Posts Tagged ‘Ken Russell’

Blackpaint 604 – Holbein, Debussy, Sargent and Mrs Robinson

August 22, 2017

The Encounter, NPG

This is an absolutely stunning little exhibition of Renaissance drawings that should be seen by everyone interested in portraiture, and the reason is Holbein.  Leonardo, Durer, Pontormo,  Rembrandt are there too and some of the works (Pontormo, Rembrandt,  Caracci) are brilliant but the Holbeins are supreme.   Just line and a little sparing colour, but they tremble with life.  I thought, looking at them, that you could walk outside and see these faces adorning the people passing down Charing Cross Road – something that I didn’t get from any of the other masterworks on show.

 

Holbein, John More (son of Sir Thomas) –  could be checking his phone for messages…

Annibale Caracci’s drawings are also something of a revelation, while not in the same class as the wizard Holbein.  I’ll be going again.

The Graduate, Mike Nichols (1967)

I bought the DVD (50th anniversary release), only to find it was all over the TV this week.  Like everyone else of my age, I seem to have seen a bit here, another bit there – the frogman suit, the frantic chase to the church – but never the whole thing, from beginning to end.  A joyful experience to see it through, the perfect soundtrack – but, like my friends, I had an odd feeling that something was missing.  Surely, when Benjamin (Hoffman) was trying to locate the church where Katherine Ross was getting married, he went to at least one wrong location before he found it?  Three of us watched it and thought the same thing, independently…

It was reviewed or mentioned in the Guardian recently; I think it was Peter Bradshaw – he (if it WAS he) made a big deal of Mrs Robinson (Ann Bancroft, above) being a “sexual predator”.  Maybe so, but I can’t see Hoffman’s character having suffered any damage from the predation; rather the opposite.

Chris Ofili, Weaving Magic, National Gallery

The Ofili – designed giant tapestry below, featuring a very Japanese – looking, seated musician, playing a stringed instrument in a colourful, fanciful, slightly Disney-ish paradise.  I liked the tapestry and some of the preparatory, or related small drawings (below).

Chris Ofili

 

Singer Sargent watercolours, Dulwich Picture Gallery

Lots of people raving about these; I have to say, I was rather underwhelmed.  They are very accomplished, of course,  and there are some beauties: a couple of Boudin-like little beachscapes,  lovely rendition of Venetian statuary and architectural features and three brilliant male nudes at the end.  Also, I loved the oxen, the alligator and the Scottish soldiers.  However, I thought on the whole, it was somehow drab.  It reminded me of painting by numbers.  Probably it’s the subject matter – harbours, gondolas, a Spanish dancer (I think – maybe there just should have been one), pebbles beneath a fast-flowing river.  You can’t blame him retrospectively for cliches, I suppose.  I much prefer the Sargent of the huge oil portraits, the glowing women in their glowing dresses – his Mrs Robinsons (Mrs. Agnew, for example).

Ken Russell’s Monitor programmes

Oliver Reed as an actor playing Debussy, with Annette Robertson as Gaby

The Delius one – Song of Summer – still by far the best, but the Debussy, with Oliver Reed, playing an actor, playing Debussy, has its moments too.  Russell had to do it like this because the BBC, at the time, didn’t allow documentaries in which actors represented real people and spoke dialogue.  In his earlier “Elgar”, Russell had actors playing Elgar and his wife, but it was a sort of dumbshow with a voice-over (Huw Wheldon).  Sounds ridiculous now, but at least the BBC worried about these things, which are sort of important.  How many times do you see “fact-based” programmes now and think hang on – did that really happen?  Anyway, things soon changed, probably because of Ken, so we got the brilliant Delius and all the other strictly factual composer biopics he made subsequently.

Meant to do Matisse at the RA, but think I’ll go again and do it next time.

 

Three Score and Ten

Blackpaint

22/08/17

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Blackpaint 601 – Monkey, Mask, Milk, Water and Blood

July 19, 2017

Sorry about the break in transmission; I have been on my hols, including Guggenheim Bilbao as per usual.

Bilbao Guggenheim, Pierre Huyghe

Untitled (Human Mask)

Video art.  Film of the little girl above, living in isolation in a decaying house, dead moths stuck to the window panes, cockroaches exploring the floors – but hang on, she’s got furry arms and legs, long feet and claws.  It’s not a girl, but a monkey or lemur in a mask and a dress – although I find it’s almost impossible to think of it as anything but a little girl, the actions and bearing and responses being so apparently human.

It’s apparent that “she” is in the Far East, from the labels on the food tins and packets in the kitchen; outside, there is an indistinct female voice from a muffled loudspeaker – the word “nuclear” is just audible, and gives the game away.  When the camera ventures outside, we see that it’s an abandoned modern town, maybe Fukushima after the earthquake (and tsunami and nuclear disaster).

