Posts Tagged ‘Lucian Freud’

Blackpaint 584 – Uluru, Falling Space and Ken’s Ceramic Lava

January 29, 2017

little-sea-and-fire

One of mine to kick off –

Little Fire and Sea

Blackpaint

 

Now on to proper artists:

Michael Andrews, Gagosian, W1

A great exhibition of paintings by this lesser-known artist (lesser-known, that is, than his contemporaries such as Bacon, Freud and Auerbach; obviously, all my British readers will know him – you do, don’t you, both of you?).  It covers his whole career, starting with a couple of those eerie group paintings, people lying about singly and in couples, in a garden, staring out at you, some of them, as at a camera, or mingling in a club (the Colony Room, Bacon seated back to viewer, Freud staring out).  Then the balloon pictures, and an arresting picture of a plane about to hit us, above the lights of a city – bit like an Italian Futurist.  Then to Australia and the pink, rounded stone hills of the outback.  Then deerstalking in the Scottish hills.  Portraits in between.

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Laughter, Uluru (Ayers Rock) The Cathedral I, 1985

Strangely like a Bacon, the mouth I suppose.

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The Thames at Low Tide, 1993-4

His last painting, I think.  Strange angles..

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School I, 1977

I love that black to dark blue water.

 

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Swimming Pool with Two Girls, 1982

From a photo, surely.

A lot to see; sixty-one pictures in all.  It’s on until March 25th.

Marcus Harvey, Vigo Gallery, W1.

This is the artist who caused the big stir back in 1995 at the Sensations exhibition,  with his portrait of Myra Hindley done in children’s handprints.  Nothing like that in this collection, but some interesting pieces, like below:

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Maggie, 2011 – surely not Mrs. Thatcher?

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The English Cemetery, 2016 – like Kiefer doing Isle of the Dead, floating in a Richter sea…

 

Richard Wilson, Annely Juda, W1

This is staggering; can’t work out how he did it.  He’s taken whole sections of space within the gallery itself (a stairway, curtains, wall), sculpted the space in wood. and then dropped them – gently – into position as below.  The drawing shows the section he has constructed.  Sorry about my mania for comparisons, but the effect is Louise Nevelson, positioned by Phyllida Barlow.

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Ken Price, Hauser and Wirth, W1

Ken Price, Bay Area sculptor (see him in “The Cool School” film about the Ferus Gallery, Walter Hoppe and Irving Blum and their artists, fantastic film);  yes, there are his big breast shaped ceramics, nipples pointing to the roof.  Unbelievably, this whole collection of outlandish pieces are ceramic; several look like molten lava, others like huge gemstones, and there are a pair of high gloss pots, as if to show he can do conventional brilliantly too.

Next door, there is another galleryful of his drawings in colourful inks.  Those ones of the naked women are a little Aubrey Beardsley, a little R. Crumb…

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400 Blows, Truffaut, 1959

400-blows

I’ve been meaning to buy this DVD for ages.  A school rebel film, developing into a reform school film. it’s the forerunner of several British films.  I reckon Ken Loach saw the games master leading the boys through town at the trot – Brian Glover, those shorts,  in the football match in “Kes”.  I reckon “Scum” too – and “The Loneliness of the Long-Distance Runner” at the end.  When the boy pockets the cash he steals from home, he swings his shoulders just like Jean Gabin.

Another one of mine to end with:

time-and-place-no-8

Time and Place No 8

Blackpaint

29/1/17

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Blackpaint 560 – England’s Great Disaster (England 1, Iceland 2) and some art, of course…

June 27, 2016

 

monkey man,

Monkey Man, Blackpaint 2016

National Portrait Gallery – Lucian Freud/Chantal Joffe

A few erstwhile unknown works by Freud, well worth a look; a lovely drawing of a sleeping girl and an unfinished self-portrait, a drawing in paint of another girl, as well as a childhood drawing from a sketchbook.

freud sleeper

The Joffe painting, a self-portrait with her daughter, is in the characteristic, elongated Joffe style, the proportions making it appear that they were looking into a convex distorting mirror; (relatively) small heads and feet, bulging tums.  Check Joffe’s feet; the toes are just like Captain Lee’s (he who forgot to put his trousers on – see Blackpaint 510).

