Posts Tagged ‘Matisse’

Blackpaint 606 – St.Ives now, Matisse, Bigelow, Donleavy

September 18, 2017

Penwith Gallery, St. Ives

We went all the way to Cornwall to visit Tate St. Ives, only to find that the gallery is being rebuilt and is closed until 14th October.  Still, a few nice things at the Penwith in town:

Karen McEndoo

 

KM again

 

David Moore

I like this prone figure study, a little like Tracey Emin’s drawings at first glance.  Generally, you could see the unmistakeable influence of 60s St. Ives painters immediately – Lanyon, Roger Hilton, Paul Feiler, Terry Frost (there were several Andrew Frost paintings and prints, not that he is particularly like his father) – but some nice stuff, nevertheless.  Everyone’s influenced by someone and these are pretty good influences…

JP Donleavy

 

A fulsome obituary in the Guardian last week mentioned Donleavy’s hatred of feminism and skill at boxing, as well as praising his “comic” novel “The Ginger Man”, comparing Donleavy to Joyce (!), and perpetuating the view of Dangerfield, the protagonist, as a sort of roguish, charming ne’er do well, a hard-drinking broth of a boy.  It failed to comment on the scenes in which Dangerfield beats up his wife and threatens and assaults a girlfriend.  I found these scenes shocking when I recently re-read the book after 40-odd years, although I don’t recall them from my first reading – shows how sensibilities have changed, maybe.  Still, I was surprised that no-one on the vigilant Guardian staff commented, and that no readers wrote in.  See also Blackpaint 596 and 589.

Zero Dark Thirty, dir. Kathryn Bigelow (2012)

I sat up until nearly 3.00am, watching this riveting film about the finding and killing of Bin Laden.  I was not surprised at its gripping force –  after all, Bigelow made “Point Break” and “The Hurt Locker” – nor at the lack of moral commentary.  The torture scenes prompted no soul-searching on the part of Maya, Jessica Chastain’s heroine, or anyone else; it was part of the job in hand.  I recalled scenes from Pontecorvo’s “Battle for Algiers” (1966), in which Algerians were tortured with electric shocks and blow torches; Pontecorvo’s Mathieu, the French para commander, asked critical journalists: “Must France remain in Algeria?  Then you must accept these methods” – or words to that effect.  Then again, Pontecorvo was a Marxist; Bigelow’s politics I’m not sure about, but I’d guess somewhere around Clint Eastwood.

Matisse in the Studio, RA (until 12th November)

I saw this weeks ago, but didn’t get round to doing it; it’s got some of the actual objects that Matisse depicted in his paintings, chairs, figures and so on, next to the paintings themselves.  Couldn’t take photos and don’t remember much (except that the paintings and sculptures were great, of course) so I’ll just copy the notes I made at the time:

  • The chair one – with the chair.
  • The red/gold prone figure – with the figure.
  • The Italian Woman – that one with the cut away left shoulder (viewer’s left)
  • The portrait of the woman with the black shaping “guidelines”.  Apart from the woman below, the reader will have to search these out on the net – or go to the exhibition, of course.

The Italian Woman

Two of mine to end with –

Wood before the Yat

 

Rough Flower

Blackpaint

18.09.17

 

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Blackpaint 573 – Imperfect Artspeak, Hughes and Narcos

October 25, 2016

Imperfect Reverse, Camberwell College of Arts

Some beautiful geometric abstracts on display here, some of them from the 60s and 70s Systems Group, some from younger artists working now.  I quote from the notes: “The term “imperfect reverse” intimates a move towards a structural logic, generative grammar, allowing an outside system or set of rules to drive the making of a series of works….This exhibition questions that transformation through a coercion that is both temporal and aspectual.  Examining an operational shift in working process towards a synthesis of experience.”

So there you are.  Whatever it means, there’s no doubt that the pictures are good; a selection of the best below:

camberwell-1

Sharon Hall

 

camberwell-2

Andrew Bick

 

camberwell-3

Richard Caldicott

 

camberwell-4

Natalie Dower

 

camberwell-5

Laurence Noga

The exhibition is at Camberwell until November, when it moves to Ruskin University Cambridge on the 23rd.

