Posts Tagged ‘Lucian Freud’

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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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

Blackpaint 243

January 18, 2011

Tate Britain

Half the place a building site, as Fiona Banner’s planes are dismantled – wings were going out the door as I arrived.  No new paintings, but some things I missed last time:

Vanessa Bell, “Studland Beach” – two large hatted women watch another at a shoreline changing tent, like a worshipper at a white monolith.  Simple “plates” of deep blue, cream and ochre, very effective from a distance.

Lucien Freud – a portrait of his first wife (who died the other day) with those huge, intense eyes.  Looks as if she’s strangling the cat she is holding up to the viewer.

The collection of little sculptures -Meadows, Chadwick, Armitage – remind me of those lines in Prufrock: “I should have been a pair of ragged claws/ Scuttling across the floors of silent seas” – or again, Rex Warner’s “Light and Air”: ” even the pale of pearl, nip, clip of dawn/ on cold coasts curling over the grey waves..”.

Keith Vaughan, “Theseus and the Minotaur” – a naked woman, presumably Ariadne, seated, a naked man stretched out asleep on a bed – Theseus? – and a humanoid form, I assume the Minotaur, standing over him.  This is obviously a version of the story with which I am unfamiliar.

Auerbach, “Building Site on Oxford Street” – today, it looks like a thick, liquid mass of mud or faeces; cream, red-brown, grey and yellow, with straight lines ploughed trough the morass with fingers or brush.  Last time, I thought it looked “bejeweled”.

Blake, “The Good and Evil Angels” – the label next to the painting points out that the bad angel has a heavy build and dark skin (reflecting “non-European stereotypes” of the time); but it also looks to me as if he is blind – his eyes have no pupils.  No reference to this on the legend.  A look at the Tate website, however, provides a clue; for Blake the bad angel represents energy, the good, reason. This would make sense; energy is blind without the direction of reason.  Possibly.

Marc Vaux (b.1932)

This artist has a whole room, containing seven large works.  They are smooth textured, uniformly layered colours, mint green, brown, cream, red, blue, grey and black.  Two have bolt-on metal or perspex appendages, in one case, like a frame imposed on the picture a little short of the edges and a little away from the canvas.  Half circles, bent stripes, wedge shapes.

Tarkovsky’s “Mirror “

Watched this again today and was interested to see the scene where the woman washes her hair and rises in slow motion from the sink, her hair covering her face and dripping, while water runs down the charred walls of the wooden house behind her.  That’s where the little girl in “The Ring” came from, surely.

Blackpaint

18.01.11

Blackpaint 209

October 19, 2010

Lucian Freud

I saw that Jerry Hall has sold some of her pictures for £ (or maybe $) 2.3 million and when I saw one, a portrait of her naked on a bed, I assumed it was hers, in the sense that she’d painted it.  It looked like a poor attempt at a Lucian Freud; fuzzy pink flesh, lop-sided approximation of a face…

Of course, it was a Lucian Freud, hers in the sense that she owned it.  Very bad painting, judging by the newspaper photograph, almost unbelievable from one of the most brilliant “realist” painters of human flesh alive; maybe when you’re rich and famous, you feel you have to paint pictures of your celebrity mates, even if they don’t inspire you.  Shame when you think of Harry Diamond, Francis Bacon, the suited Irish blokes, Lee Bowery and all the other fantastic pictures he’s done.  Still, any painter can have an off day – I expect I will, eventually.

Three new Tate Books

1.  Eva Hesse

Some great paintings, up to 1960; mostly “spectres” and some masks.  Great, greys, greeny yellow ochre backgrounds, long-necked, sketchy ghosts in a greasy, slippery style.  Grey horror masks, antecedents of Marlene Dumas.  What an artist she was – of course, I love these works better than her minimalist stuff, though that’s usually good too.

2.  Hannah Wilke

Beautiful (as was Hesse), she disfigured herself in photos with stick-on boils, did videos in which she danced in a cowboy outfit and stripped – saw that in the Paris Feminist exhibition at the Pompidou  and generally did stuff relating to exploitation of female beauty.  Later, she got cancer and documented the physical results of the disease and treatment, such as hair loss, “unflinchingly” is the cliche, I suppose.  Was she the first to do that?  Anyway, the book is hard to look at but worth it.

