Posts Tagged ‘Karel Appel’

Blackpaint 579 – Hanging Buckets, Wedding Cakes and Birds’ Nests

December 22, 2016

Rauschenberg, Combines and Appel


Appel, 1950

A brief blog before Christmas.  Warning: some “challenging” material below!

While visiting the brilliant Rauschenberg exhibition at Tate Modern and noting the variety and incongruity of the objects attached to his various “Combines” (a sock, a boot, electric fans, a ceramic dog, numerous parasols and parachutes, lightbulbs and lumps of metal), I remembered this piece made by Karel Appel in 1950, some ten years(?) before Robert began his.  Not only does it have a bucket hanging from it, but it’s painted on a barn door.

Apparently, Appel and his associates made a number of these combines in the late 40s/early 50s; maybe Rauschenberg knew of them (via his tutor at Black Mountain, Joseph Albers) – or maybe it’s coincidence, a sort of parallel evolution.

That would be a great exhibition for 2017 at TM – Appel, Jorn and CoBrA –  and/or Appel and other Dutch modernists, Nanninga, Wagemaker, Oepts, Bram van Velde et al…  No chance, I suppose.

Feminist Avant-Garde Art of the 70s, The Photographers’ Gallery


Ulrike Rosenbach, Art is a Criminal Act

(Rosenbach is the one on the left – and right).



Hannah Wilke, SOS


Penny Slinger, Wedding Invitation (1973)



Birgit Jurgenssen, Nest (1979)

I didn’t notice, I promise, how these four images make pairs that echo each other until I’d put them in.



Lynda Benglis (in action, 1969)

It was a surprise to me to realise how familiar many of these images are to me, an old white man – the candour and wit on display here must have driven quite deep into my psyche.  Then again, it could be because the artists were young and beautiful  and not averse, to say the least, to posing naked; and since many works parodied the exploitative cliches of advertising, art etc., this would have been unavoidable.

The only really shocking image is the cover photo of a French magazine, showing the body of a young woman victim of the Hillside Strangler (two perpetrators acting together, as it turned out), surrounded by police and photographers on a hill above LA.  This occasioned a protest event featured in the exhibition.

Missed marketing opportunity by the PG; in a corner vitrine, you can see a copy – maybe the only one – of “The Cunt Colouring Book”.  With the recent vogue for adult colouring books and Christmas coming up, a repro could do well…

Lord Halifax’s Ghost Book – The Bordeaux Diligence

My second surprise of the week was to come across this story in this lovely book, published in 1936 (my Fontana paperback edition is from 1961 – we are promised on the back that “your flesh will creep; you’ll bolt your doors to no avail”), which is worthy of a Bunuel film, or a segment in one at least.


A Frenchman is asked by an old woman to do her a favour; will he ask that gendarme at what time the Bordeaux Diligence (a horse-drawn carriage) starts?  In all innocence, he does so – and he is arrested and taken to court.  When he repeats his question in court, the shocked judge sends him to a penal colony.  he hasn’t learned his lesson yet; he tells the governor why he is there – and ends up in solitary confinement.  And so on.  Eventually, he gets home and spots the old woman.  She agrees to tell him the reason for his misfortune – but when he stoops to hear her explanation, she bites his ear and drops dead.



The Black Sea, December

Happy Christmas to all my readers.






Blackpaint 578 – Rauschenberg, Johns, John and Schvendel

December 13, 2016

Rauschenberg at Tate Modern

Have now visited this three times; it is FANTASTIC (sorry to shout).  There is one beautiful room with a huge Combine called “Ace”, which I wrote about last week; see below.  you have to visit though, because the photo doesn’t do it justice.  Blues, yellows, rose red swatches and swags of paint; a wooden plaque with the title stuck at the top. a screwed-up rag rather like a dragon crouching on its surface.


Ace, Rauschenberg (1962)

In the same room, a pair of panels in red and white, one  with a pair of electric fans attached on opposite sides of the painting, a swirling mass of silver, cream and pink brushstrokes enclosed between; the other (below), with wire coils, a watch and a piece of metal bolted on.



