Posts Tagged ‘Motherwell’

Blackpaint 340 – Dustmen, Chlorine and Gerhard’s Enormous Squeegee

May 3, 2012

Orchestra Rehearsal, Fellini

Is this film just reactionary?  Takes me back to my student days in the early 70s (chanting slogans, sitting in, exaggeration, graffiti, posters, charismatic, long-haired, moustachioed student leaders speechifying in apocalyptic terms, gazing into the socialist future with shining eyes, seeing themselves as Leon, or Che, or Makhno,  sitting in….  sorry, back to the film.

There are gibes at the unions’ demands on  demarcation and tea breaks and Fellini clearly identifies with the maestro, who is scorned and abused.  The old caretaker, however, reminisces to the audience about the good old days, in which the maestro’s word was law and the musicians would accept physical punishment for playing a bum note or coming in late – sounds like fascism to me and Fellini steers clear of wishing for that, I think.

At the height of the “anarchy”, a wrecking ball comes through the wall (representing what?  The philistinism of  contemporary culture?  Television?); it kills the harpist and the musicians “come to their senses” – like good pupils, they submit their individual wills to the maestro and proceed to make music together, sheltering in their common pursuit from the external enemy – but the maestro’s angry rebukes soon begin once more…

Paintings that Smell

Not literally, of course – Stanley Spencer’s “The Lovers” comes to mind first; the dustmen, worshipped by the housecoated women, the rubbish – old cabbage leaves, tea leaves, tea pots – the picture smells of Jeyes’ Fluid to me, disinfectant with decay underneath, and a suspicion of armpits.  Maybe it’s because I used to be a dustman for a short time, many years ago, before black plastic bins and bags.  The maggots and seafood restaurants were the worst – and that cold trickle of liquid down the back of your neck as you hoisted the tin bin onto your shoulder; what was it – rose water, maybe? Probably not.

Secondly, Hockney’s “Bigger Splash”; chlorine, of course.

De Kooning Retrospective, Thames and Hudson

Fabulous paintings, but something of a tedious text, which seems overconcerned with delving into the crowded abstracts and retrieving identifiable bits and pieces of images – door, ladder, mouth, teeth, penis, vagina, window, chair…  This approach soon palls and threatens to undermine the magic of works like Gansevoort Street, Easter Monday, Interchange and the rest.  Pictures are mouth-watering, though.

Tate Modern

That corner in the surrealism bit is where I go now – Appel yellow wooden plaque next to Motherwell’s Ulysses; swing right to Joan Mitchell’s huge grey painting and further right to the Dorothea Tanning…  BUT still missing my Franz Kline black bridgehead with the two Asger Jorns facing it; Proud, Timid One and Letter to my Son – I want them back as soon as Damien Hirst is over.

Gerhard Richter

I watched the new DVD on Richter last night and was fascinated to see him dragging his enormous wooden squeegee down and/or across the painted surfaces of his canvases, blending, covering or scraping off the pigment.  Several times when he did it, I thought “Great!  Now leave it!”  But he didn’t – he dragged it again and wiped the image out.  The film left me with the impression that it’s really difficult to paint with someone pointing a camera at you while you do it.  Richter said as much, politely; he talked about painting being a secret (private) activity.

That squeegee is a bit of a WMD, really; he uses a big brush to modify after it has passed over – but I would have thought he’d be moving on soon as regards technique, if he hasn’t already.

Work in progress (note Baselitz influence)

Blackpaint

2.05.12

Blackpaint 302

October 31, 2011

Tarkovsky

I mentioned that Bunuel was deaf in last blog, and that may be why music was apparently not so important in his films; watching Tarkovsky’s “The Sacrifice” last week, and his use of, for instance, Bach’s Matthew Passion, it’s clear that Tarkovsky is the opposite of Bunuel in this respect – as also in the total lack of humour in any of his films (T., not B., that is, of course).  One other thing in “Sacrifice”; the painterly, bleached, interior scenes, are surely based on Hammershoi.  It was filmed in Sweden, after all.

