Posts Tagged ‘Melville’

Blackpaint 479 – Birdman, Auerbach and Cat Strangling

January 24, 2015

Birdman

I think this is the best American film I have seen for years. I was about to say because the others are all superhero crap – but then so is this, in a way;  not crap, but superhero.  Michael Keaton is an ageing ex-superhero, Birdman, who is directing and leading in a Broadway version of a Ray Carver story, “What we talk about when we talk about love”.  The preview stage has been reached and Keaton is struggling with self-doubt and contempt, an egomaniac co-star (Edward Norton, magnificent), a disaffected daughter recently in “rehab” (Emma Stone, also brilliant, below) …. and so on, can’t bother with all this exposition.

Anyway, the dialogue crackles, as does the jazz drum accompaniment, the story is absorbing and funny, sentimentality is kept in check (though not absent) and the acting is great, as are the long takes following the actors’ tracks backstage and out of the theatre in one memorable scene.

I can’t resist the urge to spot resemblances that has often (always?) been a feature of this blog;  I glimpsed Gene Hackman in Keaton, Helen Mirren in Naomi Watts, Matthew McConnaughey in Edward Norton, Richard Dreyfuss in Zach Galifianakis – and in the huge-eyed Emma Stone, Lucian Freud’s painting of Kitty Garman strangling the kitten, below.  Well, just the eyes really – and Kitty is just holding the kitty….

 

emma stone

Girl with a Kitten 1947 by Lucian Freud 1922-2011

 

London Art Fair, Islington Business Centre

Unfortunately, this is only on for another day, but I daresay that some of the paintings below will still be unsold, if you want to buy them (although the first four are not for sale, being part of the Chichester Pallant House Gallery’s exhibition-within-the exhibition, so to speak).

 

auerbach gerda boehm

 Frank Auerbach, Reclining Head of Gerda Boehm – the best painting in the building, a more intense blue than appears here

 

sickert jack ashore

 

Walter Sickert, Jack Ashore – you can see Jack in the background, but he’s not the main focus really – look at her left thigh; it’s made up entirely of loose dabs and strokes of white.  I’m not sure why this is good, but it is.

artfair lanyon

 Peter Lanyon – didn’t get the title;

 

artfair denny

 

Robyn Denny – again, no title, and I’m not sure that this is the right way up.  It’s great though, from when he was doing AbEx stuff before going geometric and minimal.

The following were from various galleries showing at the fair:

 

artfair vaughan2

 

 Keith Vaughan

 

 

artfair vaughan1

 Keith Vaughan again – Two Figures

artfair mellis

Margaret Mellis – love that red

 

artfair cadell

 

 

Cadell – Ben More and Mull

artfair fergusson

 

Fergusson – Still Life with Fruit – I love these Scottish Colourists; there’s also a Melville, the Glasgow Boy, in the same display.

artfair gear

 

William Gear – Two landscapes, 1947 and 1948 

artfair kinley

 

Peter Kinley, Figure on a Bed, 1975

…and, as usual, several great Roger Hiltons, Allan Daveys, Gaudier-Brjeska figure drawings, Prunella Clough, John Golding – great stuff.

Conflict Time Photography, Tate Modern

Revisited this (see previous blog) and found a couple of things I missed last time:

  • The collection of photos of Northern Ireland – irritatingly, these go up the wall too high to see them all properly (they are small), but there are some interesting ones low down – a couple of men or boys, tied up and covered with whitewash (?) wearing placards; one proclaims him to be a drug dealer to “underage children”).  Also, the huge photo of a riot which seems to involve throwing of milk cartons – what does the big red circle indicate?
  • The series of photographs of relics of Hiroshima.  The lunchbox of a schoolgirl, contents carbonised; no sign of the girl.  The uniform tunic, discovered in branches of a tree, of a schoolboy; no trace of boy.  Single lens of eyeglass of a housewife; piece of skull found some weeks later.
  • The odd, but fascinating jumble of photos and memorabilia contained in the little sub-exhibition of “the Archive of Modern Conflict”.

 

Still haven’t done any proper painting for a while, so some life drawings to fill the gap.

life drawing 1

life drawing 3

life drawing 4

life drawing 2

Life Drawings

Blackpaint

24.01.15 

 

 

 

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Blackpaint 266

April 11, 2011

Susan Hiller

Revisited this exhibition, and found several whole rooms I missed the first time.  In one, a series of different films were playing, each showing a young girl – I think they were all girls – displaying psycho-kinetic powers; moving things until they fell off tables, causing things to burst into flames (think I recognised Drew Barrymore in “Firestarter”).  Then,  a burst of what the catalogue calls white noise and everything changes place.