The Shock of the New

I’ve been watching Robert Hughes’ great series again – I recorded it ages ago, don’t know if it’s on DVD or some other source, but if so, it should be got hold of.  Apart from Hughes’ unmatched portentous delivery, the close-ups of the artworks struck me as the best I’ve seen – particularly Cezanne, Matisse and Bonnard.  Next to them, the dreary horror of Munch is fully exposed.  I know, he was doing something else – but he’s still a most depressing painter.

matisse-red-studio

Matisse, the Red Studio

 

cezanne-basket-of-apples

Cezanne, Basket of Apples

 

munch

Munch

I rest my case.  Hughes describes Matisse as the painter of the “Great Indoors” and that sounds about right to me; his landscapes are usually seen through a window frame.  Munch is often outdoors – but his skies are always dark, or lurid, weighing down upon humanity, as in the Ensor-ish group of walking dead above.  One of the world’s great painters obviously, but I just can’t be doing with him.

It’s always interesting to watch programmes from decades ago, to see how times and tastes have altered.  Hughes gives a great deal of prominence to Claes Oldenburg, for example, an artist who seems to me to be much less fashionable now; although perhaps I’m underestimating the influence of his giant soft sculptures.  Also, not enough de Kooning and no Joan Mitchell in there…..

Narcos

narcos

The Netflix series based on the life of Colombian drug baron Pablo Escobar, it seems to me to have a touch of Sorrentino about it – in several scenes I was reminded of Il Divo.  Multiple killings of course, and I’ve only seen the first episode of series one.  The box of the DVD says it’s a blend of “The Wire” and “Goodfellas” – I thought “Gomorrah”, but then it’s early days for me.

I’ve been trying to do something different in my painting, having realised some time ago that I’m doing the same images over and over (even if they are in a different palette or the other way up); I think I’ve managed it a little in the one below – but maybe not…

 

grey-fire-2

Fire, Water and Cloud

Blackpaint

25.10.16

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Blackpaint 561 – Yeats, Dante and the Four Horsemen

July 3, 2016

I’ve been reading Yeats and I thought I could usefully purloin a quote for a title…

slouching towards Bethlehem

Slouching Towards Bethlehem

 

wates2

Green Fuse and Canal in E&A Wates’ Showroom, 82-84 Mitcham Lane

My paintings there for the next couple of weeks as part of the Streatham Festival  @Art23_Streatham.  Green Fuse – nicked that from Dylan Thomas.

 

Painters’ Paintings, National Gallery

The idea behind this exhibition is to show paintings that were owned by famous painters (Freud, Degas, Lawrence, Watts, Van Dyke et al), presumably so that you can judge how that influenced their work, if at all.  Unfortunately, I didn’t take much notice of who owned what, so you’ll have to go yourself, if you’re interested.  What you should be aware of is that many of the paintings are in the NG’s possession and have recently been on the walls as part of the permanent collection.  This has been the case with several exhibitions lately; one good example is the Gauguin bowl of flowers, that was in the Delacroix exhibition.  And the Spartan boys, by Degas…

What I’ve done, then, is to pick out some favourites:

Blanche

Jacques – Emile Blanche, M. Poictevin (1887)

Great portrait, this – reminds me of that one by Strang in the National Portrait Gallery, of Thomas Hardy.  That one’s got a green background, not yellow like the one above; but they both somehow recall those medieval ones by Cranach and the like, and maybe even Holbein.  Blanche also did Joyce, below:

 

joyce

J-E Blanche, James Joyce – this one isn’t in the exhibition, but it is by Blanche; it’s in the NPG.  Very different to the Poictevin portrait – could easily be by Singer Sargent.

 

Again, two very different pictures by Ingres:

ingres dante

Ingres, Dante.  Never would have guessed Ingres, in a month of Sundays.

 

ingres norvins

Ingres, M. de Norvins

That’s more like the Ingres I would expect.  He only took a year or so over this one.

 

caracci woman

Caracci, A Woman Borne off by a Sea God

I picked the Caracci (which is huge) because of the hilarious contrast between the bodies and heads of the cherubic characters to the left and right of the god and the unfortunate woman.  Heads of children, bodies of Olympic weightlifters; compare Michelangelo, the Delphic Sybil from the Sistine Chapel.

cezanne bather

Cezanne, Bather with Outstretched Arm

Proof that brilliant painters sometimes do less than perfect drawings.   My partner says he meant it to be “inaccurate”; I’m not sure.

