Posts Tagged ‘Ken Russell’

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

 

 

 

 

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Blackpaint 406 – Tarkovsky and porn, events in Jane Austen, My Old Paintings

July 25, 2013

Uzak (cont.)

It’s about alienation, of course – hence “Distant”, meaning of Uzak.  The distance between Yusuf and Mahmut, Mahmut and his ex-wife, Yusuf and the pretty girls he half-heartedly stalks, the distancing effect of the snow on Istanbul’s streets and buildings… you get the picture.  The country cousin Yusuf, with his hungover, hangdog expression, “sailor’s cigarettes” and childish laugh manages to generate some sympathy; the rat-faced Mahmut, drinking in trendy jazz cafes, watching Tarkovsky and porn, and resenting the lack of sophistication of his lumpish guest, is the more dislikeable of the two.

uzak2

Some great shots, as well as the snow scenes I mentioned last blog; one in particular, a silver fish flipping on the pavement, having fallen from the full creel; the camera pulls back and up to close-up of Yusuf, and then beyond him to the traffic that flows both ways across the screen, slightly out of focus against a leaden grey sky.  Hard to explain why so good – something to do with the closeness and the angle of shot, maybe.

Ceylan now my third favourite director, after Bela Tarr and Fellini – but then there’s Bunuel and Herzog and Sokurov and Ken Russell….and Visconti and Pasolini….

Simon of Sudbury

Sight of the week on TV was on BBC4 last night, in “Chivalry and Betrayal” :  the head of the above-named unfortunate, still with some skin clinging, kept in a wall safe at a church in Sudbury, having been chopped off 600 plus years ago by Wat Tyler’s followers in the Peasants’ Revolt.  Sudbury thought up the first poll tax – bad idea, as he was dragged out of the chapel in the White Tower and dispatched unceremoniously by the unimpressed taxees (is that a word?  It is now).

Simon of Sudbury

Jane Austen  (no, that’s Simon of Sudbury above)

Great that her face is going on banknotes; I once used to say that I would go to my grave without reading Jane Austen – now that I have made it to chapter 44 of “Sense and Sensibility”, I wish I’d stuck to that.  Event-free, is how I would describe it; things livened up a little when it looked as if Marianne was going to die – but she got better.  Maybe she’ll have a relapse in the last 6 chapters.  What I find really difficult is keeping up with who is related to who – who, for example, is Mrs. Jennings?  I can’t be bothered paging back through the Kindle; I’ll have to go to Wikipedia, I  suppose.

Some Old Work

I’ve not finished a new painting since last blog and latest is in no fit state to insert as a work-in-progress (must get rid of the lime green patch first) – so here is some old work that I’ve never used or not shown for ages:

133-e1293405580314

Sweet England

21st-may-2010-001

Grey Landscape 

bushes-and-briars

Bushes and Briers

finsbury mud 1

Finsbury Mud

glass and fog

Fog and Glass

OK – enough old stuff for now.  I hope to have at least one new painting to show by next blog; depends on the lime green and its willingness or otherwise to go away.

Blackpaint

25.07.13

Blackpaint 384 – I Hate Lists.

March 7, 2013

Stoker

Great film, directed by Park Chan-wook, starring Eva Wasikowska,  which seems to be dividing critics; Philip French in the Observer seemed to think it was just too much of everything, especially the Philip Glass score.  It’s full of references, visual and verbal, to other films  and it would be tedious to list the few that I got – so, here goes:

Psycho, throughout- Uncle Charlie’s appearance in distance on the hill,  echoing the Psycho poster, the motel, the shower scene; Carrie – India’s white dress stained red by the light outside the diner where she talks to the biker; Edward Hopper, the same scene (not the biker, the diner-and I know, Hopper a painter, not a film); Marnie (maybe) –  the red staining of the flowers recalling Tippi Hedren’s half-memory of the blood staining the back of Bruce Dern’s sailor’s suit…; Deliverance –  the policeman speaking to India, recalling the sheriff’s conversation with Jon Voigt – “Oh, he’ll come in drunk  probably…”..  A few fanciful ones – Deer Hunter?  Grease?  Stand by Me?  I’m sure I’ve missed a bunch of teen vampire refs in there and I read that Shadow of a Doubt, another Hitchcock that I haven’t seen, has a murderous Uncle Charlie.

