Posts Tagged ‘Miro’

Blackpaint 585 – Vegetable Heaven, Miro at Montjuic, Bacon in Soho

February 3, 2017

still-life-with-orange

Still Life with Sharon Fruit

Blackpaint

 

Barcelona – probably worth two blogs, although only there three days; we’ll see how it goes.

Sagrada Familia

Gaudi’s famous perpetually developing cathedral/folly – first visible from the south-west by two of its towers peering like Triffids over the surrounding roofs.  In some ways, it’s a rather vegetable experience, both inside and out.  The towers (seven, I think) are grey cucumbers; the columns inside are like giant sticks of celery.  Some way up, they swell into diving helmet bulges, with lights behind glass windows (see below); from these bulges, the branches fork upwards, ending in thorn-like fingers slayed against the ceiling, reminiscent of Graham Sutherland’s paintings.

sagrada-1

 

sagrada-2

Over the main entrance, Christ appears to be about to launch himself from the high board.  Other scenes from the crucifixion below the cross; the sad man,  Christ dragging the cross, the mourners…

 

sagrada-celery

Giant celery and diving helmets

The stained glass inside is a stunning spectacle, washing the interior in piercing blues, reds, greens and gold.  I thought it was all abstract, but you can detect figures in some of the designs, and there are one or two constellations.  There is another crucifixion inside, with Christ hanging with bent knees and an Art Nouveau canopy which would look OK in a French period pub.

Outside again, to the other doorways, which are thickly encrusted in decorative carving and studded with statuary depicting other biblical scenes; the Massacre of the Innocents, the Flight into Egypt et al.  Also worth a mention is the Ascension of Christ, the figure perched on the bridge between two of the “Passion Towers” outside.  See my sketch (rough – but not bad from about 80 feet below):

ascension

 

Miro Museum

Spectacular Bauhaus – type white building, in a spectacular setting, up Montjuic, the hill overlooking Barcelona. The chap below was on the door.  Beautiful dark green bluff behind building, cedars, poplars…

miro-man

 

The permanent exhibition covers much the same ground as the huge Miro exhibition in London from a few years back (see Blackpaint 222 and 262): the early farms and village squares that could be anyone; the blue, green and brown backgrounds with spidery line drawings; then into the familiar Miro territory of biomorphic shapes and blazing primary colour (my two favourites below);

 

miro1

miro2

The huge plain canvases with the wandering line, protesting the imprisonment and execution by garotte of the Anarchist in 1974; the black fireworks; the burnt canvases.

The large sculptures below brought home to me the similarities between Miro and Karel Appel.  Since Miro was earlier, the influence must have been his on the Dutchman.  The bird things, the staring eyes and bared teeth of the figures, the primary colours, the painting onto wood, the highly coloured shapes and like carnival figures on floats – the two artists share all these things.

The difference between the two – Appel’s extreme “painterliness” (I saw an Appel in St. Ives on which the paint must have been two and a half inches thick) while Miro’s surfaces are mostly smooth.  He famously said he wanted to “assassinate painting”.

 

miro3

Miro

 

appel flute2

Appel (figures for The Magic Flute, CoBrA Museum, Amsterdam)

More on Barcelona – Picasso, MACBA -next blog.

Love is the Devil (John Mayberry, 1998)

Watched this again the other night after the BBC documentary on Bacon, which revealed that George Dyer’s death on a French hotel toilet  before Bacon’s Paris exhibition was concealed for two days by Bacon and several of his entourage, to avoid spoiling the grand opening.

Derek Jacobi is astounding as Bacon – Bacon’s chin was more pointed, otherwise he was perfect.  And so was Daniel Craig as Dyer; he’s wasted as Bond. Fantastic (imaginary) shots of Craig, bloody, flayed, tumbling forward as from a diving board.

little-ice-fall

Little Ice Fall

Blackpaint

3.2.17

 

 

 

 

 

 

Advertisements

Blackpaint 305

November 14, 2011

Richard Hamilton

At the Tate Britain last week, saw Hamilton’s iconic “Just what is it that makes today’s homes so different, so appealing?” for the first time in the flesh- it’s the one with the Charles Atlas cutout holding a giant lollipop, while a semi-naked woman with a lampshade on her head pouts from a nearby armchair – it’s so small!  26*25 cms!  I’d always thought it would be huge, perhaps because it was so famous…   Dali and Miro and Ernst and Turner pictures have all provoked the same surprise in the past.

