Posts Tagged ‘Nicolas de Stael’

Blackpaint 568 – Terry and Julie, Little Fascists, Ghost Cities

September 12, 2016

Photographer’s Gallery – Terence Donovan and “Made you Look”

julie

In amongst the hard-faced young James Bond types in belted raincoats and beautiful, tubular, posing women, this captivating shot of Julie Christie, looking groomed but feral; there’s that smudge or graze near her elbow – bit more dirt and you could see it as a Don McCullin job.  This, and the famous close-up of Terence Stamp are the stand-outs, but it’s all good.

 

made-you-look

This is the other exhibition on at the PG; New York, London, Senegal; especially good, the ones of Senegal dandies in 1904.  The man on the poster in the plaid trousers is from New York in the 80s, I think.

Childhood of a Leader (dir. Brady Corbet, 2015)

leader

I expected the Omen after the trailer, with the ominous, crashing, pulsing electro-classical score (Scott Walker of the Walker Brothers – remember?); set in France or Belgium (filmed in Hungary) at the end of WWI, as the Treaty of Versailles was evolving.  It starts with footage of the fighting and the Versailles cavalcade – dozens of cars in convoy through the streets.  The countryside is dark, distressed, the trees and the chateaux and houses distressed and damaged; the winter landscape, black trees, black clothes, black cars – the lighting in the picture is typical.

The film is constructed in three “Tantrums” and an Epilogue, showing the boy as an adult dictator, reviewing his troops before cheering crowds.  There is a Sun emblem with wiggly rays, I think… Who is he supposed to represent?  It’s based on a combination of a Sartre short story of the same name with a section of John Fowles’ “The Magus”.  I haven’t got to the bit in the Magus yet, but the Sartre story has the boy growing up to be a member of a fascist group and taking part in the murder of a Jew.  Bit of a stretch to becoming a dictator.

There’s nothing here that shows any insight into how a dictator might gain – as opposed to inherit – power.  Where are we in the final section: America?  Central Europe?  The child is close by birth to influence and power, but nothing here really suggests an interest in it, beyond the exercise of his immediate will.  The tantrums are not that dramatic; chucking stones at churchgoers, self-starving, refusing to dress, manipulating servants, embarrassing Mother, defying Father… Next thing, he’s dictating…

The music and visuals promise much – lots of Metropolis, a circular dome against the sky, black coats, white blouses, distressed walls, Hammershoi, Manet, a desolate winter field with a figure in the distance – but the story is paper-thin.  The boy reminded me a little of Mark Lester in “Oliver” – but much more, the little girl in “Outnumbered”.

Behemoth (dir. Zhao Liang, 2015)

behemoth

 

behemoth-2

A nude, prone, rear view of a male torso against the grey/brown, scarred – too weak a word – devastated landscape of open cast mining, fields of green weeds before scores of massive, identical tower blocks.  In such shots, triangular, straight-sided layering as of glass panes.  Poetry read over shots.  Coal mines, steel works, quarries, “ghost cities”, truck ballets (nose to tail, as they crawl up slag heaps to vertiginous drops and shed their loads), fire dragons blasting through the air, sparks, puddles of molten metal and clinker in the foundries.  The lung patients in hospital and dying at home, the grey/black liquid from their chests filling jars.  The empty cities, apartment blocks all the same, no cars on the roads, but the traffic lights operating…

It’s a rare thing; an art film and social documentary interwoven perfectly.  Nearest thing I can think of would be “Leviathan”, the fishing doc.

 

 

Nicolas de Stael, Etel Adnan, Wim Oepts

No particular reason for linking these three, except that, at different times, in different places (France, Holland, Israel)  they seem to have seen the world similarly

ds.

