Posts Tagged ‘Martin Rowson’

Blackpaint 324 – Willem Working for the WPA; a New Deal for Bankers

February 11, 2012

De Kooning again

In the DK retrospective (Thames and Hudson 2011), that obsession with flat surface comes up again inevitably in the first essay, an overview of DK’s career by John Elderfield.  He points out that DK boasted of painting “on top” of the surface, going one better than the other AbExes to create a sort of 3D effect, I suppose.  You can see this quite clearly in the photo of Willem and Elaine standing in front of one of the “Woman” series; the painting looks like a sort of meringue, spilling out and over the edges of the painting.

Also fascinating to learn (for me, anyway) is that his late, post 1983 paintings, the ones that look like toy snakes writhing about on a clean white background, were not painted like that; when x-rayed, they show his usual tangled and overdrawn charcoal and paint strokes.  The difference is that he has painted over them in thick white, hiding the pentimenti, as I am told they are called, and giving that empty effect.  However they were produced, I still find them deeply depressing to look at, after the richness of the earlier work.

Richter and Oehlen

Similarities between these two painters, presumably the result of coincidence or the influence of the former over the latter:  the depth and layering effect of their abstracts, as if they were made of layers of glass with different marks, and space between each layer.  As Camille Morineau explains in the “Panorama” book on Richter, R often has cylindrical columns, originally from his “Candles” drawings; flat, geometric shapes of colour, green triangles for example; and the famous squeegee sweeps, which she describes as producing the effect of a brush sweep, blown up to big proportions.

Oehlen does his layers too – typically, computer generated images blown up, controlled paint “explosions” and often, a collaged element, the whole giving a hybrid effect of airbrush, painterly and collaged layers.

WPA

Returning to de Kooning for a moment, I was surprised to read that WPA artists had to produce a painting every six weeks and were paid the same as a construction worker on the East River Drive project – $23.86 a week!

Sounds good to me – pity there’s no enthusiasm for New Deal policies now.  What about training up a cohort of idealistic students and activists to run Lloyds and RBS for the taxpayer, for a good salary with no or minimal bonuses?  They could be like the FBI or the Untouchables. only trained in “ethical” banking practices (or at least, not screwing the customer) so that the shower we have now can take their expertise to Hong Kong or wherever, like they’re always promising to.

Martin Rowson

Best Rowson cartoon for a long while in the Guardian, Friday – caption “Eeeeeeeesing!”, Mervyn King pissing against a wall in Threadneedle Street, while a Fat Cat laps it up from the gutter, Osborne leaning against his fat flank.  But with Rowson, you have to be really well informed to get it all – what’s the tumbleweed, Martin?

I see that today’s compulsive grammatical tic is the use of inverted commas – will try to avoid in future.

Tarkovsky

Geoff Dyer has a new book, “Zona”, about the above’s film, “Stalker”; it was reviewed in Sunday’s Observer and I was pleased that the reviewer coupled Tarkovsky and my other favourite Bela Tarr, as the two most difficult and patience-trying directors.  I have to agree, I suppose; couldn’t really get through most of their films more than once in the cinema – but on DVD, no problem.  Tarkovsky or Bela for half an hour, stop DVD to watch Neighbours or Holby, back to Stalker or Satantango.

Life Drawing

I was told the shoulders were good in this one, but the body was “crap”  (not doing well with the inverted commas).

And here’s the proper painting – still in progress, it’s a big canvas for me, 60*40″.

Blackpaint

11.02.12

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Blackpaint 300

October 18, 2011

Jerusalem

Great to see in yesterday’s Guardian editorial, the following : “…the deep dream of Albion, from Arthur to Falstaff to Bunyan to Blake to Sandy Denny…” ; over the top maybe, but well done, whoever thought of linking her with this illustrious company.

Martin Rowson

At last, yesterday, an arse-licking cartoon – but who is it, Fox, Werritty, or a generic lobbyist tugging at the trousers of the banker pigs?  I guess Werritty, from the business cards scattered around.  And what is that in Haigh’s hand?

Proper blog to follow on Thursday – meanwhile, read yesterday’s, on Vertov and Cezanne.

