Posts Tagged ‘Martin Gayford’

Blackpaint 683 – Michelangelo: Animals, Trees, Colours and Tits

December 11, 2020

Modern English

Forgot this one last blog – “At this moment in time…”

Why not “Now”?

 

Michelangelo’s Animals

“I’m an admirer of Michelangelo’s representations of animals, none more than the mighty fish flanking Jonah on the Sistine Ceiling.”: (Martin Gayford, the RA Magazine, winter 2020).

I’m an admirer of Martin Gayford’s writing on art, especially his great book “Modernists and Mavericks”, second only, in my view,  to “The Dream Colony”, the book of Walter Hopps interviews.  Gayford’s book is really interesting in its examination of the links between London artists of the 60s.  Brilliant book, marred  by the omission of Albert Irvin, surely a very important London painter.

I find this remark about Michelangelo’s animals puzzling, however.  Offhand, I couldn’t think of any animals M had actually done, apart from the odd snake.  A few years back, I did several blogs on the theme  “Michelangelo doesn’t do trees”(see Blackpaint 112)  This was in response to a report that someone, a German expert I think, was proposing a” Sermon on the Mount” as a previously unacknowledged Michelangelo.  The painting portrayed a heavily wooded mountain top; I showed, I believe, that M never painted trees, and if this was by M, it was the only one he’d ever done that included trees (apart from a couple of dead ones and the tree of knowledge in Garden of Eden – see below).

Just for fun, then, I’ve researched Michelangelo’s animals to see what Gayford means, and if his portrayals are anything special.  Results below:

 

Here’s the image that Gayford cites above.  It’s like a big trout, sucking at Jonah’s left thigh.  Sort of colourless; reminds me of those Billy Bass talking fish.

 

Here’s Paul on Malta(?), struggling with a serpent.

 

 

Here’s another serpent, this time handing Eve the fruit of the Tree of Knowledge of Good and Evil.  Not really an animal, is it?  More of a woman, really.  As for the tree, this is about as complete and leafy a tree as Michelangelo ever painted.  It looks as if the serpent has interrupted Eve in some activity…

 

Here’s Minos, with yet another snake attacking his penis.  Michelangelo gave Minos the face of Biagio, an old enemy.  He doesn’t look too bothered. does he?

 

Here’s Noah and his sons, sacrificing rams in thanks to God for the survival of the Ark  There’s a touch of Wallis and Gromit about the cow’s face; I think it’s the eyes.  I’ve noticed that in some medieval paintings, usually horses.

 

Tityan attacked by an eagle.  feathers and neck are rather odd..

 

Ganymede being abducted by the same bird, by the looks of it.

 

Looks like a Barn Owl on a tomb.  Face looks accurate; not sure about the legs.

 

 

Two versions of Phaeton tumbling from his chariot as it falls; contortions of the horses are great.

 

Paul’s conversion on the road to Damascus.  Horse is OK but not stunning…

 

Couple more mounts at the crucifixion of Peter (off picture to the right).  Again, OK but stiff and nothing special.

 

A very pithy critique offered by Alan Bennett, through the words of a character in “The History Boys” (I think the James Corden character):  “Michelangelo doesn’t do women, Miss – he does men with tits.”  Spot on, at least for the sculpture above.  there’s the owl again, under her/his leg.

Another great insight from Waldemar Januszczak; he talks about Michelangelo’s “Opal Fruit colours” with regard to the Sistine ceiling.  Spot on, again.

That’s pretty much it.  I don’t think Michelangelo’s animals are anything special;  His trees are almost non-existent; his landscapes are arid, rocky, desert-like, featureless.  What he is rather good at is the human body, especially the (naked) male body.

A couple of my figure drawings/paintings below, Definitely NOT offered for comparison  with those above.

Rising in the Mist

 

Seated in the Dream Studio

Blackpaint

11/12/20

 

 

 

Blackpaint 652 – Maurer, Takis, Scherjfbeck, Truffaut and co.

August 28, 2019

Dora Maurer, Tate Modern 

Hungarian artist, specialising in geometric, sometimes highly colourful designs, layering, lattices, lots of theory in the wall notes (that I didn’t read, having learnt that I forget it all pretty quick).  Have a look at the examples below:

 

These look great through the arch as you come in to the gallery – early Albert Irvin with straighter lines?

 

Touch of Hoyland in the colours here…

 

Can’t think of any comparisons, which although not compulsory, makes me faintly uneasy; like it though.

 

Takis, Tate Modern 

Greek artist, but based in London and Paris, real name Panayiotis Vassilakis, heyday in the 60s, died just a couple of weeks ago.  Leaflet describes him as a “sculptor of magnetism, light and sound”.  Exhibition kicks off with the figurines below, which are appealing and a little Giacometti -like here and there, but soon the machines clock in.  Most of them were not working when we went, but an attendant did set one going (a pendulum pointer which strikes at the centre of a resonating metal shield); don’t know if it was for our benefit or if he does it regularly – like the man who fired the Anish Kapoor wax cannon in Guggenheim Bilbao a few years back.

