Posts Tagged ‘Mahler’

Blackpaint 583 – Ignored Women, Mahler and Bloom, Soutine and Schwabacher

January 22, 2017

London Art Fair

Finishes today (Sunday) unfortunately; below, a selection of the best paintings on view:


John Minton

Medieval quality to this, somehow..



Graham Sutherland (of course) – that blue, with the orange…



Robyn Denny three piece – before he went geometric/minimalist…



Leigh Davis – just a fabulous little painting, touch of Lanyon, maybe?



William Crozier – I love the dry, spiky roughness of his earlier work.  There was another one that I didn’t get a photo of, again with that fiery roughness; if you look at his images online, they are somehow gentler, more “at rest”; I guess they are later.



A couple of Crozier watercolours, to illustrate what I mean by “at rest”.


Audrey Grant

I love these rough portraits – there’s a bit of early Hockney there, and Nathan Oliviera and Manuel Neri (Bay Area, 60s ).

In addition to these were : a single flower in a vase against a grey/pink background by Euan Uglow; a beautiful yellow Craigie Aicheson; an Uglow-like dresser (cabinet, not person) by William Brooker;  a couple of unusual Ivon Hitchens – unusual, because they contained figures.  And the brilliant usual suspects, Allan Davie, Adrian Heath, Roger Hilton and a single Gillian Ayres, lozenge shaped and pink – or was it grey? – background.

Mahler, Ken Russell (1974)


Robert Powell in the main role, strong resemblance to the real Mahler, judging by the photographs.  Great start; dream sequence of a blazing chalet, Georgina Hale (Alma Mahler) emerging, writhing, from a white cocoon on a rocky shore.  Some vigorously rendered Jewish stereotypes from the likes of Lee Montague, Miriam Karlin and John Bluthal as parents and family of the young Mahler – maybe a little too vigorous for today’s tastes – and Cosima Wagner (Antonia Ellis) , in a German helmet and black bondage bodice, in front of a giant sword, waving a whiplash and yelling commands at a timorous Mahler as he undergoes his conversion from Judaism to Christianity to further his career.  Are there swastikas?  I’m pretty sure there are, maybe carved in the rocks…no, just checked; there’s one on her backside.

I’m sure it happened exactly as Ken portrayed it.  Brings to mind the Nighttown scene in Ulysses, when the brothel madam Bella Cohen bullies the hapless Leopold Bloom, transformed as he is into one of Cohen’s girls…

The music, of course, is fantastic, although mainly, I think, from the first three symphonies, and Kindertotenlieder.


At last, found a book on the weird and influential Chaim Soutine; it’s by Klaus H Carl and is published by Parkstone International.  The English is bizarre at times and Carl tends to regard the reader as a complete ignoramus – but the illustrations are great and it’s only a tenner (in Foyles).

Those bent faces and tables and pots, breakneck angles and steps in the landscapes, people walking leaning way over to one side – remind me of Sokurov’s “Mother and Son”.  And if you like texture, Soutine is your man.

Women AbExes

Another book, “Women of Abstract Expressionism”, Joan Marter (ed), Yale University Press 2016.  Based on a Denver exhibition, it documents a number of lesser-known, or ignored, women abexes, beyond Frankenthaler, Mitchell, Krasner, Hartigan and Elaine de Kooning.  I’ve mentioned Pat Passlof before; best of the rest as far as I’m concerned, are Perle Fine, Ethel Schwabacher, Deborah Remington and Mary Abbott.


Ethel Schwabacher – Origins i, 1958

The American Scene – prints from Hopper to Pollock (Stephen Coppel, British Museum Press 2008)

The last book recommendation, this is being sold off cheaply at the British Museum, along with a number of other catalogues.  It has some fantastic stuff –  Grant Wood, James E Allen, Robert Gwathmey – well, they are mostly brilliant.  Also, they have the complete Kitaj prints for a fiver – or they did when I went.

One of mine to end with:


Time and Place, No.7



Blackpaint 74

February 22, 2010

Keith Vaughan and others

Funny how one painter leads on to another – reading about Paul Nash (Bp. 72) I came across that beautiful picture of a curving coastline of ochre sand against a sea wall in light grey and stark black, called “The Shore”.  This took me on to Nicolas de Stael, the landscapes entitled “Marseille”, “Les Martigues”,  “Sicile” and “Montagne Sainte-Victoire” (didn’t someone else do a few of that last one?).  However, when I checked, they’re not THAT similar – maybe the sweeping distances and vivid colours… 

Anyhow, de Stael took me on to Keith Vaughan, because they both use that technique of the small rectangles of colour, almost like square scales.  You can see it for instance in de Stael’s “Parc des Princes” and “Les Footballeurs”, and Vaughan’s “Millhouse”, “Fire at Night” and many others.  de Stael used a palette knife; don’t know if Vaughan did too – doesn’t look like it to me, but the effect is similar.

