Posts Tagged ‘Kandinsky’

Blackpaint 343 – Hansel and Gretel, Staring Eyes and Jones v.Hirst

May 24, 2012

Bauhaus at the Barbican

Bauhaus to me means those Modernist white buildings with big windows and outside staircases, distinctive lettering, smoking artists with staring eyes, wearing overalls they have designed themselves…  This exhibition shows the early Arts and Crafts nature of the movement, buildings designed in wood by Walter Gropius having that Hansel and Gretel quality, or maybe Goering’s Karin hunting lodge.  Some of the early woodcuts on display, by Feininger, Itten and Gerhard Marcks, the latter two new names to me, very German Expressionist.  So that was unexpected. 

 Then there were the dolls, or puppets:  again, some of these were slightly sinister – one called the Executioner, another with a head consisting of an electrical circuit, and, the most memorable one of Paul Klee, with the staring eyes and a laboratory coat.

A set of small, colourful Kandinsky abstracts, entitled “Small Worlds”, consisting of shapes and symbols apparently flying apart, suggesting notes of music to me; of course, Kandinsky believed in synaesthesia, the perception and representation of sound, particularly music, in visual image.  Wasn’t that in Fantasia?

The Oskar Schlemmer figures, slim, androgynous, anonymous, very prevalent – and Schlemmer’s pneumatic costumes from “The Triadic Ballet”.  Furniture, Breuer chairs, nests of pastel coloured tables; teapots, tea sets and “liqueur flasks”, made from nickel silver? looking strangely fragile, awkward and impractical – the handles look difficult to hold and as if they might burn your fingers.  Probably very simple and utilitarian in the context of the times, though.

Trouble with the Bauhaus stuff is that it’s had a fair amount of exposure over the years – I remember a really big Bauhaus exhibition at the V&A, I think, a few years back, so seen all this before.  Good, though.

Damien Hirst at White Cube

An interestingly vitriolic review of these paintings by Jonathan Jones in the Guardian, entitled “A message to Damien Hirst: stop now, you have become a disgrace to your generation”.  He says that the paintings fail “to come close…to basic competence”,  that they “lack the skill of thousands of amateur artists who paint at weekends all over Britain”.  He can’t, says Jones, manage to paint an orange accurately; the “poor sphere seems to float in mid-air because of the clumsy circle of shadow below it”.

I won’t quote more from the review as it can be read online, no doubt, but the tone interested me; Jones wrote a similarly savage review of an exhibition by Mark Leckey a while back; like Hirst, once praised and admired by Jones (see Blackpaint 276).

Some of the paintings are reproduced in the Guardian; they don’t look that bad to me, I have to say; the orange looks like an orange and doesn’t seem to me to be at any worse odds with the tabletop than some of the fruit in Cezanne or Bonnard paintings (Hirst seems to be playing about with the picture plane by using a grid of dots in “front” of the table).  OK, they wouldn’t merit an exhibition if they weren’t by Hirst – but not that bad, on this showing.  Have to go and see it now, to see if it really warrants the Jones blitzing. 

Bram Bogart

Obit. in Guardian.  See the book “Intensely Dutch”; he uses paint applied inches deep, even thicker than Appel, great slabs and billows of single colour, white, yellow, red.

And an old one of mine to end with, just gone to a new home;

Brother Angels

Blackpaint

24/05/12

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Blackpaint 238

January 4, 2011

1st blog of the year – but not necessarily the best, which is yet to come.

Posters

Looking at that Durer rhino in the British Museum the other day, I was reminded of the posters that used to cover the stains and graffitti on the walls of my room at university some years ago.  Decades, actually; several, in fact.  I can see them now, in my mind, through a cloud of swirling cigarette smoke, stuck crookedly to the internal breeze block walls of Suffolk Terrace; Cinnamon Girl pounding out and drowning the howling of the wind blowing from the Urals across the plains of Earlham Village.

Sorry about the digression.  Anyway, there was the rhino and another Durer – the Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse – in gold lines on black paper.  Later, when I moved in with my partner in the Fine City, there were new ones on the wall – a Hobbema treescape of somewhere in the Netherlands that looked more like Indonesian jungle, and Kandinsky’s “Cossacks”.  For months, I thought it was completely abstract, vivid squiggles of colour on an off-white ground – until one day, it was pointed out to me that the upright lines on the right were the Cossacks’ lances and the red squares were their furry hats.  This sort of reassured me and I began to like it, but it was many years before I was completely happy liking pictures that didn’t correspond to something in the “real world”.