There are some visual moments that have to be mentioned; the spider disappearing up India’s skirt, Nicole Kidman’s hair turning to grass, the blood spattering the flowers – sorry, done that one already.

The Lair of the White Worm

A Bram Stoker book, appropriately; Ken Russell directed a 1988 “version” which was on TV last week and providentially, I happened on it whilst trawling the horror channels.  It has to be seen to be believed, and even then..  Hugh Grant as Lord d’Ampton – the whole thing is inspired by the legend of the Lambton Worm – and Peter Capaldi as Angus the archaeologist, who digs up the snake’s skull and the Roman temple remains.  The acting of the entire cast is reminiscent of the Five Go Wild series; you are contemplating switching channels, thinking how sad to see Ken in decline, when suddenly – a psychedelic interlude!  Christ bleeding on the cross, entwined by a revolting giant white worm thing, surrounded by screaming, bloodstained nuns being raped and slaughtered by Roman soldiers, all in acid colours – and we’re back in Russell territory.  In a later vision, the nuns are impaled on stakes, like victims of Vlad.

A later dream sequence has Amanda Donohoe wrestling with Catherine Oxenberg as a pair of sexy air “hostesses” on board a jet in which Hugh Grant sits tied up, playing with his pencil…  And Capaldi, in kilt, charming the serpent by playing the tune of the Lambton Worm to it on the bagpipes and suddenly producing a hand grenade – where did he get that?  Before leaving the film, I must mention that the virtually naked Donohoe drowns a harmonica playing boy scout in her bath.  Actually, he’s finished playing – she does a little snake dancing to it and then snatches his harmonica away, irritably, before pushing him under the water with her foot.

For me, it’s up there with The Wicker Man (Roeg version, of course); what a double bill that would make. NB – correction!  Wicker Man directed by Robin Hardy, NOT Nick Roeg.  Sorry – mix-up, because Wicker Man was originally released in a double bill with Don’t Look Now – which was, of course, directed by Roeg.

BBC yourpaintings website

I’ve just been browsing this website and the following paintings caught my eye from the first 10 pages of the 99 devoted to Tate collections:

  • A Man Who Suddenly Fell Over, Michael Andrews, 1952  
  • A Singer at the Bedford Music Hall, Spencer Gore, 1912 – is that the Bedford in Balham?  Looks a bit Keith Vaughan…
  • Abstract Painting, Vanessa Bell, 1914 – that pink and dark yellow very like a much later Ben Nicholson; love the roughness.
  • A Tree Study, Robert Medley, 1959 – never heard of him.
  • Abstract, Gillian Ayres.

(c) Gillian Ayres; Supplied by The Public Catalogue Foundation

Ayres

This website is the sort of place where you might end up browsing for hours, days, months…

001

Seaside

Blackpaint

07.03.13

Blackpaint 380 – Adams, Attenborough and Lady Chatterley

February 7, 2013

Schwitters again

As threatened, I have visited this exhibition at Tate Britain again.  Second visit confirmed my first opinions – paper and material collages brilliant, straight lines good, curves and circles bad (unless rubber or cardboard or metal rings glued on), human figures or faces pasted in detract from the collages, paintings not good, poetry great .  Here’s an example: “Fumms Bo Wo Tiu Ziu UU”… actually, I can’t do umlauts on my keyboard, so this must look ridiculous – but it gives you an idea of Schwitters’ verse.

My favourites were:  “Opened by Customs”, “Mask”, “The Nipple Picture”, “Pine Trees”, “Horizontal”, “Windswept”…  Well, go and see for yourself.  Collage sounds childish to some people; sticking bits of paper in primary school, we all did it.  But Schwitters actually makes abstract pictures, where others might just have random bits of stuff stuck on a sheet of paper.