Great Movie Scenes

Two today; first, “Russian Ark” (Sokurov), after the ball, the officers, officials and ladies in period dress descend the great staircase of the Hermitage toward the sea of oblivion awaiting them;

Second, “Satantango” (Bela Tarr) – Irimias, Petrina and the boy march, heads -down through the driving rain, across the empty, darkening Hungarian plain towards the twisted trees along the horizon.  An accordion plays a tune vaguely reminiscent of Beethoven’s 7th, the Allegretto – just the first two chords, really.  They arrive at a house; instead of following them inside, the camera lingers on the steps and the slanting rods of rain, lit up in the doorway, surrounded by swallowing blackness.  The accordion plays on…

Degas at the RA

Ballerinas – or rather, ballet dancers; ballerinas sounds too fey.  These girls are sturdy, the legs sometimes heavily outlined in black, the errors and corrections, as Degas strives to get the positions exactly right, enhancing the drawings.  Perhaps “strives” is putting it rather too strongly.  The “Fourth Position” drawings, I think, are the best; the way the girl’s shoulder bends forward.  Her features look African or mixed race to me – Dago Red commented recently that Degas was himself Creole (see Blackpaint 295, comments).  Another striking one is the Arabesque, the male dancer thrusting his torso forward out of the picture at the viewer.

The oil paintings actually look like pastel drawings, those warm reds and ochre rich and beautiful.  Can’t stand that bloody awful chalky, but acid, green that he sometimes uses, though; Gauguin also prone to use it at times.

I understand that the girls would be from the lower social classes and were targeted by numbers of “gentlemen” for prostitution; Degas’ interest in them seems to have been technical, however; notes on some of the drawings about positions – he was trying to get them right, as if for an instruction manual.  Whatever his reasons, beautiful drawings – I have to say, though, a bit of variety in the subject matter would have improved the show.  Enough of the ballet dancers already.

Building the Revolution

Also at the RA; Russian artists and designers and their influence on Russian architecture in the 20s.  Popova, very Futurist; Klutsis, with his designs for loudspeakers, podia, propaganda kiosks (where and when else?); Sternberg, Korelev and, of course, Rodchenko.  They provide the drawings, paintings and plans – the other half of the exhibition is made up of  photographs, many of them huge colour ones,  taken by Richard Pare in 1998.  The photos include the circular, stainless steel bakery, the Cheka Buildings (fantastic, curling staircase, curved building, chilling name), the derelict “Red Banner” textile works.  You can plainly see the influence of the curves, circles, intersecting lines…  The dilapidation of some of the buildings enhancing the “glamour” of the colour photos, somehow – like Degas’ “mistakes”.  Very familiar Bauhaus- type features – that ocean liner profile, those curves.  The Melnikov Building, with diamond shaped windows studded into a cylindrical “funnel” of pure white; a Palace of Culture, by contrast, almost without windows – looking like a prison.

Leonardo next time, whether I get in or not; always ready with an opinion.

Blackpaint (Chris Lessware)

14.11.11

Blackpaint 278

June 6, 2011

British Museum

Spent just an hour wandering through the galleries on second floor; after a couple of minutes found myself deeply absorbed in those black and red earth pots that look as if they were made yesterday, rather than 2000 years ago.  Stories of Theseus, Hercules, the Trojan War, distance runners, javelin throwers…  Then, there were the paintings from the walls of Pompeii – Icarus nose-diving, Odysseus tied to the mast while the Sirens sing (harpy-like birds instead of beautiful women), Ariadne watching Theseus, leaving her abandoned on Naxos…  Then, those bearded, smugly smiling Cypriot statues, then the Judgement of Paris, done by the Etruscans in that Egyptian-style profile, cartoon faces with pointy noses and chins, eyes set halfway down the nose, copied the style from Picasso, maybe. A large plaster or stone plaque, showing Anthony “pleasuring” Cleopatra, as they say, in the back of a barge, while a boatman stares determinedly ahead…

Then, the Medieval Europe room, and the Tring Tiles; non-biblical legends of Jesus as a child, accidentally killing several of his playmates and then reviving them under the direction of his mother, the BVM.  Similar story on a Young Tradition album I have.

