Posts Tagged ‘Kirchner’

Blackpaint 630 – The Frenchman, the Sea Monster and the Swinging Light-Bulb

November 20, 2018

Edward Burne-Jones, Tate Britain

That glowing orange – red dress curving in its folds to the left is quite something….

….as is the fabulous female back in Perseus and Andromeda but spoilt, I think by the casual model-ish, stance, that makes her look a bit too pretty somehow; better if she’d been in water up to the thighs maybe.

 

Andromeda looks quite unconcerned as Perseus takes on the dragon, as if she doesn’t care who the victor will be.

Lots of well- muscled male buttocks on display in this huge exhibition of huge paintings; a little reminiscent of the recent Queer Art show, especially Duncan Grant’s swimmers.  Also, funny how these mythical maidens and warriors always carry Nazi associations for me – Wagner, Rhine maidens and all that, of course, but I think Ken Russell is also responsible.

Wonderfully skilled painter, great compositions, range of talents (tapestries, for instance)

Callan

My Christmas gift was box sets, in B&W initially, then colour, of the surviving episodes of this great series from the 60s.  It has the most haunting theme tune, played as a light bulb swings before the troubled eyes of Callan and then shatters as a bullet strikes it.

Callan left, Meres background

Callan is an ex-soldier and convict, brilliantly played by Edward Woodward, who is, reluctantly, employed by the Section, a very secret (illegal?) state security organisation, led by a series of toffs, each one codenamed “Hunter”.  “Hunters” are short-lived; there have been four so far, in the 12 episodes I’ve watched –  two of them killed, one by Callan himself.  The body count is high, male and female and the range of murderous agents Callan has had to take on is wide and interesting: old and new Nazis, KGB of course, Czechs, East Germans, OAS veterans (Algerian war) -even a British mercenary officer.  Callan operates in a constant state of barely controlled rage at his public school bosses and fellow agents.

My memory of the series was at fault in one very important aspect: I remembered Callan as a sort of semi-detached assassin, who was allotted a target, paid and was then on his own, especially if caught.  Actually, he is on the payroll and in fact, is the moral centre of the series; the others, especially Meres (Anthony Valentine) and Cross (Patrick Mower) are odious posh boys, lacking anything by way of a conscience.

One aspect of the series, peculiarly, reminded me of modern TV – Callan’s thoughts, like those of Mitchell and Webb in “Peep Show”, are often revealed in voice-over, as he searches a flat or lies in wait.

Faces in the Crowd,  2005, Whitechapel Gallery

Eduard Manet, Masked Ball at the Opera (detail)

I recently acquired the catalogue (above) for this terrific exhibition that I visited at the time but had completely forgotten.  It consisted of paintings, photographs and posters, including work by Manet, Picasso, Beckmann, Magritte, Kirchner, Sander, Walker Evans, Bomberg, Warhol, Bacon, Sickert, Giacometti…. and a hundred more.

Two fascinating facts I have learned from the catalogue: male harlequins are popularly supposed to be able to breastfeed – and Picasso apparently included harlequin figures in some of his sketches for “Guernica”.

Tony Joe White 

RIP.  See him on “Country Rock at the BBC”, tearing up “Polk Salad Annie” with a burning cigarette stuck on the end of one of his guitar strings; “Polk Salad Annie – the ‘gators got your Grannie (chomp, chomp)”…

Tony Joe also wrote “A Rainy Night in Georgia”; enough for one lifetime.  Honey-dripping voice, shit-eating grin.

 

The Frenchman

Blackpaint

20.11.18

 

 

 

Blackpaint 468 – Widerberg’s Spacemen, Kirchner’s Women, Vampires and Incest

November 8, 2014

Frans Widerberg at Kings Place

Paintings that show elongated, naked humanoids with big feet, sometimes on horseback, in a circle holding hands, under the stars and heavenly lights; it’s a sort of world of aliens, faintly reminiscent of the Bowie spaceman in “the Man who Fell to Earth” (although I imagine Widerberg’s came first).  The palette is pretty much as shown below – primary, crude, a flat, poisonous yellow and violet blue the main colours.  The execution of the figures is also rough and intentionally (?) crude.