Ansel Adams at the National Maritime Museum

You expect a nature photographer – THE nature photographer, maybe – but in a sense, he is something more than this.  As the film which accompanies the photos makes clear, Adams considered himself an expressionist artist.  The photographs were supposed to  convey mood and emotion; consequently, he spent hours developing versions of what he’d photographed, darkening or lightening skies, creating pictures that did NOT show the river or the mountain or the sky that had been in front of his camera, but an adapted variation.

What you notice is the sharp edge or “cut” of the prints, the dense blacks, the textures of the rocks.  There is one picture which resembles a samurai in a kimono, sitting on a bank of sand or gravel by a fast flowing, Alaskan (?) river, with a dense layer of black bringing it into relief.  Another, of a rock with limpets or mussels attached, like a curving human back or elephant’s head; another “Japanese” looking picture, with “rushes” piercing bleached-out water surface that are really submerged trees.

These are the ones that impressed me most; there are also the dramatic mountain- and skyscapes, storm clouds billowing in the gaps between the peaks – no doubt, enhanced in the darkroom.  No little people to give scale; as far as I remember, no animals either.

ansel

Interesting to compare this exhibition to the

Wildlife Photography Prize at the Natural History Museum 

These are of such staggering technical brilliance that you are awed – or you would be, if you didn’t watch Attenborough’s current “Africa” series and/or the last one, the title of which escapes me for the moment.  In fact, this exhibition is rather like a collection of Attenborough stills and enlargements.  In one way it is better – you don’t get that terrible, jaunty penguin music, or the polar bear cub tubas, or the waltz for the fighting giraffes…  I prefer to watch it with the sound down now – you don’t hear the commentary, but that’s also taken a dive lately, with Attenborough anthropomorphising, which he said he’d never do…

Whilst at the NHM, there is an exhibition of paintings and drawings by early 19th century naturalists and some gifted amateurs, some of which are very beautiful; the Audubons of course, the Bird of Paradise plant, the various sketch books (more staggering brilliance), and the renditions of native Australians and ships at sea by the anonymous group called “The Port Jackson Painter” – an echo of those medieval Masters of here and there in the British Museum.

Joan Mitchell

joanmitchell

A documentary on Sky Arts the other night sent me straight back to the Livingston book on JM:  the beautiful, cold freshness of the greens, blues and pinks in the early ones; the ones built of interlocking swipes of blue, white and black; the floating, black or grey masses in the midst of frenzied streamers of colour in the “depression” pictures early 60s.  Sometimes her pictures remind me of dyed and shredded paper.

Lady Chatterley

Watched  this French film, directed by Pascal Ferran, noticing some baffling differences to the famous book – notably, the priapic gamekeeper was called Parkin, not Mellors.  Then, I discovered on Wikipedia that it is based on an earlier version by Lawrence, entitled “John Thomas and Lady Jane.”  So, that cleared that up.  The naked romping in the forest in the rain and the garlanding of various body parts were present and correct, however.    Haven’t yet seen the English effort, made for TV in 1993, directed by Ken Russell –  the master of naked forest romping – with Sean Bean as Mellors and Joely Richardson as Lady C; I expect Ken, Sean and Joely do a better job – chauvinism on my part, no doubt.  But surely the definitive version would be that of Just Jaeckin, starring the late Sylvia Kristel.

??????????

Blue Billboard

Blackpaint

07.02.13

Blackpaint 332 – Ken, Katrine and Five Abstract Painters

March 23, 2012

Tonino Guerra

Obit today in the Guardian, the above was the co-screen writer for Tarkovsky’s Nostalgia (the one with the self-immolation at the end); Antonioni’s l’Aventurra (the one with Monica Vitti, in which the girl Anna goes missing from the island); and Fellini’s Amarcord (the one with the fog, and the motorbike races, and the uncle who climbs the tree and throws stones at everyone) – but also those neo-realist(?) films of Rosa; Giuliano, Illustrious Corpses..  a major passing.

