Posts Tagged ‘John Bellany’

Blackpaint 645 – Bellany and Davie; Skates, Bats, Donkeys and Diamonds

May 22, 2019

John Bellany and Alan Davie,  “Cradle of Magic”, Newport Street Gallery until 2nd June

A special, supplementary blog about one show, because it’s soon to close.  This brilliant free exhibition, all works owned by Damien Hirst, has been on since February, but somehow I’ve managed to miss it up to now – and there’s only ten or so days left; so if you possibly can, you need to get to Vauxhall Gardens and see this.

Both Scotsmen, Bellany died in 2013, Davie in 2014 at 94.  Bellany was figurative, Davie abstract – yet their paintings somehow go together, bounce off each other.  Maybe it’s colour, maybe brushwork (sometimes);  don’t know.  I’ve mixed them up, as they are mixed in the gallery, although not in the same order.

Bellany’s paintings, which are enigmatic, I think it’s fair to say, bring to my mind a range of painters; Ensor, perhaps, is foremost.  Skulls, masks, hanged men, groups of solemn, dark-clad men staring out at the viewer, the disconsolate skate/ray fish in the picture below; a general sort of cartoonish quality.  Both Ensor and Bellany lived in coastal towns; Ensor in Ostend, Bellany in the fishing village of Port Seton, near Edinburgh. Others: Max Beckmann, Soutine (another skate man), Arthur Boyd (his “Scapegoat” has the donkey – AND a skate fish, in the Australian desert) and Kitaj somehow, in the drawing and breadth of subject matter.

 

Bellany – Title? Date?

The skate king on his throne.  What are they, birds or bats?  Beckmann here, I think, and in Rose of Sharon below.

 

Davie – Bath Darling, 1956

Davie was a jazz musician and a pilot as well as a painter – a youtube fragment on him (Allan Paints a Picture) shows him at the piano – I think it’s “Getting Sentimental Over You” but the chords are rather free – reciting poetry at the same time, and reminding me a bit of Ron Geesin.  Unlike Geesin, he looks pretty tough as a young man, muscular and long-bearded.  He was feted in the states by the likes of Pollock, Kline and the other AbExes, and the painting below clearly shows the influence of Pollock and maybe de Kooning.  He combined the freedom of gesture (the black sweeps in the picture below, the drips and spatters above) with rich colour and a repertoire of recurring symbols (wheels, snakes, diamonds, images taken from rock pictures by indigenous people in St. Lucia, where he lived for 10 years).

Davie – Red Parrot Jay, 1960

 

Bellany – Eyemouth 1985

The look of love or hunger from the giant seagull?

 

Bellany – Rose of Sharon, 1973

The skate again.  A hint of Mexican influence here?

 

Davie – Romance for Moon and Stars, 1964

 

Davie – Trio for Bones, 1960

 

Davie – A Diamond Romance, 1964

In all three of these Davie pictures, there is the combination of rich colour, symbol and gesture – the rough and smooth elements that sometimes suggest Bacon’s work, without the figures of course, but a potent combination.  In more recent paintings (not represented here) the symbols remain but the rough gesturalism has gone – and the paintings are poorer for it, in my view.

 

Bellany – The Journey, 1989

Very reminiscent of the Boyd painting I mentioned earlier; also a touch of Kitaj in the execution.

A rather solemn portrait from (but not of) me to finish:

Man of Sorrows

Blackpaint

22.05.19

 

 

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Blackpaint 412 – Talent and Taste and the Darkling Plain

September 19, 2013

Jonathan Yeo at the National Portrait Gallery

Saw the Culture Show programme on Yeo last night and was suitably impressed by his technical skill.  a whole bunch of political, arty and acting celebs, instantly recognisable, in a surface spectrum from creamy smooth (Sienna Miller) to Freudian fractured – assemblies of small, variegated  planes (George W Bush).

yeo1

yeo2

Only when reading Yeo’s Wikipedia entry, did I discover that the Bush “variegated planes” are actually images from porn magazines, a technique that Yeo has used several times.

I think I would say the same thing about Yeo as I said about Augustus John last blog; loads of talent, dubious taste.  By that, I don’t mean the use of porn images, or painting the pregnant Sienna Miller naked; more that they seem to flatter the subjects and include little tricks and flourishes – see the Nicole Kidman above.  Apart from Bush, maybe, I can’t imagine any of his subjects being dismayed or upset at the way they have been portrayed.  Have to go and see for myself now, at the NPG.

