Posts Tagged ‘Kokoschka’

Blackpaint 470 – Wet Paint and Whales, Sex Dolls, the Blues and Killers

November 21, 2014

Beware Wet Paint at the ICA

Upstairs at the ICA, a small exhibition of (mostly) big paintings, the best by the following three:

Korakrit Arunanondchai  He painted two big pictures, set fire to them, photographed the burning canvases, blew up the photos and used them as an underlay to the holed and charred originals – shades of Metzger and Miro also exhibited a few burned “remnant” paintings – or at least, the Hayward did, Miro being dead at the time.

korakrit

 

Parker Ito,  who had a huge, Manga-style effort which was built around a cartoon girl eating ice cream;

 

Christopher Wool; big grey swipes and washes, black enamel paint Marden lines, from which, here and there, the central pigment had been wiped, leaving “ghost” lines – lovely painting, see below.

christopher wool

 

Leviathan, Zvyagintsev 

The director who did “the Return” 12 0r so years ago.  Town in northern Russia on the Barents Sea, rocks, cliffs, fiords, smashing waves, bleached whale skeleton.  Central character locked in legal battle with corrupt local mayor and officials, semi – gangsters; mayor wants to annex his house and land to demolish it and build on.  House-owner brings in his old army mate, who is a Moscow lawyer and comparatively honest…

More drinking even than the average Bela Tarr – although vodka rather than palinka – and/or smoking and scoffing pickled herring, sometimes all three simultaneously.  And target shooting with AK47 (I think).  The odd, oblique,  swipe at Putin, more direct fun-poking at previous leaders, both Communist and post – Soviet (but not Stalin).  A glimpse of Pussy Riot on TV; Orthodox Church shown as natural allies of the new state gangsterism.  Good, but heavy-handed with the symbolism; the bleached whale bones made a couple of predictable appearances.

Kettles Yard, Cambridge

Rather reminded me of visiting Charleston recently, although here they let you sit on the chairs in the house.  A brilliant collection of Ben and Winifred Nicholson, Christopher Wood – easy to mistake for early Ben, or I did anyway – David Jones, some very unusual drawings, nothing like his usual, busy, spidery style, and Gaudier-Brjeska, who has a whole storey to himself.  There’s the Ezra Pound below, the curved fish, the broad-shouldered man…  In addition, there is a great sketch of a nude woman by Brancusi over the piano and to the left, an unusual monochrome Roger Hilton.

 

gaudier1

Silent Partners, the Fitzwilliam Museum, Cambridge

This exhibition is about artists and their mannequins, used for artistic –  and other purposes in the case of Kokoschka and probably Bellmer – down through history.  Some highlights:

Janos Bortnyik, paintings of Adam and Eve, geometric buildings, natty man, pointy legs, tiny waist.

bortnyik1

 

Millais, the Black Brunswicker; look at that white satin dress – fantastic.  The one on the left is the Brunswicker.

millais the black brunswicker

 

Oscar Kokoschka, a selfie in garish tones with a painted life-size doll (not the Alma one).  Good likeness of Oscar, not flattering of either.  Also photos of him with the furry- legged Alma Mahler doll, and Bellmer’s sexy poupee dolls, legs splayed…

kokoschka silent partners

 

Also, a great Degas artist and mannequin, Burne-Jones Pygmalion and Galatea  – Galatea long body, bruised eyes, real Victorian beauty.

The permanent collection at the Fitzwilliam deserves some space so I’ll defer it to next blog.

The Blues and Killers

I imagine it’s a function of TV writers’and researchers’ record collections – blues and even folk music popping up all over.  In the first “Fall” series, the killer was listening to Sonny Boy Williamson’s “Help Me” and others; the paedophile (or he’s shaping up to be) played by Ken Stott in “Missing” listens to Robert Johnson.  Johnson again, as well as the Copper Family and Karen Dalton, in “Down Terrace”, the brilliant, funny and horrifying gangster film by Ben Wheatley (although that was made in 2009).  I don’t buy it really –  can’t see blues fans as killers; anorak seekers after authenticity, more like.

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For Derrida, Blackpaint

21.11.14

 

 

 

 

 

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Blackpaint 419 – Gouged Eyes, Smashed Noses, Livid Flesh (but no sex)

October 31, 2013

Art Under Attack – Tate Britain

A great exhibition.   It starts with the iconoclasm under Henry VIII and Edward VI; some very beautiful small statues, smashed noses, broken in half, eyes gouged out (to avoid the possibility of eye contact with the common people – a superstitious fear that a rapport might be established, based on the idea, perhaps, that the soul is visible through the eyes?); paintings scored and scratched.  Becket’s image scraped out of beautiful Books of Hours.

A statue of Charles I by Hubert LeSueur in black metal, with the crown hacked – not much damage though; must be tough metal.

