Posts Tagged ‘Larry Rivers’

Blackpaint 482 – Marlene, Noel, Numan and Nosferatu

February 15, 2015

Noel Gallagher in the Saturday Telegraph Magazine

Check out the cover (below right) without your glasses or your eyes narrowed – looks like an Auerbach, doesn’t it?  Photo by Nadav Kander.

auerbach gallagher gallagher telegraph

 

Marlene Dumas, The Image as Burden, Tate Modern

Where to start with this one?  Has to be the style, I think.  dark, crude, slippery brush sweeps,  apparent, but intentional clumsiness here and there, mask-like portraits, a photographic quality of “deadness” in the line and colour, and the occasional blurriness of the image – you can see similarities in Tuymans, Gerhard Richter, William Sasnal, Chantal Joffe, Tracy Emin’s drawings…  It’s become a sort of common style of drawing with paint or ink.  I  think her work at times strongly resembles Munch’s paintings, if the depressing colours were drained out of the latter.  Sounds as if I don’t like them, but I think most are brilliant.

It seems to me that, with many of her paintings, she reverses what Luc Tuymans and Richter have done:  they present the sinister (Tuyman’s Martin Bormann, Richter’s Uncle Otto) as banal – she presents the banal as sinister (the child with paint on hands, her self-portrait, the group “photo” of schoolgirls).  She paints from photos, not life, and you can see that sometimes in the way light reflects in the eyes.

dumas red

Almost like Larry Rivers, this one;

 

dumas self

Her “evil” self-portrait;

 

dumas child

 

 

For my money, the best pictures are in the room to the left, with the warning:

dumas shrimp

This one’s called “The Shrimp”, rather a shocking association somehow – but I love that staining technique.

dumas

A portrait from a surprising angle, that would be difficult to hold for a long time.

There are, of course, many works that deal with “darker” material (the porn stuff, Baader Meinhof, Bin Laden, dead people – i.e. corpses) but there is no coherent political line that I can make out; she has provided  a lot of commentary on the walls but it’s pretty inarticulate, like that of most artists.  I wondered if she’d had a negative reaction to her paintings of black people, apparently sexualised, or mask-like as they (the pictures) sometimes are; she is a white South African, after all – but apparently not.  Nothing in Wikipedia anyway.

A terrific exhibition; I’ll be going again, for sure.

Drawing Gallery, Courtauld

A room now dedicated to drawings from early Renaissance to relatively modern: a fabulous Rubens reclining nude, a Dutch windswept river bank, a Joshua Reynolds sketch of a dancing woman, and a Larry Rivers “map” sketch in ochre and green with tape on it.

rubens nude

Rubens

 

The Enigma of Kaspar Hauser, Werner Herzog

Brilliant performance by Bruno S, especially the scene where he burns his hand in the candle flame and tears start out from his eyes with no other change in his facial expression.

Nosferatu, Herzog

This alternates between brilliance and bathos throughout.  Kinski, as Dracula, strongly resembles a bald Gary Numan; Renfield’s giggling is way over the top; Dracula carts a coffin through a graveyard to a mausoleum and flinches at a cross on the wall – having passed half a dozen crosses in the graveyard.  The soundtrack, with the alpine horn, is fantastic; Isabelle Adjani as Lucie is a beautiful pre-Raphaelite tragic heroine; the cinematography is great.  There’s a shot of a carriage crossing a causeway over a lake, with the horses and carriage reflected – same thing in “Pat Garrett and Billy the Kid” and, I think, in “Night of the Hunter”.  The feast scene with the plague victims is straight out of Brueghel.

kinski numan

Numan and Kinski

I alternated bits of Nosferatu with Dawn of the Dead (George Romero 1975), which I’d also recorded; the shoot-outs in the mall livened things up and I was able to return, refreshed, to Dracula’s castle, from zombies back to vampires.  It struck me that Dawn would make a great double with the original John Carpenter “Assault on Precinct 13”.  I’m sure Dawn was shot on a tight budget – I saw the same check-shirted, long-haired zombie get blasted at least three times.