BFI Documentary Section

On the South Bank, by Waterloo Bridge, is the BFI and you can walk into the above section and sit at a screen and watch anything they have for free, no membership or bother.  I walked in today and found they have all Ken Russell’s BBC stuff, Elgar, Delius, etc.  I watched “Scottish Painters”. his 10 minute prog on Colquhoun and MacBryde; loads of great paintings on show, MacBryde’s still lifes and Colquhoun’s eerie, stone-faced women in shawls with Picasso hands..  Then, his 16 minute feature on the guitar, with Davey Graham doing “Cry Me A River” on a bombsite – looked about 16.  Leave it for a week before you visit – I want to see all the Kens first (Devils now out on DVD; got it today).

Those Who Kill (ITV3)

Why have there been no reviews in the broadsheets of this Danish serial killer series?  After all, Troels from the Killing is in it; Rie popped up last night, as the wife of the psychopath.. Presume it’s because it’s ITV3, not BBC4.   No woollen jumpers, it’s true, but Katrine, the damaged heroine, has established a sort of uniform of her own.  they are pretty much a disaster as police; there have been four episodes, I think; she was kidnapped and tortured in one, taken hostage in a prison and nearly raped in the next, had a week’s rest while Thomas, her sidekick, went undercover and was beaten up and came close to being killed – and in the last one, she had a brief, vigorous affair with the psychopath of the week – and, yes, was nearly murdered.  I love those ballet-like bits when they go into dark, derelict buildings, holding their pistols out before them in a double handed grip, then spin round, dart round corners, etc.  Unmissable – unless, of course, you missed it.  Repeated Saturday night.

Back to Painting..

Thought I could do five great abstract paintings today, so here goes…

Joan Mitchell, Evenings on 73rd Street

Headwind, Peter Lanyon

Berkeley no.38, Richard Diebenkorn

Terry Frost, Red, black and white

Interchange, Willem de Kooning

Nothing really to say about the above pictures – except that I think they are all staggeringly brilliant.  my own pathetic effort below:

My New Colours

Blackpaint

23/3/12

Blackpaint 330 – Guns, Knives, Spaghetti and Rubbish

March 12, 2012

Niki de Saint Phalle

I have been looking at her “Shooting Piece” for many short periods, during the last 11 days – reason being, it’s on the March page of our Tate calendar, which hangs on the toilet door.  On Saturday, at the Tate, I had the chance to look at it in the flesh, or rather, plaster.  It’s a white plaque of thick, rumpled plaster, down which several trails of paint –  red, blue, yellow, violet – have been allowed to dribble.  It seems that she put paint into polythene bags, buried them in the plaster, and invited fellow artists – Jasper Johns and Robert Rauschenberg – to fire bullets into the work.  The paint released then ran down, in and out of the ridges randomly (sorry about the inadvertent alliteration).

I like the work; I find it pleasing visually and quite memorable.  I think I could have gone on liking the work and not knowing how it was produced, without being troubled by it.  Or rather, now that I know, it doesn’t alter my feelings in any way.  Is it now a joint work by Saint Phalle, JJ and RR?  Does the element of chance add or subtract meaning?   Not for me; I respond to its looks, not the information I have about its origins, the intentions of the artist, its context, in short.  Very shallow, maybe, but a good rule of thumb in galleries – unless you want to spend a lot of time peering at wall info, or blocking everybody’s view while you listen to some long audio commentary.

Igor and Svetlana Kopystansky

I watched their film, made in Chelsea district of NY over 2 years.  Called “Incidents”, it’s basically rubbish blowing about the streets in strong winds.  It’s hard to avoid the thought that they may have cheated by introducing particularly interesting bits of rubbish – why is this cheating?  Don’t know – it turns the film into something manufactured, rather than observed (but editing, which they of course did, does that as well).  Completely contradicts what I said about Saint Phalle, but blogger’s privilege…  Anyway, these plastic bags, cartons, bits and pieces slide and whirl about, occasionally pouncing on other bits like predators or mating insects.  Reminded me of one of those Czech cartoons you used to get on TV when they had a slot to fill.

