Posts Tagged ‘John Hoyland’

Blackpaint 588 – Fundamental! Wolfie and Hockers at the Tates

February 27, 2017

Wolfgang Tillmans, Tate Modern

Huge blown-up photos on the walls, but also desktops full of his “snaps” (and pro-Remain, anti-Brexit propaganda posters/leaflets he presumably produced).  He calls each room an “installation”, the nature of which he expounds in the booklet, to avoid explanations on the walls.  My favourite below:

 

tillmans-1

Try to see that right arm and hand as a leg and foot and you get a totally different image…

Additionally, you can see –

A drainpipe and drainhole, with water running down through soggy litter; an amazing starscape over a dark hillside; a male bumhole close-up; a close-up of a vagina which appears to be that of a transsexual, judging by the hairy legs (echo of the famous Courbet picture); several large, beautiful colour field abstracts, red and ochre mainly, recalling Hoyland or more, Diebenkorn’s desert colours combined with his Ocean Park structures; crystalline car headlight; that strange shape of the swimmer picking his foot; enormous, rather touching blow-ups of delicate weeds sprouting in his backyard – and a simple image of a man in a blue T shirt, that is startlingly clear and 3D, when looked back on through the arch, from a short distance – try it.  And, of course, those great ones of pigment threads, slowly floating and whirling in fluid.  Great exhibition; Tillmans can find beauty in strange places – drains, for example.  Not sure about the other apertures.

Hockney, Tate Britain

After the big RA Hockney exhibition of 2012, I was expecting a bit of deja-vu; there was a bit, but I was surprised at how informative and enjoyable the Tate show is.  I’ve been twice, on a Saturday and a Thursday, and both times, the Tate was rammed with white-haired, retired schoolteacher types, along with the tourists and students.  Hockney is definitely a Treasure of Middle England, comparable, I guess, to Alan Bennett in his fanbase.

I reckon there are about ten or twelve different “sections”, some of them being distinct phases in his painting, others different areas of activity; here’s my breakdown of the show:

  • The earliest real Hockneys from the early 60s – textured, splashy paint, cartoon boys, areas of raw linen, words and letters (cf.Johns), jokey content – Boys Together, Typhoo Tea, toothpaste, the boys speeding towards Italy (see below).  I can’t get away from seeing a similarity to Bacon in the brushwork, splatters and bare surfaces here, if not the content (although one of the shower ones could be).

hockney-italy

Flight to Italy

  • Next, the Kitaj-like ones, where Hockney makes well-drawn, naturalistic figures, often alongside flat cartoon characters (see below).  Various palm tree and pyramid pieces, chaps in pants on bed or in shower.

Hockney, David; Man in a Museum (or You're in the Wrong Movie); British Council Collection; http://www.artuk.org/artworks/man-in-a-museum-or-youre-in-the-wrong-movie-176794

Man in a Museum (You’re in the Wrong Movie)

  • Swimming pools, snakey surface reflections, Bigger Splash of course.
  • A roomful of drawings, from early “cartoons” through beautifully, sparingly executed portraits, Kitaj, Kasmin etc.
  • Raw red USA desert canyons and Yorkshire Dales – hills and winding roads, flattened against invisible glass of the surface, shining with vivid colours, which I thought were a bit much in 2012, but I see from a TV film on Hockney last night are pretty accurate.  That one of hawthorn trees with maggot blossoms and the Van Gogh pink and grey sky..
  • A room of beautifully drawn but underwhelming drawings of woodland scenes.
  • The static portraits of Ossie Clark, Celia Birtwell, Henry Geldzahler, Hockney’s parents  et al; they recall della Francesca in the respect that the characters appear self-absorbed, or at least, uninvolved with each other.  There is a della Francesca on the wall behind Geldzahler, Baptism of Christ, I think.
  • Piercingly psychedelic verandahs, blue with red flowerpots, overlooking fiercely green lawns.  Those flowerpots really cut through.
  • A roomful of his composite videos of wood and meadowland in different seasons, taken by a battery of cameras from a moving car.
  • Ipad drawings and pictures he has worked up from them.
  • The psychedelic woods and landscapes from the 2012 exhibition.

