Posts Tagged ‘Richard Diebenkorn’

Blackpaint 588 – Fundamental! Wolfie and Hockers at the Tates

February 27, 2017

Wolfgang Tillmans, Tate Modern

Huge blown-up photos on the walls, but also desktops full of his “snaps” (and pro-Remain, anti-Brexit propaganda posters/leaflets he presumably produced).  He calls each room an “installation”, the nature of which he expounds in the booklet, to avoid explanations on the walls.  My favourite below:

 

tillmans-1

Try to see that right arm and hand as a leg and foot and you get a totally different image…

Additionally, you can see –

A drainpipe and drainhole, with water running down through soggy litter; an amazing starscape over a dark hillside; a male bumhole close-up; a close-up of a vagina which appears to be that of a transsexual, judging by the hairy legs (echo of the famous Courbet picture); several large, beautiful colour field abstracts, red and ochre mainly, recalling Hoyland or more, Diebenkorn’s desert colours combined with his Ocean Park structures; crystalline car headlight; that strange shape of the swimmer picking his foot; enormous, rather touching blow-ups of delicate weeds sprouting in his backyard – and a simple image of a man in a blue T shirt, that is startlingly clear and 3D, when looked back on through the arch, from a short distance – try it.  And, of course, those great ones of pigment threads, slowly floating and whirling in fluid.  Great exhibition; Tillmans can find beauty in strange places – drains, for example.  Not sure about the other apertures.

Hockney, Tate Britain

After the big RA Hockney exhibition of 2012, I was expecting a bit of deja-vu; there was a bit, but I was surprised at how informative and enjoyable the Tate show is.  I’ve been twice, on a Saturday and a Thursday, and both times, the Tate was rammed with white-haired, retired schoolteacher types, along with the tourists and students.  Hockney is definitely a Treasure of Middle England, comparable, I guess, to Alan Bennett in his fanbase.

I reckon there are about ten or twelve different “sections”, some of them being distinct phases in his painting, others different areas of activity; here’s my breakdown of the show:

  • The earliest real Hockneys from the early 60s – textured, splashy paint, cartoon boys, areas of raw linen, words and letters (cf.Johns), jokey content – Boys Together, Typhoo Tea, toothpaste, the boys speeding towards Italy (see below).  I can’t get away from seeing a similarity to Bacon in the brushwork, splatters and bare surfaces here, if not the content (although one of the shower ones could be).

hockney-italy

Flight to Italy

  • Next, the Kitaj-like ones, where Hockney makes well-drawn, naturalistic figures, often alongside flat cartoon characters (see below).  Various palm tree and pyramid pieces, chaps in pants on bed or in shower.

Hockney, David; Man in a Museum (or You're in the Wrong Movie); British Council Collection; http://www.artuk.org/artworks/man-in-a-museum-or-youre-in-the-wrong-movie-176794

Man in a Museum (You’re in the Wrong Movie)

  • Swimming pools, snakey surface reflections, Bigger Splash of course.
  • A roomful of drawings, from early “cartoons” through beautifully, sparingly executed portraits, Kitaj, Kasmin etc.
  • Raw red USA desert canyons and Yorkshire Dales – hills and winding roads, flattened against invisible glass of the surface, shining with vivid colours, which I thought were a bit much in 2012, but I see from a TV film on Hockney last night are pretty accurate.  That one of hawthorn trees with maggot blossoms and the Van Gogh pink and grey sky..
  • A room of beautifully drawn but underwhelming drawings of woodland scenes.
  • The static portraits of Ossie Clark, Celia Birtwell, Henry Geldzahler, Hockney’s parents  et al; they recall della Francesca in the respect that the characters appear self-absorbed, or at least, uninvolved with each other.  There is a della Francesca on the wall behind Geldzahler, Baptism of Christ, I think.
  • Piercingly psychedelic verandahs, blue with red flowerpots, overlooking fiercely green lawns.  Those flowerpots really cut through.
  • A roomful of his composite videos of wood and meadowland in different seasons, taken by a battery of cameras from a moving car.
  • Ipad drawings and pictures he has worked up from them.
  • The psychedelic woods and landscapes from the 2012 exhibition.