Blackpaint

18.10.11 

Blackpaint 286

July 19, 2011

Steve Bell and Martin Rowson

Interesting to compare and contrast the differing approaches of these two Guardian cartoonists to the phone hacking scandal.  Bell has homed in on Rupert Murdoch’s obvious fondness for Rebekah Brooks; in his strip, the old man wants Brooks to replace the “Windsor bitch” (or rather, “butch”) as queen, but wants a shag first.  In the next strip she is dead – a comment on her pallor, presumably – which is not a problem for Rupert. as he isn’t averse to necrophilia… the strip alleges.

Rowson is rather easier on her; he portrays her before the upcoming MPs commitee, standing on a stool, like the Cavalier kid in the famous painting, “When did you last see your father?”  She is saying to her inquisitors, “When did your balls grow back?”, or similar words.  This has the effect of drawing the reader to her side, as the persecuted victim, spitting defiance at her hypocritical questioners, standing bravely against tyranny.

The Bell approach is crude, scurrilous and over the top;  I like it for that reason.

Rowson’s idea contains a great truth; these MP’s committees often have a lot of posturing and sanctimony, from MPs who fancy themselves as Rumpoles – bit early to be changing the focus and fostering sympathy for the Murdoch side, though; I think they’re quite capable of looking after themselves and even “blagging” their way through to a result.

Urban Art, Brixton

Spent Saturday and Sunday standing under stair rods of rain or waving away clouds of little gnat – like flies under a chestnut tree in Josephine Avenue, re-arranging pictures every 5 minutes in an attempt to trap customers.  Everyone else there seemed to have some sort of “thing” they did – paintings of kitchen chairs and tables and frying pans, fish prints, graffiti style “street” spray paintings, dog and cat portraits, imitation butterflies in box frames, swimmers at the lido….  Abstract paintings on canvas pretty thin on the ground.  There’s no way you can be sure that your work will sell; should it be bigger, smaller, under glass??  Total lottery.  Lots of visitors though, even in the pouring rain.

Tarkovsky’s “Stalker”

Very PK Dick- like future story, set in Russia; a Stalker takes people to the Zone and guides them around the deserted area hit by a meteorite or a missile or something, and forbidden of course; there, you can confront your inner self, desires, fears, in a room.  You can’t go directly or come back the same way; the Stalker has to throw sheets wrapped around metal nuts.  where these land, that’s the way you go.  Derivative story, fantastic images; Tarkovsky does that thing of switching to colour in the Zone, B & W outside.  Not original; Bertolucci’s “Before the Revolution” has it – but effective, all the same.

Blackpaint

19.07.11

Blackpaint 228

December 8, 2010

Turner Prize

Won by Susan Philipsz, the sound artist, who had a recording of herself singing “Lowlands” installed under three bridges on the Clyde.  It was re-installed in the Tate Britain without the bridges, which some critics felt detracted from the work – difficult to see how to get round that one.  Anyway, she won and had apparently been the favourite throughout.  As I’ve said before, readers should listen to the Ann Briggs version, or Martin Carthy’s, if they can find it. 

A piece in the Guardian by Adrian Searle praised Philipsz’ work in the following terms: “Her current Artangel project, Surround Me, insinuates itself down alleys and courtyards in the City of London…. singing melancholy works by John Dowland… I have stood in shadowy old courtyards and between gleaming office blocks, weeping as I listen.”  Please, Mr. Searle, pull yourself together; we British don’t cry and we certainly don’t “weep”.

Having said that, I occasionally get the odd prickle in the corner of an eye when listening to the Matthew Passion or the Mass in B minor – and even in the presence of great paintings; Lavender Mist, Palisades, Berkeley series, most things by Joan Mitchell…

Martin Rowson

Has, well – deservedly, won the Low Prize for political cartoonists – despite the fact that you need to be really seriously up to speed on politics to get everything going on in his cartoons.  He has, however, failed to produce an arse- sucking drawing since I requested the same some time back (in a TV interview, he said that he had toned down such a cartoon at the request of an editor who was hungover and feeling sick).

Surely, the time for a double arse-licking cartoon has arrived, with the Assange affair: British magistrate licks Swedish prosecutor, who in turn licks Obama – or maybe Clinton…  Steve Bell has obliged today, with Uncle Sam fucking an ostrich; nice to see vulgarity standards falling – or rising – with BBC radio presenters saying “cunt” on air at every opportunity.

