Posts Tagged ‘Peter Lanyon’

Blackpaint 321 – Yorkshire, Blackburn and the Leopard

January 23, 2012

Hockney at the RA

The weekend papers full of hype for this – Roy Hattersley droning on about Yorkshire, bringing in Captain Cook and other irrelevancies, interviews with bussed-down Yorkshire painters groups, Yorkshire tourist board planning Hockney tours…  More about Hockney’s “superlative” drawing skills,” richness and exuberance” of the colours.  I have to say that none of the repros I have seen particularly demonstrate Hockney’s (undoubted) drawing skills and some of the green, orange and Ribena colours look like no colours I have seen in “real life”, in Yorkshire or anywhere else.  An artist called Jim Bruce – not a Yorkshireman – tellingly referred to Hockney’s landscapes as “abstract”, while enthusing about them to an interviewer.  Laura Cumming in the Observer says “He is not primarily interested in the ever-changing rhetoric of weather, light or nature.  He is thinking about picture making..”   She refers to the colours as “Matisse crossed with Walt Disney” and I persist in being reminded of the animated Lord of the Rings.

The size of the paintings must contribute to the feeling of “Event”; I touched on the previous display of Hockney big trees at the Tate Britain when writing about John Martin’s spectaculars recently.  Interestingly, with regard to hype, I see that the Leonardo exhibition is described as “overpraised” in today’s Guardian.  Don’t think any critics had the nerve to say that when it opened.

Having said all that, the Hockneys are definitely distinctive; you couldn’t mistake the pictures for anyone else’s work and that’s something to prize, for sure.

London Art Fair

Acquired tickets for this, which normally cost £18 entrance fee, expecting a lot of dross; instead, saw the best British painting I have seen all year.  Admittedly, most of it was  St. Ives or other oldies, but that’s the rut I’m stuck in.  My partner tells me that the recession is leading collectors to sell off some good stuff, but I’m unconvinced; lots of cash around at the top end, I think.  Anyway, some lovely, brilliantly coloured Anthony Frosts (Terry’s son), loads of Alan Davie, including a great one on thick brown wrapping paper, Roger Hilton poster paints and others from earlier, loads of little Sutherlands, Keith Vaughans and great early Sandra Blows, when she was using sand and suchlike.  Several Ivon Hitchens, Prunella Clough, and a totally uncharacteristic Patrick Heron, that was bright little colours on a black base.  The best pictures were as follows:

Peter Lanyon, large oblong panel, with unusual, intense orange -red section and an almost grafitti feel to it; 

John Blackburn, new to me, but born 1932; beautiful white and blue panels on an upright rectangle, tucked away at back, very like Paul Feiler;

Paul Feiler (born 1918, Britain’s greatest living abstract painter), white and off-white square with red and blue broken and concealed lines breaking surface here and there; 

Adrian Heath, who taught Terry Frost in POW camp, Poliakoff-like geometric shapes in various colours, resembling collage;

Robin Denny, a big, wild, dark blue Ab Ex effort, so fantastic I stepped back carelessly for a better look, straight into a gent who was also gazing at it.  On the way home, we saw his (Denny’s) coloured rods design on Embankment tube – hard to believe same bloke did both.

Also in Embankment station, a besuited Peter Blake, several of whose works were on show at the Angel.

Three other painters whose work I liked were Mark Surridge, little Lanyon-y panels; Rebecca Salter, gauzey, gossamer surfaces to her canvases,; and Chloe Lamb, whose abstracts, often in variations of ochre, I loved, but thought the paint could have been slapped on more thickly.  There is another Chloe Lamb, featuring on Google.

The Leopard, Visconti

Made in 1963, just seen the DVD.  Sicily in Garibaldi’s time, eras ending, the stately old aristos intermarrying with the new bourgeoisie – Burt Lancaster surprisingly perfect, once you get used to the dubbed voice; another sumptuous, hypnotic ball to go with the one in Russian Ark; those quirky mazurkas.  And Romolo Valli, the hotel manager in Death in Venice, here a sycophant priest.  And music by Nino Rota.