 

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Sonia’s Back, Blackpaint 

Blue Slide

 

Blue Slide, Blackpaint

Feb. 15th 2015

 

 

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Blackpaint 471 – Grayson, Grace, Nazis and the Queen

December 1, 2014

Fitzwilliam Permanent Collection

This Cambridge museum is staggeringly ornate inside; the entrance hall is like some gilded cathedral.  Quite a lot of rather mediocre pictures by some great painters, like the Quai d’Orsay – some so-so Titians, an unremarkable Veronese, two really shit Matisses, a bad Degas.  I’m not complaining; it’s interesting to see that the masters can be mediocre too.  And there ARE some beautiful pictures – a great Vuillard interior, a fabulous black paint sketch by Degas, Dutch, French and Spanish still lifes on black ground – butterflies, rotting fruit and lizards (what do they signify?) among the flowers.

Several lovely Camden Town paintings, Harold Gilman, Sickert and Ethel Sands, whose work looked just like the great Gilman to me.

National Portrait Gallery – Grayson Perry

Pottery and tapestry that goes with Perry’s recent TV prog, in which he interviewed a diverse selection of people living in Britain today and produced portraits of them.  There is a big tapestry in which he lists various aspects of the British self-image;  the Modern Family (two men and a child); the Ashford Hijab (below); the Alzheimer’s sufferer and his amazing wife; the Children of God family, and several others.  My favourites are the three love goddesses, that remind me of the Willendorf Venus – but bigger, of course –  and the Cuman figures from the Ukraine that are in Berlin (see next week’s blog).

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The Ashford Hijab

I took the opportunity to go round the collection and discovered a few great pictures with which I was unfamiliar:

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WG Grace by Archibald Wortley

Straight off the cigarette card, I think – I love the loose way he’s done the shirt and arms (see Rivers below);

hardy strang

Thomas Hardy, by William Strang

Small, fantastic, Holbein-ish, except for the downward gaze; love the green on red background.

rivers sylvester

David Sylvester by Larry Rivers

Written about this picture before.  The looseness of the background is now a common style; I’m thinking of that portrait of the officer in his dress uniform after a party, at the BP Prize a couple of years ago.  Also, I like the way he has pink soup cascading over his neck and shoulder.

Lore (2012) 

Made in German by Cate Shortland, an Australian, I found this film to be a refreshing take on the Nazi regime – it shows a couple of formidable and chilling old Nazi diehard women, one Lore’s “Omi” (grandmother), the other a peasant woman, lamenting the dead Fuhrer and how the German people had let him down.  Necessary corrective to the attractive face of Nazism presented by Alexandra Maria Lara, who plays Traudl Junge in “Downfall”.

downfall2

Remember Me

Three- part ghost story on BBC1, starring Michael Palin; that beach scene in the opening credits, where the tall, black-shrouded figure appears, is surely inspired by Jonathan Miller’s B&W adaptation of MR James’ “Whistle and I’ll Come to You Lad” – a masterpiece, featuring another Michael -Hordern – and which, for me, ranks with “The Ring” for creepiness, despite its age.

First Love, Last Rites

Still on that theme of finding comparisons, I’ve just finished Ian McEwan’s early short stories (see last blog) and the book that came to my mind was “Tomato Cain” by Nigel Kneale, author of the Quatermass books.  Kneale’s stories lack the explicit sex, of course – it was the 50s – but I thought McEwan’s “Butterflies” in particular was very like Kneale.

Turner Prize

It should have been Tris Vonner -Marshall or James Richards (see Blackpaint a few blogs ago).

 Berlin

Just back from four days of museums and galleries, for which see next blog, but I have to mention Nefertiti in the Neues Museum; all on her own in a darkened chamber, her face is somehow completely modern – I thought maybe behind a desk at an airport.  the beauty  is in the consummate skill of the modelling, the long neck, smooth skin – like a Holbein portrait (see below) it’s more than just brilliant, in that it goes beyond style.

