Posts Tagged ‘Piper’

Blackpaint 447 – Ken Clark’s pictures, Theory and Non-Theory, Capitalism, Fellini and Orwell

May 23, 2014

Kenneth Clark Collection at Tate Britain 

This is an astonishing exhibition; four and a bit big rooms of great art, most of it actually owned by Clark.  Some of the treasures on show listed or shown below:

pasmore clark 1

Victor Pasmore

A couple of portraits and nudes by Pasmore that are new to me, along with the more familiar river side pictures like Hammersmith and “Evening Star” in which, unlike the Turner of the same name I saw the other week at Margate, the star in question is readily visible.  The rear view nude on the bed (which I can’t find a picture of) looks like a fore-runner of Uglow.

sutherland clark1

Graham Sutherland, Sun rising between two Hills

A number of great Sutherlands, landscapes, foundries, Blitz damage, portraits (of Clark himself); also Pipers on similar themes, and Paul Nash – especially his magisterial “Battle of Britain” with it’s vapour trails making a great, plant-like shape in the sky above the Thames and the coast.

bell clark1

Graham Bell, Brunswick Square, 

A new one on me – love that violet blue.

Just too much to list really – Cezanne drawings. Coptic tapestry figures from the 5th – 7th century AD, a Lippo Lippi Moses striking the rock, a couple of Nolans, one horrible the other fantastic, a couple of great Seurats, a Samuel Palmer, Cornfield by Moonlight and Evening Star (again), Henry Moore in the shelters and the mines, oh, a couple of Leonardo drawings…  It’s amazing that one man could have amassed all this in the 20th century.

Theory

I attended a symposium at UCL a couple of weeks ago, on “Real Abstraction”.  A series of distinguished academics, who discussed matters like materiality in very abstruse terms, assuming familiarity with the terms on the part of the audience (many of whom looked as if they were up to speed on the topic).  All the speakers, I think, mentioned Adorno; Capital also made an appearance in every presentation.  It was soon clear to me that the real subject was how abstraction in art could be accommodated by Marxist theory of the Frankfurt school – for the first speaker anyway.  We listened to six of the speakers and none of them made any attempt to define what “Real Abstraction” was. We listened quietly, applauded politely and visited Habitat in the lunch hour, buying a nice glass flask for £8.00.

More Theory

My painting has always taken account of “theory” – Foucault, Barthes, Derrida, Baudrillard, Deleuze – I suppose it’s obvious from the content.  At my book group the other day, I discovered from one of the academics that there are “theory” and “non-theory” people in the universities; the latter would be traditionalists, liberals or conservatives, using analytical processes not determined (although perhaps informed) by the writings of the above and their followers.  Glad I’m not one – now I can add Adorno to the list too.

Orwell, Eileen and 1984

Perhaps the ultimate non-theory person; I was interested to read in the great Crick biography that Orwell’s wife Eileen worked for the Ministry of Food during the war, persuading the people to eat whatever vegetables were currently plentiful – one month, she might be stressing the health benefits of potatoes; the following month, there may be a shortage, and she would switch to pointing out how fattening potatoes were.  Crick suggests plausibly this filtered into Nineteen Eighty-Four.

Fellini, The Ship Sails on

Watched this again and was freshly impressed by the performance of Freddie Jones  as the reporter-narrator, who ends up in the rowing boat with the rhino (you have to get the DVD and watch it, too complicated to explain) and Barbara Jeffords as the suppressed operatic diva.  Fantastic.

 

??????????

For Derrida

Blackpaint

23.05.14

Advertisements

Blackpaint 252

February 17, 2011

Vincent’s Sunflowers

As I said a blog or two ago, I could never warm to the famous Sunflowers; now, “research shows” (Guardian, Tuesday) that sunlight turns 19th century yellow chrome paint brown – but “only if the yellow paint had been mixed with white pigments based on sulphates.”

This maybe explains the difference between these sunflowers and the blazing, yellow/orange entities that Van Gogh painted in Aug – Sept 1887.  Something I didn’t know about Van Gogh was how much he was influenced by Japanese art and culture – witness the 15 or so paintings of orchards and trees in blossom he knocked out in Arles in April 1888.

As for industry – the Taschen book shows 25 pictures for July 1890; not bad going, considering he shot himself on the 27th.

