Posts Tagged ‘Luis Bunuel’

Blackpaint 567 – Fred in his Coffin, Julieta and the Deluge

September 4, 2016

William Eggleston, Portraits, NPG

Brilliant exhibition.  We were put off a little by the title, thinking of a series of head and shoulders photos – should have known better.  They are in context, of course – the context being the American southern states, mostly Mississippi, Louisiana and Tennessee from the 50s through to the 80s.  They have the air of snapshots; the subjects sometimes look startled, or mildly annoyed, or are in mid action, stepping off a kerb, say.  In that respect, they provide a contrast to the great photos of Saul Leiter, recently displayed at the Photographers Gallery (see previous Blackpaint).  A few favourites below:

egglestone 1

Self Portrait

 

eggleston 2

Touch of Psycho here?

 

eggleston 3

Stephen King, maybe – Firestarter?

In one or two pictures, you are reminded (slightly) of Diane Arbus – but without the sense that the grotesque has been consciously sought out.  Rather, challenge, vulnerability, self-consciousness, especially in the Disco series.  A few celebrities – Joe Strummer, blues singer Mississippi Fred McDowell (well, he’s a celebrity to me) in his coffin.. there’s context for you.

Julieta, Pedro Almodovar, 2015

julieta2

The latest Almodovar, and it has been received with reverence by film critics, notably Mark Kermode.  I think it’s great, but the reverence is misplaced.  It’s based on three Alice Munro stories, a heroine played by a young and older actress – sorry, actor, for Guardian readers – who transforms from one to the other during a hair-washing sequence.

As often happens in Almodovar films, women brightly and loudly tell each other outlandish and unlikely things in series, and the other just…accepts.  Also, there is the thing where a woman (usually) makes a completely unreasonable and inexplicable decision and demands that others simply accept without question – which they do.

Another Almodovar thing – women in comas, disabled by MS, dementia, weakened by nervous collapse.  There is a sort of soap opera feel to the plots, intentionally I’m sure; you could imagine them turning up in “Neighbours”.  Almodovar mixes in a bit of surrealism and surprising, unconventional sexual behaviour – rather like Bunuel’s realist brother.

As to visuals, the film is billed as “ravishing” and “gorgeous”.  It has its moments; the stag running with the train, stormy cloud- and sea shots, beautiful female actors, Julieta’s Klimt dressing gown.

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The plot hinges on the disappearance of Julieta’s daughter.  Without revealing the end, I thought Bunuel would have handled it differently; I’m thinking of “Exterminating Angel”.

Winifred Knights, Dulwich Picture Gallery

The drawings are impressive, especially the nude life drawing; there’s a pen and ink that’s just like the sculptor Flaxman – however, they are really static.  There are several scenes with multiple figures, with no movement at all.  Some like those medieval style Victorian tableaux.  Some nice coloured drawings or watercolours of Cuckmere and mountain scapes.  A group of pilgrims, sleeping amongst tit-shaped haycocks; another drawing of women sitting and lying that look just like flints from a couple of feet away.

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The presiding influence in her work is a combination of the Vorticists and Della Francesca (static, statuesque, isolation of each figure in the picture – eg the Marriage at Cana).

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Her masterpiece is “The Deluge” – massive, absurd, dramatic gesturing, static.  There are a number of precision sketches of the same, showing the preparation that went into the final work.  There’s a bit of Stanley Spencer in the colours; the shapes vaguely reminded me of the silhouettes on road traffic signs, for some reason.

The Deluge 1920 Winifred Knights 1899-1947 Purchased with assistance from the Friends of the Tate Gallery 1989 http://www.tate.org.uk/art/work/T05532

 

the sea of marmara

The Sea of Marmara

Blackpaint

September 2016

 

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Blackpaint 440 – Veronese and Orwell; Vanilla Halos, Bugs in the Milk, Sick in the Porridge..