I like the early stuff best, but it’s an impressive body of work, to understate the case.

To finish, a series of quick life drawings done with a brush and black acrylic.  Picasso at Barcelona next time.

 

woman-with-fan1

 

woman-with-fan2

woman-with-fan3

 

woman-with-fan4

 

woman-with-fan5

 

woman-with-fan6

Woman with Fan, 1 – 6

Blackpaint

26/2/17

 

 

 

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Blackpaint 487 – Diebens and Rubenkorn at the RA and Willem and Frank too

March 23, 2015

Richard Diebenkorn at the RA

Died and gone to heaven – well, very impressed anyway.  I think he’s my number 4, after Joan Mitchell, de Kooning and Peter Lanyon.  Some say he’s too easy; nice landscape-y images, pleasing, limpid palette… it’s a matter of taste, of course, but I went round and round, marvelling at one picture after another, and I’ll be going again, for sure.  Anyway, these are my highlights:

diebenkorn berkeley 57

Berkeley#57 

The busiest canvas, I think; can’t stop turning to look at it wherever you are in the gallery.  It all works better than in the photo above – colours are much richer.

 

diebenkorn seated woman

 

Seated Woman (on board) 

There’s something delectable about his drawings and paintings of women – they are sometimes rough, pentimenti showing, with a sort of intentional “clumsiness” as Jane Livingstone suggests in her book.  he likes striped tops and skirts (and no clothes at all, too).

diebenkorn day at the race

 

A Day at the Race 

The split screen effect; you can see it too, in “Interior View of Buildings”, in which the strip of buildings itself acts as a sort of divider.  It’s the Urbana series in which he uses this effect, I believe.  Like window frames sometimes.

The Cigar Box Tops

Tiny, perfect versions of the huge ones.

Still lifes

I love the knife in a glass – that putty colour.  And the Ashtray and Doors; looks to me like he’s painted over an old canvas, or board – the striations.

The figures

I’ve talked about the women – drinking coffee, reading the newspaper – there are a few men around, including one little one (picture, that is) that looks like Picasso – him, not one of his paintings.  They remind me a lot of David Park, a Bay Area painter.

diebenkorn ocean park 79

 

Ocean Park #79 

The best, I think, of the Ocean Park series – like your in an ornate, slightly shabby indoor swimming pool, with the light pouring through a huge skylight.  Takes me back to Deep End again (the Skolimowski film with Jane Asher that I’ve been watching in 30 minute chunks, because the script and acting are so clunky).

If I could, I would put in every picture in this exhibition.

Rubens and his Legacy (RA)

This got a blistering review in the Guardian from Jonathan Jones. I think; not enough big paintings, he said; too many sketches, too much padding, loads of pictures by artists who aren’t Rubens, and in which the “legacy” is spurious.  There’s a lot in what he says, but it’s still a great exhibition, in the sense of containing loads of pictures that are fantastic to look at.

 

rubens lion hunt

 Tiger, Lion and Leopard Hunt

This is the poster boy of the exhibition and deservedly so – just look at it; it’s all happening, just as it would have happened in real life!  One bloke is forcing open a lion’s jaws with his hands, while a tiger’s getting stuck into green man’s shoulder; and the other tiger has cubs in her mouth…  Enough sarcasm, it’s a staggering composition and swirl of colours.  I saw it at the top of the escalator at Tooting Bec tube station (poster, not the original) when I didn’t have my glasses on, and it looks fantastic as an abstract.

There are several other lion hunts by other greats, notably Rembrandt and a great lion hunt sketch by Rubens himself – they couldn’t have known those lion hunt reliefs from Nineveh, was it, or Nimrud…

Other Rubens highlights are:

rubens charles 1 with guard

 

James I uniting England and Scotland 

This sketch, from Birmingham Art Gallery, I’ve included because of the guard’s incredibly muscular left leg, not really well reproduced here, but massively impressive in the flesh, so to speak… reminds me of the left leg of the grey horse in the previous picture.  I like the angle of view in these ceiling sketches.