The blurb describes him as one of the most important Norwegian figurative painters since Munch – I can’t stand the colours and the spacemen, but then I hate Munch’s pictures too.  Maybe one or two might be OK, like a Kirkeby or Polke, as part of a bigger work, with a big dollop of irony (somehow, though, I don’t think Widerberg’s pictures have anything to do with irony); but dozens of them…

 

widerberg

Kirchner

I’ve said it before, but I think Kirchner’s long, elegant, insect-like women are beautiful.  I was reading the Hagens’ “What Great Paintings Say” (Taschen)  on Kirchner’s “Potsdamer Platz” and was intrigued to discover the reason for their sedate and dignified appearance: there was an ordinance in force in Berlin that prohibited prostitutes from displaying any untoward behaviour.  They could parade legally, provided they did it with decorum; presumably, the clients had to make the first move.

kirchner - berlin street scene

 

Ian McEwan – The Cement Garden and First Love, Last Rites 

Having read most of his recent books, I’ve got round to the earliest; a very different McEwan from the one who creates the middle-class professional characters of “Saturday” or “The Children Act”.  I was actually thinking  he might have trouble getting them published, if he were an unknown today.  Graphic – but not erotic –  scenes of incest and sexual abuse of a young girl by an older sibling in “Homegrown” (Last Rites)  might not make it into print, unless they were in a misery memoir.

Then I read about the attacks in the right-wing US media on Lena Dunham, for her description of examining her little sister’s vagina (as a child) and finding pebbles there.  It’s obviously supposed to be funny, but the critics call it sexual child abuse.  I wonder what they would make of McEwan’s early fiction.

Andrew Graham – Dixon’s The Art of Gothic, BBC4

AGD did Dracula this week; his thesis was that the vampire was a metaphor for burgeoning capitalism, sucking the blood of the workers of the world.  He quoted from Marx, describing capitalism in that way – but was unable to come up with a similar quotation from Bram Stoker, which might have helped his case.  He did link Stoker with the Protestant Ascendancy in Ireland, so Count Dracula in Transylvania, feeding parasitically on his peasant tenants, could be seen as kin to Anglo-Irish landlords – but I think this analysis is basically spurious.  AGD didn’t mention Dracula’s predilection for invading the bedrooms of young women and feasting on their blood – no, it’s not about sex, it’s about capitalism.  Not convinced.

Painting

Haven’t got a new painting to show, so a couple of life studies to go on with.

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 Sonia with a Big Ball 1 & 2

Blackpaint

8.11.14

Blackpaint 439 – Michelangelo, the Saints and the Black Snake Moan

March 27, 2014

Last Week in Rome…

..to which “all roads lead”, according to the 20th Rome Marathon T shirt and day sac which I earned with my sweat and stiff legs – along with a heavy, rather Futurist/Fascist style medal, pictured below.

001

Before and after the run, we queued and filed past/through all the compulsory tourist sites, starting with the Sistine Chapel.

Michelangelo

I’ve written many times about Michelangelo in this blog, notably my theory that Shakespeare was his reincarnation (conclusive proof in Blackpaint 217) and, perhaps less controversial, the fact that “Michelangelo doesn’t do trees” (Blackpaint 112).  The tree in the pic below is pretty much the sole exception.  The ceiling, lower than I expected, was, of course, fabulous; but it was amusing to see the two opportunities for censorship that had been missed by the various popes and officials down through the ages – especially since some loincloths were added to male figures:

Briefly, there is the famous proximity of Eve’s face to Adam’s penis in the Temptation panel-

eve sistine

And the snake sucking – or eating -Minos’ penis in the bottom right of the altar piece (shades of Blind Lemon Jefferson’s “Black Snake Moan”).  Minos was a portrait of Biagio, the Papal master of ceremonies, who had been rude about the “lascivious” paintings, so the snake was Mick’s revenge.

penis sistine

 

While I was pointing these features out to my companions, a grey-suited official continually repeated, in an irritated, but defeated tone, “No Talking!! No Photo!! SHH! SHH!”, occasionally lunging forward to try to block some miscreant taking a photo on his mobile phone.

Bought a 10 Euro poster of the Delphic Sybil and noted again the decisively male musculature of those arms, which in no way detracts from the beauty of the face:

sybil sistine

St.Peter’s

Apart from the Michelangelo Pieta, which is now behind glass, there is some great statuary that I was unable to find much about on web:

There is a standing saint, pointing a finger in the manner of a Parmagianino painting, with that crook in the middle and the long neck – it’s St.Elijah, by one Agostino Cornacchini

st elijah

There is a fantastic St.Andrew, bearing a rough old saltire on his muscular back, by Francois Duquesnoy

st andrew

St. Bruno, not filling his pipe, but recoiling inexplicably from a child reaching up towards him; it’s by Michelangelo Slodtz (?)

st bruno

 

A tableau from which the figure of Time, a skeleton with an hourglass, emerges – or rather, is slipping out from under a sheet.  Couldn’t find this one.

