Posts Tagged ‘Prunella Clough’

Blackpaint 691 – Paula Rego; a Damned Good Thrashing in my Party Dress

August 19, 2021

The Paula Rego that we have become familiar with, she of the stumpy, intense young girl, waltzing with other couples on the turf at night, polishing father’s high boots with one arm thrust all the way inside, rubbing herself suggestively against Daddy’s crotch while mother distracts him by pulling a cloth over his face – this is just the latest stylistic approach of an astonishingly versatile painter with a febrile imagination. The current show at Tate Britain, whilst a little biased towards this phase, does show us something of earlier tropes, as I hope this blog will demonstrate.

Under Milk Wood

Shades of John Bellany, references to Velasquez (the fried eggs)… Maybe something of early Prunella Clough too?

Touch of David Bomberg here?

Salazar Vomiting on Democracy

Reminiscent of Asger Jorn, I think. Looks like a giant papaya in the middle. That’s the Portuguese dictator Salazar bent over like a pin-headed Humpty Dumpty, with a thin gush of greenish puke curling out of his mouth.

Don’t recall title of this one; called it “Confusion” in my notes. Graphic, rather collage-y, objects half-realised or morphing in a dreamlike fashion; there’s a young person in a coat, a penknife, a pennant, a fish or turtle head, insects(?), a leaf spray….

Is she shaving the dog or cutting its throat? The former , I think, From the next picture, I guess there is a Jungian sexual meaning here. I’m not sure – did Jung do sex too or was that only Freud? The booklet mentions Rego’s interest in Jung, so I’ll go with him.

Girl showing her sex to a dog – who looks pretty unimpressed. Is the dog a male figure, maybe Father? Easy to interpret it this way, given some of her other output. Or maybe it’s Victor Willing, her artist husband…

Hey Diddle Diddle – she did a series of illustrations to nursery rhymes as etchings; here’s an example.

An illustration of an incident in a short story by Joyce Carol Oates; note the brilliant rendition of the satin party dress (or is it a confirmation dress? Don’t know the story); Rego is great on fabrics. I would be interested to read a feminist critique of Rego – there must be loads, surely. The booklet. I think, plays it safe, mentioning the anti-fascist, anti-patriarchal stance; I’m more interested, as a man would be no doubt, in the ambiguity towards men, particularly authority figures, her work displays. I feel there’s a touch of Sylvia Plath in there, that poem to her daddy came to me when I was looking at the one where she’s (I guess it’s Rego herself) polishing the boots with one arm plunged in up to the armpit… What do I know? But then, what do you make of a feminist who paints a woman, being beaten on her bare bottom with sticks by two little girls?

Hogarthian – The similarities to The Rake’s Progress are very obvious. What’s going on in the back room – is that a woman bending over or a man in women’s underwear? Elsewhere in this exhibition, men dress in women’s clothes… There’s that party/confirmation dress again – and the indifferent dog, positioned conveniently for another view, but not interested…

There’s a whole room of reclining women in various postures, that come under the general title of Abortion. I think this is one of them. There is also a room on the theme of FGM. Those powerful arms and legs….

I’m not going to attempt a comment on this painting or the next; no doubt the more courageous would have plenty to say on colonialism, female sexuality, soft toys and the bearing of crosses – I will confine myself to pointing out the excellent rendition of the velvet cloak.

And the satin backcloth here. Looks like a brothel scene, doesn’t it? Superficially , I mean, the way the women are sitting bored, resigned, fondling their soft black dolls.

Rather from the sublime to the ridiculous, I’m going to put in one of my own new pictures here, just because it’s my blog and I can.