The fact that they were all girls or young women is interesting; I suppose Stephen King appropriated the idea with Carrie and then Firestarter.  The first example I remember, however, was a short story about a boy with such powers, who destroyed or “rearranged” things horribly when he heard his family or neighbours complaining – so they had to spend all their time saying how good everything was.  Can’t remember the author – Ray Bradbury maybe, or Richard Matheson.

The next room was another video display, this time of characters from Punch and Judy shows, blown up and slightly blurred, to the soundtrack of “Night of the Hunter” – the bit in which Robert Mitchum delivers a sermon based on the “love” and “hate” tattoos on his fingers.

Finally, there was a video of tourists and shoppe rs passing through a number of Juden Strasses in Germany or Austria.  The bright, chilly blue skies, shops, strolling tourists, backpackers.. generally, everyday, banal scenes make a powerful comment on the vanished history implied in the street names.

So, some memorable images – but I still found, on looking at the catalogue, that I’d missed most of it!  Get this more and more, the feeling that I’d been to a different exhibition to the one described.

Emil Kusturica, Underground

Exhausting, full-tilt charge through from WW2 through to the civil war(s) and the break-up of Yugoslavia – comic, surreal, tragic by turns and the source, perhaps, of that Balkan Brass/turbo-folk style that you hear all over the place, from the Django festival at Samois to that manic gypsy band  on “Later”, to the trumpet-based buskers by the Millennium Bridge.  At the end, all the dead come alive again underwater, climb out onto Yugoslavia island and float off together into memory.

Four great under (fresh)water sequences – L’Atalante of course, Underground, Atonement (the fountain and Balham underground station) and Oh Brother Where Art Thou? (the flooding of the valley).  Saltwater – Jaws of course, Tabu, Gallipoli …

Laura Cumming’s Watercolour top ten

In the Observer;  The Turner, Palmer, Melville and Blake all good choices.  Ravilious boring – a greenhouse? – Gwen John OK.  Cumming’s number one was the Hockney self-portrait; not particularly watercolour, could have been oil or pastel, but a great SP – that intense stare that you get when you try to do a likeness of yourself.. like those descriptions of murderers – “But what I remember most, Officer, was his staring eyes”…

Michelangelo

At the time of his death, Michelangelo was still working on the Rondanini Pieta, now in Milan.  In it, the body of Christ is supported by the Virgin Mary – but it looks, in fact, as if she is being carried on the dead Christ’s shoulders.  In addition, Christ has a free-floating right arm, done in an earlier phase (the sculpture was begun in 1552 or 3), indicating a much bigger Christ figure.  It looks strangely modern, like a Rodin perhaps, and with a lovely, curving, downward sweep – echoing at the end the apparent modernity of Matthew, done in 1506.

Below, my cover for Greg Woods’ new collection, “An Ordinary Dog”, to be published by Carcanet Books this coming June.

New Rose

Blackpaint

11,04.11

Blackpaint 252

February 17, 2011

Vincent’s Sunflowers

As I said a blog or two ago, I could never warm to the famous Sunflowers; now, “research shows” (Guardian, Tuesday) that sunlight turns 19th century yellow chrome paint brown – but “only if the yellow paint had been mixed with white pigments based on sulphates.”

This maybe explains the difference between these sunflowers and the blazing, yellow/orange entities that Van Gogh painted in Aug – Sept 1887.  Something I didn’t know about Van Gogh was how much he was influenced by Japanese art and culture – witness the 15 or so paintings of orchards and trees in blossom he knocked out in Arles in April 1888.

As for industry – the Taschen book shows 25 pictures for July 1890; not bad going, considering he shot himself on the 27th.

Turner

I was interested to discover that Turner used scraping away as a Technique in some paintings, notably the bottom left foreground in “Rocky Bay with Figures”, c.1830 and the crown of “Death on a Pale Horse”, c. 1825 – 30 (see William Gaunt’s Phaidon book).  This struck me as pretty advanced for the time, but my knowledgeable partner sniffed at my ignorance and said it was common.

I’m not convinced – Turner seems so way ahead of everyone else.  “Ship on Fire” and “Boats at Sea”, for example; the latter defines minimalism.  I suppose they are every bit as “abstracted” as that Melville I go on about –  and done decades earlier.

Watercolour Exhibition at Tate Britain

Which brings me to this show, which opened to the public yesterday, and which I attended with two companions and several hundred  grey retirees, mostly teachers, I would guess.  Within minutes, my friend had pronounced “Wrotham” incorrectly when reading a label – he was promptly and tartly corrected by the woman next to him; “It’s pronounced ROOT-HAM, actually. ”  She moved on with a tight little smile, leaving us suitably corrected and chastened.