Paul Feiler

He died this summer, when I was abroad. so I missed the obits.  The last, I think, of the 50s and 60s St. Ives generation. I considered him for a while to be the greatest living British abstract painter.  Then I “discovered” Albert Irvin – and there’s Gillian Ayres of course – but he’s still up there, I think, in terms of “the greatest” – but no longer living…

feiler

Paul Feiler

John Bellany

Another painter recently dead is Bellany.  As utterly unlike Feiler as you could imagine, his odd figures in awkward poses remind me, a little, sometimes, of Paula Rego – and RB Kitaj in his cartoon style, Unlike Rego, he often used harsh, garish colours.

Bellany1

bellany 2

Well, not sure about Kitaj…  Apparently, his (Bellany’s) paintings got brighter and more optimistic in tone after his liver transplant.

Old Masters, Thomas Bernhard

I recently made a facetious remark about this great book, comparing the protracted rant that it mostly is, to John Cooper Clarke’s “Evidently Chickentown” – and concluding that Clarke’s poem(?) is the greater work.  About 60% of the way through, however, certain changes begin to occur in the Bernhard book and it takes on greater depths.

Consider the following, on the uses of art after bereavement: “None of those books or writings which I had collected in the course of my life …were ultimately any use, I had been left alone by my wife and all these books and writings were ridiculous.  We think we can cling to Shakespeare or to Kant, but that is a fallacy, Shakespeare and Kant and all the rest…..let us down at the very moment when we would so badly need them, Reger said…. everything which those so-called great and important figures have thought and moreover written leaves us cold…”  So, art is no help or cure for pain – echoes of “Dover Beach” and “The Green Linnet”.

We are soon back to ranting. however; and I am gratified to find that Reger, the protagonist, believes that every great work of art is mortally flawed (see Blackpaint 387, the theory of validating crapness) and that many artists, notably El Greco, can’t do hands.  According to Reger, “El Greco’s hands all look like dirty wet face flannels”…

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Tenby, Wall to Fort

Blackpaint

19.09.13

Blackpaint 407 – Bloodshed at the RA; is Stoner Perfect?

August 15, 2013

Sorry for hiatus – been away.

Mexico, a Revolution  in Art, at the RA

Not all Mexican – Edward Weston, Tina Modotti, Philip Guston, Cartier -Bresson,  DH Lawrence  et al, all down there on a visit at one time or another.

Starting with the inevitable sepia photos of firing squads and their dead victims, one sequence showing the shooting of four Mexicans, one after the other, at the moment the bullets strike; violent death somehow seems more prevalent in Mexican revolution, the executions routine and casual – maybe a reflection of the ubiquity of photographers.  Also strikers, prostitutes peeping from windows, semi-surrealist street shots…

A few lurid, blood-raw landscape pictures, and one snow-capped peak that recalled the Canadian “Seven” painter, Lawren Harris.  Maybe the landscape really IS that raw, blood orange colour – best to leave it to God, perhaps, like those lurid American Sublime sunsets.

The Guston (early figurative mode) and the one opposite of a man in a cat’s suit the best, along with a portrait by Siqueiros of Zapata – like a hooded-eyed, ancient deity.  Also an Orozco and a Rivera; both better as murals, I think.

Guston in Mexico

The RA Summer Exhibition

Overall, not inspiring.  Lots of well-known RAs doing their usual thing; some beautiful Irvins, especially the small, marmalade orange prints called “Shakespeare” (presumably after Shakespeare Road, rather than the playwright) – and a huge, penetrating blue canvas by Barbara Rae,   I think the most striking painting – in a good way – in the show.  But I didn’t record the title.

Gillian Ayres’ flower-shaped images on prints, Tracey Emin’s broken-line etchings, John Carter’s Oiticica-like wobbly squares… A number of John Bellanys in garish, livid colours, humans with seabirds’ heads.. a big, brown, messy, lovely Basil Beattie.

