Posts Tagged ‘L’Age d’Or’

Blackpaint 504 – Giving Birth, Kicking the Dog, Sucking the Toes…

July 21, 2015

UrbanArtBrixton

Here’s what our my pitch looked like, weekend before last –

urbanart1

 

urbanart2

Whitechapel Open, Whitechapel Gallery

It struck me as a sort of anti – RA Summer Exhibition.  There was a brick corner; a film of artists wrapping, with great difficulty, a huge sheet of gold leaf around the half-built top storey of a building; Stezaker-like collages of a woman’s leg appearing from fabric furniture;  some meticulously beautiful neo – Constructivist drawings:  very few paintings – my favourite was Karl Bielik (below).

bielik

Slice, Karl Bielik

I was lucky enough to go to the private view, the guest of art teachers; as the free drinks flowed, I stood at the edge of the gallery and took in a most impressive sound installation – the roar of several hundred lubricated arty types yelling into each other’s faces at close quarters; truly impressive.

Pangaea II, Saatchi Gallery

Art from Africa and Latin America; by turns, huge, colourful, sexual, grotesque – a woman beginning to saw a giant turtle in half – an image to make you wince – magical-realist (the trees) and graphically terrific (Abebe).

fedderico herrero

Federico Herrero

dawit abebe

Dawit Abebe

 

Ian McEwan

He seems to have difficulty with endings; McEwan is up there with Stephen King for keeping you reading, but he’s much better than the ending of Amsterdam indicates – he can’t seem to sort out whether it’s a thriller, a tragedy, a satire or a black comedy and goes for Roald Dahl to wind it up.  Solar, too, goes astray at the end, turning into Tom Sharpe.  Enduring Love (the balloon one) was brilliant throughout – until the end, when the hitch-hiking prof and his student girlfriend show up.  And the feuding hippy gangsters weren’t convincing, either.

Having just finished “A Child in Time” (1987), I read a couple of reviews from the time and was staggered to find that the prime minister in the book was supposed to be female.  McEwan avoided “sexing” the PM deliberately, but it must have seemed obvious to anybody reading at the time and living under the Thatcher regime.  In some respects, his near future is strangely old fashioned now, of course – telephone boxes that people use, typewriters, porters on railway stations – but, apart from the licensed beggars, the politics and the media stuff sounds pretty much the same.

There’s a detailed account – that makes it sound cool and detached; it’s not – of childbirth in the book; are there many others by male authors?  I don’t mean midwives calling for hot water, and screams from behind closed doors, but from the bedside, or even the bed (or wherever)?  I’ve found an article from the Wire and one by Alison Mercer in the Guardian – they mention Anna Karenina, The Handmaid’s Tale, Gone with the Wind and Tristram Shandy, but not McEwan.

L’Age d’Or

modot

The unfettered rage of the fabulous Gaston Modot, jacket smeared with mud (?), kicking dogs, knocking the blind man over, yelling abuse at innocent passers-by, slapping the matron who spills his drink – good for you, Gaston! – and Lya Lys, his unattainable object, sucking with increasing enthusiasm on the toes of the statue….  “Magganificent!” as Waldemar Januszczak would say.

lys

 

Judges 3, King James Bible – Ehud killeth Eglon

The most chilling description of an assassination I’ve read: “…And Ehud….took the dagger from his right thigh, and thrust it into his belly: And the haft also went in after the blade; and the fat closed upon the blade, so that he could not draw the dagger out of his belly; and the dirt came out.”  Vengeance, intolerance, massacre, rape, slavery – it’s all there, sanctioned – often, indeed, demanded – by God.

 

Megiddo

Megiddo (finished version)

Blackpaint

18.07.15

 

Blackpaint 371 – Cezanne’s Skull and the Gamekeeper’s Moustache

December 13, 2012

Bloomberg New Contemporaries

I know I did this ICA exhibition last time, but didn’t give any names of the artists – going to put that right now.  The “strolling” video (glamorous Japanese(?) women strolling in a mannered way around gardens and statuary) is by Tony Law.  The squares with diagonal cross inside, black on white canvas – the ones a bit like Bram van Velde – are by Jack Brindley.  He also has a sculpture made of a bent metal rod, like a very thick aerial; doesn’t sound much, but it’s good, I think.  The blurry paintings on unbleached linen are by Emanuel Rohss – one of them looks like a sinister head and shoulders figure now, maybe a comic superhero covered in leaves….

Jennifer Bailey did the acid green, triangular, Varda Caivano – like paintings, and Suki Seokycong Kang did the loopy, Twombly-Wool grey and pink painting.  Finally, Nicole Morris did the video in which a woman model tries out poses against a background of blue partitions.

