Posts Tagged ‘Magritte’

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.

tit

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

 

 

 

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Blackpaint 545 – Cheese graters, Fingernails and Tulips

May 14, 2016

Mona Hatoum, “Over my Dead Body” at Tate Modern

Annoyingly, the labels on the wall by each installation tell you not only the title, year made and materials used but also what Hatoum is “saying” in the piece – I’d avoid reading them.  Having said that, I can’t really do anything but list some of the works.  But I can’t resist mentioning the odd perceived similarity to other artists here and there…

  • A black cube made of iron filings, clinging to each other in rope-like coils – I thought of the Kaaba.  My favourite piece;
  • Paper “drawings” with hair, fingernails and other personal bits attached (all those feminist artists who put things in cabinets);
  • Maps, lots of them, in neon, globes or graven into dozens of blocks of soap (Boetti);
  • A cabinet of glass hand grenades and lots of toy soldiers;
  • Batteries of wire rabbit hutches (but no rabbits);
  • Five-tier sets of metal bunks (Beuys);
  • A room with a table and chair, the back of which protrudes through the table top; on the wall, a small cage containing a ball of black hair, a dormitory bed and a musty smell (Magritte);

 

mona hatoum

  • Giant cheese-grater furniture (above);
  • A roomful of domestic torture instruments, egg whisks for example, all wired up with lights and buzzers;
  • A round pit filled with fine sand, combed into ridges and smoothed out incessantly (Kapoor);
  • Wire barbs on metal rods suspended from the ceiling;
  • Hair sculpture and a fence of plaited hair;
  • A film projected on the floor of an internal medical probe- heart, throat, gut maybe.

Baselitz at White Cube, Bermondsey

A huge, white galleryful of Baselitz’ upside-down figures, men and women, singly and in couples, white on black and blue backgrounds, or suffused with a rose wash.  Backgrounds spattery and ringed (cups or paint tins?) and blotched as if by an old pen nib – remember those?  By way of contrast, a number of male figures, heads cropped, NOT upside-down but on their sides, as if whizzing round the walls of the gallery in pursuit of each other, garlanded by chains of white drips round the feet and elsewhere.  For some reason, I was reminded of that light bulb figure dancing to the harmonica at the start of the Old Grey Whistle Test.  The figures, although rough and raggedly drawn, are strangely appealing; my partner especially liked the feet.

Also a couple of rooms containing ink and wash poster-sized pictures of… naked, upside-down men and women, rather similar to the large paintings.  No-one could accuse Baselitz of failing to explore the theme thoroughly.

 

baselitz1

 

baselitz2

 

Eurovision Song Contest

Graham Norton’s coverage relentlessly positive tonight – all songs “catchy” or “lovely” or “really sincere”; only the very mildest, harmless irony here and there.  Rise up, Wogan.  I think someone has had a word with Graham on behalf of the government.

Ran, Kurosawa (1985)

Ran

Breathtaking spectacle, unrelenting bloody slaughter in battle, murder, suicide – completely devoid of emotional engagement, except in regard to the androgynous Clown, who I quite liked.  Oddly, “Ran” popped up in a Luisa Berlin story I read the morning after I watched the film on TV; a character recounted the plot to her sister.  Berlin’s short story collection “A Manual for Cleaning Women” is a brilliant book; she’s been compared to Raymond Carver, I think reasonably.

 

 

wip2

Still Life with Tulips – work in progress; spot the Baselitz influence.

Blackpaint

14.05.16

Blackpaint 532 – Brussels, Tolstoy, Magritte and those balls – what are they? – they’re Bells!

February 14, 2016

Musee Des Beaux Arts, Brussels

icarus

It’s not actually called this any more, though the Brueghel painting of Icarus plummeting into the ocean that inspired the famous Auden poem is still there; it’s divided into three, or actually four bits (the modern one is closed at the moment), all in the one huge building: the Magritte museum, the “fin-de-siecle” museum and the mighty “museum of Ancient Art” are the sections open at the moment.  The building is at the top of the “Mountain of Art”; big, freezing, windswept square, lines of pollarded trees, watch for the mouse running under the waste basket, turn right after the massive library.

the-fair-captive

The Fair Captive

Magritte first; lots of cloudy skies in window frames, mirrors and easels; skin changing into wood grain or bricks; doves made of leaves; owls in threatening groups; bowler-hatted men (of course) – and those curious metallic balls with the horizontal slots in them, that also feature, I think, in some Max Ernst paintings.  What are they, I wonder.  Looked it up – they’re bells, like you hang round horses’ necks, apparently.