The caption on the wall mentioned the tradition of the mask in Noh plays, implying that Huyghe was referring to that, but the layers of meaning are no doubt multiple and I do not venture there, for fear of pretention creeping in.

Bilbao Guggenheim, Bill Viola

No such problems with Bill Viola (a whole floor at Gugg., for a retrospective); he deals with the big stuff, birth, death, resurrection, communication.  He likes slow motion, women and girls in long dresses, falling liquids, close-ups of newborn babies, hosts of silent people threading slowly between the trees of silent woods….

Inverted Birth

At first, it looked like Bruce Willis in some diehard sequence; first water, then milk (or blood, or mud – can’t remember the order) pouring down on him, then reversing and pouring up…

 

The Greeting

Women communicating deeply, touching, smiling – as women do…

 

Three Women

Women and girl; long dresses, water showering down.

OK, I must confess to being faintly irritated by the portentous atmosphere and especially by the film about ageing and death – “Looking for Immortality”, I think it’s called, , where the naked old man and the naked old woman intertwine and explore their limbs and lines with pencil torches – bit too close to home.

Tommy, dir. Ken Russell (1975)

Never seen this before, despite being an ardent Russell fan as readers will know.  I was surprised at how coherent the story was (not credible, but coherent; I had a vague impression that Pete Townsend had written a bunch of great songs and sort of strung a flimsy story around them, but no.  Highlights for me are Oliver Reed at his sweatiest and sleaziest as the Ted stepfather and of course, Keith Moon as Uncle Ernie (suggesting, faintly, Alfred E Neumann in the old “Mad” magazine).  And Ann-Margret in the bath of baked beans.

There’s a scene where Tommy is undergoing “treatment” involving his eyeballs being fixed open, while he is restrained in a chair – straight out of Clockwork Orange.

Portraits and Life Drawings

Haven’t done much abstract painting the last few weeks, so three lifeys to end with;

Monica

 

Susie on the bench

 

Long Lie

Blackpaint

19/07/17

 

 

 

Blackpaint 599 – A Drink with Bacchus and a Sausage with Goebbels

June 13, 2017

Museo Nacional del Prado, Madrid

Vast hoard of treasures here, so can just give a few examples:  Las Meninas (the Maidservants, below) with its complicated geography – painter on the left, looking towards posing royal couple (reflected in the mirror).  Having read Derrida, I feel I can give my own reading of the painting, totally unsupported by the known facts:  for me, it’s one of those paintings where two or more time zones exist simultaneously – like those Crucifixions where the journey to Golgotha, the crucifixion and the deposition, and maybe Judas’ suicide, are all on show.   So in my reading, Velasquez, having completed the painting, turns in the doorway to glance back at his earlier self, still engaged in the work.  The guide book identifies the figure in the doorway to be Jose Nieto, the royal chamberlain – but I prefer my reading.

Las Meninas, Velasquez

 

The Feast of Bacchus, Velasquez

I don’t know why, but this painting reminds me of Caravaggio’s Supper at Emmaus.  It gives me the impression that Bacchus and the grinning man next to him are travelling, seated, towards us, despite the presence of the kneeling man, who would be ploughed under, were this the case.  There is something about that arm, too…

I don’t quite have a settled view on El Greco; sometimes I think that his elongated figures thrusting up like flames are fantastic and precursors of artists like Kirchner (yes, fanciful…) – other times, the crowdedness and somehow dry surfaces turn me off.

 

The Holy Trinity, El Greco

 

The Annunciation, El Greco

As for Goya, there are some wondrous canvases such as the 2nd and 3rd May 1808 paintings (the Mamelukes and the Executions), the Black Paintings of course, and the Royal portraits.  There are also some terrible paintings – a Flight into Egypt comes to mind.  I think religious themes didn’t inspire him.  A couple of portraits, then:

The Marchioness of Santa Cruz, Goya

 

The Countess of Chinchon, Goya

More on the Prado next time – I’ve barely scratched the surface.

Dance of the Seven Veils, Ken Russell Omnibus (1970) – see it on youtube

Another brilliant example of Russell’s restraint and good taste: Richard Strauss (Christopher Gable) as a Nazi fellow traveller, reaping the rewards under Hitler and pleading coercion after the Downfall.  It begins with Gable, dressed in animal skins, conducting Zarathustra and soon being ravished by crazed nuns.  Later, his wife is raped by crazed Tommies (fantasy sequence, I should point out, as is the nun bit) again, whilst Strauss conducts.  Above, Mrs. Strauss and Goebbels share a German foodstuff…

Ossessione, Visconti (1943)

Visconti’s version of “The Postman Always Rings Twice”.  Gino the tramp shows up at Giovanna’s garage and roadhouse and sweeps her off her feet – although not onto the kitchen table, as in the Jack Nicholson/ Jessica Lange version directed by Bob Rafelson in 1981.  What to do about Giovanna’s fat, much older husband, however?  Lots of smouldering and some excellent dialogue: (Giovanna to Gino, who has removed his jacket) “Your shoulders – why, you’re built like a stallion!”