The Abdication of Persephone

Luminous little painting, fabulous but couldn’t find a repro…

Among the other painters represented, it’s worth mentioning the Kokoschka cartoon, in which Queen Victoria sits astride a shark, feeding it seamen (I quote the caption on the wall).  Presumably its based on a Rubens painting.  There’s a great Bocklin, “Battle on the Bridge”, shades of those Degas boys riding bareback in that famous picture.  Also works by Picasso, Reynolds, Lawrence, Cezanne, Delacroix, Gericault – and in a related exhibition curated by Jenny Savile, three de Koonings, including a juicy one from 1977, in which the paint swipes are so thick that the paint has stretched and puckered into tiny holes as it dried.  There’s also one of those red/orange/pink panel size women from 1971, and a collage from earlier.  AND two colourful Auerbach portraits, brilliant obviously, and a fabulous Bacon nude, George Dyer, by the look of it.  Savile herself has a big monochrome painting,  a bit like a Kiefer, and Cicely Brown has a DK – ish picture that’s not up to her best.  I’d pay to go and see this sub-exhibition alone.

The Fall of the Obese

There is a whole room full of Falls and in Rubens’ case, the sinners going to damnation all seem to be overweight.  But then of course, so do most humans in Rubens’ works, particularly the women; I mention the wife of Captain Pugwash again, in this connection…

Anyway, too much to say for one blog, so continued next week, along with all three new exhibitions at Tate Britain.

These are the counter rhythms2

These are the Counter Rhythms (WIP)

Blackpaint

22.03.15

 

 

Blackpaint 429 – Four Cities; Paris, Rio, Hiroshima, Nagasaki

January 11, 2014

Toulouse- Lautrec

I have acquired Patrick O’Connor’s “Toulouse-Lautrec – The Nightlife of Paris” (Phaidon Books) which confirms me in my opinion that TL was every bit as good as Degas; a few pictures below to back that up:

Lautrec - the englishman

The Englishman at the Moulin Rouge

lautrec5

Caudieux

rue des moulins

Rue des Moulins

I think the only real difference is the element of caricature in TL’s work, absent from Degas; maybe also the penchant for swirling, vibrant backgrounds as above, more reminiscent of Van Gogh than Degas.

Vitamin D2

Another Phaidon book, this one the latest in their Vitamin series of drawings.   My favourites:

Moshekwa Langa

moshekwa langa

A Turn in the South

and J Valentine Parker

J Parker Valentine

Untitled 2012

Langa’s highly colourful, Parker’s in that lovely, scrapey, rough, Diebenkorn-ish charcoal.  Nothing new, I know, but great.

Flying down to Rio

Fred and Ginger’s first film together, hard to get hold of as a DVD; my copy is Spanish and I have to watch it in English with Spanish subtitles.  The usual ridiculous plot, not enough dancing from F and G – but it’s worth getting hold of for the fantastic aerial sequence at the end.  Dozens of beautiful girls dancing, posing, stripping off (only to the swimsuits; this was 1933), on the wings of planes – to an orchestra conducted by Fred, playing in a hotel courtyard thousands of feet below.  I can’t watch any Fred and Ginger film without finding a foolish smile on my face at the end.

Command and Control, Eric Schlosser

Another Christmas present, this one containing some staggering facts.  here’s a sample:

The Little Boy atom bomb – the Hiroshima one – had a firing mechanism that included bags of gunpowder;

Nagasaki was an alternative target for the Fat Boy bomb – the first target was Kokura, but it was too cloudy to attack (only visual contact was good enough for the command structure) and the bomber went instead for Nagasaki, almost out of fuel;

No blueprints were kept for the Hiroshima bomb, so when the US government wanted to manufacture more, they had to reassemble the team and start more or less from scratch;

Most startling of all, Schlosser says that Bertrand Russell favoured a pre-emptive nuclear strike on the USSR in the time before Russia acquired its own bomb.  I’m only a hundred-odd pages in, so no doubt there will be more “would you believe it?” stuff.

