Posts Tagged ‘Keith Piper’

Blackpaint 323 – Dinosaurs, Members and Moustaches

February 4, 2012

 Z  Costa -Gavras

Brilliant sequence at the end of the film, where a succession of senior Greek army officers, charged with the murder of a leftist politician, leave the magistrate’s office and attempt to exit, desperately, by the same locked door, shaking and rattling it,  before their lawyers find the right way out.  In the book, they use dinosaurs as pseudonyms – “Mastodontodon”, I remember… but aren’t we all?  Dinosaurs I mean, not pseudonyms…

Migrations

Exhibition at the Tate Britain, which “explores how migration into this country has shaped the course of art in Britain over the last 500 years”, to quote the handout – which is a disappointing map of the rooms with blurb by some luminaries about what they think of the pics.   At the Whitechapel, you get a booklet with miniatures of all the paintings in the exhibition – and that’s for a free show; you have to pay for this one.

So – there are Dutch landscapists and portraitists, Canaletto (Horseguards Parade), Americans like Singer Sargent, and paintings by artists from migrant communities, Jewish, Afro-Caribbean and Asian.  The Singers are stupendous, of course; lovely, lively women in silks looking straight out at us (even if one appears to have a moustache and the hand of Betty Wertheimer seems to be in the wrong place on Ena’s waist – makes her arm too long).

A number of the works are familiar from the Tate’s permanent collection; the Bombergs, of course, “Mudbath” and the other one, Keith Piper’s series “Go West Young Man”. with  images of lynching and slavery, Mirza’s Crucifixion, with Christ like a giant holly leaf.  for my money, the Schwitters collage “picture of Spatial Growth; Picture of Two Dogs” was the best thing on show – from an angle and a distance, the surface evens out and it looks like an ochre and white painting.  Close to, it’s got a hank of black hair like a moustache (again!) in the middle.  Dates: 1920 – 1939!! Did he stick one bit on a year?

Other paintings I liked were Frank Bowling’s rough, yellow red and green take on Barnett Newman and Donald Rodney’s “How the West Was Won”, with that radioactive blue and child-like draughtsmanship – not the proper Coldstream, at all.

Life Drawing

As an English abstract painter, I suffer from that sneaking suspicion (on the part of myself, as well as others) that I do abstracts because I can’t do figurative, i.e.” proper”, painting.  Abstraction is a way of making pictures that can’t be properly tested; you can’t compare them to nature.  This mindset is very common amongst people in England who  consider themselves knowledgeable about art.  I’ve recounted in previous blogs how I heard a woman in the Tate Modern pointing out to her friend how Picasso’s early pre-cubism paintings were really good, “before he went all funny”.  Or watching visitors to Tate Britain recoiling with baffled shrugs from Turner’s more experimental paintings like  “Sea Monsters”.  And the Picassos and Turners are ,after all, figurative.  Real abstraction, Pollock or Stella, say, is blobs and squiggles or meaningless stripes and pretty colours.  Stella is better than Pollock because a child or an elephant with a brush held in its trunk can’t do a Stella – the lines are too straight.  I know I’m exaggerating a little, but not much.  The funny thing is that abstract paintings are old hat, retro, old fashioned – figurative painting is much more the vogue nowadays.

So, because of all this, but also because I enjoy it, I go to life drawing and painting classes.  Trouble is, the others in my class are too good and you come away each week thinking how rubbish you are – I know, it’s not a competition –  but it is, really.  Anyway, I thought I could use some of my life drawings to illustrate errors, as I’ve done in previous blogs.

Some pitfalls illustrated below:

1.  Don’t do the face and then rub it out.  In fact, don’t do the face at all – it usually looks crap.  On the other hand, it can divert the viewer’s attention from all the other little errors – like the left arm in second drawing.

2.  In a 5 minute drawing. don’t think you’ve finished with 10 seconds to go, and then discover you’ve left out the left arm completely (see second pic below).