Alighiero Boetti

At the Tate Modern.  Starts with a bunch of Arte Povera pieces, such as a perspex cube containing a sort of chest made from a variety of brown materials like bamboo and spaghetti; huge rolls of stiff paper, pulled out like a giant’s toilet roll.  Lots of writings on large yellowing paper sheets, noughts and crosses, alphabets, little broken symbols like Braille crossed with pixcels (not easy on the eye. requiring close study); letter/word colour tiles, that were almost the same as pieces by Gavin Turk, shown in a weekend paper a couple of weeks ago – some sort of hommage, presumably?

Aircraft drawn on blue in biro, apparently,; “Tutti” – tapestry wall hangings with everything in them, crammed in – bones, horses, people, trumpets…..; and the famous Afghan map hangings in bright colours, countries with flags embroidered on them.  Did it in 20 minutes, having not been stirred to serious thought or moved to tears by visual splendours.  I’d put it in the same slot as the Orozco show, a while back.

Colquhoun and MacBryde

I was interested to read in the Bristow book, “The Last Bohemians”, that Ken Russell made a BBC film about them for Monitor – only 10 minutes long, entitled “Scottish Painters”.  From Bristow’s description, it sounds like a serious study of their painting techniques and work.  A few years later, when Ken was in more florid mode,  would he have included the scene, related by Bristow, of a drunken, naked Colquhoun chasing a drunken, naked MacBryde around a front garden in Wembley, waving a knife. and lit up by occasional lightning?  I don’t think he could have resisted..

Stained Glass

Blackpaint

12/3/12

Blackpaint 322 – Canyons, Maggots and a lot of Trees…

January 29, 2012

Hockney at the RA

Went on Thursday afternoon and queued for only 20 minutes.  First, a couple of lovely, dour English paintings of Bradford scenes, then into the 60’s; cartoon boys tearing along in a car heading, so the caption said, from Switzerland to Italy, toothpaste colours in striped and chevrons, “An Ordinary Painting” with top and bottom balancing.

Then, some roaring red, roasted American landscapes; “A Closer Grand Canyon” (98) and “Nichols Canyon” (80) – the latter a fluorescent quilt, like that early Miro, the Farm, in the recent exhibition.  In the corner, “Garrowby Hill” and “The Road across the Wolds” (date 200?),  ribbons of road winding around hills, as the names suggest, the lower two thirds of each canvas flat , the top third a receding perspective of fading patchwork fields; really odd and effective. 

Watercolour trees and puddles from 2004, smudgy blue-grey skies – quite striking in their pallor, in the prevailing Ribena and lettuce-coloured surroundings. These must be the paintings that Alastair Sooke describes as “dull-as-ditchwater” in the Telegraph.  Welcome relief, I thought.

The hawthorn and blossoms were a highlight for me; big, square blocks of branch, the blossom squirming like bunches of white grubs on the limbs.  Ghosts of Paul Nash and maybe early Craxton hovering.

The uniform size and number of the IPad panels surrounding the room, I found a little off-putting; what stayed with me – the reflecting puddles and the swirling leaf/tree tunnels, created by multiple small strokes, the Van Gogh effect.

One thing very apparent, especially with the huge composite image of “Spring in Woldgate Woods” (2011), is the crudity of the drawing – the trunks are often just flat shapes, outlined with a thick dark line.  Flowers and leaves are simple shapes like cut-outs coloured in.   This may be the result of the enlargement of IPad drawings – I didn’t read the notes carefully enough to be sure.  However, it is even more apparent in the Yosemite pictures, which are recent and are definitely enlarged IPad images.  The only thing I really liked about these was the clouds in one of them.

There is a sequence of paintings in different styles which are versions of a Sermon on the Mount by Claude.  Hockney’s final version has Christ preaching on what looks like the top of a giant carrot.  These pictures seem somehow out of place, except for the carrotty colour.

