Posts Tagged ‘Kitaj’

Blackpaint 647- Three at TB; Bowling, Nelson and VG

June 15, 2019

Frank Bowling, Tate Britain until 26th August

Brilliant show, and a real revelation.  I’d seen Bowling’s poured paintings a few years back at the Tate Britain, when they devoted a single room to them; in addition, there was the huge spiral staircase one that was on permanent display there (and which is in this show, of course), so I knew he’d had a Pop Art period, a sort of Hockney/Kitaj/Blake phase – see the first painting below.  There’s even a girl with a Who-type target on her tee shirt in another one.  The figurative elements gradually receded, however, until he arrived at pure abstraction – for a while, anyway.

 

 

I’d not seen these vast map jobs in screaming colours, though; Africa, South America, Europe, USA, and Asia are all there somewhere – though not necessarily in the usual positions (and, obviously, not all in the example below).

Bowling wanted – I think he still does – to be thought of as a painter, not as a black painter.  The poured paintings, for example, are not really about anything but colour and maybe texture; the properties of the paint.  When he went to the USA, he was out of step – his choice – with some of the black painters who were overtly political – some of their work was recently shown at the Tate Modern.  There is some politics on show here; this one (I think) is called “The Middle Passage”, a reference to the slavers’ sea route – but most of the (often long and oblique) titles are clearly personal, not political.

 

 

An example of the poured paintings, which he did on a tilting table of his own devising.

After the poured paintings, there is an “encrusted” period (see above); thick slathers of acrylic paint, often scraped or shaped into squares that look like slices of bread submerged in pigment.  Chunks or banana shapes of polystyrene are sometimes present, shipwrecked in the paint.  Still the colours though, are paramount.

 

 

These last two – the bottom one is huge, the other a much smaller panel shape – are quite recent; 2014-ish, I think.  So he’s still doing great work in his 80s.  Best in London, in my opinion, depending on whether the Bellany/Davie show is still on at Damien Hirst’s Newport Street Gallery.

 

Van Gogh and Britain, Tate Britain until 11th August

My fourth (or is it fifth?) visit to this show, and it’s still packed  every time.  You can get in OK but you will have to peer over shoulders or use binoculars to read the captions.  I think some of the links that the show seeks to make are rather contentious; I can’t see much similarity or evidence of VG influence in the Bomberg self portrait below, despite the caption.

 

 

Another Bomberg and the only still life I’ve seen by him; I suppose you could make a case for some VG influence here…  Great vase of flowers though. exploding in all directions – makes “still life” a ridiculous description, really.

 

The Asset Strippers, Mike Nelson, Tate Britain until 6th October

Nelson has been round the country, buying up redundant plant and machinery, which he presents as if each piece were a piece of sculpture in an exhibition.  Some are combined, that is, balanced or stacked on top of each other.  Lathes, milling machines, jacks, scales, agricultural machinery – is that a threshing machine? – knitting machines, sequin machines…  You think “Look at that machine!  It’s really complicated and it does one specific job.  What if someone says,” There’s a better way of doing that, we can skip that bit of the process by doing a or b or c…. “; That’s it for the machine – now it IS a piece of sculpture – or scrap.

 

Not sure what the “bed” of sleeping bags is supposed to represent, if anything.  Everyone in the exhibition seemed to be smiling, the old ones (and there were many) wallowing nostalgia; younger visitors trying to work out what the stuff was for.

That’s the three shows currently at Tate Britain; next time, Goncharova at Tate Modern and Huguette Caland at Tate St. Ives.

Three really old ones of mine to finish –

Angelico Tower

 

 

Fish Head

 

 

Red Guard

Blackpaint, 15/06/19

 

 

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Blackpaint 645 – Bellany and Davie; Skates, Bats, Donkeys and Diamonds

May 22, 2019

John Bellany and Alan Davie,  “Cradle of Magic”, Newport Street Gallery until 2nd June

A special, supplementary blog about one show, because it’s soon to close.  This brilliant free exhibition, all works owned by Damien Hirst, has been on since February, but somehow I’ve managed to miss it up to now – and there’s only ten or so days left; so if you possibly can, you need to get to Vauxhall Gardens and see this.

Both Scotsmen, Bellany died in 2013, Davie in 2014 at 94.  Bellany was figurative, Davie abstract – yet their paintings somehow go together, bounce off each other.  Maybe it’s colour, maybe brushwork (sometimes);  don’t know.  I’ve mixed them up, as they are mixed in the gallery, although not in the same order.