Gothic, Ken Russell (1987)

An unholy (!) screaming nightmare, Natasha Richardson as Mary Shelley, at risk from the attentions of Lord Byron (Gabriel Byrne), when he’s not attending to her half-sister Claire; several images from paintings:

  • Fuseli’s painting “The Nightmare” of a demon squatting on a sleeping woman’s abdomen;

gothic nightmare

  • Bacon’s painting of the Muybridge crippled boy, walking on all fours (Percy Shelley playing the fool on the chateau’s roof);
  • Magritte’s bandaged heads and faces in the sex scene with Byron and Claire and the clearly Magrittean breast with eye-nipple.

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For me, the abiding images those of Timothy Spall’s (Dr. Polidori’s) decapitated head smiling up out of the basket and the final one of the baby Frankenstein monster at the bottom of the lake.  A noisy mess of a film but unmistakeably Russell, and therefore brilliant.

Incidentally, it can’t be the case that there are many blogs where you can see breasts with eyes and friars emerging from a demon’s bottom (Blackpaint 452).

colunga

Colunga, Blackpaint

Just watched England lose 2-1 to Iceland – art no longer seems important.  As Captain Scott said (under even worse circumstances) “I do not think I can write any more”.

Blackpaint

27.06.16

 

 

 

Blackpaint 544 – Still Life, Bare Life, Sokurov and CoBrA

May 7, 2016

Still Life

I’ve decided to abandon my usual practice of putting my own paintings at the end of the blog and to stick them at the beginning instead – just in case the reader gets fed up and goes elsewhere online before reaching my pictures.

still life

Still Life with Pomegranates – yes, I know, not the usual so I made some changes…

still life with pomegranate new

Still Life with Pomegranate – now that’s more like it!

 

“Bare Life” Catalogue (Hirmer)

In an  essay by Colin Wiggins, a similarity is identified between Freud’s “Big Man” and the Ingres portrait of Madame Moitessier – they are both below.  It’s the pose.

Ingres Moitessier

Ingres, Portrait of Madame Moitessier – he was eleven years painting this…

 

Freud big man

Lucian Freud, The Big Man

Hmm – and between Degas and Bacon (spine):

degas after the bath 2

Degas, After the Bath

Bacon three figures and a portrait

Bacon, Three Figures and a Portrait 

Well, yes, but marginal similarity at most. However, Wiggins is suggesting only a marginal, perhaps even subliminal influence, so fair enough.

The Sun, (dir Alexander Sokurov, 2004)

Described as a “companion piece to Downfall” on the DVD cover, this is a mesmerising portrait of Hirohito, an impotent god imprisoned by his destiny in his bunker, as WWII grinds to an end, with the destruction of Tokyo by Flying Fortresses and the cities destroyed by the atomic bombs.  There is a dream sequence in which the American bombers soar over Japan in the form of fire-breathing, flying fish.  But so far (I still have some to go), it seems unlike all the other Sokurovs I’ve seen – can’t quite put my finger on it…

The-Sun-Alexandr-Sokurov

 

downfall2

Having mentioned “Downfall”, I felt it was an opportunity to include my favourite German helmet shot from the film.  Traudl tries to blend in with the Wehrmacht and somehow manages to filter through the Russian troops…

CoBrA Museum, Amstelveen, Netherlands

This great museum is in the suburbs of Amsterdam, in a nondescript housing and shopping precinct that reminded me of Swanley in Kent (also Swindon, and no doubt many other towns which may or may not begin with “Sw”); I only wish Swanley had such a collection.

The thousands of regular readers of this blog will be familiar with CoBrA (Copenhagen, Brussels, Amsterdam, the home cities of the founders of the group) and its leading painters; Asger Jorn, and Karel Appel.  Here are works by them and some of the lesser-known artists of the group:

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Yellow Ochre Moon, Eugene Brands

 

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Village Scene, Lucebert (1962)

 

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Falling Sun, Carl-Henning Pedersen (1951)

 

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Red Mask, Egell Jacobsen

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Two Birds, Karel Appel

 

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The Fake Laugh (Tragi-Comic Image), Asger Jorn

 

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The Intermediate Reserve, Jorn

 

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The Spectators and the Assassin from Lurs, Jorn

 

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Harlequin, Jan Nieuwenhuijs

One important idea held by the group was the quite common notion that children see the world in a superior way to adults, who are jaded and corrupted and curbed by experience and socialisation; in childhood, there is some kind of direct access to the essence, which dissipates as we grow.  So, back to painting like the kids – a hopeless task, of course, but I think it produced a certain freshness and originality in their work.