Back to the Greeks a moment – I was pleased to see how many different sorts of pots and cups and jars they had to deal with the task of wine drinking; the kratos for mixing, others for cooling, amphorae for storage with the long, pointed ends for handling.  Clearly, they kept their units up.

Tate Modern

Did the Miro again, and this time, I liked those metallic grey-black-brown ones with the piercingly bright red, white and black blobs crawling on them – “Escape Ladder” and the others – better than last visit.  I thought one of the burnt canvases looked OK; the others like try-outs.  Still liked the Black Fireworks and the condemned cell one, and this time, noticed the three wooden staves at the end – the King, Queen and Prince.  Thought they were quite good, as Adrian might say.

Mitch Epstein

US photographer, pictures of working and derelict industrial structures, oil derricks etc., in the coastal southern states.  In one photograph, of a derrick on the sea shore, the reflection in the water looks just like one of those “Season” Twomblys.

Do Ho Suh 

Look up – there’s a red polyester staircase starting in mid-air above your head.  A bit Whiteread, a bit Abakanowicz…

Painting

Seriously thinking about that good taste thing – that’s to say a picture looks good or OK when you can say it looks a bit Lanyon, or Scully or Twombly – you have to refer to some other painter who is good.  No point in that, really; but it’s really hard to get away from.  Maybe force yourself to stop before you’ve got it to that stage (i.e. when it still looks shit) or get a good Lanyonesque and then sabotage it with pink lines or something.

Un Chien Andalou

I was surprised to find, on buying the DVD (l’Age D’or) that the eyeball-slitting scene comes at the beginning, not the end, as I falsely remembered. It’s still very funny, I think; the bicycle crash, the desperate expression of the youth watching the ants run from the hole in his hand,  the two seminarists being dragged across the floor with the piano and the dead donkeys.  One of them was Dali (the seminarists, not the donkeys).  The youth reminds me of Richard E Grant in “Withnail”.  The end, with the two of them half-buried in sand, maybe lodged in Beckett’s mind; it’s like “Happy Days”.

According to Wikipedia, the woman in the film commited suicide – she burnt herself alive ; the young man also killed himself, with an overdose.  Bringdown, as we used to say in the 60s.

Blackpaint

06.06.11 

Blackpaint 268

April 21, 2011

Rose Hilton

In one of the Cork Street galleries I blogged about, a display by the above, now in her 80’s.  She was unable to keep up her painting while married to Roger Hilton; partly due to his opposition, partly to the attitudes of the time (woman looks after the house and kids, man gets on with the artistic creativity side of things).  She apparently accepted her role while he was alive – however, he died in 1975, so pity she waited this long.

The paintings are beautiful; glowing, saturated colours, pinks, oranges, reds, a sumptuous grey.  Mostly figurative, one abstract (I think) reminding me strongly of a Diebenkorn.  The painter who comes to mind most frequently is Bonnard, one nude very like Matisse, Roger in there occasionally with the charcoal line, Feininger in one townscape.  I loved these paintings and despite the fact that this was a commercial exhibition, there was no repetition fatigue such as marred the Hoyland and Cohen exhibitions.  Go and see these works if at all possible.