 

Rift Valley

Blackpaint

12/06/17

 

Blackpaint 583 – Ignored Women, Mahler and Bloom, Soutine and Schwabacher

January 22, 2017

London Art Fair

Finishes today (Sunday) unfortunately; below, a selection of the best paintings on view:

minton

John Minton

Medieval quality to this, somehow..

 

sutherland

Graham Sutherland (of course) – that blue, with the orange…

 

robin-denny

Robyn Denny three piece – before he went geometric/minimalist…

 

leigh

Leigh Davis – just a fabulous little painting, touch of Lanyon, maybe?

 

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William Crozier – I love the dry, spiky roughness of his earlier work.  There was another one that I didn’t get a photo of, again with that fiery roughness; if you look at his images online, they are somehow gentler, more “at rest”; I guess they are later.

 

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A couple of Crozier watercolours, to illustrate what I mean by “at rest”.

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Audrey Grant

I love these rough portraits – there’s a bit of early Hockney there, and Nathan Oliviera and Manuel Neri (Bay Area, 60s ).

In addition to these were : a single flower in a vase against a grey/pink background by Euan Uglow; a beautiful yellow Craigie Aicheson; an Uglow-like dresser (cabinet, not person) by William Brooker;  a couple of unusual Ivon Hitchens – unusual, because they contained figures.  And the brilliant usual suspects, Allan Davie, Adrian Heath, Roger Hilton and a single Gillian Ayres, lozenge shaped and pink – or was it grey? – background.

Mahler, Ken Russell (1974)

mahler2

Robert Powell in the main role, strong resemblance to the real Mahler, judging by the photographs.  Great start; dream sequence of a blazing chalet, Georgina Hale (Alma Mahler) emerging, writhing, from a white cocoon on a rocky shore.  Some vigorously rendered Jewish stereotypes from the likes of Lee Montague, Miriam Karlin and John Bluthal as parents and family of the young Mahler – maybe a little too vigorous for today’s tastes – and Cosima Wagner (Antonia Ellis) , in a German helmet and black bondage bodice, in front of a giant sword, waving a whiplash and yelling commands at a timorous Mahler as he undergoes his conversion from Judaism to Christianity to further his career.  Are there swastikas?  I’m pretty sure there are, maybe carved in the rocks…no, just checked; there’s one on her backside.

I’m sure it happened exactly as Ken portrayed it.  Brings to mind the Nighttown scene in Ulysses, when the brothel madam Bella Cohen bullies the hapless Leopold Bloom, transformed as he is into one of Cohen’s girls…

The music, of course, is fantastic, although mainly, I think, from the first three symphonies, and Kindertotenlieder.

Soutine

At last, found a book on the weird and influential Chaim Soutine; it’s by Klaus H Carl and is published by Parkstone International.  The English is bizarre at times and Carl tends to regard the reader as a complete ignoramus – but the illustrations are great and it’s only a tenner (in Foyles).

Those bent faces and tables and pots, breakneck angles and steps in the landscapes, people walking leaning way over to one side – remind me of Sokurov’s “Mother and Son”.  And if you like texture, Soutine is your man.

Women AbExes

Another book, “Women of Abstract Expressionism”, Joan Marter (ed), Yale University Press 2016.  Based on a Denver exhibition, it documents a number of lesser-known, or ignored, women abexes, beyond Frankenthaler, Mitchell, Krasner, Hartigan and Elaine de Kooning.  I’ve mentioned Pat Passlof before; best of the rest as far as I’m concerned, are Perle Fine, Ethel Schwabacher, Deborah Remington and Mary Abbott.

schwabacher-origins-i-for-web

Ethel Schwabacher – Origins i, 1958

The American Scene – prints from Hopper to Pollock (Stephen Coppel, British Museum Press 2008)

The last book recommendation, this is being sold off cheaply at the British Museum, along with a number of other catalogues.  It has some fantastic stuff –  Grant Wood, James E Allen, Robert Gwathmey – well, they are mostly brilliant.  Also, they have the complete Kitaj prints for a fiver – or they did when I went.