Old one, I’m afraid; batteries in my camera gone.

Blackpaint

23/01/12

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Blackpaint 313 – Pretentious is a Pre-condition

December 18, 2011

Fred Cuming

Saw a book of Cuming’s paintings – landscapes, gardens, studio interiors – today.  Doesn’t sound very exciting, but they are really stunning; I looked him up on Google Images and they all looked very similar, sort of blue and misty.  when you zoom them, though, the glowing fires concealed open up.  I don’t usually go for traditional landscape and figurative painters – modern ones, that is – but he’s great; best English  figurative stuff I’ve seen since Rose Hilton, up in Cork Street a few months ago.

Albert Irvin

Bought a cheapo catalogue of Irvin (see last blog) up at King’s Place the other day; the usual eye – burning raspberry, yellow and green stars and flowers etc.; I was surprised to read that an early influence was De Kooning; apparently, he (Irvin) used a lot of black in those days – don’t think he touches it now.  But his main influence was Peter Lanyon.  I can see that in the sweeping brushstrokes sometimes, but not in the colours.  Good, if short,  essay by Alice Correia, containing some interesting observations about abstraction:

Irvin

Lanyon

Cinema

I think I’ve only seen four films at the cinema this year; all of them were great.  They were Days of Heaven (Malick), Il Quattro Volte (Michelangelo Frammartino), Caves of Forgotten Dreams (Herzog) and We need to Talk about Kevin (Lynne Ramsay).  See previous blogs on all.   But this has been  a year in which I got into “World Cinema” in a serious way and discovered a world of pleasure (and pain) by accepting certain pre-conditions:

First, don’t demand a story.  You might find there is one after a while, but watch the film for the images (sound as well as visual).  Second, half-hour chunks can be good – I love Bela Tarr, but I’m not ready to do a whole film at one sitting (unless, like a number of his characters, I am very drunk on Hungarian fruit brandy).  Third, don’t scorn pretention; all art is arrogant and pretentious, or it is if it’s any good. 

10 Best films I’ve seen on DVD this year are:

Satantango, Bela Tarr (twice)

Russian Ark, Sokurov (three times)

Amarcord, Fellini (twice)

l’Age d’Or/le Chien Andalou, Bunuel/Dali (three or four times)

Satyricon, Fellini

Damnation, Bela Tarr

Werckmeister Harmonies, Tarr

Salo, Pasolini

The Discreet Charm of the Bourgeoisie, Bunuel

Women in Love, Ken Russell.

I want to publish, so it’s a bit short today.  I see I have a bad attack of brackets, so will try to avoid them henceforth (will do my best, anyway).

Figures in a Landscape

Blackpaint

17/12/11

Blackpaint 287

July 22, 2011

Lucian Freud

What a staggering photograph by David Dawson in today’s Guardian, of Freud working, stripped to the waist, in 2005;  his torso looks to me exactly like one of his own (Freud’s) paintings.  By contrast, another crass assertion by Adrian Searle that, next to Freud, Hockney and Howard Hodgkin are “artistic pygmies”; fair enough to think that, but not without argument.  Searle merely asserts that Freud’s art “has authority” (presumably Hockney and Hodgkin lack that quality) and follows it up with anecdotes about his assertive (boorish, aggressive?) behaviour.  He once painted himself with a black eye after getting into a punch up with a taxi driver.

For my money, his best pictures were the portrait of a young Francis Bacon, the picture of Harry Diamond standing next to the aspidistra and the portrait, elongated and looking down, of Frank Auerbach.  Also, that great, porridge-y, self portrait, naked apart from the boots.

I’d have hoped for some comparison with Auerbach, too; seems logical as they are both painters of flesh and Grand Old Men.

