Posts Tagged ‘Ravilious’

Blackpaint 285

July 10, 2011

The Vorticists (Tate Britain)

Interesting to see how closely the works of the painters, at least, resemble each other; the diagonals, acute angles, elbows and zigzags.  I’d find it difficult to distinguish between Wyndham Lewis, William Roberts and Echells.  Dorothy Shakespear and Helen Saunders also using similar configurations but more adventurous use of colour – or maybe, a stronger imperative to “beautify” the work.  This may be right for the purely abstract work, but, of course, paintings such as Bomberg’s Mud Bath were done in a vivid blaze of colour…

Also interesting to me that the work often reverted to figuration during the war, and the involvement of several of the Vorticist artists in the trenches – as if, perhaps, they felt the experience required a less abstract depiction, or maybe was inexpressible in purely abstract terms??  Nevinson, however, was always figurative – his paintings remind me of Feininger, mixed with a little Delaunay (the Eiffel Tower, say).

As for the sculpture, Epstein’s driller is the first thing on view, in the form that he intended and looking rather like a robot biker.  Elsewhere, there is a relief of a woman upside-down giving birth; only realised this when I read the title. Before, I thought the emerging infant was a stylised penis going the other way .  Gaudier-Brjeska’s works mostly resemble stylised sculptural insects, smoothly and cleanly executed.

Have to mention the bombastic manifestoes and declarations in varying sizes of stark, black font on the walls, shouting  manic assertions in the true and irresistable manner of all tiny movements…. (See Blackpaint on Mondrian, Van Doesburg etc.)

Elsewhere in the Tate, there is an exhibition of photographs and newspaper articles concerning a show called “Prostitute”, put on at the ICA in 1976  by Genesis P- Orridge and Cosey Fanni Tutti,  that looks to have pushed things as far as possible at the time, in terms of nudity, sexual reference and general outrage – further, I guess, than you could go now in an art gallery?  There is a photo that looks as if it gave Tracey Emin the idea for that one of her naked, scooping paper money towards her crotch.  There are little boxes with shelves, on which are used sanitary towels, exhibited under Orridge’s name (did he nick it from feminist artists, or do it first?  I looked it up, and it appears it was Judy Chicago in about 1972)  The tabloid headlines on display are hilarious.  A thoroughly edifying experience and I can’t recommend it too highly.

Finally at the Tate, there’s a s0rt 0f 30’s and WW2 room with some great pictures; the white horse from the train carriage window by Ravilious, a great country lane with pink slanting lines by Edward Bawden, a spectacularly awful Nevinson with a huge, symbolic War monster crouching over the world, like a GF Watts, I thought.  Some great Sutherland Blitz damage, a Trevelyan mill town collage, hunger marchers in Humphrey Spender photos.  And posters of the green and golden- yellow fields of England, to remind the wartime populace what they were fighting for.


“Mother and Son”; it’s like Christy Moore’s “Sonny, don’t go away”, turned into a film and transferred from Ireland to Russia.  Well, not like it at all, really.  Really claustrophobic rural steppe scenery, filmed  at an angle, somehow; the son’s figure, as he carts his dying mother around in his arms, is always slanting and elongated – he looks like Frankenstein’s monster at times.  Short; only 90 minutes, but gruelling, with the Russian “Shto, shto” whispering, which grates on my ears anyway.

A reminder – look out for my book cover to Gregory Wood’s “An Ordinary Dog” (Carcanet).  There are three copies on sale in London; two in Foyles, one in Blackwoods, both in Charing Cross Road.  Mind you, I expect they’ve all been sold by now.



Blackpaint 266

April 11, 2011

Susan Hiller

Revisited this exhibition, and found several whole rooms I missed the first time.  In one, a series of different films were playing, each showing a young girl – I think they were all girls – displaying psycho-kinetic powers; moving things until they fell off tables, causing things to burst into flames (think I recognised Drew Barrymore in “Firestarter”).  Then,  a burst of what the catalogue calls white noise and everything changes place.

The fact that they were all girls or young women is interesting; I suppose Stephen King appropriated the idea with Carrie and then Firestarter.  The first example I remember, however, was a short story about a boy with such powers, who destroyed or “rearranged” things horribly when he heard his family or neighbours complaining – so they had to spend all their time saying how good everything was.  Can’t remember the author – Ray Bradbury maybe, or Richard Matheson.

The next room was another video display, this time of characters from Punch and Judy shows, blown up and slightly blurred, to the soundtrack of “Night of the Hunter” – the bit in which Robert Mitchum delivers a sermon based on the “love” and “hate” tattoos on his fingers.

Finally, there was a video of tourists and shoppe rs passing through a number of Juden Strasses in Germany or Austria.  The bright, chilly blue skies, shops, strolling tourists, backpackers.. generally, everyday, banal scenes make a powerful comment on the vanished history implied in the street names.

So, some memorable images – but I still found, on looking at the catalogue, that I’d missed most of it!  Get this more and more, the feeling that I’d been to a different exhibition to the one described.

Emil Kusturica, Underground

Exhausting, full-tilt charge through from WW2 through to the civil war(s) and the break-up of Yugoslavia – comic, surreal, tragic by turns and the source, perhaps, of that Balkan Brass/turbo-folk style that you hear all over the place, from the Django festival at Samois to that manic gypsy band  on “Later”, to the trumpet-based buskers by the Millennium Bridge.  At the end, all the dead come alive again underwater, climb out onto Yugoslavia island and float off together into memory.

Four great under (fresh)water sequences – L’Atalante of course, Underground, Atonement (the fountain and Balham underground station) and Oh Brother Where Art Thou? (the flooding of the valley).  Saltwater – Jaws of course, Tabu, Gallipoli …

Laura Cumming’s Watercolour top ten

In the Observer;  The Turner, Palmer, Melville and Blake all good choices.  Ravilious boring – a greenhouse? – Gwen John OK.  Cumming’s number one was the Hockney self-portrait; not particularly watercolour, could have been oil or pastel, but a great SP – that intense stare that you get when you try to do a likeness of yourself.. like those descriptions of murderers – “But what I remember most, Officer, was his staring eyes”…


At the time of his death, Michelangelo was still working on the Rondanini Pieta, now in Milan.  In it, the body of Christ is supported by the Virgin Mary – but it looks, in fact, as if she is being carried on the dead Christ’s shoulders.  In addition, Christ has a free-floating right arm, done in an earlier phase (the sculpture was begun in 1552 or 3), indicating a much bigger Christ figure.  It looks strangely modern, like a Rodin perhaps, and with a lovely, curving, downward sweep – echoing at the end the apparent modernity of Matthew, done in 1506.

Below, my cover for Greg Woods’ new collection, “An Ordinary Dog”, to be published by Carcanet Books this coming June.

New Rose



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.


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-