New Colours

New paints for Christmas, as requested, some decent earth colours; when I use them, however, I tend to bottle out and revert to whites and greys and paint the same pictures over and over again.  Got to make that break…

??????????

Work in Progress

Blackpaint

10.01.14

Blackpaint 395 – The Tate Rehang, Richter and Frisco

May 23, 2013

Tate Britain Chronological Rehang

Finally, the TB is fully open again, and the rehang is impressive – though, if like me, you have too much time on your hands, you might well have seen most of it, gallery by gallery, as each room was re-opened.  Nevertheless, there are some paintings I haven’t seen before or recently, and some revelations:

There is a Gainsborough family group, done in 1850, that is NOTHING like those feathery, impressionistic portraits he’s famous for; much more like a Hogarth, say.

Joseph Wright of Derby,” The Smithy” – looks so much like a tableau at Tussauds, or in a museum; must be the “lighting” within the picture.

Reynolds – this sounds pathetic, but there’s a standing portrait of a lawyer – check out the hands, he can really do good hands.

The Etty nude – 18th century, but it looks really modern; perhaps the shading, somehow.

Arthur Melville, the Venetian tower watercolour – that incredible, vivid twilight blue sky.

Bit of a jump now to the 1960s and beyond (reflecting my interests, maybe):

Peter Lanyon, a beautiful big painting called “Thermal”, thick loops of white on blue and grey.

Next to it, a set of Kitaj grotesque faces called “the Erasmus Variations”, for some reason.

The huge Frank Bowling figurative painting “Mirror”, in colours reminiscent of Kitaj and maybe Hockney.

The Fiona Rae, with its squiggles and squirts of toothpaste, like an early Craig Kaufman.

Finally, the Tony Cragg “Stack”, like a pile of wood palettes – but actually there are no palettes at all!  It includes breeze-blocks, boards, rolls of material, and a couple of red plastic buckets, like the Turner spots of red.  An eight (?) – decker sandwich.

The rehang was reviewed by Laura Cumming in last Sunday’s Observer; she found it to be badly organised in some respects, some pieces obscuring the view of others; her review ignores the overall look of the rooms, though – if you stand in the archway, looking back at the corner with the Bowling and the Rae, with the Caro red metal sculpture to the right, the room just looks brilliant.

Stanley Spencer

Repeat of James Fox’s BBC4 prog on early C20th British painters; bloody awful portentous tone to all his comments but despite the overstatement, worth watching for the paintings.  The numerous crosses in Spencer’s mural in the Sandon Memorial chapel looked like 3D over Fox’s shoulder.

spencer crosses

 

Dekalog, Kieslowsky

Seen only the first of these Ten Commandments so far; an atheist lecturer is punished by a god which communicates through his (the lecturer’s, not the god’s) computer.  Queasy about the story, but great camerawork; I love the great monolith of the block of flats, standing in for god or maybe the tablet of stone…  Who is the young man in the astrakhan hood who sits by the fire on the river bank?  Ghost of the boy, sort of, maybe?

Heimat

Missed this when it was on channel 4 20 years go, and catching up now on DVD.  Those landscapes. when it changes to colour – they look just like Gerhard Richters.  Thought the same thing when I saw the film of the tornado which hit Moore – sure that will be a great comfort to the poor inhabitants.

Bay Area School at Thomas Williams, Old Bond Street

Interesting little exhibition on post – WW2 painters in San Francisco.  There are a couple of abstracts by John Grillo and a larger one by Ernest Briggs – like most abstracts, they look better when you stand well back.  The Briggs is one of those melters – the paint looks as if it’s slipping and sliding, touch of de Kooning and Joan Mitchell, maybe.  there’s a great little pink based abstract by Diebenkorn. and several so-so portraits by him; you wouldn’t know they were Diebs – but there’s a “Folding chair” that couldn’t be by anyone else.

My favourite picture is a half portrait by David Park (?) in thick black and white strokes, with a small touch of Auerbach about it.