Bellany’s paintings, which are enigmatic, I think it’s fair to say, bring to my mind a range of painters; Ensor, perhaps, is foremost.  Skulls, masks, hanged men, groups of solemn, dark-clad men staring out at the viewer, the disconsolate skate/ray fish in the picture below; a general sort of cartoonish quality.  Both Ensor and Bellany lived in coastal towns; Ensor in Ostend, Bellany in the fishing village of Port Seton, near Edinburgh. Others: Max Beckmann, Soutine (another skate man), Arthur Boyd (his “Scapegoat” has the donkey – AND a skate fish, in the Australian desert) and Kitaj somehow, in the drawing and breadth of subject matter.

 

Bellany – Title? Date?

The skate king on his throne.  What are they, birds or bats?  Beckmann here, I think, and in Rose of Sharon below.

 

Davie – Bath Darling, 1956

Davie was a jazz musician and a pilot as well as a painter – a youtube fragment on him (Allan Paints a Picture) shows him at the piano – I think it’s “Getting Sentimental Over You” but the chords are rather free – reciting poetry at the same time, and reminding me a bit of Ron Geesin.  Unlike Geesin, he looks pretty tough as a young man, muscular and long-bearded.  He was feted in the states by the likes of Pollock, Kline and the other AbExes, and the painting below clearly shows the influence of Pollock and maybe de Kooning.  He combined the freedom of gesture (the black sweeps in the picture below, the drips and spatters above) with rich colour and a repertoire of recurring symbols (wheels, snakes, diamonds, images taken from rock pictures by indigenous people in St. Lucia, where he lived for 10 years).

Davie – Red Parrot Jay, 1960

 

Bellany – Eyemouth 1985

The look of love or hunger from the giant seagull?

 

Bellany – Rose of Sharon, 1973

The skate again.  A hint of Mexican influence here?

 

Davie – Romance for Moon and Stars, 1964

 

Davie – Trio for Bones, 1960

 

Davie – A Diamond Romance, 1964

In all three of these Davie pictures, there is the combination of rich colour, symbol and gesture – the rough and smooth elements that sometimes suggest Bacon’s work, without the figures of course, but a potent combination.  In more recent paintings (not represented here) the symbols remain but the rough gesturalism has gone – and the paintings are poorer for it, in my view.

 

Bellany – The Journey, 1989

Very reminiscent of the Boyd painting I mentioned earlier; also a touch of Kitaj in the execution.

A rather solemn portrait from (but not of) me to finish:

Man of Sorrows

Blackpaint

22.05.19

 

 

Blackpaint 617 – Put the Coffee on and Squeeze My Lemon

March 23, 2018

All Too Human, Tate Britain until 27th August – so plenty of time..

A huge and brilliant exhibition, multiple rooms of stunning paintings, but with a few puzzles; the title suggests portraits and figures, the human body/bodies and there’s plenty of that.   There are, however, also city- and landscapes (Auerbach, Kossoff, Bomberg, Creffield, Soutine).  The booklet says “All Too Human explores how artists in Britain have stretched the possibilities of paint in order to capture life around them” – about as general as you can get.  And how about Soutine?  There’s a portrait and a wild expressionist rendition of Ceret, both brilliant, but did he ever even visit Britain?  Booklet says yes, so fair enough.Anyway, below a sample of the best stuff.  I think the best is Bacon’s 1956 “Figure in a Landscape”; never seen it before (unlike most of the other pictures here) – it’s the one with the near abstract swirls of paint and the vivid, smeary blue sky.  I couldn’t find a picture of it, unfortunately.

Lucian Freud, portrait of Frank Auerbach

That bulging forehead and crooked nose, the angle..

 

Freud, portrait of Bella

Looming out at the viewer, those feet…

Euan Uglow, Georgia

Classic Uglow/Coldstream plotting, sculptural accuracy.

 Lynette Yiadom-Boakye

Lovely portrait – but it’s not is it? She paints from imagination, I believe.

In addition to these, there are Bacon triptychs –  Dyer, Rawsthorne – , a roomful of Freuds; a Sickert woman naked in a chilly grey dawn bed; Auerbach and Kossoff churches and streets and parks; Bomberg and followers (Creffield and Dorothy Mead, better than the boss for my money); three Kitajs, two of them (Cecil Court and the Wedding, the one with Sandra, obviously, and Hockney) huge splashes of vivid colour amidst the general brownishness; the weird little girls in Paula Rego’s huge, sinister tableaux.