See also recent blog with Appel stage settings and costumes from The Magic Flute and Noah, also at the CoBrA museum.

Blackpaint

7.5.16

 

Blackpaint 534 – Tom, Dick, Brussels and Sprout

February 26, 2016

Jessie Buckley as Marya Bolkonskaya (War and Peace)

Marya-Bolkonskaya.

The eyes, the hair, the frown – she’s straight out of a Giotto painting.

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giotto

Now this terrific adaptation has run its course and been replaced by the altogether inferior “Night Manager”, an updated Le Carre novel.  Updated, but still very dated; all these seedy English ex-military types calling each other “dear heart”, clipped sentences, languid beauties lounging about, setting manly English hearts beating; Tom Hiddleston needs to get back to working with Joanna Hogg (Archipelago, Unrelated, The Exhibition) where he’ll be properly stretched – I think he’s too good for this.  Why would he want to appear in a prime time prestige TV serialisation, when he could be in obscure art films, showing at the Ritzy or the ICA?

The Brussels Town Museum (in the old square near Town Hall)

little men

Seen their cousins in a wood carving of the Death of the Virgin in the Victoria and Albert, London.

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Bashful lion hiding his shield on stairway.

 

bruegel hoist

Where have I seen one of these before?  Bruegel’s “Big Babel”, below.

 

bruegel babel

See it?  Third storey up, on the right.

 

skinny knight

Skinny armour.

A Life of Philip K Dick – The Man who Remembered the Future (Anthony Peake)

Dick

 

I always thought that Dick wrote brilliant short stories and crap novels (with one or two exceptions); I would have said that his shorts were nearly up there with Ray Bradbury.  It seems from this fascinating book, however, that it wasn’t all imagination.  Many of his main themes – “precognition” (telling the future), simulacra, parallel universes and time flows, false memories, half – death, religious messiahs, government/corporate conspiracies – were extensions of his own beliefs; he thought it was all happening to him, often simultaneously.  Only the (outlandish) names are altered.  An example: “Horselover Fat” in Valis.  Horselover=Philhippus (Greek, sort of); Fat= Dick in German.  Maybe the thinness and rambling nature of his longer texts lend themselves in some way to film versions (Blade Runner, Total Recall, the Minority Report, and now the Man in the High Castle) – great bones, not too much flesh, allowing plenty of interpretive freedom.

My favourite Dick stories:  Pay for the Printer, The Days of Perky Pat.  Novel: Now Wait for Last Year.

 

Hockney museum

David Hockney, Man in a Museum (or You’re in the Wrong Movie). 1962

“Bare Life”, London Artists Working from Life, 1950 – 1980 (Hirmer, 2014)

This catalogue of a German exhibition in 2014, contains brilliant repros of works by Auerbach, Kossoff, Bacon, Hockney, Freud, Kitaj, Uglow, Coldstream, Michael Andrews, Hamilton, Allen Jones and Nigel Henderson.  There are several essays, one of which, by EJ Gillen, mentions the dispute in 1959 over the compulsory  drawing from nature classes at the Royal College of Art: “Ten unruly students were put on probation and eventually expelled.  Among these was Allen Jones, who argued in a 1968 satire entitled Life Class that drawing from nature had become obsolete since photography was able to reproduce human forms perfectly.”  I wonder what the state of play is now in the art colleges, as regards “drawing from nature”; can anyone tell me?

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Frank Auerbach, Looking Towards Mornington Crescent Station, Night, 1972 – 3

 

If you’re in London during the next two weeks, visit – 

sprout

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Angel 3 (again)

Blackpaint

26/02/16

 

 

 

 

Blackpaint 328 – Raw, Astonished Ranks

March 1, 2012

de Kooning

Interesting to read in the Retrospective book that DK had a problem doing hands; in his figurative pictures, they are either concealed in some way, or presented as stylised, jagged interlocks of fingers.  Doesn’t matter, of course – but it’s nice to find out that even the geniuses have their weaknesses.   Durer, for instance, couldn’t do rhinos.

