Posts Tagged ‘Leonard Rosoman’

Blackpaint 329 – Manly Women and The Rear View

March 6, 2012

Leonard Rosoman

Obituary for the above today in Guardian. Fireman during the Blitz, painted the famous picture of the wall collapsing on two firemen during a raid (which he witnessed).  A beautiful picture of an aircraft with folded wings, Sutherland – ish, a luscious rose-pink; was in the Imperial War Museum some time back, maybe still on show.

Robert Motherwell

Looking at Motherwell’s art, you really come to understand what is meant by “gestural” painting – that’s exactly what many of his pictures resemble; a deliberate, sometimes violent, always deliberate gesture, usually in black, often with spatters, on a plain background.  His colours, unlike those of, say, Hoffman, are limited to maybe three or four at the most.  The Spanish Elegy series ran to over a hundred pictures, all with the same central image, based apparently on the dead bull’s testicles in the bullring.  This (below) is his Ulysses, in the Tate, which I have mentioned several times; it’s the most striking image in the surrealism bit (what’s it doing there?)…

Joan Mitchell

Every day, I change my mind – yesterday, I would have sworn de Kooning was the best of the AbEx bunch – OK, I know he wasn’t really an AbEx, not even an abstractionist for a lot of the time, but for convenience’ sake…  Today, I’ve picked up the Joan Mitchell book and it’s page after page of beautiful, fresh, intertwined tangles of bright paint, green, gold, blue, that somehow avoid bleeding into each other and becoming muddy and sludgy – Hemlock, Evenings on 73rd Street. George went swimming, Hudson River Day Line – and then the ones assembled out of colour blocks that look as if they are glowing with fire – Salut Sally, Wet Orange, Belle Bete, all with thin colours dribbling over and through the blocks.  They look good enough to eat.

Hudson River Day Line

She’s sort of the Anti-Auerbach; even when the canvas is covered, there’s light and space and air, somehow.  I love Auerbach’s sludgy paintings too, I hasten to add.

de Kooning

I’d assumed that he put his paintings together on the canvas, so to speak; that the charcoal and paint lines left in or only partly erased or obscured were evidence of an improvisatory approach – wrong.  He left some in, painted over others,  He traced or enlarged elements from one picture or sketch to another.  He appears to have borrowed images from other painters on occasion, a notable example being the screaming woman looking up to the sky in “Guernica”.  He mixed his paints with plaster of paris to achieve particular effects. 

It seems that few American Abstract Expressionists fitted the stereotype of the gestural painter, who improvises as he/she goes along.  Maybe only Pollock and a couple of othersMotherwell?

Apart from three canvases, my paintings are totally improvised – when I start, I’ve hardly any idea of where they are going to go.  No sketches, it all takes place on the canvas or the paper.  First thing – get the canvas dirty with a swatch or slash of paint.  After that, it proceeds by trial and error and correction, scraping and plastering.  Shapes emerge and are incorporated or painted over, tracts of paint have to be concealed, scraped off or cut back.  Eventually, an image or set of images emerges, that I think constitutes a picture.  I’m sure that, if I did sketches or preparation, the end result would be better – but the process would be like work and I’d have to stop.  I’d rather keep painting.

Michelangelo

I haven’t written anything about the maestro for ages, so had a flick through the picture books tonight.  Two things struck me, both very banal, I’m sure.  First, most of his women, with the exception of Virgins, are really men with breasts stuck on (I think Alan Bennett put that observation into “The History Boys”) – and one of the images of God in the 8th bay of the Sistine ceiling is showing his bare backside, for no good reason.  Given that lots of genitalia were later painted over, how did that get past the censors?

Goodfellas

Paging through the channels aimlessly the other night, came across Paul Sorvino’s pouchy face peering at the garlic clove, as he shaves it into thin slices with a razor blade – and that was it, hooked again; only seen it about twenty-three times.  Astounding that he never got an Oscar until The Departed.

A really early one.

Some of my stuff in the WhatIf Gallery, Dartford.

Blackpaint

06.03.12

Blackpaint 194

September 15, 2010

Art of World War 2

Just seen this programme on BBC2 and very apposite to the Deller exhibit it was.  In the discussion of the work of Graham Sutherland, known before the war as a landscape artist, was the observation that, in Sutherland’s pictures of the blitzed East End streets, the twisted machinery of bombed factories,  lift shafts etc., the tortured machinery stood in for the dead bodies, wounded and homeless that Sutherland couldn’t bring himself to sketch, while they were there before him.  Isn’t this exactly what Deller’s car is doing – standing in for the dead, dismembered and dying?  Sutherland’s work is unquestionably art, though; you can make artistic critical comments about it, whereas you can’t really about the Deller car.  If the Deller car is art, so are other exhibits in other places that are also historical evidence representing murdered individuals; no need to be specific in a trivial conjecture about the nature of art.

Leonard Rosoman

Whilst at the War Museum, had to go up and see the paintings and was struck once again by the beauty of two paintings,  both by the above.  I think I’ve mentioned them before – one is of a radar installation, the other of an aeroplane with wings folded, in the early morning sun.  They both have a great stillness, like a Sutherland, and the most beautiful rose colour, with orange touches I seem to recall (may be wrong on this).  Rosoman was a fireman in the Blitz and did that famous painting of the wall collapsing on the two firemen.

In fact, several of the painters look like Sutherland at that time, although very different later; I’m thinking of Keith Vaughan, John Piper and perhaps, Robert Colquhoun.  A really strong Bomberg, called “Bomb store”, in his usual rich, smouldering bronzes, reds and browns, resembles Sutherland’s Welsh landscape with skull in the Tate Britain – but then, it looks more like his own landscapes!  I’d be interested to know who was “being influenced” by whom.

Some great John Pipers, showing bunkers and air control rooms; these were featured on the BBC2 prog as well.  I have to say that Piper had one of the most striking faces I’ve ever seen – almost an inverted triangle, thin, almost skull-like, and with a fierce gaze.

Elizabeth Neel again

All this stuff about the Deller car and war art has made me feel a little bit guilty about being an abstract artist and doing paintings about paint – especially, as someone on a comedy show on TV last night said about the Abstract Expressionists, “letting the paint do all the work”.  Looking at Neel’s stuff again reminded me that I don’t have the slightest need to know what a painting is based on, what it’s “about”, to derive a real, sharp pleasure from it. 

I can only compare the experience of seeing a great abstract painting to  hearing THAT music for  the first time;  in my case, Little Richard singing (screaming!) “The Girl Can’t Help it” and then  later on, the Beatles doing “Please Please Me”,  Big Joe Williams doing “Baby Please Don’t Go”.  It’s raw, viscerally exciting, makes you want to get up and jump around the room, doesn’t matter what the words are,  it’s the sound (just had a deja vu – have I written all this before?  Oh well…)

That feeling compares  to seeing de Kooning’s Palisades or Joan  Mitchell’s stuff or Hans Hoffman’s – too old and self-conscious to jump around the room, but the feeling is there.  This is the real stuff, the guts of art – the rest, political commitment, symbolism, ideas, all that,  is just froth on the daydream.  For me, of course – might be different for you.

Usher’s Well by Blackpaint

15.09.10