I like the early stuff best, but it’s an impressive body of work, to understate the case.

To finish, a series of quick life drawings done with a brush and black acrylic.  Picasso at Barcelona next time.

 

woman-with-fan1

 

woman-with-fan2

woman-with-fan3

 

woman-with-fan4

 

woman-with-fan5

 

woman-with-fan6

Woman with Fan, 1 – 6

Blackpaint

26/2/17

 

 

 

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Blackpaint 515 – The Thicker the Better, Chaps.

October 19, 2015

Auerbach at Tate Britain

There are three fantastic modern painters of wildly different types on in London at the moment – John Hoyland at Hirst’s Newport Street Gallery, Peter Lanyon at the Courtauld and Frank Auerbach at Tate Britain.  I did Hoyland last week; now for Auerbach (the only one still living and, very much, still painting).

Below are two of my favourite paint “cakes”; the earlier paintings are REALLY thick, the paint in semi-detached curls in some cases.  The paint is built up almost into reliefs or sculptures on the canvas.  “Earls Court Road, Winter” (1953)  is brown, black, grey and almost green, a scabby mass of wrinkled oil like a chunk of mud excavated from the site and hung in the gallery.  The paint gets progressively thinner as the years pass, but it’s always oily, slippery, layered and brushed through other colours, picking them up on the way.

auerbach eow on bed

EOW Nude on Bed (1959)

auerbach eow half length

EOW Half-Length Nude (1958)

The heads and portraits are pretty much all fabulous; some of the cityscapes, parks and buildings less so.  I found myself thinking the sacrilegious thought about the picture below: “I could have done that when I was 11”; and then three or four more times, with others, “Mornington Crescent Looking South” (1996) and “The House” (2011), for instance.  The point is, I didn’t and Auerbach did, although not at 11.  Auerbach invites this sort of random, outlaw thought by stating (on the wall, at the start)  that he wants us to consider each picture as a thing in itself, not an example of how he was painting in a given decade.

auerbach vincent terrace

Interior Vincent Terrace (1982 – 4)

As always with Auerbach exhibitions, we were plagued with those who stand for minutes, an inch away from the surface, sometimes delivering lectures to their girlfriends – it’s always men, I’m sorry to say – and blocking everyone else’s access to that picture.  It’s stupid of course, because the portraits mostly resolve into quite startlingly sharp images from about 12 feet away.  Up close, they are a mass of intricate, indecipherable whorls.  Sometimes, they are better like that, though.

I’ve lots more to say on this exhibition, but I’m going for the third time tomorrow, so I’ll save it for next time.

Lanyon, the “Glider”  Paintings, Courtauld Gallery

lanyon solo flight

Solo Flight

I reckon about 20 pieces of work in this exhibition, staggeringly beautiful images; blue curtains of rain or mist, vortexes, cloud, coastline, reproduced in his gestural swipes and sweeps, scrapings, splatters, dribbles and pools – no, oceans – of deep green/blue.  He’s painting the invisible air currents a lot of the time.  There are also several of his assemblages. incorporating thick bits of broken blue glass, scrawled with black paint.

lanyon cross country

Cross Country

It was startling, then, to see two paintings,”Near Cloud” and “North East”,  both from 1964 (the year of his death, after a glider crash) which were “emptied out”, like late de Koonings.  They were flat, untextured, thinly painted, almost diagrammatic.  What happened there?

Sluice Art Fair, by the Oxo Tower

Lots of little art works, some very classy; photographic prints, collages, tiny drawings on blocks – but at gasp-inducing prices.  For example, a small square with some very attractive gestural lines and patterns sketched on it, by Kark Bielik, was priced at £800.00!  Clearly, the labour theory of value not operating in the art world at any level (obvious, I suppose).

One of those riveting and irritating films in which disparate images are flung before your eyes for less than a second before they are thrust out (images, not eyes) by another.  Your mind is always processing them in retrospect.  A lot of war images – there go some Russian attackers! Now it’s a mine going off! – in this one; I think we saw the prototype of this sort of film montage at the Biennale a couple of years ago, by Stan VanDerBeek  (Blackpaint 414).   This one’s by Laura Pawela.

