “storm at Harbour Mouth” (the sander swirls on black are like the rings on the cross section of a felled tree).  Some are bright – blue, pink, orange, white – reminding one of Peter Doig’s early paintings; others, dark and oppressive, like Anselm Kiefer’s work.

There are two beautiful Larry Bell pictures; they are like crumpled tinfoil and celluloid film, printed onto white canvas.  there are many more, but for my money, they are spoilt by being on black canvas and in black frames.

Blue Jasmine

Saw this Woody Allen film this week – it’s Streetcar, set in San Francisco rather than New Orleans.  Cate Blanchett does a great job of playing a neurotic, pampered, addicted, desperate woman, once rich, now broke, dumping herself on her despised working-class sister.  Script is great, but you never for a second forget you are watching acting; it’s naturalistic, rather than natural.  I can’t help comparing it to the fabulous Joanna Hogg films, Archipelago and Unrelated, that I’ve written about – in which, most of the time, no-one, pro or amateur, appears to be acting at all.

Reading Sebastian Faulks’ A Possible Life, which begins with a WW2 training exercise; officers lead their men mistakenly into flooded area and a soldier is drowned.  Strangely similar stories from two sources; Pete Seeger’s song “Waist Deep in the Big Muddy” (I have it by Dick Gaughan on his “Sail On” album) and a Scott Fitzgerald story I read recently – can’t find it at the moment, he wrote so many stories.  The SF version is the earliest – I wonder if it’s the original.

The Shining

Watched it yet again the other night; like Goodfellas and Casino, you only have to see a few seconds and you are hooked – these films are Ancient Mariners.  I can’t understand why Stephen King hates the Kubrick film – it’s obviously a work of art, unlike most attempts at filming King books.  Kubrick changed it a bit – killed off the Scatman and left the Overlook standing, whereas King blew its boilers and burned it down.  I think Kubrick’s ending was better.  Pity about the Scatman, though.

Klee at Tate Modern

Went round this exhibition again, and, yes, I was rather snotty about it last time.  Room 13 is great, with the ones that are composed of dots and look like little tapestries – also the blue one, “path into the Blue” I think it’s called.  There’s also the miniature opera stage set that reminded me of Picasso’s “Night Fishing at Antibes” – but much smaller.

Mira Schendel

Great antidote to Klee – Brazilian minimalist, recalling Lygia Pape and Oiticica a little; wobbly square…  Triangles, bi-and trisected canvases; then, rough paint drawings and collages of bottles on bars, drips and splatters; some brilliant black ink on off-white paper, strong lines and jagged scribbles.  Then letters appearing and playing with typefaces; hanging tablets of rice paper; Eva Hesse-like tubes of gold-ochre, suspended from ceiling; silky, white nylon threads hanging in masses and curling up like hairs at the floor; a series of rough, eye-catching tablets on walls with bible quotations – she was a struggling Catholic, apparently.

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Also visited “Art Under Attack” at Tate Britain; save that for next time.

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Work in Progress

Blackpaint

24.10.13

Blackpaint 417 – Size Matters; Big it Up

October 18, 2013

Paul Klee at Tate Britain 

Some of these are quite nice.  Not a ringing endorsement, I know, but my genuine reaction.  Klee is a techniques man ; his “oil transfer” drawings are an example – the method produces a yellow-brown, stained background on which the spidery lines of the drawing appear to be roughly scorched in.  Then, there are the dots; tiny, variegated blobs of colour that produce a tapestry or carpet effect – which is tasteful and nice.  There are the dark tiles of midnight blue and grey and black with a disc of bright yellow and a patch of orange; “Full moon and fire”, or some such title – no prize for spotting the moon…

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There are a lot of fish, tastefully drawn and coloured; little imp figures that recall – or maybe prefigure – Victor Brauner and other surrealists; many of the pieces remind one of rock and cave drawings, thick black lines done with a scorched stick, maybe.  Hot air baloon heads, spider web drawings…, there’s a touch of those early Mondrians, with the interlocking lines before he moved on to squares.  And maybe a bit of Asger Jorn, without the texture…

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What I really missed, however, was some size.  They are all small; after five or so rooms, you want to see something by some drunken American abstract expressionist who has crashed his car into the Tate front door, strode in trailing fag smoke and whisky fumes, and started to hurl paint over a five metre square canvas, stretched on the floor (canvas, not drunken ab-ex).

When you look at the catalogue, however, the pictures look beautiful – glowing and luminous.  That’s the way to see them, in a book.