April 4, 2014

Veronese at the National Gallery

This is basically a big collection of the most beautiful, huge paintings in which the characters fall to their knees, raise their arms imploringly, recoil in fear, awe, astonishment, gesture to each other in the most theatrical manner, watched by reverential servants, docile horses (huge) and other people and animals.  The colours: that washed-out Veronese blue; a much deeper blue that I associate with Titian; rose pink; cloaks in billowing orange; the pale green and grey of the Allegorical paintings, “Scorn”, “Unfaithfulness”, and the others; subtle, pale flesh tones of the putti.

The compositions are also stunning; for my money, the finest are “The Anointing of David” and “The Family of Darius before Alexander” (part of the permanent collection at the NG).

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The Anointing of David

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The Family of Darius before Alexander

There are, however, some weaknesses:  In the small painting, “The Conversion of Mary Magdalene”, Christ has a giant left hand and an appalling vanilla ice-cream halo.  Generally, his Christs are insipid and unconvincing, compared to the less exalted characters.  In fact, several of the paintings contain rather sketchily drawn faces, shown up by the excellent draughtsmanship elsewhere in the same pictures.

veronese mary magdalene

The Conversion of Mary Magdalene

(Halo doesn’t look too bad in this repro – believe me, it’s bad)

A few random things of note:

The line around the head of St.Helena in “The Dream of…”; it reminds me of the line around superimposed photo images in the work of Surrealists, Man Ray, for instance;

The snake-like ripple of muscles in the back of the assailant in “the Temptation of Saint Anthony Abbot”;

Terrible, insipid Christ in “The Supper at Emmaus”

The fantastic back in “Unfaithfulness”.

veronese unfaithfulness

George Orwell

Had to read DJ Taylor’s biography of the great man, which he has called “Orwell – The Life”, unlike Bernard Crick’s earlier one, which was only “A Life”.  There is a discrepancy between the two, regarding the memoir “Such, Such Were the Joys”, about St Cyprian’s, Orwell’s Sussex prep school;  this is the essay that Sam Leith described as a self-pitying “load of bollocks” in the Guardian recently.  According to Crick, Henry Longhurst, the golfer and writer, who was at the school at the same time as Orwell, was of the bollocks view (although he expressed it more moderately); he felt Orwell exaggerated and even lied about being beaten for bed-wetting.  He describes an incident in which he (Longhurst) was sick into a bowl of porridge and was then forced to eat it (he’s supposed to be defending the school! ).  Taylor, however, ascribes this account to Alec Waugh… Who is right?

Here’s Orwell in “Down and Out in Paris and London”, describing the little disasters that befall when you are broke: “you have spent your last eighty centimes on half a litre of milk, and are boiling it over the spirit lamp.  While it boils a bug runs down your forearm; you give the bug a flick with your nail, and it falls, plop! straight into the milk.  There is nothing for it but to throw the milk away and go foodless.”  No, George, you fish the bug out and use the milk.  I don’t think George, or Eric as he was at St.Cyprian’s, would have eaten the porridge.

Juste Avant la Nuit – Chabrol

Great old film from the 70s, in which an advertising exec murders a woman with whom he is having an SM affair.  He is tortured by guilt, confesses the crime to both his own wife AND the widower of his victim (a close friend) – and they both refuse to condemn him and say he shouldn’t confess.. Shades of Bunuel; the murderer’s wife is played by Stephane Audran, gleamingly beautiful and another reminder of Bunuel.

Museum of Childhood, Bethnal Green

Went round this, saying “I had one of them!  Yeah, I remember that, we had one just like it!” BUT – there are no toy guns, except a couple of space guns.  When I was a kid in the 50s and 60s, I had loads of toy guns, that were pretty good facsimiles of the real thing; Colt .45s, a bolt action plastic rifle that fired plastic balls, a tommy gun, flintlock pistols in moulded plastic, an automatic that fired pellets.. also a toy crossbow, knives with retracting blades, rubber tomahawks.  I know these toys are now considered undesirable and dangerous, but surely they should be in the museum.  To omit them distorts history.

 

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Work in (not very much) progress.