 

 

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Red Line

Blackpaint

23.05.13

Blackpaint 387 – The Theory of Validating Crapness

March 28, 2013

Jeremy Gardiner at Kings Place

This was one of those few exhibitions where you are actually excited to see the first few pictures from the floor below – or was it above?  I can never remember with Kings Place and its multi-levels – and you want to hurry to see the rest.  My first thought was how much they look like Schwitters collages from a bit of a distance; then I saw one, framed by the doorway to the large room, which had an obvious affinity to Peter Lanyon – swirls, greys, cold, clean blue – then, inside the room, four or five larger pictures that were stylised views over a bay and clearly recalled Ben Nicholson.

Many of the paintings are acrylic on birchwood, built up with plaques of jesmonite, giving a sort of rough marquetry effect.  They appear to be abstract at first, suggesting coastline, cloud, aerial landscape, rock; then you notice that they contain actual features of landscape, although not necessarily “correctly” placed – another resemblance to Lanyon, many of whose works are not really abstract at all.  The colours certainly resemble Lanyon, and John Tunnard as well.  The only reference which I didn’t get was to Diebenkorn – maybe in the aerial landscape thing, but not in appearance.

In addition to the paintings – one of which contains a moulding of an ammonite, maybe there are more – there are the monoprints.  These are mostly long, textured banners of heavy duty watercolour paper, printed with pictures of fossils, microscopic organisms, tracts of what look like contour lines of coast and hill… for some reason, they reminded me (incongruously) of prints by Sigmar Polke.

We stuck around for the tour and talk; Gardiner gave us a softly-spoken geology lesson and a” journey through geological time and space” from the Jurassic Coast of Devon to tin mines in Cornwall (the Levant Mine of Lanyon’s famous picture) and the coast of Brazil.  Proust got a mention; the white-haired audience of retired teachers nodded and smiled.  Then, we also retired, to egg, sausage and chips in the Turkish cafe up the road, in the company of mud-spattered building workers in high-vis jackets, from the huge site opposite.

Blackpaint’s Theory of Validating Crapness

Over the last three years of blogging, I have developed and promoted a number of original theories and observations:  they include “Michelangelo Didn’t do Trees”;  Blackpaint’s Theory of Spurious Plausibility; Shakespeare was Michelangelo Re-incarnated; and “The Taylor-Vincent Ad: Mistakes take on a Life of Their Own”.  Here is a new one, born when I rang my partner, urging her to look up Gardiner on Google and see the brilliant paintings.

She was less than overwhelmed – partly because I was so enthusiastic, but also because (she felt) they were too attractive, too formulaic, too saleable… briefly, not crap enough.  To be sure, Gardiner’s online images are disappointing, compared to the real thing; I still think he’s great; but the “not crap enough” idea inspired me to formulate the above.

The “Validating Crapness” is that element which prevents the picture being too perfect, too trite.  It may, for instance, be smudges, dribbles, finger marks, a scratch, an incongruous patch of colour (NOT the old Turner red spot, like the one on the picture in the doorway mentioned above); it may be a wobbly line, or anything that undermines perfection.  I realise this is very close to the old “beauty must have a flaw” thing- I’m going further.  My theory demands a real element of crap, a small pustule rather than a dimple.  In future blogs, I shall be identifying the VC in famous paintings, both modern works and Old Masters; watch this space.

Lightfields and The Sopranos

The first of these two programmes, a ghost story in which the action takes place at three different times in turns (1940s, 1975, present day) was on ITV1 and was a serial over five(?) weekly episodes; the acting was mostly good, the story was mildly absorbing – but then, as it finished, I realised I’d been watching children’s telly – anodyne, pretty, cliched, ridiculous.  Midwives, Downton, Selfridge, Mayday (apart from Leslie Manville, of course) – where’s all the offensive stuff gone from the mainstream channels?,

Then, the Sopranos, the one with Tony’s food poisoning, the talking fish, the fur coat and Big Pussy’s murder on the boat – funny, violent, sexy,  tragic, with an ironic distance maintained throughout – although that’s probably a contradiction.