OK, enough from Rome for now; more next blog.

The Great War in Portraits, National Portrait Gallery

Free exhibition, about 30 – 40 minutes worth; several good paintings, among them this Sickert

sickert

 

which has a coruscating surface, impossible to see in the above – and the well-known yellow Kirchner, with the imaginary severed hand.  There is that great Isaac Rosenberg self-portrait

rosenberg

and a drawing by Max Beckmann, very much in the Grosz street mode.  Some fascinating photographs too.

Coming Up for Air

I can’t read enough Orwell at the moment, having plunged in with Burmese Days a few weeks ago; I’ve read everything he wrote and everything about him (apart from the Taylor biog), some of it three or four times, but I’m still getting the odd surprise.  I’d forgotten, for example, that “Air” contains a dry run for the Two Minute Hate in “1984”; Orwell’s protagonist George Bowling is attending an talk by a well-known “anti – fascist”, as the speaker is introduced.  Interesting that the tirade of hate-filled cliches is being delivered by an ANTI -fascist, given Orwell’s politics…

Italian TV

We could do with the “Singing and Dancing” channels over here, to dilute the endless flow of high level intellectual and cultural output we are subject to in the UK; I blame the BBC.  Also, we need more shopping channels and spy films from the 60s.  There was one British film, in which Peter Sellers starred as a priest who went up in a rocket ship – I think he hijacked it – must look it up.

No proper paintings done in last few weeks, so a couple of life studies to compare with the Michelangelos above:

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Blackpaint

27.03.14

 

Blackpaint 339 – Toads, Pus, and Self-Indulgent Vice

April 26, 2012

Figure Drawing

Trying to keep my hand in on the figure drawing front until I can return to my Friday sessions, I bought a big pad and have been copying nudes out of the Louvre and Courtauld guidebooks.  After two days, I’m thoroughly sick of Rubens nudes in lesbian fantasy poses, bouncing about with tambourines, and naked slave girls being artfully stabbed at the court of Sardanopolis, and I’ve taken refuge in the works of Kirchner.  Pointy feet, skinny. insect-like bodies, pus, lime green and acid orange instead of rosy pinks and fleshy curves.

Cyclists

Wandering about on the common today, getting used to walking and stretching my stitches, I felt like one of those unfortunates loitering in the park,  in the Larkin poem Toads Revisited – “Waxed-fleshed out-patients,  Still vague from accidents”; always exciting nowadays  though, with the constant need to jump out of the path of the determined, hard-eyed cyclists, sprinting towards you along the No Cycling paths.  It reminded me of this I saw in the Guggenheim in Venice – it’s by Metzinger:

But actually not quite right; not enough malevolence.

Luc Tuymans

I came across this painting of his in Phaidon’s 20th Century Art Book; it’s from 1990, and is entitled “Body”.  The commentary, rather than the work itself, I found interesting.  “…a small, near-abstract composition, painted with an almost careless disregard.  Tuymans deliberately wishes to avoid the appearance of sophistication, seeing virtuosity as a self-indulgent vice.  He uses cheap paints, badly stretched canvases, and sometimes employs a medium for the base coat which causes the surface layers to crack, resulting in premature ageing… Tuyman’s colours are dismal and sickly, like the nicotine-stained walls of a decaying mental hospital.”  It seems to me that this commentary applies to a whole swathe of painters, both figurative and abstract, ranging from de Kooning and Diebenkorn to Marlene Dumas and William Sasnal – give or take the remarks about colour and cheap paint.  It is an approach that has been absorbed into the aesthetic of the last 50 years, yet it still divides people on the question of “proper art”.  Rough, cheap, dismal and sickly – sounds good to me.

Meek’s Cut-off

Saw this on TV last night.  What are we to make of the ending?  I thought Bela Tarr and Tarkovsky had cured me of the need to ask such questions, but after a straight telling of an intriguing story, with two clear possibilities presented, the film just stopped and I felt cheated.  Did the Blackfoot lead them to water or slaughter?  Still want to be told a story with a proper ending…. pathetic really.

