Posts Tagged ‘RA’

Blackpaint 642 – Monk, Barlow, Nudes and Fellini

April 4, 2019

William Monk, “A Fool through the Clouds”, The Pace Gallery

This is only on until 10th April, so visit soon if you like his works.  Three examples below – they are big, by the way.

 

 

 

Phyllida Barlow, Royal Academy until 23rd June

As at the Tate some years back, and at the Venice Biennale 2017, giant structures in stone, wood, fibre glass, canvas and metal, filling the white galleries and presenting beautiful prospects through the archways.  As can be seen, they recall skeletal structures, perhaps poking up through mud on river banks or sea shores; great precarious boulders or metal chunks, balanced on spindly supports and draped with canvas swatches.  I don’t know who to compare her works to – maybe Keifer in terms of size (but not portent)…  No-one else, really.

 

Great view through doorway.

 

I wouldn’t stray beneath those structures at the back…

 

They were squashed flat 10 seconds later…

 

The Renaissance Nude, Royal Academy, Sackler Gallery 

As you would expect, there are some fabulous treasures on display here; nothing, however, to justify the rather overheated review Adrian Searle gave it in the Guardian a few weeks back.  Far from arousing lusty thoughts, I was constantly struck by how odd some of the nude body shapes and features were, Cranach for instance, but also Durer, and others.  Many of the artists seem to have a better grasp of the muscular male physique.  I particularly liked this mysterious little picture in a vitrine with several others in a series; it’s by Giovanni Bellini, I think – what’s he doing?  Coming out of his shell is the obvious answer.  Probably has some alchemical significance – maybe??

 

 

The Ship Sails On, Federico Fellini, 1981

Fellini will be turning up regularly in this blog over the next few weeks, as I’ve just been watching virtually his entire output on DVD.  Three to go – “Clowns” (on You tube, but in Italian with Portuguese subs), “Intravista” and Voice of the Moon” (his last film, can’t find it on DVD).

Anyway, “Ship” is the one about the voyage to dispose of the ashes of a star opera singer (Helen Suzmann) in 1914.  The guests are an assortment of singers, academics, royalty and hangers-on, and there is a sort of narrator in the form of Freddie Jones, a journalist who breaks the fourth wall constantly to address us (as he is doing in the still above).  What I particularly noticed this time round was how closely Jones’ facial expressions resemble those of Giulieta Masina, Fellini’s muse and wife.  Raised eyebrows, sudden perplexed frowns, that mouth pulled firmly down at the sides, expressing an undermining skepticism: a sort of facial shrug.  Barbara Jeffords is great too, as a rival diva.  The fabulously artificial seascapes too, with the static plumes of black smoke from the funnels.  At the end, Fellini pans back (is that the right expression?) to show the crew working the “sea” surface in the studio.

No new paintings, so these are the ones I sold in the exhibition last week:

Bad Old Science

Good New Science

Ballet

Disunity of the Spheres

I certainly can’t be accused of pretentious titles…

Blackpaint

4th April 2019

 

 

 

 

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Blackpaint 640 – Bill Viola, Michelangelo, Ken Kiff and Fellini – the sublime and…

March 5, 2019

Bill Viola and Michelangelo, RA

No photos allowed, so can only comment on this.  The Michelangelo drawings, Archers Shooting at a Herm, notably, are as wonderful as one might expect and would constitute a great exhibition alone (as I think several have, a few years back at the Courtauld – I’m sure Tityas was there and Phaeton). It seems to me an enormous stroke of hubris to display them with Viola’s works, as if there were something fundamental that they had in common.  As it is, it strikes me as two separate exhibitions in one space.

As for Viola’s videos and installations, there’s no doubt that they are striking – who wouldn’t pause and watch transfixed as a baby emerges from the mother, who squats facing the camera?  I’ve been there (childbirth) three times, but I was always at the other end so the view was obscured.   At the other end of this triptych, Viola’s mother is dying – one might think filming to be an intrusion at such a time, but I suppose it’s easier than getting a stranger or his/her family to consent…  Can’t remember what’s in between; life, presumably.

My favourite of the Viola’s is the one with the diving figure that never arrives at the surface of the pool.  Reflected in the water can be seen the upside down images of poolside people walking – but they are not there.  The most annoying film is that of the two old people examining their naked. scrawny bodies with pencil torches – saw this in Bilbao a while ago and it annoyed me there too.

Here’s a Viola from Bilbao – not in this exhibition, but it will give you an idea…

 

Ken Kiff, Sainsbury Centre, UEA Norwich, until 23rd April 2019

This is without question the strangest exhibition I’ve seen for a very long time.  Kiff, who died in 2001, started a sequence of paintings in 1971 that eventually ran to around two hundred.  He called it – The Sequence.  The catalogue refers to Bosch, Klee, Chagall and Samuel Palmer as possible influences, or “fellow travellers” at least, and the Jungian influences are hard to miss; or so the book tells me.  Ovid, Yeats and Rilke also get a mention.  He was in psychoanalysis from 1959 onwards and this also informs the work, to say the least.