 

I love this Matisse:

matisse selfie

Matisse, Self-Portrait 1918

Perfect, I think.  Is that a suitcase between his legs, with an ashtray on top?

 

Come and See (Klimov, 1985)

Apocalyptic WW2 film, Bielorussia (Belarus) under German occupation in 1942; Klimov makes much use of Florya’s swollen, dried-out, blistered and horror-struck face, pushed close to the camera, as below, as he witnesses mass murders and rape.  The Nazi troops, with their ragbag of collaborating followers, rampage drunkenly around like tourists from hell, taking photographs of the slaughter to a soundtrack of nightmarish yodelling and marching songs.  I thought of the Tin Drum, Hard to be a God – and in the concentration on the facial close-up, maybe Laszlo Nemes’ Son of Saul – this just hearsay, though; I haven’t yet seen the Nemes (DVD out now).

come and see 1

 

come and see 2

SS Commander with his pet.  Maybe an echo of the Teutonic Knights in Eisenstein’s Alexander Nevsky.  And Glasha (if it is her who is raped – Wikipedia seems to be in some doubt) is Lavinia from Titus Andronicus…  You are tempted to think that Klimov has gone overboard on the brutality; no conscience-stricken, civilised good Germans here (cf. Cross of Iron, the Pianist); the closing titles point out that more than 600 villages in Bielorussia were destroyed and their inhabitants murdered in exactly the fashion shown here – and that Germans who were there as perpetrators have agreed that it is accurate.

Blackpaint

03.07.16

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Blackpaint 558 – Bourgeois at Bilbao, Warhol, de Kooning and Twombly too

June 13, 2016

The Black is Back (from my hols in Euroland)

Sorry to the thousands of you who asked desperately what happened to last week’s posting – I can’t yet manage to post properly from a Kindle.

Below, my winning entry for the Putney Art School Life Drawing prize, 2016; certificate and £25 voucher, since you ask.  Soon (19th June) to be on show in Putney Exchange exhibition, opposite Waitrose, if you’re in the area…

crabman

The two pictures below are my failed entries for this year’s Royal Academy Summer Exhibition; they will also be on show at the “Salon Des Refuses”, SPACE, 129-131 Mare Street Hackney E8 3RH 23rd – 26th June; come along and buy them and possibly even meet the artist.

 

dirty protest2

Dirty Protest, Blackpaint

 

heaven only knows 2

Heaven Only Knows, Blackpaint

 

Louise Bourgeois at the Guggenheim, Bilbao

Back to real art now – as always in summer, I braved the nightmare drive along the Scalextrics road “system” round Bilbao, with teeth clenched and Johnny Winter loud on the CD player, in order to visit my favourite art museum.  There were about four large rooms devoted to LB’s sculptures, paintings and assemblages, including the following:

 

Bourgeois 1

  • Caged, bandaged, bundle hanger (above); maybe influence on Sarah Lucas?
  • Caged spiral staircase with hanging balls (below); reminded me of a Paul Nash painting.

 

bourgeois 2

  • Lots of miniature stairways, chairs, little doors in little walls…
  • Lots of transmogrifications, human heads becoming or emerging from things (one very Dali-esque hanging head)…
  • Lots of full-size rooms – confessionals, cells, bedrooms – made out of old, scarred doors, varnished partitions, old window frames, cracked glass.
  • Surrealist paintings, reminiscent of Picabia and oddly, David Shrigley (that cartoon style);
  • Her late paintings, anatomical, guts and plumbing on show, a little Dumas maybe, with Emin-like captions or statements: “I know where I’m going”, etc.
  • And of course, spiders and biomorphic genitalia things…

Impressive to see the range of her influence, but not surprising.

Masterpieces Room

Big works by Klein, Rauschenberg, Styll, Rothko, Motherwell – and my two favourites below:

 

nine-discourses-on-commodus-1963

Nine Discourses on Commodus, Cy Twombly

Love those blood and brain- like splatters…

 

villa borghese

Villa Borghese, by Willem de Kooning

Love those muddy brush sweeps.

Shadows, Andy Warhol

A roomful (see below) of 102 screenprints by the master of repetition; as far as I could make out, only three variations were NOT repeated; those in ochre, grey and yellow.