Middlemarch

Exchange of literary opinion on the North Downs Way last week:  “How you getting on with Middlemarch?”

“More than half way through.”

“Anything happened yet?”

(Pause..) “No.”

Venice Guggenheim

Was transported to Venice as a birthday present, so expect many Venetian entries in blogs to come.  The Guggenheim has a bunch of Miros, Ernsts (Bride stripped bare, for instance), Picassos, Braques, Kandinskys, Klees..  I’ve picked four of the most striking paintings:

El Lissitsky

Beautiful, clean, geometric, shades of Malevich.

Motherwell

I think it’s called “Personage”.  Again, clean, clear colours, bit dirtier, more painterly than the El.

Schwitters

Little collage this one, with a corroded metal disc (or that’s what it looks like) and a butterfly.

A great transparent cyclist by Metzinger and a portrait of the painter Frank Burty Haviland by Modigliani, early, utterly unlike his almond-headed nudes and portraits.  And, a load of early Pollocks, including one of those Synasthaesia ones (see earlier Blackpaints on Pollock).

Incidentally, have been given the Taschen on Modigliani and I’ve revised my opinion of him drastically.  I’d thought of him as a sort of Lempicka, doing tasteful pin-up nudes in an endlessly reproduceable, stylised way; but the portraits are great, the styles more varied, the flesh surfaces unexpectedly painterly (hate that word, won’t use it again) – look at the surface, for instance, of the Courtauld Gallery nude…. the problem for me is the pretty faces. The bow lips, demurely downcast eyes, long lashes, come-hither looks would be OK on a biscuit tin, though not sure about the naked bodies.

More Venice, including the Biennale, in the week.

Blackpaint (Chris Lessware)

28.10.11

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 172

August 11, 2010

Blackpaint is back

Dozens of readers have contacted me in a state of confusion and  panic about my absence, but I am happy to say  I’m back, with much to report.  “Dozens” may be a small exaggeration…

Guggenheim, Bilbao 

Did the usual walk through the Serra iron alleyways, said hello to the Dine giant red wooden Venuses, the Koon flower dog and the Bougeois spider.

Abstract Expressionists

A delightful surprise, this – a room with three Motherwells, a huge Rothko, a Clyfford Still and  a de Kooning. 

Motherwell

 “Venetian Red Studio”, a red rectangle with a black outlined square in top right corner (we’re talking big here; 6 ft by 10, maybe); “Iberia”, one of a sreies, all black with a white square “torn” out of corner, like a Still; and “The Voyage; Ten Years after” – tripartite landscape canvas, ochre, white and black sections with big blue and black splatters and a big, spreading brown stain, like gravy.  I thought it was a Helen Frankenthaler at first, because of the staining.  Doesn’t sound too good, does it, but actually looks  great.  No, really.

Rothko

“Untitled”, of  course.  Vast, maybe 14ft by 10, in four segments from bottom, like wide stripes; red, yellow, yellow-green, lime-ish green, reminded me strongly of the Miles Davis “Sketches of  Spain” cover (although I think that had a little black Quixote and Panza silhouette).  Opposite the entry arch, a breathtaker.

Clyfford Still

Much smaller, maybe 4 by 2ft, a plain canvas with lots of brown foliage-like markings and a thin red strip or “zip” down or up the length of canvas – according to Still, it was up,apparently very  important.

de Kooning

“Villa Borghese”, portrait, say 6 ft  by 5, pink, green, blue, yellow and green/yellow smear/splurges.. smurges?  Vigorous strokes, almost swipes, up, across, and in triangular shape.  You can see its a picture of  a big house and garden – if you need to.

Rousseau

Douanier, that is.  An exhibition of his stuff upstairs.  Apparently influential on Cubists, particularly Picasso, his “painted collage” style – background painted first, then foregrounding in stages, giving a stuck-on effect to foremost images, which is very striking.  Some “jungle” pictures (famously based on in the local zoological gardens) and some decidedly dodgy portraits.

