Posts Tagged ‘Rene Magritte’

Blackpaint 506 – Light through the Thorns, Parrots in Boxes, Budgies in Trunks

August 8, 2015

William Gear – A Centenary Exhibition, Redfern Gallery, Cork Street W1

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A couple of blogs ago (Blackpaint 502), I wrote about the Neil Stokoe exhibition at the Redfern, to which I’d gone. expecting William Gear.  Now the Gear is on, until September 5th and it’s well worth the trip to Green Park tube and the heat of Piccadilly to see it.

Gear exhibited with CoBra in 1949 – he and Stephen Gilbert were the only British artists – but I have to say, I don’t think he has a lot in common with painters like Appel; his work strikes me as much more like Adrian Heath, Bryan Wynter and even sometimes Patrick Heron, than the wilder, thicker, more gestural products of Appel and Jorn.  There is one painting, however, “Le Marche aux Fleurs” (1947), which could easily have been an early Jorn.

There are several recurring features of Gear’s work, the most prominent, perhaps, being the tangled bundle of jagged, hooked, thorn-like shapes he seemed to fling across his canvases, so that the patches of bright colour seem to peep out through a thicket of scrub.  The shapes are often, but not always, black.  Gear isn’t afraid of yellow; he uses a full spectrum, but it’s the yellow and black that stay with you after the Redfern.

Triangular grids are another feature, and there are a number of works like “Black Form on Red”(1957), that comprise two or three colours used in large, simple shapes, looking rather like sheets of thin leather or felt, collaged onto the canvas – Poliakoff, maybe, or Burri.  An influence that is suggested in the catalogue is that of Nicolas de Stael – I couldn’t see that, I have to say.

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Good exhibition, in association with the Towner Gallery in Eastbourne, where Gear was the curator in the 60s.  There was a great black, thorny self-portrait on show at the Pallant House in Chichester recently; maybe its still there.  made me think of Tony Bevan, a bit.

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Joseph Cornell at the RA

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This is an exhibition for those, and there are many of them apparently, who like quaint objects and photographs displayed in shallow boxes.  Inevitably, there is a large overlap with the likes of Max Ernst, Rene Magritte and other European surrealists; the difference being that, whereas Ernst, for example, also painted and sculpted, Cornell stuck to the box formula permanently.  Clearly, he had a thing for parrots and cockatoos; his work goes completely against the grain of North American art of the time (40s and 50s) in two ways – it’s small and it’s in boxes.  Although there were later, feminist, artists in the states who put things in drawers and boxes to display them – not parrots, though, as I recall….

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The Swimmer, Frank Perry (1968) DVD

I think John Cheever’s short story is a masterpiece of the form, one of the best of the 20th century; hard to think of others so perfect, maybe a couple of Joyce’s Dubliners or Margaret Atwood’s Serpent’s Egg.  The film is also a work of art, though very much of its era (Hamlisch’s lush theme music, coupled with jagged Johnny Staccato jazz riffs and some eye -watering psychedelic visuals).  Burt Lancaster is brilliant as the ageing playboy Ned Merrill, in his budgie smuggler trunks, swimming home across the county, by way of the “river” of swimming pools of his “friends”.  Lancaster is by turns genuinely creepy and strangely sympathetic, despite his insensitivity. The pools are not there for freeloading swimmers to propel their sweaty bodies through.

 

The Longest Journey, EM Forster

Even though I’m currently re-reading “Finnegans Wake”, Forster’s book is the strangest, most difficult novel I’ve struggled through for ages; I had to keep going back and reading bits over again to make sense of it.  the problem is twofold – the language: very arch, ironic, riddled with Edwardian Oxbridge phraseology and slang – and the concerns; “love children”, family disgrace, inheritance, the intellect v. the physical, the prosaic v.the poetic, genetic flaws, town and country, social class… Actually, that’s quite a lot and I’m sure I missed plenty.

I was interested to see that Forster kills his characters  in an even more offhand way than Virginia Woolf; a “hurt” at football, a drowning and a steam train across the knees- the last completely unsignalled (sorry) and dispassionate: “It is also a man’s duty to save his own life, and therefore he tried.  The train went over his knees.  He died up in Cadover, whispering “You have been right,” to Mrs Failing”.  That’s it.

 

finsbury mud 2

 

Finsbury Mud 2,

Blackpaint

08.08.15

 

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Blackpaint 283

July 3, 2011

Last Year in Marienbad

Watching this, I have discovered, like thousands before me, no doubt,  the source of many parodies – especially that one where actors speak a pretentious sentence whilst gazing out at the audience and mid-sentence, the scene changes and they’re in different clothes or a different place.  This is not to denigrate the film – it’s beautiful (and so is Delphine Seyrig) and anyway, I love pretentious films; cliches and parodies are so often born from great art, n’est-ce pas?  Loved the Max Ernst feather dress, too.

