Posts Tagged ‘Ray Bradbury’

Blackpaint 345 – Doc, Ray, Sigmar, Bela, Fred and Ginger

June 7, 2012

Two heroes gone this week –

Doc Watson

Listen to “Stack O’ Lee” and Alabama Bound”  on  “Ballads from Deep Gap”, with his son Merle accompanying him – country guitar playing beyond adequate description..


Ray Bradbury

I’ve blogged about him before (see Blackpaints 41, 149, 170 ) and recently re-read seven of his short story books – I wrote down four, then counted them up; Silver Locusts, Small Assassin [Dark Carnival}, October Country, Illustrated Man, Golden Apples of the Sun, Dandelion Wine, Day it Rained Forever.  Easy to see his influence on Stephen King, which is a good thing – but then there’s the 1920s whimsical nostalgia; straw hats, striped blazers, bonnets, park bandstands, sarsaparilla, shades of Dick Van Dyke.  This can be wearing but it’s interspersed with real creepiness, malice and horror.  The Small Assassin for example, an intelligent, malign baby that murders its mother; the undertaker who abuses his clients in the mortuary and eventually gets his comeuppance; the Catacombs.  Best of all, I like “the Lake” from “The October Country” – an air of real melancholy.  I think it might be his earliest published story.

And back to art.

Sigmar Polke

Polke is an artist about whom I have written very little; the reason, I think, is that his work is so diverse, it’s difficult to get a handle on it.  If, for instance, you take four Polke pictures from Taschen’s “Contemporary Art” (1990), you find them completely different from each other.  “The Computer Moves In”, paint or ink sprayed on a photographic print (?) of someone seated at a computer station, on a pixelled background; “Camp 82”, a barbed-wire Auschwitz corridor between concrete fence posts and spot lights, under a baleful, dirty, grey/orange sky; and “Alice” – white outline drawing of Alice and the hookah-smoking caterpillar on his mushroom, on a background of white spots and green “football” wallpaper.  They are all from the early 80’s; “Socks”, from 1962, is a painting in varnish of three long brown socks laid out as if for display- it looks just like a Wayne Thiebaud.

The text makes great play of his light sense of irony and this lightness is maybe another thing that distinguishes him from other German artists of the period…


At the Tate Britain show of P’s influences on British artists, there were one or two startling, early Impressionist-style paintings that were impossible to recognise as Picassos.  The Rotterdam Boijmans Van Beuningen Museum apparently has another.  It is called “Woman at the Table Outside a Cafe”, from 1901.  A woman in a beautiful grey-green dress, in a cape and enormous white feather hat; red lips, challenging expression, slightly caricature-ish.  Apparently, she is an “old prostitute”, according to the catalogue.  The picture suggests Lautrec, or maybe Van Dongen (love that name).

Richard Pare

The sweeping “S” shape of the balustrade in the “Chekist Housing Scheme” stairwell, photographed in Moscow by Pare in 1999 and shown in the RA’s recent “Building the Revolution” show.  It’s exactly the sort of thing Fred and Ginger might have danced down in “Top Hat” or “Swing Time”. 

The Turin Horse

It’s all there; the relentless weather (wind this time), the pitch-dark, painterly interiors, the textures, the repetition, the dressing and undressing, the small actions performed in their entirety, no editing – the hot potatoes, eaten with burnt fingers, lips and mouths (cutlery not needed in Tarrland), the drinking of Palinka…  But then there is the beauty and sharpness of the images.  When the girl wrestles the well cover off, I was waiting for the Japanese girl to emerge…  The photographer is called Fred Keleman; he should get a mention – and of course, there is Vig, who writes and performs(?) the necessarily relentless accordion theme.  I don’t really care what it all means – it’s mesmerising.. but best in small doses.



Blackpaint 149

June 10, 2010

Bruegel and Bosch

An obvious pair for comparison, I suppose – but why not be obvious for once, instead of subtle and insightful (lovely word)?

Bosch is considerably earlier, I was surprised to find; C1450 – 1516, lived at ‘s-Hertogenbosch; Bruegel 1525-1569, maybe born at Breda, lived in Antwerp and Brussels.  Bruegel was much younger than Michelangelo, which again, was a slight surprise, since B’s paintings always struck me as more archaic, the difference in place and influences, I suppose.  On reflection though, maybe Bruegel’s peasants, lumpy, awkward and working as they are, are more naturalistic, more “modern”, than the idealised forms the Italians copied from the Greeks and Romans.

Back to Bosch and Bruegel.  The similarities are obvious:

  • the weird beasts and animaculae;
  • the themes;
  • the nightmarish visions.

First, the beasts.  Bosch had the “Tree man”, with the body of a cracked egg with a family inside.  He repeated the figure with minor variations, in “The Garden of Earthly Delights”.

He did several giant knives, including one like a cannon’s barrel,  poking up between a pair of ears.

He did various hybrid fish, bird, lizard and insect monsters, many wearing odd pieces of armour.  See his “Last Judgement”.

In “Death of a Reprobate”, he did two odd, armless, walking midgets dressed in black.

He did a bird-headed creature, seated on a sort of throne, eating the damned which it then excretes through a hole in the throne into a sort of darkened glass bulb and thence into the pit.  Glass spheres and bulbs feature frequently, for example, in “The Garden”.