One of mine to end with:

time-and-place-no-7

Time and Place, No.7

Blackpaint

22/01/17

Blackpaint 581 – 2016 Review 2 – Films, Theatre, Museums, TV

December 30, 2016

Film

Behemoth (Zhao Liang) – by turns, brutally realist and astonishingly surreal; coal mining and steelmaking, riding and spitting up coal dust in hospital, poetry, empty cities with traffic lights changing in deserted streets.

behemoth-2

The Revenant – brutal fighting, bear attacks, staggering scenery shots, fantasy scenes.  I was interested to see how it resonated with “Jeremiah Johnson”, 70s vehicle for Robert Redford.

Julieta (Pedro Almodovar) – One of those infuriating stories where people do unreasonable, devastating things (walking out on loved ones) with no explanation – and demand that their actions be accepted, no questions.

julieta1

High Rise (Ben Whateley) – Whateley successfully re-creates a 70s film; that is, he has made a 70s film; the colour, the sex, the violence.  I must have missed that particular party..

I, Daniel Blake (Ken Loach) – standard Loach; righteous anger, nightmare (but real) situations, unthinking cruelty, pretension, mindlessness, destitution, prostitution, murder by stress; but I still think it’s optimistic.  It presents a rose-tinted view of working-class people.  They are all so nice; maybe they really are in Newcastle.  One for the metropolitan elite to weep over (see Peter Bradshaw’s Guardian review).

blake

Revolution – New Art for a New World (Margy Kinmonth) –  Not really in competition as  it’s a documentary about avant-garde – and more traditional –  artists, before, during and after the Russian Revolution.  Some amazing art, heartbreaking stories.

DVDs

Ken Russell drama docs – he pretty much invented it – from 60s.  The best are “Song of Summer” (Delius), “Always on Sunday” (Douanier Rousseau) and “Dante’s Inferno” (Rossetti, played by Oliver Reed).

delius 2

Embrace of the Serpent (Ciro Guerra) – Terrific; South American rain forest, German explorers, shamen, mind bending drugs, mad missionaries.

serpent

The Sun (Sokurov) – Hirohito in the “bunker”.  Brilliant.

Metropolis (Fritz Lang) – finally watched the whole of this; there are absurdities but it’s amazingly influential.

metropolis

TV 

Thrillers, serial killers and kidnappers – and the Napoleonic Wars.

War and Peace.  I loved it, especially Jessie Buckley, surely a descendant of Giotto’s favourite model.

Marya-Bolkonskaya

The Disappearance (French series, set in Lyon)

poisson

The Missing (British, but set in Germany.  David Morrissey again, and the ridiculously relentless and riveting French detective Baptiste).

Rillington Place.  Claustrophobic, shabby, creepy – those stains on the bed – Tim Roth doing Attenborough doing Christie, like Branagh does Olivier doing Archie Rice.

In Plain Sight – a restrained but terrifying account of Peter Manuel’s crimes in 50s Scotland.  He invaded homes and murdered whole families for fun, while at least one senior detective knew full well he was the culprit – but was unable to convince others.

Theatre

First two at the Wyndham, third at the Garrick.

Hangmen, Martin McDonagh.

Featuring David Morrissey, a strange, well-acted, but rather pointless play about Britain’s second-best hangman (after Pierrepoint) lording it in his northern pub, which is visited by a sinister character who seems to have wandered in from a Joe Orton play.  Was there a miscarriage of justice?

People, Places and Things

Starring Denise Gough, storming through the role.  Shouty, sweary, loads of special effects, dancing, rock music, multiple heroines on stage, that trap door bed that I last saw in “Ghost Story”, drug taking, mobile phones…

The Entertainer, John Osborne, Wyndham

branagh

My favourite.  Kenneth Branagh doing Olivier’s masterpiece justice, dancing comfortably and delivering Osborne’s (and Kipling’s) words beautifully.   “…when you’ve finished killing Kruger with your mouth…”  Osborne seems to have been obsessed with Bass beer.

Lazarus, David Bowie, Kings Cross Theatre

LAZARUS

Michael C. Hall (Dexter) as Thomas Newman, the Man who fell to Earth, years on from the film, living as a rich recluse, pining for Marilou…  It’s a jukebox musical, packing in lots of Bowie classics; the women sing impressively in those steely, LesMis tones, the men manage to sound Bowie-like.  The story is incomprehensible tosh – there’s a killing – maybe.. or maybe it’s all in Newman’s head; but the effects are great.  Amy Lennox writhing sexily against a large screen (all the characters resort to this screen periodically, which is good as it’s hard to see what they are up to on the floor and the bed; the seats are not sufficiently banked up to give a good view); a black “cloud” spreading rapidly like a visual fart behind Valentine, as he sings; a girl in white running in slow motion on screen towards the stage…  Good bands and backing singers too.

Museums

CoBrA Museum, Amsterdam

appel flute2

Fabulous – Karel Appel, Asger Jorn, and the other cobras; not to be missed, especially Appel’s “Magic Flute” stage furniture.