Gargantua and Pantagruel and Finnegans Wake

No doubt someone has done a thesis on it, but reading these simultaneously – well, a bit of one after a bit of the other, as it were – I was struck again by the lists.  They both, Rabelais and Joyce, like a lovely long list of silly names, or disgusting objects, or what have you.  By long, I mean pages in Joyce’s case.  Sometimes funny – often irritating.

 

buff tit 2

Buff Tit,

Blackpaint

19.10.15

 

Blackpaint 514 – Hoyland’s Cakes, The Serpent’s Egg, Auerbach’s Mustard

October 12, 2015

John Hoyland at Newport Street Gallery

hoyland1

These huge, voluptuous colour field pictures, around 40 of them, are on display at Damien Hirst’s new gallery near Vauxhall.  It’s enormous; white walls of course, lovely staircases, a line of big toilets with heavy doors as if he’s expecting coachloads of pensioners.  The paintings are from Hirst’s own collection and it’s great to see them here for free.

Acrylics for the most part – there are two oils, I think.  Several maroons with orange, leaf green (ugh!), turquoise, grey-blue, reds and greys, arranged in blocks or columns; a few with scraped edges and splatters, “smoking” tops (the result of trickle- downs and reversal of the canvas).  The central section upstairs I think of as the cake room; pinks, beiges and whites, like huge cake slices smashed and splattered against the canvas.  In the last room, deep, singing blues, reds and oranges, scraped to reveal gold, like clouds of fire; colours arranged in blocks and diagonals.

For an alternative view, try Jonathan Jones online – “Why is Damien Hirst opening his new gallery with this second-rate artist?”  He makes the laughable claim that Hoyland is trying to do Rothko, or Pollock, or Barnet Newman.  Actually, the painters who came to my mind were Hans Hoffman and John Golding (a bit).  Hoyland, says Jones,  is simply “messing about with paint”.

hoyland2

The Serpent’s Egg, Bergman (1977)

Falls into that genre of films like “Cabaret” and Visconti’s “The Damned”, in which the story is set in Weimar Germany, in this case, Berlin – sleazy drinking clubs, cabarets and brothels (often combined), cross- dressing, prostitution, obscene night club turns, dwarves, smeared, garish lipstick, lost innocence, sudden shocking violence, crazed Nazi bands, wet cobblestones, sense of doom…  Bergman’s film is set earlier than the others- 1923 I think, the time of hyper-inflation- but the similarities are apparent.  It becomes suddenly Kafka-esque towards the denouement; David Carradine is chased around a mysterious underground laboratory-labyrinth and confronts a mad scientist, more Nazi than Hitler himself (who is a minor demagogue at this time, about to launch his Munich Putsch).

Unlike any other Bergman film I’ve seen; sort of a low budget feel, strangely, since it was made in Hollywood, and the sound on the DVD is terrible.  I ended up watching it with subtitles for the hard of hearing, which improved it no end.

That Obscure Object of Desire, Bunuel (1977)

The story of this great Bunuel is well-known; Fernando Rey’s pursuit of the young Spanish flamenco dancer to Seville and eventually to Paris, her continual promising and then avoiding/refusing  sex with him (in one sequence arriving naked in his bedroom – apart from an impregnable, tightly-laced corset); the gifts of money he constantly makes to her and her complicit mother, culminating in his buying her a house.  After another provocation, he attacks her; she grins up at him through her bleeding lips and says, “Now I know you really love me!”  Dodgy sexual politics, to be sure.  I had forgotten the little “surreal” bits in the film – the mousetrap that goes off during one of Rey’s intense scenes with Conchita; the sack that he lugs around inexplicably in several scenes.

Conchita, the girl, is famously played by two completely different actresses –  the elegant, glacial Carole Bouquet and the effervescent Angela Molina.  This caused me great consternation when I first saw the film.  I rationalised it along these rather obvious lines: they represent the two halves of Conchita’s character; cold and hot.  That didn’t work though.  So, they represent the two ways she responds to Rey.  But that didn’t work either, for the same reason (they both encourage and reject him, rather than “taking turns”).