“Mixed” gallery 

I don’t know the name of this gallery, but you can recognise it by the big, yellow/orange Albers on the wall to the left of the glass doors.  As well as the Albers, there is a Donald Judd shelf in aluminium and wood(?) – sleek and shiny; a very uncharacteristic Dubuffet – no scraping; a standard Ben Nicolson (standard is good – I don’t go along with the Guardian critic who compares him unfavourably with Mondrian, because Mondrian was soulful and mystical and Nicolson wasn’t;  good job too, say I) and a bunch of sculptures by Bill Woodrow.  Several of these echo Rauschenberg’s “Gluts” – see Blackpaint last August – in that they are car parts; battered doors, bonnets, fenders attached in a little tableau to a soft sculpture – a black panther in one, an Indian Chief”s headdress in another, echoing his exhibit in the Tate Britain.

Miro at the Tate Modern

Went to this the day after it opened, in the evening.  Got in straight away, no queue, no struggling masses, despite the hype.

The first room contained a number of paintings that reminded me of patchwork quilts with deep blue skies above.  There were two yellow abstractions (although how abstract any of Miro’s work is, is open to question), one called the Hunter, I think; unmistakeable Miro, little microbes and other entities connected by lines, swimming about all over the place.

There were some collages with gouache, very effective, I thought, and a number of small, electric coloured tubular entities on black background, Daliesque –  hated them.

Several paintings linked by the theme of the Catalan peasant – one very much like Ernst, a washed-out blue and washed-out red for the hat; you’ll see what I mean.

A line of maybe 20 drawings in ink on white, potato head entities that reminded me of Jorn’s little people – line like Stirnberg.

Loads of those little ones with red, white and/or blue entities swarming on metallic looking grey-black backgrounds.  The famous one is the “Escape Ladder”.

Up to now in the exhibition, nothing that was new to me, apart from the quilt ones at the beginning.  Touches of Klee, Dali, Tanguy, Gorky and Ernst – Gorky as well in the long titles, eg the Girl with the blonde armpit etc.  Now, getting to the 60s and the influence of Abstract Expressionism and they get BIGGER.  Suddenly, three are filling a room.  The orange one with the thick black loop is the harbinger; then the burnt canvases, looking like metal remnants on their supports.  Twombly-like scribbles and meandering lines; the condemned cell one with the white paint tipped on and streaking down; the black fireworks at the end.  Needless to say, I loved all these, the usual precise little drawings on defined backgrounds having given way to size, roughness, violence – texture.  Not really what Miro is about though – Escape Ladder et al far more characteristic.

Have to say, it seems absurd to try to make a case for Miro as a committed political artist – he went to France for the duration of the Spanish Civil War, when volunteers from all over Europe were making their way (with difficulty) to Spain to fight for the Republic – and in some cases, for Franco.  Then, when WW2 came along, he relocated to Spain and managed to work under Franco’s rule.  One poster done in France and one painting in 1974, recording (protesting?) the execution of Puig Antich isn’t much.

I think to call Miro “political”  is a bit of an insult to Ai Weiwei, a truly political artist, still missing in China, and whose work remains on display in the Tate, still with no comment from the gallery on his current plight.

Ray Smith

RIP Ray, of Ray’s Jazz, late of Shaftesbury Avenue.  Many happy Saturday afternoons spent there, listening to and sometimes buying, some arcane stuff on the advice of my mate Bob Glass.  It’s where I was educated, really.  Now Bob and Ray are gone – left us here to carry on.

Blackpaint

20.04.11

Blackpaint 263

March 25, 2011

Burning Backs

In “A Prophet”, the ghost of the Arab that Malik is forced to kill has a burning back in a dream sequence – and in “Shutters Island”, the ghost of deCaprio’s wife has a burning back – in a dream sequence.

Neither of these facts mean much, except, perhaps, an interesting case of convergent imagery – but they do bring me quite nicely to surrealism.

