Posts Tagged ‘Michelangelo’

Blackpaint 640 – Bill Viola, Michelangelo, Ken Kiff and Fellini – the sublime and…

March 5, 2019

Bill Viola and Michelangelo, RA

No photos allowed, so can only comment on this.  The Michelangelo drawings, Archers Shooting at a Herm, notably, are as wonderful as one might expect and would constitute a great exhibition alone (as I think several have, a few years back at the Courtauld – I’m sure Tityas was there and Phaeton). It seems to me an enormous stroke of hubris to display them with Viola’s works, as if there were something fundamental that they had in common.  As it is, it strikes me as two separate exhibitions in one space.

As for Viola’s videos and installations, there’s no doubt that they are striking – who wouldn’t pause and watch transfixed as a baby emerges from the mother, who squats facing the camera?  I’ve been there (childbirth) three times, but I was always at the other end so the view was obscured.   At the other end of this triptych, Viola’s mother is dying – one might think filming to be an intrusion at such a time, but I suppose it’s easier than getting a stranger or his/her family to consent…  Can’t remember what’s in between; life, presumably.

My favourite of the Viola’s is the one with the diving figure that never arrives at the surface of the pool.  Reflected in the water can be seen the upside down images of poolside people walking – but they are not there.  The most annoying film is that of the two old people examining their naked. scrawny bodies with pencil torches – saw this in Bilbao a while ago and it annoyed me there too.

Here’s a Viola from Bilbao – not in this exhibition, but it will give you an idea…

 

Ken Kiff, Sainsbury Centre, UEA Norwich, until 23rd April 2019

This is without question the strangest exhibition I’ve seen for a very long time.  Kiff, who died in 2001, started a sequence of paintings in 1971 that eventually ran to around two hundred.  He called it – The Sequence.  The catalogue refers to Bosch, Klee, Chagall and Samuel Palmer as possible influences, or “fellow travellers” at least, and the Jungian influences are hard to miss; or so the book tells me.  Ovid, Yeats and Rilke also get a mention.  He was in psychoanalysis from 1959 onwards and this also informs the work, to say the least.

No title given in book

 

Love and shadow – sorry about the reflection; she’s holding his leg, by the way, not a stick

 

Crouching Man (1)

 

Dignified man in a respectable London suburb, passed by a girl

Talking with a psychoanalyst; night sky – the analyst is the black seated figure; the pointing finger is mine

The poet; Mayakovsky – For what its worth, Kiff is wrong – Mayakovsky shot himself in the chest, not the head (photograph in David King’s brilliant book, “Red Star over Russia”).

 

(Woman with) protruding tongue – reflection again

The works are all small (the largest is 113×76 cm) and are in acrylic on paper, gummed to board.  The book claims him as, for a time, a very influential figure in British art.  I can’t see any obvious evidence of his influence, however; he seems a complete one-off to me.

City of Women (Fellini, 1980)

Watched the DVD of this fevered and feverish film, starring Anna Prucnal and “Fellini’s favourite alter ego”, Marcello Mastroianni as Snaporaz,  and was deeply moved.  In the age of #MeToo, it seems to me that Fellini’s film still has much of relevance to tell us.

Next time, Don McCullin, Franz West and Dorothea Tanning.

 

Free Radicals

Blackpaint

05 March  19

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Blackpaint 587 – What would you do if I sang out of tune? Estorick, V and A, Whitechapel…

February 20, 2017

War in the Sunshine, The British in Italy 1917 – 1918, Estorick Collection

Several nice exhibitions in the Estorick at the moment:  photographs of British soldiers in the Italian theatre are accompanied by the paintings and drawings of Sydney Carline, a pilot and painter who did the aerial combat shown below.  He survived the war, only to die of illness during his first exhibition in 1929.

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There is a permanent collection, mostly of Italian Futurists and Surrealists, Boccione (below), Severini, Carra, de Chirico and others: look out for three great charcoal portraits by Boccione, which remind one somewhat of Auerbach’s early charcoals, writ light perhaps.