Rijksmuseum, Amsterdam

breitner nude

Rembrandt, Vermeer; they are there all the time – but the Breitner exhibition got my attention.  Also Appel and DK.

Stedtlijk Museum, Amsterdam

dk north

De Kooning, Appel

Astrup Fearnley Museum, Oslo

Polke, Kiefer,

Guggenheim, Bilbao

Louise Bourgeois exhibition and Paris, 1900 – 45

 

lvg4

August, Laredo

Blackpaint

30.12.16

Blackpaint 577 – Saatchi Painters, Russian Painters, Russell and the Little People

December 4, 2016

Painters’ Painters, Saatchi Gallery

The only common denominator for these painters is the fact that they ARE painters – supposedly a rarity in this age of video and multi-media installation.  Actually, on reflection, there is another thing they have in common; the deadness of the painted surface.  None of them seem to glow; there is a liverish colour that many share in their backgrounds – as far as I can make out, it seems to be a mix of crimson, grey and maybe insipid cream, and/or mauve.  Where they are bright (as in Bjarne Melgaard, below), they are livid; still no glow.  The photographs actually glamourise the paintings a bit.

One other common factor – they’re all men.  But, to be fair, there are three women artists exhibiting individually in the upper galleries, and the last main exhibition was all women…

 

ryan-mosleysaatch

Ryan Mosley

 

ryan-mosleysaatch2

Ryan Mosley

 

saatchi-4

Bjarne Melgaard

 

saatchi-5

Don’t know who did this one, but I love that right buttock…

The reason I made the adverse comments about colour is that I’ve twice visited the stupendous Rauschenberg exhibition at Tate Modern this week and the colours are rich and glowing.  The most staggering work – and there are many – is the Combine “Ace” (below), no photo of which comes anywhere near doing it justice.  Review next blog.

ace

Robert Rauschenberg, Ace.  This pic doesn’t do it justice, it has to be seen in the flesh, so to speak.

 

Also at Saatchi…  Not part of “Painters Painting”, there are separate exhibitions in the upper galleries by Phoebe Unwin and Mequitta Ahuja.

Phoebe Unwin

unwinsaatch

I love this imprisoning criss-cross patterning.  Other works here by Unwin suggestive of Gerhard Richter’s faded photo style.

 

Mequitta Ahuja

woman

I still think there is a hint of Ofili in these great action portraits (surely selfies) of a woman with a cast in one eye.

 

Bloomberg New Contemporaries, ICA

Several arresting works, including these two:

Janina Lange, Shooting Clouds (video)

bloomberg-2

Jamie Fitzpatrick, The King (wax sculpture)

bloomberg-3

Revolution – New Art for a New World (Margy Kinmonth, 2016) – ICA

Fascinating documentary made by Kinmonth based on research in the Russian archives and interviews with curators and descendants of the artists discussed. The usual suspects are there; Malevich, Kandinsky, Chagall, Rodchenko – but also lesser known artists, namely:

Filonov, Lentulov, Klutsis, Konchalovsky, Popova, Stepanova and Petrov-Vodkin.

klutsis

Klutsis

 

petrov-vodkin

Petrov-Vodkin

The history is sort of GCSE level, but I guess Kinmonth wanted to get onto the art as soon as possible, so fair enough.  It’s sobering to remember the fate of some of these artists, in particular Klutsis and Meyerhold, the theatre director, both of whom were shot, after vicious beatings and torture in the case of Meyerhold.  Why? To wring out vital information about directing and screenprinting?

 

Dante’s Inferno, Ken Russell (1967)

oliver-and-gala

Oliver Reed and co-smoulderer Gala Mitchell as (respectively) Dante Gabriel Rossetti and Jane Morris, in this fabulous Ken Russell film for the BBC, made in 1967.  According to Russell’s film editor, Michael Bradsell, Reed had three “settings” – Smoulder 1, 2 and 3.  Russell would simply call out the number he wanted and Reed would deliver the appropriate intensity of smouldering look.