magritte balls

So far, so usual Magritte, but I was interested to see some of his colourful early poster work – I had’t known he was an ad man, but it makes perfect sense; the “surrealism” is often a neat little transposition, tidily illustrated (it’s night in the urban street, dark, street lights on outside the little villas – but it’s broad daylight in the sky above the tall trees) and often he uses the same image several times, slightly adapted, with a different “surreal” name.

villa magritte

There is a startling and inexplicable style change in the 40s(?); the usual neat precision gives way to rough-drawn, pink/brown/yellow pastel colours for a few pictures.  I checked, they were still oil on canvas; but then back to the familiar style again.

the-explanation magritte

The Explanation

Fin – de – Siecle

Some terrific stuff in here: Vogel,  the awful weather painter; that is, the weather’s awful, not the paintings.  It’s always raining, snowing or maybe just grey and drizzly in his town and village streets; Van Rysselbergh,  nothing special, landscapes in lines and stipples – but what a name!  Ranks with Van Dongen and Vantongerloo in my book (yes, there is one Van Gogh, portrait of a young man); Rops and Spillaert, both with loads of paintings, as if the museum director had said “OK, get cracking, we’ll take the lot.” And Finch again!  (see Blackpaint on Helsinki, August 2015).

Some little Kollwitz etchings. reminiscent of Goya penitents, that great Bonnard of his wife stretching, standing naked against the window in the bathroom – where else? – some good Toulouse Lautrec drawings, three Gauguins (two great, one awful) – but the real surprise was Ensor.

Ensor Chinese%20Porcelain%20with%20Fans,%201880

Chinese Porcelain

There were a couple of the cartoon-y clown/mask ones, the sinister ones he’s famous for,  but several good, chunky, almost social -realist pictures and a lovely still life with a central blob of red, a dish I think.  And “The Skate” (below):

Ensor_TheSkate

Ensor boy with lamp

The Lamplighter, Ensor

The last museum, “Ancient Art”, was so rich and enormous that I’m leaving it until the next blog.

On Thursday, we walked beyond the “Mountain of Art” and a huge, depressing palace on our right, towards Jubelpark and Musees Royeaux d’art et d’histoire …..  We trudged along a grey, freezing avenue of empty office blocks and building sites, as traffic tore past, terrifyingly close to very narrow pavements.  A great, glass EU building on the right reared above us and we didn’t notice it, so intent were we on keeping to the kerb.  It was easy to imagine it empty and to let, like all the others…..

The park was pure Magritte, though; neat, tidy, squared off, depressing; someone walking a little dog (loads of dogshit around – Magritte never put that in a picture, I think).  But there were busts of people, sculpted with their bodies apparently enclosed in boxes – and their bare feet poking out at the bottom.

If you eat in the museum restaurant, don’t have the “Americain” – it’s a hefty, cake – sized lump of raw hamburger meat, served with capers, salad and chips; delicious!

Kreuzer Sonata, Tolstoy

Inspired by the TV War and Peace, I’m reading this novella, which I thought I might finish on Eurostar; no such luck.  The views expressed – not sure how far they are Tolstoy’s own; probably all – make Zvyagintsev’s taciturn male bullies look like Hackney hipsters by comparison.

latest wip

The Siege of Brussels (Work in progress)

Blackpaint

14.02.16

 

 

 

 

Blackpaint 281

June 21, 2011

Magritte

Reading Terry Gilliam in the Observer, I observed the observation that he was the only one laughing – “uncontrollably” –  at the pictures at a Magritte exhibition; the other visitors went round, he says, in a “religious state of awe”.  If  the exhibition was in London, they were probably just being English; a slight, lightly contemptuous smirk is generally considered sufficient.

Noel Fielding, who is English, says almost the same thing as Gilliam, a bit further on in the article: “I find it ridiculous when you walk round a gallery and people are just looking at something obviously funny and stroking their chins.”

I’ve often found Magritte to be amusing, sometimes startling – but never funny enough to make me laugh uncontrollably. When you say that,  I think it’s just a way of saying “I got it – but none of those other idiots did”.

This all sounds snotty, I know, but I’m tired of Magritte’s little men in tight suits and bowler hats, doing cute, surprising little things; cloudy blue skies, easels, windows, apples, human rain, toes on shoes, eyes for tits, pipes that are not pipes, trains in the fireplace and so on.  It’s good, of course – how many other painters can you reel off the images like that? – but they can get wearing.  I’m in more of a Pollock/De Kooning/Mitchell mood at the moment.

Beethoven

The symphonies – how is it that the 3rd, 5th, 6th, 7th and 9th are all majestic, hummable, full of hooks and themes and totally memorable (although you can mix them up) and the others, 1,2,4 and 8 are completely the opposite?  I can’t recall a single theme or line from any of them.  The contrast is staggering, to me anyway.  Is there a parallel in painting?