The sketchbooks in glazed cabinets are good, but then, isolating and presenting images in this way gives them added significance – for me, the repetition and uniformity of size of the other images detracts, although it did occur to me that, if you saw many of these pictures in a gallery “on their own”, with  paintings by other artists, you might walk past them without a second glance.

BUT – having said that, a bit of distance makes all the difference.  If you stand right back, the other end of a room, say, some of them look great.  It’s obvious really; they’re made to be seen from far off.

I haven’t mentioned the charcoal drawings; they are really quite powerful – big, square cliff faces of tree at intersections and crossroads, looming like liners or huge black department stores.  One of them reminded me of an enormous black owl’s head.

To return to this thing about presentation for a moment – I saw the show reviewed on BBC4, the Review Show (appropriately).. and all the pictures looked fantastic – the winding roads and patchwork fields, the blossom maggots, the Technicolour woods, even the red-raw Grand Canyon.  Photographs, and especially television, glamourise everything drastically.  There’s no point in going to exhibitions, everything looks much better on the telly. 

 And of course, with IPad drawings there’s no texture, no lumps, bumps, trickles or ridges – just SMOOTH, how a picture ought to look.

Interesting to see the uniform chorus of approval on the prog for Hockney’s “positivity”; he has “brought the colour home” from the States; he is showing “bravery” for still doing new work at his advanced age (Leonard Cohen, too, got similar praise).  This positivity thing seems to be in the air in the art world; something to do with the Olympics, all being in it together, the Big Society – art in the service of society under the coalition.  Paul Morley, in particular, condemned any negative criticism of the Hockney and took a sneering swipe at the RA visitors as middle class, for making facetious remarks like “Too many trees” within his hearing.  Too many trees is, however, true and to-the-point. 

 One last thing – one test of a work to me is if the image stays in your mind with any sort of clarity, once you stop looking at it.  The Hockney pictures certainly do that.

Wilhelmina Barns – Graham

Just around the corner from the RA, in Berkeley Street, an exhibition of the above Scottish and St.Ives painter, showing a pleasing diversity if styles, from naturalism to total abstraction.  One glowing yellow ochre and brown harbour scene, resembling Prunella Clough’s early worker pictures; some lovely abstracts with magisterial brush sweeps of white; in a corner, a group of brilliant, brightly-coloured abstract shapes (with one terrible pink-based one, the larger one in the middle of the wall) and by far the best painting, a brown and red job that looked like a pair of pliers clenching a red-hot ingot – just like a Roger Hilton, I thought.  Great little exhibition, just right for my little British tastes.

The Russell Omnibuses on Elgar and Delius

Fantastic – the images and the music.  That avenue of  poplar trees filmed from below in a tracking shot in Elgar, the stunning acting of Max Adrian as Delius – “Are you ready, boy?   Take this down – Tan -ta-TAA, Tan -ta-TAA….”.  Russell was a great, great film-maker.

Blackpaint

29/01/12

Blackpaint 314

December 22, 2011

Sutherland

Laura Cumming in her review of the Sutherland show in Oxford (see Observer last Sunday) remarks on his adoption of  realism with the outbreak of WWII, or at least, the Blitz.  I remarked on this in Blackpaint 128, in relation to Bomberg, with his involvement in the First World War – it’s as if the sights of warfare call for a more realistic depiction, or some artists no longer feel that an experimental approach can do them proper justice.  Maybe this is understating it, in the case of Bomberg – according to Robert Hughes in his book on Auerbach, Bomberg was so traumatised by his time in the trenches that he shot himself in the foot, a capital offence at the time.

Irvin

I mentioned the Alice Correia essay I read in the Irvin book – she quotes Roger Hilton as follows: “Words and painting don’t go together.  The more words that are written about painting, the less people will see the painting.  Half the difficulty that people find in “understanding” painting is that they think they have to put it into words.”  The truth of this  is easily demonstrated – just think of the number of times you have gone to an exhibition and spent more time reading the labels and info on the walls than looking at the pictures.  A bit of context is OK, but a work, especially an abstract one, should speak through the image – otherwise, why bother?