Orinoco, Blackpaint

Blackpaint 19/08/2021

Blackpaint 364 – Michelangelo and the Animals, Schutte’s Soft Heads

October 25, 2012

Raoul De Keyser

His obit was in the papers the other day.  One of the famous Belgians.  His paintings were simple, often geometric but roughly so, bright, primary colours – when they were not totally abstract, they were of everyday things; football pitches, dogs, monkey puzzle trees…  In this respect, he reminded me a little of Prunella Clough, writ large…

De Keyser


Thomas Schutte at the Serpentine

Free exhibition; outside on the grass, a group of Schutte’s squat, bald figures bound to each other, supported on broomstick legs.  Inside, photographs of his distorted, softened and sagging wax heads line the upper walls of one room around a huge, central figure apparently made out of resin – but actually metal, the colour presumably supplied by oxidation.  Small etchings and drawings, all portraits or figures, many self portraits, done with a minimal line and sparing colour; a striking one of a woman with an orange throat (which he uses in another picture too).  Worth the visit, but I missed his stumpy little bald gnomes with the ecstatic, or maybe tortured, expressions.

Michelangelo and the Animals

  • Some readers will be familiar with my discovery that M didn’t do trees (see Blackpaints 111, 112 et al)); it struck me recently that he didn’t do much in the way of animals either – certainly fewer than any other Renaissance painter I can think of.  Titian, Leonardo, Tintoretto, all took the opportunity to knock out a variety of animals at times, but M seems to have kept it to a bare minimum.  Here’s my list:
  • Fish, apparently sucking Jonah’s leg, on the Sistine ceiling;
  • Ram with throat cut, another awaiting sacrifice, a horse (head only) and an ox (head only), also on Sistine ceiling – in the Noah section;
  • A couple of fanciful serpents in the Underworld on the Sistine altarpiece, and the serpent tempting Eve, on the Sistine ceiling (but does this count? It’s half woman);
  • In the Presentation Drawings, the horses attached to Phaeton’s chariot as it plunges to the ground and the eagle eating Tityus’ liver;
  • A marble barn owl on one of the tombs.  And that’s it, so far as I can see.

Actually, let’s go the whole way: there’s not much landscape either – rocks, desert, bare minimum really.  What he really liked was doing figures.

Paolo Sorrentino

Watched his two great films on DVD – “Il Divo” and “The Consequences of Love”, both starring the prince of stillness, Tony Servillo .  He’s the complete anti – stereotype of Italians; or  maybe that’s just a British conception, that Italians are voluble and animated.  In “Il Divo”, he is Andreotti, the seven times PM, with links to the Mafia; it touches on the deaths of Calvi (the banker found “hanged” under Waterloo Bridge), Aldo Moro (kidnapped and eventually shot by the Red Brigades) and other political murders of judges, lawyers, etc.  Unlike the work of Francesco Rosi (Giulano, The Mattei Affair, Illustrious Corpses) it has an almost operatic feel – there is no attempt at “documentary”.  “Consequences” co-stars Olivia Magnani; presumably Anna’s granddaughter(?); she is riveting.

Head of Saint Luke, the Painter Saint



Blackpaint 258

March 9, 2011

Cumming on Spero

Laura Cumming on Nancy Spero at the Serpentine in Sunday’s Observer says the following: ” She did not paint with oil on canvas – the canonical male medium – and she did not sculpt.”  Instead, Spero used paper as a feminist statement.  I assume that the words “the canonical male medium” are Cummings’, since they are not in parenthesis in the paper.  It’s nonsense, isn’t it?  All of the women artists that I can think of paint with oils on canvas at least sometimes.  Ayres, Mitchell, Clough, Blow,  Frankenthaler, Krasner, Dumas, and on and on…..  Canvas is not “gendered”, as far as I can see, and neither are oils.  It’s OK – desirable, really – for Spero to have been a bit mad; she was an artist, after all.  Critics surely should maintain a – critical stance.

Having said that, the exhibition sounds worth a visit – “Men and women wheel through the air, impaled on helicopter blades.  Scorched bodies, the colour of burnt bacon…” – sounds like” Salo” without the shit eating.

Greer on art in the Guardian

Interesting article by Germaine Greer on above, in which she concludes that graffiti artists are true artists.  The sentence that caught my eye was this one: “(the graffiti artists) are working within a demanding tradition that requires the sequence of execution to have been worked out in detail in advance, before any mark can be made.”  This may well be so; it reminds me of Richard Dorment on Van Gogh, how (according to Dorment) VG worked out every colour and mark before starting a painting.  What a dispiriting thought!  No improvisation, no accidents, no going with the development, no errors and corrections, no intuition, no flying by the seat of the pants – sorry, cliche – what IS flying by the seat of the pants, anyway?  Sketches are usually better than worked-up paintings, anyway; more life, more fun.