 

warhol shadows

School of Paris, 1900 – 1945

Three things worth highlighting here:

  • A Picasso ball or concert, shades of Munch, or Toulouse Lautrec, or in our time, Michael Andrews – pale women, ball gowns, slashes of lipstick, a silver carafe, conventional perspective… done in 1900.

Pablo Picasso

  • A huge, particoloured, reclining nude by Frantisek Kupka; not that great maybe, but striking and new to me.

kupka

  • A lovely Matisse portrait on a greyish green background of a woman in a ruffled blouse.
  • A sculpted head by Duchamp-Villon, Marcel’s brother, that was reminiscent of Bacon’s portraits, especially that one of Isobel Rawsthorne, with the curving slash down the face.

Otherwise, Delaunay Eiffel Towers, Chagall floaters and fliers, grey Braques, Legers, Gris..; the usual, fabulous stuff.

The Disappearance, BBC4

poisson

Binge-watched four episodes of this the night I got back, until 3.00am; it’s very like the first “Killing”; the focus on the parents, the inevitably flawed father, the mother who goes all emotionally frozen in grief and seeks release in an extra-marital sexual encounter – but gets too drunk to go through with it; the focused, introverted detective Molina (a man in this one) who has a difficult daughter… and so on.

The ridiculous coincidence in this one is that it is the detective’s daughter, out of the whole population of Lyon, who discovers the body of the girl her father is searching for.

Next blog; Mary Heilmann at the Whitechapel.

Blackpaint

June 13th 2016

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Blackpaint 505 – Francis, Rembr’ndt and the Chimp’nzees

August 2, 2015

Bacon and the Masters, Norwich (UEA)

Afraid this exhibition is now finished – I got to see it in its last week – so its a bit redundant now to review it.  However, I’m rather redundant myself, so here’s a few words.  First, I have to take issue with Jonathan Jones’ assessment in the Guardian; he thought the “Masters” (Matisse, Rembrandt, Velasquez, Van Gogh, Bernini et al), whose works Bacon used as  templates or providers of inspiration, actually made Bacon’s efforts look rather “silly”. His previous admiration for the British painter evaporated in the presence of the Masters.

There is no doubt that the Rembrandts are striking and the terracotta Bernini torsos staggeringly powerful, even though small; my feeling is, however, that Bacon’s work stands up well and does justice to those whose works he used – or rather, the photographs of them, since he famously avoided seeing the originals.

Take the paintings below, for instance; the powerful, sinister “Figures in a Landscape” (1956):

bacon figures in a landscape

 

or the portrait (1957) of Peter Lacey, Bacon’s sadistic “true love”, who did the painter quite serious injury in lovemaking (I don’t know if Bacon returned the compliment – I suspect not); I think the portrait suggests one of the Furies about to descend…

bacon lacey

or this great sketch or half-started work on linen from 1981, one of the three large sketches that begin the exhibition:

bacon three figures 1981

 

Here’s one of the Berninis for comparison:

bernini

The only Bacon that I felt was not up to par was a sketch of the Screaming Pope.  it suggested a Steve Bell to me…

Look closely at any Bacon and you will see how thinly and carefully he paints, with a stroke that is often very dry.  The portraits are painstaking and the famous distortion does not obscure the likeness in most cases; it’s dissection and reassembly, not butchery, not by a long way.

Afterwards, using one of the luxurious WCs in the Sainsbury building, I saw myself in the mirror which takes up the whole rear wall. Slightly crouched, toilet paper in hand, trousers around lower legs, furtive expression… a rather typical Bacon scenario, to match those in the gallery…

Watching an Arena DVD on Bacon, I was struck again by his odd pronunciation of Rembrandt – it was “Rembr’ndt”.  A while later he did it again with “chimp’nzee”.  I thought it was unique – then I watched a DVD on Auerbach and he said “Rembr’ndt” too.

John Golding, UEA

golding2

Up the stairs from the Bacon exhibition was this large show of paintings from Golding, a major British abstract artist, somewhat akin to Hoyland, I think, as a sort of counterweight to the great figurative master on the ground floor.  Here are three works, all large, from different periods.  This show may still be on – worth a trip to Norwich, if it is.

 

golding3

 

golding6

The Double Life of Veronique, Kieslowski

This film was on TV last week.  I can’t make my mind up about Kieslowski’s work – sometimes, as here, it strikes me as sentimental and soft focus, a little bit “Truly, Madly, Deeply”; she falls in love with a handsome puppeteer, for god’s sake.  Then again, he did “A Short Film about Killing”, with the long murder and the hanging scene….