Surrealists

I used really to love surrealism, but now find the pictures rather boring, for the most part.  I think the problem is the lack of painterly qualities inherent, or required by the concept. There are no surfaces; since the purpose is to explore and exploit the subconscious, the skills required are those of the imaginative illustrator.  The juxtaposition of unlikely objects demands the ability to depict those objects as clearly as possible – hence, the realism in surrealism.  With a few exceptions, the attraction of the paintings and objects rests in the mystery and atmosphere created by the images – the empty, night-time squares and porticos of de Chirico, the nudes on escalators of Delvaux – not in the qualities of the painting itself. The exceptions that occur to me are Gorky, Matta, Lam, Tanguy and Dominguez in Decalcomania mode.  You could make a case that the first three are hardly surrealists at all.  What about Miro and Picasso?  They passed through the movement on their way elsewhere.  Dali?  Staggering draughtsman, fantastic, memorable images but fits the above description, surely.

Anyway, for interest’s sake, my top ten surrealist pictures (or objects) in order of preference:

1.  Joan Miro – Person Throwing a Stone at a Bird (1926).  The one with the blobby figure, huge foot and line showing stone’s flight.  I’m not even sure it’s surreal – but it’s a great image.

2.  Max Ernst – Two Children are Threatened by a Nightingale (1924).  Tiny construction, man fleeing across a chalet roof – dreamlike, touch of menace.

3.  Man Ray – Gift  (1921).  The iron with the nails on the bottom.  Simple, elegant, funny, dripping with irony.

4.  Meret Oppenheim – the furry cup, saucer and spoon (1936).  As per Man Ray.

5.  Giacometti – The Palace at 4.00am.  Like a birdcage – there is a bird in the top section.  I love the title; I always get it confused with the Max Ernst Nightingale.

6.  Toyen – Silken Feasts (1962).  There’s a lot of sex and fetishism in surrealism, of course, since it deals with the subconscious (see Bunuel and footwear); this is one of the sexiest and most fetishistic works.

7.  Richard Oelze – Expectation (1936).  A crowd in 30s hats and raincoats stare at gathering black clouds across heathland – waiting.  I’ve not heard of him other than this, but I found, when I thought of doing this, that this picture sprang to mind before any other.

8.  Paul Delvaux – The Iron Age (1951).  A naked woman (surprisingly) sits, legs stretched before her, while in the night-time background, a goods train bears down on her from the marshalling yards.  Penguin used the background for the cover of Celine’s “Journey to the End of the Night”; even without the woman, it still somehow has a surreal eeriness.

9.  Dali – Sleep (1937).  The long, sleeping head, propped up on sticks.  There could of course, have been several more; the soft watches, the elephants, the crouching figure by the egg, the figure ripping itself apart – but this one came to mind instantly.

10.  Magritte. There has to be a Magritte, since he was the most consistent and faithful surrealist in the sense of the juxtaposition of unlikely objects – but I really hate the way he paints women’s nipples, red and angry as if infected.  Puts me off him totally; I suppose the one with the broken window, in which the fragments are pieces of sky….

The Killing

I think its Morten, Troels’ researcher.  Find out tomorrow.

Listening to Jelly Roll Morton, Sidewalk Blues.

“You’re so dumb, you should be president of the Deaf and Dumb Society!”

“Sorry, Boss; but I’ve got the Sidewalk Blues” – a non sequitur fit for a piece on surrealism.

Sorry – no new paintings yet.

Blackpaint

25.03.11

Blackpaint 262

March 21, 2011

Anselm Kiefer

In Saturday’s Guardian, a pleasing quotation from Kiefer regarding “Salz, Merkur, Sulfur”,  a recent work: “..the salt-covered U boat is my Noah’s ark as the Flood was important to alchemists,…It is made out of the base metal lead; there are seven flames because seven is the alchemical number of perfection, and so on.  It all means something.  Not that anyone needs to know this, but if I’m asked I will tell you.” Well, thank goodness for that – the implication is that the work stands, for Kiefer, on the merits of its visual power alone, without the need to read a lengthy exposition on a gallery wall (or stand in everyone else’s way, gawping, while you listen to the explanation on one of those those audios).

Kiefer is the embodiment of those artists who build a career around a big idea; the core of his has been the exhumation of German history from under  layers of guilt and willful amnesia in the decades after WW2 – a worthy and courageous work in the 60s especially.  So someone asks, “What is this work about?”  No problem; he knows –  and, if he’s asked, he’ll be able to tell you.