De Stael

 

wo

Oepts

 

adnan2

Adnan

 

holy-stone-and-sand

Holy Stone and Sand – WIP

Blackpaint

12.09.16

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Blackpaint 564 – Tootles, Sickert, Etel and Breakfast

August 2, 2016

Painting with Light, Tate Britain

Great exhibition of photographs and paintings from photographs; again, much of TB’s collection recycled (Sargent kids with lanterns, Clausen turnip choppers, Rosetti women), but justified on the whole.  Standouts for me were Coburn’s photos of the river and Regents Canal, clearly influencing Whistler:

coburn1

coburn2

His portrait of the beautiful Elsie “Tootles” Thomas:

tootles thomas

Tiny, but fabulous…

And Jane Morris, the model for Rosetti’s “Proserpine”:

jane morris

Proserpine 1874 Dante Gabriel Rossetti 1828-1882 Presented by W. Graham Robertson 1940 http://www.tate.org.uk/art/work/N05064

He’s glammed her up, hasn’t he?  Especially the lips…

Big exhibition, loads of interest, highly recommended.

Just off the main hall is a group of paintings from photographs by Walter Sickert.  This goes nicely with the main exhibition as regards subject matter; Sickert seems to have used a pink grounding and a lot of scraping.  One or two of these pictures are almost like Luc Tuymans or Gerhard Richter.

Claude Phillip Martin 1935 Walter Richard Sickert 1860-1942 Presented by Sir Alec Martin KBE through the Art Fund 1958 http://www.tate.org.uk/art/work/T00223

 

 

Variation on Peggy 1934-5 Walter Richard Sickert 1860-1942 Bequeathed by Dame Peggy Ashcroft 1992 http://www.tate.org.uk/art/work/T06601

 

Etel Adnan, Sackler Gallery

Over by the Serpentine, the third great exhibition, that of the Israeli artist, whose earlier paintings of the 60s and 70s are far superior to those more figurative and simplified that are more recent.  The early ones have great texture and colour and are strongly reminiscent of Nicholas de Stael and also Victor Pasmore (one or two):

adnan2

Corbyn/Manson

Last blog, I made a facetious remark about Jeremy often being surrounded in photos by adoring young women in long summer dresses – like Manson Family members, I “joked”;  Hadley Freeman in Saturday’s Guardian made a similar, but NOT facetious link, linking the apparent “cult of personality” to violence and anti-semitism in the Momentum camp.  That will teach me…

corbyn

Sorry, pathetically short blog this week; running out of steam in many ways.

 

all day breakfast

All Day Breakfast

Blackpaint

1/08/16

 

 

 

 

 

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

Blackpaint 458 – Braque, Yoko and Johnny at Bilbao

August 15, 2014

Braque at the Guggenheim, Bilbao

First, a full-size ballet stage set; very rough-cut “curtains and crooked arches, roughly-painted houses, windows of a “working class section” of an Italian town – I didn’t record the name of the ballet. Quite strong resemblance to a de Chirico.

Next, his Fauvist pictures.  One or two look like the Soutine paintings at the Ashmolean exhibition, but without the Expressionist writhing intensity.

Early Cubist stuff – guitars, mandolins, Sacre-Coueur, a port scene – very familiar and formulaic, they appear to my jaded eyes; the usual greys and browns.  Then, the ones that Patrick Heron “borrowed”, only done about thirty years earlier – white outlines round black lines, black, brown, blue, green, yellow, flowers, jugs, interiors.

One beautiful, dark salmon-based one with sand mixed into the paint, looking great from a distance.  Ditto the pink tablecloth one.

braque red tablecloth

I wasn’t keen on the silhouettes of women at card tables, against large lemon-green patches.

Several of the paintings are on black, brown or maybe navy blue backgrounds; the best is the Packing Case.

braque the packing case

Then, there is the Billiard Table, with mysterious white lines binding it, or in which it appears suspended.

braque billiard table

There is a tiny “Basket of Fruit” that looks just like a Winifred Nicholson.  Lots of masks and fishes (black, red, spotted), newsprint, Picasso -like skulls and women – one, greeny yellow with a huge single breast rising from her stomach.

There are some statuesque, brawny women, reminiscent of those Matisse reliefs, with stylised brown breasts and a repeated stomach design like an X ray of the kidneys.

The final room has a series of tiny landscapes, several of which had a touch of Van Gogh – stormy skies, “V” shaped birds.  They (the paintings) are narrow and stretched, as if through the viewing slot of a bird hide.  Interesting that de Stael apparently loved these; I can only think it was the stripe layers that resemble his own late sea and harbour scapes (see last blog).  The last painting is very like Van Gogh’s crows over the cornfield, but with a big, black plough lying detached and still in the foreground.  Suddenly reminded me of the Lanyon sketches on paper, displayed at Gimpel Fils recently and reviewed elsewhere in this blog.