In the last room, Yiadom – Boakye, Cecily Brown, Jenny Saville and Celia Paul.  Brown’s paintings are always worth looking closely at, to decipher what’s going on.  Celia Paul’s bear a resemblance both to Rego and Soutine, I think.  Brilliant exhibition then – apart from the FN Souza room.  I couldn’t find any pleasure in his flat, dark, spiky images of the Crucifixion et al; they did remind me a little of Wifredo Lam here and there.

 

Roy Oxlade, Alison Jacques Gallery until 7th April (Berners Street, W1)

Oxlade was another Bomberg pupil, but you wouldn’t know it from his work, unlike some of the more slavish acolytes.  He died in 2014, at 85; these are works from the 80s and 90s.

I loved these dowdy, barbaric, cartoonish at times, mostly big old slap-around canvases; repeating images, paint pot and brush, coffee pot (shades of Kentridge), lemon squeezer (shades of Robert Johnson).  I reckon you can see a lot of Rose Wylie in his work and vice versa; not surprising, maybe, because they were married.

Blue Stalks, 1998 

That looks like a Basquiat face, next to the flower pot.

 

Profile and Brushes, 1984/85

I thought this was his version of Bruegel’s Icarus (legs disappearing into the sea) until I read the title.  Hadn’t spotted the profile…

 

Kitchen Knife and Scissors, 1986

Dancing scissors in a stormy landscape of paintpots.

 

Green Curtain, 1996

Oxlade’s Rokeby Venus, maybe – no mirror though.

 

Yellow Lemon Squeezer and Coffee Pot, 1987

Yes, I get that – the lemon squeezer looks like an old fashioned candle holder; everything’s floating and is that a coffee pot which has grown legs? (Kentridge again).

Death of Stalin, dir. Armando Iannuci (2017)

Jason Isaacs as Zhukov

The historian Richard Overy write a very peevish critique of this brilliant film, pointing out errors – the main one I think was that Beria was no longer head of the NKVD when Stalin died.  Were 1500 would -be mourners massacred by the NKVD when they (mourners) came to town?  Nevertheless, the screenplay, based on a graphic novel, apparently, is convincing and so, decisively, is the acting: Palin as Molotov, Buscemi as Khrushchev, above all Simon Russell Beale as the demonic Beria.  Chilling and very funny, but too horrifying to raise a laugh.

Rearview

Blackpaint

23/3/18

 

 

 

Blackpaint 533 – Brussels; a Dog’s Breakfast and God on an Egg

February 21, 2016

Musee Des Beaux Arts (Museum of Ancient Art) Brussels

OK, a selection of the fantastic art in the above, starting, oddly, with the massive Alechinsky below – just like an Asger Jorn, lots of little animal and elf heads swirling around in it – but not exactly ancient.  It’s in the vast entrance hall, as is the Wappers below it.

 

alechinsky2

 

wappers

Scene from the 1830 revolution, this has got everything in it, all going on at once.  Even a dog in there, women with babies, drummer boy…  Reminds me a bit of that Copley in the Tate Britain, gates of St. Helier, death of some officer..?

christ on egg

Magnificent picture by??   God appears to have four legs, two of which are balanced daintily on a big egg.  Looks like a Last Judgement to me.

 

ribera

de Ribera – Apollo Flaying Marsyas.

Apollo is delicately stripping the skin from Marsyas’ leg as if it were a salmon steak.  And look – the raw flesh echoes Apollo’s lovely gown!  I’m sure M would appreciate that.

Now, a series of huge Rubens:

rubens1

Titian-like compo; and that cadmium red against the yellow ochre, against the blue…

 

rubens2

I think Lucian Freud did a painting looking down on a man in bed with his arm raised like that.  Look at the muscles in the shoulder and arm of the kneeling woman and the red dress of the fleshy angel on the left.

rubens4

The Martyrdom of Saint Livinus.  He’s had his tongue torn out; that’s it, in the pincers, being offered to the dog.

 

rubens5

 

rubens6

A couple of the dozen or so Rubens sketches on show.

 

boy with bobbin

I don’t know who did this picture – the label was too blurred to read in our photo.  Look at the grubby left hand clutching the  – what is it? a bobbin, maybe? – whatever, its one of the great hands.  And the absorbed expression..

