Posts Tagged ‘Oehlen’

Blackpaint 628 – Skinned Alive in Dulwich and Striped in Hanover Square

October 21, 2018

Jusepe de Ribera, Dulwich Picture Gallery

The most effective heir to Caravaggio, Spanish painter who worked in Naples (1591 – 1652)

I’ve been looking forward to this exhibition for months, having seen fantastic de Riberas in the Prado last year; vast canvases of stretched, prostrated male bodies undergoing torture… hang on, this is becoming rather weird.  They are not actually all that gruesome and it’s the brilliant rendition (unfortunate term, but the correct one) of the human body that’s fantastic, not the torture or bloodshed.

There are only four or five large canvases in Dulwich – St.Bartholomew, about to be skinned alive (two of those, I think); Marsyas, being flayed by Apollo; St Sebastian, having his arrows pulled out by a couple of women (the women rather perfunctory – de Ribera seems more interested in men).  There is a portrait of a man holding a knife and a flayed human skin, obviously inspired by the Michelangelo self portrait on the Sistine wall.

Additionally, there are a number of beautiful little drawings, some in red chalk, that are reminiscent in style of Leonardo, but Goya immediately comes to mind; the subject matter?  Executions, tortures such as the strappado, hangings, crucifixions, facial deformations…  You can imagine the visitor to Ribera’s studio, after seeing these: “And the one you’re working on at the moment, upstairs – would that be a harbour scene or some nice flowers in a jug, with butterflies?  Oh, a flaying…”.

 

St Sebastian

The sprawling male bodies are the obvious focal point – the skin often white or greyish, grainy, rippled over the belly, livid white and scooped out by shadow in turn.  Wher the flaying is actually in progress, it is the foot or arm that is being “done” and is easy to miss.  De Ribera is also pretty hot on fabric; see the example below.

 

By coincidence, the night before going to this, I watched the film “Bone Tomahawk” (dir. S.Craig Zahler, 2015) on TV, in which cave-dwelling cannibal throwbacks scalp a living man, then upend him and chop him in two from the crutch; it seemed to make an appropriate double with Ribera.

Amy Sillman, Camden Arts Centre, Finchley Road tube

By way of slight contrast, this beautiful set of paintings and drawings, and a cartoon film in the overheated Camden Arts Centre.  Lovely big, green, pink, blue abstract canvases (see below) and cartoony characters, like the crawling, vomiting (?) creature that make their way, like Kentridge’s people and coffee pots, into the film.  The pictures have surface; sometimes hard, smooth and glazed, sometimes rough, scraped, paint in bobbles and rills.  She seems, again like Kentridge and many other artists, to have recurring images; the thing that looks like an old vinyl record pickup in “TV in Bed” below; or is it an unconscious deep sea diver, lying on his back on the sea bed and wearing flippers…

Apart from Kentridge, Guston (the pinks), Oehlen and for some reason, Marlene Dumas came to mind.

 

What the Axe Knows

 

TV in Bed

 

Slant

 

 

 

Sean Scully, “Uninsideout”, Blain/Southern, Hanover Square

For some reason, someone tweeted that Scully “should be ashamed of himself” for this exhibition…  Why?  He did stripes before and he’s doing stripes now – what’s wrong with these stripes?  Too colourful, maybe…

Anyway, they are huge; lush, syrupy sweeps of paint on aluminium supports, very painterly, with a depth of colour like those he showed in that fabulous palace in Venice, at last year’s Biennale.  Additionally, there are a couple of enormous, quilt-like assemblages with inset panels (three pictures down, below).  Downstairs, smaller works on paper in pastel.  In Scully’s handwriting, some guff about clashing colours suggesting The Clash rock band – great art doesn’t, or shouldn’t need explanation or justification.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Two of mine to finish with, somewhat smaller than Scully’s:

Ice Candle

Blackpaint

 

Little Crashing Out

Blackpaint

21.10.48

 

 

 

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Blackpaint 418 – Whiteley, Schendel, Shining and Drowning

October 24, 2013

Brett Whiteley

I’d hardly heard of the above Australian artist until I saw “Art of Australia” this week.  What a brilliant painter he was  (died of an overdose in 1993); earlier stuff looked like Diebenkorn a bit – later, shades of Roger Hilton, Bacon and, I think, Scarfe and/or Steadman.  He mixed abstract, figurative, letters, techniques in a manner reminiscent of Albert Oelhen (but before Oelhen?).  Fantastic.

brett whiteley

Mark Bradford and Larry Bell at the White Cube Bermondsey

Bradford does huge canvases – I estimate the largest are 20ft * 18ft (dimensions not given and attendant didn’t know).  He plasters them with paper, paints it and then rips and shreds it down with a power sander.   The results resemble road systems and landscapes – one is like a coastline, another a tsunami investing a coastal city, another, Turner’s “storm at Harbour Mouth” (the sander swirls on black are like the rings on the cross section of a felled tree).  Some are bright – blue, pink, orange, white – reminding one of Peter Doig’s early paintings; others, dark and oppressive, like Anselm Kiefer’s work.