Anyway – loads of brownish landscapes, as you would expect – I liked the Indian powder works on the riverbank – jewel-like miniatures, beautiful botanical drawings in eye-destroying detail, bright little Books of Hours.

Best thing is if I just list my highlights:

John Piper, Nantfranccon (I think); Layered rock strata, like piled bodies.

Edward Burra, a valley in Northumberland with a great, green, lowering hill overlooking it.

Ravilious’ lovely White Horse, with the slanting lines (rain?).

Girton’s Bamburgh Castle, one of David Dimbleby’s choices in his series on British art and landscape.  Stunning picture – doesn’t look much like Bamburgh Castle now, though.

Blake, Jane Shore doing penance – proof that Blake could do really ordinary, boring pictures too.

Samuel Palmer, “Dream in the Appenines”; hints of Raspberry Ripple in the sunset; Benjamin West, American Sublime and all that – bloody awful painting.

Arthur Melville, “Blue Night, Venice” – and what a blue it is; little bit green, but translucent, against the tower.  Comes close to Turner’s Venice sketches.  Why is he not better known?

Turner – the two already mentioned above, and several small sundown sketches, including “The Scarlet Sunset”, with the yellow wiggle on the water surface; it’s only the size of a postcard!

There’s a war room:

William Simpson – a butterfly rests on a cannonball, a lizard scuttles past, or maybe holds a frozen pose for an hour or two, in the aftermath of battle.  It’s “All Quiet on the Western Front” – but from an earlier war.

Mutilated faces from WWI and a French hussar dying, with his intestines exposed by a sabre cut at Waterloo.

A really strange Burra – “Soldiers at Rye” – in which the soldiers, with their bulging muscles, theatrical stances and inexplicable pointy-nosed masks, look like a troupe of travelling players from the 17th century.

The lovely little Samuel Palmer with the horizontal crescent moon, to offset the Appenine monstrosity; maybe he needed the small format…

Two David Jones, white and grey, that from a distance, bear a faint resemblance to Dubuffet’s scraped – away pictures.

Lucia Nogueira, her blots and stains with intermingling colours, so simple but memorable.

The Patrick Heron, of course; not as intense as the oils, though.

Roger Hilton – two of the child-like pictures, done in posters I think, from his bed-ridden period.  One with the dog, strangely affecting.

Peter Lanyon, fabulous of course, like a skate egg case on its side, and colours like Alfred Wallis.

Left the best to last – huge, on the end wall, is Sandra Blow’s “Vivace” with it’s glorious, vulvic sweeps of red acrylic, chucked from a bucket onto an off-white canvas.  Just what this constipated exhibition of little, detailed exquisiteness needs.  For some reason, Adrian Searle chose to be dismissive of this celebratory work in his Guardian review; he called it “silly”.  Wrong!  Blow’s painting is like a pint of cold Guinness with a creamy, perfect head, looking up at you from a bar counter – after a long drought, passed in the company of prissy relatives.

One last thing; £14.00, or £12.00 for concessions, is a lot for an exhibition put together substantially from Tate’s own resources.  A tenner, maybe….

This Flight Tonight (to Joni Mitchell)

Blackpaint

17.02.11

Blackpaint 246

January 27, 2011

Gabriel Orozco and Damien Hirst

Orozco exhibiting at the Tate Modern, reviewed in the Guardian the other day, by Adrian Searle.  Referring to Orozco’s skull, drawn all over with a chessboard pattern, Searle says: “It is a thousand times better than that glittery, diamond-crusted skull of Damien Hirst’s.”

He doesn’t say why, though.  Maybe he thinks there is something repugnant about the conspicuous money (waste) involved, the spurious “value” of the Hirst piece – that’s one of the points that Hirst’s skull makes, surely.  The art market has to do with vulgarity, conspicuous consumption, bad bad taste and sensation.  Also, it reminds you that you can’t take it with you, however much you’ve got – and you’ve got to go.  True, these are well-worn observations and he’s made £50 million – or was it $? – by re-stating them; but he can’t take it with him and he’s got to go…

I suppose his exhibit in Modern British Sculptors (Blackpaint 245) says more or less the same thing; lovely juicy steaks, nice bottle of wine, summer al fresco dining, all rotting away with a smelly, disgusting carpet of dead flies;  says it better, probably.