Blackpaint

4.04.14

 

 

Blackpaint 400 – Dora, Mark and Stanley in Dulwich

June 27, 2013

Dulwich Picture Gallery – “A Crisis of Brilliance”

This is an exhibition of works by a number of British artists, connected with each other by way of the Slade, where they all studied under Tonks , and then by Bloomsbury etc., completed between 1908 and 1922.  WWI therefore features (there is the huge, rippling, faintly Kokoschka – like Bomberg of sappers under bombardment and Nevinson’s solitary, diving biplane) but does not dominate the exhibition.  My highlights as follows:

Stanley Spencer, “Mending Cowls at Cookham” – the  storm- threatening sky providing stark background to the  white of the cowls, as they are put in place.  That key shape does something too;

spencer cowls

Dora Carrington, “Soldiers at a Stream” – little painting, perfectly rendered and coloured, horses drinking, soldiers mounted;

Mark Gertler, “Pool at Garsington” – a touch of Cezanne, maybe; the L-shaped slice that seems to be collaged in, surrounding the house and tree;

gertler2

Carrington, that profile of Strachey with the stunning hands, fingers tented in thought (actually though, not- he’s holding a book).

There are some beautiful pencil drawings, hard to choose the best; self-portraits by Spencer and Carrington and Bomberg, all great (although Carrington’s, done at 16, looks nothing like Gertler’s portrait of her, done a few years later – Gertler’s is exceptionally fine, lightly but surely drawn and conveying a wealth of character; the gaze of love, presumably).

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Carrington’s heavy-hipped “standing Nude” is notable and the Gertler “Seated Nude”, done in watercolour pencils.

The clinker of the exhibition is Carrington’s “Bedford Market”, but she was very young when she did it and it’s very competent.

The exhibition is only three or four rooms, quite understated, but some real treasures.  I see I haven’t mentioned Paul Nash at all – probably because I’ve seen so much of his work lately.  The impact dulls with repetition; or does it always?  Maybe there are some painters who always grab you – for me, it’s de Kooning.  Forgot to mention Bomberg’s “In the Hold”, one of his horse-frightening geometric “abstracts”, way beyond anything else in the exhibition for experimentation and fittingly, separated from the others at the entrance.

Salter, All There Is

Finished this now, as well as “Light Years”; the writing in the earlier novel perhaps more consciously “fine”, sometimes crossing the border into pretentious territory – but I read them both, quickly for me, and am close to finishing his memoir, “Burning the Days”, for the second time.  There is a startling section towards the end of “All There Is”, when Salter’s protagonist Bowman rather forcefully overcomes the weak resistance of Anet, the young daughter of his ex-lover, takes her on a trip to Paris and abandons her there in a hotel room – an act of revenge on her mother, who had abandoned Bowman (and “robbed” him of a house in the courts).  Anet says “No” – but Bowman clearly knows she means “Yes”, and acts accordingly.  He’s right, of course; afterwards, she’s happy – until he ditches her.  Salter offers no hint of approval or disapproval; merely “describes”.  Maybe that’s what startled me about it – it’s so at odds with currently acceptable attitudes towards sexual conduct.

Almodovar, Talk to Her

This film is another case in point; it has a young woman in a coma, who is stalked – before the accident – by a pudgy mother’s boy.  He manages to become one of her carers when she is comatose, rapes her and makes her pregnant, a crime for which he is eventually imprisoned.

Unbelievably, given the circumstances outlined above, you feel a sort of queasy sympathy, rather than revulsion, for the rapist.  I’ve checked online; it’s not just me, the proper critics are united in their admiration for the film, which won an Academy Award and a Golden Globe in 2002.

So, how can this be?  Firstly, you don’t see the sex (although there is a fantasy sequence where a tiny dancer enters a rather stylised vagina).  The  surreal atmosphere of Almodovar’s films probably helps; and the rapist is portrayed throughout as a gentle, concerned character with a strong empathy for women, who is in love with (fixated on) the victim.  And he is caught, imprisoned and eventually kills himself.

Almodovar is clearly a follower of Bunuel in his anarchistic, surreal tendencies and his insistence on exploring the “unacceptable” faces of sexuality – fetishism and illness are prominent themes in the work of both.

What makes Almodovar’s film less jarring than the incident in Salter’s book?  I’m not sure.  To be continued.

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Blackpaint

27.06.13