Posts Tagged ‘Revelations’

Blackpaint 179

August 22, 2010

Antichrist

Having just finished reading Revelations and hence the New Testament for the umpteenth time, I’m in the mood to review the Lars Von Trier film which I saw on TV the other night.  hope you will excuse this excursion into film – there’s a bit of painterly reference.

First, the physicality of the leads.  Willem Dafoe and Charlotte Gainsbourg have strangely similar features –  those slot mouths and oxygen mask pouts, and the deep cut lines.  Dafoe has an extraordinary, swirling line across the cheek, like a Lanyon wave or a Bacon dissection.  Then the bodies; cut muscles, flat, sharp-edged back and shoulders, esp. Gainsbourg, plenty of pumping sex in the grass.  So, even without the genital assault and mutilation, the penis spurting blood instead of sperm, there are constant reminders of Bacon’s work.

I love the cod psychology: he is a controlling, if loving, fascist of a (male) therapist, piloting her through her grief and guilt at the loss of their infant son (he fell, picturesquely, in slow motion, to choral music, through snowflakes,  from his bedroom window – while they were energetically shagging in another room).  She is irrational, woman as uncontrollable life-force, antichrist, witch, at one with, at the mercy of, the natural forces that surround them in their backwoods retreat.  As a fox remarks to Dafoe, “Chaos reigns”. The foxes, and a deer with a foetus dangling from its rear end, appear at moments throughout.

She provokes him by bashing his penis with a stool(?) and then drilling through his leg and attaching a grindstone to it (leg, not penis) whilst he is unconscious; then, as is well publicised, she cuts off her own clitoris with a pair of scissors.  In the end, he strangles her and burns her body on a pagan funeral pyre – and here come the deer, the fox and then a troop of women, presumably representing the women massacred by men down through the ages, witch-hunts etc., marching past down through the forest.

And the dedication – OF COURSE it was dedicated to Tarkovsky.  Visually powerful – sorry, cliche –  but not Tarkovsky, because the imagery was too literal, no sense of mystery.  No poetry, I suppose.  As if a young film maker were trying to impress his hero with tricks.

Bathos is always a danger; for English viewers, talking foxes can recall Basil Brush.  I remember also the scene in Onibaba, where the woman with the devil mask fixed to her face, says, according to the subtitles: “Don’t scream! It is only me – your mother-in-law!”

Agnes Martin

Very apt, I think, to look at this painter after the mud, blood and mutilation above.  Ironically (or maybe intentionally?), her display of about a dozen paintings is in that inner gallery of the Tate Modern where the blood and body stuff of the Austrians was:  bandages, stretchers, splatters, mutilations… now all gone, and pristine canvases of uniform size, pastel ice cream stripes, misted over with white paint, metal frames stare blankly from  the wall.  I was surprised to find she was born in 1912 and was Canadian (although vast prairies, frozen North, mist, snow…).  There are 8 paintings with horizontal stripes, 2 with vertical grey stripes, 1 orange horizontal “zip” and several in very pale pink, yellow and blue.  I wanted to chuck slashes of black or blood red paint at them  and let it slide down; what is the point of purity, if not to be defiled?  Then  again, perhaps the point is that it provokes these reactions.  Probably not, though.

Rufus

Blackpaint

23.08. 10

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Blackpaint 17

December 16, 2009

V&A Mediaeval Gallery

To the above today; the usual saints (Margaret with her dragon, Catherine (no wheels though), Ursula and her virgins being dismembered and stabbed, the six “Proto Martyrs” being beheaded for preaching in Marrakesh – new atrocity to me – Stephen in glazed terracotta with white stones stuck to his head, crucifixions, depositions, assumptions, a German death of the Virgin Mary with a crowd of bearded men fussing round her, vaguely reminiscent of Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs. 

For my money, the best thing in the galleries is a screen from Hamburg, done by Master Bertram, showing 45 scenes from Revelations.

Cast Hall

On to the fabulous, quiet, gloomy cast hall, the room with the two halves of Trajan’s Column and there found this staggering thing, the Shobdon Tympanum, done about 1100 in a Herefordshire church.  I’ve never seen anything like this woman in her sailor’s T shirt, with her smaller companions entwined around her like something a sculptor from the 40s might have dreamed up.

National Portrait Gallery

Nothing in the Tudor bit to touch the portrait of Thomas Cromwell, done by Holbein or maybe his workshop.  Piggy features, iron determination, that sure line and sharp relief of Holbein.  Nearby, Nicholas Bacon, surely the ugliest face in the gallery.

Upstairs, Ross the Arctic explorer, who turned back when he saw the mountains in his way – they turned out to be optical illusions.  Also Burnaby, the Boy’s Own soldier,  stretched out on a divan, smoking a cigarette, a bit like Stephen Fry as the general in Blackadder.

In the first 20th century bit, I thought the outstanding (or most interesting) was Patrick Heron’s TS Eliot, the Joyce, Wyndham Lewis’ Ezra Pound and a self-portrait by Ithell Colquhoun, who is new to me.

In the last section, the portrait of David Sylvester and the Sid James by Ruskin Spear.

Still struggling with my stripes – too crowded, needs some space in there.

Listened to; Gil Scott-Heron’s Johannesburg.

“I hate it when the blood starts flowing,

But I’m glad to see resistance growing –

Tell me what’s the word? Johannesburg!”

Blackpaint

16.12.09