Fellini

Which brings me yet again to “And the Ship Sails On”.  Hockney mentioned it to Andrew Marr in the film about his RA exhibition; he said that the film was about the difficulties of perception, I think, or something like that:  it makes sense, in view of the deliberate undermining of illusion in the film.  The rhino, as I said, is too big and obviously polythene; the smoke from the funnels of the battleship spreads out like a ridiculous Ascot hat and doesn’t disperse; the rolling sea across which Freddie Jones rows the rhino is clearly a glittering, artificial blue-green fabric – and at the end, the camera rolls back to reveal the whole film crew at work behind a monstrous rocking platform, bearing the “ship”.  Jones, incidentally, looks for an instant, during the ash scattering scene, exactly like Fellini’s wife – something about the wistful smile and sideways glance.

Poetry 

I suppose this is obvious, but I was struck this week by the way some lines stick hard in your head, whilst others immediately sink into nothingness, even though you try to recall them.  I was trying to learn Kipling’s “Edgehill” and the phrase “raw, astonished ranks” has stuck fast.  the rest I can retain for minutes only.  I would guess that’s the case with paintings too; you remember an aspect, a patch of colour, a gesture, whatever, and retain only an impression of the rest.  This is proved to me by the number of times I’ve described a picture in this blog, then looked at it again and found I’d got it badly wrong.

All’s Well that Ends Well

Just finished reading this again and found it for the most part a tiresome experience – as opposed to seeing it done, of course; there is one notable aspect of it though, and that is the character of Parolles, who, like Toby Belch, has similarities to Falstaff – with the possible exception of Bloom, the richest character in world literature.  Parolles is a boaster, a coward, and basically everything contemptible in Elizabethan society.  He is exposed and humiliated cruelly by his soldier “comrades” – but instead of endorsing his downfall, Shakespeare gives him an almost defiant speech in which he accepts his nature and affirms his right to be as any other:  “Captain I’ll be no more;  But I will eat and drink and sleep as soft As captains shall…There’s place and means for every man alive.”

Auerbach and de Kooning

Interesting that both these artists had a high regard for the work of Chaim Soutine, the flesh painter; I wonder if Freud – yes, in the Taschen Freud, it says that he admired Soutine’s paintings of dead animals and reproduces a 1919 Soutine painting of two pheasants, which is similar to Freud’s Dead Heron of 1945.  Not really the same thing, though; I was thinking of Freud’s later naked humans.

Robert Hughes

I’ve been dismissive of Hughes’ pompous attitude to some artists, but I must say, he writes beautifully about painting; in his Auerbach, he refers to “E.O.W” (Stella West) as being “carved from a block of butter-like substance” in one picture and of figures and things being stuck like flies in jam on Auerbach’s surfaces.

Hedda Sterne

The woman at the back – and the only woman – in the famous photo of the “irascibles” , including de Kooning, Pollock, Rothko, Still and others; a presence that, sadly, she appears to be famous for, rather than her excellent and varied paintings.  Died last April, another one I missed – must have been away.  Well worth a look on Google.

A couple of pictures from my life class, and a proper one below.  Any reader in vicinity of Dartford (Kent, UK) may care to drop in to the What if..Gallery over the next 10 days and see some of my pictures, along with those of Marion Jones and Chris Grice.

Blackpaint

1/3/12

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 326 – Proper Painting and Fucking

February 20, 2012

John Hoyland

Must have missed the death of the above in 2011; one of the most colourful British abstractionists with those fluorescent colours – only Albert Irvin is as bright that I can think of.  I’ve a book of his paintings and prints on cotton duck; they’re blinding, especially the greens and blues.

Lucian Freud

BBC prog on him mentioned two incidents that I find interesting in terms of the sort of bloke he was;  he made his wife, Kitty Garman (Epstein’s daughter) sit facing the wall while he worked; and he ran up £2.6 million debts with the bookies.

William Feaver, one of the pundits on view, kept referring to” proper painting”, meaning figurative painting that attempts to render reality more intensely, and painting “that is any good” being perpetually in a state of transition…  I love that art critic thing of making definitive assertions  that are really contentious. but that sound obvious because of the arrogant certainty with which they are delivered.