 

 

The contraption on the left looks like a miniature electric chair, I thought,,,

 

Lots of quite beautiful suspended metal spheres, often turning on pendulums due to magnetic forces; also machines that pluck at metal metal cords or strips to produce, unsurprisingly, metallic “music”.

 

Visual hints of Calder at times, and also of Jean Tinguely, although these devices lack the anarchic, self – destructive tendencies of some of Tinguely’s machines.  A bit lightweight, maybe, in terms of emotional freight and social relevance – which can only be good, can’t it?

 

Helene Scherjfbeck again – RA 

I did this Finnish artist in my last blog, as readers will remember, but I’ve been again since and feel that I may have failed to do the exhibition justice last time – so here are some more pictures.  These, with the exception of the first one below, are highly graphic in a sort of magazine style, and I think they are pretty good and worth a close look.

 

I love this portrait – she looks like a Russian intellectual to me, writing a leaflet for a Narodnik party, People’s Will maybe, before going off to blow up the Czar.

 

So by way of contrast, there’s her, about to attend a society wedding, maybe-

 

..or her (no ready-made scenarios spring to mind – but I like the straight forehead-nose profile)…

 

Or her – the young Mrs. Thatcher, perhaps.  Love the shadow on the neck and face.

 

Modernists and Mavericks, Martin Gayford

My favourite art book since the brilliant Walter Hopps interviews a couple of years ago.  It’s based on London painters, notably Bacon, Freud, Hockney, Auerbach, Gillian Ayres, Bridget Riley, etc,  There is absolutely no jargon (except that invented by some of the artists themselves), the doctrinal disputes are covered lucidly, it’s a compulsive read.  You will know most of the stories if you are interested in these artists, but you may not know the connections between them.  It contains some revelations for me, chiefly the almost Stalinist attitudes of one Robin Darwin, the principal of the Royal College of Art in the 60s, who seems at one point to be drawing up lists of students to expel.  Why was Frank Bowling expelled for marrying Paddy Kitchen, a college officer?

On Bowling, it explains the contents of his big picture “Mirror” as a sort of compendium of styles extant at the time; I’m off to the Tate to check it out now – well, tomorrow maybe.  I was interested to read of Bowling’s conversation with Bacon about flat plane and perspective that Bowling thinks may have led to Bacon “blanking” him subsequently.  It’s good on Gillian Ayres too.  One mystifying omission – Albert Irvin.  No mention of him – maybe he’s too abstract for Gayford?  No, can’t be – what about Riley and Ayres?

Truffaut, Antoine Doinel films

Just watched the whole set, from 400 Blows to Love on the Run.  Truffaut’s alter ego gradually loses his charm as the series progresses, but this is not true of the captivating women with whom he becomes, or fails to become involved, marries, leaves; Claude Jade, Delphine Seyrig, Marie France Pisier, Dorothee. “Mademoiselle” Hiroku.  In Love on the Run, there are flashbacks to the 400 Blows, which remind you of the remarkable magnetism of Jean-Pierre Leaud as a young boy.  Brilliant set of films.

Couple of mine to finish:

Father Time

Blue Cyclone

Blackpaint

28.08.19

 

 

 

Blackpaint 651- Annely Juda, Mary Ramsden, Helene Schjerfbeck and the Whole of South America

August 12, 2019

Annely Juda – Summer Exhibition until 30th August

A sort of retrospective of AJ artists, leaning towards geometric abstraction, I guess (see examples below) – but also figurative and sculpture; Hockney, Caro, Kossoff, Roger Ackling, et al.  A selection follows, not necessarily the best – although I like the Shiraishi red zips on grey – but giving some idea of range.

 

Alan Green – White over Red/Violet 

The title makes sense in the gallery, but not in this photo, where the subtleties of colour are lost, rather.

 

Yuko Shiraishi – Boulevard No.2

 

Sigrid Holmwood – Land of Cockaigne

Seen her work before in the Saatchi Gallery; the cartoonish quality is almost a Saatchi house style, it seems to me.  I think a faint hint of early Sigmar Polke too…

 

Leon Kossoff 

Didn’t get the title of this, but that building looks really familiar.  John Berger’s occasional correspondence with Kossoff about drawing is an interesting read.

 

Mary Ramsden at Pilar Corrias, Eastcastle Street W1

Sorry to say that this exhibition finished on 9th August (I didn’t check the dates before I went on holiday); I was so impressed with the paintings, though, that I thought it was worth uploading a few – you can always check her website.  Colours remind me a little of Mary Heillman, contents and the sort of roughness of the paint suggest Roy Oxlade maybe?  to me anyway; maybe it’s the orange coffee cup ring on the blue painting.