 

Little People

A couple of my life paintings to finish, from my series “Little People” (actually, it’s the canvases that are little, not the people – but anyway…)

little-people-faun

Faun’s Afternoon

little-people-man-sitting-uncomfortably

Man Sitting Uncomfortably

Blackpaint

4/12/16

Blackpaint 576 – Coprophagia, Clowns and Coogan

November 25, 2016

Robert Motherwell, Bernard Jacobson Gallery

Sorry, done it again – last day today.  Great little exhibition though, opposite the rear of the RA.  These three are big ones – 177, 194 cms, that sort of order; “California” (1959) is a bit like a Frankenheimer and “The Studio” (1987) surely channels Matisse.

mother-1

The Mexican Window (1974)

 

mother-2

California (1959)

 

mother-4

The Studio (1987)

 

Intrigue – James Ensor, presented by Luc Tuymans, RA

Bowled over by this; he had two or three styles, like Kitaj.  Here, in this dark one, he’s like Sickert –  there, in that dark drawing room, like Vuillard.  You can see Van Gogh, Turner (the green stage one, very like the Petworth Turners), Goya’s witches and penitents, Brueghel, Moreau – even Munch, but better.  Apart from the dark rooms, there are the fantastic still lifes, the skate, the cabbage and flowers with their sizzling, fizzing background – you’ll see what I mean – and the masks, chinoiserie, clowns, processions, skeletons, satirical cartoons (the Bad Doctors, winding out the patient’s small intestine, like an early martyr) – and a group of critics round the table, eating shit; first coprophagic instance.

ensor-rhubarb

ensor-the-drunkards

The Drunkards

ensor-bad-doctors

The Bad Doctors

ensor-the-intrigue

Intrigue

 

Alan Davie, the Seventies, Gimpel Fils until 14th Jan.

A rather disappointing flatness to these – no texture, no roughness.  In the gallery’s photo, however, they look brilliant.

davie-1

 

davie-2

Collections of symbols/motifs (fruit segment moons, stripey snakes, Ace of Clubs (cf. Diebenkorn), lips, crowns…  sometimes reminds me, superficially,  of Aboriginal art, or should that be first nation Australian?

Always on Sunday – Rousseau (Ken Russell, 1965) – DVD of 3 Russell films for Monitor and Omnibus.

The artist James Lloyd plays Douanier Rousseau with his own broad Yorkshire accent in this Russell film for Monitor; it works brilliantly, of course.  Russell has a woman, Annette Robertson (below) playing Alfred Jarry, the tiny anarchist playwright and revolver enthusiast, author of “Pere Ubu”, who befriends Rousseau.  At a perfrormance of Ubu, the bourgeoisie gobble a stew of faeces on stage; in case you miss it, an actor announces”shitter!”, twice, to the disgust and outrage of the audience – second coprophagic episode.

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Isadora Duncan, the Biggest Dancer in the World –  (Ken Russell, 1966)

Isadora (Vivian Pickles) and 500 children in floaty costumes ran down a hill at the Devil’s Punchbowl in Surrey, towards the cameras and Ken waiting at the bottom. Unfortunately, they all ran to the right instead of parting and flowing past Ken on both sides, so they had to go back up and do it again.  Brilliant TV film of course. but NOT the feature film that I remember; that was based on a different memoir and directed by Karel Reisz.  It starred Vanessa Redgrave and in one memorable montage sequence, showed Isadora arriving at “London” station.  I think Readers Digest funded it.

kenrussell2

Nomad, Alan Partridge (Steve Coogan)

Alan Partridge and James Joyce are similar, in that their respective styles penetrate and corrupt anything you read immediately afterwards.  I remarked before on how Finnegans Wake affects me; I tend to read a few pages at a time, then move on to another book – for a while, you think you are still reading “Wake” and you can’t properly take in the new text.  I had the exact same thing with Partridge and Proust.  Granted, Alan was discussing the way his excess fat tends to form on his back and Marcel was spending three pages or so describing milk boiling over…

Three small ones on wood panel and one (Seated Figure ) on canvas:

seated-figure

Seated Figure

 

hard-abstract

Fleeing Figure

 

still-life-with-orange

Still Life with Orange and Banana

 

yellow-bridge

Bridgehead 2

Blackpaint

25.11.16

Blackpaint 560 – England’s Great Disaster (England 1, Iceland 2) and some art, of course…

June 27, 2016

 

monkey man,

Monkey Man, Blackpaint 2016

National Portrait Gallery – Lucian Freud/Chantal Joffe

A few erstwhile unknown works by Freud, well worth a look; a lovely drawing of a sleeping girl and an unfinished self-portrait, a drawing in paint of another girl, as well as a childhood drawing from a sketchbook.

freud sleeper

The Joffe painting, a self-portrait with her daughter, is in the characteristic, elongated Joffe style, the proportions making it appear that they were looking into a convex distorting mirror; (relatively) small heads and feet, bulging tums.  Check Joffe’s feet; the toes are just like Captain Lee’s (he who forgot to put his trousers on – see Blackpaint 510).