Another example – John Richardson, another pundit, used the word “fucking” several times (in its verb function) in that clipped, upper-class, English accent, asserting that, to Freud, painting and “fucking” were somehow the same, Freud approached both activities in the same way – interesting, since he often painted his numerous daughters at all ages, as well as the queen.

The great paintings made an appearance – the Auerbach head, the naked woman with her arm arching over the mass of bed linen, the Leigh Bowery’s, the Big Sue’s, Harry Diamond in the sweater, the Irishmen, the big man’s head, the back garden, the sinks with running taps, the fantastic self portraits…

There was a fascinating bit of film in which Freud demonstrated that insane stare, where he suddenly widened his eyes like an owl – perhaps explaining why he frequently got into fights on his night expeditions.

Picasso and Modern British Art

At the Tate Britain.  Loads of Picassos, crying woman, triangular jug and candle, women of Algiers, Meninas – a few early ones that are Impressionist in style – a race meeting,  flowers – that you would never guess were Picassos.

A couple of real clinkers, in my view – a woman with arms above her head that looked like a parody; her body exploded into large parts and stuck back together at random, but each fragment carefully and sculpturally painted.  Also, a “homely” woman with her features and spectacles distributed randomly, for no reason I could discern – when I saw a photo of this painting in a newspaper, I assumed it was an awkward imitation by an English admirer.

General impression of the Picassos – unbelievable creative energy and inventiveness, constant innovation, no interest in surface texture (when did that start. I wonder?  Fautrier, de Stael, Burri, Tapies, Dubuffet..? thesis there for someone, no doubt already written).

As to the Brits –

The Duncan Grants are decorative and colourful, much better than you’d think from the crits; Wyndham Lewis shows only the most general signs of influence  – I love those grotesque faces and the long, cut-out woman; Henry Moore, yes, definitely copied The Source for Reclining Figure, but in a different medium, so that’s alright somehow; Sutherland didn’t seem to me overly imitative; Ben Nicholson, yes, definitely!  One Nicholson, dark grey with white sratched lines, contained that profile  that Picasso hid in the Three Dancers.  It looked like a Picasso drawing before he opened his paintbox and coloured in.  Bacon; the crucifixion shapes again recalled to me the Three Dancers, and I suppose those bulbous shapes at the Base of the Crucifixion resemble, as Laura Cumming points out, the Dinard Picassos – but not overmuch imitation.  One of the Bacons reminded me strongly of a Tunnard, though.  As for Hockney, his paintings were more of a tribute to P. than imitation or influence – presumably he was included to bring the thing up to date and to chime with his exhibition at the RA, maybe.

Migrations, Tate Britain

Returned to this for a bit of peace after the crowd at the Picasso.  Forgot to mention Gustav Metzger’s little film before – set on the South Bank, Metzger destroys, with acid, a canvas or linen work – actually, not sure if it was painted-  opposite St. Paul’s, which appears regally through the rent.  The growing holes in the linen resemble, first, Fontana slashes, then feathery plumes and laddering that brought Kirchner’s insect women to mind,  then, those amoebic psychedelic light shows at Pink Floyd gigs at the Roundhouse and Middle Earth (reference for the elderly).

Then, the Tissots – I think the Norman Rockwell of his day – those lovely Victorian girls, lounging against the ship rail; you can hear them in your mind… “Yeah, it was really, really nice?  And then we, like, went on to Boujie’s, and it was totally, like, packed out?”

The Mondrian in the show  is not square – the left-hand side is roughly cut and slants slightly to the left in the frame.  How did he let that happen?  I thought he was a Poirot when it came to symmetry.

John Cassavetes

The recent death of Ben Gazzara and the photos of him with Peter Falk and JC reminded me of Johnny Staccato, the New York jazz pianist/private detective played by Cassavetes in the 50’s – and in particular, its great theme music, composed and played by Elmer Bernstein; Staccato’s Theme, backed with the Jazz at Waldo’s,  one of the first 45’s I owned.  Still got it, still play it.

Trying to do some more conventional stuff, and not pulling it off – but trying.