Kitaj, Marco Livingstone, (Phaidon, 2010)

kitaj cecil

Kitaj – Cecil Court

Consider this quotation from the end of Livingstone’s account of Kitaj’s life and work: “… he provided both clues to the meanings of his pictures and traps with which to ensnare the inattentive spectator.  The more knowledge one brings to his work, and the more prepared one is to follow up the references and the quotations…..the more one is rewarded.  Long after the artefacts made by many of his contemporaries have exhausted themselves and been drained of content, Kitaj’s paintings will continue to gnaw away at our curiosity and to yield their secrets.”

Or not.  Kitaj’s work is abstruse and impenetrable in many cases because it makes continual reference to his own reading, and his cultural, historical, political and sexual interests (obsessions).  Read the same books, live the same life – you might get it; but you might not, because he likes to be puzzling.  For me, the interesting information in the pictures concerns form, colour, line, composition, texture and a whole load of other things to do with painting that can’t easily be put into words.  That’s the point of painting pictures, figurative or non – figurative.  I don’t want to “follow up the references and the quotations” or avoid the “traps with which to ensnare the inattentive spectator” – PAY ATTENTION, you at the back there! – I just want to look at the pictures.

By the way, Cecil Court, above, is one of the few Kitaj pictures in which there’s any sense of perspective.  Most of his pictures  seem to press up against the “screen” of the front of the canvas.  Not a criticism, just an observation.

Rabelais, Gargantua and Pantagruel

Fascinating explanation of the reason why miles (leagues) are shorter near to Paris and get longer as you head towards Brittany etc.  There’s a great deal to learn in this riveting old book.  I wonder why it was never made in a children’s version, the old Classics Illustrated for example.

wip2

WIP.  Seems to be a droopy charcoal penis in the left centre, on a pink background.  It has no significance to the picture, which is totally abstract.

blackpaint

Blackpaint 484 – Pablo, The Borderlands, and the Backs Again…

March 1, 2015

Picasso –  Love, Sex and Art, BBC4

Recounted in the usual breathless manner, a very cursory overview of PP’s serial womanising, the women (with the exception of Francoise Gilot) apparently prepared to put up with all sorts; two of them, Jacqueline Roque and Marie – Therese Walter, killing themselves after his death.  Tragic, and interesting, but as far as the painting goes, of marginal importance, I think.  Where the programme was good was the early years; they showed painting after painting that I assumed were by different artists – they were all Picasso.  Google Picasso’s early paintings and see what I mean – I’m not going to show any next to mine…  Oh all right, this is…

Picasso blue nude

 

“Blue Nude” (1902); another stupendous back to join Kitaj’s Smoking Woman and Ginger’s in Swingtime (see previous Blackpaints).

 The Suspended Step of the Stork, Angelopoulos, 1991

The last in my boxed set of Angelopoulos, this one also features Marcello Mastroianni, although he doesn’t get to make love to a woman one third his age, as he did in the Beekeeper – and as Picasso did, in the instance of Marie-Therese.  The story concerns a border town in Greece, populated by a shifting mix of multi-ethnic transients and refugees (Kurds, Albanians and Romanians are mentioned).  Mastroianni is a prominent Greek politician who has walked out of his life and gone AWOL for an unknown reason – he makes a living as a telephone engineer along the border, a lineman for the county.

It struck me that there are those who love or feel comfortable or stimulated in exactly those surroundings; shifting peoples, many languages, everyone on the move, passing through, accommodating to each other for the time being, bringing new things – and others who feel lost, or uncomfortable, or afraid even, in such a climate.  This film made this tangible to me, although it’s a pretty banal reflection, I suppose – never be afraid to be superficial.

There is a good example of the Angelopoulos “stop time” scene in this film; a man in a dance hall, a young woman, they catch each other’s eye and stare and stare, transfixed, while the music continues..  Where have I seen it before? Bela Tarr? No, it’s West Side Story of course, Tony and Maria at the dance…   And the end of the film, a line of telephone linemen at the top of their poles, stretching along the border/river into the distance.

Sprout Exhibition

Short blog today – and a day late – because I’ve spent most of last week in the gallery.  If you didn’t come, hard lines, it’s over now.  Below are the pictures I sold.

Here are the ones I sold

watercolour11

 

Model’s Back (obviously)

sonia2

 

Rearview Mirror 

photo (55)

 

Water Engine 1

28th-june-2010-002

 

Chinook 

Back to normal next week.