Quiz

Who did a painting of a massive Gordon’s Gin advert above a branch of Woolworths (that is, the advert was above Woolworths in the painting..)?

Blackpaint

08.12.10

Blackpaint 203

October 8, 2010

Martin Rowson

Glad to see in the Guardian a week or so ago,a Rowson cartoon featuring a long tongue issuing from the mouth of a toadying pressman and winding towards Cameron, who was descending from a royal-type coach.  Unfortunately, it (the tongue, not the coach) did not approach the anus of the said politician, but formed a slimy red carpet for him to tread.  More subtle than arse-licking but somehow less satisfying – hang on, that didn’t sound right.  Anyway, must end this obsession; this blog is  becoming more obscene by the day.  I see that a reader used the terms “tate modern vaginas” to find the site. 

So – from now on, no obscenity, no pointing out indecent little details in works of art – only good, clean, mature discussion on artistic matters, in the highest of moral tones.

Ai Weiwei

Coming soon to the big hall at the Tate Modern, how do you square the work of an artist like Ai, who tangles with an arbitrary and viciously reactivr regime like the Chinese government with artists who paint about paint, or “investigate materials”?  Difficult one – there’s nothing heroic about the latter.  Ai, who has recently been provoking the government about those missing in the Szechuan earthquake, is like a lion tamer sticking his head in the lion’s mouth – but without taming it first. 

I suppose, say, asking questions about the liquid qualities of light passing through various media doesn’t really match up in the credibility stakes – but someone has to do it.   One day, when all the dictatorships are overthrown, global warming has been halted and reversed, famine is no more,  peace and plenty and democratic socialism reign, we’ll still have art surely – or maybe not, because no struggle.

A thread in Chinese art –

Ai Weiwei famously dropped and smashed a Han dynasty vase and filmed himself doing so;

Huang Yong Ping destroyed A History of Chinese Art in a washing machine;

Cai Guo Qiang blows things up with fireworks.

I don’t know, but I have the feeling that, in the context of Chinese history and philosophy, this destructive streak must be especially shocking.  Then again, Mao and the Cultural Revolution… maybe in that context, destruction is culturally familiar.  Woefully ignorant here, as is obvious, so please comment.

Wayne Thiebaud

Now 90, I mention him because I like his work and it’s apposite to the comments above about political art.  He does pictures of consumer items like  cakes, shoes, lipsticks set against flat, highly coloured backgrounds.  He has a background in signwriting and cartoons which clearly shows in his work.  There’s something funny about a lovingly-painted slice of cake with a cherry on top,  on its plastic shelf in an automat, or a stout, shiny pair of black brogues set at a jaunty angle.  Is it political?  Of course – something to do with the worship of consumer items, mass production, etc., etc.  But then, all art is political in the sense that it represents a choice of what to represent and what not to represent.  Its not necessarily commited, though. 

More about this, when I’ve thought it through clearly – might be some time.

Broke Line Tide

Blackpaint

8.7.10

Blackpaint 197

September 21, 2010

Michelangelo and the Sistine Ceiling

The more I read about this, the more incredible M’s achievement seems to me.  I saw Tim Marlow on TV the other day asserting that he had assistants and to have completed the task without help in four years does seem a tall order (cliche – what’s that from?).  Ross King, who has written a book on this, “Michelangelo and the Pope’s Ceiling”, asserts he had up to a dozen helpers, doing painting as well as plastering and labouring and that signs of their brushwork can be discerned throughout.  I haven’t read the book yet, so I don’t know what evidence he offers.

He does say, however, that after the first section (Noah and the Flood, presumably), he increasingly tended to do the work himself .  Other works, the Taschen by Gilles Neret for example, say that helpers did no more than plastering and fetching and carrying, and that he did all the painting himself.  What makes the job even more staggering is that he knew nothing about fresco painting when he started, thinking of himself as a sculptor rather than a painter.

The Flood

Some strange things going on in the Flood, which are not in Genesis: a woman in a boatful of survivors is about to clobber a man with a stump of wood.  It looks as if he has just hauled himself aboard, still having one foot in the water, maybe overloading the boat – or another mouth to feed.  A bit of artistic licence, presumably, bit of violence to sex things up; but similar things going on on the Ark too.  A young man, one of Noah’s sons, is about to hack at a man with an axe; the victim is being assisted onto the boat by another son, as the attack looms.  Elsewhere on the Ark, another son helps another survivor.  I don’t remember any survivors, other than Noah’s family – maybe they died, or were chucked back overboard.

