Posts Tagged ‘Mark Wallinger’

Blackpaint 352 – Yoko Ono, Stepladders and Keyholes

July 26, 2012

Yoko Ono at the Serpentine

As you enter the exhibition, you are confronted by three identical, conical mounds of earth – they are labelled Country A, Country B and Country C.  Around you, army helmets hang, containing  jigsaw pieces.  A stepladder stands with a magnifying glass on top, so that you can read the tiny word above – but you can’t climb the ladder, so the word remains unread.  Perspex plinths of graded height stand in a line: on top of one, a box,on the next a needle, on the last, an apple (green, slightly bruised).

There is a series of photos of a laterally stretched face, titled “Doctor”; shoe prints of Yoko and John, heels distinct, soles fuzzy – she describes them as “neat and wild”.  There is a large perspex, box-shaped maze in the middle of gallery; while we were there, a little girl in the maze walked into one of the panels with a resounding bang and burst into tears, so go round with your kids.

There is a fascinating film of a series of butt0cks, some male, some female, I think – but in pairs – shot at anus level while the naked owners walk away – not into the distance, as the camera stays with them; tracking shot, or maybe walking on the spot.  Illusion of  meaty faces rubbing against each other, lips concealed..(sorry about that image).  How often do you get a chance to see that?  Not often, I’m betting.

And there was a film of Yoko having her clothes cut off, now and decades ago.  I believe I saw Yoko at the top of a ladder – same one? – having her bikini cut off at the Alexandra Palace in 1967.  It was a psychedelic all-nighter, with, I remember, Soft Machine, the Purple Gang (Granny Takes a Trip) and possibly Pink Floyd.  John Lennon was there and George or Ringo, in Sergeant Pepper mode – heavy moustache, hair short at sides, granny glasses, Afghan jacket.  I was there with my mate Ian McCormick, later Ian MacDonald, the author of “Revolution in the Head”, definitive book on Beatles’ music.  All our yesterdays….

And Macbeth brings me to-

The Hollow Crown

Simon Russell Beale’s Falstaff was great, I thought, for the pathos – Chimes at Midnight and the scenes with Doll Tearsheet (Maxine Peake terrific too) – but a little lacking in the bluster and vainglory.  Still haven’t seen a better Falstaff than Anthony Quayle in the first BBC Henry, and I’ve seen a few – Welles, Stevens, Joss Ackland, Michael Gambon, Robbie Coltrane.  But whenever I get the video out, I have to watch Quayle doing the Sherris Sack and  the Honour speeches from part one and Chimes from part two – and nobody cries “Woe to my Lord Chief Justice!” with quite the glee and threat that Quayle manages.  But Russell Beale was great and so was Jeremy Irons – saying the words as if he’d just thought of them, not learned them by heart to repeat with reverence.

Titian

Been to the National Gallery to see this exhibition, which will get a blog to itself – suffice to say now that you have to kneel down and peer through a keyhole to see Wallinger’s bathing Diana – or her head, the rest of her being hidden by the sides of the bath.  I don’t quite get the analogy with the Titian painting, since poor old Actaeon comes across Diana by accident in the Ovid story… Never mind, it’s all art.

The Torch

Went to see it arrive at Tooting Bec Lido; I was especially impressed with the Samsung, Coca-Cola and Lloyds TSB buses preceding it, in corporate colours, with waving, dancing passengers.

I Mailed it in the Air 2

Blackpaint

26.07.12

Blackpaint 351 – Ena, Betty and the Dirty Old Men

July 20, 2012

Late to publish again – sorry.

John Singer Sargent

I feel ambivalent about this painter – sometimes, I am staggered by how good he is (Mrs. Agnew, Ena and Betty Wertheimer) and sometimes he goes way into chocolate box territory (Mrs. Cazalet and her children – especially her children).  No-one, I think, can do shimmering silk in a few dozen loose brush strokes like him.  I suppose the chocolate boxes are an occupational hazard for a Society painter; you won’t get paid if you paint the kids ugly.