Also in this room, see and marvel at “Gold Standard”, the gold screen with an HMV dog attached (also an old boot).  “Black Market” and the one in the corner with the two panels divided by a short ladder – they are all great.  This room alone is a breathtaking exhibition, but there is much more:

The silkscreens with paint on, best of which is “Estate” –



The cardboard sculptures, like the one below, with the “exploded” section:


The “Gluts”, metal scrapyard pieces (see below):


Sunset Glut


Stop Side Early Winter Glut, 1987

And the “Jammers” (flag/banner pieces), “Oracle”, a five-piece sculpture made from stripped-down car door, air conditioning unit et al, all mounted on little wheels, several landmark pieces, such as the erased de Kooning drawing, the “crime scene” bed, “Monogram” (the goat in the tyre, which Alistair Sooke described as a metaphor for homosexual intercourse – a suggestion which visibly shocked a woman curator on an excellent BBC2 documentary on Rauschenberg the other day) – and loads more (dance videos, old socks, parasols and parachutes, bubbling mud, a ladder to a porthole to the wall, a sketchy toothbrush…).

What I like about Rauschenberg is the colour – and the texture, of course, but the colour is beautiful.  He uses that yellow over and over again, the one on the bent fenders in “Sunset Glut”.  They are sort of industrial, but beautiful.

Interesting to see his clear influence on Johns – not surprising, really – who was hanging brooms on his pictures and inserting balls into crevices within pictures, and painting in those big swatches too; maybe he was the influence, but my money is on Rausch, given his later diversity.  Also, there was an Appel abstract, with a bucket dangling from it, which I wrote about some time back; must look it up.


According to What, Jasper Johns (1964)


I have to mention “Schwendel” again; in the film “Painters Painting”, Rauschenberg is interviewed about his Red Paintings and speaking about how red has a lot of black in it, he says something like “’s the abundance of colour in the painting, rather than the schvendel of the painting…”??  I can’t find the word anywhere; does anyone know what schvendel is?

Elton John’s photo collection, Tate Modern

Rather gone over the top on Rauschenberg, and will be going back there, so only a quick superficial mention of this exhibition in the Switch Room.  Several Penns, mostly, like Stravinsky, celebrities squashed into a corner of a bare room…


Igor Stravinsky, Irving Penn

John seems to have Hoovered up a set of the most well-known images from the USA, USSR (Rodchenko) and elsewhere;

1936 --- Florence Owens Thompson, 32, a poverty-stricken migrant mother with three young children, gazes off into the distance. This photograph, commissioned by the FSA, came to symbolize the Great Depression for many Americans. --- Image by © CORBIS

Dorothea Lange

Also, several of those Man Ray photos with the thin black line round the image, like that of Sir Kenneth Clark’s wife.

The Godfather 

At my eldest son’s wedding on Saturday, speeches over, sitting waiting for the food, on my fourth (or fifth) prosecco refill; looking around –  radiant bride in white, no.1 son, lovely wife, the other two “boys” in sharp suits with cream ties, deep in conversation with their neighbours at table, I had that slow-motion film cliche moment again: a huge, tongue-tied minion, uncomfortable and sweating in his tight suit, approaches me deferentially, hands me an envelope stuffed with banknotes and addressing me as Don Chich, assures me of his everlasting loyalty on the occasion of the marriage of my son….and then I woke up, prosecco coming round again..


First of a set of ten paintings on theme of time and place, this is November Lisbon.



Blackpaint 542 – The Milk Jug, the Swan and the Devil’s Arse

April 23, 2016


vermeer milkjug

Distant view over the heads of dozens of Dutch school students of the fabulous milk jug Vermeer and a number of Rembrandts, notably the turbaned self portrait and the young self portrait with the wiry hair and round eyes – and of course, the Night Watch, guns at the ready, about to accidentally shoot each other if not careful.  Also the Jewish Wedding and several others – fabulous, if you can get near them.


Rembrandt turban

From these galleries, only the huge swan taking off straight at you grabbed my attention.


Jan Asselijn

There was a great exhibition of Breitners, however (see Blackpaint 341), picture after picture of Geesje Kwak, androgynous figure in a series of lush kimonos and in the nude.  He was clearly seriously obsessed.

breitner kimono

breitner nude

Little like Uglow, this one, I think.

In the 1100 – 1600 bit, there were these two highlights:


Altarpiece by Gerini – the reds and orange with that gold.

terracotta girl

Terracotta Girl – could be the BVM but no halo – maybe a saint,  couldn’t find a label so I don’t know.

