Posts Tagged ‘Nevinson’

Blackpaint 627 – 20th Century Wars, Vampires and Top Shots

September 28, 2018

Cold War (dir. Pavel Pawlikowsky, 2018)

Polish film, black and white, concentrating on a love affair within a folk music collective in the early 50s.  The musical director starts to have sex with a young and talented performer and the affair deepens for both of them, as communist politics are increasingly imposed on the material and performances of the ensembles.  Folky tributes to comrade Stalin have to be performed to ensure the enterprise can continue.  MD defects in Paris, talented young performer stays.

The affair continues when she also defects a year or so later – but they row drunkenly and she swans off back to Poland in a huff.  And so it goes, through the 50s and on; can’t live apart, can’t live together.  At last, it’s resolved, in a way that recalls scenes from Bela Tarr’s “Satantango” and the end of Tarkovsky’s “Stalker”.  Not the resolution, that is, but the setting in which it takes place.

The music of the various ethnic groups heard in the film is fabulous and strange; there is some terrific jazz piano.  Sex is presumably problematic for #Me Too enthusiasts, since the girl is quite young at the beginning of the film, the man older and in a position of some authority – not that I’ve heard or read any adverse comment.  Foreign film, not lascivious, so presumably it’s OK.

Aerial Top Down Shots (cont.) –  

Tried to keep track of these as I said last time, but they are everywhere now – not only in the classy drama  and nature progs and adverts, but even in “The One Show”.  Almost obligatory.

The Night Porter (dir, Liliana Caviani, 1974)

Great transgressive film, big scandal at the time – Dirk Bogarde as a Nazi version of Aschenbach, Charlotte Rampling in braces, singing and posing for the camp guards and being rewarded with a severed head.  But even here, I find some unlikely similarities to “Cold War” (forbidden love, obsession, fascist/communist opposition to the couple, suicide).

Dracula, Bram Stoker.

Just reread this and I was surprised to find it was one of those books (Lord of the Rings, Stephen King’s “It”) where a sacred fellowship is formed to perform the impossible task of – saving the world, basically.   But,unbelievably, after losing poor Lucy to the Nosferatu and having to stake her through the heart and cut her head off to save her soul – they leave Mina to sleep alone, so that Dracula can get at her.  I see I have written “Unbelievably”…

Nevinson at British Museum, Print Room (room 90)

OK films over – now for the pictures on walls.  Nevinson was in a medical unit at or near at the front in WW1 for a few months.  He became one of the leading British war artists, along with the likes of William Orpen, and Paul Nash.  my favourites below.  the second is, of course, not a war scene, but a street in New York.  There’s a great view through a Paris window that’s just like  a Matisse…



Richard Smith at Tate Britain

This has reappeared on the wall at TB; meant to put it up last time but forgot.  I think of it as the lion’s mane.

I’ve finally done some painting again and the results are below.






Crashing Out





Blackpaint 400 – Dora, Mark and Stanley in Dulwich

June 27, 2013

Dulwich Picture Gallery – “A Crisis of Brilliance”

This is an exhibition of works by a number of British artists, connected with each other by way of the Slade, where they all studied under Tonks , and then by Bloomsbury etc., completed between 1908 and 1922.  WWI therefore features (there is the huge, rippling, faintly Kokoschka – like Bomberg of sappers under bombardment and Nevinson’s solitary, diving biplane) but does not dominate the exhibition.  My highlights as follows:

Stanley Spencer, “Mending Cowls at Cookham” – the  storm- threatening sky providing stark background to the  white of the cowls, as they are put in place.  That key shape does something too;

spencer cowls

Dora Carrington, “Soldiers at a Stream” – little painting, perfectly rendered and coloured, horses drinking, soldiers mounted;

Mark Gertler, “Pool at Garsington” – a touch of Cezanne, maybe; the L-shaped slice that seems to be collaged in, surrounding the house and tree;


Carrington, that profile of Strachey with the stunning hands, fingers tented in thought (actually though, not- he’s holding a book).

There are some beautiful pencil drawings, hard to choose the best; self-portraits by Spencer and Carrington and Bomberg, all great (although Carrington’s, done at 16, looks nothing like Gertler’s portrait of her, done a few years later – Gertler’s is exceptionally fine, lightly but surely drawn and conveying a wealth of character; the gaze of love, presumably).


Carrington’s heavy-hipped “standing Nude” is notable and the Gertler “Seated Nude”, done in watercolour pencils.

The clinker of the exhibition is Carrington’s “Bedford Market”, but she was very young when she did it and it’s very competent.

The exhibition is only three or four rooms, quite understated, but some real treasures.  I see I haven’t mentioned Paul Nash at all – probably because I’ve seen so much of his work lately.  The impact dulls with repetition; or does it always?  Maybe there are some painters who always grab you – for me, it’s de Kooning.  Forgot to mention Bomberg’s “In the Hold”, one of his horse-frightening geometric “abstracts”, way beyond anything else in the exhibition for experimentation and fittingly, separated from the others at the entrance.