St.Ives

The BBC4 film Art in Cornwall, fronted by James Fox, got another airing last night; it was 90 minutes long and good on Wallis, Nicolson, Hepworth, Wood, Gabo, Lanyon and Heron.  Not enough on Frost, nothing on Hilton, Blow, Mackenzie, Wynter…  Surely, it should have been two 90 minute programmes to get it all in.  Still, better than nothing…

Lanyon

The film was pretty good on Peter Lanyon, and sent me straight back to my books to look at him again.  The sweep and energy in the paintings, surf exploding, sunlight blinding, flight lines, roughness, scoring of rocks, concealed figures (Lost Mine and Porthleven), those fantastic murals at Liverpool and Birmingham universities…  Why isn’t he rated as highly as Freud and Bacon?  Too abstract for the figuratives, and too landscape-y for the abstractionists, I suppose.

Tarkovsky and Tarr

Both of these directors clearly have a thing about rain –  I’m watching Tarkovsky’s “Nostalgia” at the moment, and great, soaking deluges are pouring down, often shot through with dazzling light that separates out the individual falling drops.  Derelict brick and cement buildings are a favourite, with great holes in the roof that admit torrents.  Often, as with Tarr, dogs are wandering about, usually German Shepherds in Tarkovsky’s case.  The difference between the two is one of mood; Tarr’s deluges pour down on glum village streets or mud roads and shabby blocks of flats; Tarkovsky’s downpours in Nostalgia, Stalker and Mirror tend to be more – well, nostalgic in mood.

 

 

B

Blackpaint

22/07/11

 

 

 

 

 

Blackpaint 261

March 17, 2011

The Emperor

I forgot that Japan still had an emperor – Akahito, isn’t it?  When I saw him on TV, I thought he looked like a character from a David Lynch film.  It’s quite surprising that in the world’s third largest economy, disaster survivors are rationed to half a rice ball a day and lack bedding and other essentials – not so different to New Orleans after Katrina really.  No doubt I’m wrong, so back to art.

I thought I’d revisit some old favourites.

Asger Jorn

Look at “den Hellige Have” (the Holy Garden”); the gamut of colours he manages to bring together.  Green, green-blue, ultramarine, cadmium yellow, red, black, pink, orange – shades of Hoffman and de Kooning.  I think you need to have a surface roughness and  drawn quality around the different colours to bring this off, otherwise it’s too vivid, like a child’s painting.  His pictures from the mid 60s are so varied in style.

Joan Mitchell

Her middle period stuff – again, early to mid 60s – sometimes look like exploding heads (see La Chatiere 1960); like Appel, but colours less screaming and without the inch deep ridges and canyons of paint.

Peter Lanyon

Has a definite palette, sometimes quite close to Alfred Wallis (see Porthleven); green, sea green, blue, brown.  Also sky blues, white, red and orange (see Soaring Flight, Offshore, Eagle Pass, Wreck).

Michelangelo

“The Rebellious Slave (prisoner)”, in the Louvre; look at the complex of interlocking muscles in the depression behind his pushed-forward, left shoulder and below thw thick band of muscle extending from the shoulder to the back of the neck – fantastic work.

Frank Auerbach

I may have said this before, but to see his work in the Tate Britain, you would think he was a dirty, muddy painter.  In fact, many of his paintings sing with colour; blues. yellows, oranges, white, greens – both portraits and cityscapes.  I think he is the greatest living figurative painter, in that he is more varied and experimental than Lucian Freud.

RB Kitaj

Again, may have said this before, but the surprise to see his completely different approaches to doing the human figure.  In his painted tableaux, they are square-ish, stiff, roughly drawn, cartoon – like; in the life drawings, they are, to my mind,  unparalleled in the skill and beauty of the execution.  I really can’t think of anyone better .  That woman with the Veronese back and the three studies currently in the British Museum exhibition..  Go and see them, if you are not familiar with them, and see if I am exaggerating.

Abstract painting

I’m still constantly amazed to hear people describe abstraction as “modern art”.  It’s really old-fashioned now, surely, retro not modern.  Maybe it’s just a British thing that it has to represent something in the real world (landscape, portrait, storm at sea) or else, it’s a picture of nothing.  Highest praise is, “You really feel like you are there”.  Also interesting is that politics has little to do with taste; the most radical of politicos often have the most fiercely conservative views on art.  With this in mind, I have returned to figurative painting (see below).