Wikipedia says that Bunuel got the idea to use different women in response to difficulties he was having on set with another actress,  Maria Schneider apparently, and that it had no deeper significance than that he thought it was an amusing idea and would” work well”.

I love that phrase; I’ve heard it so many times from different artists and said it often myself, in response to those who ask “What does that represent?” or “Why did you do that there?” – the answer is invariably mundane or unhelpful; it “looked good”, or “I thought it was black and when I put it on the canvas,  it turned out to be prussian blue”.  As often, a Jonathan Jones piece is instructive; reviewing the new Auerbach at Tate Britain, Jones recycles the old “colourless 50s” cliche: “Back in the 1950s, he (Auerbach) saw very little colour in the world.  Frankenstein faces loom like monsters in his early paintings.   Gradually came the colours: blood red, mustard yellow, and eventually orange, purple, blue, the lot – a rainbow slowly spreading…”.  Auerbach himself, speaking on his son’s film about him, explains that the new colours were the result of his progressively having more money to spend on paint.

Jones’ review is otherwise not bad, apart from his habitual thumping overstatement and childish posturing – “My generation owes Auerbach an apology..”…

serpents egg of obscure desire

The Serpent’s Egg of Obscure Desire

Blackpaint

12.10.15

 

 

Blackpaint 505 – Francis, Rembr’ndt and the Chimp’nzees

August 2, 2015

Bacon and the Masters, Norwich (UEA)

Afraid this exhibition is now finished – I got to see it in its last week – so its a bit redundant now to review it.  However, I’m rather redundant myself, so here’s a few words.  First, I have to take issue with Jonathan Jones’ assessment in the Guardian; he thought the “Masters” (Matisse, Rembrandt, Velasquez, Van Gogh, Bernini et al), whose works Bacon used as  templates or providers of inspiration, actually made Bacon’s efforts look rather “silly”. His previous admiration for the British painter evaporated in the presence of the Masters.

There is no doubt that the Rembrandts are striking and the terracotta Bernini torsos staggeringly powerful, even though small; my feeling is, however, that Bacon’s work stands up well and does justice to those whose works he used – or rather, the photographs of them, since he famously avoided seeing the originals.

Take the paintings below, for instance; the powerful, sinister “Figures in a Landscape” (1956):

bacon figures in a landscape

 

or the portrait (1957) of Peter Lacey, Bacon’s sadistic “true love”, who did the painter quite serious injury in lovemaking (I don’t know if Bacon returned the compliment – I suspect not); I think the portrait suggests one of the Furies about to descend…

bacon lacey

or this great sketch or half-started work on linen from 1981, one of the three large sketches that begin the exhibition:

bacon three figures 1981

 

Here’s one of the Berninis for comparison:

bernini

The only Bacon that I felt was not up to par was a sketch of the Screaming Pope.  it suggested a Steve Bell to me…

Look closely at any Bacon and you will see how thinly and carefully he paints, with a stroke that is often very dry.  The portraits are painstaking and the famous distortion does not obscure the likeness in most cases; it’s dissection and reassembly, not butchery, not by a long way.

Afterwards, using one of the luxurious WCs in the Sainsbury building, I saw myself in the mirror which takes up the whole rear wall. Slightly crouched, toilet paper in hand, trousers around lower legs, furtive expression… a rather typical Bacon scenario, to match those in the gallery…

Watching an Arena DVD on Bacon, I was struck again by his odd pronunciation of Rembrandt – it was “Rembr’ndt”.  A while later he did it again with “chimp’nzee”.  I thought it was unique – then I watched a DVD on Auerbach and he said “Rembr’ndt” too.

John Golding, UEA

golding2

Up the stairs from the Bacon exhibition was this large show of paintings from Golding, a major British abstract artist, somewhat akin to Hoyland, I think, as a sort of counterweight to the great figurative master on the ground floor.  Here are three works, all large, from different periods.  This show may still be on – worth a trip to Norwich, if it is.

 

golding3

 

golding6

The Double Life of Veronique, Kieslowski

This film was on TV last week.  I can’t make my mind up about Kieslowski’s work – sometimes, as here, it strikes me as sentimental and soft focus, a little bit “Truly, Madly, Deeply”; she falls in love with a handsome puppeteer, for god’s sake.  Then again, he did “A Short Film about Killing”, with the long murder and the hanging scene….