Alphabetical Juxtapositions (see Blackpaint 190)

Again, from the Phaidon Art Book, Richard Hamilton and Hammershoi.  On the left page, Hamilton’s famous “Just What is it that Makes Today’s Homes so Different, so Appealing?”  Its yellows and reds, patterns and clutter of artefacts contrast beautifully with Hammershoi’s “Interior with Girl at Clavier” on the opposite page; cool, spare, still greys, whites and browns, echoing the black and white figure of the past in the wall photograph in Hamilton’s work.

Then there is the Hepworth and the Heron.  Barbara Hepworth’s polished form in guaraca wood, like a head with huge eyes, echoed in Heron’s coloured shapes in “Fourteen Discs”.  Not a surprise, I suppose, given their period and place; but I’d never noticed the similarity before.

Politics

Tried to keep politics out so as not to offend any readers, but I am unable not to comment on the insufferable little prick of a Lib Dem MP on TV last night, who kept referring to “Grown Up Politics”, as if anyone not backing the “coalition” (that is, Tory government) is being childish.  Come on, Martin Rowson – time to stop doing clever, dark, ambiguous cartoons of sinister fairgrounds; I want Lib Dem tongues up Tory arses.  Might as well be childish, if we’re not “grown up”.

Spider’s song, take 2

21.09.10

Blackpaint 153

June 17, 2010

Sigmar Polke

Obit in the Guardian.  Like Gerhard Richter, in the sense that his work was so diverse it’s hard to get a handle on it all.  I remember an exhibition at the Hayward, I think, maybe five(?) years ago; he was using lots of hard resins that gave his work a mirror effect.  There was one of a Taliban or Al Quaida horseman like a cartoon.  I’ll have to look into him more closely, now that he’s dead (seems to go like that to me, that an artist acquires status by dying).

Rude Britannia

The exhibition, and watching the BBC4 programmes, brought to mind an interview I saw recently, of Martin Rowson.  I’d thought of him (along with Scarfe and Steadman, but maybe even more than these two) as the natural heir of Rowlandson – the similar name seemed fitting too.  Of all modern cartoonists, he seemed to be the one willing to go the farthest, in terms of public figures up to their necks in shit, or tongues up backsides.

I was surprised, then, when he said (I think) that the Danish cartoons of Allah shouldn’t have been published, or should have been censored, on the grounds that they were an attack on the weak in a society by the strong.  He then said that, later, when the furore and the murder(s) and the deaths of rioters had occurred, the cartoons SHOULD have been published then, because the events had caused the pendulum to swing the other way.  I hope I’ve got this right; quite a complex position.

I was intrigued to hear a cartoonist like Rowson speak in favour of censorship of material which attacks religion, on the grounds that the attack constitutes an attack on the adherents, and the adherents are vulnerable.  Is he equating the Danish cartoons with, say, anti-semitic cartoons in 30’s Germany?  I was also surprised to hear that he’d toned down a cartoon at the request of an editor – he’d moved a politician’s – Blair’s, I think – he’d moved  the tongue a little  further away from a backside (Bush’s no doubt).  So – savage, but not  so savage.

Pontormo

Saw Andrew Graham – Dixon last night, on Vasari.  He spent some time on Pontormo. and showed two huge paintings by the same, on the spot in some church in Italy (wasn’t paying that much attention, I’m afraid).  I sat up at this, however, because they didn’t look anything like the Pontormos that I’ve seen in the National Gallery.  If I remember rightly, they made up a series of paintings relating to Joseph at the court of Pharaoah – the dreams, the execution of the butler and freeing of the baker – or was it the other way round? 

Anyway, what I remember mostly was the colours; a rich pinkish red, grey and rich pale blue were dominant.  The colour in the paintings that AGD was talking about looked completely different.  I wonder if its to do with the cleaning process; the NG cleaned up all its early paintings about ten years ago, I think.

Michelangelo

AGD said that M. was the first artist to portray God (the Judeo-Christian version), in the Sistine Chapel.  Not according to Wikipedia, which gives a number of forerunners to Mich in this respect.  See tomorrow.

Headroom

Blackpaint

17.06.10