Posts Tagged ‘Kurt Schwitters’

Blackpaint 622 – On the Beach and the Aftermath

June 18, 2018

On Chesil Beach (dir. Dominic Cooke, 2017)

A rather slender book from Ian McEwan in 2007, this turned out to be one of his best novels.  A sort of tragedy, brought about, I had thought,  by the ridiculous secrecy and shame surrounding sex in English manners (amongst the respectable classes anyway), it concerns the catastrophic breakdown of a marriage before it even gets started.

The film, for the most part, is true to the period (1962) and the actors are brilliant, especially the central couple Florence and Edward, played by Saoirse Ronan and Billy Howle. However, I left the cinema moaning that the film contained a clear suggestion that Florence’s father had abused her sexually, a suggestion which I was sure was not in the book, as was my partner.   Turns out we were both wrong – it’s there in the book, unmistakeable and not even that subtle, yet neither of us noticed it, first time round.

However, McEwan, who did the adaptation for screen himself, has added a couple of other differences; the man who hits Mather and is beaten up by Edward in retaliation, is described in the book as a rocker in a leather jacket, as is his wife/girlfriend.  In the film, they are “respectably” dressed.  This changes the message about 60s England; Mather is assaulted, for his bookish, or more likely Jewish, appearance by a man of conventional society, rather than a rebellious member of a violent sub-culture.

The other difference is that, in the book, Edward and Florence never meet again after Chesil Beach.  In the film, he attends her farewell concert a lifetime later, at the Wigmore Hall, she spots him in the audience, tears run down aged faces and the whole thing sinks into sentimental slush.  And the ageing makeup makes Edward look ridiculous, like an R.Crumb cartoon.

Aftermath (Tate Britain, to 23rd September)

It’s the aftermath of WWI; the question is, of course, when does the aftermath finish and the prelude to WWII start?  Obviously, the war memorials should be in there (fantastic bronze reliefs from Sargeant Jagger, an almost Socialist Realist maquette of a British soldier reading a letter from home and the soaring, Spencerish angel by Ernst Barlach, with Lovis Corinth’s face).  Ditto, the mutilated card players of Dix, Grosz’s precisely drawn cartoons of German amputees, profiteers and prostitutes, Beckmann’s “Night” et al.  But what about Ernst’s  “Celebes”?  Anyway, some wonderful art – my selections below:

 

Stanley Spencer, Unveiling Cookham War Memorial

I think the flanneled youths reclining on the green are war dead.

 

John Heartfield and George Grosz

Reminiscent of Picabia – or maybe even Ed Kienholz (see last blog)?

 

Kurt Schwitters

This great collage apparently demonstrates the need to reassemble the shattered pieces of post WWI Europe…

 

Georges Rouault, Face to Face

There are several more Rouaults, but the tend to have crucified Christs in them, a demerit in my view.

 

Oskar Nerlinger, Radio Mast Berlin

A striking view straight up the tower – you spot this from the preceding room through the archway; very impressive.

 

Oskar Schlemmer

I love his Bauhaus figures; there’s that great painting of the students going up the stairs…

Also numerous paintings of striking and/or marching workers, serene English countryside and serene English ladies, German pigs, a great William Roberts jazz club dance and the top bit of Epstein’s “Rock Drill”

 

Lisa Brice – Tate Britain

There’s a roomful of these at TB at the moment; that blue and red combination is really striking.  Women in various states of undress, sitting around, smoking, drinking…  She’s South African and some of her drawings (in paint) are reminiscent of Marlene Dumas.  At least one looks to be based on a William Rothenstein, which is also in TB, a couple of rooms away.

 

Tomma Abts, Serpentine Sackler Gallery

German Turner Prize winner from a few years back; sort of trompe l’oiel pictures, abstract but resembling twining metal strips, reflected light – they are all the same (small) size, which tends to be undermining when there are a lot of them together.

 

 

Per Kirkeby

He died a couple of weeks ago.   I love those huge, dark canvases he did with the blooms of colour (see below) and the credits to the von Trier film with Bjork, “Dancer in the Dark”.  In his earlier work, like the first one below, he reminds me a bit of Sigmar Polke and even Asger Jorn – but that’s probably because of the variety; books, poetry etc.

Per Kirkeby, A Youthful Trick, 1964

 

Kirkeby, Flight into Egypt, 1996

Manet 

This great self portrait (?) of Manet was on a TV prog called “Great Art” a while back – but no details were given.

On the Beach

Blackpaint

18.06.18

 

 

 

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Blackpaint 383 – Eva Hesse, Cork Street, Lichtenstein

February 28, 2013

Philippe Vandenberg at Hauser and Wirth, Piccadilly

Belgian painter, roughly painted scenes of flagellation, animal mutilation and anal intercourse in a pastoral setting.  Hints of Breugel in the settings and busyness, Raqib Shaw in the shock content, plain to see but small enough to miss unless you look properly and early Per Kirkeby a little, in the general look of the paintings.  These comparisons make the work sound much better than it is, I have to say.