The Feis, Finsbury Park

I was at this on Saturday, to see Bob Dylan, Christy Moore, Shane McGowan, and Sharon Shannon.  Dylan’s set was like a blues rock pub gig with a great band; his “singing” now like a cross of Tom Waits and Captain Beefheart, with a bit of the younger Dylan in occasional lines.  You had to wait for a recognisable line to identify the song, but much better than recent reviews had led me to expect.

The crowd, some very boozed-up and rowdy, were notably good-natured; great to see groups of them dancing in abandon to Christy Moore’s song, Yellow Triangle (about concentration camps, murder of Jews, Gypsies, homosexuals) and Viva la Quinta Brigada (a homage to the Irish dead of the International Brigades in the Spanish Civil War).  No po-faced Respect shit.

Theo Angelopoulos – The Trilogy (Weeping Meadows)

Ethnic Greek refugees from Odessa come to Salonika; from the Russian Revolution to the Greek Civil War.  Reflections in the river, horses, the funeral on the raft with the coffin, black flags, the silent men (recalling the SS men crossing the lake in Visconti’s “The Damned”); it was operatic, somehow, especially the flood scene with all the boats in a flotilla.  The usual problem of history epics covering long periods – people keep telling each other what has happened to keep the audience up to date; the beach/jetty scenes with the dancing reminded me of that JackVettriano painting.  Turned a bit Mother Courage at the end – also a bit Bela Tarr (accordions, rain) and a bit Bo Widerberg (the white sheets stained with Nikos’ blood recalled the father’s shirt in Adalen 31).  Loved the film and the music.

Next entry, more art, less music and films.

Blackpaint

21.06.11

Blackpaint 271

May 4, 2011

Max Ernst

Bought the Phaidon book on Ernst by Ian Turpin and was surprised by the variety of techniques and effects Ernst achieved over the years, many of which come under the heading of “oil on Canvas”.  frottage (rubbing of pencil et al over a textured surface), grattage (scraping away of paint), decalcomania (laying paper or some other medium onto an area of wet pigment and then shifting it slightly and peeling it away), this latter invented by Oscar Dominguez – as well as collage, of course.  Birds, plants, insects, plumage, jungle, psychomachinery, eyes, thin, overlapping panels of paint (colour fields, in fact) – echoes of Picabia, Magritte, De Chirico, Douanier Rousseau, Dali, even one that looks like a Chris Ofili! (“One Night of Love”, demonstrating yet another technique; coiling twine or string down onto wet paint and then removing it to leave the trail).

My current favourites are “Garden Aeroplane-Trap” from 1935, in which white, bony, plane-ish structures lie in wooden trays piled up into citadels, being crawled or grown over by pink, fuzzy, mollusc-like plants, or maybe shellfish – AND –

“The Robing of the Bride”, 1939.  A naked, elongated, high-breasted woman is cloaked in a robe of rich red feathers which mask her head and face, attended by a green feathered snake-bird man holding a big broken arrow, another long naked girl, and a four-breasted, little green Manalishi thing with a distended belly, picking its nose with a thumb.

What does it mean?  Possible sexual connotations, I would think – and the text refers to Duchamp, if that’s any help.

Phillip Taafe

At the Gagosian Gallery, Kings Cross.  Huge, high white walls, silent, suited security attendants hold the door open for you.  Various painted layers on paper attached to canvas – huge rectangular or triangular works in a range of bright colours; pink, greens, blues, reds,  oranges, often featuring masks (Noh theatre) and harem-like grilles.  Scimitar shapes, one with gold, spidery, bursting fireworks or stars, another like petals cascading down in straight lines.  Faint echoes of Ofili again, and perhaps Gilbert and George without the swearwords.  Wallpaper-ish sometimes, too.

Turner

That strange painting of Napoleon against a garish sunset, contemplating a shell – its in the Tate Britain, the one in which his reflection makes his legs look twice as long.  There’s an Ernst, “Napoleon in the Wilderness”, in which N is contemplating an encrusted, but otherwise naked woman, holding a saxophone-shaped strap thing with an odd little dragon on the end, where the bell should be.  Did Ernst know the Turner?  Turpin makes no mention.