Two old pictures that I have overpainted somewhat, to finish:

jungle

The Road to Mandalay

 

10th May 1941

 

10th May 1941

Blackpaint,

2.08.15

Blackpaint 492 – The Three (or Four) D’s and Art House Sleaze

April 24, 2015

Sonia Delaunay, Tate Modern

delaunay black snake

A stunningly beautiful exhibition, cousin to the recent Matisse cut-outs and the Paul Klee show;  I was interested to see that the paintings got more vivid as she got older – in the earlier ones, the colours are more “muddied”, as can clearly be seen in the two examples below.  Another thing I liked was the rough edges, as if she’d cut out the shapes and stuck them on; gives the earlier works a pleasing wobbliness, somehow.  Like most – all? – artists, she has limits; there’s little texture or spontaneity and she recycles a number of devices: squares, triangles, circles, “S” shapes.  But then, that’s probably enough for one life-time, if you take the costume- and textile design, mosaic, tapestry and book/magazine covers into consideration…

Anyway, here are some things to look for:

  • Tchouiko (1907-8) – portrait; check out the droopy, Nosferatu fingers.
  • Binding of “der Sturm”, in the cabinet.
  • Young Finnish Girl – that blue (and red/pink).
  • Box (1913) – I’m sure that’s a painted button on the lid.
  • Bal Ballier, on mattress ticking – the women reminiscent of August Macke, I think.
  • The two on the end wall that are like knots, or skeins of coloured wiring.
  • The switch – or diversification – into fabric and costume design; hilarious film of lovely 20s and 30s models posturing and the huge, perpetually rolling fabric machine; dresses, ballet/theatre costume, fashion drawings and photos.
  • THEN – in the late 30s and 40s, back to painting.  I’m not sure if that corresponds with a real change, or if it’s just the effect of the way the exhibition is set out.  Vivid, sharper-edged paintings reminiscent of watch movements (see Rhythm Colour 1076, below)
  • The 1937 Paris exhibition room, with the huge, Gris-like murals of the propeller, the steam engine and the control panel.
  • “Coloured Rhythm 52” – my pick of the exhibition (can’t find a picture of it), along with “Black Snake”, just about the last painting in the show.

Great to see her separated out from Robert for once – as soon as I publish, I’m going to Google him to see if I can discern a clear difference between them; I seem to remember a shape or motif one used, but not the other.  Apart from Robert, the only other artists that popped into my mind going round this were El Lissitsky and Malevich – not that similar, but passing resemblances..

Delaunary 2

1914

 

delaunay 1

Rhythm Colour 1939

As my regular reader will know, I am a connoisseur and originator of Fortean-type theories – see, for example, Blackpaint 217, in which I prove that Shakespeare was a reincarnation of Michelangelo.  I cannot be alone in wondering about the cosmic significance of  three great “D”s in modern painting, all on exhibition in London at the same time – Diebenkorn (RA), Dumas and Delaunay (TM).  Actually, it’s four, if you count the De Koonings that are part of the Jenny Savile– selected group at the RA.

Climates, Nuri Bilge Ceylan (2006)

Following on from last week’s “flawed male characters” feature, Ceylan himself appears in this with his wife, playing the sleazest, most self-regarding male lead I can think of in modern cinema; he hangs around hidden in a doorway, waiting for a target woman to come home alone, then lets her spot him – and of course, she lets him in and ends up rolling about underneath him on the carpet as he pulls her clothes off and… cut away.

His wife, a TV producer, leaves him – actually, she sticks her hands over his eyes while riding pillion on his scooter, causing him to crash, so she must have been desperate.  He pursues her to a remote location in a permanent blizzard, waylays her in the company bus, tells her he’s changed – he’s ready to marry her and “give” her kids, so she should pack up her job and report to his hotel for sex forthwith… And, yes, she’s there waiting for him, on the bed (still dressed, but not for long).

I won’t spoil the surprise ending; presumably, Ceylan would argue that the film critiques the sexism of the sophisticated Turkish male – but the women are shown as vamps or victims.  Great cinematography and locations, of course.

 

Down Dog

 

Down Dog.  I think this is my best for ages.