The difference was that my Durers came from the poster shop in town, whilst my partner’s Kandinsky was from some gallery in London, probably the Tate.  Abstract didn’t sell well to students, but the Apocalypse – mounted dead men after all – were just like the Nazgul in Lord of the Rings.

Uffizi

My eldest son gave me a catalogue of the above for Christmas – when we went in 2002, the queue was too long.  I was looking at the Piero di Cosimo, “The Liberation of Andromeda”.  Weird monster, with its straight tusks – but then, the whole picture is weird.  There are, to quote the guide, “nordic woods and straw huts on the unlikely looking hilltops in the background.  The musical instruments are equally unlikely…they are all missing a soundbox or strings”.  This is also weird, since the strings are clearly visible – the writer is correct about the soundboxes however and the lute – like thing on the right seems to have a serpent’s head attached to a bagpipe chanter or a flute of some kind.   Didn’t I read somewhere that there is someone who specialises in building strange instruments depicted in paintings?  He’d have fun with this one.

Lorenzo Monaco

In the same book, Monaco’s altarpiece, “Coronation of the Virgin”, 1413.  On the left hand panel (looking at it, that is) a group of saints and martyrs with highly suspicious and disgruntled expressions.  some can be identified by their attributes; there is the Baptist with his staff ending in a cross, Stephen with two rocks on his head, Peter with his big key and one with a club – or is it a bundle of sticks?  If a club, I think it’s St. James the Less, who was beaten to death with a hatter’s club.  But who is that with the sword?  Someone who was beheaded, I suppose.

More on Uffizi, and on Cezanne and others in next blog.  Meanwhile, good to see Wolfie Adams through but a pity that he had to knock John Boy Walton out – what a game of darts though.

Blackpaint

Midnight

03.01.11

Blackpaint 77

February 25, 2010

Courtauld Gallery

As promised yesterday, breakdown of the stuff in this brilliant gallery at the entrance to Somerset House on the Strand.

After Michelangelo, there was a room of Kandinskys, ranging from a “fluffy edged” one to sharp, geometric shapes.

Fauves – Derain, Dufy, Vlaminck, a  nude wife from Van Dongen, some boring Matisses.  A lovely, Matisse-like Ivon Hitchens in an uncharacteristic, square-ish shape.  Sketches from Seurat and Sisley, lots of white sky and blossom, I think.  Miniature figures on the sands from Boudin.

Cezanne – a few trees, a wooded lake (check the reflections – do they really go like that?), a St.Victoire, men in bar.

A couple of Gauguins, one of fields, a garish green – good from a distance.

Manet’s “Bar at the Folies Bergeres”, the one where the girl’s reflection is out of line and the bottles of Bass are on the bar (or is it Worthington?).  Also, a “Dejeuner sur L’herbe” – there must be several, I would think.

There’s a lovely Modigliani girl, best I’ve seen, and some great Degas, especially the black, grey and white woman with the umbrella.

Rubens – 6 or 8, a  sketch of the Deposition from the Cross, well, two actually, one with Christ upside-down and the other, the more famous one of him being lowered right way up.  In both, the man at top of cross has the white sheet in his teeth.  There is also the landscape with the stars.

And Van Gogh – Portrait with Bandaged Ear.

Downstairs, in the Gothic room, there is a triptych by the Master of Flemelles, Robert Campin, another Deposition in those cold, piercing Flemish/German colours.  In the corner is a picture which is crude and rather simple close up, but a work of great, colourful beauty from across the room.

So – it’s a brilliant collection.  Years ago, I used to work for Courtaulds in Norwich, making artificial silk,  running a set of power looms in a noisy weaving shed; but I suppose he’d already bought most of this stuff before that…

Boris Anrep

Not a familiar name to me, but I’ve walked over his work scores of times – he did the two mosaic landings at the National Gallery.  Among the Muses are Greta Garbo and Virginia Woolf, Bertrand Russell is there, Some chap climbing a pylon, A.lice in Wonderland for some reason, and the centrepiece, Churchill, fighting the monster Apollyon, I think.  They are well worth a look.

Listening to “Woman Love” by Gene Vincent:

“I went to the doctor, he said “Lord above!

You need a vaccination of woman love.

Let’s go, cats!” (guitar solo).

Blackpaint

25.02.10