Posts Tagged ‘Nefertiti’

Blackpaint 472 Lard, Lilith and Daybreak in Paris

December 8, 2014

Nefertiti again

Reading my Phaidon “30,000 Years of Art”, I find that the astounding head in the Berlin Neues Museum was done as a sort of template for Nefertiti heads – it wasn’t even intended as a masterpiece, but as a pattern!  The unpainted eye was on the less important side; apparently, the right profile was the important one in Egyptian culture (but what about figures “walking” towards the left?  Are they all looking behind them?).  No, of course they’re not – I just checked.

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The Hauptbahnhoff Museum

This is an old station, converted;  it has a vast central hall, with a series of display galleries to the left and right of the entrance and downstairs, long corridors of white walls, opening on big and small white chambers, packed with great stuff – although not really “packed”; loads of room,so well spaced out.  There is so much fantastic stuff in here that I can only mention a few pieces (why? – because otherwise I’ll be writing this for ever and I want to publish and go to bed).

First, to the left, for Beuys.  There’s the old felt suit, shoals of blackboards with his crazy lecture notes all over them, rusted iron rails attached to an iron cannon barrel with an iron man’s head poking out – iron’s wired up, something to do with iron storing electric earth energy like a battery….  But the standout exhibit is a roomful of giant blocks of “tallow” – not candle wax but lard.  It’s made from mutton fat, leavened with some beef fat to stiffen it and moulded into blocks by the contours of some underground subway on a new concrete estate. He had been invited to celebrate the completion of the estate with an appropriate work.  Some of the chunks are strapped together with bolted metal struts, some are wired up to detect heat in the centre to see if they had solidified.

No doubt, those who invited Beuys’ contribution were well pleased.

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Blocks of lard, Joseph Beuys 

There is a room of Warhols, giant prints of kitchen knives, flowers (green and blue), Elvis with the six-gun, and a HUGE face of Chairman Mao, surrounded by slapdash strokes of yellow paint.  There is also that horrible ambulance crash, with the dead woman hanging backwards out of the smashed window; I couldn’t see how such a crash could have happened – I wonder if it was staged in some way.  Then again, he used other shocking images that were not staged, like the woman jumping to her death from the flat…

Moving on from Mao, there are four or five big Twomblys, the usual fragments and scribbles, looking indefinably great somehow and three fabulous Rauschenbergs (see below).

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Just a little bit like Karel Appel, I think.

Now Kiefer.

Three things: a parody of a wedding dress, on a stand, penetrated with great shards of broken glass, like that of a reinforced window; a huge, black, wooden plaque, scarred and scored, with cartoonish portraits of great figures of German and world history (I think Bismarck and Einstein both there).  Finally, on end wall, “Lilith” – a long plaque of grey lead, with big, loose lead rolls and sheets attached; in the centre, a number of little girls’ dresses. half-painted over and stuck on.  There is a blurb on the wall about Lilith, Adam’s first wife in the Kabbala and the legend – but anyone can see it’s about the camps, whatever Kiefer might say; in that respect, he’s a prisoner of German history.

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Lilith, Anselm  Kiefer 

Of the rest, Katharina Grosse reminded me a little of Kiefer in the use of two felled trees for her exhibit; he goes in for using entire felled trees on occasion.  As can be seen below, however, Grosse uses distinctly unKiefer-like spray colours on her trees; Anselm sticks to silver and gold, browns, black, greys and white, pretty much.

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Le Jour se Leve, Marcel Carne, 1939

At last out on DVD, the great Jean Gabin, on his push-bike, with that slouchy flat cap and the ribbed sweater; working class hero, holed up in his attic room, chain smoking, besieged by the flics, awaiting daybreak and the inevitable.  I was astounded to see a brief – but not that brief – shot of Arletty totally starkers; a surprise to say the least, seeing as it was made in 1938 or 9.  It mirrors the fall of the Popular Front, according to the commentary on the DVD.

The Narrow Road to the Deep North, Richard Flanagan

I’m only about half way through, but I’m seriously wondering how this won the Booker Prize.  Apart from the laughable and well-publicised sex scenes  and the interminable, slushy affair that bogs down the first half, there’s a bit of a problem with the camp scenes; he’s inclined to do that Gallipoli thing where they ‘re all larrikins, ex-shearers, roo hunters, prospectors… He actually says at one point that they have arrived in the prison camp from the 19th century.  He seemed like a nice bloke on the telly, though, and there is the fact that his father was a POW of the Japanese and died before it was published.  Maybe the judges have been softened up by all the WWI stuff.  Or maybe they haven’t read any of those red-spined Corgi war paperbacks from the 50s and 60s, RH Whitecross’s “Slaves of the Son of Heaven”, for example.