Miro

Miro is another one.  As Tim Adams says, in Sunday’s Observer, “He had no interest in pure abstraction…”You get freedom by sweating for it,” he believed, “by an inner struggle…”.  Whatever this second part means, Adams’ piece quotes Miro to the effect that his pictures, even the most surreal, were made up of collections of symbols representing things in the real world: “I’ve shown the Toulouse-Rabat airplane on the left; …I showed it by a propellor, a ladder and the French and Catalan flags”.  The whole display of bacteria-like shapes and squiggles swimming in an orange and yellow background “means something”; everything is representative.

I’ve always loved Miro’s work, for its colour, movement, humour – and Kiefer’s, for almost completely opposite qualities, darkness, weight, gravity of purpose. I had no idea about the Toulouse – Rabat airplane and not much specific about alchemy; but the lack of detailed information didn’t stop me liking the work and knowing more hasn’t enhanced my appreciation.

I think it’s enough to say “It’s about itself”.  Paintings that are only about visual things like image, structure, texture, colour, movement, balance – pure abstraction –  are as valid as the “hidden meaning” efforts; and you don’t have to read the spurious Artspeak expositions.

Some early paintings that I think are stunning – and no problems with meaning:

Fra Angelico

St Nicholas of Bari (1437) – look at the castle and the pink mountain with the folds.

The Mocking of Christ (1441) – disembodied head spits in Christ’s face.

Giotto

The Stefaneschi Altar, the Martyrdom of Paul – yes, the decapitated head does still wear the halo; and the Martyrdom of Peter – upside down on his cross, as if diving, an angel reading the bible to the assembled watchers, from the sky.

The Arrest of Christ, Padua. – the Judas kiss, Judas enveloping Christ in that yellow cloak.

The Master of Flemalle (Robert Campin?)

The Annunciation, Merode Altarpiece – look at the folds in the fabric of both the angel’s and Mary’s gowns; and the tilting forwards of the table – like a Bonnard or Cezanne a few years later.

Jean de Florette and Manon des Sources

Finally got round to seeing these after meaning to for years; Yves Montand (I remember him in “Z”) and Daniel Auteuil, as the Soubeyrans -great, tragi-comic pairing. For some reason, keep watching films about peasants – Provencal, Iranian and Ozark hill folk so far.

Blackpaint

21.03.11

Blackpaint 229

December 9, 2010

Art and Propaganda

Wrote about this some time back (see Blackpaint 26, Jan 2010), but I really only mentioned Spanish Republican posters (Miro) and Socialist Realism (workers living in and loving an idealised Soviet Union).  I also mentioned Nazi art, statuary and paintings and posters, which are strikingly similar to Socialist Realism and demonstrate the convergence of approach under totalitarian regimes.

Abstract Expressionism

I didn’t discuss the way the US government used the AbExes to publicise the cause of free enterprise and democracy.  Ironically, since Ab Ex was widely regarded as nonsensical in the West, abstract art was championed as evidence of individualistic freedom by the Congress for Cultural Freedom (a CIA front organisation).  It put on a series of exhibitions in West Germany, starting in 1945, and taking place every few years, under the title “Documenta”.  I’m not sure how much  the individual painters, initially Motherwell, Pollock, Calder and the critic Greenburg, were aware of the way they were being used; will look into that.

The huge irony is that the Socialist Realist style would probably chime much more with the tastes of the “masses” in the capitalist world than the efforts of the abstractionists, which they rejected and ridiculed in large part as incomprehensible.  Indeed, there is a strong Socialist – Realist resemblance in the work of Norman Rockwell, the popular American painter – tables weighed down by big Thanksgiving turkeys, shining-faced, healthy kids, kindly shopkeepers, postmen, policemen, etc.,etc.

Shigeko Kubota

I wonder what the American public would have made of the above Fluxus artist, who in 1965 attached a brush to her crotch and ,crouched above a sheet of paper, swung it about loaded with red paint, to create her “Vagina Painting”, thereby “dismantling the seemingly never-ending mythology of Pollock’s virile painting performances with a single, scandalous gesture” (chapter on Fluxus, “Art since 1900”, Thames and Hudson 2004).

