Posts Tagged ‘Raymond Carver’

Blackpaint 509 – Patti in Helsinki, Ray and Tobias, Hard to be a God

August 28, 2015

KIASMA – Helsinki Museum of Contemporary Art

Concrete ramps receding into the distance inside – a cross between the New York Guggenheim and the sets for “Caligari”.  There is a stunning Robert Mapplethorpe exhibition; the leathery penises on show I thought rather diminutive but the shots of Patti Smith were riveting.  When she was young, one of the most photogenic women I can think of – not beautiful; skinny, hairy legs. but still..

Patti Smith 1976 Robert Mapplethorpe 1946-1989 Accepted by HM Government in lieu of inheritance tax from the Estate of Barbara Lloyd and allocated to Tate 2009 http://www.tate.org.uk/art/work/P13083

patti2

As I’ve said before, a biopic needs to be made featuring Charlotte Gainsbourg, before she gets much older.

Other Mapplethorpe portraits of note – Keith Haring, Arnie, Gere, Burroughs, Capote, Sontag, Leibowitz, Rauschenberg, Hockney, Warhol of course.

Helsinki Design Museum

Interesting that Finland had an Arts and Crafts movement very like that in England driven by William Morris, about the same time too.  20th century stuff is arranged by decade.  Current catwalk designs below – far left rather like my current look.

design museum

Ray Carver and Tobias Wolff

Wolff’s stories are reminiscent of Carver’s – except that Wolff tells you what his people are thinking.  Carver mostly tells you what they do and you draw your own conclusions – unless they are talking straight to you over a coffee, say, and then they follow the conventions of the dialogue.  Wolff’s best stories: “Hunters in the Snow” and “Leviathan” – this week, anyway.  Carver’s?  All of them.

Hard to be a God, Aleksei German, 2013

Russian film, black and white.  set on another planet, on which it appears to be Brueghel/Bosch time; the knobbly, gap-toothed, beaky faces are Brueghel peasants or soldiers, the cartwheel gallows, corpses and infernal machinery of “The Triumph of Death” are all there.  The mud is Flanders 1917; everyone is caked with it and shit, the torrential rain is sticky, everyone treats everyone else with brutality throughout, dwarves abound, bowels slide forth, eyes are gouged, etcetera, etcetera.  Through the chaos wanders a “God” from Earth, who resembles Dave, of Chas and Dave, occasionally blowing an outlandish alto saxophone-thing, sub Albert Ayler.  There is some kind of sci-fi/Game of Thrones-type plot (it’s based on a novel, see Wikipedia for plot summary), but the dialogue is so fractured and disjointed, it seems designed to prevent understanding.

hard to be a god

 

Visual references abound: in addition to Brueghel, there is Goya (the conical hats of the Inquisition victims); Pozzo and Lucky from Godot; Fellini’s Satyricon; the Saragossa Manuscript (the gallows corpses); Tarkovsky’s Ivan Rublev (general look, and the use of a peasant’s head – still attached  – as a battering ram).  Unintentionally I’m sure, and probably for British audiences only, there is a strong odour of Monty Python and Blackadder.

The film is around 3 hours long and seems longer – as well as the impenetrable plot, there is the relentless use of close-up.  Most of the time, you are struggling to make out what is going on and when the camera draws back, you sigh with relief.  The actors keep peering and poking at the camera lens which is amusing, at first.  The sub-titles are occasionally adolescent – “zits”, for example – which adds to the Thrones/steampunk/video game feel. German, who died aged 75 in 2013, was no punk wunderkind, however; he never emigrated, but faced a constant struggle to get his films made and shown.

So, it’s probably a critique to some degree of Putin’s Russia and no doubt a masterpiece – I’ll get the DVD when it comes out and watch it in 30 minute bursts; might be bearable, or even brilliant like that.  At the last, beautiful, snowbound scene, I was getting that thing where you pray that nobody will come on or start the dialogue again, so that it can fade out.  Last had that in “Once Upon a Time in Anatolia”, which was definitely a masterpiece.  My advice is to read the Wiki plot summary a few times before you go, if you feel you really have to…

shoreham dog

Shoreham Dog

 

down by the river

Down by the River – rather Expressionist for me, but still.