Tate at Yourpaintings

Latest recommendations from above:

Ben Nicholson, “June 1937” (1937);

Keith Vaughan, “Leaping Figure” (1951);

Franz Kline, “Meryon”, (1960-61); my erstwhile favourite painting, I used to call it the Bridge;

franz kline

And Jankel Adler, “No Man’s Land”, 1943.

And here’s my one, called “Carbonara”.  Certainly one or two VC elements on show;

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Blackpaint

28.03.13

Blackpaint 355 – Shark Penis of the Fish God

August 16, 2012

The Tanks at Tate Modern

The cement walls alternate in texture, smooth and rough, and colour, white, grey, honey – like walking through chambers cut from hard cheese.  Along with the massive black, bolted girders the tanks are an artwork in themselves.  You could take photos of corners and crannies, bung them in frames and flog them at craft fairs.

The first “room”, The Crystal Quilt by Suzanne Lacy, shows a speeded-up top shot of figures flicking in and out of a seated area in a church or concert hall with a red polygonal centre.  On the wall is a tapestry of the same pattern.  I thought the film was of Tate Modern itself but it was made in 1987.  Turns out it was Mother’s Day in Minneapolis; 430 women over 60 gathered in a shopping centre around a giant quilting pattern.

Next “room”, Temper Clay by Sung Hwan Kim; massive, lots going on in corners, against wall; videos on several TVs, sound (some intriguing harmonies and rhythms, Korean presumably, narratives and poetry on different screens, misty white park scenes, skyscrapers in sharp focus, prostrate youth looking soulful…  An exhibit to wander into again and again, I suspect something different every time – very satisfying, so long as you don’t look for joined-up intellectual meaning…  “Temper Clay” is a quote from King Lear and there is a long article in the Tanks programme notes explaining – can’t be bothered, I’d rather just enjoy what’s there without having to read what it all means.

Upstairs to the AbEx room again – that Guston “Head” with the tangled grey brushstrokes sort of thatched around it.  The Alan Davie “Image of the Fish God”.

Always gives me a shiver, this one; I think its the shark-like shape on the left, rising out of the black figure like a penis.  A while ago, there was a documentary on the Discovery Channel about one of those mad Americans who messes about with Great White Sharks.  He was towing a seal-shaped dinghy in waters frequented by Great Whites, in order to find out if…WHAM!! A huge, columnar, penis shape, with a lemon slice mouth full of teeth just hurtled straight up, gushing sea water, sending the dinghy skywards (probably with a great bite out of it) and sank straight back to the depths, leaving the shark botherer whimpering with shock.  Anyway, the Davie picture gives me just the slightest sliver of that sensation.

Campbells, near Tate Modern

Flogs old catalogues for two quid a throw – have recommended it before – got Sotheby’s for 2004 today, with three pictures that justify a love for abstraction and demand no figurative associations to get a response – from me anyway.

First, Diebenkorn, a little Ocean Park picture on paper from 1952, sky blue and terracotta, yellow and red in the geometric “frame”:

Next, Joan Mitchell, Untitled 1960, great clots of midnight and Prussian Blue shot through with red and thin white lightning strikes emanating from it:

Lastly, Guston, another “Untitled” from 1952, rusty brown, red and yellow streaks and worms, on grey, texture like a metal plate.  Couldn’t find these online, and batteries in camera dead, so will include photos next blog.

Blackpaint

Blue on Ochre Rose

16.08.12

Blackpaint 332 – Ken, Katrine and Five Abstract Painters

March 23, 2012

Tonino Guerra

Obit today in the Guardian, the above was the co-screen writer for Tarkovsky’s Nostalgia (the one with the self-immolation at the end); Antonioni’s l’Aventurra (the one with Monica Vitti, in which the girl Anna goes missing from the island); and Fellini’s Amarcord (the one with the fog, and the motorbike races, and the uncle who climbs the tree and throws stones at everyone) – but also those neo-realist(?) films of Rosa; Giuliano, Illustrious Corpses..  a major passing.