And, tucked away upstairs, some lovely Appels, this one in particular:

Appel rijks

Stadelijk Museum

Stunning discovery for me – two favourite de Koonings and a huge, trickled – down Asger Jorn all in the same room:

asger jorn

Asger Jorn – didn’t get the title; something about swan’s wings beating, I think (that swan again…)


dk rosy

Rosy Fingered Dawn at Louse Point, de Kooning

dk north

North Atlantic Light, de Kooning




The Beanery, Ed Keinholz

The notice over the bar warns “Fagots” to keep out; all the customers (slumped over tables, propped up at the bar) have clock heads; a soundtrack of “Macnamara’s Band” with a hubbub of voices plays on a loop (Keinholz recorded it at the bar).  It’s funny, grubby and creepy and you queue to go in one at a time, admitted by a solemn museum guard.

The Canterbury Tales, dir. Pasolini (1972)

Cruder, but to my mind, every bit as good as Pasolini’s “Decameron”.  Several well-known British character actors in there – Hugh Griffiths as a lecherous old Sir January to Josephine Chaplin’s beautiful and – to put it mildly – disengaged May; Robin Askwith, in a break from the “Confessions” series, screwing away upstairs in a brothel and emerging to piss liberally over the amused clientele below.  In one scene, there as many naked women as there are on the cover of the celebrated Jimi Hendrix LP.  Pasolini smiling thinly to himself as Chaucer, recording the stories ( the one where the friars emerge from the Devil’s arse in Hell is perhaps the best).  And a great soundtrack mainly from Topic Records, especially Frank McPeak’s “The Auld Piper” from the “Jack of All Trades ” LP.

devils arse

Devil’s Arse with emerging friar – actually, maybe it’s a demon’s arse , because the Devil is played by the great, menacing Pasolini actor Franco Citti and he is showing the new arrival around Hell.

Also making a brief appearance at the start of the film is the wrestler Adrian Street, familiar from Jeremy Deller’s work.

Next time, CoBrA in Amstelveen and Delacroix at the National Gallery.


Work in Progress – St. George, of course (who else could it be, today?  Shakespeare, I suppose…)










Blackpaint 541- Bosch to CoBrA and thence to Berlin

April 17, 2016

Hieronymus Bosch at s’Hertogenbosch – where else?

Well, also at the Prado, where the Garden of Earthly Delights triptych lives and the London National Gallery, where Christ Mocked (the Crowning with Thorns)  lives –

bosch natgal

and at Lisbon, where the Temptation of St. Anthony triptych lives – although this last has apparently been demoted to “follower of ” status, despite containing several of the best known “monsters” (see below).  The saddled fish, the little bird thing in the red tunic and funnel helmet….

bosch triptych-the-temptation-of-st-anthony-1516

Although these three works are missing for some reason, the exhibition is still fantastic in every sense and the town is making the most of it, quite rightly.

The paintings have lights within the frames and so look like slide projections in the darkened galleries.  The weirdness of Bosch’s figures and landscapes, I think, have distracted viewers from the sheer quality of the painting; the colours are beautifully subtle.  The Death of a Miser, for example, is in that Duccio pink/brown/Venetian red palette.

There are several similarities to Bruegel, of course; There’s a “Dulle Griet” character dragging a cart, angels with long trumpets, just like those in Bruegel’s “Fall”, crows on bare tree branches, distant gallows and wheels on top of poles (Bruegel’s “Triumph of Death”), street cripples with similar aids (maybe these are stock figures).

I noticed the same model cropping up in several paintings; the old geezer with the white hair, tooth stumps and inane, cruel grin shows up in two versions of “Ecce Homo”, one by Bosch himself, another by a follower  and the NG “Christ Mocked” (above); the man on the left.


That’s him, in the white robe, isn’t it?

The little armoured character in the St. John of Patmos (below) is a self-portrait of Bosch; why the arrow through his torso – something that crops up in many Bosch paintings?

bosch patmos

I like the monsters in the workshop drawings; “OK fellows, today we’re going to have a competition to see who can draw the best monster…”.  No picture, unfortunately.

Some other highlights for me:

The red/black background in the boy with the walker;

bosch little boy

St. Jerome, lying down with that fish-like tree trunk behind him, and that doggy lion;

bosch st jerome

St. Christopher, with the bear hanging going on behind;

bosch st christopher

St.John the Baptist, or “Doper”, as it is – appropriately? –  in Dutch, looking bored, waiting for TV to be invented, maybe;

bosch john the baptist

The tunnel, or sewer in the sky route to Paradise – is it based on a local canal?

The Disneyland pink tower things in “Garden of Earthly Delights” – sadly, only a copy in the exhibition.

Finally, the workshop painting of Noah’s Ark, grounded after the Flood.


Me on the left, next to a Bosch “monster” in the town.  I managed to get dressed before the police arrived.

