Posts Tagged ‘Kafka’

Blackpaint 572 – Kentridge and Kafka, Kooning and Kline

October 17, 2016

William Kentridge, the Whitechapel Gallery

Four or was it five, distinct rooms, each with films showing, one at least with other things to look at:

  • Wooden machine, like a loom maybe, or to me, reminiscent of the execution machine in Kafka’s “In the Penal Colony” – the one on which the prisoner lies on his back and needles write the nature of his crime on his body, deeper and deeper until he is pierced through.  B&W films showing dancer in whirling white robes, doing a sort of dervish dance.
  • Flickbooks – great flick portraits of Kentridge pacing, stroking his chin, looking thoughtfully down at the floor, on book pages, I think.

kentridge-1

  • DaDa film – colour film starting with sliding panels rather like Schwitters collages – a bit – then actors in costume, one in those boxy cardboard assemblages that Oscar Schlemmer made for Bauhaus productions.  Can’t remember what they are doing – something DaDa probably.
  • A surround room of moving images, more WK selfies, moving ink sketches of repeated images, a coffeepot, a typewriter…

kentridge-2

Sounds underwhelming, I know, but definitely worth seeing, if only for the flickbooks.

 

Abstract Expressionism at the RA (again)

Straight to the de Koonings, which are really stupendous, and went all over the red 1955 “Composition” with my eye, bit by bit, instead of just standing in front and absorbing the whole thing in one go, as I usually do; I love the dirty bits, the chunky, scabby black and white squirls, the jagged patch of turquoise – just fantastic.  The catalogue, though generally good, gives you no real idea of the clarity and impact.

dk-at-ra

“Whose Name was Writ on Water” again – the spatters indicating how DK turned the canvas during painting.  The dullness of the dirty crimson against the washed-out blue – I used to think it was “Ok, but..” – not now, it’s great.

The red one next to “Water” – the paint screams at you,  At the top it looks to be still wet; in fact, there is a big chunk of what looks like wet marmalade, right up the top.

Mitchell’s “Salut Tom” – the brushwork on it is great, an indescribable quality to it – of course, or there would be no point in painting it…

There are two lovely Gorkys, the grey-green and white ones, painted in the same year – it looks as if they were done with the same paint.  Similarly with two of the smaller Pollocks, painted in 1945.

I was a little less impressed with Pollock’s “Mural” this time – the colours under the green were crude, fairground colours; not sure if this is a good or bad thing.  For contrast, look at Mitchell; the colours are cold, pure, clear, deep.

Clyfford Still – several of the paintings have a Barnett-like line down them.

Klines – swimming pool ladders, bridges, scaffolding, in stark, rough black and white – one swirling black foggy one, different to the others, rather like a Lanyon in black.

kline-at-ra

Arabian Nights, Pasolini, 1974

paso1

The last of P’s trilogy of films based on ancient tales (Canterbury Tales and the Decameron are the other two); as with the others, it has a patchy, disjointed feel here and there, awkward segues, loads of explicit, .but very static sex by today’s standards – then, you realise how memorable the combination of music and scenarios is and how Pasolini’s images stay with you.  In this one there is a surprise live dismemberment.

Brexit

In these tempestuous and exciting times, two contrasting songs to suit the more radical of the pro- and anti- factions; they are:

“Hawkwood’s Army” by Fairport Convention

“Peppers and Tomatoes” by Ralph McTell

cobalt-window-2

Cobalt Window

Blackpaint

17.10.16

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Blackpaint 453 – Making Colour, Orwell and Kafka, Rolf Harris

July 4, 2014

Making Colour, National Gallery

Exhibition of works taken from the permanent collection – nothing new here – illustrating various points about, unsurprisingly, the history of colour use in art.  The technicalities are interesting and some good pictures (see below):

 

caracci

 

Caracci – similar colours in the Veronese exhibition recently.  Love the gesture: “Yeah, straight on down and take a left – can’t miss it.”

stamina

 

Stamina – St. Margaret’ s execution.  It’s the executioner’s purple robe that is the focus for this painting.

Masaccio_StGeromeAndStJohnTheBaptist

 

Masaccio – Sts. Jerome and John.  The colours, the facial expressions and the little lion.

Thomas_Gainsborough_015

 

Gainsborough – Mrs.Siddons.  I think there’s another Mrs Siddons by G in Dulwich Picture Gallery; looks like the same dress.

 

 George Orwell – Taylor’s biography

The Bernard Crick bio is still the one of choice for me, but Taylor’s has the odd illuminating detail missing from Crick.  For example, late in his life when a collected works was being contemplated, Orwell had no personal copies of Burmese Days or Clergyman’s Daughter – he had to do a JR Hartley to get copies.  Can you imagine a modern author without at least one copy of every single edition of his/her work?  Neither can I.

Finished Nineteen Eighty – Four again; I’d forgotten what a gruelling experience the last section was.  Apparently, some prospective reviewers were unable to sleep after reading it.  I wouldn’t go that far, but its certainly depressing.  Taylor discusses the similarities to Murray Constantine’s  “Swastika Night”, and, rightly in my view, dismisses the on-line view that Orwell nicked the plot.

A faint echo that sounded for me was the story “In the Penal Colony” by Kafka.  It will be remembered that an officer of the colony has inherited from his governor an execution machine that kills by repeatedly penetrating, ever deeper, the flesh with needles that write out the “crime” on the body until the condemned is dead.  The point (excuse pun) is that the prisoner comes to some higher understanding of the nature of his crime as he dies.

This is akin to the need of Ingsoc to go beyond just killing malcontents like Winston; first, they must be remade, by torture and brainwashing,  to see their previous ideas as errors and to love “Big Brother”.  this is a real need; to simply dispose of opposition by murder is not sufficient.  It undermines the whole point of totalitarian society to tolerate the existence of opposition, even passive dissent, even in the past.  Dissent must be changed to acceptance and the past must be restructured.

The officer of Kafka’s penal colony himself submits to the machine, because the new governor is against him and  the unnamed observer fails to see a reason for the machine and disapproves on humanitarian grounds.  In this absolutism, the officer resembles the Party in Orwell’s novel.

Jonathan Jones on Rolf Harris

In today’s Guardian, Jones (an art critic) recounts an anecdote in which he” saw Harris’ s dark side years ago” .  At the unveiling in 2005 of Harris’s portrait of the queen, Jones asked him if he seriously believed that “his portrait was a good work of art”.  This brought out the Dark Side, apparently; “anger suddenly crossed his previously beaming face”.  Well, what did Jones expect?  In my experience, creative people are narcissistic through and through and anything less than 100% adulation is unbearable – unless they’re going for shock effect, of course.  If you publicly insult someone in front of the assembled media, I would have thought it quite likely you’ll see an angry expression pass over their features.

He goes on to draw a parallel between Harris’s “determinedly inoffensive daubs” and the “banality of evil”, famously, Hannah Arendt’s phrase describing the Nazis.  “The middlebrow is inherently corrupt”, perhaps, says Jones; “Chocolate box art is a lie”.

What complete nonsense this is.  I would guess that there are some, maybe even many, conventional, inoffensive, “chocolate box” painters who don’t have Harris’s predatory sexual habits.  Some of them might even be decent citizens.  Same goes for the fans and punters – too stupid to recognise the banality of evil, maybe, but not necessarily perverts.

 

 

 

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Blackpaint – St. Clement’s

7.04.14