Posts Tagged ‘National Portrait Gallery’

Blackpaint 567 – Fred in his Coffin, Julieta and the Deluge

September 4, 2016

William Eggleston, Portraits, NPG

Brilliant exhibition.  We were put off a little by the title, thinking of a series of head and shoulders photos – should have known better.  They are in context, of course – the context being the American southern states, mostly Mississippi, Louisiana and Tennessee from the 50s through to the 80s.  They have the air of snapshots; the subjects sometimes look startled, or mildly annoyed, or are in mid action, stepping off a kerb, say.  In that respect, they provide a contrast to the great photos of Saul Leiter, recently displayed at the Photographers Gallery (see previous Blackpaint).  A few favourites below:

egglestone 1

Self Portrait

 

eggleston 2

Touch of Psycho here?

 

eggleston 3

Stephen King, maybe – Firestarter?

In one or two pictures, you are reminded (slightly) of Diane Arbus – but without the sense that the grotesque has been consciously sought out.  Rather, challenge, vulnerability, self-consciousness, especially in the Disco series.  A few celebrities – Joe Strummer, blues singer Mississippi Fred McDowell (well, he’s a celebrity to me) in his coffin.. there’s context for you.

Julieta, Pedro Almodovar, 2015

julieta2

The latest Almodovar, and it has been received with reverence by film critics, notably Mark Kermode.  I think it’s great, but the reverence is misplaced.  It’s based on three Alice Munro stories, a heroine played by a young and older actress – sorry, actor, for Guardian readers – who transforms from one to the other during a hair-washing sequence.

As often happens in Almodovar films, women brightly and loudly tell each other outlandish and unlikely things in series, and the other just…accepts.  Also, there is the thing where a woman (usually) makes a completely unreasonable and inexplicable decision and demands that others simply accept without question – which they do.

Another Almodovar thing – women in comas, disabled by MS, dementia, weakened by nervous collapse.  There is a sort of soap opera feel to the plots, intentionally I’m sure; you could imagine them turning up in “Neighbours”.  Almodovar mixes in a bit of surrealism and surprising, unconventional sexual behaviour – rather like Bunuel’s realist brother.

As to visuals, the film is billed as “ravishing” and “gorgeous”.  It has its moments; the stag running with the train, stormy cloud- and sea shots, beautiful female actors, Julieta’s Klimt dressing gown.

julieta1

The plot hinges on the disappearance of Julieta’s daughter.  Without revealing the end, I thought Bunuel would have handled it differently; I’m thinking of “Exterminating Angel”.

Winifred Knights, Dulwich Picture Gallery

The drawings are impressive, especially the nude life drawing; there’s a pen and ink that’s just like the sculptor Flaxman – however, they are really static.  There are several scenes with multiple figures, with no movement at all.  Some like those medieval style Victorian tableaux.  Some nice coloured drawings or watercolours of Cuckmere and mountain scapes.  A group of pilgrims, sleeping amongst tit-shaped haycocks; another drawing of women sitting and lying that look just like flints from a couple of feet away.

knights1

The presiding influence in her work is a combination of the Vorticists and Della Francesca (static, statuesque, isolation of each figure in the picture – eg the Marriage at Cana).

knights2

Her masterpiece is “The Deluge” – massive, absurd, dramatic gesturing, static.  There are a number of precision sketches of the same, showing the preparation that went into the final work.  There’s a bit of Stanley Spencer in the colours; the shapes vaguely reminded me of the silhouettes on road traffic signs, for some reason.