Unfortunately, the book doesn’t show the painting, only an interesting photo of Kubota producing it.  However, I doubt that she achieved the beautiful results that Pollock did.  He argued, reasonably, that his drip method allowed for the intervention of an element of chance in his otherwise rather controlled,  or at least guided works.  Apart from the rather misguided statement “I am Nature” – maybe he was joking; don’t know the context –  I’ve found his remarks on his work really straightforward, sensible and informative.  Rather like Francis Bacon (although Bacon often twisted the truth somewhat) and unlike, say, Rothko. 

And his nickname – Jack the Dripper – though meant unkindly, has to be the best painter’s nickname.  Better, even, than Blackpaint.

Quiz

Which playwright did Sutherland paint, seated in front of a yellow wall ( playwright, not Sutherland(?

Blackpaint

10.12.10

Blackpaint 68

February 14, 2010

Arshile Gorky

So, after reviewing the (Sewell) review, I’ve now seen the show.  There are 12 rooms, so I’ll take them one by one.  Room 1, I made no notes, but remember an imitation of a Cezanne still life. 

Room 2 showed how AG had “abstracted” a Picasso-like portrait of “Woman with a Palette” several times over the years. 

Room 3 displayes some fine drawings, obviously influenced by Picasso. 

Room 4 continues this with a number of paintings which are Picasso imitations, using a lot of white. 

In room 5, still unoriginal, I have made the following notes: “awful colours; fluffy whites; putty effect of painted background.  Drawings, however, are delicate and subtle.”

In room 6, the influence of Miro is very apparent – although the first painting recognisable as a Gorky appears, dated 1943, with the characteristic leaf/butterfly/biomorph shapes, circled and linked by the thin black lines.

Then, oddly,  Room 7 takes you back in time; portraits of AG with mother, and sister and friends.  The portrait of AG with his mother has been reproduced in all the reviews of the show, I think – and I don’t understand the interest.  They would have been of huge significance to Gorky himself, of course, and should be in the show – but why here, half way round?

Room 8, smallish drawings, from a distance look like people grouped on ice or by a lake, with pastel “washes” of colour.

Room 9, and “Waterfall”, and at last the famous Gorky.  There are several waterfalls, in fact, one of them named; the notes I have made are; “thin paint, sometimes running.  Pirate 1 resembles a Graham Sutherland!”

Room 10, Landscape.  I’ve noted two; “From a high place – looks like a picnic!” and “Apple Orchard”, with an orange background that is a blend of yellow, reds and greens close up.  The thin black lines are much in evidence and the shapes are reminiscent of Matta, Masson maybe – some of them also remind me of the late de Koonings, the same deadness and emptiness, but only sometimes.

Room 11, “Betrothals”, the bad luck room – the fire and the cancer.  What I noted was that there are three versions of “Betrothal” and in each, the figures are identical (although the colours are different).  This seems to be his way of working; compose in a sketch and develop by trying out different colours.  So again, a painter whose work can appear spontaneous and who is associated with a movement which prizes and promotes spontaneity, turns out to work in a formal, considered and wholly traditional way.

The final room is called “the Limit”, the title of one of the paintings.  The other bad luck room; the car crash and the suicide.  Again, there are four studies of a work called “Agony”, although this time the final version contains some changes.  One, the Black Monk(?), called Last Painting – the equivalent of Van Gogh’s crows over the cornfield, maybe; the “suicide” painting.

So, some beautiful works and a lot of mediocre ones.  It strikes me that his importance was perhaps more as an influence on de Kooning, Pollock and the others, rather than as a painter himself.  His thin paint surfaces are never as rich and interesting as de K, Pollock or Joan Mitchell; sometimes you get “dead areas”.  He brings to mind Matta and sometimes Kandinsky, with his little entities fluttering around.  But I think the historical significance justifies the exhibition.