Salter, All There Is

Finished this now, as well as “Light Years”; the writing in the earlier novel perhaps more consciously “fine”, sometimes crossing the border into pretentious territory – but I read them both, quickly for me, and am close to finishing his memoir, “Burning the Days”, for the second time.  There is a startling section towards the end of “All There Is”, when Salter’s protagonist Bowman rather forcefully overcomes the weak resistance of Anet, the young daughter of his ex-lover, takes her on a trip to Paris and abandons her there in a hotel room – an act of revenge on her mother, who had abandoned Bowman (and “robbed” him of a house in the courts).  Anet says “No” – but Bowman clearly knows she means “Yes”, and acts accordingly.  He’s right, of course; afterwards, she’s happy – until he ditches her.  Salter offers no hint of approval or disapproval; merely “describes”.  Maybe that’s what startled me about it – it’s so at odds with currently acceptable attitudes towards sexual conduct.

Almodovar, Talk to Her

This film is another case in point; it has a young woman in a coma, who is stalked – before the accident – by a pudgy mother’s boy.  He manages to become one of her carers when she is comatose, rapes her and makes her pregnant, a crime for which he is eventually imprisoned.

Unbelievably, given the circumstances outlined above, you feel a sort of queasy sympathy, rather than revulsion, for the rapist.  I’ve checked online; it’s not just me, the proper critics are united in their admiration for the film, which won an Academy Award and a Golden Globe in 2002.

So, how can this be?  Firstly, you don’t see the sex (although there is a fantasy sequence where a tiny dancer enters a rather stylised vagina).  The  surreal atmosphere of Almodovar’s films probably helps; and the rapist is portrayed throughout as a gentle, concerned character with a strong empathy for women, who is in love with (fixated on) the victim.  And he is caught, imprisoned and eventually kills himself.

Almodovar is clearly a follower of Bunuel in his anarchistic, surreal tendencies and his insistence on exploring the “unacceptable” faces of sexuality – fetishism and illness are prominent themes in the work of both.

What makes Almodovar’s film less jarring than the incident in Salter’s book?  I’m not sure.  To be continued.




Blackpaint 285

July 10, 2011

The Vorticists (Tate Britain)

Interesting to see how closely the works of the painters, at least, resemble each other; the diagonals, acute angles, elbows and zigzags.  I’d find it difficult to distinguish between Wyndham Lewis, William Roberts and Echells.  Dorothy Shakespear and Helen Saunders also using similar configurations but more adventurous use of colour – or maybe, a stronger imperative to “beautify” the work.  This may be right for the purely abstract work, but, of course, paintings such as Bomberg’s Mud Bath were done in a vivid blaze of colour…

Also interesting to me that the work often reverted to figuration during the war, and the involvement of several of the Vorticist artists in the trenches – as if, perhaps, they felt the experience required a less abstract depiction, or maybe was inexpressible in purely abstract terms??  Nevinson, however, was always figurative – his paintings remind me of Feininger, mixed with a little Delaunay (the Eiffel Tower, say).

As for the sculpture, Epstein’s driller is the first thing on view, in the form that he intended and looking rather like a robot biker.  Elsewhere, there is a relief of a woman upside-down giving birth; only realised this when I read the title. Before, I thought the emerging infant was a stylised penis going the other way .  Gaudier-Brjeska’s works mostly resemble stylised sculptural insects, smoothly and cleanly executed.

Have to mention the bombastic manifestoes and declarations in varying sizes of stark, black font on the walls, shouting  manic assertions in the true and irresistable manner of all tiny movements…. (See Blackpaint on Mondrian, Van Doesburg etc.)

Elsewhere in the Tate, there is an exhibition of photographs and newspaper articles concerning a show called “Prostitute”, put on at the ICA in 1976  by Genesis P- Orridge and Cosey Fanni Tutti,  that looks to have pushed things as far as possible at the time, in terms of nudity, sexual reference and general outrage – further, I guess, than you could go now in an art gallery?  There is a photo that looks as if it gave Tracey Emin the idea for that one of her naked, scooping paper money towards her crotch.  There are little boxes with shelves, on which are used sanitary towels, exhibited under Orridge’s name (did he nick it from feminist artists, or do it first?  I looked it up, and it appears it was Judy Chicago in about 1972)  The tabloid headlines on display are hilarious.  A thoroughly edifying experience and I can’t recommend it too highly.

Finally at the Tate, there’s a s0rt 0f 30’s and WW2 room with some great pictures; the white horse from the train carriage window by Ravilious, a great country lane with pink slanting lines by Edward Bawden, a spectacularly awful Nevinson with a huge, symbolic War monster crouching over the world, like a GF Watts, I thought.  Some great Sutherland Blitz damage, a Trevelyan mill town collage, hunger marchers in Humphrey Spender photos.  And posters of the green and golden- yellow fields of England, to remind the wartime populace what they were fighting for.


“Mother and Son”; it’s like Christy Moore’s “Sonny, don’t go away”, turned into a film and transferred from Ireland to Russia.  Well, not like it at all, really.  Really claustrophobic rural steppe scenery, filmed  at an angle, somehow; the son’s figure, as he carts his dying mother around in his arms, is always slanting and elongated – he looks like Frankenstein’s monster at times.  Short; only 90 minutes, but gruelling, with the Russian “Shto, shto” whispering, which grates on my ears anyway.

A reminder – look out for my book cover to Gregory Wood’s “An Ordinary Dog” (Carcanet).  There are three copies on sale in London; two in Foyles, one in Blackwoods, both in Charing Cross Road.  Mind you, I expect they’ve all been sold by now.