There are two beautiful Larry Bell pictures; they are like crumpled tinfoil and celluloid film, printed onto white canvas.  there are many more, but for my money, they are spoilt by being on black canvas and in black frames.

Blue Jasmine

Saw this Woody Allen film this week – it’s Streetcar, set in San Francisco rather than New Orleans.  Cate Blanchett does a great job of playing a neurotic, pampered, addicted, desperate woman, once rich, now broke, dumping herself on her despised working-class sister.  Script is great, but you never for a second forget you are watching acting; it’s naturalistic, rather than natural.  I can’t help comparing it to the fabulous Joanna Hogg films, Archipelago and Unrelated, that I’ve written about – in which, most of the time, no-one, pro or amateur, appears to be acting at all.

Reading Sebastian Faulks’ A Possible Life, which begins with a WW2 training exercise; officers lead their men mistakenly into flooded area and a soldier is drowned.  Strangely similar stories from two sources; Pete Seeger’s song “Waist Deep in the Big Muddy” (I have it by Dick Gaughan on his “Sail On” album) and a Scott Fitzgerald story I read recently – can’t find it at the moment, he wrote so many stories.  The SF version is the earliest – I wonder if it’s the original.

The Shining

Watched it yet again the other night; like Goodfellas and Casino, you only have to see a few seconds and you are hooked – these films are Ancient Mariners.  I can’t understand why Stephen King hates the Kubrick film – it’s obviously a work of art, unlike most attempts at filming King books.  Kubrick changed it a bit – killed off the Scatman and left the Overlook standing, whereas King blew its boilers and burned it down.  I think Kubrick’s ending was better.  Pity about the Scatman, though.

Klee at Tate Modern

Went round this exhibition again, and, yes, I was rather snotty about it last time.  Room 13 is great, with the ones that are composed of dots and look like little tapestries – also the blue one, “path into the Blue” I think it’s called.  There’s also the miniature opera stage set that reminded me of Picasso’s “Night Fishing at Antibes” – but much smaller.

Mira Schendel

Great antidote to Klee – Brazilian minimalist, recalling Lygia Pape and Oiticica a little; wobbly square…  Triangles, bi-and trisected canvases; then, rough paint drawings and collages of bottles on bars, drips and splatters; some brilliant black ink on off-white paper, strong lines and jagged scribbles.  Then letters appearing and playing with typefaces; hanging tablets of rice paper; Eva Hesse-like tubes of gold-ochre, suspended from ceiling; silky, white nylon threads hanging in masses and curling up like hairs at the floor; a series of rough, eye-catching tablets on walls with bible quotations – she was a struggling Catholic, apparently.

schendel1

schendel2

Also visited “Art Under Attack” at Tate Britain; save that for next time.

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Work in Progress

Blackpaint

24.10.13

Blackpaint 114

April 19, 2010

Ten Male Artists whose work  should be published in cheap editions by Taschen or Tate or anyone good

Partly to demonstrate the anti-sexist credentials of Blackpaint’s blog, but also to mention a slew of painters I like but can’t get cheap books about:

  • Hans Hoffman – I can only find one book on this seminal colour field artist and teacher (in Henry Pordes, Charing X Road) and it’s 65 quid! 
  • Richard Diebenkorn – highly desirable book by Jane Livingston, but it’s 35 quid.  Bit cheaper on Amazon, but I like to  buy the old-fashioned way.
  • Richard Guston
  • John Hoyland
  • Graham Sutherland
  • Pierre Bonnard – the colours in the Phaidon are dead; Taschen required urgently.
  • Eduard Vuillard
  • Asger Jorn, Appel – all the CoBrA people, really.
  • Keith Vaughan
  • Albert Oehlen

A mixed bunch, to be sure; but I have actually  searched for cheap editions of all these and have only really been lucky with odd ones in catalogues.

Michelangelo  and Trees

I missed one (see Blackpaint 112) ; there are actually two pretty basic and dead trees in the Flood (Sistine).  I have amended the blog accordingly, but my point remains, I  think.