Boccioni, Umberto; Modern Idol; Estorick Collection, London; http://www.artuk.org/artworks/modern-idol-132962

Finally, there is a roomful of drawings by Giorgio Morandi.  No prize for guessing the subject matter.  But there are bottles too and a couple of trees, I think.

 

Edward Paolozzi, Whitechapel Gallery

Paolozzi was definitely hyperactive; my mental picture is of him leaping from one mode of expression to another, bit of sculpture, poster, design a dress, print, collage, make a film…  Big, strong, scattering fag ash – did he smoke?  Must have, they all did then – producing furiously.  Then again, everything is finished so beautifully and is often so detailed that this impression is probably wrong; there’s nothing slapdash about his work.  And although you can see glimpses of other artists, it’s quite original.  A few examples below:

 

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Touch of David Smith about these, maybe?

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I’m pretty sure this collage was 1950, pre-dating the obvious Richard Hamilton piece by ……

 

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Here’s three of his pre – psychedelia prints.

 

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A later poster.  It occurs to me that he resembles Rauschenberg and Hamilton as an ideas man, as well as maybe Fernand Leger in his visual style and workmanlike demeanour.  Maybe also Sonia Delaunay – the dresses and plates.  I’ve omitted his well-known, boxy, thin metal sculptures with crusts of embedded cogwheels and other bits and pieces; the Frinck-like heads; collages of comics and magazines; surrealistic, Monty Python-ish films…

This is a timely resurrection of an artist who seemed, to me at least, to be somewhat overlooked.  An explosive, exhausting artist.

You Say You Want a Revolution, the Victoria and Albert Museum

janis

It’s a pure nostalgia wallow, for the throng of  white haired ex-hippies – can this lot REALLY have worn loons and long hair and smoked dope and dropped acid and capered like idiots in the mud at Bath and the Isle of White?  No, of course not – it was just me.  the only cry to be heard, over and over again, unnaturally loud over the soundtrack playing into their earphones, was: “Look!  I used to have that one – and I’ve still got all three of those!”  Vinyl albums in the racks…  Biba, Granny Takes a Trip, Blow-Up, Stones, Pepper, Jethro Tull, CSNand Y, Joni, Janice, Jimi, Leary, Stokely, Huey, Eldridge, Angela – there’s Charlie! –  Vietnam, Kent State, Grosvenor Square –  some other stuff about space and Expo and then back to the real thing – a series of outtakes from Woodstock, mashed together to give 15 or 20 minutes.  Great Grace Slick and Airplane; oh no, Joan Baez – but thank God, saved by Joe Cocker; not enough Janice; Jimi’s “Star Spangled Banner”; Country Joe, “What does that spell?”; The Who, sounding rather lethargic to me – Live at the IOW is much better; the bloke who cleans the toilets and has one son in the crowd and another in Vietnam;  Arlo, completely out of his head..  I didn’t enjoy it at all.  Who’s that old git think he’s looking at?  Shit, it’s me, in the mirror glass…

The Cast Room, Victoria and Albert

After, walking through the cast room, we came upon this fabulous Michelangelo, which I’m sure I’ve never seen before:

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Another great back to add to my collection, with Kitaj, Ginger etc.

 

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And this, in one of the Medieval rooms: Agostino di Duccio, I think.  It’s got a sort of Bosch feel to it, somehow.

Soutine

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I love Soutine.  Everything’s a bit (or a lot) bent in his pictures, especially out on the fields, where people sometimes walk on their sides like in Sokurov’s “Mother and Son”.

A Bigger Splash, (Luca Guadagnino, 2015) DVD

Starring Swinton, Fiennes, Schoenaerts and Dakota Johnson, this is the most ludicrous film I have ever seen.   We turned it off in the Fiennes/Swinton kareoke scene, but having bought the DVD, I watched the rest after my partner went to bed.  It improved, because Schoenaerts finally drowned Fiennes in the swimming pool, which he should have done much sooner.  I was astonished to see it described somewhere as a comedy-drama and more so at the quote from Monocle, on the case: “A dazzling, sun-soaked masterpiece”.