Blackpaint

01.03.15

 

 

Blackpaint 483 – War in Spain, the Auctioneer and the Dancing Chicken

February 21, 2015

Pallant House Gallery, Chichester

This gallery must be visited as a matter of urgency because there’s such a lot of really good paintings in it.  Go on Tuesday, when it’s half price.  What’s it got?  Well…

  • Terry Frost “Lorca” prints – a roomful.
  • Several fantastic, quite late, Ivon Hitchens, less..well,  oblong than usual and highly colourful;

pallant ivon hitchens

  • A sort of St.Ives room, with Heron, John Wells, Barnes-Graham, a nice John Tunnard (actually, he was elsewhere) and a great Ben Nicholson (see below);

pallant ben nicholson

  • There’s also a Ben panto horse in brown fields and some nice Winifred portraits;
  • Bomberg, two Rondas I think, and a corner of his disciples, Dorothy Mead, Crenfield etc.;
  • Then there’s a bunch of self-portraits by various, the most striking of which were by William Gear, the lines of which resembled burnt briars or maybe barbed wire (fascinating to learn he was connected to CoBrA) and the one below by Peter Coker, with a black outline on a narrow canvas in a corner;

pallant peter coker

  • A room of Kitaj, of whom more later.
  • Then there is the main gallery, with some lovely big pictures – Michael Andrews dark coastal painting with figures; a Bacon, two figures who look to be wrestling..possibly..; a great Keith Vaughan; a Colin Self pop art group with one of those women with bright lipstick – bit like Pauline Boty, I thought – and a Peter Blake with an uncharacteristically(?) rough, blurry finish, very effective.  A couple of paintings of domestic scenes by Victor Willing, Paula Rego’s late husband, which have that distorted, slightly monstrous quality of her work.
  • Finally,  there’s Spain; a special exhibition relating to the British role in the International Brigade during the Spanish Civil War.  Great photo of the poet John Cornford and of Felicia Browne, the first British volunteer killed in the war, with a couple of her sketches – and very good they are too.  Banners of the British Battalion – 15th, was it? – with the battle names on it: Brunete, the Gandesa, Belchite, Teruel, the Ebro; lump in the throat time.

felicia browne

Felicia Browne

Cornford

John Cornford and Ray Peters

Figures in a Landscape, Alexandropoulos

Two children, a girl of about twelve and her kid brother, run away from their Greek home to try to reach Germany, mostly by rail, sometimes by hitchhiking.  The Travelling Players show up on the way, having wandered in from another film.  There’s a scene in which they escape from a police station when it starts snowing – all the adults wander outside and freeze in a trance, looking up at the falling flakes.  So whimsical, you think – then the girl is raped in the back of a lorry by the driver, thankfully not on screen.  They press on and eventually arrive at the border; a shot sounds as they cross the river.  They run through the thick mist to embrace a tree on a hilltop – symbol of the father?  Are they dead?  End.

Stroszek, Werner Herzog

The great Bruno S. again (from Kaspar Hauser).  Three “vulnerable” Germans go to the USA to escape from their tormentors.  I think it’s a comedy, but there’s some sickening brutality towards Eva, the prostitute, in the early part of the film.  It must be seen, however, if only for the fastest auctioneer in the universe – he must be! – and for the dancing chicken and the fire truck rabbit.  Also a beautiful electric guitar instrumental version of “The Last Thing on my Mind”, which accompanies the driving scenes.  Don’t know who it is.

RB Kitaj

Got a cheapo catalogue of the above in the Pallant House, including two fantastic pictures; “The Rise of Fascism” and “the Architects” (see below).

(c) The estate of R. B. Kitaj; Supplied by The Public Catalogue Foundation

 

 Marlene Dumas

Visited this again and found that the red faced-woman wasn’t in it (see last blog) – I’d seen it somewhere else.  Just as good – no, better – on second visit; look out for the Japanese Boy, the full-length portrait of Helena and the head of the dead young man, killed in the Chechnyan incident – or was it the Moscow theatre siege?  Beautifully painted, anyway.

Sprout Gallery, Moyser Road, Tooting SW16

If you are in London next week, visit the Sprout Gallery  and avail yourself of the opportunity to buy my paintings, and those of my partner, 11.00am – 6,00pm, any day but Monday.  Not the one below, however; it’s still wet.

 

 

Blue Crouch

 

Blue Crouch

Blackpaint

22.02.15

Blackpaint 363 – Naked Smoking and Hoovering; watch where you drop the ash.