No title given in book

 

Love and shadow – sorry about the reflection; she’s holding his leg, by the way, not a stick

 

Crouching Man (1)

 

Dignified man in a respectable London suburb, passed by a girl

Talking with a psychoanalyst; night sky – the analyst is the black seated figure; the pointing finger is mine

The poet; Mayakovsky – For what its worth, Kiff is wrong – Mayakovsky shot himself in the chest, not the head (photograph in David King’s brilliant book, “Red Star over Russia”).

 

(Woman with) protruding tongue – reflection again

The works are all small (the largest is 113×76 cm) and are in acrylic on paper, gummed to board.  The book claims him as, for a time, a very influential figure in British art.  I can’t see any obvious evidence of his influence, however; he seems a complete one-off to me.

City of Women (Fellini, 1980)

Watched the DVD of this fevered and feverish film, starring Anna Prucnal and “Fellini’s favourite alter ego”, Marcello Mastroianni as Snaporaz,  and was deeply moved.  In the age of #MeToo, it seems to me that Fellini’s film still has much of relevance to tell us.

Next time, Don McCullin, Franz West and Dorothea Tanning.

 

Free Radicals

Blackpaint

05 March  19

Blackpaint 608 – Blade Runner, Blue Lamp, Johns, Dali and Duchamp

October 20, 2017

Jasper Johns 2 (RA)

Second selection from the Johns show at the Royal Academy.  It’s nearly as good as the Rauschenberg at Tate Modern a while ago; the Rausch had the edge for inventiveness and variety, but only just.  I love the splashy colours, the encaustic (waxy surfaces) and the combinations, like Rauschenberg’s – see below:

Johns, Field Painting, 1963-4

Neon light at the top – reminds me of Martial Raysse at the Pompidou a couple of years ago.   I wonder who did it first – probably came up with it independently and simultaneously.

 

Johns, Watchman, 1964

For a while, he liked sticking limbs on paintings; see the spotty arms below.  I think the chair raises “Watchman” aesthetically, though.

 

Johns, Perilous Night, 1982

 

Johns, Green Angel, 1990

Beginning to resemble Sigmar Polke a bit, in this one – but then, Polke was always really hard to categorize too.

 

Dali/ Duchamp (RA)

This is also on at the RA and so is Matisse in the Studio still – so a pretty good selection at the moment.  Dali/Duchamp, however, is thin and tendentious; what’s the connection?  As far as I can see, it is that they were close friends for a long time.  The fact that they are so different as artists is put forward as a further justification for a joint show – very different, but so friendly, there must be something interesting there…

Anyway, the R.Mutt urinal is there, as is the lobster telephone, the moustachio’d Mona Lisa and other old friends; also, the usual contrived “surreal” Dali paintings, like the one below.  I think Orwell got him about right in his essay “Benefit of Clergy”, back in the 40s.

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Dali, Apparition of Face and Fruit Dish on a Beach (1938)

 

Duchamp, The King and Queen Surrounded by Swift Nudes (1912)

 

The Bride Stripped Bare by her Bachelors, even.

(Duchamp 1915 – 23, reconstructed by Richard Hamilton)

 

Blade Runner 2049 (Denis Villeneuve, 2017)

Since I am in a dismissive mood, I might as well do this, as it has been roundly praised by all the critics I’ve read.  Not a patch on the original; it lacks the kinetic energy and whirling colour of Scott’s film and I found myself checking my watch about 40 minutes in.  There’s a crap Bond-type blind villain trying to create the perfect cross-over android (I think – attention strayed at this point)  There’s an entertaining blitzing battle in a scrapyard – but I’m sure I’ve seen something similar in a “Star Wars” somewhere or other.  There is dust and gloom and red haze (like last week here in London on Ophelia day – dust from the Sahara and smoke from Portuguese forest fires, apparently).

Strangely, towards the end, I felt the director thought it was taking too long to resolve; we were suddenly in small fighting rocket ships shooting at each other, just like the original Star Wars and then in a hand-to-hand fight to the death in a craft filling with water – so that was the reason for those earlier spectacular shots of the dam…  What is true of the film is that it is truly Dick-like in the ramifications of the story; much more coherent than Dick, in fact.  I’ve said elsewhere in this blog that Dick has great ideas and writes brilliant short stories, but his novels are all over the place.