Two life drawings to finish:  one ballerina,  doing three poses in each drawing.

ballerina1

3-ballerinas

Yes, I know it looks like she’s kicking her mate…

Next time, Hockney and Tillmans at the Tates, and Picasso at Barsa, which I didn’t get round to, this time.

Blackpaint

20/02/17

Blackpaint 530 – The Angels, the Superhighway and the Deer Hunter

January 31, 2016

London Art Fair, the Angel Islington

Finished last week, I’m afraid;  a great little “exhibition-within-the-exhibition” from the Jerwood Gallery in Hastings; my favourite was the “Winter Landscape” by Barns-Graham – tiny but good.

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Wilhelmina Barns-Graham

Other highlights below:

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Dorothy Mead 

A Bomberg disciple – but these are every bit as good as DB, in my view.

 

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Keith Vaughan

Very unusual Vaughan – touch of Bacon in the middle, possibly?

 

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Alan Davie

There were dozens of Davies (and Roger Hiltons and quite a few Hitchens); high quality ratio though, with his trademark symbols, lovely blues and yellows and rough surfaces.

Electronic Superhighway, Whitechapel Gallery

Private view of this on Thursday night; the usual roar and surge of the crowd to get to the free drinks before 7.00pm, after which time you have to pay.

The term was coined by Nam June Paik, whose exhibit was one of those – maybe the first one of those –  batteries of TVs, each showing a recurring series of visually explosive images too fast for you to grasp more than one at a time, with an accompaniment of cacophonous sound.  The theme of the exhibition is the effect of computers and the internet on art.  The theme was more evident in some pieces than others…

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Deathoknocko, Albert Oehlen

Combination of computerised inkjet and hand painting.

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Peter Sedgley

Light projection from 1970.

 

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Celia Hempton

These are screen-size paintings of images from the internet – some – ahem! – rather controversial, perhaps…

 

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Vera Molnar

Several printout works from 60s and 70s.

Rabelais and Joyce

As I get further into “Gargantua and Pantagruel”, the more I am struck by the similarities to “Finnegans Wake”.  The long list of books in the library of St. Victor with their ridiculous titles is only one small step back from Joyce, as are the encounters with the Limousin who speaks gibberish and Panurge,  who talks sense – but in a variety of languages, including Hebrew and Basque(!) that his interlocutors can’t understand.

I got quite excited about this “discovery”, wondering if there was a thesis knocking about on the subject in some European or US university – then I read the excellent translator’s introduction by JM Cohen.  There it all was, similarities of Rabelais and Joyce, written in 1954…..

However, I feel that there are sufficient grounds to advance another of my reincarnation propositions here (see previous Blackpaints, which prove that Shakespeare was the reincarnation of Michelangelo).  Both Rabelais (or Alcofribas Nasir, as he called himself – work it out) and Joyce did long lists; both spoke and used a variety of languages, some rather obscure, in their works; and both wrote passages – in Joyce’s case, hundreds of pages – of “nonsense”.  Case proven.

The Deer Hunter

I had one of those cinematic moments last night, when you’re in a noisy public place and suddenly everything goes sort of silent, or merges into an unspecific background drone and things go slow motion.  Could well be wrong, but I think it was “The Deer Hunter” – wedding scene maybe, Meryl Streep dancing and laughing – it’s a cliche, of course, probably used in loads of films by now.

Anyway, I was sitting in a packed and roaring Tooting pub, third pint of London Stout before me, celebrating my eldest son’s birthday and engagement.  I looked at the bar and there they were, the three brothers and their girlfriends, laughing and shouting to each other above the noise, eyes shining – and the Deer Hunter moment clocked in, inside my head, and lasted probably only a couple of seconds.  Then I was aware of it and it went.  First, I was happy and proud; then I had a moment of near dread; everything changes, it will never be like this again…

So those effects are cliches, melodramatic and worn out; but very effective, nonetheless.