3.  What about the package?  Do you render it faithfully, in which case it becomes the focal point – or do you suggest it in a sketchy, somehow more tasteful manner?  As can be seen, I’ve adopted the middle way by leaving the end off.  Hope I situated it correctly; looks a bit high up to me now.

And here’s a proper one that I did earlier:

“Baffled Shrug”

Blackpaint

04.02.12

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Blackpaint 232

December 20, 2010

Paul Morley

“Novelists are having a hard time, because reality is writing its own fiction”, said Paul Morley on Newsnight Review.  In the usual melee, no-one commented or asked him what he meant (presumably something like truth is stranger than fiction).

Tate Britain, again

It seems to be in a state of flux at the moment; a couple of totally empty rooms and I’m not sure if that Vaughan/Bacon/Auerbach room is even still there.  Some interesting stuff up, though:

  • Gary Hume – a grasshopper thing in enamel paint on a panel, turquoise and chocolate.
  • Bill Woodrow – an assemblage entitled “Car door, Ironing Board and Twin Tub, with North American Indian Head Dress”.  Which is exactly what it is.
  • Peter Kennard – cartoons and Pluto Press book covers.   Bunches of US and Russian missiles clenched together; The Haywain with mounted missiles, Cruise I think;  a miner with an X ray image of his chest superimposed on real chest;  Thatcher as Queen Victoria.
  • Conrad Atkinson – photos of the Troubles in Northern Ireland in the 70s and 80s, wall paintings, posters, street scenes.
  • Stuart Brisley – 70s photographs of Brisley, seated in a squalid, derelict room in semi-darkness, a record of a 17 hour installation concerned with the stripping of identity.
  • Keith Piper, “Go West Young Man” – slavery, lynching, racial phobia, fear and loathing in heavy black posters.
  • Linder – female images with paper being peeled like skin from the face of model.
  • Judy Clarke – photographic close up images of skin on feet and hands.

Interesting to see some overtly political stuff up on the walls again.

Russian Ark

Sokurov, 2002.  A film set in the St. Petersburg Hermitage, in which time is fluid (more than usual, I mean).  A French diplomat, flamboyant and rather irritating, progresses from room to room, observing and sometimes partaking in the scenes he encounters, conversing occasionally with an unseen observer.  He doesn’t know what’s happening, but takes it all in his stride.  He passes through 17th century, Napoleonic and 20th century periods, balls, soldiers, courtiers, Tsars (Peter and Catherine)..

The unique aspect of the film is that the whole thing was shot in one take.  Single takes seem to be an obsession with film makers, a bit like “modern” painters’ obsession with flatness of surface; I’m thinking of Welles’ “Touch of Evil”, for example.  Whenever it’s on, there is always an admiring reference to the long, single-take opening sequence.  I found the single take rather oppressive at first, as if you were being pulled along by the nose – became hypnotic after a while.

Interesting to me that idea of collapsing time or passing freely back and forth through centuries;  I’ve come across it several times lately; in Bunuel’s “The Milky Way”, where a couple of dodgy “pilgrims” follow the route to Santiago de Compostella and in “The Canterbury Tale” (1941) by Powell and Pressburger.  It starts with a medieval hunting party; the knight flies his falcon, which turns into a Hurricane in the sky.  The pilot turns out to be the knight, of course.

Going back to “Russian Ark”, certain styles of acting are perhaps acceptable in France and Russia, where mime and circus are still popular – in Britain, the social realism of the kitchen sink era purged  more flamboyant theatricality.

Frank Auerbach

Watched a DVD on him, made in 2001.  I’d always thought of him as a dirty brown plasterer, like Kossoff out of Sickert – in fact, a lot of his paintings are done in blazing yellows, blues and greens, with great crimson worms crawling across them in thick oils – the Phaidon Art Book says “like peanut butter”.  Fantastic, jagged stuff, both the portraits and cityscapes; he does the best building sites.

Blackpaint

20.12.10