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nefertiti

And Holbein…

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The Merchant George Gisze, Holbein

Different clothes, but I’m sure I saw this bloke on the UBahn on Friday… And to follow Holbein, here’s my latest:

photo (55)

 Water Engine, Blackpaint

01.12.14

 

 

 

 

Blackpaint 327 – The legs and feet are the best bits

February 25, 2012

Lucian Freud at National Portrait Gallery

I’m told by a friend that I got it wrong when I said Freud made his first wife, Kitty Garman, face the wall while he was painting; it was while he was eating.   Readers will agree that this gives a completely different picture of him.

I’ve now seen the exhibition, which is big  – but to tell the truth, we did it in 40 mins – although I am quite familiar with Freud’s paintings). 

 In addition to the ones I checked in last blog, I have to mention the huge one of Leigh Bowery lying on his back on a couch with a slender girl  next to him, but facing the opposite way and towards the viewer;  both are naked.  The picture is framed by an arch of the gallery and is best viewed through the arch, from the corridor.  The background is a dim ochre.  Two things struck me; the resemblance of the girl, physique and posture, to the early de Kooning picture of Juliet Browner from 1938 ; and Bowery’s right leg, which is arched upwards.  The way Freud has rendered the flesh of this leg is just perfect.

Then, there is the girl with the blue toenails.  Again, it is the legs, this time a roasted reddish hue, that strike you.

The slender blonde nude lying back on the bed in girl with red chair – grey/black outline round figure very noticeable, especially around her forearm; not usual for Freud, maybe he was tired.  Also, I think that bobbling of the paint on the flesh in some of the later paintings can be irritating, especially on the face of that young blonde woman – you’ll see it immediately when you go; it’s like a skin disease.  Not so bad on Sue, the benefits supervisor – enough flesh there to contain the bobbles.

Finally, the nude, seated painting of David Dawson, with his pink chest and enormous right hand coming out of the canvas at you, bigger than his shoulder.

Generally, I have to mention the feet, sturdy, solid, red and sinewy.  Check them out, for instance, in the one of the woman arching her arm over the piled-up linen (she’s actually standing against a wall or chair, or something concealed by the linen, not lying on a bed, as I had previously thought.  Stands to reason, of course; Freud would have had to be floating above her to paint an aerial view.)

Check the sturdy feet.

Elsewhere in the NPG

Some other paintings of interest at the portrait gallery:  Aleister Crowley in some sort of ritual robe, making an interesting closed circle gesture with his fingers and wearing a thoroughly nasty expression; painted by Leon Kennedy(?).  The fantastic profile of Lytton Strachey with the great long left hand raised, by Dora Carrington.  The great Ruskin Spears, of course – Bacon and Sid James, and the David Sylvester by Larry Rivers, my favourite portrait in the NPG.

Fellini, The Ship Sails On

The rhinoceros I mentioned is the origin of a disgusting stink aboard the ship; it is hoisted up with ropes and hosed down by the crew.  It is clearly a rubber or polythene model, much too big (intentionally, I’m sure) and thus, it joins the company of monstrosities in Fellini films, like the huge dead fish at the end of La Dolce Vita and the whale hoisted up in a sling in Satyricon – link with the dead, stinking whale in Bela Tarr’s Werckmeister Harmonies, too, enabling me to mention him again.

More crap pictures – back to abstract soon.  Here’s a proper one, from the archive:

Blackpaint

25.02.12

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

Blackpaint 270

May 1, 2011

Figures in profile

The convention for processions in profile; which culture adopted it first?  The Egyptians and Assyrians (of various kinds – Babylon, Nineveh, Nimrud, Tigrath-Pilaster – I can’t keep hold of the differences) both use the convention; I’m guessing the Egyptians, who presumably then influenced the Assyrians… and later the Greeks, of course.  Then again, maybe both the early cultures developed the convention independently, which would be more interesting.