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Exterminating Angel (work in prog)

Blackpaint

31/01/16

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 445 – Ashmolean again, and Joanna Hogg’s Exhibition

May 8, 2014

Ashmolean Permanent Collection

As promised, a selection from the above:

di lorenzo

di Lorenzo – “St Nicholas of Bari banishing a storm”

Check out the mermaid in that pea green sea – and the C shaped boat.

uccello ashmolean

Ucello – “The Hunt in the Forest”

Cartoon – like, reds on dark green; flying hounds – like a Russian folk tale illustration.

michelangelo ashmolean

Michelangelo (possibly) – “Holy Family with John the Baptist”

The bloke on the left looks like an M, but not sure about the others…

master of bielefeld altar

Master of the Bielefeld Altar – “Christ Before Pilate”

Strange, Bosch-like figures…

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Daisy Linda Ward – “Still Life with Matchbox” (or similar title)

This beautiful little assemblage on a pristine tablecloth is the exception in a roomful of full-blown blooms, fruit and lobsters, overwhelmingly Dutch, on black “varnished” backgrounds.  They like beer in steins, crabs and lobsters, flies and crickets and butterflies, lemons with peel hanging in ribbons, shrimps, areas of rot on fruit..  there’s that bundle of asparagus, by Coote, that was on the TV prog on still lifes…

rembrandt ashmolean

 Rembrandt, of course – portrait of Catrina Hoogsaet

Nearly missed this one; it’s huge, but behind the stairs as you come into the room.  Also, a fantastic Manet, a woman in white on a balcony, I think she’s Berthe Morisot.  It looks unfinished and all the better for it, in a way.

martineau ashmolean

Martineau – “A Poor Actress’s Christmas Dinner”

She’s staring across the bedclothes at a Christmas pud.  Lovely drawing, in that highlighted, half-completed style.

inchbold

Inchbold – “Study in March”

A piercing, cold, blue sky; an almost photo -realist, Victorian painting.  Reminds me of Glasgow Boys.

sickert ashmolean

Walter Sickert – “Gaiete Montparnasse”

A theatre balcony from below right; unusual angle – maybe Degas or Toulouse Lautrec might have done similar? Some other great Sickerts; a rough-ish “Ennui” and “Pierrots”, both second versions of the ones at the Tate Britain, and a “Self-Portrait with Bust of Tom Sayers”, another good painting.

Also a balustrade by Singer Sargent, a cockatoo by William Nicholson, Samuel Palmer meadows, Boudin beaches and great Dutch interiors with pipes and armour.  There’s loads more, so go and see it.

Exhibition, Joanna Hogg (ICA)

hogg exhibition

As I said in last blog, this film is claustrophobic compared to “Unrelated” and “Archipelago”;  it’s just the two characters, artists, in their Bauhaus-y, but rather tacky and ramshackle private house, “somewhere near South Ken”, I read – somewhere.  The sliding doors rumble, the lift is rackety, the boiler needs attention; they work in different sections of the house and communicate on intercom.  Outside, emergency sirens wail, people shout and argue, cars with thumping sound systems roar past, female Eastern European voices issue instructions repeatedly and stridently into mobile phones…

I mentioned the several instances of female masturbation, undertaken (or attempted) lying back on a stool, then in bed, using sheer materials, oil massaged into breasts, high heels worn in bed – sometimes I was unclear at first whether Viv Albertine’s characters WAS masturbating – maybe she was practising a piece of conceptual art… she binds herself with tape for some pieces.

There are great shots of the spiral staircase (reminded me of those Soviet buildings photographed by Richard Pare – see previous Blackpaint) and the interior and balconies of the building, especially reflection shots, through and on top of the venetian blinds, “crazing” on glass – colours are a sort of dark but garish, livid German 80’s Expressionist, Kippenburger, say.

The film has been compared to Haneke’s “Hidden”, but it has no narrative thrust like Haneke’s; there is a suggestion that Something Bad has happened; Gillick occasionally appears to have depressive fits or fugues; once, I thought Albertine was agorophobic, then realised she’d been out several times… maybe she’d been raped?  But no, too crass, too “narrative”.  At some point, she ditches the jeans, starts wearing shiny dresses, suddenly looking “sexy”; this, on reflection, coincides with the successful completion of the sale of the house and the resumption of sex with Gillick – previously, she’d declined to participate actively.

Anyway, I’m seeing it again tomorrow, so may have more to say then.