A brilliant show; I’m looking forward to trying painting on dark backgrounds.

Yoko Ono at Bilbao

Most of the stuff on show here is the same or similar to the Serpentine Gallery show reviewed a while back in this blog – the stepladder and magnifying glass, photos of the clothes cutting happenings around the world, a series of bottles of water, each labelled with a famous person’s name; a couple of condoms, half filled with water (I presume) and suspended; a joky room with a huge magnet attached to one wall, pulling kitchen furniture and implements off kilter; a load of furniture sawn in half.

yoko furniture

 

There is, however, a wall of meticulous ink drawings, done with thousands of dots, of intricate abstract geometric shapes, showing real skill.  That was a surprise to me (not the skill, but the anomaly of the drawings amongst the conceptual stuff).

yoko drawing

De Stael

At the Le Havre exhibition (see last blog) I got a DVD about the painter which is in French.  I can just about understand most of it, but was intrigued that they kept returning to the same picture, the giant one reproduced below.  It turns out it was the one he was working on when he killed himself.

de stael the grand concert

 

A Separation 

Riveting Iranian film, directed by Ashgar Farhadi in 2011; I’m still halfway through, but  it concerns the trials of a man and his daughter trying to get help to look after his father, who is suffering from Alzheimer’s, and the crises that arise from this in their lives and that of the pregnant woman they hire.  Not a happy film, but compelling, I suppose, is the word I’d go for.

Johnny Winter

Saddened to read of the death of this blues colossus the other week; the only way to negotiate the Scalextrix – style motorways before Bilbao is to put on Winter’s “Scorching Blues” and join in the mayhem to the appropriate sounds.

“…So much shit in Texas,

Bound to step in some”

(Dallas)

Next blog: Pompidou Centre and Martial Reysse.

175

Blackpaint

15.08.14

 

Blackpaint 457 – de Stael at le Havre, Perfect Backs and Zola

August 7, 2014

Nicolas de Stael at le Havre – Lumieres du Nord, lumieres du Sud

I’m deeply indebted to Jon Hensher for commenting on 453 and letting me know about this stunning exhibition of de Stael’s late sea-and landscapes, mostly from 1951 – 55 (the year in which he killed himself by jumping from his studio window in Antibes).  Wikipedia gives his place of death as Paris – this must surely be an error, as he jumped from the 11th storey.  Why?  he was very successful and producing fantastic work.  Apparently, he suffered from recurring depression and had had an “unsatisfactory” meeting with an art critic.

Although the exhibition contains only one or two paintings that approach real abstraction, his work throughout is concerned with shape and colour rather than the accurate depiction of reality.  Sea and shoreline are represented by bands or stripes of colour, detail of ships or buildings by his familiar dabs or “tiles” of paint.  On the whole, the textures lack the thickness and crustiness of his earlier large abstracts, apart from one or two, such as “Landscape, Agrigente”,  which are scraped or scratched into (these are, to my eye, among the best).

What I hadn’t appreciated was his mastery of colour.  A few examples below:

de stael paysage sicily

Paysage, Sicile 1953

de Stael lemon

Landscape 1952

de Stael big red

Figures by the Sea (I think – my notes are very scrappy)

de stael bell

Calais – this is the exhibition poster; shades of Vanessa Bell’s “Studland Beach”?

I could rhapsodise about these pictures for some time, but that would be tedious, so I urge all my readers to drop everything, go to France and see for yourselves.  Incidentally, Wikipedia mentions the Bay Area painters as a point of comparison, in that NdS returned to figurative painting after abstraction; there is however a quotation from the artist on the wall of the museum, indicating that he himself made no distinction between abstraction and figuration.

Wim Oepts

Dutch painter, died 1988, who came to mind when I saw the more intense de Staels:

oepts

Also Anthony Frost, a bit – those ones he does with sacking.

