Posts Tagged ‘John Martin’

Blackpaint 304

November 10, 2011

A Canterbury Tale

The opening scenes of this strange Powell and Pressburger film are justly famous; Chaucer’s band of pilgrims ride towards the town (Pardoner, for example, clearly recognisable); the knight flies his falcon, which soars and becomes a Spitfire.  Cut back to knight – same face, but now topped by a 1940’s soldier’s helmet.  Fantastic, poignant – but I couldn’t help thinking that Eisenstein, or his editor, would have done it better.  There is a jump between the bird and the plane, not a smooth transformation.  Maybe I’m wrong; no expert.

It seems to me to be a strange, foreigner’s vision of rural England.  Dennis Price is an unlikely sergeant, with the accent of a toff – his cold eyes and brusque manner seem more appropriate to the serial killer he played in “Kind Hearts and Coronets” than the would-be church organist he plays here.

Then there is the absolute weirdness of the “glue man” story; a local (toff) magistrate, disguised as a soldier,  attacks young girls at night and pours glue in their hair.  Why?  To dissuade them from going with soldiers encamped nearby, who might be distracted from attending the magistrate’s local history lectures and learning about the Pilgrims’ Way.  I think I’ve got that right.

Nevertheless, it has a magic about it and some wonderful scenes of rural Kent in the 40’s – and there are the accents too.

John Martin “Apocalypse”

At the Tate Britain.  A whole Martin exhibition is interesting, but he suffers from the repetition of Apocalyptic and biblical scenes – I liked his paintings much better when there were just a couple of them in the old “Nutter’s Gallery” as we called it, decades ago, in cruder, crueller times.  Martin needs some Dadds and others to vary it a bit.  The searing, shiny pink deserves a special mention, as do the glaring reds and yellows.  His angels, I think are rather Turnerish and I see he uses scraping on rocks and mountains, as Turner did sometimes.  One or two pictures had that bejewelled quality that Gustave Moreau’s paintings have. 

 His version of Milton’s Pandaemonium looks just like the Houses of Parliament; the wall notes, indeed, say he was influenced by the plans for the same.  When all is said, though, he does a great lightning bolt and Earth turning upside-down.

Barry Flanagan

Also at the TB.  Later work is the sinister giant bronze hares, but I preferred (predictably) the earlier stuff – thick coils of yellow rope snaking across the floor, sacking, hessian (hanging and folded) or stuffed tightly with sand to make shrivelled vegetable shapes, or those odd, upright, cut-off tubes of sacking that look like shapes from a David Shrigley cartoon.  Wigwam shapes made from thick cut branches, bark still on – bit of a Beuys vibe, I might say, if I were not afraid of appearing pretentious.  And a few beautiful drawings, one of a figure lying prostrate, which look as if they were executed in a single, perfect stroke (OK, he probably had a few tries, picked the best and chucked the others away); impressive, anyway.

Biennale

Nick Relph – video with blue and yellow filters, hand drawn, over film – appeared to be about GIs in Korea or WW2, phasing into another one about the production of textiles.  Colours punchy and saturated, like Rist.

RH Quaytman – beautiful, black and white photographic print of sun on the surface of a lake, then zoomed in and enlarged in next one.  A sort of fractured, distressed quality to them, reminscent of Richter’s white pictures, I think.

Blackpaint (Chris Lessware)

10.11.11

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Blackpaint 296

September 28, 2011

Gerhard Richter

Tate Modern exhibition of above starting in October and an article by Tony McCarthy in Guardian Review on Saturday.  He identifies the “blur”in his pictures as a characteristic – but of course, Richter’s work is so diverse – some figurative, some abstract – that it’s impossible to say he just does this or does that; he does nearly all of it!

One thing that is annoying in the article – McCarthy suggests that “September”, series no.911 was regarded by Richter as an abstract image, until a friend pointed out that it was the planes hitting the World Trade Center.  Once it is said, the towers and the planes are apparent (the image is included in the article) – but it’s a stretch to believe that the artist could have done it unconsciously and just not noticed.  It suggests that abstract works – or Richter’s abstracts, anyway –  should be treated as “Where’s Wally” exercises; look for the hidden picture.