3.  Jenny Saville

Freud-ish portraits of both sexes and various ages, using livid, lurid colours often suggesting smeared blood and/or decay and profusely fleshy models.  The extreme close-ups of her brushwork are very beautiful abstract pictures in themselves.

Turner Prize contenders

I saw four out of the five.  Dexter Dalwood has six large paintings; “Lennie” (of Mice and Men), “Greenham”, “Melville”, “White Flag”, “Burroughs in Tangier” and (famously) “Death of Doctor Kelly”.  They follow his formula of room/location of famous person/event, with the principle absent, although I couldn’t work out what or where “White Flag” was; the rest are self-explanatory.  There were “cameos” of other artists in the following; Terry Frost discs in “Greenham”, Braque (I think) in “Melville’s room”, Twombly lines in “Borroughs” – as well as a red line and some blue scribble at the top, which looked a bit Lanyon to me – and Jasper Johns of course in “White Flag”.

Angela de la Cruz had several leatherette and fabric things, like collapsed canvases on easels, or tents maybe.  Also, a broken chair on a stool and a filing cabinet welded to some other piece of junk.  they were a bit like soft Rauschenberg “Gluts”.

Susan Phillipz was a disembodied voice, singing “Lowlands Away”, originally installed under a Scottish bridge.  Anne Briggs’ version far superior – or Sandy Denny’s or Martin Carthy’s.

The Otolith group had a battery of a dozen or so TV’s showing different episodes of a subtitled arts series, coupled with a fim by Satyajit Ray called “the Alien”.

Missed the last contender, also TV stuff, due to lack of time.  I don’t like looking at TVs in art galleries usually, anyway.

I think Dalwood should win, although his stuff is not brilliant; at least it’s substantial.

Raphael V. Michelangelo

I was surprised to hear Matthew Collings put it like this on TV the other day, and declare Raphael the “winner”.  Will pursue this in future blogs.  I have to say that Raphael made a lovely job of M’s knobbly right knee in “The School of Athens”, however.

Towton by Blackpaint

19.10.10

Blackpaint 170

July 22, 2010

Alice Neel at Whitechapel

At first glance, I thought these would be mediocre, a bit sketchy, not finished off properly, dull colours like Neue Sachlichkeit stuff – portraits, boring.  Second glance proved me drastically wrong. 

They look as if done quickly, impressionistic, an element of caricature and definitely a touch of NS, Christian Schad, Modersohn – Becker.  I even got a taste of Diane Arbus from the flat stares and awkward poses.  Sometimes, they taper off into mere outline (hands,  legs, sofas).  However, they clearly capture the idiosyncracies of the subjects – a frown, slight sneer, complacent smirk, nervous glance, effusive smile… 

The best portraits: the youth Hartley, Andy Warhol with his scars and several inches of underpants,  the two men immediately on your right as you enter – the serious man in the sleeveless pullover against the Duccio yellow background (or is it more Van Gogh sunflower?), and the fierce man with the slight sneer in the next picture.  Look at the shiny patch on his forehead. 

Her flesh tones are greenish, apart from the pregnant women and babies upstairs.  She used a heavy black outline in the 50’s and 60’s, changing to a Van Gogh-like light blue outline in the 70’s and 80’s.

Upstairs are the pregnant women, mothers and fat, staring, slightly sinister babies (Small Assassin, Ray Bradbury would have recognised them).  one of the women in particular looks dazed and desperate, the picture earning Neel feminist acclaim.  There is a beautiful, young, pregnant woman on a sofa facing the doors, the line of her figure strong and confident, as if done with one sure, single stroke.

In the next room, old age; dim eyes, arthritic knuckles, hunched postures – but still, all recognisable individuals with their vanities and concerns.  Her own self portrait is here, naked and unflattering (of course, stupid to think it might be).

There are some clinkers here, though; I thought the buildings were poor, as was most of the stuff from the thirties and the man with three pricks was like a really bad imitation of R. Crumb.  There were a couple of nasty caricatures, both of arty women.  A flattering portrait of a woman academic she obviously liked had a big patch of red, some ochre I think, and some grey scribble in the background, prompting someone to say on the blurb that this showed Neel could have been an Abstract Expressionist – utter rubbish on this evidence.  But, on the whole, a great exhibition.  I’d like to see it with some Lucian Freuds, to compare their approaches.