Tate Britain Archive Room – “The Model and the Life Room”

This is easy to miss, as its down in the basement, at the bottom of the Fred and Ginger stairs.  it’s a collection of life drawings and sketches by the likes of Gaudier- Brzeska, Hilda Carline, Keith Vaughan, Augustus John, Michael Ayrton and Ithell Colquhoun.  There is a drawing by Alfred Stevens called “Seated Woman Gazing at Magog”, which is another in my Perfect Backs series:

alfred stevens

It goes with the likes of Kitaj’s smoking woman

kitaj

 

 

and the back of the real Ginger, dancing with Fred at the end of “Swing Time” (buy the DVD to see what I mean).

fred and ginger swing time

 

Here’s my own best effort, not in the same league, I know:

??????????

Zola; Rougon – Macquart cycle

Started the 20 novel cycle on my Kindle, having downloaded the complete works for £1.99.  What it demonstrates to me is the importance of the translation.  I read “Germinal” and “The Debacle” (or The Downfall, as it is called in the Collected Works) in the 60s Penguin Classics versions; I remember a racy,modern,  brutal, colourful prose style.  The style here is archaic and sentimental – the word “damsel” cropped up early on, used by the narrator, not a character.  Not sure I’ll be able to last the whole twenty – easier than Proust, though, and more happens.

 Next blog: Braque and Yoko at Bilbao, Martial Raysse at the Pompidou.

001

 Sonia “on the beach”

Or maybe she should be on her side?

??????????

 Blackpaint

7.08.14

Blackpaint 292

September 5, 2011

Edward Lucie-Smith

I’ve just acquired a used copy of his “Movements in Art since 1945” (Thames and Hudson, 1970); I’ve no idea if it’s still in print – it would have been updated, of course – but it contains a whole load of colour illustrations of paintings I’ve never seen before, in a beautiful matt finish, much nicer that the usual glossy.  Some listed below:

  • Gorky, the Betrayal (47);
  • Hofmann, the Rising Moon (64) – the characteristic “push-pull” rectangles on a red background;
  •  De Kooning, Woman and Bicycle (52-3) – ELS links De Kooning’s sharp-toothed women to Warhol’s later Marilyns;
  • Heron, Manganese in Deep Violet (67) – glowing, of course;
  • Sam Francis, Blue on a Point (58);
  • Asger Jorn, you Never Know (66) – swirling yellow, blue, red;
  • Appel, Women and Birds (58) – swirling blue and red, a little less yellow than Jorn;
  • De Stael, Agrigente (54) – eye-burning, “abstract” landscape…

and loads more.

Some of his remarks are interesting, given the time at which he is writing; he says that Hockney’s then current works of the California, lawns and pools,”Bigger Splash” phase lack the irony and bite of the earlier, cartoon boys period.  He yokes Balthus and Bacon together as figurative outsiders, dealing in comparable, transgressive or shocking images (surely Bacon is by far the superior of the two).  He notes the intriguing mixture of nostalgia and modernity in the work of Pop artists, such as Peter Blake, and the way that British Post -Painterly abstractionists like John Walker were still prepared to use perspective in their works, whereas such  use was banished from the Americans’ work.

He has a 1962 quotation from Duchamp, regarding the “Neo-Dadaists”, which is simple, but hugely important:  “This Neo-Dada, which they call New Realism, Pop Art, Assemblage,vetc., is an easy way out and lives on what Dada did.  When I discovered ready-mades I thought to discourage aesthetics.  In Neo-Dada they have taken my ready-mades and found aesthetic beauty in them.  I threw the bottle rack and the urinal into their faces as a challenge and now they admire them for their aesthetic beauty” (ELS. p.11).  What better expression is there for the problem I was on about in the last blog – how you make things look “good” in a painting by making them look like something somebody has done before?  There’s the answer – paint something which looks crap, then do it over and over again until you get used to it and it becomes a style….

St. Martin’s MA show

Beautifully produced catalogue for this, “on sale in the foyer”, and only two quid.  Here are some exhibits I remember:

Helen Sorensen, Peas and Music – green shoots from a huge soil bed, surrounded by speakers that weren’t playing when we visited; oddly touching, for some reason;

Oliver Guy-Watkins – don’t know title – a stairwell and whole section of basement smothered with fake snow; reminded me of the inside of my un-defrosted fridge;

Elsa Philippe, the Conductor – a video in which the artist (if it is she) resembles a member of the Incredible String Band in one of their early 70’s entertainments;

Laura Degenhardt, Thames Boat – didn’t see this in the flesh, but liked it in the catalogue for it’s painterly qualities – but I’ve just noticed the dimensions; 20*25 cms!  That’s about a postcard, isn’ it?