The huge Richters in the Tate Modern, for example; light filtered through the foliage onto the surface of water, down in the bayou, maybe?  Or the one called “791-4 Abstract Painting” in the Phaidon 20th Century Art Book (actually, that one looks pretty much like the Tate ones, acid colours and scrapes).

John Martin

The other Tate has the Martin exhiition on now – I intend to go tomorrow.  His huge Apocalyptic canvases were displayed as events, people paying an entrance fee and then filing past in awe – which of course, describes a modern exhibition; well, maybe not the awe..  But there was something different about these Victorian shows, in that people paid to see a phenomenon, a spectacle, rather than a work of art.  Parallels were perhaps the paintings of Frederic Church, the American landscape artist, whose blinding sunsets were in the American Sublime exhibition a few years ago – or Cruickshank’s Temperance work, which he toured in a crusade against the demon drink.

Modern parallels?  I was thinking maybe Hockney’s recent giant treescapes, Anish Kapoor’s wax cannon and Marsyas, and the Eliasson Weather installation in the Tate Turbine Hall.

Women in Love

Re-acquainted myself with Ken Russell’s version the other day and I was amazed at the restraint of the film, compared to “The Devils” or the Tchaikovsky one.  I’d forgotten how powerful Glenda Jackson and Oliver Reed were together, and the brilliant set pieces – the Eleanor Bron dance, Alan Bates running down to the river bleeding, Glenda Jackson frightening the Scottish Longhorns, and of course, Bates and Reed wrestling starkers in front of the blazing hearth; watch out for sparks, you two.

Gerald Crich freezing to death in the snow was echoed in “The Shining” by Jack Nicholson (or rather, King and Kubrick).  Watched this again on TV a week ago and really noticed how outlandish Nicholson’s changes of expression are in the scene where Delbert Grady (Philip Stone) cleans his jacket and gives him – advice – in the toilet.  I think it is the intensity of Grady’s manner contrastng with Torrance’s naughty boy demeanour…

Blackpaint

28.09.11

Blackpaint 259

March 13, 2011

Steve Bell

I can’t help but notice the likeness of Bell’s William Hague to the Martians in the Classics Illustrated version of “War of the Worlds”.  The Martians in Wells’ story were eventually killed off by bacteria…

Turner

I know this is trivial, but I’m constantly amazed at what I miss in his paintings.  For instance, “The Deluge” and “After the Deluge”; at first – and second – glance, I would have said there was nothing in the first painting but rain, sun (or moon) as a central light source, rough, indistinct land and water.  I missed the Ark in the distance, the procession of animals winding towards it, the wrecked house or tent in the foreground and the prone human figure(s)!  In the second, I saw the central figure and the snake, of course – but not the skeletons of fish littering the right foreground, nor even, at first, the scores of heads, like an audience at a public reading (which, I suppose, is what they are).  And I always have difficulty finding the hare in “Rain, Steam and Speed”.

Salo

The horrible cruelty in this film makes it difficult to watch, but I was interested to hear, in the accompanying documentary by Mark Kermode, that Pasolini regarded it as a critique of modern capitalism and mass consumerism, despite the fact that it is set in Fascist Italy, and the torturers are fascist officials.  It is suggested that the constant eating of faeces is supposed to represent mass consumption of processed and fast food.  The sado-masochistic sex Pasolini regarded as representing the commodification of the body (and everything else) in capitalist society. Three historic periods in one then; de Sade’s original, Fascist Italy and modern – or 70’s – Italy.

I’m sure that Pasolini would have thought his film irrelevant now, though, given the improvements in public life that have taken place during the Berlusconi era.

John Martin

Nice to see this painter getting an exhibition to himself.  I remember that The Tate, back in the days when there was only one Tate, had a room of Martins, and Dadds and I think Fuselis, especially that one of the Dream with the moths; we used to call it the Nutter’s Room in those less enlightened times – affectionately, of course.  There was that huge black gorge on the rear wall – “Gordale Scar” by James Ward.  Now, I realise that with the exception, perhaps, of Richard Dadd, who murdered his father, they were all fairly normal for Victorian Britain.

Blackpaint

Saturday Night