Posts Tagged ‘Miles Davis’

Blackpaint 135

May 17, 2010

Alastair Sooke’s Picasso programme

Big disappointment, this.  There was plenty on Blue Period (cue Miles Davis’ “Blues for Pablo”), Rose Period, Saltimbanques, Harlequins; there was that lovely picture of Gertrude Stein that was on the cover of the Penguin “Autobiography of Alice B Toklas”.  There was the suicide in the cafe.

My first big gripe was the description of the women in “Desmoiselles” as ugly!  The two on the viewer’s right with the mask -like faces, I suppose, but the others, staring directly out of the picture, are beautiful, surely, both in face and body.  Their gaze may be interpreted as challenging, but that was nothing new – Manet’s “Olympia”, for example.

Sooke’s comments on “Three Dancers” (hellish, middle one a parodic crucifixion, etc.) were fair enough, but a bit overstated.

It was interesting to see the detailed close-ups of the Cubist surfaces – the overworking, varied texture; could have been St. Ives!

Then, we’re on the beach at Antibes in the 30s (where is the “bone” beach picture of 1929?) – and then, Spanish Civil War and Guernica.

“Guernica” is obviously hugely important depiction of  brutality of war, an image resurrected over and over again – there was the story of the covering of the Guernica tapestry in the UN at the time of the 1st Iraq war – BUT is it really as shocking as Sooke appears to find it?  How can it be, next to photographs of the real thing?  Film and photographs of the Kovno garage massacre and the einsatsgruppen, Dresden, Belsen – that is shocking;  “Guernica” is not.  In fact, the man entering on the right like some sort of swooping ghost, I find vaguely comic and endearing.  Bathetic, I think, is the right word.

It strikes me that Sooke follows the line that Simon Schama did in his recent programme on Picasso; that “Guernica” was really the last important and original work that P did and that afterwards, he was reproducing his own ideas, sort of feeding off himself with endless variations in different mediums (ceramics, for example).  Sooke doesn’t actually say this, but the scant attention paid to the post-Guernica stuff seems to bear it out.  We got “Sylvette” – and an interview with her – but little else in the way of pictures.  Instead, Sooke moved on to merchandising; stripey sailor tops, Andy Warhol, signatures on cars.  This was interesting in a way, and fitted with the other progs on Warhol and Matisse (and, no doubt, Dali), but it meant that great swathes of the paintings were left out.  A few examples:

  • The statuesque women 1921 -3
  • Three Musicians 1923
  • “Bone” pictures 1929
  • Blimp nymphs with beach ball 1932
  • Dreaming woman
  • Night Fishing at Antibes 1939
  • Re-working of classics (Dejeuner sur l’herbe, Women of Algiers)

Would have been great to see any, or all the above.

Not Picasso.



Blackpaint 114

April 19, 2010

Ten Male Artists whose work  should be published in cheap editions by Taschen or Tate or anyone good

Partly to demonstrate the anti-sexist credentials of Blackpaint’s blog, but also to mention a slew of painters I like but can’t get cheap books about:

  • Hans Hoffman – I can only find one book on this seminal colour field artist and teacher (in Henry Pordes, Charing X Road) and it’s 65 quid! 
  • Richard Diebenkorn – highly desirable book by Jane Livingston, but it’s 35 quid.  Bit cheaper on Amazon, but I like to  buy the old-fashioned way.
  • Richard Guston
  • John Hoyland
  • Graham Sutherland
  • Pierre Bonnard – the colours in the Phaidon are dead; Taschen required urgently.
  • Eduard Vuillard
  • Asger Jorn, Appel – all the CoBrA people, really.
  • Keith Vaughan
  • Albert Oehlen

A mixed bunch, to be sure; but I have actually  searched for cheap editions of all these and have only really been lucky with odd ones in catalogues.

Michelangelo  and Trees

I missed one (see Blackpaint 112) ; there are actually two pretty basic and dead trees in the Flood (Sistine).  I have amended the blog accordingly, but my point remains, I  think.


Watching the BBC4 programme on Goldsmiths, I was struck with the obsession they – both tutors and students – have with “meaning” in art.  They construct their tableaux or objects or  whatever and  then worry that the public won’t get their meaning.  one said,”They won’t think hard enough about it”.  The prof, however, when pressed, said, “It’s all about the art, really; the rest is bullshit”.  This I  found reassuring, but I’m told  by those who know, that art schools require context and meaning and argument and that  artists who refuse to discuss their work in these terms and assert that a work of art should, as it were, speak for itself, will not get far in academia.

Strange really; it’s a sort of marxist or pseudo-marxist position, that art has to be experienced and appreciated in context.  I remember writing an essay arguing just that,  several years (well, decades) ago at university.  The tutor’s comment  was “Interesting – but I don’t think you would convince a purist.”  Now I’m the purist, I suppose.

I also find it interesting that what I  do, a lot of the general public regard as “modern art” – but it’s really old-fashioned, of course, abex or colour field stuff being the equivalent of, say, modal jazz, Coltrane doing “My Favourite Things” or Miles Davis’ “Kind of Blue” – 51 years old!



Blackpaint 29

January 4, 2010


Got to Susan Sontag in “Art Theory for Beginners”, and she sounds just the ticket for an abstract painter like me.  The search for meaning in an art work misses the point, apparently – art is irrational, a sort of magical transmutation which is beyond rational explanation.

She also has a good word for pornography, in the sense that in “goes to places” that others do not; the transgressor  (the producer of pornography, presumably), she is quoted as saying, “knows things that others don’t”.  It’s not clear whether this attitude extends to the consumer too.

No doubt her argument is distorted by compression, but it came as a surprise to me.

Theo Kuijpers

In “Intensely Dutch” – lovely, loopy triangles and half squares in oily black over deep, glowing, heavily-scored patches of colour – reds, blues, turquoise.  The paintings in this book are so rich I can’t be bothered to read the text.


I chickened out – appropriately; toned my yellows down with splotches of ochre & smears of grey, and framed them with slashes and rods of black.  Now it’s messy and sort of tough, but back to what I was doing before.  Got to make that break.

Listening to “Freddy Freeloader”, Miles Davis, and “Fables of Faubus”, Charles Mingus and “Lonely Woman”, Ornette Coleman. 

 “Two, four, six, eight,

They brainwash and teach you hate..”

( Faubus/Mingus.)