Escape From Alcatraz

Made in 1979, Clint Eastwood as Frank Morris; I saw it when it came out, forgot how brilliant it was, discovered it again in TV last week; not a single wasted second.  I hope the real Morris, and the Anglin brothers, made it; Morris would be 89 now – hope he’s alive and happy somewhere.

 

 

 

 

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Plesiosaur

Blackpaint

9.05.14 

Blackpaint 439 – Michelangelo, the Saints and the Black Snake Moan

March 27, 2014

Last Week in Rome…

..to which “all roads lead”, according to the 20th Rome Marathon T shirt and day sac which I earned with my sweat and stiff legs – along with a heavy, rather Futurist/Fascist style medal, pictured below.

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Before and after the run, we queued and filed past/through all the compulsory tourist sites, starting with the Sistine Chapel.

Michelangelo

I’ve written many times about Michelangelo in this blog, notably my theory that Shakespeare was his reincarnation (conclusive proof in Blackpaint 217) and, perhaps less controversial, the fact that “Michelangelo doesn’t do trees” (Blackpaint 112).  The tree in the pic below is pretty much the sole exception.  The ceiling, lower than I expected, was, of course, fabulous; but it was amusing to see the two opportunities for censorship that had been missed by the various popes and officials down through the ages – especially since some loincloths were added to male figures:

Briefly, there is the famous proximity of Eve’s face to Adam’s penis in the Temptation panel-

eve sistine

And the snake sucking – or eating -Minos’ penis in the bottom right of the altar piece (shades of Blind Lemon Jefferson’s “Black Snake Moan”).  Minos was a portrait of Biagio, the Papal master of ceremonies, who had been rude about the “lascivious” paintings, so the snake was Mick’s revenge.

penis sistine

 

While I was pointing these features out to my companions, a grey-suited official continually repeated, in an irritated, but defeated tone, “No Talking!! No Photo!! SHH! SHH!”, occasionally lunging forward to try to block some miscreant taking a photo on his mobile phone.

Bought a 10 Euro poster of the Delphic Sybil and noted again the decisively male musculature of those arms, which in no way detracts from the beauty of the face:

sybil sistine

St.Peter’s

Apart from the Michelangelo Pieta, which is now behind glass, there is some great statuary that I was unable to find much about on web:

There is a standing saint, pointing a finger in the manner of a Parmagianino painting, with that crook in the middle and the long neck – it’s St.Elijah, by one Agostino Cornacchini

st elijah

There is a fantastic St.Andrew, bearing a rough old saltire on his muscular back, by Francois Duquesnoy

st andrew

St. Bruno, not filling his pipe, but recoiling inexplicably from a child reaching up towards him; it’s by Michelangelo Slodtz (?)

st bruno

 

A tableau from which the figure of Time, a skeleton with an hourglass, emerges – or rather, is slipping out from under a sheet.  Couldn’t find this one.

OK, enough from Rome for now; more next blog.

The Great War in Portraits, National Portrait Gallery

Free exhibition, about 30 – 40 minutes worth; several good paintings, among them this Sickert

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which has a coruscating surface, impossible to see in the above – and the well-known yellow Kirchner, with the imaginary severed hand.  There is that great Isaac Rosenberg self-portrait

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and a drawing by Max Beckmann, very much in the Grosz street mode.  Some fascinating photographs too.

Coming Up for Air

I can’t read enough Orwell at the moment, having plunged in with Burmese Days a few weeks ago; I’ve read everything he wrote and everything about him (apart from the Taylor biog), some of it three or four times, but I’m still getting the odd surprise.  I’d forgotten, for example, that “Air” contains a dry run for the Two Minute Hate in “1984”; Orwell’s protagonist George Bowling is attending an talk by a well-known “anti – fascist”, as the speaker is introduced.  Interesting that the tirade of hate-filled cliches is being delivered by an ANTI -fascist, given Orwell’s politics…

Italian TV

We could do with the “Singing and Dancing” channels over here, to dilute the endless flow of high level intellectual and cultural output we are subject to in the UK; I blame the BBC.  Also, we need more shopping channels and spy films from the 60s.  There was one British film, in which Peter Sellers starred as a priest who went up in a rocket ship – I think he hijacked it – must look it up.