Cork Street

Some great painting to be seen at the moment; I don’t bother with the names of the galleries – just drop in to all of them.

Anthony Frost

Arresting pictures in his characteristic blazing colours, like landscapes painted on rough, irregular “beds” of cord netting, board and canvas – maybe 50’s Sandra Blow with bright colours, even Diebenkorn, ditto.

Alf Lohr

At the Adam Gallery – big semi-abstract canvases using staining, runs down, “spattering” (looks like, but apparently he does it with masking fluid) and a variety of other techniques that produce busy canvases reminiscent of Albert Oehlen or even Ofili, as regards shapes and colours.

Kurt Schwitters

A number of beautiful small collages that match some of the best ones at the current Tate Britain show.

Eva Hesse at Hauser and Wirth, Savile Row

This is a great free show, not to be missed.  Drawings of Heath Robinson-type stuff – but not quite.  They remind you of domestic appliances: bedside lights, food mixers, cables, plugs, but they’re not.  Smaller ones are vividly coloured, blues, reds…  larger ones contain some blatant phallic tubing, and several look like dressmaking patterns – but not quite!  The one I want is in the corner – a white horn shape contained within a looping drawing on parchment.  There are also some hybrids – vividly coloured plaques with sculpted centres and “protuberances” poking or dangling, or just clinging to them.  Great drawings, beautifully executed and witty.  Sort of anti-Vandenberg.

eva hesse1

Photographers Gallery 

Went again to see the Letinsky.  Two of those food and paper collages are quite powerful – they are the darker ones and dominate all the other pictures.  One looks, from a distance, like mist boiling up a cliff side, the fruit dropping over the edge into the void.  Or not – it’s only fruit on a tablecloth…

Upstairs, on the fifth floor, the collages of Jan Svoboda; textured wall surfaces, framed to make lovely abstracts.

Roy Lichtenstein at Tate Modern

Student bedroom poster stuff; it’s so well known, needs no description from me.  His stuff leaves me cold, although I admit it has an immediate impact and is historically vital, original, vibrant and so on.  I don’t get much out of it because there’s no texture.  The only ones I liked were the small ones where he’d done gestural strokes across the flat surfaces, giving it a bit of roughness.  A.ll the critics I’ve read ignored or dismissed those ones.

de Kooning

His painting “Whose Name was Writ on Water”, completed in 1975, apparently had areas of soft paint that started to “bleed” down the canvas – only an inch or so, but movement all the same – in 1997!  Perhaps those stories about Auerbach’s surfaces slipping glacially weren’t myths after all…

Le Serpent

Another of those French thrillers in which a wealthy media/arts/TV bourgeois is targeted by someone he victimised in childhood (Hidden).  The French seem to love to torture the self-satisfied, leftie, softy middle classes – “Lemmings”, maybe, fits in here too.  OK, “Hidden” is Michael Haneke, so it’s director is not French – but it feels like a real French film.  Great villain in Serpent, though.

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Pink Dockyards

Blackpaint

28.02.13

Blackpaint 379 – Respect, Abe; Straight Lines, Kurt.

February 1, 2013

Lincoln

It IS sentimental and over-respectful; too many adoring gazes from black servants, soldiers quoting the Gettysburg Address, heart-rending “freedom chords” at strategic points, telling you how to feel, as Adam Mars-Jones puts it.  Daniel Day-Lewis is brilliant and does “disappear into the role” (Kirsty Wark, I think) and it’s fun to play spot the actor in the supporting cast; there’s Shane out of “The Shield”, Layne out of MadMen playing Ulysses Grant – sorry, spoiler there – and that elderly, white-locked bloke who has been in everything since forever, playing Preston.  Tommy Lee Jones is great and Sally Field as irritating as ever.

Back in 1981, I visited Mormon HQ in Salt Lake City.  They had a series of life – size dioramas portraying the history of the Mormon religion. At times, “Lincoln” reminded me of this, especially towards the end.  However, one shouldn’t be too critical – it’s hard to see how Spielberg could avoid paying his respects, given Lincoln’s stature and the issues involved.  I suppose if someone over here did Churchill in WW2 it would be as respectful – or maybe not?  One last, obvious comparison: The West Wing.

Schwitters at Tate Britain

I can’t think of an exhibition I have seen in the last few years which had a higher ratio of successes to duds than this one.  The fabric and paper collages, though many were tiny, were great, for the most part.  Age helped, maybe, in that most were slightly browned and faded, softening the colours to pastel; fragments of words and numbers, for some reason, work well – maybe because they provide a sort of ready-made motif.  Easy to overdo, though, and he rarely overdoes.  I didn’t like the ones where he used cutouts of people; I thought that he strayed into surrealist, Max Ernst territory when he did this; one or two were almost like Stezaker.

