Posts Tagged ‘Paul Jenkins’

Blackpaint 353 – Diana, Fidelio and the Long Shot

August 2, 2012

Titian et al at the National Gallery

The first striking thing in the exhibition is in the Callisto painting, the one on the far left as you enter.  It’s the massive right arm of the nymph in the foreground, with her back to us – the one who holds the equally large arrow.  The right arm is worthy of a shotputter and is out of proportion, but in a good, Michelangelo’s David sort of way (also substantially meaty are the arms of the goddess herself, as she fires the arrow at Actaeon in the “brown” picture).

In the centre of the Callisto painting is a glass object – an orb, globe or mirror – painted with the icy clarity of a Kalf still life.  It sets off the slightly misty “seethingness” of Titian’s surface seen close up.  In the autumnal tones of the painting depicting Actaeon’s death, the blurring is obvious, but can only be seen close up in the others.

In the painting where Actaeon surprises Diana, her small head and the odd angle at which it sits on her neck are, as always, striking; as with the arm, I point out distinctive, peculiar features which help make the pictures memorable for me.

Chris Ofili

There is a series of huge paintings which he calls the Ovid works.  Several display that Art Nouveau, Beardsley – like line he used in the paintings in his last exhibition and that dry, thin surface with the dark blue/mauve ground.  An enormous, light blue phallus in one – “Ovid; lust”, I think and a striking floor of red and white irregular “tiles” in another.

Conrad Shawcross

The Shawcross robot, smoothly running, with echoes of Epstein’s Rock Drill in its general appearance;  while I was there, its movements resembled those of a dog sniffing its crotch with the light probe.  For this reason, I took it to represent one of Actaeon’s hounds, but have since heard that it is supposed to be Diana herself.

There are also ballet costumes by several of the artists and a huge video of beautiful dancers and the directors rehearsing the ballets.  And all free.

Albert Irvin; Fidelio

At Gimpel Fils in Davies Street W1 until September.  Twenty six paintings, I think, that are great.  A couple of years ago, I saw my first Albert Irvin at the top of the stairs in the Tate Britain and it left me completely unmoved.  I thought it was boring; flat and brash, at the same time. Don’t know what happened – the “scales fell from my eyes” (where does that come from?) and now he’s my favourite living abstract painter, with Paul Feiler.

The “usual” fluorescent reds, greens, yellows, motifs that resemble flowers, crosses, pinnate leaves, stripes, squiggles, badges, circles – but amonst them, four stupendous paintings: “Rampart”, a tidal wave of wine or blood in a fluid block (?), “Brady”, yellow base with huge half-circle of green, covering left side; “Beacon”, with the grey/mauve ground and yellow-white cross hatchings like a cake – tiramisu maybe – spatched down on top; and “Trophy”, luminous green and red patches with a huge blue keyhole shape painted on it, for us to see through.

The first three are old – 76, 86 and 94 respectively – but “Trophy” is dated this year and all the rest are 2011 or 2012.  He’s 90 years old; not much development, but pretty consistent.

It strikes me that you could group him with Hoyland, Bowling, Paul Jenkins and maybe Richter (the abstracts anyway) in that they don’t use earth colours much or at all – their colours are airborne and sizzling.

More Irvin at Kings’ place until 24th August.

The Passenger, Antonioni

Watched the last, long shot through the barred window three times and couldn’t see the assassin or make out a shot.  Finally, watched it with Jack Nicholson’s commentary over the top; he points out – or at least, asks the question – “Was that a shot?”  At some point, the camera goes through the bars and turns round to follow the women and police into the dead man’s room.

Blackpaint

2/08/12

Blackpaint 349 – Malevich, Stalin and Fred and Ginger again

July 6, 2012

Sorry, a day late publishing, owing to basic idleness.

Frank Bowling

Good to see an article in the Guardian on Bowling’s poured paintings at the Tate Britain.  I knew him only by the single flag painting in the “Migrations” exhibition, which is not at all typical of his work.  He tends more to a sort of abstract Expressionism and uses colours that remind me of John Hoyland – although he doesn’t mention knowing Hoyland; Hockney was one of his art school contemporaries.  I’m going to see the Tate thing again tomorrow.

Paul Jenkins

My Australian blogger/painter friend Paintlater posted an item about this US AbEx artist, again unknown to me, who has just died.  Fantastic, large canvases with swathes of paint unfurling across them, guided with a knife apparently.  A little like Morris Louis – the paint looks as if it has been hurled but it doesn’t spatter – a bit like huge silk scarves, although not in the one below, which is untypical, but nice.

Malevich

Been reading Boris Groys’ book “The Total Art of Stalinism”, which is a reading of the the Russian avant garde and it’s relationship with the Stalinist state and Socialist Realism.  Malevich’s famous Black Square of 1923 was, according to Groys, a “Ground Zero”, painted by M as a sort of barrier of nothingness designed to put an end to further proliferation of art movements in Russia, enabling the mobilisation of artists for the construction of a real, unitary “work of art” – the socialist state itself.  Groys sees this as the self-imposed task of the Russian avant garde.

Unfortunately for the AG, their formalism was not seen as useful by either Lenin or Stalin, who disengaged with the AG in favour of the proponents of Socialist Realism – which was handier for propaganda purposes.

I’d always thought of the Russian avant garde as vaguely libertarian and radical; radical they were -but libertarian, no.  Totalitarian, more like.

Groys’ book is about Soviet Russia (published in 1987), so it largely ignores the similarities (and differences) between Socialist Realism and Nazi and Fascist art.  An interesting book to be written there – no doubt, it already has been.

 

Critics

Barnett Newman famously said that the relationship of critics to artists was like that of ornithologists to the birds – the birds do, the ornis watch and interpret.

Seems to me that this is right – artists (Bacon, Pollock, de Kooning)are great on the processes of production but are often vague and reluctant to analyse deeply what they do – in case the magic goes away, presumably.  I think its for the artist to do and the critic to analyse; its a pity that some of the critics insist on mystifying the work by “reading” it in an arcane vocabulary that is spoken only by other critics.

Fred and Ginger

“Swingtime” has got to be the best; “Pick Yourself Up” is just an unbelievable joy, when Fred does that saunter – sudden kick thing, and later swings Ginger over the barrier.  But then there is “Never Gonna Dance”, a perfect little ballet quoting all the previous numbers.  Ginger’s back in that dress is the third great back in art history; Veronese’s “Unfaithfulness”, Kitaj’s wonderful drawing are the other two (see previous Blackpaints).

Some old ones to end-

 

Blackpaint

06.07.12