Two old pictures that I have overpainted somewhat, to finish:

jungle

The Road to Mandalay

 

10th May 1941

 

10th May 1941

Blackpaint,

2.08.15

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 353 – Diana, Fidelio and the Long Shot

August 2, 2012

Titian et al at the National Gallery

The first striking thing in the exhibition is in the Callisto painting, the one on the far left as you enter.  It’s the massive right arm of the nymph in the foreground, with her back to us – the one who holds the equally large arrow.  The right arm is worthy of a shotputter and is out of proportion, but in a good, Michelangelo’s David sort of way (also substantially meaty are the arms of the goddess herself, as she fires the arrow at Actaeon in the “brown” picture).

In the centre of the Callisto painting is a glass object – an orb, globe or mirror – painted with the icy clarity of a Kalf still life.  It sets off the slightly misty “seethingness” of Titian’s surface seen close up.  In the autumnal tones of the painting depicting Actaeon’s death, the blurring is obvious, but can only be seen close up in the others.

In the painting where Actaeon surprises Diana, her small head and the odd angle at which it sits on her neck are, as always, striking; as with the arm, I point out distinctive, peculiar features which help make the pictures memorable for me.

Chris Ofili

There is a series of huge paintings which he calls the Ovid works.  Several display that Art Nouveau, Beardsley – like line he used in the paintings in his last exhibition and that dry, thin surface with the dark blue/mauve ground.  An enormous, light blue phallus in one – “Ovid; lust”, I think and a striking floor of red and white irregular “tiles” in another.

Conrad Shawcross

The Shawcross robot, smoothly running, with echoes of Epstein’s Rock Drill in its general appearance;  while I was there, its movements resembled those of a dog sniffing its crotch with the light probe.  For this reason, I took it to represent one of Actaeon’s hounds, but have since heard that it is supposed to be Diana herself.

There are also ballet costumes by several of the artists and a huge video of beautiful dancers and the directors rehearsing the ballets.  And all free.

Albert Irvin; Fidelio

At Gimpel Fils in Davies Street W1 until September.  Twenty six paintings, I think, that are great.  A couple of years ago, I saw my first Albert Irvin at the top of the stairs in the Tate Britain and it left me completely unmoved.  I thought it was boring; flat and brash, at the same time. Don’t know what happened – the “scales fell from my eyes” (where does that come from?) and now he’s my favourite living abstract painter, with Paul Feiler.

The “usual” fluorescent reds, greens, yellows, motifs that resemble flowers, crosses, pinnate leaves, stripes, squiggles, badges, circles – but amonst them, four stupendous paintings: “Rampart”, a tidal wave of wine or blood in a fluid block (?), “Brady”, yellow base with huge half-circle of green, covering left side; “Beacon”, with the grey/mauve ground and yellow-white cross hatchings like a cake – tiramisu maybe – spatched down on top; and “Trophy”, luminous green and red patches with a huge blue keyhole shape painted on it, for us to see through.

The first three are old – 76, 86 and 94 respectively – but “Trophy” is dated this year and all the rest are 2011 or 2012.  He’s 90 years old; not much development, but pretty consistent.

It strikes me that you could group him with Hoyland, Bowling, Paul Jenkins and maybe Richter (the abstracts anyway) in that they don’t use earth colours much or at all – their colours are airborne and sizzling.

More Irvin at Kings’ place until 24th August.

The Passenger, Antonioni

Watched the last, long shot through the barred window three times and couldn’t see the assassin or make out a shot.  Finally, watched it with Jack Nicholson’s commentary over the top; he points out – or at least, asks the question – “Was that a shot?”  At some point, the camera goes through the bars and turns round to follow the women and police into the dead man’s room.

Blackpaint

2/08/12

Blackpaint 326 – Proper Painting and Fucking

February 20, 2012

John Hoyland

Must have missed the death of the above in 2011; one of the most colourful British abstractionists with those fluorescent colours – only Albert Irvin is as bright that I can think of.  I’ve a book of his paintings and prints on cotton duck; they’re blinding, especially the greens and blues.

