Posts Tagged ‘Michael Craig-Martin’

Blackpaint 293

September 8, 2011

Michael Craig-Martin’s Oak Tree

I’ve seen this at the Tate Britain many times, of course, but I read the interview extract on the wall for the first time yesterday – it reminded me of a Peter Cook interview.  The oak tree appears to you and I to be a glass of water, set on a shelf high up the wall.  According to MCM, it became an oak tree when he chose to exhibit it as such.  It is not a symbol or a metaphor – it is an oak tree, currently in the form of a glass of water.  It will cease to be an oak tree, if and when MCM decides that it is no longer one.  He isn’t asked what will happen when he dies; will it remain an oak tree (although appearing to be a glass of water) or will it revert?  What if a careless attendant were to spill it and refill the “glass” with water?  Would he know?

Don McCullin

There is a roomful of B&W photographs by McCullin, at the moment; landscapes, rural and industrial, tramps and drinkers in the East End in 1969, GIs and East German police in 60s Berlin.  The landscapes are almost too beautiful, in the sense of composition – a shot along a water-filled ditch, thorn trees lining it, black against an awesome sky; snow-covered fields under a winter sky, on Hadrian’s Wall – the ditch a bit Bela Tarr.  A woman wheels a pram across the shot, slag heaps and chimneys in the distance, soot or coal dust covering everything; despite the open-air setting and the distance, I found this and the other industrial shots oddly “enclosed”, almost claustrophobic – reminded me of that Baltermans photograph of distraught Russian women, finding the bodies of their murdered men on the Russian steppe.

But the tramp photos are the most remarkable; they are covered with dirt, stunned and staring, almost roasted by the open air and hard living.  Two of the faces have to be seen to be believed; they look Shakespeareian.

Dismembered Bodies

I think the room is called this, or something like it.  At Bilbao Guggenheim this summer, a lot of sculptures – Kiki Smith, Robert Gober – could have fit in here.  There is a video by Bonnie Camplin and Paulina Orlowska that I watched several times through; it was a series of cut-outs of two women, dancing to jumpy music and I became hooked on the bit where the black floor seemed to be sucked up into the bottom of the one on the left.  Other artists – John Slezacker’s cut – ups and a wooden piece by Enrico David that looked like cut – outs of the Beatles with dowelling penises thrusting horizontally out.  Also, something that looked like a tall, roughly-made, cardboard guillotine.

Stuart Brisley

A series of photos of a long ago happening in which Brisley lay on the cement ground in a park and revolved, drawing with chalk as he did so.  Then he repeated the action with white paint, then black paint until his body in the photo resembled an oil-drenched corpse, partly dismembered…   Then he jumped in a lake.

Chelsea MA Show

Striking videos by Adam Frank Walker in the film theatre; the first, called “Flat Screen-Hackney” I think, was filmed during the recent riots.  There were striking close-ups of participants, fronting up to the police, taunting them, chucking rocks, carrying off a flat screen.  Film jerky, episodic, occasionally washed out in a blaze of yellow or red.  If he filmed it himself, he must have been at risk – maybe it was a compilation from TV or internet?  Second was “Everyday fucking art” (or maybe “Accidental art”); a snarling, smoking man yelling out of the screen in a Notts or Derbyshire accent, in answer to unprovoking questions from the unseen filmmaker,  Finally, another angry man, apparently a flatmate, threatening to “rip your fucking head off if you do that with the camera again” – or similar words.  I went to Walker’s website to read up on him but I couldn’t understand most of it.

Not nice, but effective – like rappers snarling and poking fingers out of a TV screen at you. The films make you feel first uncomfortable then angry, so that you want to punch back.  Any still from any of the films would be powerful; I thought they linked up with the McCullin tramp photos, especially the everyday artist.

 

Blackpaint

8.09.11

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Blackpaint 171

July 24, 2010

Michelangelo

His St. Matthew statue, emerging from the marble, brandishing a bible in left hand and with a curious square structure in chest region, looks like some sculpture from the 1910’s or 20’s – Gill maybe, but rougher of course; Epstein? Not really, but that era.  Later, I’ll be looking at something Michaael Craig-Martin said about drawing, how it can bridge the ages whereas sculpture and painting can’t; I think this is an exception.  It was  made as part  of the grandiose Julius Tomb project, which led to furious rows between Julius II and Michelangelo, and a flight from Rome to Florence by M.

Drawing

My moaning in Bp.170 about the Adrian Searle article was caused by the fact that articles exalting the process of drawing often go on to use it as an opportunity to attack Abstract Expressionism (carefully excluding de Kooning and a few others) on the grounds that they have to do abstracts because they can’t draw.  William Boyd, I think, was the last one I read putting this view forward.  Robert Hughes, in his diatribes against Basquiat and Schnabel, dismissed a later generation of artists on these lines, but would not include the earlier Ab Exes, whose integrity and importance are manifest.

The tone of this precious stuff about the supremacy of drawing can at times reach amusing levels – try the correspondence between John Berger and Leon Kossoff in the Penguin Book of Art Writing;   no doubt, they are both most sincere in their mutual praise, but even so, it’s a bit much…

Michael Craig-Martin

What he said was that drawings of great artists from  all ages can “speak directly to each other” in a way that paintings and sculpture cannot.  “The drawings of Rembrandt can speak directly to the work of Beckmann or Guston, …Leonardo to Newman or Andre, Michelangelo to Duchamp…”; paintings are more rooted in historical values, have a “cultural as well as  a physical density” that it is hard to transcend.

I suppose this boils down to “Some drawings look as if they could have been done yesterday or a thousand years ago, because techniques of shading etc. haven’t changed that much”.  That sounds fair enough, but the rest of the assertions need clarification, at least;  HOW exactly do Leonardo’s drawings speak directly to Newman or Andre?  We’ll never know, because this is art writing.

Barnett Newman

Since I’ve mentioned him, I have to refer to his appearance on “Painters Painting” DVD I blogged about in 170.  Drink and smoke in  hand (like all the rest), a bit tearful, looking like  anything but an  American Ab Ex in his tight suit and thick  moustache.  In the Penguin art book, he makes the wonderful, wild assertion that the creative, artistic  urge came before anything else for primitive man.  The whole article is a statement of pride really in his “calling”, although I’m not sure he would have called it  that.  Anyway, after reading that, I saw  his green zip painting in the DVD – anything you say is right, Mr. Newman.

Tom McCarthy

While we are on assertions, lovely one in the Guardian Review today from the above; in Blake’s Tyger, Tyger the beast represents the Industrial Revolution.  Blackpaint says: No, it doesn’t.  I thought the stuff on Finnegans Wake was interesting, though, containing as  it did assertions with which I agree.

Work in progress, by Blackpaint

22.07.10