The Blue Lamp (Basil Dearden, 1950)

This popped up on TV the other night and for the first time, I stayed with it, and was glad that I did.  First, it was a beautiful, clear, clean print, sharp and sparkling, as if made yesterday.  The story was tight and mostly credible and there was a great car chase around Ladbroke Grove, police bells ringing, schoolgirls crossing the road as the police car screams round the corner.  It was out of a past that felt very distant; the villains, the sweaty Bogarde and his mate spud (Patric Doonan) use a music hall appearance by Tessie O’Shea as an alibi for the robbery and shooting of PC Dixon; scruffy, dirty kids in long shorts and hand me downs play in the streets and by a canal.  Everyone  (adult) smokes, there are horses pulling various vehicles, there are real bomb sites.  Bogarde (Tom Riley, the shooter) looks like a desperado from an Italian neo-realist picture, with his mop of unruly hair and shabby sweater.

I wrote “mostly credible”; it went into fantasy a little way in the White City dog stadium sequence.  When the petty villains and tic-tac men (google it) join with the police in the search for Riley and signal his whereabouts in the stadium, I was reminded of Fritz Lang’s “M”, in which the hapless (and also sweaty) child killer Peter Lorre is hunted down and put on trial by the underworld; at least, I think that’s what happens – it’s hard to see through the cigarette smoke.

Did you notice the rhyming title?  Slick, eh?  Oh well, please yourselves…

Ophelia

Blackpaint

19/10/17

 

 

 

Blackpaint 407 – Bloodshed at the RA; is Stoner Perfect?

August 15, 2013

Sorry for hiatus – been away.

Mexico, a Revolution  in Art, at the RA

Not all Mexican – Edward Weston, Tina Modotti, Philip Guston, Cartier -Bresson,  DH Lawrence  et al, all down there on a visit at one time or another.

Starting with the inevitable sepia photos of firing squads and their dead victims, one sequence showing the shooting of four Mexicans, one after the other, at the moment the bullets strike; violent death somehow seems more prevalent in Mexican revolution, the executions routine and casual – maybe a reflection of the ubiquity of photographers.  Also strikers, prostitutes peeping from windows, semi-surrealist street shots…

A few lurid, blood-raw landscape pictures, and one snow-capped peak that recalled the Canadian “Seven” painter, Lawren Harris.  Maybe the landscape really IS that raw, blood orange colour – best to leave it to God, perhaps, like those lurid American Sublime sunsets.

The Guston (early figurative mode) and the one opposite of a man in a cat’s suit the best, along with a portrait by Siqueiros of Zapata – like a hooded-eyed, ancient deity.  Also an Orozco and a Rivera; both better as murals, I think.

Guston in Mexico

The RA Summer Exhibition

Overall, not inspiring.  Lots of well-known RAs doing their usual thing; some beautiful Irvins, especially the small, marmalade orange prints called “Shakespeare” (presumably after Shakespeare Road, rather than the playwright) – and a huge, penetrating blue canvas by Barbara Rae,   I think the most striking painting – in a good way – in the show.  But I didn’t record the title.

Gillian Ayres’ flower-shaped images on prints, Tracey Emin’s broken-line etchings, John Carter’s Oiticica-like wobbly squares… A number of John Bellanys in garish, livid colours, humans with seabirds’ heads.. a big, brown, messy, lovely Basil Beattie.

Jock MacFadyen’s paintings were interesting – none of the cartoon-like tattoo’ed thugs with pit bulls; instead, a realist derelict factory with graffitti and a minimalist portrait if Humphrey Ocean – good, but I think I prefer the cartoon stuff – speaking of which, A big Rose Wylie over the door in her usual style.

Most striking of the non – RAs was a small yellow, patchwork print by Hetty Haxworth, called “Rig and Furrow”, loads of prints of which already sold.

haxworth

Worst painting by famous artist; Per Kirkeby’s “Laokoon”, a roughly executed serpent in ugly colours.  Also Pete Tonkins’ acrylic abstract.  Ugliness, whatever that is, not necessarily bad in a painting, of course, but should be something else to carry it; coherence, structure, something anyway.

Stoner by John Williams

First published in 1965, a campus novel set in University of Missouri in years from WW1 to the 50s.  I thought it was stunning – I normally read a bunch of books a few pages each every day, but I put others aside until I finished this, in maybe four days, really fast for me.  It’s not flawless; the dialogue in the love scenes a little shaky, perhaps, and a death scene seems prolonged; but it made me reflect on my own time as a student and teacher, with some very depressing and uncomfortable results.

Something that occurred to me, but apparently to no-one else who has written about the novel on the internet, was that Lomax’s campaign against Stoner through Walker could be read as a metaphor for the ideological struggles between radical movements and more conservative forces on campus, which became common a little later in the 60s; I was thinking particularly of the accusations of racism or misogyny that were often deployed against conservative and liberal academics.  No doubt this take is somewhat crass; all other reviews stress the universality of the themes and the perfection of the novel.

I couldn’t help casting some of the characters mentally, in the film that must soon be made; Stoner himself, as a young man, I see played by Paul Dano (There Will be Blood); Finch could only be Philip Seymour Hoffman (The Master).

Great book; best of its kind I’ve read since Richard Yates.

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Montreuil, Blackpaint

15.08.13