No proper paintings done in last few weeks, so a couple of life studies to compare with the Michelangelos above:

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Blackpaint

27.03.14

 

Blackpaint 386 – Abstract and Figurative; Painting the Churches

March 21, 2013

Lanark

The Alasdair Gray trilogy; I’ve arrived at the part where Thaw (I’m assuming this is at least semi-autobiographical) paints a giant Genesis on the ceiling and altar wall of the church.  It’s an echo of Michelangelo’s Sistine ceiling and wall, of course, but without the 30 year gap – but it also closely recalls the sequence in Joyce Cary’s “The Horse’s Mouth”, with it’s appropriately Apocalyptic denouement.

The descriptions of the paintings in both books would seem to place both Thaw and Gulley Jimson in a stylistic line of British figurative painters including Stanley Spencer, the two Roberts (Colquhoun and MacBryde), Jock Mcfadyen, John Bellany, Peter Howson and Paula Rego; figurative but distorted, surrealistic..  Alasdair Gray too, of course, but not so much.. more illustrative.

Figurative and Abstract

The British figurative tradition of which the above list may be considered the extreme – left? – wing, is very strong and pervasive, having dominated movements in Britain through to street or Grafitti or Urban art whatever you like to call it.  Auerbach, Freud, Bacon, Uglow, Hockney, Blake, Doig, Shaw, Ofili, Dalwood..  OK, non-figurative; Riley, Davenport, McKeever, Ayres, Blow, Lanyon, Hilton, Heath, Feiler, Denny, Hodgkin – fair enough, just as many, if not more.. Hoyland, Wynter, Frost (Terry and Anthony), Turnbull…  What is it, then, that makes me think that abstraction is somehow not quite perceived as the British way?

Maybe it’s to do with exhibitions.  Recent big blockbusters for foreign abstractionists – Schwitters, Richter, Boetti.. when was the last big exhibition of  a British non-figurative painter?

Tate at yourpaintings

Carrying on with my trawl, there’s Albert Irvin‘s Empress (1982)

irvin empress

Sickert’s Ennui (1914) – just a fantastic image; and

Robin Denny’s Golem I (1957 – 8)

Robyn Denny; (c) Robyn Denny; Supplied by The Public Catalogue Foundation

 

There Will Be Blood

Glad to see this again on TV, a chance to compare Day Lewis’ Plainview with his Lincoln.  I preferred the Plainview with his John Huston voice, sudden bursts of violence and cruelty and the moustache – but you could see glimpses of Plainview in the Lincoln.

I’ve Been Loving You So Long

Far be it from me to criticize anything Kristen Scott Thomas is in – apart from the English Patient – but the ending is a cop-out.  She killed her kid as an act of mercy; he was dying from some horrible, painful disease.  At the trial, she refused to explain or defend herself and consequently, was regarded as some sort of monster.  Why resolve it like this?  Better to leave it unexplained.  Same with Festen – the father is eventually condemned for incest and rape; better if the family had continued to rally round him.  Same with The Hunt – the community re-absorbs the “molester” when he is proved innocent; better (and more true) if they’d continued to persecute him anyway.   There’s no redemption, except for celebs and politicians.  The worst cop-out was Ordet though; the religious obsessive actually manages to bring back the daughter-in-law from the dead!  What are we to make of that?

OK, here’s a couple of my pictures – not comparable to those above,I know, but it’s my blog…

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Blackpaint

21.03.13

Blackpaint 375 – Sexual Politics and the Ozenfant Coincidence

January 7, 2013

Out of sync. this week, because of the annual review, so will do a short one today and another on Thursday to get back on track.