It strikes me that L’Age d’Or could have been done as an “anti – Marienbad” – if it wasn’t 30 years older.  the couple in Marienbad are sort of polar opposites to the couple in the Bunuel film – stylistically anyway.. but now I’m starting to see parallels, so will stop with that…

Laura Cumming on Magritte

Last Sunday, reviewing the Magritte show at the Tate Liverpool, LC wrote in the Observer that Magritte’s work was “a sustained exploration of painting itself, how it works, what it can ever show or truly say”.  I think this is an astonishing claim for a painter who, most critics seem to agree, was no great shakes as a user of paint, but was a competent illustrator – a man who was a good commercial artist.  Surely, it’s the power of his images that makes him interesting, as well as the champion poster – shifter, apparently (or maybe it’s the most book covers).  His painting is as good as it needs to be to get the idea across – he’s a conceptual artist, who doesn’t really explore painting at all.

Cartoon Museum – Steve Bell  

This is in a little street opposite the front entrance of the British Museum and contains a great exhibition of Bell’s work.  I was surprised at how well some of his characters stand up after a few years (Bell turns his politicians into characters, for example the Iron Lady and Major with the underpants, Blair with the mad eye, Cameron with the condom head); I remember them seeming a bit crude and even silly to me, when he first did them.  Now, they strike me as epic.  Then, there are the variations on famous paintings; my favourites are Major’s underpants burning on the Thames (after Turner), Blair about to be inundated by an overcurling tidal wave of shit in the form of Gordon Brown (after Hokusai) and Brown as a boxer, flat on the mat, punching himself in the face (I think that was a Bell original).

There is also the French artist, the penguin, the monkey, the sheep, the chief inspector….

There’s a fascinating video of Bell going about his work at party conferences and doing his own commentary.  As you would expect, he finds a physical peculiarity and develops it – Cameron’s smooth cheeks and a certain wateriness of the eyes that suggest a fishiness to him; Osborne’s slightly bulging neck and, especially, the bum nose-end.  Go and see it, after the Australian prints and drawings in the BM.

Whitechapel Gallery 

Here, for free, is an exhibition of some of the art works that have been chosen by various politicians and diplomats to decorate their offices and reception rooms.  The one I particularly liked was a photograph by David Dawson of Lucian Freud, painting the queen.  She’s sitting there, in a plain plastered room (presumably in Buck House?? – no; St.James’ Palace ) with a crack running across one wall, in a very ordinary-looking coat – with her crown on.  More of this exhibition tomorrow, along with Vorticists, Twombly and others.

Blackpaint

02.07.11

Blackpaint 264

March 31, 2011

Marlene Dumas

I’ve been looking at her Phaidon book again, and most of the images – no, ALL of the images – are “ugly”.  That is to say, they are distorted, bloated, explicit, mostly grey or brown, like decaying flesh.  There are ugly babies, naked figures lined up as if for inspection in a concentration camp or  a brothel, women offering their bodies in pornographic poses (but so crudely painted that they are not titillating –  in a conventional way); actual paintings of dead women’s faces…  I used to think the baby with the red hands (Painter) was the most disturbing – now I think it’s those “school photographs”, especially The Turkish Schoolgirls (1987).  Look at the front three from the far right!  They will haunt your dreams, like something from The Orphanage.

So why do I like her work?  Well, it’s strong, dramatic, caustic, driving.  If it was music,  it would be Piece of my Heart by Janis Joplin, or maybe Gimme Shelter; if it was food, it would be lime chilli pickle; if it was a film, it would be Salo.. This could go on and on (if it was an insurance company..), so I’ll stop with the pretentiousness now – I hope you get the point.

It occurs to me that there has to be something to offset the harshness and horror; that something is, of course, the technical skill in the images; the use of colour, the draftsmanship, the artful clumsiness and crudeness in just the right places to just the right degree.

The Killing

I’m counting Morten as 50% right; OK, he wasn’t the murderer, but he was the political manipulator.

Magritte

Went to the drawings and prints at British Museum yet again and this time, read the blurb on the Magritte drawing.  It referred to Herbert Read’s comments that Mag looked for affinities between unlikely things – the example here is leaves and bricks.  The drawing is of a tree in which the foliage is shaped like a single leaf; poplar. I would say.  Only, instead of individual leaves, it is composed of bricks, as in a brick wall.  OK, leaves soft, pliable, rustling; bricks hard, unyielding, silent.  However – leaves combine together to make a greater unity, bricks combine together.. etc.

Too cerebral and systematic for me – I like my surrealists wild, untidy, loose ends, what’s that in the corner, what’s that supposed to be… so it is, how disgusting – the feeling that it might really have been dragged up from their subconscious minds, even if they’re faking it – as perhaps Dali might have done once or twice.  Maybe Magritte’s subconscious mind worked that way – after all, he was famously neat, fussy, and tidy, even when painting.  But then, so was Miro.

Looking again at the Kitaj life drawings, they contain distortions; that inward curve of the lower back is surely exaggerated and the lower leg also curves too much.  The genitalia are far too small, of course.  These distortions, however, are of the order of Michelangelo distortions, as the drawings are in the same class as M’s, in my view.

Far From the Madding Crowd

First time I’ve seen this utterly beautiful film; I loved the circus scene, the songs, the characters, the story.  Two whole seconds of “David Swarbrick” on view, playing fiddle in the barn.  Julie Christie singing “Bushes and Briers” – the stunning original, not the nearly-as-beautiful Thompson/Denny song.  Was that really her singing? and Terence Stamp, doing the Jolly Tinker?  If so. they made a good job of it – as did the tinker in the song.

Blackpaint

31/03/11