Van Gogh

Probably mentioned this already, but I was struck by the description of his shading marks in drawings as being like iron filings arranging themselves around a magnet.  Read it in the Taschen double volume, but can’t  remember the source; good though.


A while back, I mentioned how there’s an obvious figure in Lanyon’s “Lost Mine” (in the Tate Britain), but I couldn’t see it for years until someone pointed it out.  Same with Turner’s “Sea Monsters” – I’d always seen it as one big fish face, staring out at the viewer; now, after reading the Taschen (I know, still no shares),. I can’t see it as anything but two fishes side on, sort of jumping at each other.

Entrance fees for London galleries and museums

Tristram Hunt’s bad idea.  Someone said to me its mostly foreign tourists who go – they expect to pay and can afford it.  Even if this were so, it seems to me to be something of a cheek to charge them on this basis; if they’re Greek, Iraqi, Iranian, Egyptian, Turkish, Afghan, Indian etc., they would be paying to see treasures that our forefathers disassembled and shipped home in dodgy circumstances.  We nicked most of it, didn’t we, one way or another.


Shrove Tuesday




Blackpaint 247

January 30, 2011

Gabriel Orozco at the Tate Modern

One of the main exhibits at this show is a stone(? actually plasticene, the booklet says) ball that Orozco rolled around Monterrey, and then New York – an act reminiscent of Francis Alys and his melting block of ice (Blackpaint 180).  Different point, of course; ball was to pick up impressions, not to disappear in a demonstration/celebration of futility.  Close though, trundling objects round the streets.  The connection goes further;  Mexico City is where Alys lived.  Who had the idea first, I wonder.

The booklet that goes with the exhibition, like the Alys, is great; pretty much everything listed with a brief explanation.  The trouble is, you end up having everything explained to you and you don’t think about what you see.  Martin Creed is right – you should go round, look at it all without reading anything (unless there are words on the art itself) and then, maybe, read the booklet and the wall plaques and labels.  Then again, see the stuff above about the plasticene ball; wouldn’t have known that, without the booklet. 

So, what’s in the exhibition?

Some lovely small oil works on paper – blotty, a bit Nogueira, bit Tillmans..

The squashed-in Citroen (actually middle chopped out and resealed).

Four bikes, screwed together in improbable ways to make a sculpture.

Lots of – too many – photos of two yellow motor bikes, like little friends, parked in different locations.

Inner tubes inflated to huge balls.

A whole room of shredded tyre fragments, laid out, alligned on the floor.  Kieferish.

“Lintels” – shreds like flags, strung on wires across the room, assembled from the fluff collected in industrial cleaning machines.  When this, according to the booklet, was first exhibited in NY in November 2001, “the ash-coloured lint took on a poignant significance”.  I thought of Beuys – a bit.

A billiard table with no pockets, and a red ball suspended and swinging in an arc across.  Children were playing , trying to get the red ball as it swung.

“Samurai tree” paintings, on wooden blocks; highly coloured spheres and half spheres, connected like some table construction game.

The chequered skull, of course.

Ripples in lines of print on long, Chinese scrolls that turn out to be tiny numbers assembled from phone books.  A huge amount of fiddly work – symptomatic, really.

I felt that, with some exceptions, the show consisted of knick-knacks; contrivances to make you smile wryly, or exclaim gently, like something in Covent Garden on a Sunday afternoon.  The skull is beautiful – skulls are – and so is the way the chessboard pattern is stretched in the eye sockets, for instance, like netting – but none of it really says much to me, unlike the Francis Alys.  I would compare it to Anish Kapoor’s show at the Guggenheim – high quality fun objects, to make you smile, but not laugh or frown.  I couldn’t see a dark side to it at all (the September 11th suggestion in the booklet didn’t persuade me).   

all that said, the small oils were beautiful and there were two intriguing photographs; “Plastic Bag with Water”, I think, Prunella Clough – type image, and “Simon’s Island” – I can’t make out if it is an egg in close-up or someone’s – presumably Simon’s – globular belly, rising from the bath water.