Jock MacFadyen’s paintings were interesting – none of the cartoon-like tattoo’ed thugs with pit bulls; instead, a realist derelict factory with graffitti and a minimalist portrait if Humphrey Ocean – good, but I think I prefer the cartoon stuff – speaking of which, A big Rose Wylie over the door in her usual style.

Most striking of the non – RAs was a small yellow, patchwork print by Hetty Haxworth, called “Rig and Furrow”, loads of prints of which already sold.

haxworth

Worst painting by famous artist; Per Kirkeby’s “Laokoon”, a roughly executed serpent in ugly colours.  Also Pete Tonkins’ acrylic abstract.  Ugliness, whatever that is, not necessarily bad in a painting, of course, but should be something else to carry it; coherence, structure, something anyway.

Stoner by John Williams

First published in 1965, a campus novel set in University of Missouri in years from WW1 to the 50s.  I thought it was stunning – I normally read a bunch of books a few pages each every day, but I put others aside until I finished this, in maybe four days, really fast for me.  It’s not flawless; the dialogue in the love scenes a little shaky, perhaps, and a death scene seems prolonged; but it made me reflect on my own time as a student and teacher, with some very depressing and uncomfortable results.

Something that occurred to me, but apparently to no-one else who has written about the novel on the internet, was that Lomax’s campaign against Stoner through Walker could be read as a metaphor for the ideological struggles between radical movements and more conservative forces on campus, which became common a little later in the 60s; I was thinking particularly of the accusations of racism or misogyny that were often deployed against conservative and liberal academics.  No doubt this take is somewhat crass; all other reviews stress the universality of the themes and the perfection of the novel.

I couldn’t help casting some of the characters mentally, in the film that must soon be made; Stoner himself, as a young man, I see played by Paul Dano (There Will be Blood); Finch could only be Philip Seymour Hoffman (The Master).

Great book; best of its kind I’ve read since Richard Yates.

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Montreuil, Blackpaint

15.08.13

Blackpaint 386 – Abstract and Figurative; Painting the Churches

March 21, 2013

Lanark

The Alasdair Gray trilogy; I’ve arrived at the part where Thaw (I’m assuming this is at least semi-autobiographical) paints a giant Genesis on the ceiling and altar wall of the church.  It’s an echo of Michelangelo’s Sistine ceiling and wall, of course, but without the 30 year gap – but it also closely recalls the sequence in Joyce Cary’s “The Horse’s Mouth”, with it’s appropriately Apocalyptic denouement.

The descriptions of the paintings in both books would seem to place both Thaw and Gulley Jimson in a stylistic line of British figurative painters including Stanley Spencer, the two Roberts (Colquhoun and MacBryde), Jock Mcfadyen, John Bellany, Peter Howson and Paula Rego; figurative but distorted, surrealistic..  Alasdair Gray too, of course, but not so much.. more illustrative.

Figurative and Abstract

The British figurative tradition of which the above list may be considered the extreme – left? – wing, is very strong and pervasive, having dominated movements in Britain through to street or Grafitti or Urban art whatever you like to call it.  Auerbach, Freud, Bacon, Uglow, Hockney, Blake, Doig, Shaw, Ofili, Dalwood..  OK, non-figurative; Riley, Davenport, McKeever, Ayres, Blow, Lanyon, Hilton, Heath, Feiler, Denny, Hodgkin – fair enough, just as many, if not more.. Hoyland, Wynter, Frost (Terry and Anthony), Turnbull…  What is it, then, that makes me think that abstraction is somehow not quite perceived as the British way?

Maybe it’s to do with exhibitions.  Recent big blockbusters for foreign abstractionists – Schwitters, Richter, Boetti.. when was the last big exhibition of  a British non-figurative painter?

Tate at yourpaintings

Carrying on with my trawl, there’s Albert Irvin‘s Empress (1982)

irvin empress

Sickert’s Ennui (1914) – just a fantastic image; and

Robin Denny’s Golem I (1957 – 8)

Robyn Denny; (c) Robyn Denny; Supplied by The Public Catalogue Foundation

 

There Will Be Blood

Glad to see this again on TV, a chance to compare Day Lewis’ Plainview with his Lincoln.  I preferred the Plainview with his John Huston voice, sudden bursts of violence and cruelty and the moustache – but you could see glimpses of Plainview in the Lincoln.