Contre Toi

DVD of French film featuring Kristin Scott Thomas as a doctor, abducted by a young man whose wife died following childbirth attended by KST.  She is held captive in a bricked up cellar room and treated brutally – knife at throat, denied water, pushed around and eventually punched in the eye, after he tries to force her to masturbate him (he soon desists).  Naturally – it’s a French film – she soon starts to feel affection for him; he’s lonely, like her, and of course, there’s Stockholm Syndrome…

She escapes, turns the tables on him, takes him to bed wearing a very fetching slip – her, not him – so the sex we have been expecting is the inevitable pay off.  But she then turns him in.  So, interesting sexual politics; abducted, threatened, assaulted – of course, she has to fall for him.  But it’s OK, because she got free and CHOSE (sort of) to do it – and she gets him put away.  It’s written and directed by a woman, Lola Doillon.

The Ozenfant Co-incidence

I got Alasdair Gray’s Lanark for Christmas; I’d just got to the bit where Lanark meets Dr. Ozenfant when I stopped reading for the day.  Minutes later, I was reading Jane Rye’s great book on Adrian Heath and happened to see, in the notes, a reference to “Apres le cubisme” by Amedee Ozenfant and someone else.  What are the chances? Coincidence, you say;  I wonder…  then again, Gray is an artist and might well have studied or come across the book…

This is only one example of mysterious cosmic forces that I have noted – see previous Blackpaints on “The Taylor Vincent Ad”, Blackpaint’s Law of Spurious Plausibility and my convincing argument that Shakespeare was the reincarnation of Michelangelo.

Adrian Heath

Before leaving the Heath book, I was intrigued to see that, whilst teaching at Cosham, he used an exercise in which he developed a sort of abstracted landscape out of a figure drawing.  It’s a pretty common exercise apparently, and I only mention it because I find that I’ve done more or less the same thing in most of my last dozen or so paintings – maybe even more.  He does it better though.

Commenting on Heath’s practice of making preparatory drawings or sketches for his paintings, Rye writes,”This practice was certainly at odds with the ideas of the American expressionists who regarded preliminary drawing as a decadent practice incompatible with true spontaneity” (p.141).  Well,  yes, you would have thought so – but Franz Kline and de Kooning both used sketches and indeed, DK imported whole images from previous paintings.  They LOOK spontaneous though…

OK, stopping now; more on Thursday.

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Blackpaint

7.1.13

Blackpaint 371 – Cezanne’s Skull and the Gamekeeper’s Moustache

December 13, 2012

Bloomberg New Contemporaries

I know I did this ICA exhibition last time, but didn’t give any names of the artists – going to put that right now.  The “strolling” video (glamorous Japanese(?) women strolling in a mannered way around gardens and statuary) is by Tony Law.  The squares with diagonal cross inside, black on white canvas – the ones a bit like Bram van Velde – are by Jack Brindley.  He also has a sculpture made of a bent metal rod, like a very thick aerial; doesn’t sound much, but it’s good, I think.  The blurry paintings on unbleached linen are by Emanuel Rohss – one of them looks like a sinister head and shoulders figure now, maybe a comic superhero covered in leaves….

Jennifer Bailey did the acid green, triangular, Varda Caivano – like paintings, and Suki Seokycong Kang did the loopy, Twombly-Wool grey and pink painting.  Finally, Nicole Morris did the video in which a woman model tries out poses against a background of blue partitions.

A couple of exhibits I didn’t mention last time:  there is a video on a TV showing a series of clips, repeated a defined number of times each.  A young man in a swimming pool jumps onto the back of another, while someone’s midriff passes the camera; a host introduces a singer on stage; a woman sings a song from “Evita”; a parrot squawks; all these repeated a number of times.  I think the point is that repetition creates integrity, or “establishment” in some way.  The repetition acts as a sort of frame, starting and cutting off the sequence at given points and establishing a sort of completeness.  Think of repetition in music, the idea of a “riff” in jazz.  Yes, it might drive you mad of course – but I find the idea interesting.  The video is the work of Piotr Krzymowsky.  Finally, there is a huge linen, covered by a spidery dark blue and burnt orange expressionist pattern by Max Ruf.