Varda Caivano

Argentinian abstract painter, looks more my sort of thing; at the Victoria Miro Gallery to 12th March.



Blackpaint 119

April 24, 2010

Raoul de Keyser and Prunella Clough

The second pair of artists in my “spurious connections” series (see Blackpaint 117).  What you have to do is to Google the artists, go to Images and be startled by how right my generalisations are.

De Keyser is Belgian, born in 1930 and living; Clough was British, born 1919 and died in 1999.  So what do they have in common?  First, a sort of “bittiness”.  They both tend to produce works of fragmented, often floating shapes and both use the periphery of the paper or canvas, sometimes with the objects drifting out of the picture.

They both use a variety of materials and methods; Clough’s images are usually more hard-edged, precise; De Keyser’s are often fuzzier, rougher, more brushy – his are perhaps more playful.

They both combine the abstract and the figurative and both use mundane, everyday things and scenes – de Keyser, football pitches (he was a sports writer), dogs; Clough, plastic carrier bags, barbed wire fences, corroded water tanks, canal banks).

Finally, many of their works are comparable in size and their pictures contain a lot of space.  That’s about it – read the rest of this, have a look on Google and most importantly, comment to point out what rubbish I’m writing.  I know it is already, because my partner, a big fan of both artists, has already done so.


Just to return to this play for a moment (see Blackpaint 118), I have to point out some amusing ironies.  First, we were sitting in the upper circle surrounded by teenage boys and girls from, I would guess, two different schools, very “well-spoken” and, as it turned out,  perfectly well-behaved. 

The play then proceeded to present a sympathetic, even heroic portrait of a middle-aged caravan dweller who supplied drugs and drink to teenagers – lines of cocaine were snorted, cannabis was smoked, acid was taken on stage – and allowed them to sleep at his site.  He boasted graphically of having had sex with most of their mothers in earlier days.  The word “cunt” must have been used at least ten times (invariably getting a laugh from the cultured audience).  The view was expressed that teenagers would drink, take drugs and have sex from adolescence onwards anyway – at least they would in Wiltshire.

I’m wondering what attitude the members of the audience would adopt, should such a person really park his caravan near to their homes.  I for one would sign the petition; or more likely, I’d refuse, safeguarding my libertarian values, hoping all the time that the neighbours’ signatures would be enough to do the trick. 

Listened to the New St. George by the Albion Country Band

“Freedom was your mother, fight for one another,

Leave the factory, leave the forge,

And dance to the new St.George”.

Rooster would agree.



Blackpaint 84

March 10, 2010

Whitechapel Gallery

Free admission to a great exhibition of drawings called “Threshold”, curated or chosen by Paula Rego and with an expensive-looking leaflet with loads of repros of the drawings.  It’s from the British Council collection.

Without looking at the leaflet, I remember the following:  several coloured drawings by Graham Sutherland, ditto from Sickert, a couple of Victor Willings, a Prunella Clough, two Burras, an Augustus and a Gwen (latter better, I think), a tiny Ofili head, a large Auerbach in black and white chalk, a Harold Gilman, Chris Orr’s “Vegetables go to School” , a Patrick Caulfield, a surprising Stanley Spencer – can’t remember more, but I’m sure there was more.  It’s only on until 14th March.

Celeste Bourgier – Mougenot

At the Barbican Curve gallery, live birds playing electric guitars for free.  Everyone there was smiling – and it was free.

RIP – painted over this (above), over last two days – now looks like this (below – but still changing)

Listening to “Sunday Morning Coming Down” by Johnny Cash.

“On a Sunday morning sidewalk, I’m wishing, Lord, that I was  stoned,

‘Cos there’s something in a Sunday that makes a body feel alone;

And there’s nothing short of dying, half so lonesome as the sound

Of a sleeping city sidewalk, and Sunday morning coming down”.