 

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 WIP,

Blackpaint

08.12.14

 

 

 

 

 

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Blackpaint 471 – Grayson, Grace, Nazis and the Queen

December 1, 2014

Fitzwilliam Permanent Collection

This Cambridge museum is staggeringly ornate inside; the entrance hall is like some gilded cathedral.  Quite a lot of rather mediocre pictures by some great painters, like the Quai d’Orsay – some so-so Titians, an unremarkable Veronese, two really shit Matisses, a bad Degas.  I’m not complaining; it’s interesting to see that the masters can be mediocre too.  And there ARE some beautiful pictures – a great Vuillard interior, a fabulous black paint sketch by Degas, Dutch, French and Spanish still lifes on black ground – butterflies, rotting fruit and lizards (what do they signify?) among the flowers.

Several lovely Camden Town paintings, Harold Gilman, Sickert and Ethel Sands, whose work looked just like the great Gilman to me.

National Portrait Gallery – Grayson Perry

Pottery and tapestry that goes with Perry’s recent TV prog, in which he interviewed a diverse selection of people living in Britain today and produced portraits of them.  There is a big tapestry in which he lists various aspects of the British self-image;  the Modern Family (two men and a child); the Ashford Hijab (below); the Alzheimer’s sufferer and his amazing wife; the Children of God family, and several others.  My favourites are the three love goddesses, that remind me of the Willendorf Venus – but bigger, of course –  and the Cuman figures from the Ukraine that are in Berlin (see next week’s blog).

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The Ashford Hijab

I took the opportunity to go round the collection and discovered a few great pictures with which I was unfamiliar:

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WG Grace by Archibald Wortley

Straight off the cigarette card, I think – I love the loose way he’s done the shirt and arms (see Rivers below);

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Thomas Hardy, by William Strang

Small, fantastic, Holbein-ish, except for the downward gaze; love the green on red background.

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David Sylvester by Larry Rivers

Written about this picture before.  The looseness of the background is now a common style; I’m thinking of that portrait of the officer in his dress uniform after a party, at the BP Prize a couple of years ago.  Also, I like the way he has pink soup cascading over his neck and shoulder.

Lore (2012) 

Made in German by Cate Shortland, an Australian, I found this film to be a refreshing take on the Nazi regime – it shows a couple of formidable and chilling old Nazi diehard women, one Lore’s “Omi” (grandmother), the other a peasant woman, lamenting the dead Fuhrer and how the German people had let him down.  Necessary corrective to the attractive face of Nazism presented by Alexandra Maria Lara, who plays Traudl Junge in “Downfall”.

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Remember Me

Three- part ghost story on BBC1, starring Michael Palin; that beach scene in the opening credits, where the tall, black-shrouded figure appears, is surely inspired by Jonathan Miller’s B&W adaptation of MR James’ “Whistle and I’ll Come to You Lad” – a masterpiece, featuring another Michael -Hordern – and which, for me, ranks with “The Ring” for creepiness, despite its age.

First Love, Last Rites

Still on that theme of finding comparisons, I’ve just finished Ian McEwan’s early short stories (see last blog) and the book that came to my mind was “Tomato Cain” by Nigel Kneale, author of the Quatermass books.  Kneale’s stories lack the explicit sex, of course – it was the 50s – but I thought McEwan’s “Butterflies” in particular was very like Kneale.

Turner Prize

It should have been Tris Vonner -Marshall or James Richards (see Blackpaint a few blogs ago).

 Berlin

Just back from four days of museums and galleries, for which see next blog, but I have to mention Nefertiti in the Neues Museum; all on her own in a darkened chamber, her face is somehow completely modern – I thought maybe behind a desk at an airport.  the beauty  is in the consummate skill of the modelling, the long neck, smooth skin – like a Holbein portrait (see below) it’s more than just brilliant, in that it goes beyond style.

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And Holbein…

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The Merchant George Gisze, Holbein

Different clothes, but I’m sure I saw this bloke on the UBahn on Friday… And to follow Holbein, here’s my latest:

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 Water Engine, Blackpaint

01.12.14