Blackpaint

24.04.15

Blackpaint 471 – Grayson, Grace, Nazis and the Queen

December 1, 2014

Fitzwilliam Permanent Collection

This Cambridge museum is staggeringly ornate inside; the entrance hall is like some gilded cathedral.  Quite a lot of rather mediocre pictures by some great painters, like the Quai d’Orsay – some so-so Titians, an unremarkable Veronese, two really shit Matisses, a bad Degas.  I’m not complaining; it’s interesting to see that the masters can be mediocre too.  And there ARE some beautiful pictures – a great Vuillard interior, a fabulous black paint sketch by Degas, Dutch, French and Spanish still lifes on black ground – butterflies, rotting fruit and lizards (what do they signify?) among the flowers.

Several lovely Camden Town paintings, Harold Gilman, Sickert and Ethel Sands, whose work looked just like the great Gilman to me.

National Portrait Gallery – Grayson Perry

Pottery and tapestry that goes with Perry’s recent TV prog, in which he interviewed a diverse selection of people living in Britain today and produced portraits of them.  There is a big tapestry in which he lists various aspects of the British self-image;  the Modern Family (two men and a child); the Ashford Hijab (below); the Alzheimer’s sufferer and his amazing wife; the Children of God family, and several others.  My favourites are the three love goddesses, that remind me of the Willendorf Venus – but bigger, of course –  and the Cuman figures from the Ukraine that are in Berlin (see next week’s blog).

perry1

 

perry2

The Ashford Hijab

I took the opportunity to go round the collection and discovered a few great pictures with which I was unfamiliar:

grace

WG Grace by Archibald Wortley

Straight off the cigarette card, I think – I love the loose way he’s done the shirt and arms (see Rivers below);

hardy strang

Thomas Hardy, by William Strang

Small, fantastic, Holbein-ish, except for the downward gaze; love the green on red background.

rivers sylvester

David Sylvester by Larry Rivers

Written about this picture before.  The looseness of the background is now a common style; I’m thinking of that portrait of the officer in his dress uniform after a party, at the BP Prize a couple of years ago.  Also, I like the way he has pink soup cascading over his neck and shoulder.

Lore (2012) 

Made in German by Cate Shortland, an Australian, I found this film to be a refreshing take on the Nazi regime – it shows a couple of formidable and chilling old Nazi diehard women, one Lore’s “Omi” (grandmother), the other a peasant woman, lamenting the dead Fuhrer and how the German people had let him down.  Necessary corrective to the attractive face of Nazism presented by Alexandra Maria Lara, who plays Traudl Junge in “Downfall”.

downfall2

Remember Me

Three- part ghost story on BBC1, starring Michael Palin; that beach scene in the opening credits, where the tall, black-shrouded figure appears, is surely inspired by Jonathan Miller’s B&W adaptation of MR James’ “Whistle and I’ll Come to You Lad” – a masterpiece, featuring another Michael -Hordern – and which, for me, ranks with “The Ring” for creepiness, despite its age.

First Love, Last Rites

Still on that theme of finding comparisons, I’ve just finished Ian McEwan’s early short stories (see last blog) and the book that came to my mind was “Tomato Cain” by Nigel Kneale, author of the Quatermass books.  Kneale’s stories lack the explicit sex, of course – it was the 50s – but I thought McEwan’s “Butterflies” in particular was very like Kneale.

Turner Prize

It should have been Tris Vonner -Marshall or James Richards (see Blackpaint a few blogs ago).

 Berlin

Just back from four days of museums and galleries, for which see next blog, but I have to mention Nefertiti in the Neues Museum; all on her own in a darkened chamber, her face is somehow completely modern – I thought maybe behind a desk at an airport.  the beauty  is in the consummate skill of the modelling, the long neck, smooth skin – like a Holbein portrait (see below) it’s more than just brilliant, in that it goes beyond style.

nefertiti2

nefertiti

And Holbein…

holbein gisze

The Merchant George Gisze, Holbein

Different clothes, but I’m sure I saw this bloke on the UBahn on Friday… And to follow Holbein, here’s my latest:

photo (55)

 Water Engine, Blackpaint

01.12.14

 

 

 

 

Blackpaint 233

December 22, 2010

British Museum – Drawings; Picasso – Mehretu

Total surprise, this; free alternative to spending £12 on the Book of the Dead exhibition.  And one of the best exhibitions I’ve seen this year (review of the year to follow after Christmas).