Gothic, Ken Russell (1987)

An unholy (!) screaming nightmare, Natasha Richardson as Mary Shelley, at risk from the attentions of Lord Byron (Gabriel Byrne), when he’s not attending to her half-sister Claire; several images from paintings:

  • Fuseli’s painting “The Nightmare” of a demon squatting on a sleeping woman’s abdomen;

gothic nightmare

  • Bacon’s painting of the Muybridge crippled boy, walking on all fours (Percy Shelley playing the fool on the chateau’s roof);
  • Magritte’s bandaged heads and faces in the sex scene with Byron and Claire and the clearly Magrittean breast with eye-nipple.

tit

For me, the abiding images those of Timothy Spall’s (Dr. Polidori’s) decapitated head smiling up out of the basket and the final one of the baby Frankenstein monster at the bottom of the lake.  A noisy mess of a film but unmistakeably Russell, and therefore brilliant.

Incidentally, it can’t be the case that there are many blogs where you can see breasts with eyes and friars emerging from a demon’s bottom (Blackpaint 452).

colunga

Colunga, Blackpaint

Just watched England lose 2-1 to Iceland – art no longer seems important.  As Captain Scott said (under even worse circumstances) “I do not think I can write any more”.

Blackpaint

27.06.16

 

 

 

Blackpaint 547 – Knees, Neon, Ken and Viagra

May 28, 2016

green thing1

Green Thing, Blackpaint

28/5/16

Today’s blog is about exhibitions in the West End, two of which have just ended- but you can investigate the work further online.  I just didn’t get round to going soon enough…

Jenny Savile,  Gagosian

This exhibition finished today, I’m afraid, but the drawings on show were stunningly good, as can be seen from the example below – just look at those knees coming out at you.  They are huge, by the way (the drawings, not the knees; but then again, the knees are huge too, of course, because the drawing is).  They are executed with a variety of mark makers, charcoal, pastel, ink too, I think, and most are covered with Twombly-like scribbles in pastel (the drawing below is an exception).  What the purpose of the scribbling is, I’m not sure; I saw her interviewed on TV and she was talking about how children see and draw things, so maybe it’s something to do with that.  Whatever the reason, the drawings are so bold, sure and strong that the scribbles don’t detract from the basic structure – although to my eyes, they don’t enhance it either.

An essential little exhibition, then; unmissable, as they say.

jenny savile

 

Francois Morellet, Annely Juda, Dering Street W1

This one is on until 24th June.  Morellet is French and is now 90 years old.  He founded the GRAV group in the 60’s, which believed that (I quote from the leaflet) “the notion of the sole artist was outdated and which focused on the direct participation of the public.”  He uses materials like neon and sticky tape and his pieces are symmetrical, geometric and slightly off-kilter.  Take the piece below – you want to push the two pairs of rectangles so that they line up to make a big one and the heavy black lines form a cross.  Or at least, I do.

The pieces are neat, succinct, attractive in a passing way.  Nice contrast to the nearby Savile.. until today, of course.

francois

 

Michelle Dovey, The Colourful Sausage Trees, Gimpel Fils, Davies Street… until yesterday.

dovey,

Done it again, I’m afraid – visited it in the last week.  What you would have seen would have been a dozen? or so paintings like the one above, in bright colours, yellows, pinks, of her “sausage trees”.  they are quite small – 36*48 inches, that sort of size.  But now they’ve gone, planted out again.

 

The Music Lovers, Ken Russell, 1970

I’m on a Ken week at the moment, my appetite having been renewed by the fabulous series of TV films he made for Monitor and Omnibus, three of which have just come out on DVD.

The best of these was the one on Delius, “Song of Summer”, and I was delighted to see Max Adrian back as Rubinstein and Christopher Gable, Fenby in the Delius film, as Chiluvsky, Tchaikovsky’s male lover – that’s him on the right below, a far cry from his portrayal of Eric Fenby.  I didn’t recognise him until the credits rolled.  I thought Richard Chamberlain as Tchaikovsky was weak but Glenda Jackson as Nina riveting; beautiful, strong featured, able to transform to bleared, blasted and grotesque for the madhouse scenes.  There’s a lot of Jackson in Maxine Peake, I think.  Forgot to mention Maureen Pryor, Jelka in “Summer”, Nina’s procurator mother in “Music Lovers”

music-lovers

Elena, Zvyagintsev (2011)

This was on TV the other night; a murder story strangely unresolved at the end, it reminded me strongly of Chabrol.  I was very pleased with this insight, until I looked the film up on Wikipedia and found that same comparison.  Viagra as a murder weapon, though – that must be a first??

 

the ring

The Ring – don’t insert the video!!

A life painting that went wrong; the head was strange so I painted it out and put another one on – and got that malevolent Japanese girl from “The Ring”.  Head’s now right, though.

Blackpaint

28.05.16

 

Blackpaint 546 – Venus, Golgotha, Ken Russell and Delius

May 21, 2016

Still Life with Green Glass

still life with green glasss 2

Blackpaint – continuing with my new policy of putting my painting at the start of the blog, in case you log out without reading on (unlikely, I know).