Karel Appel’s animals and settings for “The Magic Flute” and “Noach”

I’ll be blogging about the fabulous Appel and the other CoBrA artists next time, but I’m including these pieces, from the CoBrA Museum in Amstelveen, because they seem to me to relate in some way to Bosch’s flying fish and other weirdnesses – rougher and “childlike”, sort of, but definitely related.

appel - flute1


appel flute2

Victoria, dir. Sebastian Schipper (2015)


German film, set in Berlin, famously done in a single take, like “Russian Ark”.  A happy-go-lucky (she even looks a bit like Sally Hawkins) Spanish girl takes up with a goonish bunch of Berliners one night  and gets involved (predictably) in serious complications.  I found the first half hour or so irritating and tedious as the Berlin lads clown around and say “fuck” a lot – this sent several of the ICA audience into fits of excited laughter.  It has a definite “Euro” feel about it; could have been set in any Eurocity.  Story was cliched and implausible.  This one take thing has a sort of fetish feel for me – why is it better to do things in one take?

OK, other Dutch museums next time.

life drawings in pastel

Life Drawings in pencil and pastel

On the Rocks

On The Rocks




Blackpaint 506 – Light through the Thorns, Parrots in Boxes, Budgies in Trunks

August 8, 2015

William Gear – A Centenary Exhibition, Redfern Gallery, Cork Street W1

gear redfern 1

A couple of blogs ago (Blackpaint 502), I wrote about the Neil Stokoe exhibition at the Redfern, to which I’d gone. expecting William Gear.  Now the Gear is on, until September 5th and it’s well worth the trip to Green Park tube and the heat of Piccadilly to see it.

Gear exhibited with CoBra in 1949 – he and Stephen Gilbert were the only British artists – but I have to say, I don’t think he has a lot in common with painters like Appel; his work strikes me as much more like Adrian Heath, Bryan Wynter and even sometimes Patrick Heron, than the wilder, thicker, more gestural products of Appel and Jorn.  There is one painting, however, “Le Marche aux Fleurs” (1947), which could easily have been an early Jorn.

There are several recurring features of Gear’s work, the most prominent, perhaps, being the tangled bundle of jagged, hooked, thorn-like shapes he seemed to fling across his canvases, so that the patches of bright colour seem to peep out through a thicket of scrub.  The shapes are often, but not always, black.  Gear isn’t afraid of yellow; he uses a full spectrum, but it’s the yellow and black that stay with you after the Redfern.

Triangular grids are another feature, and there are a number of works like “Black Form on Red”(1957), that comprise two or three colours used in large, simple shapes, looking rather like sheets of thin leather or felt, collaged onto the canvas – Poliakoff, maybe, or Burri.  An influence that is suggested in the catalogue is that of Nicolas de Stael – I couldn’t see that, I have to say.

gear redfern 3

Good exhibition, in association with the Towner Gallery in Eastbourne, where Gear was the curator in the 60s.  There was a great black, thorny self-portrait on show at the Pallant House in Chichester recently; maybe its still there.  made me think of Tony Bevan, a bit.

gear redfern 2

Joseph Cornell at the RA

cornell 1

This is an exhibition for those, and there are many of them apparently, who like quaint objects and photographs displayed in shallow boxes.  Inevitably, there is a large overlap with the likes of Max Ernst, Rene Magritte and other European surrealists; the difference being that, whereas Ernst, for example, also painted and sculpted, Cornell stuck to the box formula permanently.  Clearly, he had a thing for parrots and cockatoos; his work goes completely against the grain of North American art of the time (40s and 50s) in two ways – it’s small and it’s in boxes.  Although there were later, feminist, artists in the states who put things in drawers and boxes to display them – not parrots, though, as I recall….


The Swimmer, Frank Perry (1968) DVD

I think John Cheever’s short story is a masterpiece of the form, one of the best of the 20th century; hard to think of others so perfect, maybe a couple of Joyce’s Dubliners or Margaret Atwood’s Serpent’s Egg.  The film is also a work of art, though very much of its era (Hamlisch’s lush theme music, coupled with jagged Johnny Staccato jazz riffs and some eye -watering psychedelic visuals).  Burt Lancaster is brilliant as the ageing playboy Ned Merrill, in his budgie smuggler trunks, swimming home across the county, by way of the “river” of swimming pools of his “friends”.  Lancaster is by turns genuinely creepy and strangely sympathetic, despite his insensitivity. The pools are not there for freeloading swimmers to propel their sweaty bodies through.