A couple of exhibits I didn’t mention last time:  there is a video on a TV showing a series of clips, repeated a defined number of times each.  A young man in a swimming pool jumps onto the back of another, while someone’s midriff passes the camera; a host introduces a singer on stage; a woman sings a song from “Evita”; a parrot squawks; all these repeated a number of times.  I think the point is that repetition creates integrity, or “establishment” in some way.  The repetition acts as a sort of frame, starting and cutting off the sequence at given points and establishing a sort of completeness.  Think of repetition in music, the idea of a “riff” in jazz.  Yes, it might drive you mad of course – but I find the idea interesting.  The video is the work of Piotr Krzymowsky.  Finally, there is a huge linen, covered by a spidery dark blue and burnt orange expressionist pattern by Max Ruf.

National Gallery

Spent two hours there the other day.  I think I saw everything – five things stuck with me in particular: Samson’s huge left shoulder and arm in Ruben’s painting and that dark crimson robe; the executioner’s snappy white and blue(?) striped tights in the Master of Kappenburg’s painting; the fantastic Degas paintings in the first of the Impressionist rooms, the black outlining of the hands – is it good or bad, I can’t decide; the Cezanne self -portrait, in which the colours on the bald skull of the painter  echo those on the rocks of the landscape by the same painter, a few feet away; and that lovely wet Paris street at night by Pisarro.  And the Titians and Raphaels and Tintorettos… I still don’t think the Manchester Madonna and the other unfinished one look much like Michelangelos, however.

La Regle du Jeu

Started watching this creaky film out of sense of duty – often cited as one of the greatest ever – and after a few minutes, totally hooked.  The shooting party scenes I only realised were a metaphor for the spread of Fascism when I watched the commentary, I’m sorry to say.  What it reminded me of , more than anything, was “L’Age d’Or”.  the country house setting, the madcap entertainments, or course, but above all, Schumacher the gamekeeper, with the moustache and glaring eye.  When I looked it up – yes, same guy, who played “the Man” in L’Age d’Or nine years earlier.

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Saint’s Head, Man’s Back

Blackpaint

13th December 2012

Blackpaint 282

June 27, 2011

L’Age d’Or

Interesting that the most shocking transgression committed by Gaston Modot is not kicking the blind man, slapping the mother, drooling over the pictures, kicking the dog.. but stamping on the beetle, presumably because that was a real death, but also because of our 21st century environmental consciences.  I remember cutting wood lice in half with a trowel as a child and feeling no pangs of guilt.

So much going on in that film that I actually missed the peasants driving a huge coach through the ballroom; just didn’t notice them.  I DID, however, notice the shadow of the airship over St Peters Square – presumably, the one from which that sequence was filmed.

Sofia War Memorial

I thought the “vandalism” of the war memorial in Bulgaria (one soldier, brandishing a pistol, was given a painted Superman suit, another a Father Christmas robe and a third, what appeared to be a clown outfit) looked great;  I suppose it was the way the Superman suit matched the heroic pose.  I suppose I would have been outraged if I was a descendant or relative of a soldier killed in the “liberation” of Bulgaria in WW2 – war memorials, official government ones anyway, are political, however, in the sense that they can carry messages beyond simple respect for the dead, especially in Eastern Europe.  The artists were probably attacking the government rather than the war dead – if there was an intended political dimension at all.  There may not have been; artists are supposed to outrage opinion – it’s part of the job; and a war memorial will do it, that’s for sure.

Turtle Burners Prize

Went to see this at the National Portrait Gallery; some stunningly good and all hugely competent, but nothing much to catch the eye in the use of paint.  Sleek, dead surfaces – or “good paintings”, as they are known to those who like paintings to be photographic likenesses (note of twisted bitterness from failed abstract dauber).  Standouts were “To be human” by Ian Cumberland and the lovely one of Lauren in her graduation dress – beautiful drapes and folds – with the dog, by ??? sorry, didn’t have a pen to take note.

Other statuary is a different matter.  I admire Churchill hugely, and was delighted to see the Mohican he acquired in the riot – he looked good in it, I thought.

Mike Waterson 

Was only playing the Early Watersons CD yesterday – then read today that Mike was dead; only 70.

Blackpaint

23/06/11

Blackpaint 280

June 14, 2011

L’Age d’Or

Good to hear the precise, rolling diction of Robert Short, one of my old teachers at UEA, doing the commentary on the DVD, clearly relishing the alchemical references to “shit and gold”.  I remember being told, along with the rest of my sorry class, to “Piss off, and come back next week when you’ve done the reading I set”, after we showed him uniform ignorance of Hegel’s “Philosophy of Right”.  Years later, and a teacher myself, I realised that he was probably not angry but happy at the opportunity to ditch, righteously, two hours of boring teaching and pursue his own hobby of making surrealist films.

Remember sitting behind him in a Norwich cinema, watching Bunuel’s “Milky Way”, he convulsed with laughter – the only one laughing; everyone else puzzled.