Anthony Quinn

What a brilliant thug he makes in “La Strada”, displaying not the slightest concession to manners, politeness, normal social intercourse anywhere in Fellini’s film, beyond addressing the audiences of his strong man act as “Ladies and Gentlemen” and a nun as “Sister”.  Otherwise, he leans scowling against walls, scratching, smoking into his cupped hand, grunting, swilling wine, roaring about on his motorbike with the caravan thing attached – and fighting and beating people up, of course.  Haven’t seen him as Michelangelo painting the ceiling, but his Gauguin bore some resemblance to Zampano.  Actually, it was Charlton Heston who played Michelangelo, not Quinn (BP, 6th Dec 2011)

I love those Italian films of the early 50s, “Bicycle Thieves” and “Miracle in Milan” for example, with huge blocks of flats on wasteground, Roman ruins, people living in shacks, caves, dressed in odd bits of uniform, forage caps, greatcoats, driving odd vehicles (broomsticks in “Miracle”)…

Van Gogh

Was surprised to read that VG was barred entry to Arles, as a result of a petition by the people, shortly after the ear incident, and was locked up on grounds of public safety; up to that point in the letters, he seemed a peaceful and harmless sort of cove, apart from some mild stalking of his cousin and tiresome religious mania…

Blackpaint

3/04/11

Blackpaint 263

March 25, 2011

Burning Backs

In “A Prophet”, the ghost of the Arab that Malik is forced to kill has a burning back in a dream sequence – and in “Shutters Island”, the ghost of deCaprio’s wife has a burning back – in a dream sequence.

Neither of these facts mean much, except, perhaps, an interesting case of convergent imagery – but they do bring me quite nicely to surrealism.

Surrealists

I used really to love surrealism, but now find the pictures rather boring, for the most part.  I think the problem is the lack of painterly qualities inherent, or required by the concept. There are no surfaces; since the purpose is to explore and exploit the subconscious, the skills required are those of the imaginative illustrator.  The juxtaposition of unlikely objects demands the ability to depict those objects as clearly as possible – hence, the realism in surrealism.  With a few exceptions, the attraction of the paintings and objects rests in the mystery and atmosphere created by the images – the empty, night-time squares and porticos of de Chirico, the nudes on escalators of Delvaux – not in the qualities of the painting itself. The exceptions that occur to me are Gorky, Matta, Lam, Tanguy and Dominguez in Decalcomania mode.  You could make a case that the first three are hardly surrealists at all.  What about Miro and Picasso?  They passed through the movement on their way elsewhere.  Dali?  Staggering draughtsman, fantastic, memorable images but fits the above description, surely.

Anyway, for interest’s sake, my top ten surrealist pictures (or objects) in order of preference:

1.  Joan Miro – Person Throwing a Stone at a Bird (1926).  The one with the blobby figure, huge foot and line showing stone’s flight.  I’m not even sure it’s surreal – but it’s a great image.

2.  Max Ernst – Two Children are Threatened by a Nightingale (1924).  Tiny construction, man fleeing across a chalet roof – dreamlike, touch of menace.

3.  Man Ray – Gift  (1921).  The iron with the nails on the bottom.  Simple, elegant, funny, dripping with irony.

4.  Meret Oppenheim – the furry cup, saucer and spoon (1936).  As per Man Ray.

5.  Giacometti – The Palace at 4.00am.  Like a birdcage – there is a bird in the top section.  I love the title; I always get it confused with the Max Ernst Nightingale.

6.  Toyen – Silken Feasts (1962).  There’s a lot of sex and fetishism in surrealism, of course, since it deals with the subconscious (see Bunuel and footwear); this is one of the sexiest and most fetishistic works.

7.  Richard Oelze – Expectation (1936).  A crowd in 30s hats and raincoats stare at gathering black clouds across heathland – waiting.  I’ve not heard of him other than this, but I found, when I thought of doing this, that this picture sprang to mind before any other.

8.  Paul Delvaux – The Iron Age (1951).  A naked woman (surprisingly) sits, legs stretched before her, while in the night-time background, a goods train bears down on her from the marshalling yards.  Penguin used the background for the cover of Celine’s “Journey to the End of the Night”; even without the woman, it still somehow has a surreal eeriness.

9.  Dali – Sleep (1937).  The long, sleeping head, propped up on sticks.  There could of course, have been several more; the soft watches, the elephants, the crouching figure by the egg, the figure ripping itself apart – but this one came to mind instantly.

10.  Magritte. There has to be a Magritte, since he was the most consistent and faithful surrealist in the sense of the juxtaposition of unlikely objects – but I really hate the way he paints women’s nipples, red and angry as if infected.  Puts me off him totally; I suppose the one with the broken window, in which the fragments are pieces of sky….

The Killing

I think its Morten, Troels’ researcher.  Find out tomorrow.

Listening to Jelly Roll Morton, Sidewalk Blues.

“You’re so dumb, you should be president of the Deaf and Dumb Society!”

“Sorry, Boss; but I’ve got the Sidewalk Blues” – a non sequitur fit for a piece on surrealism.

Sorry – no new paintings yet.

Blackpaint

25.03.11