Blackpaint 

28.08.15

 

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Blackpaint 508 – To the Finland Station

August 23, 2015

Amos Andersonin Taide Museo, Helsinki

The only art museum open on a Monday in Helsinki.  The exhibition was based on Work.  A number of OK paintings of tradesmen in a Realist style – I was going to say Socialist Realist, but that’s really anything but Realist, of course.  Blacksmiths, factory hands, supervisors, technicians, seal hunters, even two portraits of a famous conductor (orchestra, not bus) – but above all, log rollers.  A pretty big feature of the Finnish economy, log rolling, by the look of it.

My favourite exhibit was this group of workers, maybe a factory committee meeting, made of wood, each about 9 inches high:

workers

There was also a short film about an anxious young man starting work in a big factory somewhere in the 50s or 60s – a sort of “Look at Life” type thing for those who remember; he keeps getting reassuring smiles from older, experienced hands.  The result is like a sort of gay industrial promo, if there were such a thing.

Didrichsen Art Museum

A 20 minute bus ride from the centre, a Bauhaus-y building on a lake, set in a sculpture garden (Moore, Bernard Meadows), reminiscent of the Louisiana gallery outside Copenhagen, but much smaller.  Pictures by Finns painting from pre WW1, influenced by Fauves and Seurat, Symbolism and Expressionism.  Best were by Enckell, “the Awakening Faun” ( see below, rather like Duncan Grant, I think) – Ollila, “Four Women”, Ruokokoski, “Girl, 1911”, Sallinen, “Mirri” and “Landscape” and Makela, “Bridge Construction”.

Enckell 1

Enckell, The Awakening Faun

Additionally, there were paintings by the mysterious AW Finch, a painter and potter whose works showed up in several galleries and museums, but about whom there was no info.  turns out he was Belgian but of British extraction, and settled in Finland, pursuing a career first as painter, then potter, then painter again.  Here’s a Finch from the Didrichsen:

Finch

AW Finch

He normally works in short, diagonal strokes. top left to bottom right – unless he’s doing pointillism, of course.

There is also a great collection of Central and South American figures and artefacts, mostly Peruvian and Mexican – examples below:

mexicans

OK, enough Finland for today-  more next blog.

John Cheever and Raymond Carver and Tobias Wolff and Donald Barthelme

I wrote last time, or time before, about “The Swimmer”; both the Cheever story and the great film based on it, featuring Burt Lancaster.  Predictably, the short stories pulled me back in and I’m ploughing through the great 700 odd page brick of the collection again.  Not that it’s in any way a chore – they are brilliant little masterpieces, polished and elegant (but not twee), undercut by humour, tragedy – “The Hartleys”, for instance – and with frequent interjections from the author to remind you that these are works of fiction, after all, and he can take them anywhere he feels like going.

The problem is that I now have to read the different, but equally brilliant Carver stories again – the one about the boys who catch the fish and cut it in half so they can both take it home, or the one about the carpet cleaner salesman that was referenced in “Mad Men”… Then of course, there’s Tobias Wolff – closer to Carver than Cheever, but a voice of his own (why hasn’t he published more lately?)  And Donald Barthelme; I think I caught a whiff of Barthelme’s light mania in one or two of the Cheever stories.

Stalker

As for films, I’m back in the Zone again, with Tarkovsky’s nervous guide throwing his nuts around in a sling, as the water pours down in the tunnel and the great black dog watches, while the Writer disobeys instructions.  Half an hour at a time is the way to watch Tarkovsky.

 

bloody wakefield

Bloody Wakefield Revisited

 

spider's song

Spider’s Song Again

Blackpaint

23.08.15