I’ve Been Loving You So Long

Far be it from me to criticize anything Kristen Scott Thomas is in – apart from the English Patient – but the ending is a cop-out.  She killed her kid as an act of mercy; he was dying from some horrible, painful disease.  At the trial, she refused to explain or defend herself and consequently, was regarded as some sort of monster.  Why resolve it like this?  Better to leave it unexplained.  Same with Festen – the father is eventually condemned for incest and rape; better if the family had continued to rally round him.  Same with The Hunt – the community re-absorbs the “molester” when he is proved innocent; better (and more true) if they’d continued to persecute him anyway.   There’s no redemption, except for celebs and politicians.  The worst cop-out was Ordet though; the religious obsessive actually manages to bring back the daughter-in-law from the dead!  What are we to make of that?

OK, here’s a couple of my pictures – not comparable to those above,I know, but it’s my blog…

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Blackpaint

21.03.13

Blackpaint 367 – Goya, the Devil and Fear Eats the Soul

November 15, 2012

Songs of Sandy Denny BBC4

What songs they were.  But really only PP Arnold got there on I’m a Dreamer – Maddy Prior hammed it up too much with her Elizabethan dancing and Lavinia Blackwood was too high and Gartside was terrible.  I was surprised by Thea Gilmore’s music using Sandy’s words; result was great, although more Joni Mitchell than Sandy Denny.

Sven Hassel

From the sublime to…  Read his obit in the Guardian the other day and it brought back a strong charge of my adolescence at Battersea Grammar School, where I championed Hassel and Willi Heinrich against my mates’ preference for James Bond.  I was wrong, of course; Flemings are now Penguin Modern Classics.  Still, “Wheels of Terror” had a real hold on me – The Little Legionnaire, who shouted “Allah Akbar!” as he attacked the Ivans with his knife, Tiny, the giant from Bremen, and above all, Joseph Porta, who went in with his flamethrower, wearing a top hat and monocle.  The tank battle at Cherkassy with the boys from the Penal Regiment.. happy innocent days of childhood.

How the Devil got his Horns (Sky Arts)

Alistair Sooke vehicle in which he seeks to show the development of Satan in art and theology from an envoy of God (as he is, for example, in Job) to the Antichrist, governor of hell and chewer of lost souls.  Sooke visited Padua to examine the Giotto Last Judgement – those endearing squat, square little people and the brilliant, singing colours – and then Orvieto, where the Signorelli version, much lighter, pinker, resembled the Michelangelo Sistine masterpiece in the fleshiness and muscularity of the writhing bodies – although Signorelli’s are much more cartoon – like, in the modern sense.

Giotto

Signorelli

Heroes Square, Budapest 

Cartoons having come up, I was reminded of the horsebacked figures, Arpad and the others, riding around the base of the column in the square, like characters from Lord of the Rings in their winged helmets, waving their swords and bows.

Spain, Renaissance to Goya, Print Room, British Museum

Bullfights, war disasters, witches,  penitents. those “Proverbs” that aren’t proverbs at all.  The slight squatness, stiffness of gesture, solidness of Goya’s figures remind me a little of Giotto somehow.  Lots of boring and elaborate etchings in the rest of exhibition, which suddenly comes alive with Murillo, Ribera and Tiepolo.  St. Anthony of Padua and the Irascible Youth turns up twice as a theme; after insulting his mother the youth cuts off his own leg in a fit of remorse.  Luckily, St. Anthony is passing and rejoins the leg by miraculous means.  Another theme – skinning of St. Bartholomew.  Two versions of that as well.  More skinnings alive in the siege of Lachish reliefs from Assyria on the ground floor.

John Bellany

Beautiful paintings on the Culture Show last night – resemblances to Jock MacFadyean and Peter Howson, I thought, in the distorted figures and faces; and blazing colour.  Apparently, they’ve got more colourful since his liver transplant 20-odd years ago.  He reckons he’s done more paintings than Turner.

Ali – Fear Eats the Soul

Finally caught up with this great Fassbinder film and was impressed and moved.  Lots of those doorway shots that Bela Tarr likes.  The story, fiftyish German cleaning woman begins affair with Moroccan “guest-worker”, suffers racism and family rejection, never slips over into sentimentality.  I loved it.

Chain Bridge

Blackpaint

15.11.12