There is a painting of the Pope being stoned with boulders by the four Evangelists, owned by Henry VIII; a fantastic large statue of the dead Christ, dug up after centuries of being buried.

Moving on historically, there is the destruction of Nelson’s Column in Dublin by the IRA in 1966 – pushing the definition of art, surely – and then the Sufragettes, who defaced sexy Pre-Raph paintings and slashed the Rokeby Venus; this I found interesting; didn’t know they concerned themselves with presentation of women as sex objects, as well as agitating for the vote.

Then, there is a section on auto-destructive art, Metzger on the South Bank, destroying paintings with acid to reveal St Paul’s across the river, and Ortiz destroying a piano – the remains are on the wall, looking a bit like a large Schwitters – Austrian Actionists in a group photo, looking like a bunch of manic perverts, appropriately perhaps.

Finally, there are modern artworks that have been attacked, like Allen Jones’ woman as an office chair, the face of which was defaced with acid. presumably by a feminist saboteur.  Andre’s bricks are there and some Goya(?) prints purchased and defaced by the Chapmans.

There is perhaps a disconnection between religious and political iconoclasm and the destruction of works by the artists themselves for aesthetic purposes; it doesn’t matter really. though – a great exhibition.

Dancer in the Dark

The Von Trier film, featuring Bjork.  Check the opening credit sequence – it’s Per Kirkeby, like drawings or prints of fossils in red and indigo inks.  Not keen on Bjork’s acting though.

Sebastian Faulks, A Possible Life

In the last blog, I mentioned the similarity between the drowning incident in the above book to that in Pete Seeger’s song “Waist Deep in the Big Muddy” and to a Scott Fitzgerald story about WWI.  I’ve found the SF story; it’s called “I Didn’t Get Over”.  It’s not really the same; Scott Fitzgerald’s concerns a raft which capsizes and results in the drowning of more than twenty soldiers.  In Seeger’s song, the only casualty is the foolhardy officer.  The common denominator of the three is the foolishness and/or stubbornness of the officers involved.  There was a real incident, in the US in the 60’s I think; the Ribbon Creek incident, in which six marines drowned.

Facing the Modern; Portraits from Vienna, National Gallery

This is a fascinating exhibition; the pictures range from the most painstaking naturalism to quite extreme expressionist renditions.  Schiele and Klimt need no description, of course; Arnold Schoenberg has several of his portraits – the faces are similar, but there is something very attractive about the paintings, despite their gaucheness.  Another painter,  new to me, is Richard Gerstl – the Fay sisters, seated in their white dresses, terrifying; Gerstl’s brother, in an officer’s uniform, staring out from a Vuillard-like drawing room, the whole thing rendered in Seurat-ish blobs.

gerstl1

Fay Sisters

gerstl2

Gerstl’s Brother

Kokoschkas in livid greens and purples on ochre, twisted features (Kokoschka’s people never look at each other). ugly scratches on the background that add nothing; then, three fabulous dark portraits that recall Sickert, for me anyway.

There is a family group, viewed from a high angle, by Anton Kolig – rough, impressionistic, quickly executed and terrific.  It reminds me of the work of Michael Andrews; look at that little girl’s drawing arm.

kolig1

Kolig

And there are the Schieles; that livid flesh, composed of a brush marks in a variety of colours, prefiguring the flesh tones of Freud, Bacon, Jenny Saville….

schiele1

Schiele and Schoenberg

Another great exhibition.  A preoccupation with death, incidentally; a lot of death masks, deathbed portraits, memorial portraits – apparently there was a very high suicide rate amongst young Jewish men at that time.

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White Line Fever 1

Blackpaint

31.10.13

Blackpaint 269

April 25, 2011

Repulsion

Watching this great Polanski film the other day (starring Catherine Deneuve), I was staggered when a character started telling Deneuve the plot of a film she had just seen – starring Charlie Chaplin, in a tramp role!  “Repulsion”, for those who might not know, is set in the 60’s, around South Kensington.  Maybe they still showed Chaplin shorts at the old cartoon picture houses, along with Bugs Bunny and the Cockerel newsreels – I’m far too young to know.

Also in “Repulsion” – briefly, before Catherine slices him up with a cutthroat razor – is Patrick Wymark.  He strikes me as a perfect Francis Bacon character; thick neck, squat, erect body, sneering lips, braying voice, sweaty face, pushy, bullying, canine.  Surprisingly, the Deneuve character is not impressed.  He joins the rotting rabbit carcase and that of the previously murdered John Fraser in the stinking apartment, while Catherine is groped by the (imaginary) hands that emerge from the walls.  And a jazz score by Chico Hamilton.