Two pictures stood out for me – “Les Artilleurs”, obviously from a photograph; 14 soldiers, white trousers, blue tunics, big artillery piece.  The other, surreal clowns in a wooded landscape, very high moon, huge twilight sky, and a VERY low ground – reminded me of that Kobke painting in National Gallery earlier in year, the one done from the roof of the castle, way down the canvas with vast sky.  Only in terms of the perspective, however;  you couldn’t really call Kobke’s stuff surreal – it’s so normal, yet empty (but then, Delvaux, de Chirico…).

Did Picasso really revere him?  there’s something in Penguin Book of Art Writing on a party at R’s, which I think implies they made fun of him – I’ll  re-read it for tomorrow.  I was thinking maybe Rousseau was a sort of Ornette Coleman- type figure, sort of derided at first, too advanced in his approach to be appreciated by anyone but a handful.  I’ll come back to that too.

No new paintings yet, so an old one will have to do..

St. John on Patmos

Blackpaint 121

April 26, 2010

Tate Modern

Dropped my partner’s paintings in to the Bankside Gallery for an exhibition today, so after, visited the  little round Jorn heads swimming like fish and the black Pollock and the Kline “black bridgehead” (Meryon, is it? sounds like St.Ives) and the huge, scraped, shimmering Richters and the pink and pearl grey Mitchell, to make sure they were still there – they were.

Motherwell, Picasso

In the Surrealist bit, was struck again by how boring the surfaces of most surrealist works are.  Makes sense I suppose, because the “message” is in the images, not the texture.  But I’m over familiar with most of them, so again, the painting that captured my attention was the Motherwell “Ulysses” on cardboard and wood, with that fleecy lump of white and the black triangular shape. 

Also, a Klee, black line drawing on white ground, “The Burdened Children” – looked a bit like a Brice Marden. 

These, and of course, the Picasso in that startling light  green, with the chunky woman staring out at you from her prone pose, resting on her elbow.  He, Picasso that is, always captures your eye.

To me, it always looks as if he’s just walked up to the canvas, slapped on the background, executed the figure in a few decisive (almost contemptuous) strokes, filled in a few details, looked at his watch and moved on to bash out another painting before the paint dries.  It’s a feeling I get from nearly every Picasso canvas – no errors, no overpainting, slip-slap, masterpiece done, move on.  The colours are piercing, the images arresting, the surfaces OK, but he’s not really interested in texture, is he?  No time.

In the bookshop after, a woman picked up the Taschen Picasso and leafing through, said to her friend, “He wasn’t bad at the beginning, you know – before he started to go all weird.”

Sarmanto

A new name to me, and a roomful of works, by Julao Sarmento, Portuguese, born 1948; one with a surface resemblance to Rauschenberg, rather disturbing collection of images in one of which, a man appears to be throttling a woman… Others in which the images are part erased or faded out – to do with memory.

Carrington, Tanning and Carrington

I realise today that I have been confusing two, and sometimes three different women painters.  For the similarly afflicted (I’m sure there are some), Leonora Carrington (British) and Dorothea Tanning (American) are both surrealist painters with a somewhat similar style, both with a connection to Max Ernst (Carrington was his lover until his arrest in WW2 by the Gestapo and his subsequent marriage to Peggy Guggenheim.  Tanning married him after Guggenheim). Dora Carrington, a little earlier than the other two, 1893 – 1932, was not a surrealist but a portraitist.  She was married to Lytton Strachey and committed suicide after his death.

Unforgiveable, this confusion – I’ll look at the work of the two surrealists more closely to establish the differences more firmly and stop this mental blurring (but their names and work are similar – and then there’s the Ernst connection…).

White Worm (fragment)

Listening to Ian Dury, Jack Shit George.

“What did you learn in school today? Jack shit.

Soon as the teacher moves away – that’s it.”

Blackpaint

26.04.10