Aphrodite at the Waterhole (apologies to Hancock)

Blackpaint

16.03.11

Blackpaint 176

August 16, 2010

Rauschenberg

Last blog should have read “Ruscha’s OLDER vandal brother” – although doesn’t sound so good.  Rauschenberg was born in 1925 and is dead; Ruscha was born in 1937 and is still alive – important differences (to the artists anyway).

Rausch. is included,with Ruscha and Rosenquist et al, in the Taschen “Pop Art”.   I  think I’m right in saying he’s  the only one with any real texture to his surfaces – the others are all smooth and glassy, some airbrushed.

Tate Britain

 A Mary Feddon, mauve table floating at a Cezanne angle, floating on it a red-orange fruit and other objects I can’t recall – and an Arthur Boyd, “Bride drinking from a creek”, depicting exactly that; a ghost -like figure with, a stiff white lace veil sticking up behind her, face in the river, surrounded by blackened stumps and sticks of trees burnt in some bush fire.  Both fabulous painitngs.

Blake

There is an exhibition of beautiful small pictures by William Blake, mostly from the Book of Urizen, including one that looks like God using a bowling ball, another of a highly stylised skeletal figure with a patriarch and one of those squareish, massively muscled, but huddled and  troubled (sorry) figures with the staring eyes.  Also a single page of beautifully etched trees and pastoral scenes, each the size of a pair of dominoes, and showing clearly Blake’s influence on modern artists like Graham Sutherland.  We have a copy of the book at home with tipped in illustrations, that are clearly different versions of the ones on show here; apparently, he did a number of versions in different media.

Sutherland, etc.

In the next room are works by Sutherland, Michael Ayrton, John Piper and Keith Vaughan, which seem to follow naturally somehow; Vaughan’s figures, in particular, are solid and chunkier than the more abstract figures of the 60s I’m used to (see various previous Blackpaints).  The main Ayrton is a Temptation of St. Anthony, which is a wonderful drawing  in terrible  colours, to my eyes anyway.

The Sutherlands include the Welsh(?) landscape with the cow’s skull in those Bomberg-like orange-reds and ochres, the green, white and black tree tunnel and the long, green log which always looks to me like a pig’s head on the end of a battering ram.

Finally, in this room, there is a glass case, full of  sketchbooks by Sutherland, Vaughan and Robert Colquhoun which have some of the best pictures, as always.

John Riddy

Next room, have a look at one particular picture by Riddy, the shot of a brick wall in Weston Street.  It looks just like a painting to me, the brickwork and old poster tatters making an illusion of paint texture.

Lanyon

The great little exhibition of Lanyon’s preparatory works for the 1951 “Porthleven” is still up and it makes me doubt whether Lanyon’s work  is in any sense abstract.  Everything he paints is there in the world, apart maybe from sweeping lines representing a glider’s trajectory; it’s just  cut up and jumbled, “abstractified”, I suppose.  Margaret Garlake in her Tate book goes for “near-abstract”.  An interesting bit of info is that Lanyon claimed he was unaware of the presence of the fisherman and his wife, the two figures that “contain” the town, until he’d  finished.  Sounds far-fetched, but I believe it – happens  to me all the time.

Blackpaint

16.08.10

 

Blackpaint 161

July 1, 2010

The planes at the Tate

To the Tate Britain to see Fiona Banner’s ultimate readymades.  One is a chrome-plated Jaguar lying upside-down on the hall floor like a discarded toy.  It’s smaller than I expected; a lady passing with a young child asked me if I thought it was bigger or smaller than a dinosaur.  As an expert, I told her smaller, confidently.  With this abandoned air, it had something of an electric toaster about it.  I peered into a large, box-like attachment on the fuselage – nothing but darkness.