Some pictures, eg “the Wayfarer”, contain torture, execution, gallows.


“Big fish eat little fish..”; his fish closely resemble Bosch.

“Dulle Griet” has a man with an egg backside, spooning gold out of it.  Eggs hatching various monstrosities abound in the picture.  Elsewhere, an upside-down man thing is spooning from a bowl with a spoon up his bottom.

“The land of Cockaigne” has a tiny egg on legs, containing a knife, presenting itself to the sleeping men.  Also in Cockaigne is a living pig with a cut out of its back and a knife through its skin (an idea borrowed by Douglas Adams – the cow that wants to be eaten in “Restaurant at the End of the Universe”).

In “The Fall of the Rebel Angels”, he has a number of mutating, hybrid creatures cascading down with alarmed expressions, under the blades of St.Michael and others; there is a puffer fish, a butterfly, a toadlike thing, lizards with human arms, some clad in armour.

The world is portrayed as a young boy cutpurse, enclosed in a glass sphere, in “The Misanthrope”.

In “The Triumph of Death”, there are skeletal horses, carts driven by skeletons, gallows, executions, tortures.  More gallows (as the name implies) in “the Magpie on the Gallows”.

So in the paintings of both artists, many of the “personnel” resemble each other.  Interestingly (possibly), both artists have turned up on covers of 1960’s SF paperbacks – Bruegel’s “Triumph” on “Timeless Stories” ed, Ray Bradbury and a Bosch egg on legs on Fredric Brown’s “Nightmares and Geezenstacks”.  Sorry – another of my tiresome obsessions.  More at the weekend, when I’ll do themes.

Beefheart by Blackpaint



Blackpaint 41

January 17, 2010

Boltanski again

Another review of B’s Paris installation, this time Laura Cumming in the Observer.  I’m ashamed to learn that “he has long been considered France’s greatest living artist” – I’d seen his stuff before, I remember a dimly-lit corner (shrine) of photographs of Holocaust victims, possibly in the Bilbao Guggenheim; but I had no idea of his status.  Nor had his French nationality registered with me; because of his name, and  because of his work on the Holocaust, I’d (ironically)assumed he was Polish.  Given his previous work, it’s not surprising that Cumming refers to  “Auschwitz, Srebrenica, Rwanda”, when looking at the assemblages of anonymous clothing.

This piece, however, as Cumming  points out, goes further.  “You do not imagine these clothes to be those of murdered people so much as humanity en masse, flattened like biblical crops”, she writes and describes the repetitive action of a giant mechanical claw, picking up articles of clothing from a giant pile – and dropping them again, in a blind, random and ceaseless process.  A suitably solemn review, the tone of which was for me undermined by the headline, “A monument to everyone and no one” – yes, Clouzot, pathetic isn’t it?

By coincidence, I have just re-read Ray Bradbury’s story, “the Scythe” from “The October Country”.  An impoverished mid western family in 1938, heading to California, come across a well- kept farm in the midst of wheatfields.  A dead man is inside; they bury him and settle down in the farm, which is well stocked with food, and the man finds a scythe and begins to cut the ripe corn.  Strangely, it rots as soon as it is cut.  Also there are some patches that are still green, others ripening, others ready for the scythe… you can guess the rest.


I’m afraid I suggested in yesterday’s blog that Boltanski might be mad (before I knew he was France’s greatest living artist); that was prompted by the revelation in Searle’s Guardian article that he is compiling an audio library of people’s heartbeats that will be stored on a remote Japanese island.  I should say that I don’t consider madness in artists to be necessarily a bad thing – indeed, doing apparently mad things has been shown repeatedly to be the only way that art “advances” (although I don’t believe it advances – goes in cycles, maybe).

Sistine Chapel – Original Sin and The Last Judgement

Been looking at the Taschen “Michelangelo” again, and I was really struck by how close Eve’s face is to Adam’s penis in the apple scene.  The caption reads blandly; “The juxtaposition of a supposedly female face and masculine genitalia is a common feature of Michelangelo’s work”, and goes on to give other examples.

Then, there is the hilariously phallic right hand lunette of the “Last Judgement”, described as “angels lifting up the column of flagellation”.  Sorry to indulge in these base observations.

Bicycle Thieves – De Sica

Fantastic film – Coppola was surely informed by it, when he made The Godfather.  The music for one thing; and Ricci’s friend, the dustman-ganger who helps him look in the markets, reminded me of de Niro’s young house-breaking companion in Godfather II – but then, so did Bruno!  I love the shambolic picture of postwar Rome; everything half-built or crumbling, improvisation, old bits of uniform being worn..

There were a couple of scenes that seemed straight out of Cartier – Bresson; where the camera follows two street urchins along a dazzling white wall, as they beg from a suited and hatted gent with a briefcase – and the German(?) clerics with their circular hats and cassocks, sheltering from the cloudburst with Ricci and Bruno.  I must immediately get hold of “Miracle in Milan” again.

Listening to “Davy Lowston” by Martin Carthy.

“Our captain John McGrath, he set sail, he set sail,

Oh yes, for old Port Stanley, he set sail;

He said “I’ll return, men, without fail”,

But he foundered in a gale,

And went down, and went down, and went down”.