Unfortunately, she spoils it for me on the previous page: “Why is it that that non-representational art draws so much negative attention? …The work of Jackson Pollock… still has the ability of infuriating viewers who feel they are being duped in some way….It could be because abstraction does not have any easy answers.  The question is not “what is it of?” but rather, “how does it make me feel?” ”  

Well, no.  Back to words again!  The “feelings” proposal negates Hilton’s comments entirely.  Pictures don’t need to represent feelings either.  She asserts that Irvin’s pictures are about hope, an easy conclusion to reach, since they are vibrant, bright colours and contain little black. But  he was in the RAF during WW2; some of them could easily represent burning German cities from a plane, with daisy-like bomb explosions (Plimsoll, Skipper and Brandenburg, for example).  Let the pictures speak for themselves.

Van Gogh

I’m sure I have remarked on this before, and that loads of others have also noticed it, but some of Vincent’s late paintings look as if he is painting  LSD experiences.  The blazing stars, of course, but also tree bark, meadow grasses, fields and hedgerows seem to swarm, somehow, or are outlined in light, in a way that I remember from long-ago “experiments” with hallucinogens.  Not to suggest that he was an early adopter; maybe a chemical imbalance made him see in that way.  Then again,  not all painters paint what they see – probably not even most.  Certainly not me, even in life drawing; I’m happy with anything that looks halfway OK, even if it’s nothing like what I see. 

The Music Lovers

Sample reviews,  from Wikipedia:

Dave Kehr of the Chicago Reader described the film as a “Ken Russell fantasia – musical biography as wet dream” and added, “[it] hangs together more successfully than his other similar efforts, thanks largely to a powerhouse performance by Glenda Jackson, one actress who can hold her own against Russell’s excess.”

TV Guide calls it “a spurious biography of a great composer that is so filled with wretched excesses that one hardly knows where to begin . . . all the attendant surrealistic touches director Ken Russell has added take this out of the realm of plausibility and into the depths of cheap gossip.”  Ken Russell must have been immensely proud of these, and other, worse, reviews.

My own realist efforts.

And latest, abstractified Figures in a (winter) landscape.  This was called “Life Drawing 1”, a couple of blogs ago.

Blackpaint

22/12/11

Blackpaint 313 – Pretentious is a Pre-condition

December 18, 2011

Fred Cuming

Saw a book of Cuming’s paintings – landscapes, gardens, studio interiors – today.  Doesn’t sound very exciting, but they are really stunning; I looked him up on Google Images and they all looked very similar, sort of blue and misty.  when you zoom them, though, the glowing fires concealed open up.  I don’t usually go for traditional landscape and figurative painters – modern ones, that is – but he’s great; best English  figurative stuff I’ve seen since Rose Hilton, up in Cork Street a few months ago.

Albert Irvin

Bought a cheapo catalogue of Irvin (see last blog) up at King’s Place the other day; the usual eye – burning raspberry, yellow and green stars and flowers etc.; I was surprised to read that an early influence was De Kooning; apparently, he (Irvin) used a lot of black in those days – don’t think he touches it now.  But his main influence was Peter Lanyon.  I can see that in the sweeping brushstrokes sometimes, but not in the colours.  Good, if short,  essay by Alice Correia, containing some interesting observations about abstraction:

Irvin

Lanyon

Cinema

I think I’ve only seen four films at the cinema this year; all of them were great.  They were Days of Heaven (Malick), Il Quattro Volte (Michelangelo Frammartino), Caves of Forgotten Dreams (Herzog) and We need to Talk about Kevin (Lynne Ramsay).  See previous blogs on all.   But this has been  a year in which I got into “World Cinema” in a serious way and discovered a world of pleasure (and pain) by accepting certain pre-conditions:

First, don’t demand a story.  You might find there is one after a while, but watch the film for the images (sound as well as visual).  Second, half-hour chunks can be good – I love Bela Tarr, but I’m not ready to do a whole film at one sitting (unless, like a number of his characters, I am very drunk on Hungarian fruit brandy).  Third, don’t scorn pretention; all art is arrogant and pretentious, or it is if it’s any good. 