Straightaway, I have to mention Jim Dine – “The Diemaker”.  Beautiful drawing, white shirt and tie barely suggested, slumped seated pose, one hand a grey cloud, heavy shading on face and left side, which looks strangely collapsed in shadow.

RB Kitaj – “Sides”, 1976.  Three depictions of male right side, from about chin to mid thigh, chalks on yellow paper; just stunning life drawings, class of Michelangelo.  Lean, muscular body, great, sweeping curve of lower back into buttocks – fabulous.

Picasso – sketch in red chalk for “Desmoiselles d’Avignon”, an upperbody and head, and separate face, latter recognisable as a desmoiselle, former not like P. at all – heavy overdrawing, more like Rouault, say.

Matisse – “Lady in Taffeta Dress”, charcoal on paper, dress folds suggested with usual economy, fewest lines throughout – but solid.

Bonnard – “Dining Room at Cannet”, coloured drawing, 1940.  Actually a laid table, but done in perspective rather than dropped down, or forward, at this late date.  Chairlegs on right rather dodgy, though.

Anselm Keifer – “Dein goldenes Haar Margarete”, a line from Paul Celan’s Holocaust poem “Todesfuge”.  Ground level cornstalks against a blue sky, the words of the title painted across it.  The blue of the sky a surprising (to me) soft note from this artist.

Guston – Two Guston drawings, the first one of his KKK crowds, milling about in a cave, their button eyes looking somehow startled; the other, “Hooded”, a single head in a non-Klan covering, suggesting torture today, obviously.

David Smith – A drawing very like his “landscape” sculptures, a framework with dangling bits and screwed-on ratchets(?).  They remind me of those Airfix kits with the plane parts stuck on plastic frame for you to twist off.

Dorothy Dehner – Smith’s 1st wife. “The Great Gate of Kiev”, an exploded plan of a wooden structure – but it’s flying!

Kirchner – Three, I think, and interesting to hit his gestural, expressionist style first, as you pass from the little ante room with the permanent collection of early drawings, etchings and mezzotints, showing evidence of sheer, painstaking effort.  Kirchner like a draught of cold, strong wine or a release of breath.

Enough for today – rest of drawings tomorrow.

Michelangelo

Looked at the Epifania cartoon again, in this section – I’m sure that the standing figure on the viewer’s right is a self-portrait.  The broken nose is there and it looks to me like a pumped-up version of the famous St.Bartholomew’s skin self portrait on the Sistine wall – only grinning.

Blackpaint

22.12.10

Blackpaint 138

May 21, 2010

That Robbery in Paris

Staggering that someone could nick five  paintings of such worth in such a simple way – no sawing through roofs, swinging upside-down from wires to avoid photo-electric cells (what was that film called- Topaz? Topkapi? Rififi?); just break in in a mask, ignore the cctv, presumably cut them out of the frames and shove them up your jumper.

Actually, I was there only about five weeks ago and although it’s in a very swish part of Paris, it looks sort of run-down and dishevelled.  Maybe that’s just the graffitti and the skateboarders, though.  An attendant did stop me taking a bottle of water into one of the galleries though, so there was some security.

As to the paintings that were stolen – I don’t remember seeing any of them!  It’s always like that when you go to an exhibition, I find – you go round, peer carefully at everything, take notes even (for your blog, that is) then you “exit through the gift shop”, check the postcards and see loads of interesting stuff that you missed; it was in a corner, twenty punters round it, listening to audio guides, or it was just too small to notice.

As to the paintings, I thought that Braque was interesting – more like a Kandinsky or a Matisse.  the Picasso, as Adrian Searle said on Newsnight, was quite a complicated,  “difficult” one; not one, as Searle said, that would go nicely on the wall because it was brown (actually more a grey-green, but the point was made).  I wonder if he had in mind the Picasso quotation in his own Guardian article (see Blackpaint 137)?

The Searle interview was interesting in another respect, in that he chose to describe the Modigliani as a terrible painting and, I think, Modigliani as an awful painter.  I remember he said the shoulders were all wrong, amongst other defects that went past too quickly to note.  This is a very refreshing development, in my opinion; critics now learning from bloggers – you don’t have to offer a reasoned argument, if you think it’s shit, just say so!  It doesn’t matter that Modigliani’s stuff is in prestigious world art galleries –  although, sadly, no longer in the Paris one – his stuff is crap and so is he, because he can’t do shoulders properly!  as I recall, he’s often quite good at other bits, though.