The Longest Journey, EM Forster

Even though I’m currently re-reading “Finnegans Wake”, Forster’s book is the strangest, most difficult novel I’ve struggled through for ages; I had to keep going back and reading bits over again to make sense of it.  the problem is twofold – the language: very arch, ironic, riddled with Edwardian Oxbridge phraseology and slang – and the concerns; “love children”, family disgrace, inheritance, the intellect v. the physical, the prosaic v.the poetic, genetic flaws, town and country, social class… Actually, that’s quite a lot and I’m sure I missed plenty.

I was interested to see that Forster kills his characters  in an even more offhand way than Virginia Woolf; a “hurt” at football, a drowning and a steam train across the knees- the last completely unsignalled (sorry) and dispassionate: “It is also a man’s duty to save his own life, and therefore he tried.  The train went over his knees.  He died up in Cadover, whispering “You have been right,” to Mrs Failing”.  That’s it.


finsbury mud 2


Finsbury Mud 2,




Blackpaint 472 Lard, Lilith and Daybreak in Paris

December 8, 2014

Nefertiti again

Reading my Phaidon “30,000 Years of Art”, I find that the astounding head in the Berlin Neues Museum was done as a sort of template for Nefertiti heads – it wasn’t even intended as a masterpiece, but as a pattern!  The unpainted eye was on the less important side; apparently, the right profile was the important one in Egyptian culture (but what about figures “walking” towards the left?  Are they all looking behind them?).  No, of course they’re not – I just checked.




The Hauptbahnhoff Museum

This is an old station, converted;  it has a vast central hall, with a series of display galleries to the left and right of the entrance and downstairs, long corridors of white walls, opening on big and small white chambers, packed with great stuff – although not really “packed”; loads of room,so well spaced out.  There is so much fantastic stuff in here that I can only mention a few pieces (why? – because otherwise I’ll be writing this for ever and I want to publish and go to bed).

First, to the left, for Beuys.  There’s the old felt suit, shoals of blackboards with his crazy lecture notes all over them, rusted iron rails attached to an iron cannon barrel with an iron man’s head poking out – iron’s wired up, something to do with iron storing electric earth energy like a battery….  But the standout exhibit is a roomful of giant blocks of “tallow” – not candle wax but lard.  It’s made from mutton fat, leavened with some beef fat to stiffen it and moulded into blocks by the contours of some underground subway on a new concrete estate. He had been invited to celebrate the completion of the estate with an appropriate work.  Some of the chunks are strapped together with bolted metal struts, some are wired up to detect heat in the centre to see if they had solidified.

No doubt, those who invited Beuys’ contribution were well pleased.

photo 1


Blocks of lard, Joseph Beuys 

There is a room of Warhols, giant prints of kitchen knives, flowers (green and blue), Elvis with the six-gun, and a HUGE face of Chairman Mao, surrounded by slapdash strokes of yellow paint.  There is also that horrible ambulance crash, with the dead woman hanging backwards out of the smashed window; I couldn’t see how such a crash could have happened – I wonder if it was staged in some way.  Then again, he used other shocking images that were not staged, like the woman jumping to her death from the flat…

Moving on from Mao, there are four or five big Twomblys, the usual fragments and scribbles, looking indefinably great somehow and three fabulous Rauschenbergs (see below).

photo 1 (1)


photo 2 (2)

photo 2

Just a little bit like Karel Appel, I think.

Now Kiefer.

Three things: a parody of a wedding dress, on a stand, penetrated with great shards of broken glass, like that of a reinforced window; a huge, black, wooden plaque, scarred and scored, with cartoonish portraits of great figures of German and world history (I think Bismarck and Einstein both there).  Finally, on end wall, “Lilith” – a long plaque of grey lead, with big, loose lead rolls and sheets attached; in the centre, a number of little girls’ dresses. half-painted over and stuck on.  There is a blurb on the wall about Lilith, Adam’s first wife in the Kabbala and the legend – but anyone can see it’s about the camps, whatever Kiefer might say; in that respect, he’s a prisoner of German history.

photo 1 (2)


Lilith, Anselm  Kiefer 

Of the rest, Katharina Grosse reminded me a little of Kiefer in the use of two felled trees for her exhibit; he goes in for using entire felled trees on occasion.  As can be seen below, however, Grosse uses distinctly unKiefer-like spray colours on her trees; Anselm sticks to silver and gold, browns, black, greys and white, pretty much.

photo 2 (1)


Le Jour se Leve, Marcel Carne, 1939

At last out on DVD, the great Jean Gabin, on his push-bike, with that slouchy flat cap and the ribbed sweater; working class hero, holed up in his attic room, chain smoking, besieged by the flics, awaiting daybreak and the inevitable.  I was astounded to see a brief – but not that brief – shot of Arletty totally starkers; a surprise to say the least, seeing as it was made in 1938 or 9.  It mirrors the fall of the Popular Front, according to the commentary on the DVD.