Lucian Freud

BBC prog on him mentioned two incidents that I find interesting in terms of the sort of bloke he was;  he made his wife, Kitty Garman (Epstein’s daughter) sit facing the wall while he worked; and he ran up £2.6 million debts with the bookies.

William Feaver, one of the pundits on view, kept referring to” proper painting”, meaning figurative painting that attempts to render reality more intensely, and painting “that is any good” being perpetually in a state of transition…  I love that art critic thing of making definitive assertions  that are really contentious. but that sound obvious because of the arrogant certainty with which they are delivered.

Another example – John Richardson, another pundit, used the word “fucking” several times (in its verb function) in that clipped, upper-class, English accent, asserting that, to Freud, painting and “fucking” were somehow the same, Freud approached both activities in the same way – interesting, since he often painted his numerous daughters at all ages, as well as the queen.

The great paintings made an appearance – the Auerbach head, the naked woman with her arm arching over the mass of bed linen, the Leigh Bowery’s, the Big Sue’s, Harry Diamond in the sweater, the Irishmen, the big man’s head, the back garden, the sinks with running taps, the fantastic self portraits…

There was a fascinating bit of film in which Freud demonstrated that insane stare, where he suddenly widened his eyes like an owl – perhaps explaining why he frequently got into fights on his night expeditions.

Picasso and Modern British Art

At the Tate Britain.  Loads of Picassos, crying woman, triangular jug and candle, women of Algiers, Meninas – a few early ones that are Impressionist in style – a race meeting,  flowers – that you would never guess were Picassos.

A couple of real clinkers, in my view – a woman with arms above her head that looked like a parody; her body exploded into large parts and stuck back together at random, but each fragment carefully and sculpturally painted.  Also, a “homely” woman with her features and spectacles distributed randomly, for no reason I could discern – when I saw a photo of this painting in a newspaper, I assumed it was an awkward imitation by an English admirer.

General impression of the Picassos – unbelievable creative energy and inventiveness, constant innovation, no interest in surface texture (when did that start. I wonder?  Fautrier, de Stael, Burri, Tapies, Dubuffet..? thesis there for someone, no doubt already written).

As to the Brits –

The Duncan Grants are decorative and colourful, much better than you’d think from the crits; Wyndham Lewis shows only the most general signs of influence  – I love those grotesque faces and the long, cut-out woman; Henry Moore, yes, definitely copied The Source for Reclining Figure, but in a different medium, so that’s alright somehow; Sutherland didn’t seem to me overly imitative; Ben Nicholson, yes, definitely!  One Nicholson, dark grey with white sratched lines, contained that profile  that Picasso hid in the Three Dancers.  It looked like a Picasso drawing before he opened his paintbox and coloured in.  Bacon; the crucifixion shapes again recalled to me the Three Dancers, and I suppose those bulbous shapes at the Base of the Crucifixion resemble, as Laura Cumming points out, the Dinard Picassos – but not overmuch imitation.  One of the Bacons reminded me strongly of a Tunnard, though.  As for Hockney, his paintings were more of a tribute to P. than imitation or influence – presumably he was included to bring the thing up to date and to chime with his exhibition at the RA, maybe.

Migrations, Tate Britain

Returned to this for a bit of peace after the crowd at the Picasso.  Forgot to mention Gustav Metzger’s little film before – set on the South Bank, Metzger destroys, with acid, a canvas or linen work – actually, not sure if it was painted-  opposite St. Paul’s, which appears regally through the rent.  The growing holes in the linen resemble, first, Fontana slashes, then feathery plumes and laddering that brought Kirchner’s insect women to mind,  then, those amoebic psychedelic light shows at Pink Floyd gigs at the Roundhouse and Middle Earth (reference for the elderly).

Then, the Tissots – I think the Norman Rockwell of his day – those lovely Victorian girls, lounging against the ship rail; you can hear them in your mind… “Yeah, it was really, really nice?  And then we, like, went on to Boujie’s, and it was totally, like, packed out?”

The Mondrian in the show  is not square – the left-hand side is roughly cut and slants slightly to the left in the frame.  How did he let that happen?  I thought he was a Poirot when it came to symmetry.

