Posts Tagged ‘Proust’

Blackpaint 613- Degas, Soutine, Orwell, Proust and Brexit

January 2, 2018

Soutine again

Revisited this great exhibition at the Courtauld ; waiters, bellboys, patrons (the french kind), with those dipping shoulders, bending faces, pouting lips, supercilious sneers, rich blue and blood red backgrounds.  You can see the influence he had on de Kooning, and maybe Bacon.  That big, long red one reminds me of Beckmann.

Degas et al at the National Gallery

The Degas is free; it’s on the ground floor, in a room after a collection of beautiful small landscapes, of which more in a moment.  Most of the Degas pictures are pastels but there are at least two in oils that look like pastels.  Some lovely sturdy ballerinas, that big brown/orange one of the maid combing out the woman’s hair (usually on display in the first Impressionism room to the right of the main entrance) and a great one of racehorses with jockeys up, in a downpour; a whirl of Russian women dancers.

 

 

As for the landscapes, I thought the most striking was by Lord Leighton, a jutting outcrop against green, from an unusual angle.

Also, a couple of great Boudins, distant families on the beach, Trouville I think.  He’s a “red spot” man.

Orwell, Notes on Nationalism

Just re-read this essay, written near the end of WW2, but staggeringly relevant today (relevance is something you find pretty much every time you pick up an Orwell book).  I recognised my own mindset immediately, with regard to the Brexit “debate” and resolved to think of Orwell every time I read the Guardian.  Doesn’t work though, unfortunately; still teeth grinding and swearing.  Orwell is often spectacularly wrong; for example, he thought in the early days of the war and maybe later, that Britain was bound to lose unless the war became a revolutionary war, with the Home Guard maybe playing the role of a People’s Militia.  But there is always reason and clarity in his writing and he draws attention to his own errors willingly.

Proust 

I’m still ploughing through the books; on the fourth one now (title?).  It strikes me that the Dreyfus case, which keeps popping up in the salons of St. Germain and elsewhere, divided France in much the same way as the Brexit issue has divided Britain, perhaps not yet with the same degree of venom – but give it time…

Best exhibitions last year

Rauschenberg (Tate Modern)

Jasper Johns (Royal Academy)

Soutine (Courtauld)

Kabakovs (Tate Modern)

Holbein, Da Vinci, the Caraccis et al (National Portrait Gallery)

Best Films 2017

Get Out (dir. Jordan Peele)

Dunkirk (dir. Christopher Nolan)

Blade Runner 2049 (dir. Denis Villeneuve)

Best books 2017

The Dream Colony, Walter Hopps and Deborah Triesman

Road to Somewhere, David Goodhart

Caravaggio (Taschen)

Best TV 2017

Howards End

League of Gentlemen

Babylon Berlin

Best DVDs I’ve seen in 2017

Il Topo (Jodorowsky, 1970)

Caravaggio (Derek Jarman, 1986)

Blade Runner – the final cut (Ridley Scott, 2007)

Mahler (Ken Russell)

Mauve Nude

 

Black and White

Blackpaint

1/1/2018

Happy New Year.

 

 

Blackpaint 576 – Coprophagia, Clowns and Coogan

November 25, 2016

Robert Motherwell, Bernard Jacobson Gallery

Sorry, done it again – last day today.  Great little exhibition though, opposite the rear of the RA.  These three are big ones – 177, 194 cms, that sort of order; “California” (1959) is a bit like a Frankenheimer and “The Studio” (1987) surely channels Matisse.

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The Mexican Window (1974)

 

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California (1959)

 

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The Studio (1987)

 

Intrigue – James Ensor, presented by Luc Tuymans, RA

Bowled over by this; he had two or three styles, like Kitaj.  Here, in this dark one, he’s like Sickert –  there, in that dark drawing room, like Vuillard.  You can see Van Gogh, Turner (the green stage one, very like the Petworth Turners), Goya’s witches and penitents, Brueghel, Moreau – even Munch, but better.  Apart from the dark rooms, there are the fantastic still lifes, the skate, the cabbage and flowers with their sizzling, fizzing background – you’ll see what I mean – and the masks, chinoiserie, clowns, processions, skeletons, satirical cartoons (the Bad Doctors, winding out the patient’s small intestine, like an early martyr) – and a group of critics round the table, eating shit; first coprophagic instance.

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The Drunkards

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The Bad Doctors

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Intrigue

 

Alan Davie, the Seventies, Gimpel Fils until 14th Jan.

A rather disappointing flatness to these – no texture, no roughness.  In the gallery’s photo, however, they look brilliant.

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Collections of symbols/motifs (fruit segment moons, stripey snakes, Ace of Clubs (cf. Diebenkorn), lips, crowns…  sometimes reminds me, superficially,  of Aboriginal art, or should that be first nation Australian?

Always on Sunday – Rousseau (Ken Russell, 1965) – DVD of 3 Russell films for Monitor and Omnibus.