Figure Drawing 5

Blackpaint

26.04.12

Blackpaint 233

December 22, 2010

British Museum – Drawings; Picasso – Mehretu

Total surprise, this; free alternative to spending £12 on the Book of the Dead exhibition.  And one of the best exhibitions I’ve seen this year (review of the year to follow after Christmas).

Straightaway, I have to mention Jim Dine – “The Diemaker”.  Beautiful drawing, white shirt and tie barely suggested, slumped seated pose, one hand a grey cloud, heavy shading on face and left side, which looks strangely collapsed in shadow.

RB Kitaj – “Sides”, 1976.  Three depictions of male right side, from about chin to mid thigh, chalks on yellow paper; just stunning life drawings, class of Michelangelo.  Lean, muscular body, great, sweeping curve of lower back into buttocks – fabulous.

Picasso – sketch in red chalk for “Desmoiselles d’Avignon”, an upperbody and head, and separate face, latter recognisable as a desmoiselle, former not like P. at all – heavy overdrawing, more like Rouault, say.

Matisse – “Lady in Taffeta Dress”, charcoal on paper, dress folds suggested with usual economy, fewest lines throughout – but solid.

Bonnard – “Dining Room at Cannet”, coloured drawing, 1940.  Actually a laid table, but done in perspective rather than dropped down, or forward, at this late date.  Chairlegs on right rather dodgy, though.

Anselm Keifer – “Dein goldenes Haar Margarete”, a line from Paul Celan’s Holocaust poem “Todesfuge”.  Ground level cornstalks against a blue sky, the words of the title painted across it.  The blue of the sky a surprising (to me) soft note from this artist.

Guston – Two Guston drawings, the first one of his KKK crowds, milling about in a cave, their button eyes looking somehow startled; the other, “Hooded”, a single head in a non-Klan covering, suggesting torture today, obviously.

David Smith – A drawing very like his “landscape” sculptures, a framework with dangling bits and screwed-on ratchets(?).  They remind me of those Airfix kits with the plane parts stuck on plastic frame for you to twist off.

Dorothy Dehner – Smith’s 1st wife. “The Great Gate of Kiev”, an exploded plan of a wooden structure – but it’s flying!

Kirchner – Three, I think, and interesting to hit his gestural, expressionist style first, as you pass from the little ante room with the permanent collection of early drawings, etchings and mezzotints, showing evidence of sheer, painstaking effort.  Kirchner like a draught of cold, strong wine or a release of breath.

Enough for today – rest of drawings tomorrow.

Michelangelo

Looked at the Epifania cartoon again, in this section – I’m sure that the standing figure on the viewer’s right is a self-portrait.  The broken nose is there and it looks to me like a pumped-up version of the famous St.Bartholomew’s skin self portrait on the Sistine wall – only grinning.

Blackpaint

22.12.10

Blackpaint 102

April 2, 2010

Ernst Ludwig Kirchner

I used to hate this artist’s work.  It was violent, crudely done in garish colours and too “Germanic” by miles.  Typical German stuff, I thought; women all portrayed as whores, murders (cf. Grosz and Kokoschka), cold, staring, cigarette-mouthing soldier waiting, while woman undressed for his attentions.. All impeccably Weimar and non-Nazi for sure – he was in the Nazi exhibition of degenerate art and was kicked out of the Prussian Academy of Arts – but still somehow brutish and sordid.

Then, I went to see the London exhibition at the Royal Academy – which I’m staggered to find was in 2003 (I thought it was maybe 3 years ago); I found that it was, yes, all the things I say above, but I loved it.  The colours are livid; he uses a sulphurous yellow, sickly oranges, pinks and especially lime greens.  His groups of secretly smiling, blank/black-eyed street women are like exotic, elongated insects, their fancy collars and hat plumes antennae; they are ogled by cigaretted men.  The pictures are strangely angled, as if reflected in a distorting mirror.

Those colours somehow seem to pervade German painting down to recent times, for me; Baselitz and Kippenberger, for instance.  Even – especially – when the colours are bright, they seem to have an inner darkness, or more a sort of deadness to them.  This sounds bad, but I like it; it’s not blinding Mediterranean, like those tiresome French and Spanish geniuses and not washed-out and understated, like our dour British masterpieces.

So, one thing you can be sure of when you visit Blackpaint’s blog – you will never be plagued by tired national stereotypes in the search for artistic truth.

Since I have given you two Kirchners , you have to have one of mine-

Blackpaint

02.04.10

PS – not sure if anyone is reading – please drop me a comment (good or bad) if you are.