10 Best films I’ve seen on DVD this year are:

Satantango, Bela Tarr (twice)

Russian Ark, Sokurov (three times)

Amarcord, Fellini (twice)

l’Age d’Or/le Chien Andalou, Bunuel/Dali (three or four times)

Satyricon, Fellini

Damnation, Bela Tarr

Werckmeister Harmonies, Tarr

Salo, Pasolini

The Discreet Charm of the Bourgeoisie, Bunuel

Women in Love, Ken Russell.

I want to publish, so it’s a bit short today.  I see I have a bad attack of brackets, so will try to avoid them henceforth (will do my best, anyway).

Figures in a Landscape

Blackpaint

17/12/11

Blackpaint 312 – He Slapped the Paint on with his Bare Hands

December 13, 2011

De Kooning

“And just as he occasionally applied the paint to canvas with his bare hands, de Kooning’s sculptures reflect the physical investment in the creation of a work of art that was characteristic of …..Abstract Expressionism.” (Barbara Hess, de Kooning, Taschen 2007).  Occasionally?  I would have thought he did it a lot and often – I don’t see how you could get some of those marks with a brush or knife.  Nothing like getting a good fistful and slapping it onto the canvas – in a careful and thoroughly controlled movement , of course…

Soutine

One more quote from the same book, this time DK himself:  “I’ve always been crazy about Soutine – … Maybe it’s the lushness of the paint.  He builds up a surface that looks like a material, like a suvstance.  There’s a kind of transfiguration, a certain fleshiness in his work”.

He’s right, isn’t he?  And there is a certain resemblance in his (Soutine’s) distorted trees and villages to DK’s “style”  (although DK hated the word).

Gesamtkunstwerk at Saatchi

Just want to mention two more artists from this exhibition; the first is Ida Ekblad, a Norwegian who often works in Germany.  She has made several thick plaques of concrete or plaster, in which are embedded, or to which are stuck, various bits of pipe and metals, coloured fabric, general rubbish, some more organised than others, a wash of paint here and there…  I know, sounds like crap, but they really look great, especially from a distance.  When she paints, she turns in huge, dramatic Scando works, owing something to the school of Per Kirkeby.  Saw one of hers in Venice Bienniale, but forgot to mention it then.

Secondly, Thomas Helbig, whose work I both loved and hated.  He has two ghastly, lumpy sculptures entitled Vater and Jungfrau, that are sort of biomorphic – half bird,  half human, really ugly in a not interesting way.  His paintings, Maschine and Wilde Mit Spiegel, however, have a delicacy of touch and colour and a rather Richter-isch quality; maybe because the first looks a bit like a blurred jet plane, recalling Richter’s September painting.

There is a book  of Helbig’s work on sale in Saatchi’s, and in it are a number of very beautiful paintings, on lacquer, I think it said, that recall Chinese wall hangings. 

Finally, for now anyway, there is Stefan Kurten; highly detailed, one or two verging on super-realism, but others in a difficult to describe graphic style -overgrown  gardens, plants, balconies, interiors of deserted flats and modern concrete buildings.  Crowded with things, empty of people.  They look fantastic in repro, maybe better than in the “flesh”.  One of them, Ultramarine II, reminded me of Hopper’s Nighthawks in its general shape, with sculptures and paintings standing in for the people.

Life Drawings

This is the finished painting that I was doing to incorporate some of my lifers, and in which I was trying to purify my colours of ” mud” and get a  De Kooning cleanliness in the tangle.  Partial success, maybe.

Life Drawing I

Here are the pictures I used:

They’re all in there somewhere.

The Music Lovers

Halfway through this and enjoying it immensely, memories flooding back.  It’s like a boisterous brother to Death in Venice, the hostility between Tchaikovsky and Rubinstein (the Delius actor) echoing that between Von Aschenbach and Alfred –   Down the river, through the willows in canoes, everyone in white,shades of  Manet… fantastic.

Blackpaint

12/12/11