The Deluge 1920 Winifred Knights 1899-1947 Purchased with assistance from the Friends of the Tate Gallery 1989 http://www.tate.org.uk/art/work/T05532

 

the sea of marmara

The Sea of Marmara

Blackpaint

September 2016

 

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Blackpaint 498 – Ice Cream at Tate Modern, Breasts at the RA

June 7, 2015

Agnes Martin (Tate Modern)

Happy Holiday 1999 Agnes Martin 1912-2004 ARTIST ROOMS  Acquired jointly with the National Galleries of Scotland through The d'Offay Donation with assistance from the National Heritage Memorial Fund and the Art Fund 2008 http://www.tate.org.uk/art/work/AR00179

Happy Holiday

This is the new exhibition at Tate Modern – those familiar with Martin’s work will know what to expect: the palest “ice cream” pastels (Neapolitan) , vanishing into near invisibility, stripes, huge grids done in faint graphite with tiny squares, a roomful of a dozen white canvases, occasionally, background fields varied by tiny, pale, differently coloured blobs…  Her early work, influenced to a degree by other abstractionists, resembles Pasmore somewhat.  Strangely, her later work appears, to a dissenter like me, to have more going on – a coloured stripe through the centre, a blue square, two black triangles with the tops snipped off.  This seems the “wrong” way round, somehow.  Still, if you emptied out your pictures early on, I suppose you start putting things in again, if you live long enough.

Like Rothko’s Seagram pictures, this is art that I think requires a contemplative attitude in the viewer that I am unable to sustain.  I hope one day to be able to appreciate them more fully.

My Blake Calendar

Below is the picture for June.  It shows Oberon, Titania and Puck from A Midsummer Night’s Dream.  I find it enormously encouraging that even artists of William Blake’s taste and ability are capable of turning out crappy pictures occasionally.

Oberon, Titania and Puck with Fairies Dancing circa 1786 William Blake 1757-1827 Presented by Alfred A. de Pass in memory of his wife Ethel 1910 http://www.tate.org.uk/art/work/N02686

National Portrait Gallery

I wrote about this beautiful little portrait of Hardy a few months ago.

hardy strang

 Thomas Hardy, William Strang

A little while later, I bought a 70s Penguin paperback of EM Forster’s “The Longest Journey”; on the cover was this picture, also by Strang, called “Bank Holiday”.

Bank Holiday 1912 William Strang 1859-1921 Presented by F. Howard through the National Loan Exhibitions Committee 1922 http://www.tate.org.uk/art/work/N03036

I think it’s great – totally unlike the Hardy; for some reason, it makes me think of Norman Rockwell.

Forster and Woolf

While I’m on the subject of Forster and the above novel, I found it interesting that he, like Virginia Woolf (Lighthouse, Jacob’s Room, The Voyage Out), occasionally kills his characters off with quite brutal suddenness.  He does in this, anyway; I wonder if there was any influence, and if so, in which direction?

 Back to the NPG

Below are two more arresting paintings, both by John Collier.  The first is, of course, Charles Darwin; the second, the Labour and later, Liberal, politician, John Burns.  I suppose it’s partly the full square stance of both subjects and Burns’ hands on hips – defiance? frankness?  I have to say that Darwin’s picture reminds me faintly of an orang utan – in a good way – but I think that may be because it was parodied in a cartoon and I “see” the parody…

collier darwin

Darwin, John Collier 

by John Collier, oil on canvas, 1889

 

John Burns, John Collier

RA Summer Exhibition 

Proper review of this next week, but in the meantime, here is by far the best painting in the exhibition – the fact that Marion Jones is my partner has no bearing, obviously, on my opinion.

marion RA

 

Bars and Triangles, Marion Jones

Diebenkorn, RA

I made my third visit to the brilliant Diebenkorn exhibition after the RA Summer Show – I started seeing great little paintings within paintings in the earlier abstracts, Albuquerque and Urbana series; little sections that would make paintings in themselves.  I started to see slight parallels with some of Nicolas de Stael’s landscapes, especially “Sea Wall”.  But most startlingly, I saw breasts everywhere.  In “Albuquerque 57”  (below) for instance, there is a very clear sketch of a pair of breasts that I hadn’t noticed before.  After that, I saw them everywhere in these abstracts, mostly in the shape of the lobes.

diebenkorn berkeley 57

 

Just above the green and yellow rectangular shapes.

To finish, here is a minimalist work of mine, in homage to Agnes Martin:

Close of a long day

Close of a Long Day

Blackpaint

6.6.15