Cecily Brown 

Another pungent Guardian arts review, to follow Jonathan Jones’ Mark Leckey job – this one from Adrian Searle.  He describes her works currently on show at the Gagosian as “Turgid paintings that leave you in need of a lie-down”.  The problem for Searle is that she does very busy paintings in which figures, naked or getting there, are often to be seen in the throes of coitus – seen with difficulty, that is.  Searle feels he has to make the effort to decipher these figures and is annoyed at this.  “She paints hide-and-seek images in which there is lots of noodling about”, he says.  Given the subject matter of her paintings, it’s perhaps not surprising he needs a lie-down after looking at them.

But why do you have to make out the content?  What Brown does, in my view, like De Kooning – although obviously not as well – is to make paint look good on the surface; she uses a mix of “squirming marks, flurries and squiffs of paint” (Searle’s words), to which you might add scrapes, scratches, scrawls, drips and areas of flat colour, often in DK hues, that look great.  Apply the flick test; flick through a book of contemporary painters and you will stop at hers.  Adrian Searle could stop worrying about spotting the half-concealed athletics and enjoy the marks and colours on the surface.  Just because Brown likes a bit of sex, there’s no reason why this should spoil the viewer’s chaste appreciation of her art.

Clyde Hopkins

My partner has just given me a catalogue of this painter’s work from an exhibition at the Francis Graham-Dixon Gallery in 1990.  I’d not heard of him, but he used to be her tutor at Chelsea.  They are staggeringly beautiful, all of them, in brilliant reds, marmalade, black, yellow – lots of dots and heavy black scoring; some of them remind me of Jaap Wagemaker. Fantastic.

 

(This is one of mine, not Hopkins’)

Blackpaint

Tuesday 14th June

Blackpaint 279

June 11, 2011

Franz Kline

Time, surely, for a Taschen book on Kline; I’ve just come across a painting by him called “Gay Street Rooftops” dated 1941.  Good, but pretty conventional cityscape stuff.  I’d like to know how he got from that to those black and white structures (Chinese letters, some compare them to) for which he is known.

Riopolle

“Vol de Chute” from 1961, a fantastic, Appel-like painting, lozenge shapes of colour with that spidery black scoring outlining them in bands, like barbed wire; blue, yellow, orange, white, green , grey…  it’s all there.

Pollock

“Grey Center”, (I know, but it’s an American picture) 1946, one of the Accabonac Creek series; lots of leggy, angular shapes – maybe more like  knees and elbows, I thought at first by Lee Krasner, rather than Pollock;  it’s in white, grey, pink and ochre – de Kooning colours.  Still appears to have vestiges of the figures he used to put at either side of his paintings; “Pasiphae”, for instance (name of the painting was supplied by his dealer, Pollock not being familiar with Ovid at the time).

Fra Angelico

A while back, writing about violence in paintings, I mentioned Caravaggio’s Abraham and  Isaac, saying that C ‘s painting showed a brutal realism. It is exemplified  in the way Abraham grasps the boy’s face and throat in preparation for the killing stroke with the knife.  Of all artists, Fra Angelico matches this in his “Massacre of the Innocents” (San Marco, Florence).  The soldier on the far right grasps a woman’s throat while thiusting the dagger into her baby’s throat; she is holding the blade, trying to push it away.  Expressions of grief and horror, and violence all around.

This contrasts strongly with Piero della Francesca, who was being discussed, I think by Tim Marlow on TV the other night.  The painting in question was a battle scene but it appeared to me to be absolutely static – something in the way Piero paints seems to drain all movement from his paintings.  And the faces appear expressionless; they don’t engage with the other figures, but usually stare out from the canvas.  I think they look like figures in surrealist paintings, say Delvaux or de Chirico.

Le Quattro Volte

Film by Michelangelo Frammartino.  A sort of seasonal portrait of an Italian mountain village, almost silent – the camera views from a distance much of the time.  It has the Brughel snow scene (cf. Tarkovsky’s “Mirror”); close-ups of wood surfaces, like a tree trunk with lichen and scrambling ants, drifting smoke, a spectacular sky – and lots of goats – those amazing rectangular retinal slots in their eyes.  It seems as if nothing much happens, but it does: a goatherd looks after his flock, coughs, and dies eventually-  we accompany him into the catacomb and hear the door shut on us.  There is a crucifixion festival, a tree felling and climbing festival, and eventually – second time I’ve said that, must say something about the film – we find out what they’re making and why all the smoke.

It skirts sentimentality – the little lost goat, the doughty dog, life and death, life goes on, the men  shake hands with each other  before doing business….  I suppose all films are romantic in one sense, though, as soon as you frame a scene and a narrative emerges.  What about Chien Andalou and l’Age d’Or?  Probably they’re romantic too – have to think about that one.

Blackpaint

Saturday