Leonardo  

In one of the Saturday papers, Guardian or Telegraph, a drawing of a man’s head, newly discovered (loose) in a Leonardo sketchbook.  An Italian academic has claimed it as a Leonardo original – rashly, I think.  It looks more like a picture from a serial in the old Eagle Annual.  Something very modern about it; it’s not sculpted, in the way Leo’s other drawings are.  Italians seem prone to rushing in with these things – see previous Blackpaint entries (Blackpaint 111,212 and 215) on the Michelangelo Sermon on the Mount “discovery” .  Still, maybe I’m wrong and my hard-earned reputation will be destroyed.

Caravaggio

Looking again at the Uffizi catalogue and there are three Caravaggios listed:  Medusa, The Adolescent Bacchus and the Sacrifice of Isaac.  The last is quite startlingly brutal – Abraham is distracted by the angel as he is about to cut Isaac’s throat.  He holds the knife very convincingly and is forcing the yelling Isaac’s face down against a boulder by a hand round the back of his neck, the thumb mashing into his cheek.  Isaac is not looking submissive and reconciled to his fate – not one little bit.

Medusa, also apparently yelling, stares out in horror or shock from a lozenge of green.  Glistening snakes writhe round “her”  head – but it’s the face of a young man, surely.  The blood squirting from the neck gives the picture the air of a waxen guillotine victim at Tussauds.

The Bacchus picture shows a fleshy young boy, crowned with flowers and rouged, holding a big, shallow glass of wine over a bowl of rotting fruit.  The text refers to symbolism, but why?  Corruption, I suppose – but maybe Caravaggio just thought rotting fruit was more interesting.

El Greco

There is a large El Greco in Dulwich Picture Gallery at the moment – The Opening of the Fifth Seal, the Vision of St. John, which is so roughly finished and “modern” in its general aspect that it looks, to me at least, like a Kokoschka.  When you have checked out the El Greco, have a look at the Friends Open in the same gallery; one of mine is in there.

Sorry, old one – having to revamp this week’s, which I screwed up last night.

Blackpaint

25.04.11

Blackpaint 249

February 6, 2011

Don’t Look Now

Another example of the Odessa Steps Scream in slow motion, after Bacon, of course, but preceding Eraserhead (see Blackpaint 219); Donald Sutherland, lifting his drowned daughter’s body from the river.

Roeg is great with glass and liquid too – the embryo-shaped bloodstain spreading around the photographic slide, the glasses and water or white wine, splashing and crashing onto the tiles when Julie Christie collapses…

Actually, while typing this, another example of the Odessa Scream occurs to me – the animal roar of the “possessed” on detecting a “normal” person in the 1978 “Invasion of the Body Snatchers” – that was Donald Sutherland too.

Two abstract painters this Saturday –

Varda Caivano; Voice at Victoria Miro

Nine quite small pictures, the biggest 36* 44″ approx., all oil on canvas, one each with charcoal, pastel and ink markings.  Totally abstract, very thin paint, small areas of bare canvas here and there, for instance along upper margin; trickle downs, scrapes, busy, crowded surfaces.  Sombre colours, mostly; one a glowing red/orange, one an acidy green, two black, grey-blue, cloudy switches and swags (these two the best).  They are all called – “Untitled”.  Strangely, a couple reminded me of that Kokoschka of the woman and the swan, was it?  Alma Mahler, anyway.  It was the swirly, grey-blue surface.  And one, definitely, of Per Kirkeby (the acid green one).  In fact, I would have guessed she was Scandinavian, not Argentinian thereby proving myself foolish in expecting artists to meet some spurious national stereotype .

Victoria Morton at Sadie Coles

Some of Morton’s pictures much bigger, 98*66 in approx.  the big paintings, for example “Figurene” and “Soft Eater, Hard Eater” a tangle of bright colours and pulsating, yellow-white blobs, with a suggestion of cityscape at night about them.  One, “Wah Wah” I think, much darker, almost like one of Ofili’s recent paintings; dry, matt, thin finish.  Reminders then, of Ofili and Doig in the technique and even Hodgkin (the spots and the bright orange frame on one of the smaller ones).

Various other assemblages:  two low, hinged, painted wooden panels like a screen for dwarfs; a smeary, sketchy watercolour on paper entitled “Children” ; a couple of lovely oil sketches in a far-too-big frame; “Ballet Costume”, a black stand with a crown of painted tissue ribbons billowing from the top.

In the Guardian review of this show, “SS” writes of Morgan’s work being “Lush with thick, expressive swabs and light dashes of brightly hued pigment…”; Well, I got the “light dashes” and the “swarming, pointillist dots” s/he writes of elsewhere – but I must have a very different idea of “thick, expressive swabs”.

The notes accompanying Morton’s show are impenetrable.  The notes on Caivano are merely pretentious and very hard work.  Enough moaning, though; two excellent free exhibitions of  abstract painters, to be snapped up by those who love these things.

Listening to “Midnight Shift”, by Buddy Holly-

“Well, if you see old Annie, better give her a lift;

Annie’s been workin’ on the midnight shift.”

Sorry, old image – run out of paint.

Blackpaint

06.02.11

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.