Goldsmiths

Watching the BBC4 programme on Goldsmiths, I was struck with the obsession they – both tutors and students – have with “meaning” in art.  They construct their tableaux or objects or  whatever and  then worry that the public won’t get their meaning.  one said,”They won’t think hard enough about it”.  The prof, however, when pressed, said, “It’s all about the art, really; the rest is bullshit”.  This I  found reassuring, but I’m told  by those who know, that art schools require context and meaning and argument and that  artists who refuse to discuss their work in these terms and assert that a work of art should, as it were, speak for itself, will not get far in academia.

Strange really; it’s a sort of marxist or pseudo-marxist position, that art has to be experienced and appreciated in context.  I remember writing an essay arguing just that,  several years (well, decades) ago at university.  The tutor’s comment  was “Interesting – but I don’t think you would convince a purist.”  Now I’m the purist, I suppose.

I also find it interesting that what I  do, a lot of the general public regard as “modern art” – but it’s really old-fashioned, of course, abex or colour field stuff being the equivalent of, say, modal jazz, Coltrane doing “My Favourite Things” or Miles Davis’ “Kind of Blue” – 51 years old!

Blackpaint

19.04.10

Blackpaint 110

April 14, 2010

Musee d’Orsay

Do not despair; last entry on Paris,  two collections to go.

This one is the giant train station, with the central aisle and landings occupied by a host of sculptures, some bizarre, reminding me of the murderer’s studio in Roger Corman’s “Buckets of Blood”.  The place was packed, of course; the crowd included a party of elderly Americans, one an octogenarian Jimmy Stewart, about 6’6″, thin as a lath, grey-suited, who pointed at a Degas and drawled in a Boston accent ,”I would love that for my collection,” apparently in all seriousness.

Where to start?  I suppose the thing that surprised us most was the number of truly awful paintings on show by fantastic, legendary painters.  There were three terrible Manets, one a portrait of a woman with fat red lips, that you might have expected to see on the railings at Hyde Park.  Ditto several Cezannes! Browny, creamy, crappy colours, sloppy execution.  Some ugly (to say the least) Bonnards in crude, harsh greens and -mauves, was it? – that astounded me after seeing the Bonnards at the Pompidou the day before.  And there was a turgid, shit-brown house or bar by Van Gogh, surrounded by a group of several Dutch women.  Maybe they were discussing how bad it was; more probably, they were saying, “Look, that’s that restaurant at the corner of…”

Having said this, there were, of course, shedloads of brilliant Degas, Cezannes, Manets, Van Goghs, Lautrecs, Pissaros, Renoirs (don’t like him anyway, too pretty), Redons, some lovely pastels by Maurice Denis… Very few Seurats, I think I’m right in saying, and the few were very small and not striking.  Just too many Impressionists and Post-impressionists, leaving me gasping for the cool water of Jackson Pollock, Joan Mitchell or de Kooning.

So now the good things.  Manet’s Olympia above all; she’s short, challenging, direct and holds your gaze (which is long) – but her black maid looks odd and unconvincing to me, actually like all black people in paintings by Europeans of the time now I think of it.  Maybe it’s some racism in me, or maybe there’s a thesis in this somewhere – probably already written long ago.  Nearby, Courbet’s vagina – painting, that is – with its little group of engrossed spectators.  Other vast Courbets, darkly varnished, of stags and hunting scenes, elsewhere in rooms of their own, are amongst the awful things.

The wonderful draughtsmanship of Degas and Lautrec evidenced over and over again; those chaps could really do hands!  The Van Goghs, apart from the brown pub, glowing with rich colours, as were some of the Gauguins and Cezannes.  And the Dejeuner sur l’herbe (how many did he do? There’s one in the Courtauld gallery too).

There was a special exhibition called Crime and Punishment, that was like Tussauds with a few great paintings (Blake, Fuseli, Munch) thrown in to give it artistic credibility – but also  a full size guillotine, brown wax death heads, gruesome photos of old murder victims – victims of old murders, that is. 

There was one memorable painting, by Carel Willink, of a hanging scene; the prisoner, in a pin striped suit and collarless shirt, bound at the ankles and knees, standing on the platform, reading from a sheet of paper.  Around him, the hangman and assistants in ’20s suits, waiting patiently, one casually seated on the hand rail.  The noose waiting too, tidily fixed to a hook on the upright timber.  I think it was probably done from a photograph, although he specialised in de Chirico-like empty, dreamlike streets and squares.

Museum of Modern Art

Out by the Eiffel Tower, in a huge white municipal building with columns and steps, covered with graffiti and besieged by skateboarders.  First, Fauves – Vlaminck, Derain, Dufy; loads of ceramics, plates and pots, mostly by Vlaminck, some by Picasso and Matisse; Legers, rough and crumbly close up, a lovely Gris; several harem Matisses, after Delacroix, was it?  A huge Delaunay football painting of a Cardiff City match.