October 18, 2012

Richard Hamilton at the National Gallery

Paintings – although they mostly look like giant photographs – done with laser colour sprays on canvas, controlled by computer program.  Colour gradations, especially flesh tones of the young naked women who inhabit the pictures, are so perfect.  The naked women make telephone calls, hoover, wander around or take part in tableaux that rehearse famous historical paintings – Annunciation (Leonardo? Lippi?), Sanraedan’s cavernous Dutch church interiors, Nude descending a Staircase, The Bride Stripped Bare.  The “action” takes place in hotel lobbies, or Hamilton’s various homes – one at Cadaques, I was interested to see.  The main exhibit consists of three pictures, in various media and states, of a nude woman lying on a couch in a position reminiscent of a Titian nude, overlooked by portraits of Courbet, Titian and, I think, Rubens.   Here and there are areas of blurring that recall Richter.  The disengagement of the nude women suggest Delvaux’s dream women, to me at least.  The tones are mostly subdued greys and pinks.

Technically brilliant, I found them flat, uninspiring and  lifeless.  Why do people keep re-doing the Old Masters?

Before leaving Hamilton, I should mention Jonathan Jones’ review of same last week in Guardian:  “What a dude!” he was moved to exclaim.  Compare with Rachel Cooke’s comments on Conrad Shawcross (gorgeous) and Ed Ruscha (also gorgeous) in recent-ish reviews.  Good to see journalistic standards are being maintained in the broadsheets; that’s what distinguishes them from  bloggers.

Kitaj

Unfortunately, after the sarcasm, I have to admit to an inaccuracy myself.  I cited the Kitaj back as one of the great backs in art (which it is), but totally failed to notice that the model is smoking.  This is somewhat important, as the picture is called Matryka Smoking.  This compounds the error, since I said I thought it was Kitaj’s wife, Sandra.  So that’s that sorted.  My obsession with backs comes from my usual spot in the life drawing session – behind the model.

  Howl

Saw the film on Ginsberg on TV last night; great poetry, terrible animations.  Far too literal – spirit-like hipsters swooping about the night sky transparently, like Peter Pan.  The obscenity trial was good though, based on the actual transcripts.

Lemming

Much better was this French “black comedy thriller” with Charlottes Gainsbourg and Rampling.  The latter adopts a chilling deadpan expression, bringing to mind Robert Shaw’s great Jaws description of sharks’ dead, black, doll-like eyes.  Charlotte Gainsbourg, a bit like Keira Knightly, has one of those faces that shift from beautiful to ugly, vulnerable to contemptuous in an instant.  great film, very highly recommended.

Vija Celmins

At Tate Britain, small charcoal and graphite drawings and lithographs, mostly of galaxies and spiders’ webs.  the question, as with Anna Barribal (see  Blackpaint 358) is: how does she do it?  Surely she doesn’t put the black in, leaving thousands of tiny, blurred, round, white star spaces?  This again is an example of art which painstakingly – no, the word is not strong enough – obsessively, fanatically reproduces that which a photograph could, perhaps, also reproduce.  It’s fascinating. but is it any more than that?  No doubt it is,and someone will comment to tell me how.

A couple of other things from the Tate – a new Turner, “Venice, the Doge marrying the sea” or some such title; look at it from the archway, it’s brilliant from a distance, less effective close up.  Also the Yass wire walker film – if you watch it through the archways from the other end of the galleries, it looks great, painterly, especially the tower block.  The Keiller exhibition was being dismantled while I was there; huge crates labelled “H. Moore” standing around in the main hall; but I did have a good look at the Lowry, and noticed how weird his perspectives are; they seem to start again at the end of every street going away from you, like a mediaeval painter maybe.

Harris Savides

Obit in Guardian of the above, cinematographer on David Fincher’s “Zodiac” and so responsible for that great yellowish look that the film had – I don’t know how better to describe it, but it fitted the period and the theme perfectly – as did Donovan’s Hurdy Gurdy Man; what a sinister song.

Dinosaur Walk

Blackpaint

18.10.12

Blackpaint 349 – Malevich, Stalin and Fred and Ginger again

July 6, 2012

Sorry, a day late publishing, owing to basic idleness.

Frank Bowling

Good to see an article in the Guardian on Bowling’s poured paintings at the Tate Britain.  I knew him only by the single flag painting in the “Migrations” exhibition, which is not at all typical of his work.  He tends more to a sort of abstract Expressionism and uses colours that remind me of John Hoyland – although he doesn’t mention knowing Hoyland; Hockney was one of his art school contemporaries.  I’m going to see the Tate thing again tomorrow.