Blackpaint

20/02/12

Blackpaint 291

August 30, 2011

Tarkovsky and Bruegel

Watching “Solaris” the other day, came to the bit where the camera closes up on – goes into, almost – the reproduction of Hunters in the Snow;  I recall a scene in “Mirror” that suggested this painting and I’m sure that Tarkovsky quotes this scene in “Solaris” too.

I have to say I was astonished at the clarity with which Bruegel depicted the distant details – landscape, birds, the villagers capering on the ice; never noticed this particularly before, I suppose it takes a film close-up to bring it home.  Also, it reminded me of Bela Tarr’s Hungarian villagers – especially when they dance drunkenly with chairs or bread rolls on the head.

Dead Areas

In last blog, I suggested that most great films have patches in them that are pretentious, or awkward, even laughable (unintentionally).  This is surely more true of art house cinema, since the director is trying to make art, as well as, or maybe rather than, money.  Same goes for all art – music, theatre – and for painting.  Trouble is, when you find a dead area and change it, everything else changes too and you end up painting a different picture.  I’m thinking of abstract painting, where the choice – and therefore the pressure – is maybe greater; but it’s probably there with figurative painting as well.  Adrian Searle, I think, was writing about Lucian Freud, and making a lot of the fact that he painted everything in a picture (walls, window sills, floorboards) with the same attention to detail as the “subject”.

Katherine Jones

Several delicate, hanging “books” in the shape of birds. feathers of thin paper with one-line poems in the edges; prints of her signature mysterious glass-houses on the edge of a dark wood or a black mountain – in the Festival Hall Poetry library, on the 5th floor, and unfortunately now finished.  But have a look on her website anyway; the fact that she is my niece hasn’t influenced my recommendation in any way.

Guggenheim – last word

Robert Gober -A sculpted torso, half male, half female;  an odd, triangular cot; a rolled-up “unfolding door”.

Nate Lowman – stunning colour photographs of oil rigs with sun, moon, fire; what were they doing in the “Transgression” section, along with Paul McCarthy’s ” Tomato Head” and “Sasidge Cut”, and photos of naked men with beer cans, meat and onions for penises?  Interestingly, we had to queue for 30 minutes to get into this bit; overeager attendants letting in only as many as were leaving, despite there being only 20-odd in there at a time.

Thomas Hirschhorn – “Cavemanman”; an extended cavern made from brown tape, composition rocks and tinfoil, containing figures and torsos, pop band posters, overflowing with Coke cans, pages of instructions about voting systems posted up, giant books on Chomsky, multiculturalism, semiotics etc, etc, and film loops of prehistoric cave paintings.  Presumably, the cave is our civilisation as future excavators might see it – but what was meant by the dynamite sticks taped to the wall?

Blackpaint

30.08.11

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Blackpaint 287

July 22, 2011

Lucian Freud

What a staggering photograph by David Dawson in today’s Guardian, of Freud working, stripped to the waist, in 2005;  his torso looks to me exactly like one of his own (Freud’s) paintings.  By contrast, another crass assertion by Adrian Searle that, next to Freud, Hockney and Howard Hodgkin are “artistic pygmies”; fair enough to think that, but not without argument.  Searle merely asserts that Freud’s art “has authority” (presumably Hockney and Hodgkin lack that quality) and follows it up with anecdotes about his assertive (boorish, aggressive?) behaviour.  He once painted himself with a black eye after getting into a punch up with a taxi driver.

For my money, his best pictures were the portrait of a young Francis Bacon, the picture of Harry Diamond standing next to the aspidistra and the portrait, elongated and looking down, of Frank Auerbach.  Also, that great, porridge-y, self portrait, naked apart from the boots.

I’d have hoped for some comparison with Auerbach, too; seems logical as they are both painters of flesh and Grand Old Men.

St.Ives

The BBC4 film Art in Cornwall, fronted by James Fox, got another airing last night; it was 90 minutes long and good on Wallis, Nicolson, Hepworth, Wood, Gabo, Lanyon and Heron.  Not enough on Frost, nothing on Hilton, Blow, Mackenzie, Wynter…  Surely, it should have been two 90 minute programmes to get it all in.  Still, better than nothing…

Lanyon

The film was pretty good on Peter Lanyon, and sent me straight back to my books to look at him again.  The sweep and energy in the paintings, surf exploding, sunlight blinding, flight lines, roughness, scoring of rocks, concealed figures (Lost Mine and Porthleven), those fantastic murals at Liverpool and Birmingham universities…  Why isn’t he rated as highly as Freud and Bacon?  Too abstract for the figuratives, and too landscape-y for the abstractionists, I suppose.