Then, I found other British artists had used it too; Peter Kinley, in “Grey Coast” (and according to Norbert Lynton, some earlier ones) and Patrick Heron, in “Square Leaves”, after seeing a de Stael show in 1952.

What is the importance of this?  None, except that painters influence each other, which is a startling revelation.

While I’m on about Keith Vaughan, I must mention his “The Return of Odysseus”, in which the white, upside-down figure of the falling suitor – killed by Odysseus’ crossbow – looks like a great white Praying Mantis.  Then I found a picture of “Heath”, a decade later, with rough blue, angular, elongated legs in a spidery sprawl – and I was reminded of Wyndham – Lewis (a bit)… But this game could go on and on, so I’ll stop now.

Listening to Mahler’s “Um Mitternacht” by Kathleen Ferrier and the Vienna Philharmonic under Bruno Walter, 1952; unbelievable.  Tomorrow, back to Lonnie Donegan.



Blackpaint 54

January 31, 2010

Chris Ofili

Got to this yesterday at the Tate Britain.  I liked  the surfaces of the older ones; the resins, swirling patterns, little black blobs, the pastel-y colours, the map pins, and the shiny balls of elephant dung.  they get to be a bit much en masse, though; sometimes I was reminded of the stuff little girls decorate their purses with.  The titles, the Captain Shits and Bitches provide a bit of vinegar and I was pleased to see the Virgin Mary, with her single elephant dung breast, was surrounded by little pictures of backsides and vulvas (? not sure, my eyesight not too good) some with hands pulling the “curtains” apart like Kilpeck gargoyles.  A woman next to me, with her child, suddenly marched her away, when the kid pointed out what was in the little pictures.

The Last Supper

Through the dark tunnel to the “Last Supper” monkeys, glowing in the dark like a zoo aquarium.  Tried to pick out Judas, like Andrew Graham-Dixon, but couldn’t see anything – its usually a pouch of money, or a hand on table or facing the wrong way.

The Hanged Man

Up to new paintings, the Trinidad ones, and I have to say to Adrian Searles, sorry, you’re absolutely right; it is hard not to think of some “colonial atrocity” when you make out the hanged man in the blue gloom.  I liked the brilliant yellows, reds and mauves against the dense blacks and blues but not the thinness and dryness of the surfaces.  The painting I liked most was “the Raising of Lazarus”, bright thick yellow and orange brown, the shapes reminiscent of Art Nouveau as they are in the painting to the left of the blue green woman with the cocktail glass.

One thing I did notice which is very mundane and probably of no significance; all the paintings in a given set are exactly the same size – in the case of the earlier ones, 243.8 cms * 182.8 cms.  Michael Caine impersonators would have a cliche to fit that fact – as an avoider of cliches, I couldn’t possibly comment.

My Painting

My last two looked sort of like colours seen through shattered glass (see below); now, I’ve mixed some flesh tones up and trying that out “under” a similar fractured surface.

Listening to Mahler 9  (the “Abide with me” one)


Don’t know the date.

Blackpaint 36

January 12, 2010


I finally managed to get to the pub where my paintings were on show today, to take them down, a week late.  As I was loading them into the car, the next painter turned up with his work wrapped in a towel, just like mine.  We exchanged pleasantries.  Well over a month on show, and I’ve sold just two.  Still, I’ve got a few still up in another pub and another lot going up in another pub next Thursday.

It’s funny to have them back home again – they look fresher and brighter somehow, more interesting than I’d thought; I suppose it’s just that they are new to me again.

Attacked that pastel ice cream abortion last night with great swathes of dirty grey, blood red and slashes of black.  It doesn’t look pastel anymore!  Stuck it on the wall and surprised to see it looks great from the right hand side, looking in from the hallway.  From the front it looks shit, unfortunately.

From the Taschen Abstract Art, found the argument that an abstract painting is more “authentic” than a figurative one – in the sense that a figurative picture is only a representation of reality, can never be more than a copy, and hence a fiction, whereas an abstract painting is the real thing; the colours, shapes, marks are themselves, not representations (unless you think they are representations of your inner self, emotions and suchlike).  I assume this is old hat for those who have been to art school or done courses in art history, but it’s a new idea, or rather, new expression of an old idea for me.

Listened to Eisenhower Blues, by JB Lenoir, and Finlandia and 2nd Symphony, Sibelius.  I have to say that at times it reminded me of film music, a touch melodramatic – but then, so does Mahler, here and there ( his 2nd, the Resurrection,  in particular).