The Narrow Road to the Deep North, Richard Flanagan

I’m only about half way through, but I’m seriously wondering how this won the Booker Prize.  Apart from the laughable and well-publicised sex scenes  and the interminable, slushy affair that bogs down the first half, there’s a bit of a problem with the camp scenes; he’s inclined to do that Gallipoli thing where they ‘re all larrikins, ex-shearers, roo hunters, prospectors… He actually says at one point that they have arrived in the prison camp from the 19th century.  He seemed like a nice bloke on the telly, though, and there is the fact that his father was a POW of the Japanese and died before it was published.  Maybe the judges have been softened up by all the WWI stuff.  Or maybe they haven’t read any of those red-spined Corgi war paperbacks from the 50s and 60s, RH Whitecross’s “Slaves of the Son of Heaven”, for example.











Blackpaint 459 – Martial, Andre and Oscar at the Pompidou

August 22, 2014

Martial Raysse at the Pompidou Centre

I’d never heard of this artist until now; I suppose he’s a sort of Richard Hamilton – pop art, ideas man, always changing, cutting edge.  His early stuff is a combination of the matt face portraits along the lines of Warhol, often combined with neon bits (see below).  He also did a lot of neon sculptures;   A painting with the corner missing, replaced with a piece of neon that makes a corner frame.  the colours are vivid, the pictures striking and witty.

Then, paintings with additions, such as a set of antlers, becoming more extensive, until at least half sculpture – Stella, or maybe Bill Woodrow.



Later, he did massive canvases, peopled by partying mobs of strange, incongruous people in bright, almost painfully bright colours.  This phase reminds me of the sort of paintings that appeared in the recent Saatchi exhibition; strange groups doing strange, suggestive things (see previous Blackpaint).  A completely bonkers short film called “Jesus Cola”, in which a professor is a sort of quiz contestant, answering questions, usually with an emphatic “NON!”  Cut to youths playing at cowboys, one “shooting” all the others with a toy pistol, to what sounded like Dylan’s “Oxford Town” speeded up to the Nth degree.


Some ceramics, mobiles made from clothes pegs etc., like sinister charms hung from trees in “Blair Witch” or “True Detective” and the odd painting of banal, everyday articles like the basket of fruit above.  And then the stranger and stranger ensemble paintings in vile colours.

He’s the most expensive French living artist, apparently; a real find for me.

Pompidou permanent collection

Some real beauties in the permanent collection –   my favourites are:

Andre Kertesz photos of New York


That’s a pigeon taking off.


Reminds me of Brueghel.

Marc Chagall’s bride and groom.

chagall pomp

Asger Jorn (of course)

jorn pomp


Karel Appel (of course)

appel pomp


And this fantastic portrait of Brancusi by Kokoschka.

kok pomp


OK, enough Pompidou for now; more next blog.

A Separation (cont.)

I was halfway through when I wrote about this film last week; it got even better in the second half, with a potential murder accusation (of an unborn child, under Iranian law).  Ended inconclusively, I think without a taking of sides; could be wrong though – I’d need a rigorous feminist analysis to be sure.

Like Someone in Love

Kiarostami film, set in Japan, concerning an odd triangle of young student/prostitute, elderly professor/client and boyfriend/mechanic/thug.  The last is unaware of his girlfriend’s job; the film concerns the attempts of the girl and the client to keep it that way.  Like “a Separation”, it ends inconclusively – but no other similarities, apart from the nationality of the directors.

The tone of the film is indeterminate; at times, I thought I was watching a gentle comedy – the elderly client is a benign grandfatherly type, who only wants company for dinner and someone to listen to Ella Fitzgerald with him.  He eschews the opportunity to sleep with the girl.   Then it gets darker as he loses control of the situation with the boyfriend.

The night scenes from a taxi in the Japanese city – Tokyo? – are beautifully photographed but it’s not breathtaking, like “The Wind Will Carry Us”, for example; the only other Kiarostami film I know.  Reminded me of “I’m in the Mood for Love”, maybe, but probably its just the use of a torch song title.