Turner

I was interested to discover that Turner used scraping away as a Technique in some paintings, notably the bottom left foreground in “Rocky Bay with Figures”, c.1830 and the crown of “Death on a Pale Horse”, c. 1825 – 30 (see William Gaunt’s Phaidon book).  This struck me as pretty advanced for the time, but my knowledgeable partner sniffed at my ignorance and said it was common.

I’m not convinced – Turner seems so way ahead of everyone else.  “Ship on Fire” and “Boats at Sea”, for example; the latter defines minimalism.  I suppose they are every bit as “abstracted” as that Melville I go on about –  and done decades earlier.

Watercolour Exhibition at Tate Britain

Which brings me to this show, which opened to the public yesterday, and which I attended with two companions and several hundred  grey retirees, mostly teachers, I would guess.  Within minutes, my friend had pronounced “Wrotham” incorrectly when reading a label – he was promptly and tartly corrected by the woman next to him; “It’s pronounced ROOT-HAM, actually. ”  She moved on with a tight little smile, leaving us suitably corrected and chastened.

Anyway – loads of brownish landscapes, as you would expect – I liked the Indian powder works on the riverbank – jewel-like miniatures, beautiful botanical drawings in eye-destroying detail, bright little Books of Hours.

Best thing is if I just list my highlights:

John Piper, Nantfranccon (I think); Layered rock strata, like piled bodies.

Edward Burra, a valley in Northumberland with a great, green, lowering hill overlooking it.

Ravilious’ lovely White Horse, with the slanting lines (rain?).

Girton’s Bamburgh Castle, one of David Dimbleby’s choices in his series on British art and landscape.  Stunning picture – doesn’t look much like Bamburgh Castle now, though.

Blake, Jane Shore doing penance – proof that Blake could do really ordinary, boring pictures too.

Samuel Palmer, “Dream in the Appenines”; hints of Raspberry Ripple in the sunset; Benjamin West, American Sublime and all that – bloody awful painting.

Arthur Melville, “Blue Night, Venice” – and what a blue it is; little bit green, but translucent, against the tower.  Comes close to Turner’s Venice sketches.  Why is he not better known?

Turner – the two already mentioned above, and several small sundown sketches, including “The Scarlet Sunset”, with the yellow wiggle on the water surface; it’s only the size of a postcard!

There’s a war room:

William Simpson – a butterfly rests on a cannonball, a lizard scuttles past, or maybe holds a frozen pose for an hour or two, in the aftermath of battle.  It’s “All Quiet on the Western Front” – but from an earlier war.

Mutilated faces from WWI and a French hussar dying, with his intestines exposed by a sabre cut at Waterloo.

A really strange Burra – “Soldiers at Rye” – in which the soldiers, with their bulging muscles, theatrical stances and inexplicable pointy-nosed masks, look like a troupe of travelling players from the 17th century.

The lovely little Samuel Palmer with the horizontal crescent moon, to offset the Appenine monstrosity; maybe he needed the small format…

Two David Jones, white and grey, that from a distance, bear a faint resemblance to Dubuffet’s scraped – away pictures.

Lucia Nogueira, her blots and stains with intermingling colours, so simple but memorable.

The Patrick Heron, of course; not as intense as the oils, though.

Roger Hilton – two of the child-like pictures, done in posters I think, from his bed-ridden period.  One with the dog, strangely affecting.

Peter Lanyon, fabulous of course, like a skate egg case on its side, and colours like Alfred Wallis.

Left the best to last – huge, on the end wall, is Sandra Blow’s “Vivace” with it’s glorious, vulvic sweeps of red acrylic, chucked from a bucket onto an off-white canvas.  Just what this constipated exhibition of little, detailed exquisiteness needs.  For some reason, Adrian Searle chose to be dismissive of this celebratory work in his Guardian review; he called it “silly”.  Wrong!  Blow’s painting is like a pint of cold Guinness with a creamy, perfect head, looking up at you from a bar counter – after a long drought, passed in the company of prissy relatives.

One last thing; £14.00, or £12.00 for concessions, is a lot for an exhibition put together substantially from Tate’s own resources.  A tenner, maybe….