Tarkovsky and Tarr

Both of these directors clearly have a thing about rain –  I’m watching Tarkovsky’s “Nostalgia” at the moment, and great, soaking deluges are pouring down, often shot through with dazzling light that separates out the individual falling drops.  Derelict brick and cement buildings are a favourite, with great holes in the roof that admit torrents.  Often, as with Tarr, dogs are wandering about, usually German Shepherds in Tarkovsky’s case.  The difference between the two is one of mood; Tarr’s deluges pour down on glum village streets or mud roads and shabby blocks of flats; Tarkovsky’s downpours in Nostalgia, Stalker and Mirror tend to be more – well, nostalgic in mood.

 

 

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Blackpaint

22/07/11

 

 

 

 

 

Blackpaint 283

July 3, 2011

Last Year in Marienbad

Watching this, I have discovered, like thousands before me, no doubt,  the source of many parodies – especially that one where actors speak a pretentious sentence whilst gazing out at the audience and mid-sentence, the scene changes and they’re in different clothes or a different place.  This is not to denigrate the film – it’s beautiful (and so is Delphine Seyrig) and anyway, I love pretentious films; cliches and parodies are so often born from great art, n’est-ce pas?  Loved the Max Ernst feather dress, too.

It strikes me that L’Age d’Or could have been done as an “anti – Marienbad” – if it wasn’t 30 years older.  the couple in Marienbad are sort of polar opposites to the couple in the Bunuel film – stylistically anyway.. but now I’m starting to see parallels, so will stop with that…

Laura Cumming on Magritte

Last Sunday, reviewing the Magritte show at the Tate Liverpool, LC wrote in the Observer that Magritte’s work was “a sustained exploration of painting itself, how it works, what it can ever show or truly say”.  I think this is an astonishing claim for a painter who, most critics seem to agree, was no great shakes as a user of paint, but was a competent illustrator – a man who was a good commercial artist.  Surely, it’s the power of his images that makes him interesting, as well as the champion poster – shifter, apparently (or maybe it’s the most book covers).  His painting is as good as it needs to be to get the idea across – he’s a conceptual artist, who doesn’t really explore painting at all.

Cartoon Museum – Steve Bell  

This is in a little street opposite the front entrance of the British Museum and contains a great exhibition of Bell’s work.  I was surprised at how well some of his characters stand up after a few years (Bell turns his politicians into characters, for example the Iron Lady and Major with the underpants, Blair with the mad eye, Cameron with the condom head); I remember them seeming a bit crude and even silly to me, when he first did them.  Now, they strike me as epic.  Then, there are the variations on famous paintings; my favourites are Major’s underpants burning on the Thames (after Turner), Blair about to be inundated by an overcurling tidal wave of shit in the form of Gordon Brown (after Hokusai) and Brown as a boxer, flat on the mat, punching himself in the face (I think that was a Bell original).

There is also the French artist, the penguin, the monkey, the sheep, the chief inspector….

There’s a fascinating video of Bell going about his work at party conferences and doing his own commentary.  As you would expect, he finds a physical peculiarity and develops it – Cameron’s smooth cheeks and a certain wateriness of the eyes that suggest a fishiness to him; Osborne’s slightly bulging neck and, especially, the bum nose-end.  Go and see it, after the Australian prints and drawings in the BM.

Whitechapel Gallery 

Here, for free, is an exhibition of some of the art works that have been chosen by various politicians and diplomats to decorate their offices and reception rooms.  The one I particularly liked was a photograph by David Dawson of Lucian Freud, painting the queen.  She’s sitting there, in a plain plastered room (presumably in Buck House?? – no; St.James’ Palace ) with a crack running across one wall, in a very ordinary-looking coat – with her crown on.  More of this exhibition tomorrow, along with Vorticists, Twombly and others.

Blackpaint

02.07.11