Theory Split 2





Theory Split 2 

Blackpaint, 22.08.14




Blackpaint 341 – Ballet Girls, Donkeys and Buckets

May 10, 2012

Charcoal and pencil

The first is great to use, the second a chore.  I’ve acquired a cheap book of Degas’ drawings, mostly ballet girls, and have been copying them; the legs are the most difficult – feet always pointing in some improbable direction.  That, and getting them to look like the young girls they are – mine keep coming out too old, somehow.  They haven’t got that slight dumpiness or sturdiness that Degas’ girls have got.  That line of his is just great.  Also, the two servants with the laundry baskets and the ones that are grooming the horse (or horses, it transpired, as I was drawing – the head belonged to a second horse looking over, NOT to the first horse looking back – if you see what I mean).

Can’t somehow get the same buzz from pencil – too laborious, can’t just smear the dust with my thumb to get shading like I can with the charc, got to draw parallel lines.

St.  Ives since the Fifties

A cheapo catalogue of a 2006 exhibition at the Katharine House Gallery in Marlborough I got in Campbell’s, that bookshop opposite Tate Modern.  I mention it because there is some great stuff in it from St Ives people I didn’t know of; chief of these is Rachael Kantaris, two lovely etchings and an acrylic by her, touch of Hilton in that black line through the fleecy white.  Then, Tony Shiels who was born in 1938 but is new to me; three gouache and watercolour, very reminiscent of Lanyon (senior), best being “St.Ives Sea Head” from 1960.  Also some stunning Terry Frost Lorca illustrations – and loads more.


Museum Boijmans Van Beuningen at Rotterdam

Also from Campbell’s, only two quid, a catalogue of this museum, to which I’m heading at the first opportunity – assuming it’s still open, as there’s no date in the catalogue as far as I can see – can’t be bothered to read the text.  Anyway, some stunning stuff in it, the chief being Karel Appel, “Farmer with a Donkey and Bucket”, from 1950.  It’s a painted stable door – with a bucket hanging on the bottom. 


Then, there’s Asger Jorn, “The Town of Ivory Towers” from 1955 – dark green and dried-blood red, deeply scored and looking rather like a stained glass window; can’t find a picture on Google.

Then, de Kooning – “The Cliff of the Palisade with Hudson River, Weehawken, New Jersey, 1963” – which actually looks like a figure study in white and brown, on an ochre and blue background.  There’s a great Dali self-portrait in pencil and black ink on paper – heavy sketched like a Jim Dine or Kitaj life drawing, like no other Dali I’ve ever seen.  Three great van Dongens, including “A Finger on her Cheek” – don’t know why I like him so much, apart from the name.  Maybe it’s the crudity of the colours and the energy of the line….

One other painting to mention, “The Earring, 1893”, by George Hendrik Breitner – never heard of him before.  beautiful long, straight flower vase of a woman looking in a mirror, Whistler maybe, Japan definitely. bit Klimt, but just a bit… 


1900, Bertolucci

I saw this way back in the 70s when it first came out, and I was dismayed to see it again and find that it’s dubbed (presumably because most of the big male stars – Lancaster, de Niro, Donald Sutherland, Stering Hayden – are American.  This gives it a terrible spaghetti western sound – probably would be great with subtitles.  It also has two, perhaps three, of the most dislikeable child actors, doing all that rite of passage stuff – comparing willies. masturbating in the fields, wrestling and slagging each other off – haven’t seen the second DVD yet, but no doubt they compete for the same girl…

Can this really be the Bertolucci who coaxed such subtle and understated performances from Brando and Schneider in “Last Tango”?


Figure Drawing 6

Blackpaint 219

November 14, 2010


This was on TV last night, and I had forgotten that it was  unique in cinema in its creation of a dream atmosphere.  This had to do with the sound, the constant muted industrial racket, the gaps in the dialogue (a long, bemused pause after every cliche’d phrase – “So, Henry, whaddaya know?” – long pause – “Oh..not much of anything,”) and the way in which the utterly bizarre was treated as normal – the bleeding, moving chicken, the mother’s fits, the baby thing.