The artist James Lloyd plays Douanier Rousseau with his own broad Yorkshire accent in this Russell film for Monitor; it works brilliantly, of course.  Russell has a woman, Annette Robertson (below) playing Alfred Jarry, the tiny anarchist playwright and revolver enthusiast, author of “Pere Ubu”, who befriends Rousseau.  At a perfrormance of Ubu, the bourgeoisie gobble a stew of faeces on stage; in case you miss it, an actor announces”shitter!”, twice, to the disgust and outrage of the audience – second coprophagic episode.

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Isadora Duncan, the Biggest Dancer in the World –  (Ken Russell, 1966)

Isadora (Vivian Pickles) and 500 children in floaty costumes ran down a hill at the Devil’s Punchbowl in Surrey, towards the cameras and Ken waiting at the bottom. Unfortunately, they all ran to the right instead of parting and flowing past Ken on both sides, so they had to go back up and do it again.  Brilliant TV film of course. but NOT the feature film that I remember; that was based on a different memoir and directed by Karel Reisz.  It starred Vanessa Redgrave and in one memorable montage sequence, showed Isadora arriving at “London” station.  I think Readers Digest funded it.

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Nomad, Alan Partridge (Steve Coogan)

Alan Partridge and James Joyce are similar, in that their respective styles penetrate and corrupt anything you read immediately afterwards.  I remarked before on how Finnegans Wake affects me; I tend to read a few pages at a time, then move on to another book – for a while, you think you are still reading “Wake” and you can’t properly take in the new text.  I had the exact same thing with Partridge and Proust.  Granted, Alan was discussing the way his excess fat tends to form on his back and Marcel was spending three pages or so describing milk boiling over…

Three small ones on wood panel and one (Seated Figure ) on canvas:

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Seated Figure

 

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Fleeing Figure

 

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Still Life with Orange and Banana

 

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Bridgehead 2

Blackpaint

25.11.16

Blackpaint 524 – Karl, Kitaj and hanging about in the woods

December 13, 2015

A Death in the Family, My Struggle Vol.1,  Karl Ove Knausgard

The obsessive detail in which Knausgard describes the minutiae of everyday life can be crushing; when you see the denseness of the type on the Kindle page, no paragraphs in sight, it recalls Proust.  I’m glad to hear that reviewers have mentioned Proust in connection with his projected multi-volume memoir.  Others mention his unflinching confessional style, glossing over nothing for the sake of discretion. It’s surprisingly gripping, in the sense that you read page after page looking for somewhere to stop, thinking why doesn’t he just say he made tea, instead of telling you how he filled the kettle with water from the cold tap, pushed the button in, watched the red light glow….  Should he get up or should he have a wank?  The cartoonist Steve Bell broached this years ago in his “If” series; ex -Seaman Kipling posed himself the same question, but he described it as a “discreet Sherman”.

The critic James Wood described it as interesting, even when it is boring; I sort of see what he means.

Kitaj and his Life Drawings

I have to say I think Ron Kitaj’s life drawings are pretty much the business, so here’s a selection, some of which I’ve shown before:

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I know, male gaze and all that – but they are fantastic.

Bloomberg New Contemporaries, ICA

There were four stand out works for me:

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Katy Schwab

These are cross-stitch embroidery – pretty good, eh? There are four or five I think, and they are very small, but perfectly formed.  Made me think of Sonia Delaunay and Sophie Tauber -Arp.

 

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Jamie Fitzpatrick

The figure is made of wax – and he seems to have borrowed his paints from the artist below; the palette’s almost the same.

 

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James William Collins, “Ffion”

I thought a tiny bit Guston-y – but my partner frostily put me in my place, saying the colours were totally different to those of the great Phillip…

 

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Hilde Krohn Huse – Hanging in the Woods

A video sequence. in which the naked artist has contrived to suspend herself from a tree and undertakes a number of balletic or yogic movements which increasingly appear to be attempts to release herself.  It’s funny, sinister in the suicide connotations – and interesting to those of us who do life drawing, in the sense that you don’t often see the anatomy performing under such conditions.  I think next time I’m at Putney, I’ll suggest to the model they might try something similar; wonder what sort of reply I’ll get?

Carol, 2015 (dir. Todd Haynes)

Famously featuring Cate Blanchett as Carol and Rooney Mara as her younger lover.  It had a lot of effusive praise on “Film 2015”;  It looks great (that Zodiac palette, again, that you also see in the current Fargo series), the 50s cars and especially that train set in the department store) and the acting’s good, of course.  However, if it had been a male/female affair, it would have been unremarkable.  My attention strayed once or twice.

I had another attack of that thing where I catch glimpses of other faces; this time, it was Cate in profile with startled eyes and lips hanging open – Donald Sutherland in “Casanova”! And Rooney Mara, in a scene near the end, was suddenly the girl who plays Audrey Hepburn in the Galaxy chocolate advert.