Betty and Ena

Chagall

I’m familiar with Chagall’s floating/flying fiddlers, of course, but I have to say I was surprised by the “Fantastic Horse Cart”, painted in 1949, in which a rudimentary green horse (actually it looks more like a tapir) rises into the orange sky, supporting with its front legs a blue-faced fiddler.  If this weren’t enough, the horse is harnessed to a cart, which hangs from the horse and contains two small children.  Below is a village of old wooden houses.  Not Socialist Realism, then.

Mark Wallinger

His exhibit at the National Gallery involves peering through peepholes at  naked or “scantily-clad” women, in poses relating to the Titian  Diana and Actaeon paintings.  In a recent Guardian article,  a museum spokesperson claimed they were being plagued by “dirty old men”.  I can’t believe this – in the 50s and 60s maybe, but not now, when porn is easily accessible on the internet – so I’m told.

Art fairs

Those antique road trip progs on the telly have produced a public which wants a deal on everything.  I was at Urban Art in Josephine Avenue, Brixton last weekend.  It was all “What’s your best price?” or “How much for cash?” or “You did say two hundred, right?”  On the TV, they’re selling stuff just bought from another antique shop down the road; it’s all speculation to make a quick twenty or thirty quid.  It annoys me when people want a deal for paintings I’ve done, as if I expect them to knock me down, and price them accordingly.  Different if they say “I really like that painting, but I can’t quite afford it; is there any chance you could ….”  Might be the same thing, but it feels different to me.

Satantango, Laszlo Krasznahorkai

Finished the book now, and one thing different from Bela Tarr’s magnificent film; when Irimias, Petrina and the boy arrive at the deserted chateau, they are confronted with a vision of the dead girl – in Tarr’s film, it is simply a thick white mist, and only Irimias appears to be overawed, and falls to his knees.

Larva

Blackpaint

20/07/12

Blackpaint 260

March 14, 2011

Mark Wallinger

Video installation  in the Tate Britain.  It’s been there for some time, but I took  the time to sit and watch it on Sunday.  It’s a film of people, mostly business types, coming through the exit gates at an airport, in slow motion, to some beautiful early church music.  The music and slow motion turn the whole thing into a ballet and endow every movement and facial expression with significance; raised eyebrows, for instance, to convey nonchalance, perhaps; a quick check of the mobile, a squaring of the shoulders..  At one point, a young man, student maybe, enters from the right with a cup of coffee, cutting into the path of a woman who has just come through the gate.  A collision seems inevitable, but no – they pass by as if the other did not exist.  In the final seconds of the loop, a young woman runs into the picture and towards the camera, again, close to an emerging passenger – and again, it’s as if they are unaware of the other’s presence.  The sort of exhibit that makes you want to go back to see if you missed anything.

Keith Arnatt

His “Artist as a Shadow of his Former Self” is worth a look (in the same room); just a photo of his truncated shadow on a brick wall, but with the title, and the wall, of course,  it felt related somehow to Banksy’s stuff, only years earlier.

Barry Flanagan

A whole room of lovely small drawings, actually prints, I think, of simple line drawings with a couple of portraits that reminded me of early Hockney.

Turner

Looking at the “Sea Monsters” in the flesh, so to speak, I noticed yet another imponderable – on the immediate left of the “face” (or the left hand fish, as I am coming to think of it) there is a thing like a head with a cap on top and blunt face with no nose.  Another sea monster??

Michelangelo

Vincent thought Michelangelo did legs too long – but that it didn’t matter; there was truth in the distortion.  He doesn’t say which piece or pieces he is referring to, unfortunately.  I have to say that I haven’t noticed any particular leg distortion, but I do have a problem with the breasts on “Dawn”, part of the Lorenzo de’  Medici tomb.  As Alan Bennett made one of his History Boys say, she has a man’s torso with a woman’s breasts stuck on – or words to that effect.  Or, maybe he was referring to the female figure on the Giuliano de’ Medici tomb, where the breasts are even more “stuck on”.