 

 

 

 

Urban Impulses 1959 – 2016; Latin American Photography, Photographers Gallery until 6th October 

Mostly Mexico, I think, but most other LA countries represented.  Demonstrations, police beating students, students beating police, murders, accidents, bars, transvestites, brothels, dancers, artistes, beaches, posers, posters, shopfronts, mannikins, lovers, cinemas, walls – I have avoided the sensational and given some examples of the Colombian Beatriz Jaramillo’s “Zocalo” series of vernacular architectural features.  As usual at the PG, fantastic and varied work and a thick, free booklet.

 

Not sure if these are also Jaramillo’s; they were next in line.

 

Helene Schjerfbeck: RA until 27th October

By way of total contrast to the other exhibitions I’ve mentioned is this one of the Finnish artist (Swedish speaking, according to the booklet – is that significant?), 1862 – 1946.  A range of her work  below, starting with a self – portrait of the young artist (compare it to that of the old woman portrayed in the 5th picture down, her last self-portrait, one of twenty she did in the last year of her life; actually, there’s a later drawing but the one here is the last painting).

 

Portrait of her mother; I like the light on those knuckles and fingers…

 

Nothing like the others, this one…

 

Her mother again; the blue background and the dazzling white of the open book sing out to you in a gallery full of rather – well, brown and grey pictures.

We’re in the land of Munch here, aren’t we?  I don’t mean that as a compliment.

 

Like the blue mother above, a welcome splash of colour in a drab world.  I liked the paintings for the most part and was reminded here and there of Gwen John (but also, unfortunately, of Munch).  Thirsty for colour, as well as for a beer of course, by the end of the visit.

Modernists & Mavericks; Bacon, Freud, Hockney & the London Painters.  Martin Gayford, Thames & Hudson, 2018

Buy this; it’s £12.99 well spent (has to be the book, not a Kindle version, if there IS one).  No jargon; all the famous anecdotes are there, but Gayford does a great job of putting this lot in the context of the times and of each other.  There’s a very clear discussion of just what “abstraction” can mean – about five different things, I made it – which, as the author says, is a question which kept a lot of drink-fuelled arguments going all night in the 50s and 60s.  I was astonished – no, overstated, but surprised – to read about the furore over William Gear’s “Autumn Landscape” at the Festival of Britain.

As always, a couple of new ones of mine to finish:

Before the Snow

 

Drying off

….and three others that I will be exhibiting with ArtBridge in Paris in September:

Caen

 

On the Rocks

 

Crossfire

Blackpaint

12.08.19

 

 

 

 

 

 

Blackpaint 165

July 11, 2010

God in the Brain – Michelangelo

My youngest son told me a week or so ago that some scientists had recognised the odd surround from which God reaches to Adam on the ceiling of the Sistine Chapel as being an exact match for a cross section of the brain.  Then, last night, the same theory popped up on QI – Stephen Fry said it was three or four scientists and the whole thing was the more plausible because Michelangelo famously conducted (illegal) dissections.

So it’s clearly nonsense, according to Blackpaint’s Law of Spurious Plausibility.  This states that the likelihood of a theory being bullshit increases proportionate to its plausibility (to a disinterested and rational public).  We’re talking here about plausibility, not evidence, I emphasise.  The fact that  four scientists believe something is true is not evidence, unless its in their own field – maybe not even then; professional magicians love to have scientists observe their tricks, because they are really easy to fool – I suppose because they take a linear approach.

Caravaggio

Blackpaint’s Law probably applies to the Caravaggio camera obscura theory too.  Martin Gayford was writing about this in the Telegraph yesterday – the gist was that certain oddities in the way C. paints could be explained by his having used a camera obscura to “trace” some figures and then sort of reassemble them on canvas – an early variety of cut and paste, I suppose.  Sounds plausible – I think Hockney came up with it in that book he wrote a few years back.  There’s that question of the outstretched left hand in the “Supper at Emmaus” (too small in relation to the right one – see Blackpaint earlier this year) – not sure how that fits in.  Anyway, it’s plausible, but no evidence, so Blackpaint’s Law says BS.

Gillian Ayres

Below is my latest painting, that I thought was a pretty good effort, a re-working of an old canvas called “Bad Boy” that was OK at the time I did it but crap in retrospect.  The new one is called Bad Boy 2 (Falstaff), for obvious reasons.  After finishing it, and sticking it on the wall for appraisal, I happened to see a painting by Gillian Ayres, entitled Hinba, in a book.  Same reds and pinks, infinitely more interesting.  I wasn’t conscious of any influence, but it seems to me that I must have registered the Ayres somewhere in the back of my skull before painting; bit of a choker, really.  I suppose that sort of thing happens all the time.

Private View 

Last Thursday, in a swish health centre on Chelsea Wharf.  Amazing how much better your pictures look when they get a big chunk of pristine white wall to themselves.  A few glasses of red wine also improves their appearance, but best of all is a cheque (rare occurrence).

BB Falstaff by Blackpaint

Listening to Friends in Low Places, by Garth Brooks

“Blame it all on my roots – I showed up in boots

And ruined your black tie affair…”

Blackpaint

11.07.10