 

In the Dark Australia

Blackpaint

5/09/11

Blackpaint 163

July 6, 2010

Michelangelo

The Taschen says that Mick’s St. Paul statue is a self portrait, citing the “broken nose” (given to Mick by fellow sculptor Torrigiani).  Can’t see it myself; if the famous portrait of M by Jacopo del Conte is a close resemblance, and it appears to chime with the St. Bartholomew skin self portrait and others, the St.Paul statue looks nothing like him.  I reckon my candidate is a better bet (the man in the background of the cartoon in the British Museum).  Having said that, it’s still a brilliant book.

You know when you’re flicking through an old catalogue and something just makes you catch your breath and think you’d like to see a gallery full of this person’s pictures right now – I’ve had that experience today with two artists who happen to be on opposite pages of a Christie’s catalogue, from 1989.  They are

Marie Elena Vieira da Silva b. 1908, “Le Monte Charge”, and

Jean-Paul Riopelle b.1932, “Retrecit de L’Ile”.

The da Silva is blue-grey and black blocks with buff and white traces, that looks pretty much like a harbour full of grey water from a plane.  The Riopelle is wilder, a much more fractured surface made up of what look like dabs of thick paint with a square brush – but it’s still got that harbour thing going.  Both of them seem to stick – or have stuck – to a similar formula for most of their works; sort of echoes of de Stael again with variations; that was one influential artist.

I’ve noticed their work before; I would guess that da Silva was Portuguese and Riopelle I came across in the Joan Mitchell book – he was her partner in France for some years.  I think the reason I’ve not mentioned them before is that their names are difficult – pathetic, eh?

Another painter in the same catalogue is Peter Bruning; two more breath-catching pictures, called – wait for it; No.2 and No.49.  You can see Damien Hirst’s point about these artists who do hundreds of Untitled’s or just do numbers and dates – it might be a point of principle but it’s really irritating.  Give it a proper name!  Doesn’t have to have anything to do with what it looks like, but it helps punters and bloggers to remember it.

Anyway, I strongly advise the reader to look these painters up on Google and do her/himself a visual favour.  Here’s one of mine in the meantime –

Listening to Bill Evans Town Hall Concert, Turn Out the Stars.

Blackpaint

06.07.10

Blackpaint 142

May 27, 2010

WordPress advises bloggers to start with an eyecatching headline, so here goes:

Artists and cannibalism

Diego Rivera claims in his autobiography that in 1904, he and companions lived off corpses that they bought from a local mortuary and ate.  This claim is uncorroborated; I got it from Mary Roach’s’s book “Stiff” (Penguin 2004).  More gratuitous sensationalism as soon as I come across it.

Some more abstract (or near abstract – or just a bit abstract, but good) art to look at

These are all to be seen in the Taschen “Art of the 20th Century”, I recommend you buy it and no, I don’t have shares in Taschen.

  • Nicolas de Stael, Portrait of Anne, 1953
  • Jonathan Borofsky, Canoe Painting, 1978
  • Jules Olitsky, Strip Heresy, 1964
  • Larry Rivers, Africa 1, 1962/3
  • Hans Hoffmann, the Ocean, 1957

In addition, there are “Untitled”s by Walter Stohrer, Albert Oehlen and Per Kirkeby that are all excellent, the last resembling a flame bursting in midnight blue.  There is easily enough in this book to send you straight to the canvas ready to chuck the pigment on – and then to give up in despair, several hours later, wondering how they make such beautiful pictures.

Now I’m thoroughly depressed, so signing off for the night, and resorting to the bottle.

Blackpaint

26.05.10

Blackpaint 75

February 23, 2010

Richard Diebenkorn

Yes, it’s  addictive once you start, the game of making connections (see Bl. 74); yesterday, I was on about Keith Vaughan and Nicolas de Stael – today, I’m thinking of Diebenkorn and the tenuous connection to de Stael.