The other one, the Harrier, hangs nose down a little way away.  It is grey, with swirly marks on the wings (made, I think, by Banner – so, not entirely readymades, some artist input beyond the choice); it resembles, quite strikingly, a giant ray or shark, hanging from a fisherman’s gibbet, or gallows or whatever they have.  The glass or plexiglass of the cockpit was smoked, like a blown lightbulb.  The grey body looked organic, with bumps and scars and blisters.  I didn’t lie underneath the nose lance, like Adrian Searle, although there were plenty of amateur photographers lying about, taking artistic views.

I thought the information about the exhibit was quite funny, in an ironic way: Banner apparently does a lot of work relating to language and communication – the blurb said the two planes represented a “lack or breakdown in communication” – if you imagine these objects tearing through the skies towards you with destructive intent, you can see what she  means.  i was most struck, I think, by the contrast between the tinny shininess of the one and the organic, fleshy greyness of the other.

Of course, this is not the first time a plane has been on show in the Tate Britain; just a while back, Roger Hiorns had a powdered jumbo jet there, as part of the Turner Prize show. 

Gillian Ayres

One of the portals off the main hall perfectly framed her “Phaethon”, and I suppose the contrast worked to enhance the impact of it; the thickness of the slabs and squiggles of lurid colour seemed to be a sort of exaggerated denial of the clean(ish) lines and hard(ish) edges of the planes – as if she was saying, “No, that’s not art – THIS sort of thing is art!”

St.Ives Room

There’s a new Bryan Wynter – “Riverbed” has been replaced by another, very similar, Wynter.  And I noticed, for the very first time, that Lanyon’s “Lost Mine” has two human figures in it – presumably miners.  They are huge and quite clear; impossible to miss, really, and I’ve stood in front of this painting for probably 30-40 minutes, if you add up all the times I’ve been there, and not seen them.  Maybe I was distracted by the Orion-like shape of the central motif (well, it isn’t the central motif, of course, but was to me until I made out the figures).

Porthleven

Which brings me to the last thing this visit; there’s a little exhibition in a side gallery about Lanyon’s painting of this picture.  it took several months and was meticulously planned with a number of sketches, photographs, and maquettes of different aspects of the town – several of them lovely drawings and objects in their own right.  You really get the feel of Lanyon’s meticulous, engineer’s approach.

Listening to Faithful  Departed, Christy Moore.

“Faithful departed, we fickle hearted,

As you are now, so once were we,

Faithful departed, we the meek hearted,

With graces imparting, bring flowers to thee.”

Blackpaint

01.07.10

Blackpaint 100

March 31, 2010

100 glorious years – sorry, blogs

I have reached my centenary (actually, this is 101; first one was not numbered but titled, modestly, “I am Blackpaint”).  By way of celebration, I am going to give you my ten best St. Ives pictures, long awaited since Blackpaint 96.

1.  Fly Away, Peter Lanyon 1961.

2.  Moon Quay, Terry Frost 1950.

3.  Soaring Flight, Peter Lanyon 1960.

4.  Untitled 1968, Roger Hilton (the one that looks like an obese tapir with a long snout on orange, green and white).

5.  Alfred Wallis, Night Fishing, 1935 (a ship sails vertically down a bend in river in profile).

6.  Fourteen discs July 20th 1963, Patrick Heron – 1963, of course.

7.  That lime green/yellow one in the Tate Britain, Patrick Heron.

8.  That one by Sandra Blow with sand mixed into the paint, in the same room of Tate B.

9.  Red Black and White, Terry Frost 1956.

10.  Skara Brae, William Scott 1959. 

Soaring Flight

Moon Quay

Actually, there are loads more – Sandra Blows, Hiltons (wish he’d given them all names), John Wells, McKenzie….  Still, can always revisit.

Royal Academy

Put my two in yesterday; they were tiny, compared with the canvases other painters were lugging in from white vans illegally parked in Burlington Gardens.  still, size isn’t everything…

Here’s an old one of mine:

Blackpaint

31.03.10

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