 

Botticelli Re-imagined at Victoria and Albert

This exhibition falls into three sections:

1. 20th and 21st century works inspired by Botticelli, one of which is the clip from the Terry Gilliam film below (1997):

 

botticelli Thurman

Uma Thurman, coming out of her shell in the Adventures of Baron Munchausen (dir. Terry Gilliam, 1988)

There is also the inevitable Dr. No clip of Ursula Andress, wading out of the waves to Sean (James Bond) Connery’s astonishment and appreciation;  Warhol’s Ribena/raspberry- coloured graphic of the head of B’s Venus; a Magritte, in which Flora from Primavera accompanies a bowler-hatted man;  David laChappelle’s Koons-ish psychedelic Venus, with two unclothed men holding suggestive conches; and a Munoz, in which Venus, a drawing collaged with nuts and washers rises from a sea of modern detritus.

2.  19th century works inspired by Botticelli:

Several works by Burne-Jones of the rich brown tones; a couple by Gustave Moreau (I like the scrapy one); an Ingres nude with a large vase, on which he worked with someone else whose name escapes me and which took him 36 years to finish; several Mucha-like pictures that reminded me of posters advertising fruit and veg, that I used to see in Mrs. Dean’s greengrocers round the corner in the 1950’s; a lovely, freshly- coloured tapestry by William Morris.  And-

3.  Works by Botticelli himself and “Workshop of..”:

Loads of Virgins with baby Christs, mostly hugely fat or nearly as big as the mother, often accompanied by a young John the Baptist.  Virgins usually good, Christs decidedly not so.  The faces have a very graphic, flat, drawn quality (see Simonetta below), maybe something to do with the use of tempera?  Also gives them a very modern look, somehow.

 

Botticelli Vespucci 1

Simonetta Vespucci, Botticelli

Two versions of the same woman, B’s decidedly more glamorous (compare nose, forehead, chin and figure) but del Garbo’s more convincing to my mind – she looks skeptical and rather bored.

Botticelli del Garbo

Simonetta Vespucci, del Garbo

Some great tondos, two portraits of a Medici man, the Mystical Nativity and B’s great (but difficult to make out) drawings of Dante’s circles of hell are the best things on show.

The Cast Rooms at V and A

The strangest sight in these stunning rooms is, of course, still the 12th century Shobdon Tympanum, with its hippy, androgynous Christ in the skirt and stripey sweat shirt-

shobdon tympanum

 

…but these two German Golgothas, the first the size of an old TV, the second a huge plaque, are also of interest, for the odd headgear as well as the brilliant carving:

 

Cast Room 1

Cast of Oak Altarpiece by Hans Bruggemann C.1514 – 21, Schleswig Cathedral

 

Cast Room 3

 

 

And the main event…

Cast Room 4

I don’t know who executed this – took a photo of the wrong label.

 

Song of Summer – Ken Russell’s 1968 Omnibus film on DVD

Russell’s Omnibus films on Elgar, Debussy and Delius (pictured) are out on DVD/BluRay at last; I got them in FOP, Charing Cross Road for £18 – they’re £29 odd in the BFI on the South Bank.  The early rules for art docs on the BBC seem  extraordinary now, and evolved as Russell made them, as a result of his pushing, I guess.  At first, he wasn’t allowed to have actors at all; for his Prokofiev he could only use archive.  For Elgar, he had a boy riding a horse and actors representing Elgar and his wife – but NO dialogue.  For Debussy, he had to do a film about Oliver Reed et al making a film about Debussy, with a fictional director.  Finally, for Delius, he managed actors and dialogue.  Why these restrictions?  I suppose a ferocious regard for accuracy and authenticity on the part of the BBC.

 

Delius 1

Christopher Gable (left) as Eric Fenby and Max Adrian as Delius – or is it Keith Richards in younger days?

 

delius 2

Fenby writing, Delius dictating

Russell based the Delius film on Eric Fenby’s book “Delius as I Knew Him” and on meetings with Fenby himself.  He (Russell) thought it was his best work and said that it was absolutely accurate; Fenby was reduced to tears on visiting the set, as it all came back to him – he’d had a nervous breakdown in the 20s after four years as a willing slave to the blind and paralysed composer-dictator.

The performances of Christopher Gable – a prominent ballet dancer – as Fenby, Maureen Pryor as Jelka, Delius’ wife and especially Max Adrian as the “monster” himself are stunning.   David Collings is also good as the irritating Percy Grainger, chucking his tennis ball over the house and tearing through to catch it on the other side – impossible, surely.  Fantastic film; Russell was a genius.  I could remember nearly every detail from seeing it on TV in 1968.

Blackpaint

21.05.16