What about the Orozco?  Searle says it is to do with “mapping the cranium, like a mind meeting its container”; that sounds plausible to me and it certainly looks great and is apparently beautifully executed.  Perhaps that’s enough – it’s enough for me, anyway.  Others  may feel the need to “read” the work…

Epstein 

Reading the teacher’s notes to the Royal Academy exhibition, I was intrigued to find that Epstein began his massively proportioned “Adam” by sculpting the genitalia.  So, you visit his studio  a few days or maybe a week in, and he says, “I haven’t done much so far, just this – what do you think?”

Caro

A  simple, obvious thing, again from the notes, was that with Caro’s sculpture, the plinth was abandoned and it became normal for sculptures to rest on the floor – when not hanging or occupying a vitrine, of course…

Charles Sargeant Jagger

How closely his reliefs for the war memorials resemble the Assyrian sieges and lion hunts; not only because they are also reliefs, but in the angularity, the musculature, the sharpness of the relief.

Carl Andre

Final point from notes on Andre’s famous bricks, or “Equivalent VIII”, to give proper name.  The notes quote the Daily Mirror’s headline from 1976, commenting on the Tate purchase of the bricks in 1972: “What a Load of Rubbish!” and later: “the gallery didn’t even get  the original pile of bricks.”  So it would have been OK if they’d got the originals, then…

Turner

I don’t know why, but I haven’t paid enough attention to this painter before -many of  his later pictures  are just staggering and I have a feeling that he should be the most important and  influential English painter ever; I’m not sure why he’s not.  Maybe he was too far ahead of his time to influence others and they just turned away  from him and carried on doing the more acceptable stuff.  “The Burning of the Houses of Lords and Commons, October 16th 1834” (the one in Cleveland, Ohio); doesn’t need a title, looks just as good on  its side, judging by the Phaidon book.  Or the Petworth interiors; look like Roman murals at Pompeii.  Or “The Ship on Fire” watercolour – level of abstraction comparable to Melville’s “Moulin Rouge” (see Blackpaint 139 and 146).  

These paintings are still too much for some people (Blackpaint 195). 

Listening to Blind Lemon Jefferson, Matchbox Blues:

“Now when the sun goes down, she crochets all the time;

Sun  goes down, crochets all the time;

Babe, if you don’t quit crocheting,

You gonna lose your mind.”

Blackpaint

27.01.11

 

Blackpaint 146

June 4, 2010

Altdorfer/Elsheimer

Unfortunate names, these, as will become clear:  I’ve been doing a Tanning/Carrington with them (see Blackpaint 121, 122) and mixing them up.  Albrecht Altdorfer is the one who did the Battle of Issus – Alexander the Great a tiny figure on a white horse, in the middle of hordes of  soldiers – and Adam Elsheimer, the one who did the stoning of St. Stephen – the one in the NG of Scotland at Edinburgh, in which the kneeling Stephen very slightly resembles a cartoon character, Tintin perhaps.  My partner points out the more important artistic feature of the triangular structure formed partly by the ray of light from the angel.

Anyway, I discover from Wikipedia that they are about 100 years apart – Altdorfer 1480-1538, Regensburg and Elsheimer 1578-1610 (only 32), born Frankfurt but lived and worked in Rome.  Altdorfer apparently did the first “pure” European landscape in oils, Landscape with Footbridge, in 1518 – 20 (see Blackpaint 132, 133).  he also did an astonishing Birth of the Virgin, in which a posy of flying babies, cherubs, whatever, circle  in the air, hand in hand with angels, above said mother and baby.

I was surprised, too, to read in “Art of the 20th Century” (Taschen) that Altdorfer has been cited as a forerunner of  gestural painting, along with Turner, Kandinsky et al.  I can only think it’s because of his expressionistic skies and clouds and his willingness to ignore perspective and distort human figures – his figures tend to be extremely elongated, for instance.  On both these grounds, however, you would have to include El Greco too, surely.

The fact that Altdorfer, as a member of Regensburg town council, was implicated in the expulsion of the Regensburg Jews links him to another German, or rather Austrian, painter of the 20th century, albeit an amateur, or “failed” one. 

Abstraction

To return to painting, I think, in any examination of gesturalism or abstraction in European art you would have to include Arthur Melville’s little picture of 1889 (Blackpaint 139) – are there earlier examples of “pure” abstraction in British painting, or European painting, for that matter?  please comment, if you know. 

Surfaces

I love built-up surfaces,  done with paint, glue, sand, cement, sacking, slabs of stuff slatched down with a palette knife or just the hand and then scraped and  scratched – Fautrier, Dubuffet, Tapies, Burri, Sandra Blow, Jaap Wagemaker and, I  suppose, Asger Jorn too, as in “Proud, Timid One”.

Listening to Brooks and Dunn;

“I did my best, but her west was wilder than mine”.

Blackpaint

04.06.10