Posts Tagged ‘John Tunnard’

Blackpaint 387 – The Theory of Validating Crapness

March 28, 2013

Jeremy Gardiner at Kings Place

This was one of those few exhibitions where you are actually excited to see the first few pictures from the floor below – or was it above?  I can never remember with Kings Place and its multi-levels – and you want to hurry to see the rest.  My first thought was how much they look like Schwitters collages from a bit of a distance; then I saw one, framed by the doorway to the large room, which had an obvious affinity to Peter Lanyon – swirls, greys, cold, clean blue – then, inside the room, four or five larger pictures that were stylised views over a bay and clearly recalled Ben Nicholson.

Many of the paintings are acrylic on birchwood, built up with plaques of jesmonite, giving a sort of rough marquetry effect.  They appear to be abstract at first, suggesting coastline, cloud, aerial landscape, rock; then you notice that they contain actual features of landscape, although not necessarily “correctly” placed – another resemblance to Lanyon, many of whose works are not really abstract at all.  The colours certainly resemble Lanyon, and John Tunnard as well.  The only reference which I didn’t get was to Diebenkorn – maybe in the aerial landscape thing, but not in appearance.

In addition to the paintings – one of which contains a moulding of an ammonite, maybe there are more – there are the monoprints.  These are mostly long, textured banners of heavy duty watercolour paper, printed with pictures of fossils, microscopic organisms, tracts of what look like contour lines of coast and hill… for some reason, they reminded me (incongruously) of prints by Sigmar Polke.

We stuck around for the tour and talk; Gardiner gave us a softly-spoken geology lesson and a” journey through geological time and space” from the Jurassic Coast of Devon to tin mines in Cornwall (the Levant Mine of Lanyon’s famous picture) and the coast of Brazil.  Proust got a mention; the white-haired audience of retired teachers nodded and smiled.  Then, we also retired, to egg, sausage and chips in the Turkish cafe up the road, in the company of mud-spattered building workers in high-vis jackets, from the huge site opposite.

Blackpaint’s Theory of Validating Crapness

Over the last three years of blogging, I have developed and promoted a number of original theories and observations:  they include “Michelangelo Didn’t do Trees”;  Blackpaint’s Theory of Spurious Plausibility; Shakespeare was Michelangelo Re-incarnated; and “The Taylor-Vincent Ad: Mistakes take on a Life of Their Own”.  Here is a new one, born when I rang my partner, urging her to look up Gardiner on Google and see the brilliant paintings.

She was less than overwhelmed – partly because I was so enthusiastic, but also because (she felt) they were too attractive, too formulaic, too saleable… briefly, not crap enough.  To be sure, Gardiner’s online images are disappointing, compared to the real thing; I still think he’s great; but the “not crap enough” idea inspired me to formulate the above.

The “Validating Crapness” is that element which prevents the picture being too perfect, too trite.  It may, for instance, be smudges, dribbles, finger marks, a scratch, an incongruous patch of colour (NOT the old Turner red spot, like the one on the picture in the doorway mentioned above); it may be a wobbly line, or anything that undermines perfection.  I realise this is very close to the old “beauty must have a flaw” thing- I’m going further.  My theory demands a real element of crap, a small pustule rather than a dimple.  In future blogs, I shall be identifying the VC in famous paintings, both modern works and Old Masters; watch this space.

Lightfields and The Sopranos

The first of these two programmes, a ghost story in which the action takes place at three different times in turns (1940s, 1975, present day) was on ITV1 and was a serial over five(?) weekly episodes; the acting was mostly good, the story was mildly absorbing – but then, as it finished, I realised I’d been watching children’s telly – anodyne, pretty, cliched, ridiculous.  Midwives, Downton, Selfridge, Mayday (apart from Leslie Manville, of course) – where’s all the offensive stuff gone from the mainstream channels?,

Then, the Sopranos, the one with Tony’s food poisoning, the talking fish, the fur coat and Big Pussy’s murder on the boat – funny, violent, sexy,  tragic, with an ironic distance maintained throughout – although that’s probably a contradiction.

Tate at Yourpaintings

Latest recommendations from above:

Ben Nicholson, “June 1937” (1937);

Keith Vaughan, “Leaping Figure” (1951);

Franz Kline, “Meryon”, (1960-61); my erstwhile favourite painting, I used to call it the Bridge;

franz kline

And Jankel Adler, “No Man’s Land”, 1943.

And here’s my one, called “Carbonara”.  Certainly one or two VC elements on show;

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Blackpaint

28.03.13

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Blackpaint 185

September 2, 2010

Tate St.Ives

Just returned from Cornwall after two visits to the above in two days – to see the same shows, in case I missed anything.  Such is my level of dedication.

Lily van der Stokker – “No Big Deal Thing”

Pastel colours, child-like, or more accurately, 70’s hippy- type, childish drawings, brightly coloured sofas, ordinary, everyday things, celebrating the normal.  Some huge murals, many drawings on A4 paper.  I heard a gallery guide explaining why this was a feminist approach (ordinary women’s world, child- friendly, claiming and celebrating the territory, etc.)  The booklet says she “challenges and engages with the legacies of Feminism, exploring ideas often thought of as forbidden to contemporary art – the decorative, the sentimental and the “nice”” .  I failed to detect any note of irony in the work, so why the inverted commas for “nice”?  I was reminded of Post it notes on fridges, children’s crayon drawings, people who dot “i’s” with smiley faces.

I wondered what, say, Joan Mitchell or Marlene Dumas would have made of it.  She has a point really – art can’t all be about dramatic stuff like sex, death, despair, the sublime and so on; that’s mostly for the boys  – it should also be about a nice ice cream, or a trip to the petting farm with your daughters.

Object: Gesture: Grid – St.Ives and the International Avant – garde 

This is the other exhibition on at the moment and there is some great stuff in it.  A ludicrous understatement really; must be about 50 million quids-worth if it ever came on the market.

There are three rooms, the first of which is “Object” – works influenced by Cubism and Surrealism.  There’s a Braque, a Picasso, Giacometti, Hepworth and Ernst – but I have to say, although I registered the presence of these, I have no memory of them except the Ernst, which had one of those corrugated, brown, hairy surface areas like a doormat, that he does.

Tunnard

The painting that strikes you first – I watched other punters, most went straight over to it – was by John Tunnard, called “Tol Pedn”.  this is a place name, so I suppose it makes this work something like a Lanyon, in that it may be an exploded landscape.  it looks nothing like a Lanyon, however; more like a Paul Nash surreal effort.  It has sharply defined, red/pink arch things, grey areas, carefully drawn lines – striking.

Mellis

The Margaret Mellis is a blue wooden disc on drift- and scrapwood backing, like a flattened toy handcart; a beachcomber’s “glut”.

William Scott

The Scott is an unadorned and only slightly simpified mackerel, arching across a dish against a black background.  Unusually naturalistic for Scott, must be early. 

Paolozzi

Lovely, iron oblong ring sculpture, upper “arm” garlanded with odd objects, VERY much like a David Smith.

Elizabeth Frink

With the Tunnard, the most memorable thing in this room; I think its called “Harbinger Bird”.  About 2 ft tall, leaning forward on long legs, an indistinct but sinister sort of head.. I think I’ve seen it on a Penguin book, maybe Ted Hughes?

Alfred Wallis

A fine little ship on a creamy sea, otherwise all greys and greens; I liked this much more than I expected, it was very clear, correct and strong.

That’s the first room; “Gesture” tomorrow – don’t miss it, as it includes Pollock, Hoffman, Appel, Rothko…..

10th May 1941 (WIP)

Blackpaint