National Gallery

Spent two hours there the other day.  I think I saw everything – five things stuck with me in particular: Samson’s huge left shoulder and arm in Ruben’s painting and that dark crimson robe; the executioner’s snappy white and blue(?) striped tights in the Master of Kappenburg’s painting; the fantastic Degas paintings in the first of the Impressionist rooms, the black outlining of the hands – is it good or bad, I can’t decide; the Cezanne self -portrait, in which the colours on the bald skull of the painter  echo those on the rocks of the landscape by the same painter, a few feet away; and that lovely wet Paris street at night by Pisarro.  And the Titians and Raphaels and Tintorettos… I still don’t think the Manchester Madonna and the other unfinished one look much like Michelangelos, however.

La Regle du Jeu

Started watching this creaky film out of sense of duty – often cited as one of the greatest ever – and after a few minutes, totally hooked.  The shooting party scenes I only realised were a metaphor for the spread of Fascism when I watched the commentary, I’m sorry to say.  What it reminded me of , more than anything, was “L’Age d’Or”.  the country house setting, the madcap entertainments, or course, but above all, Schumacher the gamekeeper, with the moustache and glaring eye.  When I looked it up – yes, same guy, who played “the Man” in L’Age d’Or nine years earlier.

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Saint’s Head, Man’s Back

Blackpaint

13th December 2012

Blackpaint 364 – Michelangelo and the Animals, Schutte’s Soft Heads

October 25, 2012

Raoul De Keyser

His obit was in the papers the other day.  One of the famous Belgians.  His paintings were simple, often geometric but roughly so, bright, primary colours – when they were not totally abstract, they were of everyday things; football pitches, dogs, monkey puzzle trees…  In this respect, he reminded me a little of Prunella Clough, writ large…

De Keyser

Clough

Thomas Schutte at the Serpentine

Free exhibition; outside on the grass, a group of Schutte’s squat, bald figures bound to each other, supported on broomstick legs.  Inside, photographs of his distorted, softened and sagging wax heads line the upper walls of one room around a huge, central figure apparently made out of resin – but actually metal, the colour presumably supplied by oxidation.  Small etchings and drawings, all portraits or figures, many self portraits, done with a minimal line and sparing colour; a striking one of a woman with an orange throat (which he uses in another picture too).  Worth the visit, but I missed his stumpy little bald gnomes with the ecstatic, or maybe tortured, expressions.

Michelangelo and the Animals

  • Some readers will be familiar with my discovery that M didn’t do trees (see Blackpaints 111, 112 et al)); it struck me recently that he didn’t do much in the way of animals either – certainly fewer than any other Renaissance painter I can think of.  Titian, Leonardo, Tintoretto, all took the opportunity to knock out a variety of animals at times, but M seems to have kept it to a bare minimum.  Here’s my list:
  • Fish, apparently sucking Jonah’s leg, on the Sistine ceiling;
  • Ram with throat cut, another awaiting sacrifice, a horse (head only) and an ox (head only), also on Sistine ceiling – in the Noah section;
  • A couple of fanciful serpents in the Underworld on the Sistine altarpiece, and the serpent tempting Eve, on the Sistine ceiling (but does this count? It’s half woman);
  • In the Presentation Drawings, the horses attached to Phaeton’s chariot as it plunges to the ground and the eagle eating Tityus’ liver;
  • A marble barn owl on one of the tombs.  And that’s it, so far as I can see.

Actually, let’s go the whole way: there’s not much landscape either – rocks, desert, bare minimum really.  What he really liked was doing figures.

Paolo Sorrentino

Watched his two great films on DVD – “Il Divo” and “The Consequences of Love”, both starring the prince of stillness, Tony Servillo .  He’s the complete anti – stereotype of Italians; or  maybe that’s just a British conception, that Italians are voluble and animated.  In “Il Divo”, he is Andreotti, the seven times PM, with links to the Mafia; it touches on the deaths of Calvi (the banker found “hanged” under Waterloo Bridge), Aldo Moro (kidnapped and eventually shot by the Red Brigades) and other political murders of judges, lawyers, etc.  Unlike the work of Francesco Rosi (Giulano, The Mattei Affair, Illustrious Corpses) it has an almost operatic feel – there is no attempt at “documentary”.  “Consequences” co-stars Olivia Magnani; presumably Anna’s granddaughter(?); she is riveting.

Head of Saint Luke, the Painter Saint

Blackpaint

25.10.12