Painters on Painting 

DVD on sale at the Whitechapel; saw it at the ICA some months ago.  The magnificence of some of the paintings is too great to exaggerate; Hoffman, de Kooning, Rauschenberg, Johns, Pollock, Frankenthaler, underlining the sheer offensive silliness of that snide remark on the caption in the Neel exhibition.  Unfortunately, some of these boys can really ramble on.  Frank Stella is like Woody Allen, obsessed with critics who found his work cold compared with Ab Exes.  Jasper Johns, like a drawling character from Frasier and Jules Olitsky, obsessed with the edges of his paintings and brandishing a huge cat (as if about to dip it in paint and swipe it across the canvas.

Adrian Searle

In the Guardian, reviewing a drawing exhibition at the White Cube and a book by Deanna Petherbridge “the Primacy of Drawing” (says it all, really), quotes her as follows: “Drawing is the basis of all art and visual thinking…Drawing renders thoughts visible”.  Sorry, when I draw, I draw – when I paint, I paint.  I don’t, usually, do sketches.  I think painting is a different, but not lesser, process; unless, of course, you define sweeps of the brush or dabbles in the paint as drawing.  I think, unlike Robert Hughes and his followers, that you – sorry, some painters –  can produce magnificent paintings that are not based on drawing prowess, and many Ab Ex and others have done just that.

I’m pleased to say that Kenneth Noland more or less says just that in the DVD.  He calls it One Shot painting.  Good on you, Kenneth; RIP.

Hereward 1, by Blackpaint

Blackpaint

22.07.10

Blackpaint 122

April 27, 2010

Tanning and Carrington

What I should have pointed out yesterday, once I had cleared up my own confusion about these two artists, is that they are both living:  Carrington in Mexico, aged 93 and Tanning in the USA, 100 years in August.

As to their work, Tanning does little girls, giant cockroach/grasshoppers in deserted ballrooms, with giant artificial-looking flowers, flights of birds that attack windows and fall as fishes.  Carrington does elongated, wild-haired women (self portraits, I  think), sometimes naked, often beset by white horses and once, attended by a strange half-hyena, half-zebra creature – or maybe it’s wearing its ribs on the outside…

Paul Feiler

I got a fine little Austin/Desmond catalogue from the shop near the Tate Modern, of works by this artist.  Born 1917,  a St.Ives artist who, for some reason, did not get a Tate paperback written about him.  He uses a palette of milky, curdled whites, ochre, browns, greys, blues and blacks.  His surfaces are often scraped and nubbly, his motifs are scored arcs, ovals, circles and stripes, always scratchy and rough.  Some works are semi-figurative; a window frame, for instance.  They have place names mostly, like Porthgwarra and Gwithian.  William Scott compared him to de Stael and in one painting, “Botallack, grey and black”, you can see what he means.  There are some smartly executed little figure sketches too.  It’s fascinating and instructive to see how much variation and beauty can be wrung from a fairly restricted palette and range of marks.

Jock McFadyen

Another cheap book from the same place.  Born in 1950, a youngster compared to today’s other features, McFadyen lives and works in the East End and does scenes of life in the area in the 80s.  A line of prostitutes lean against  wall, three hard-looking men with a forlorn pit bull, a one-legged woman on a crutch, a couple of girls in a park, waiting for “the Cortina Boys”, graffiti, yobs, market scenes.  And a portrait of Harry Diamond, the photographer, dancing to jazz, no doubt, in “Paul Tonkin’s prefab”.  Harry Diamond was known both for his great photography and for having been a model several times for Lucian Freud.  That’s him in Freud’s portrait of the young man next to an aspidistra.  I can attest that McFadyen’s portrait is excellent, having met Harry several times in the last ten years through my dear friend, Bob Glass.

Listening, appropriately, to the Duke Ellington 40’s band, the so-called Blanton band, doing “Harlem Air-Shaft” and “Diminuendo and Crescendo in Blue”

Blackpaint

27.04.10