Generally, Schwitters is best when he sticks to straight lines, unless he’s sticking a round object straight on; the ones with curves or painted circles I thought were less successful.  That goes, in fact, for the paintings in general.  There are some unremarkable portraits,  a couple of dodgy seascapes, some quite bad feathery abstract efforts and an especially bad “Madonna and Child”, like a wave with two rings on the crests.  often, the colours are too garish.

I loved the sound poetry – half recited, half sung, with the “words” on the wall.  Still, for me, the best of the large collages is the one that was in the “Migrations” exhibition a while ago – “Picture with Spatial Growths – Picture with Two Small Dogs”.  That great, convex sweep from top left to just right of centre at the bottom, on the area of black – from a distance, it looks like a painting.  Highly recommended; I’m definitely going again, soon.

schwitters2

Turner

Before the Schwitters, I took a walk through the Turner galleries; there are two new seascapes that caught my eye immediately – “Rough Seas” and “Rough Seas with Wreckage”.  Both very “abstract”, especially the first; superficially, from a distance, with your eyes half-closed, it looks Twombly-ish.

Sprout Gallery

Readers in UK and Europe might want to drop in to the above gallery in Moyser Road, Tooting, London SW16 6SE to see (maybe to buy) my paintings, or those of my partner, between Tuesday 5th and Sat 16th Feb, 11.00am – 5.00pm.  For those in the Americas, Middle and Far East and Australasia, I realise the journey may be a little too much but you never know…

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Blackpaint

1.02.13

Blackpaint 295

September 19, 2011

Degas

Laura Cumming, reviewing the new show at the RA, says that Degas is more Michelangelo than Leonardo – what does she mean by this?  Maybe that Leo was more concerned with physical accuracy, the exact position and function of muscles, bones and flesh than Michelangelo; M was more ready to distort, exaggerate, generalise, to enhance the presentation of physical effort, posture. dramatic action… that seems fair enough comment.  She says that Degas seems to somehow project himself (spiritually, mentally) into the bodies of his ballet girls, to partake in their physical being in some way; that seems to me to be fanciful.  Surely it’s what anyone drawing a figure does, sort of, isn’t it?

Edward Lucie – Smith

I’m getting a lot out of his “Art Movements since 1945” (see previous blogs); he makes the connection between Kurt Schwitters and his Merzbauten and people like George Segal and Ed Kienholz, who produced environmental artworks in the 50s and 60s – that is, works that you walk through and round.  I’d thought of him as someone who produced beautiful little collages of wood, cloth etc.

Jasper Johns

Looking at those works of his from the 60s in which he “quotes” from art history – notably the Isenheim Altarpiece (Grunewald) in “Perilous Night”, but also Leonardo, Picasso and others.  These are quotes however, rather than the “re-imaginings” of earlier works by Picasso himself (Manet, Delacroix, Velasquez) or Auerbach (Rembrandt et al).  I suppose the most recent of this school would be Dexter Dalwood – he quotes like Johns, rather than doing his own versions.

As for Johns, the works which are my favourites are the big canvases with attachments like brooms, and collaged bits, those bolts of colour, red, yellow, orange, often on a blue background; the grey curtains of thinned paint soaking down into the fabric (see  “According to What” 1964), the stencilled lettering….

Bruegel

In “The Fight Between Carnival and Lent”, according to the Taschen book by the Hagens, the fat Lord of Carnival astride the barrel represents Protestantism, while Catholicism is personified by the lean, haggard, hungry figure with a beehive on his head (no explanation of the beehive offered!).  This is a novel presentation; Prots – or rather, the Puritan variety – are more usually lean, stern killjoys, the Catholics happy to feast and keep Christmas.  I suppose this is an English, or more precisely, Shakespeareian representation.

Willem de Kooning

I’ve never seen a contrast more clear and tragic than that between his paintings of 1983 onwards, as Alzheimer’s or whatever variant it was, took hold, and those from before.  The later ones are cleanly painted snakey loops of pastel colour on empty canvas, tangled but spaced out, textureless.  Go back to 66/67, say, “Two Figures in a Landscape” or “The Visit” – splotches, streaks, swathes, bleeds and trickles, pink, green, yellow, white, blue-black, scratched, scored and worked like Appel but much more subtle somehow; rich, swarming texture… fantastic.

Larry Rivers

I love the loose way he paints figures and faces – reminds me of Jim Dine or even more, Kitaj’ s figure drawings.  See “Parts of the Body; French Anatomy Lesson”.

Far From the Madding Crowd

Reading this, it strikes me that the old film was perfectly cast.  I can’t imagine any actors better than Stamp, Christie, Bates and Peter Finch in their respective roles as Troy, Bathsheba, Gabriel and Farmer Boldwood.  And of course, Dave Swarbrick as the fiddler at the post-harvest piss up…

Blackpaint

19/09/11