Michelangelo’s drawings of the Tasks of Hercules in the Royal Library at Windsor show poor Hercules getting a really painful looking chomp on the backside from one of the heads of the Lernean Hydra.  He wrestles with other heads and necks in the classic Laocoon pose.

Bela Tarr

The Wallinger shows how the right music and slow motion can make the ordinary fascinating and full of moment; Tarr’s film, “The Man from London” (see Blackpaint 256 ) uses the music in this way throughout throughout – instead of slow motion, however, he uses stillness and a development from dark to lit, blurred to clear.  In one sequence, a character is walking along a harbour wall and the camera, travelling with him, swings in such a way that he appears to be making no progress against the background at all – indeed, it looks as if he is walking forwards but moving backwards.  Highly unsettling.

Blackpaint

14.03.11

Blackpaint 193

September 14, 2010

Jeremy Deller

Article on above’s new work  by Jonathan Jones in today’s Guardian.  It consists of the hulk of a private vehicle, blown up in a car bomb explosion in Baghdad in 2007.  Deller acquired it and it is now on display at the Imperial War Museum.  Jones approving article compares it favourably with Mark Wallinger’s display of Brian Haw’s anti-war stuff in the Tate Britain a while ago; Wallinger’s exhibit, says Jones, was home-grown, concerned with domestic attitudes to the Iraq war, civil liberties here – Deller’s work brings the war directly to us, it’s “not rhetoric, but reportage”, it’s up to the punter to interpret. 

There’s something unsaid here,  surely.  The sense in which Deller is being an artist here is the same sense in which he is a reporter; he chooses.  He could have chosen some other example of destruction, a damaged British or American armoured vehicle or articles of bloodied uniform or equipment (no doubt, there are practical reasons that might have prevented that, but I make the point for the sake of the argument); that would have sent a different message.  Reportage can sometimes do the job of rhetoric, but it claims to be The Truth. 

Jones is, clearly, perfectly aware of this and says, “Anyone is entitled to interpret what it means”;  he’s not primarily concerned with possibilities of bias, but with the nature of “war art” – its immediacy or otherwise. 

My main point is to question whether this is art.  I have no problem with the concept of ready -mades, but by displaying the vehicle in the Imperial War Museum, he gives it the status of a historical document, not a work of art (unless it was up in the gallery bit, with the Orpens and Nashes – but Jones says it’s in the main hall).   Down on the ground floor, with the Tiger tanks and T34’s and mini – subs, it’s another interesting historical document.  Indeed, that is how Jones describes it – “A historical document, dragged from hell..”.  You could argue it’s different,  because the rest of the stuff is in pristine condition, showing little or no sign of violence – it’s still documentary, though.

Take Fiona Banner’s warplanes in Tate Britain.  She has decorated them and chosen how to display them, but had she not, they would still be works of art, to be judged as such, by virtue of being displayed in an art gallery.  Context is everything.

Then again,  it can be given context, separated  from the “historical documents”, by a plaque with a title, “Baghdad, 5th March 2007” and Deller’s name, as artist.  That would make it a work of art, because it would tell the public that’s what it is, or what is intended.  I’m going up to the museum today, to see if that’s what’s been done.

I’ve visited the museum; the exhibit is right at the front of the hall.  There is a folder of photographs from Baghdad, centreing on the bombing that smashed the car, but with no pictures of bodies, blood or body parts, or injured people in distress.  There is some background history to the Iraq war and of the booksellers’ district where the bombing happened. It’s described as a display, I think, although that might refer to a number of videos under Deller’s name, relating to the war, which I didn’t see.  The exhibit is at no time referred to as art.  It’s clearly NOT art: it’s reportage, as Jones says, with some interesting contextual background.  There IS an interesting contrast with the brightly painted and polished guns and tanks around it.

I referred to the car as being “smashed”; actually, it is more crushed as in a compacter – except that it is a uniform rusty orange/brown and looks as if it may crumble to the touch, like a brick of burnt paper.  I didn’t experience the visceral, horrified reaction that  Jones describes – I think photographs might have done more to convey the horror.

Blackpaint

14th September 2010