It’s landscape that is the link.  De Stael did those highly coloured landscapes made out of colour blocks sculpted onto the canvas with a knife.  Diebenkorn did those fantastic “abstract landscapes”, tawny like a lion’s pelt,and white and blue, crossed with black “roads”.  When I first saw them in that great, grey and orange-covered book by Jane Livingston, I  was struck by their beauty.  The later “Ocean Park” series are much cleaner, more geometric, more green and blue – but a logical development.

Then, I came to the figurative paintings; golden/orange and dark blues, greys and flesh tones, that were equally beautiful.  Diebenkorn was unusual, in that he kicked off as an abstract painter in the late 40’s and developed in Albuquerque (see Urbana series, for instance) and then switched to figurative between 1955 and 67, returning to abstract thereafter.  Guston, of course, also switched from abstract to figurative – but never made the return journey.

Lanyon

And of course, the “abstract landscape” thing brings me back to Peter Lanyon, because that’s a good deal of what he did too.  Many of his pictures are named after particular places in Cornwall and USA and are sort of total landscapes, giving all possible perspectives and sometimes impossible ones – from within the earth, say.  After taking up gliding, his paintings were increasingly “top shots”, to borrow a film-making term -and this is  another link to Diebenkorn, whose pictures sometimes look like aerial photographs (the opening sequence of aerial shots in “Up in the Air” comes to mind).

I’d had an idea that Lanyon had been killed in a glider accident in 1964; it turns out, though, that he sustained only a minor leg injury in a rough landing – it later developed into thrombosis, which actually led to his death days later.  Nevertheless, it is the 4th violent demise of an artist in this blog in three or four days, albeit accidental  – the others were Christopher Wood, suicide under a train; Keith Vaughan, suicide by drug overdose (ill with cancer); and de Stael, threw himself from a building. 

Listening (as promised) to Lonnie Donegan, “the Grand Coolie Dam”

“Now the world holds seven wonders, that travellers always tell,

Some gardens and some towers, well, I guess you know them well;

But now the greatest wonder is in Uncle Sam’s fair land,

It’s the big Columbia river, and the big Grand Coolie Dam.”

Blackpaint

23.02.10

Blackpaint 74

February 22, 2010

Keith Vaughan and others

Funny how one painter leads on to another – reading about Paul Nash (Bp. 72) I came across that beautiful picture of a curving coastline of ochre sand against a sea wall in light grey and stark black, called “The Shore”.  This took me on to Nicolas de Stael, the landscapes entitled “Marseille”, “Les Martigues”,  “Sicile” and “Montagne Sainte-Victoire” (didn’t someone else do a few of that last one?).  However, when I checked, they’re not THAT similar – maybe the sweeping distances and vivid colours… 

Anyhow, de Stael took me on to Keith Vaughan, because they both use that technique of the small rectangles of colour, almost like square scales.  You can see it for instance in de Stael’s “Parc des Princes” and “Les Footballeurs”, and Vaughan’s “Millhouse”, “Fire at Night” and many others.  de Stael used a palette knife; don’t know if Vaughan did too – doesn’t look like it to me, but the effect is similar.

Then, I found other British artists had used it too; Peter Kinley, in “Grey Coast” (and according to Norbert Lynton, some earlier ones) and Patrick Heron, in “Square Leaves”, after seeing a de Stael show in 1952.

What is the importance of this?  None, except that painters influence each other, which is a startling revelation.

While I’m on about Keith Vaughan, I must mention his “The Return of Odysseus”, in which the white, upside-down figure of the falling suitor – killed by Odysseus’ crossbow – looks like a great white Praying Mantis.  Then I found a picture of “Heath”, a decade later, with rough blue, angular, elongated legs in a spidery sprawl – and I was reminded of Wyndham – Lewis (a bit)… But this game could go on and on, so I’ll stop now.

Listening to Mahler’s “Um Mitternacht” by Kathleen Ferrier and the Vienna Philharmonic under Bruno Walter, 1952; unbelievable.  Tomorrow, back to Lonnie Donegan.

Blackpaint

22.02.10