Cave of Forgotten Dreams

Werner Herzog’s 3D documentary about the caves of Chauvet in the Ardeche region of France, discovered in the early 90s.  Staggeringly beautiful, powerful, animal images – the horse with its mouth slightly open, the clashing rhinos, the way the artists have incorporated the scoops and bulges of the cave walls, the cave lions in profile, the black pigment on scraped white walls.  There is only one human figure in the whole cave system, a woman’s back on a sort of tooth -shaped rock, poking down from the roof.  Littering the floors, bear skulls, covered in sparkling calcite, like round puddings under a layer of smooth sauce.

Some of the paintings were done 5000 years apart, the later artist having no compunction about adding to the earlier ones – how could s/he know how old they were.. and why care?

Lots of Hans Hass – style spiritual theorising from Herzog; amusing eccentrics (mostly French), dressed in Inuit furs or sniffing crevices, trying to discover new, unknown caverns, or clumsily demonstrating spear throwers.  Some impenetrable musing about albino crocodiles from the Eden-style project near the nuclear power site up the valley; would the crocs one day escape, get as far as the caves and wonder at the drawings?

For some reason, this brought to mind Aguirre, Klaus Kinski in his Conquistador helmet, floating down the Amazon on his log raft, surrounded by the corpses of his followers, monkeys overrunning the vessel – but still staring madly, baring his teeth at the endless green.

National Portrait Gallery

Larry Rivers’ portrait of David Sylvester, the style reminding me a bit of Jim Dine, a bit of Rauschenburg even, with the sweeps of ochre on the body.  Tony Bevan’s self portrait heads at odd angles, with the elongated necks, pipe-cleaner hair; done in strong, crude acrylic colours with thick charcoal strokes.

Ida Kar

Rumanian “Bohemian”, photo portraits of artists; Leger with his flat tweed cap, scowling out like a French peasant, Epstein like a Polish train driver in HIS forage cap, Bratby en famille with one of his paintings, outside a suitably curlicued terraced house; Piper with his paintings and Braque with loads of his – busy boy – Heron with a black squiggle, Helen Lessore looking hunched and rather gloomy and the best one, Foujita, with his Stanley Spencer hair and three of the creepiest dolls I’ve ever seen.  Great portraits, only £3.50 to get in.

Canvas

Bought a square one for a change from my usual 30*40 inches, and I can’t believe the difficulty I’ve had painting it –  nothing fits right.  Suppose it’s good to get out of your usual ways, once on a while.  I’ve ended up with something like a big egg yolk in a bottle-green sea.

Ai Weiwei

On 28th April, Tate Modern’s website expressed dismay at Ai Weiwei’s detention and providid a link to a petition calling for his release.  Please go to same and sign it, when you have finished reading this.

Wedding

Nice to see Nicholas Whitchell, Rowan Pelling, Martin Bashir and all the other members of the royal family being given plenty of air time.  Pity that they can’t just keep on going until the next royal event…

Blackpaint

Mayday 2011

Blackpaint 142

May 27, 2010

WordPress advises bloggers to start with an eyecatching headline, so here goes:

Artists and cannibalism

Diego Rivera claims in his autobiography that in 1904, he and companions lived off corpses that they bought from a local mortuary and ate.  This claim is uncorroborated; I got it from Mary Roach’s’s book “Stiff” (Penguin 2004).  More gratuitous sensationalism as soon as I come across it.

Some more abstract (or near abstract – or just a bit abstract, but good) art to look at

These are all to be seen in the Taschen “Art of the 20th Century”, I recommend you buy it and no, I don’t have shares in Taschen.

  • Nicolas de Stael, Portrait of Anne, 1953
  • Jonathan Borofsky, Canoe Painting, 1978
  • Jules Olitsky, Strip Heresy, 1964
  • Larry Rivers, Africa 1, 1962/3
  • Hans Hoffmann, the Ocean, 1957

In addition, there are “Untitled”s by Walter Stohrer, Albert Oehlen and Per Kirkeby that are all excellent, the last resembling a flame bursting in midnight blue.  There is easily enough in this book to send you straight to the canvas ready to chuck the pigment on – and then to give up in despair, several hours later, wondering how they make such beautiful pictures.

Now I’m thoroughly depressed, so signing off for the night, and resorting to the bottle.

Blackpaint

26.05.10