Paul Jenkins

My Australian blogger/painter friend Paintlater posted an item about this US AbEx artist, again unknown to me, who has just died.  Fantastic, large canvases with swathes of paint unfurling across them, guided with a knife apparently.  A little like Morris Louis – the paint looks as if it has been hurled but it doesn’t spatter – a bit like huge silk scarves, although not in the one below, which is untypical, but nice.

Malevich

Been reading Boris Groys’ book “The Total Art of Stalinism”, which is a reading of the the Russian avant garde and it’s relationship with the Stalinist state and Socialist Realism.  Malevich’s famous Black Square of 1923 was, according to Groys, a “Ground Zero”, painted by M as a sort of barrier of nothingness designed to put an end to further proliferation of art movements in Russia, enabling the mobilisation of artists for the construction of a real, unitary “work of art” – the socialist state itself.  Groys sees this as the self-imposed task of the Russian avant garde.

Unfortunately for the AG, their formalism was not seen as useful by either Lenin or Stalin, who disengaged with the AG in favour of the proponents of Socialist Realism – which was handier for propaganda purposes.

I’d always thought of the Russian avant garde as vaguely libertarian and radical; radical they were -but libertarian, no.  Totalitarian, more like.

Groys’ book is about Soviet Russia (published in 1987), so it largely ignores the similarities (and differences) between Socialist Realism and Nazi and Fascist art.  An interesting book to be written there – no doubt, it already has been.

 

Critics

Barnett Newman famously said that the relationship of critics to artists was like that of ornithologists to the birds – the birds do, the ornis watch and interpret.

Seems to me that this is right – artists (Bacon, Pollock, de Kooning)are great on the processes of production but are often vague and reluctant to analyse deeply what they do – in case the magic goes away, presumably.  I think its for the artist to do and the critic to analyse; its a pity that some of the critics insist on mystifying the work by “reading” it in an arcane vocabulary that is spoken only by other critics.

Fred and Ginger

“Swingtime” has got to be the best; “Pick Yourself Up” is just an unbelievable joy, when Fred does that saunter – sudden kick thing, and later swings Ginger over the barrier.  But then there is “Never Gonna Dance”, a perfect little ballet quoting all the previous numbers.  Ginger’s back in that dress is the third great back in art history; Veronese’s “Unfaithfulness”, Kitaj’s wonderful drawing are the other two (see previous Blackpaints).

Some old ones to end-

 

Blackpaint

06.07.12

Blackpaint 342 – Richter, Kitaj and Tarr; a light interval.

May 17, 2012

Gerhard Richter

Forgot to say in last blog that Richter uses no earth colours in his squeegee paintings – titanium white, ivory black, lemon yellow, cadmium red, ultramarine; that’s it (no green?).  Then, he sweeps and swerves through the paint with a big perspex scraper, leaving scrapes and skidmarks in the paint, or with his giant wooden baton, attached to the top or side and pushed or pulled across surface with apparent effort.  In one image, he pushes the wood with his shoulder across a field of grey, the paint  resisting more every inch, like Sisyphus with his boulder.

He says some interesting, and apparently contradictory things about his work and painting in general.  He says, citing Adorno, that you can’t put pictures together – they are “mortal enemies”.  Each painting, he says, “is an assertion that tolerates no company”.  BUT he paints series, the “Cage” series for example, in the Tate Modern, that seem to be designed to draw strength from, and bounce off each other.

As regards abstraction, he says the eye is always looking for something real – i.e. from the “real” world – and that is where you can start to get “a sort of meaning”.  He sees an abstract painting as containing the potentiality of an infinite number of real images – sort of, all pictures are contained in each picture.  Interesting to me, after going through that long explanation, every time someone asks what a picture is supposed to be.  Instead of droning on about image and structure and texture and contrast and movement and balance and juxtaposition, I can just say “well, it’s whatever you want it to be…  Madonna and Christ?  Well, yes, I see what you mean…”.

His assistant says, “You can’t influence the painting; if I say it’s good, leave it, he’s more likely to change it… because he’s looking for a reason”.  Cantankerous old bastard, one might think; I know a lot like him.

Watching the big squeegee or baton process on the DVD, I remarked on how a painting would appear after a sweep and then be destroyed by the next sweep.  First, a monochrome yellow, sweep, then a white cloudscape, sweep, a light horizon, sweep, a Rothko – the earth colours do emerge from the mixing process.