Ididn’t notice when I first saw it – 25 or maybe 30 years ago – the Bacon references.  When Henry’s head falls off and the baby’s emerges from his shirt collar to take its place (dream within the dream), you are confronted by one of Bacon’s besuited screamers, with an obscured or eroded face and just an anguished mouth in focus.  The baby itself, in its tight wrappers of dingy bandage, is nearly a Figure at the Base of a Crucifixion.  The little thrippets of flesh that keep popping up or falling down and flipping about are out of Tanguy, I think, or maybe Ernst.  And the frozen grin on the face of the father brought to my mind Lloyd Bridges high on glue in “Airport” – not an art-historical reference, I’m afraid.

Can’t end the subject without mentioning the dough-faced singer pausing and squishing the things dropping onto the stage, without losing the ingratiating simper…

Leonardo da Vinci 

And so to some proper art, if not proper art criticism.  Which of the two Virgins of the Rocks would Leo consider the better?  One is in the Louvre, the other (later) one is in the National  Gallery.  The latter has the better background – the blue of the gap in the rocks is more satisfying – and is lit more dramatically, faces paler, especially Mary’s, and more strongly shadowed; the blue of Mary’s gown is more intense.  On the other hand, Christ baby has the halo and baby John has the staff, both of which look faintly ridiculous and the faces of the babies are better in the French one.  Christ in the NG version looks as if he has dropsy.  Also, Uriel’s gown in the Louvre version is a pleasingly rich red.

I at first thought that Uriel in the Louvre version had no wings – they are certainly more distinct in the NG version.  In both, Uriel resembles a girl.  So, on balance – they come out even, for me. 


After writing about Leonardo, you turn back to abstractionists with a sort of trepidation; how can they stand up to these geniuses of the past?  Answer: Karel Appel, “Flying Heads” 1959.  Great, thick crusts of paint, slatched on with a knife or trowel, white, green, yellow, orange, red, black, grey; scored, scabbed, scratched.  It looks like two, or even three breasts whirling about in thick, white and grey clouds.  The text in Dietmar Elger’s “Abstract Art” (Taschen) describes it as a “veritable whirlpool of thickly applied masses of paint.”  It looks good enough to eat.


Who filmed Pollock at work on Long Island in 1950?  (must make these a bit harder).

Blackpaint 14.11.10

Blackpaint 160

June 27, 2010

The Vivisector by Patrick White

I’m still reading this, after months, as a result of my obsessive behaviour in reading a dozen books at once, four pages at a time.  Consequently, I can never remember what happened at the start by the time I finish.  With some books this doesn’t matter; Beckett’s “The Unnameable” for  example.  If you’ve read it, you’ll know what I mean. 

The Patrick White, however, is great, but I think difficult.  Anyway, today I came to a bit which struck me very hard.  Duffield (White’s painter, apparently based on a combo of Bacon and Nolan) at the age of fifty-five, is brought suddenly down to earth by a shopgirl referring to him as “elderly”.  His reaction is to retreat into his house, where his paintings are waiting for him:

“The paintings, the earlier ones you end by accepting like inherited moral traits, had withdrawn apathetically into the walls on which they were hanging.  They were less humiliating, however, than the bravura of technique, the unsolved problems of space, the passages of turgid paint, which glared at him from the later ones standing around the skirting boards.  Most disturbing of all was the painting on the easel…before his going out, it had struck him as having a lucidity, an almost perfect simplicity….all lost with his going out; the smallgoods girl…..had done away with the membrane separating truth from illusion. ”

This is something I guess that everyone who aspires to creative work experiences frequently – all the time, in fact.  Something you thought was quite good, you were perhaps a bit excited about, suddenly dies and drains away, on the wall or the page.  You can’t think how you failed to notice the scrappy bits, the dead areas, the garishness of that blue which you had thought was subtle, the boring bit in the top left, the glare of the colours generally.  Always there is the lack of originality, in that what you think of as good is the result of your work looking a bit like someone else’s that you like.  If it were original, you wouldn’t like it in the first place.

So, White writes well about painting.  This scene is followed by Duffield using an outside toilet, but unlike Leopold Bloom, that constipation of yesterday is NOT gone.  Other toilet scenes in modern literature; Inside Mr.Enderby by Anthony Burgess, Jubb by Keith Waterhouse , a short story (I think) by John Cheever and of course, Trainspotting.

After that short digression into literature, back to art.

Jim Dine

Beautiful woodblock prints of classical sculptures, done in the late 80s; “Red Dancer on the Western Shore” and the “Oil of Gladness” (actually a brightly coloured print of the Venus de Milo).


Two pictures done in 1961 and 2, “Nives” and “Portrait of Janine” that, at first glance, are very much like de Kooning women.

Blackpaint, not Appel of course.