John Cassavetes

The recent death of Ben Gazzara and the photos of him with Peter Falk and JC reminded me of Johnny Staccato, the New York jazz pianist/private detective played by Cassavetes in the 50’s – and in particular, its great theme music, composed and played by Elmer Bernstein; Staccato’s Theme, backed with the Jazz at Waldo’s,  one of the first 45’s I owned.  Still got it, still play it.

Trying to do some more conventional stuff, and not pulling it off – but trying.

Blackpaint

20/02/12

Blackpaint 267

April 15, 2011

Hans Hofmann

Yes, one “f”, two “ns” – I think I’ve been mis-spelling it for a year or so; maybe not.  Anyway, I’ve bought a stunning book about works he did in 1950, a pivotal year for him.  He wrote an essay or article entitled “When I start to paint..”, which is worth quoting from, I think:

  • When I start to paint, I want to forget all I know about painting.
  • What I would hate most is to repeat myself…
  • As a painter, I deny any rule, any method and any theory.

Because Hofmann is famous for his influence as a (highly theoretical) teacher and the development of his famous “push-pull” praxis, these are perhaps surprising statements – but they are not contradictory, since he also says “(While painting) I take for granted that my knowledge has become second nature”.  The paintings are great, swirling patterns of bright colour, in combinations you would think would hurt your eyes, yet highly structured and textured; the text describes their surfaces as open and breathing.  They are like the paintings of Appel and Jorn in this respect.

The real beauty, however, is in the close-up detail extracts.  It’s only £23.00 odd; “Hans Hofmann, circa 1950”, the Rose Art Museum 2009.  I’ve not seen it anywhere  but Waterstones in Piccadilly; only one copy there, I think – and I’ve got it.

Cork Street Galleries

Some terrific stuff in these posh galleries at the moment; Green Park tube, walk through Burlington Arcade past the Royal Academy and there you are.  Hofmann’s comment about not repeating himself very apposite in several cases, however.

John Hoyland

Acrylic on cotton duck, mostly big, square-ish works, 50*50 ins maybe?  Almost fluorescent colours; turquoise, raspberry, acid yellows, purple – and some with thick, glabrous centres of black and brown, like sawn-off tree trunks coated with lumpy creosote; circular splotches of dazzling white, pink, red with coronas of tiny splatter marks.  On some, little flattened discs of multi-coloured acrylic, like trodden-in plasticene.  Electric colours, spacey titles.  Individually, striking and exciting – collectively, the impact drains away.  You need to hang a Hoyland between a muddy Auerbach and a Lanyon, say.

Harold Cohen at Bernard Jacobson Gallery

Again, the vivid acid colours;  patches, snakes, rivers, bent elbows of paint, dashing about all over the canvas.  And again, the cumulative effect of twenty or so is less than that of one big one, seen from the street.  Cohen invented the AARON computer painting program, but these are a sort of collaboration between the computer, which does the basic pattern with inkjet, and the painter, who finishes the work by hand.  For some reason, that seems better to me.

Picasso at Alan Cristea Gallery

Black, grey and white “Portrait Lithographs”.  Fantastic, of course, but with the exception of three done in a rougher, more textured style, very similar variations on a theme.  Less is more, then, is today’s thought.

The Seventh Seal

Watching this the other night, I was struck by how Japanese it looked (and sounded);  the landscape, the riders, the tumblers, the wagons, the bits of music, the mediaeval setting – could have been Kurosawa.  Then again, he was reckoned to have very Western sensibilities, I think.  They were working about the same time.

Ai Weiwei

Has he been released yet?  It seems incredible that they can just drag him off somewhere and lock him up for “economic crimes” – medieval really.  He must be one of the world’s best-known artists.  Maybe if the Chinese government read this, they’ll realise their error and release him.

Blackpaint

15.04.11

PS – Saturday.  Last night, visited the Miro exhibition at Tate Modern, of which more in next blog.  Ai Weiwei’s sunflower seeds still on display, but not a word about his arrest – no petition, posters, nothing.  Shameful, I think; is the management afraid of offending Chinese visitors?