A great room containing several huge Germans – a Polke, a lovely Oehlen, a Baselitz upside-downer – and with them, a Christopher Wool, typical, dark ashy grey, oily lines “crawled” across it in black.  Giant black lemons by Thomas Schutte lying around.  The only annoying thing, pointless to my mind, a number of imitations and copies of paintings by, for instance, Pollock, distinguished by red labels (genuine works were labelled in black).

OK, enough of Paris – back to London tomorrow.

Blackpaint

14.04.10

Blackpoint 32

January 8, 2010

Painting Abstraction – New Elements in Abstract Painting by  Bob Nickas

Very short one today.  Did Conceptual art yesterday, so I’ve been looking at  the above book which is exclusively about painting.  I realise that what I really like in painting is texture – a whole lot of the paintings in this book, although striking in many ways, colour, design, pattern, lack texture; that is to say, they are too smooth.  For me, a surface must be bumpy, clotted, smeared, grooved, gravelled, charcoaled, sanded, glassed, ragged or even fag-butted – or at least, it ought to look like it a bit.

Likewise the paint – it should be smeared, spattered maybe, thick here, thin and dry-brushed there.  Airbrush is OK, if, like Oehlen, it is sploshed and dragged over with a hand brush. 

So that’s why, in the above book, I look at Elizabeth Neel and Allison Miller and Amy Sillman and Katy Moran, before, say, Tomma Abts.

Listened to Schoenberg’s 2nd Chamber Symphony and realised that the first part is based around a figure that is note for note (it sounds to me) the same as one in Elgar’s “Falstaff”.  Coincidence, for sure.

Also “May you never” by John Martyn.

“And you never talk dirty behind my back,

And I know that there’s those who do…” 

Blackpaint

07.01.10

Blackpaint 31

January 6, 2010

Conceptual Art

I think my problem with this sort of art is an unwillingness to engage with ideas that are not immediately apparent in the work.  If I have to read a plaque on the wall in a gallery in order to understand what the artist is saying, then the chances are quite high that I won’t bother.  I may still like the art; I may get a lot from it; but it probably won’t be what the artist intended.

I’m not sure whether this is legitimate or just crass.  Visual art surely should engage you visually; maybe its impact can be deepened by accompanying text – but if you end up writing great chunks of explanation (or having them written for you by critics), then it seems to me that you probably ought to make your message clearer visually.

That said, I’ve just trolled through the whole of “100 Contemporary Artists” (Taschen), both volumes, and the earlier “Art Now”, same publisher, and I haven’t found a single artist whose work doesn’t engage me visually to some degree, without reading the (mercifully brief)higher art bollocks written about each of them.  Some are more arresting than others, of course – and I prefer the painters, as I suppose I would.

Probably it’s because the conceptual artists are in a book rather than a gallery and you can return to that again and again.  as you flick through to your favourites, the others become more familiar and you start seeing things you missed at first.

More favourites: Tom Friedman – especially the “Green Demon”, Elmgreen and Dragset – the Prada shop in the middle of nowhere; Gursky, Albert Oehlen and Luc Tuymans.  and Pipilotti Rist – lovely videos and even better name.  But the images that stop me as I flick through are by Cecily Brown, Marlene Dumas, Tuymans and Oehlen.  Buy the book or look them up on the net – I’m worried about copyright if I attach images to this, other than my own.

Actually, there are two instances where I’m glad I read the text.  The first is Matthew Barney, who made the “Cremaster” series of films; there is a startling still of a red haired young man with pig’s (?) ears flopping down on each side of his head – reminds me somehow of a scene from “The Shining”.  The text reads, “The title of the series is derived from the cremaster muscle in the male genitals from which the testicles are suspended, and which is retracted in a reflex movement produced by cold or fear inside the body.”

The second relates to the work of Nobuyoshi Araki, who obsessively photographed his dying wife up to the point of death and beyond.  The text reads, “The photographs which have become emblematic of Araki’s work, however, are his portraits of young women – prostitutes and schoolgirls – either dressed or naked, hanging from the ceiling or thrown to the ground, their hands tied together, their legs apart, or even engaged in the sexual act.”  I’d like to know what Susan Sontag would have to say about him – this surely qualifies him as a “transgressor” ( Meaningless coincidence – Sontag was also photographed after death, I think, by Annie Leibovitz, wasn’t it?

Listening to Cyril Davies, “Chicago Calling”

“Well, Chicago calling, hear me call your name,

Yeah Chicago calling, come back home again,

I’m goin’ back to Chicago, Chicago callin’ me,

Yeah Chicago calling, Lord that’s where I long to be”

Blackpaint

06.01.10