The soundtrack was good, though; Billie Holiday singing “Easy Living” and a vocal group doing “One Mint Julep”.

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Heaven Only Knows 2

Blackpaint

12.12.15

 

Blackpaint 451 – Folk Art, Deller, Bond and the Fatal Train

June 20, 2014

Folk Art at Tate Britain

This is a great exhibition, but is pretty much historical  – that’s to say, there’s nothing in it later than the skull and crossbones score-sheet of the WW2 submarine, apart from the giant straw King Alfred made in 1961 (an example of a tradition going back a couple of hundred years).

Many of the exhibits are articles with a use value; shop and pub signs, trays, quilts, really ugly leather toby jugs..There are, however, a number of things that are “true” works of art – that is, they have no function other than to be themselves as art objects.  The paintings of Alfred Wallis are the obvious examples; there are also the French POW cockerel made out of bones, the Wesleyan preacher painted on the vertebra of a horse, the “gods-in-a-bottle” (bizarre assemblages, akin to African fetishes).

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What about the ship’s figureheads?  They are decorative – very beautiful, in fact – but arguably, they have a use value too; identification and maybe a symbolic guardian angel function, like the bottle gods.

Anyway, a few examples:

The shop signs, for illiterate patrons – giant boots, padlocks, a saw, an arm and hammer (blacksmith?) a sun with those wiggly beams (?)… a black sweep sculpture, tobacco shop Indians.

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The quilts – the Bellamy one, with Ally Sloper at the centre and the fabulous Menai Bridge one.

The signs – We Rule you, We Fight for You, etc. – and a very odd one, in which dogs appear to be about to attack someone who is having a crap behind a tree.  there is a text on the board explaining, but my eyes weren’t up to deciphering it.

The figureheads – several beautiful ones, the giant Indian warrior (I guessed Turkish, wrongly); the Elvis lookalike with the sideburns; and the extraordinarily beautiful and delicate one with the brown hat.

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The Culture Show, BBC2

Jeremy Deller and Alan Kane visited the Tate exhibition and also Blackpool, where they argued that the various fairground entertainments provided living examples of folk art.  Kane seemed to be saying that cheap novelties such as fake cigarettes and giant rubber turds could qualify – think that’s pushing it a bit, but who cares.  They also came up with a man who specialises in customising motorbikes and helmets with airbrushed nudes, dragons, snakes, skulls and so on.  Fascinating programme.

Here’s a Health to the Barley Mow (BFI DVD)

On sale at the Tate, this is the filmed record of “a century of folk customs and ancient rural games”.  The film of Cecil Sharpe and Butterworth folk dancing in 1909 is funny; the Norfolk step dancer and the various sword dance teams are great; the Bacup Coconut dancers are there, of course;  the fiddle music by the great Pete Cooper, plaintive, perfect; but the sequence “Oss Oss Wee Oss”, filmed in Padstow in 1953 by Alan Lomax, is just unbelievable – those locals dancing to drums in the pub; they look as if they’ve been eating magic mushrooms.

Damnation, Bela Tarr

I love it – the rain slashes down in torrents onto the mud and empty lots in the forsaken Hungarian mining town, where the packs of dogs roam outside the Titanic Bar; the femme fatale sings a dismal torch song about it all “being over” as the bedraggled punters, especially Karrer, thin -faced, pining for her; the sullen, beaten faces stare out at the viewer as the heart-rending accordian dirge grinds on; everyone betrays everyone else – the femme (who is Karrer’s on-off lover) is last seen slipping down in the front seat of the barkeeper’s posh car, as the keeper leans back; Karrer goes to the police and informs on everyone and goes to wallow in the mud with the dogs… There is a long, slow, circular dance, a  slo-mo conga line of all the punters round the bar, which is a sort of anti- Fellini dance – those happy-sad circular dances to little clown combos in which everyone joins, like at the end of “8 1/2”.

That’ll Be The Day

The old David Essex rock n’ roll film – full of faces, Billy Fury, Ringo Starr, Keith Moon – and one, just fleeting, with a sax in his mouth, during “Long Live Rock”, I think – Graham Bond!  I used to go to see the Graham Bond Organisation at the 100 Club in Oxford Street in the 60s; Ginger Baker on drums, Dick Heckstall-Smith on tenor, Jack Bruce on bass and vocals, Bond himself on organ and alto sax, often simultaneously.  “Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf” and “Early in the Morning”…  He got into Aleister Crowley apparently, as well as drugs, and threw himself in front of a tube at Finsbury Park.  Christopher Wood, whose exhibition with the Nicholsons is currently at Dulwich, also died under a train (at Salisbury, in 1930).  But he wasn’t a Crowley fan , so far as I know…

Proust

I’m up to 3% on the Kindle now; I’ve passed the madeleine and tea bit- hope something happens soon.   Should finish some time in 2016, if I live that long….

 

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Overground to Atlantis

Blackpaint

20.06.14