Unrelated

Joanna Hogg’s 2007 film, I think it’s the first of a trilogy, with “Archipelago” and her latest film “Exhibition”, with Liam Gillick, Viv Albertine and Tom Hiddleston.  In “Unrelated”,   Kathryn Worth plays Anna, a middle -aged  woman on a Tuscan holiday with her best friend’s family, including Tom Hiddleston as the eldest son.  She tries to keep up with the “youngs”, swimming naked, smoking dope, fancying Hiddleston, and ultimately being politely rebuffed by him when she makes the offer.  Anna is taking time out from her partner but staying in touch with him by means of anguished mobile phone conversations at the top of hills – shades of Kiarostami’s “The Wind will Carry Us”.  Again, the acting is totally believable: Hiddleston and Worth are fantastic and excruciating.

The cinematographer is Owen Curtis, but the look is the same as “Archipelago”;  those doorway shots, light limning figures in bedsheets in dark rooms, Tuscan landscapes instead of the Scilly Isles, but that same Old Master quality of light on the skin in the close-ups.  The director of photography for “Archipelago” is Ed Rutherford, so I guess it must be Hogg herself who sets the look of the films.  Just great; can’t wait to see the latest film.

Jacob’s Room

I’m now on the third novel in Virginia Woolf’s collected works (NOT illustrated by R Crumb, more’s the pity), after “The Voyage Out” and “Night and Day” – for the first time, I realise how she could possibly be compared to James Joyce, in terms of narrative experimentation.  the first two were conventional; in “Jacob’s Room”, you have to wait for the next page to find out where you are (or more accurately, where Jacob is) and what’s going on.  Incredibly annoying, but I’m still reading.. no doubt, I’ll end up thinking she’s a genius.  Could be worse, could be Jane Austen.

Phil Chevron

Died recently – wrote “Thousands Are Sailing”, the Pogues classic, which if you never did anything else of note…..

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Meeting at Roissy

Blackpaint

18.10.13

Blackpaint 411 – Decorum Returns; Iron Man, Sky Walks and Erasure

September 13, 2013

Ray Howard Jones

I’m in Tenby, Pembrokeshire to support my son in the Iron Man Wales Triathlon.  At the local museum, an exhibition of this artist, who turns out to be a woman.

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Rather like a less washed out Paul Nash, maybe.  I mean “washed out” in a good way, of course.  Also in this great little museum, a David Jones,  A couple of John Pipers and some lovely Gwen and Augustus Johns – and Winifred, the other sister, of whom I had no knowledge.  Augustus and Gwen both draw beautifully. of course; but Gwen is the one with taste.  I love those melancholic portraits.

Marx Reichlich

Recently, re-visited the Courtauld in the Strand; there was a portrait by the above in there, as good as a Holbein.  He was Austrian, 1460 – 1520,  and his work is in the Kunsthistorisches Museum in Vienna – I wonder if Thomas Bernhard’s character Reger gets round to dismissing him as “kitsch” in “Old Masters”?

(c) The Courtauld Gallery; Supplied by The Public Catalogue Foundation

It’s fantastic isn’t it?  I think it’s called “Woman with Lily-of-the-Valley”.

Archipelago

I was on about this last week; Joanna Hogg’s masterpiece, set on Tresco in the Scilly Isles.  The cast is a mix of pros and amateurs – the painter Christopher Baker is just that, a painter not an actor – and that seems to have worked brilliantly in making the dialogue sound authentic; but the pro members, most notably Lydia Leonard as the passive-aggressive, uptight daughter are also great.

The most noticeable trope of the cinematography is the use of long framing shots, through windows, doorways, courtyards and particularly on a bend in the staircase, by the newel post.  when I say “long” though – there’s long and there’s Bela Tarr, so maybe these are medium long.  Some great shots – a beautiful, grey/blue granite cave, a laughing herm (I think that’s the term) in the tropical gardens.  I was gratified to hear on the voiceover extra that Hogg was influenced by Hammershoi interiors.

Man on Wire

It’s easy to see how Petit’s personality could overwhelm certain individuals and compel them to assist in his escapades; he seems rather like a dizzying drop himself – draws and repels.  What I found mystifying is how much relevant film footage was around from the planning stages of the WTC walk and the earlier stunts on Notre Dame and Sydney Harbour Bridge; it was as if it had been shot with a view to making “Man on Wire” about 35 years later.  And then, to have no moving footage of the actual walk…

Or rather, walks – he did it eight times, back and forth.

Butcher’s Crossing and Augustus

Reading both of these novels by John Williams, of “Stoner” fame.  They’re OK – Butcher’s Crossing is about a C19th buffalo hunt, Augustus an epistolatory novel about Augustus Caesar – but nothing whatever, so far as I can see, makes them identifiable as the work of Williams.  I can’t think of any other author whose work is so diverse.

Erasures

I did a couple of life classes recently; the results were depressingly poor.  Turned them into something that looked a bit more classy by smearing and rubbing out the duff bits and getting stuck in with oil pastels on the other bits.  Some results below.

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Here’s a more conventional one to finish with – except it’s unfinished…

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Blackpaint

Work in Progress

13.09.13