This Flight Tonight (to Joni Mitchell)

Blackpaint

17.02.11

Blackpaint 194

September 15, 2010

Art of World War 2

Just seen this programme on BBC2 and very apposite to the Deller exhibit it was.  In the discussion of the work of Graham Sutherland, known before the war as a landscape artist, was the observation that, in Sutherland’s pictures of the blitzed East End streets, the twisted machinery of bombed factories,  lift shafts etc., the tortured machinery stood in for the dead bodies, wounded and homeless that Sutherland couldn’t bring himself to sketch, while they were there before him.  Isn’t this exactly what Deller’s car is doing – standing in for the dead, dismembered and dying?  Sutherland’s work is unquestionably art, though; you can make artistic critical comments about it, whereas you can’t really about the Deller car.  If the Deller car is art, so are other exhibits in other places that are also historical evidence representing murdered individuals; no need to be specific in a trivial conjecture about the nature of art.

Leonard Rosoman

Whilst at the War Museum, had to go up and see the paintings and was struck once again by the beauty of two paintings,  both by the above.  I think I’ve mentioned them before – one is of a radar installation, the other of an aeroplane with wings folded, in the early morning sun.  They both have a great stillness, like a Sutherland, and the most beautiful rose colour, with orange touches I seem to recall (may be wrong on this).  Rosoman was a fireman in the Blitz and did that famous painting of the wall collapsing on the two firemen.

In fact, several of the painters look like Sutherland at that time, although very different later; I’m thinking of Keith Vaughan, John Piper and perhaps, Robert Colquhoun.  A really strong Bomberg, called “Bomb store”, in his usual rich, smouldering bronzes, reds and browns, resembles Sutherland’s Welsh landscape with skull in the Tate Britain – but then, it looks more like his own landscapes!  I’d be interested to know who was “being influenced” by whom.

Some great John Pipers, showing bunkers and air control rooms; these were featured on the BBC2 prog as well.  I have to say that Piper had one of the most striking faces I’ve ever seen – almost an inverted triangle, thin, almost skull-like, and with a fierce gaze.

Elizabeth Neel again

All this stuff about the Deller car and war art has made me feel a little bit guilty about being an abstract artist and doing paintings about paint – especially, as someone on a comedy show on TV last night said about the Abstract Expressionists, “letting the paint do all the work”.  Looking at Neel’s stuff again reminded me that I don’t have the slightest need to know what a painting is based on, what it’s “about”, to derive a real, sharp pleasure from it. 

I can only compare the experience of seeing a great abstract painting to  hearing THAT music for  the first time;  in my case, Little Richard singing (screaming!) “The Girl Can’t Help it” and then  later on, the Beatles doing “Please Please Me”,  Big Joe Williams doing “Baby Please Don’t Go”.  It’s raw, viscerally exciting, makes you want to get up and jump around the room, doesn’t matter what the words are,  it’s the sound (just had a deja vu – have I written all this before?  Oh well…)

That feeling compares  to seeing de Kooning’s Palisades or Joan  Mitchell’s stuff or Hans Hoffman’s – too old and self-conscious to jump around the room, but the feeling is there.  This is the real stuff, the guts of art – the rest, political commitment, symbolism, ideas, all that,  is just froth on the daydream.  For me, of course – might be different for you.

Usher’s Well by Blackpaint

15.09.10

Blackpaint 95

March 26, 2010

Paul Nash and other War Artists (see Blackpaint 94)

It strikes me today that Nash is part of a group of British artists that all use a similar range of colours and tones: Eric Ravilious, Edward Ardizzone, Edward Bawden and Nash himself.  All of them have that chalky, milky, washed-out look to their colours – and all of them, of course, were war artists.  Nash and Ravilious shared similar settings (the Downs, Dymchurch).

You could perhaps put these war artists in one group as regards colour, and the following into another: Graham Sutherland, Leonard Rosoman, John Piper and Henry Moore – darker settings, more vivid colour (Rosoman’s salmon pink aircraft in the War Museum, for example, or his wall collapsing on two firemen; the depictions of Blitz wreckage by the other three).

Then, I suppose Eric Kennington and Laura Knight go together stylistically, in their more conventional, “realistic” approach.

Painting

I just had to mess with it – I couldn’t leave it alone for just one night.  Out came the black paint and on it went, a great, fat sweeping slash that unbalances the whole thing and will require drastic surgery in the morning, when the paint is dry and repairs can be done, I hope.  Still, if you don’t take risks you might as well leave the canvas blank – they’re perfect like that.

Here’s another old one-

Blackpaint

25.03.10