Was Sewell right?  Yes, about the drawing – it is very skilful and does sometimes resemble etching.  Yes, about the Picasso and Miro imitation.  And yes, about his significance to the Ab Exes (although they acknowledged that themselves).  I think he is wrong in his assertion that Gorky was ignorantly copying others  and did not know what he was doing – he may not be a de Kooning or a Pollock but he has an instantly recognisable style, from 1943 onwards.  And for a painter who “abdicates formal responsibility”, he spends a lot of time doing drafts and sketches of his major works before producing the final version.  I felt a little cheated by this, as by Kline and Hartung before – I like my AbExes to give birth in a trance-like creative frenzy, improvising and composing as they go; I don’t want them doing formal sketches first!

Blackpaint

14.02.10

Blackpaint 26

January 1, 2010

Lyotard

Jean Francois Lyotard thought that the age of “Grand Narratives” was at an end;  the late 20th century and beyond, there would be the age of  little narratives.  So, no more Nation, Empire, bloc – from now (then) on, neighbourhood, tribe, cult, family, individual.  Historically wrong, then; Global Warming, War on Terror are both Grand Narratives, even if they are illusory or misnomers.

As far as art goes, however, it seems to me he was right – it’s all fragmentation, no great Movements, absolute truths.  He divided art into “Figural” – based on emotion, immediate reaction, shock, irrationality – and “Discursive” – rational, intellectual, narrative – and “privileged” (awful transformation of adjective to verb) the visual over the written.  the meaning of “figural” art?  Whatever the viewer sees/thinks/says.

So Lyotard is my man; my stuff is Figural and means whatever thr viewer wants it to mean (it may of course be Discursive too, if anyone reads something interesting, or appealing,  into it).  More Postmodernism from “Art Theory for Beginners tomorrow.

“Intensely Dutch”

I got this fantastic book for Christmas, full of staggering, beautiful abstract and figurative Dutch artists of late 20th century (with de Kooning included; fair enough, I suppose).  The colours are enough to burn into your brain, and the names are good too – Jaap Wagemaker, Wim Oepts, Jaap Nanninga, as well as Appel, Constant and deK.

“100 Contemporary Artists”

My other Christmas book, a big 2 volume Taschen, has more up- to- date artists.  I prefer the painters, and going by Lyotard’s dictum, picked out the following on the basis of immediate visual reaction (i.e. without reading the notes):  Cecily Brown, whose surfaces and colours reminded me immediately of de Kooning’s; Andre Butzer, ditto for Jorn and Guston; and John Currin, whose “Rotterdam 2006” can hardly fail to have a Figural effect – check it out, as the young people say.  The girls on the opposite page in “the Old Fence” are like something by Lucas Cranach, I think.  Then there is the great Marlene Dumas, with her ugly/beautiful, smeary pictures of dead women, pole dancers and creepy little girls with hands dripping blood.  And Peter Doig, of course, canoes, stars, jungles, uniforms…  Volume 2, I – Z tomorrow.

Propaganda Art

A few blogs back, I was rambling on about art and propaganda and said that only propaganda for or by “the oppressed” was likely to produce any decent art; propaganda on behalf of the powers-that-be – Socialist Realism, Nazi art – was likely to be laughable, or sinister, or both (depending on the distance of the viewer from the Power that Be’s).

This sounds like the sort of thing George Orwell would say, only much better, of course; however, what about the following?

Republican posters in the Spanish Civil War (I’m thinking of Miro, for example); Rodchenko’s posters for various Soviet Government ventures in Bolshevik Russia; murals and other art produced under the auspices of the WPA in 30s USA; murals produced in Mexico and elsewhere by Rivera and Orozco.

Miro

Listening to Steeleye Span, Bedlam Boys.

“Still we sing bonny boys, bonny mad boys,

Bedlam boys are bonny,

For they all go bare and they live by the air,

And they want no bread nor money”.

Just finished reading “Bartholomew Fair” by Ben Jonson, and was totally lost by the last 30 pages – as many characters as “And Quiet Flows the Don” and full of 17th century London slang.

Blackpaint

1.01.10