Questioned on how he knows a painting is finished – the big question – he says the following; “I feel less free with each step; I carry on until nothing is wrong any more”.  It implies dissatisfaction with every work; you don’t stop when you have achieved what you want, but when you can’t find a recognisable fault.  I suppose this is implicit in an improvising approach – but it could have been something like; “I stop when a completed picture jumps out at me”.  He’s obviously too honest to come out with rubbish like that, unlike some other abstract painters. 

Kitaj

That drawing of a seated woman’s back – I suppose it’s Sandra – it’s breathtaking, like a Michelangelo.  I’ve said this before. but it’s amazing how different his two styles are – the cartoonish, “Cecil Court” style and this classical, Old Master look.  I note how “fleshy” his colours, especially whites and reds, are in the cartoony ones – I don’t mean flesh tones but thickness and richness.

Young Musician of the Year

What is the title of that recorder piece played with only a drum accompaniment by Charlotte Barbour – Condini ?  It is played by Martin Carthy and Dave Swarbrick to close out “Arthur MacBride” but the only info given is that the tune is French.

Bela Tarr

The novel “Satantango” by Laszlo Krasznahorkai is out in a translation by George Szirtes; I have it and am hoping it is as uncompromising as the Bela Tarr film.  Only 274 pages, but no paragraphing.  It has punctuation, which is rather conventional I agree, and will lack the accordion music – but I have high hopes.  Next week, will review Turin Horse.

Blackpaint

17.05.12

Blackpaint 264

March 31, 2011

Marlene Dumas

I’ve been looking at her Phaidon book again, and most of the images – no, ALL of the images – are “ugly”.  That is to say, they are distorted, bloated, explicit, mostly grey or brown, like decaying flesh.  There are ugly babies, naked figures lined up as if for inspection in a concentration camp or  a brothel, women offering their bodies in pornographic poses (but so crudely painted that they are not titillating –  in a conventional way); actual paintings of dead women’s faces…  I used to think the baby with the red hands (Painter) was the most disturbing – now I think it’s those “school photographs”, especially The Turkish Schoolgirls (1987).  Look at the front three from the far right!  They will haunt your dreams, like something from The Orphanage.

So why do I like her work?  Well, it’s strong, dramatic, caustic, driving.  If it was music,  it would be Piece of my Heart by Janis Joplin, or maybe Gimme Shelter; if it was food, it would be lime chilli pickle; if it was a film, it would be Salo.. This could go on and on (if it was an insurance company..), so I’ll stop with the pretentiousness now – I hope you get the point.

It occurs to me that there has to be something to offset the harshness and horror; that something is, of course, the technical skill in the images; the use of colour, the draftsmanship, the artful clumsiness and crudeness in just the right places to just the right degree.

The Killing

I’m counting Morten as 50% right; OK, he wasn’t the murderer, but he was the political manipulator.

Magritte

Went to the drawings and prints at British Museum yet again and this time, read the blurb on the Magritte drawing.  It referred to Herbert Read’s comments that Mag looked for affinities between unlikely things – the example here is leaves and bricks.  The drawing is of a tree in which the foliage is shaped like a single leaf; poplar. I would say.  Only, instead of individual leaves, it is composed of bricks, as in a brick wall.  OK, leaves soft, pliable, rustling; bricks hard, unyielding, silent.  However – leaves combine together to make a greater unity, bricks combine together.. etc.

Too cerebral and systematic for me – I like my surrealists wild, untidy, loose ends, what’s that in the corner, what’s that supposed to be… so it is, how disgusting – the feeling that it might really have been dragged up from their subconscious minds, even if they’re faking it – as perhaps Dali might have done once or twice.  Maybe Magritte’s subconscious mind worked that way – after all, he was famously neat, fussy, and tidy, even when painting.  But then, so was Miro.

Looking again at the Kitaj life drawings, they contain distortions; that inward curve of the lower back is surely exaggerated and the lower leg also curves too much.  The genitalia are far too small, of course.  These distortions, however, are of the order of Michelangelo distortions, as the drawings are in the same class as M’s, in my view.

Far From the Madding Crowd

First time I’ve seen this utterly beautiful film; I loved the circus scene, the songs, the characters, the story.  Two whole seconds of “David Swarbrick” on view, playing fiddle in the barn.  Julie Christie singing “Bushes and Briers” – the stunning original, not the nearly-as-beautiful Thompson/Denny song.  Was that really her singing? and Terence Stamp, doing the Jolly Tinker?  If so. they made a good job of it – as did the tinker in the song.

Blackpaint

31/03/11