Actually, art critics have always done this sort of thing, haven’t they?  Ruskin and Whistler, the pot of paint in the face of the public…

Off to Edinburgh tomorrow to watch my sons run the marathon; no doubt, I’ll find time to visit the art galleries, so watch out for next blog on Monday.

Blackpaint

21.05.10

Blackpaint 109

April 13, 2010

Pompidou Centre (cont.)

The main collection at the Pompidou hasn’t changed that much since 2004, when I was last there: there are Matisses and Kandinskys throughout, or so it seems; a great collection of Fauves – Mat himself, Vlaminck, Dufy, Derain,Kees Van Dongen (love that name) painting everything blue and red and orange and green.  There is a line of lovely Laurent sculptures on an outside terrace amongst the tubular scaffolding; there is a room of Brauners and Lams, dominated by a huge Matta, looking from a distance like an Ab Ex and calling to me from a couple of rooms away – what was that unlikely story about Brauner getting blinded in one eye? see below, no pun intended – and the “usual” Legers and Gris(es) and Surrealists dotted throughout.

Highlights: 

  • Picassos.  As always in a room of Picassos, you get the impression that he has contemptuously dashed off a definitive, totally original, brilliantly coloured masterpiece in 30 minutes, then moved on impatiently to knock out another one to go on the opposite wall.  When he is hung with anyone else (except sometimes Matisse), your eye – well, mine anyway – is “sucked” straight to his work.
  • Two Matisses – a woman with a starched white blouse right at the start and a fabulous fiddler sketched in black, who looks about to start playing as you stare at him.
  • A room full of Rouaults (apologies for the accidental alliteration), most based on Les Fleurs du Mal, that are wonderful figure paintings in his black style, but that manage to glow in a way I’ve never noticed with his stuff before.
  • Two excellent de Staels, one with that typical squares-on-scraped-concrete feel, the other with big triangles of light green.
  • A Soulages in variable black with what looks like 5 white chalk lines horizontal across it – and next to it an Ad Reinhardt, a really BLACK painting, entitled “Ultimate Black No6”; it looks as if he is putting Soulages’ half-hearted effort in its place.
  • Burri and Fontana – sacking and slashes respectively.
  • A Pollock in swirling, broad black and white strokes (brush?).
  • Dubuffet; a couple of scraped surfaces with concealed figures and one big Aztec clown picture, as I have come to think of them.
  • Finally, and most memorable, a couple of Bonnards – beautiful golden-browns, fiery oranges and whites, colours that burn and glow, the nude woman leaning against the bath in what seems the most natural and relaxed pose – but of course, if you think about it, totally unnatural!  Fabulous, ravishing pictures.  Why no Taschen book on Bonnard?  The Phaidon is terrible; the colours are dead, especially the browns.   

Brauner

For those who don’t know it, the Brauner story is briefly told in Sarane Alexandrian’s “Surrealist Art”.  In 1938, he was accidentally blinded in the left eye by a bottle thrown during a brawl by Oscar Dominguez; since 1931, he had been painting figures “with horns coming out of their eyes, and others who looked in despair at an eye which had been plucked out….. in 1932, in “Mediterranean landscape”, and in 1935, in “Magic of the seashore”, he had shown himself with his eye pierced by an instrument with the letter D, Dominguez’ initial, on its handle”. (p.113, Surrealist Art, Thames and Hudson 1995).

Trying to keep the blog down to 500 words, so Musee d’Orsay and Museum of Modern Art tomorrow.

After the galleries, sat on the roof cafe with my partner, drinking beer, on a golden evening, looking out over the gargoyles on a nearby church that was possibly Notre Dame, with a single rose in a vase on the table and “Un Homme et une Femme” playing.  All together now: “Naa – Naa…na-na-na-na-Na, na-na-na-na-na-Na…” Two beers cost 12 Euros.

PS – The Shobdon Tympanum (see Blackpaint 17 and 106) depicts “Christ in majesty”, surrounded by whirling angels – so not a mystery woman in striped T shirt after all (Google Shobdon-arches for more).

Blackpaint

13.04.10