BFI Documentary Section

On the South Bank, by Waterloo Bridge, is the BFI and you can walk into the above section and sit at a screen and watch anything they have for free, no membership or bother.  I walked in today and found they have all Ken Russell’s BBC stuff, Elgar, Delius, etc.  I watched “Scottish Painters”. his 10 minute prog on Colquhoun and MacBryde; loads of great paintings on show, MacBryde’s still lifes and Colquhoun’s eerie, stone-faced women in shawls with Picasso hands..  Then, his 16 minute feature on the guitar, with Davey Graham doing “Cry Me A River” on a bombsite – looked about 16.  Leave it for a week before you visit – I want to see all the Kens first (Devils now out on DVD; got it today).

Those Who Kill (ITV3)

Why have there been no reviews in the broadsheets of this Danish serial killer series?  After all, Troels from the Killing is in it; Rie popped up last night, as the wife of the psychopath.. Presume it’s because it’s ITV3, not BBC4.   No woollen jumpers, it’s true, but Katrine, the damaged heroine, has established a sort of uniform of her own.  they are pretty much a disaster as police; there have been four episodes, I think; she was kidnapped and tortured in one, taken hostage in a prison and nearly raped in the next, had a week’s rest while Thomas, her sidekick, went undercover and was beaten up and came close to being killed – and in the last one, she had a brief, vigorous affair with the psychopath of the week – and, yes, was nearly murdered.  I love those ballet-like bits when they go into dark, derelict buildings, holding their pistols out before them in a double handed grip, then spin round, dart round corners, etc.  Unmissable – unless, of course, you missed it.  Repeated Saturday night.

Back to Painting..

Thought I could do five great abstract paintings today, so here goes…

Joan Mitchell, Evenings on 73rd Street

Headwind, Peter Lanyon

Berkeley no.38, Richard Diebenkorn

Terry Frost, Red, black and white

Interchange, Willem de Kooning

Nothing really to say about the above pictures – except that I think they are all staggeringly brilliant.  my own pathetic effort below:

My New Colours

Blackpaint

23/3/12

Blackpaint 319 – The Slipping Glimpser

January 16, 2012

De Kooning

I gave myself the Thames and Hudson Retrospective of DK for Christmas.  It seems to me that you need a label different from Abstract Expressionism to fit him – a third part of his work seems to me to be figures, another third landscape in some way and only maybe a third abstract.  Proportions probably wrong, but you get my drift, no doubt.  I was interested to read that he called himself a “slipping glimpser” – nice phrase, which I take to mean he tried to capture some fleeting moment, or movement, or impression that he received on the corner of the eye or maybe was gone before he could even identify it, like catching hold of a dream.  I’m not sure this would make any sense in the context of abst ract painting – but it certainly does with figurative.  Trying to think of other painters who do that, and Bacon and Auerbach come to mind. 

Sometimes it’s hard to describe or pin down painters’ techniques (or tricks – or is that the same thing?)   I remember in the Diebenkorn book, Jane Livingston talks about Dieb.’s subversion of his own graphic skills, to draw intentionally awkwardly, “even clumsily”, to achieve the effect he wanted.  I think that she means the achievement of a rich surface by means of  smeared or broken lines, reworkings with “ghost” marks left in, clotted, grooved or scraped areas.. or maybe she is referring to his figurative paintings, his drawing style. 

The Artist

Saw this last week, and was unable to understand the universal acclaim.  I found the jaunty music and silent movie cliche really irritating at first, but as the story deepened and the charm of the two stars took hold, I enjoyed it more.  Nevertheless, an hour after seeing it, it was fading from my mind.  The French do pastiche very well, though.  I used to go to the Django Reinhart Gypsy Jazz festival at Samois every year, and whatever type of jazz was being performed – blues, jug band, Glenn Miller, bebop – a French ensemble was there to do it perfectly.

Bloomberg New Contemporaries at the ICA

Website tells me this is now finished, but I was intrigued by the relatively few paintings and sculptures on show.  There was one that resembled a Frank Stella; dreamcatcher shape, smooth surfaces, straight lines, airbrushed – “cherry” as the Cool School would have called it; another, the opposite, roughly painted, crude colouring, called “Garden ghosts” I think; another composed of long green and brown and yellow(?) streaks, like an abstraction of a tropical tree, a bit Richter or Irvin maybe.  What occurred to me was that, despite their differences, they shared with the smaller sculptures the advantage of being easily saleable, transportable and hangable;  Ideal commodities, that is to say.  How the hell do you sell a shallow flight of stairs, leading to a narrow window, which lights up every few minutes? 

The Mystery of Appearance, Haunch of Venison, Bond Street

Free exhibition of English painters of 60s on – Auerbach, Freud, Bacon, Kossoff, Hockney et al.  Three beautiful Auerbachs, two of Primrose Hill, but the best a very small picture of a prone male(?) figure lying face down, it appears.  The background is dark grey or brown, with a raised central square panel, and the figure is picked out in loops or petals of white, green and blue-maybe yellow too-paint.  Then, there is a large Andrews, a reach of the Thames or some such that has a tract of mud and shifting sand that recalls the surface of the early Sandra Blow pictures.  Another Andrews is a large reception at Norwich Castle, showing Frank Thistlethwaite, the VC of University of East Anglia when I was there.  I recognised the painting – I think it hung somewhere at UEA, the Union maybe.  What I didn’t know was that the blobby nature of the faces wasn’t just bad brushwork, but a comment on the old Victorian- style VIP painting. Like Diebenkorn, intentionally clumsy.

Blackpaint

16.01.12

Blackpaint 294

September 13, 2011

Changing Times…

Edward Lucie-Smith, writing in 1969, refers to Bridget Riley as “Miss Riley”.  Male painters are referred to by their surnames: “Hockney”does this or that…  .  Lucie – Smith quotes Dr. Johnson with reference to computer – generated art: “Dr, Johnson’s remark about a woman preaching seems applicable: it is not that the computer does it well, but it is surprising that it can do it at all.”  Interestingly, he later refers to Barbara Hepworth as “Hepworth” – clearly a sign of respect.

In material from the Sainsbury Centre in Norwich, I am told that Mary Webb taught at Norwich School of Art – which has since been renamed “Norwich University College of the Arts”.  What bollocks all that is; Norwich Art School sounds much better, I think.

Days of Heaven

Finally got to see this great film again, at the BFI – I remember seeing it back in 1979 and thinking it was the best film I’d ever seen.  I remembered the name of Nestor Almendros, the cinematographer, but not that it was Terence Malick directing – the photography seemed far more important.  It was nearly as stunning the second time, but maybe a little less so, because my expectations were so high.  The narrative voice of the young girl provided a clear link to Badlands; parts of it, and parts of the dialogue sounded improvised.  I found Leo Kottke’s upbeat guitar music a bit irritating and there was one scene which came perilously close to that awful stretch in Gangs of New York, where everyone is doing their own street bit – juggling, fighting, drinking, picking a pocket…  The river scenes reminded me a little of Night of the Hunter.  Brooke Adams has somehow got a silent film face; I could easily see her with Chaplin, in Gold Rush, say.  Strange, beautiful eyes and that downturned mouth…

Fellini’s Casanova

And yes! The whale makes an appearance in this too, as a circus/freak show exhibit, like in Tarr’s Werckmeister, and Fellini’s own Satyricon (although not in a circus; hoisted from the sea).   I think there’s a thesis to be written on the role of rotting whale carcases in art house cinema.  Maybe you could stretch it to include huge, unidentified fish things, to get Dolce Vita in.

Degas and Picasso

Adrian Searle in today’s Guardian, says that the famous Degas statue of the Little Dancer was “the model for one of the figures in Picasso’s 1906 Demoiselles d’Avignon – or at least, this is the opinion of Richard Kendall, the curator of the Degas show at the RA.  I checked this out, and he can only mean the demoiselle on the left, as the viewer looks at the painting.  The posture and the head position are completely different, however, and the only resemblance I can see is between the right leg of the little dancer and the leg of the demoiselle – pretty thin, really (the idea, not the leg).

Diebenkorn

I have started to love that second abstract period; the way some of them combine the painterly-ness with the schematic, sort of half minimalism of all those ones that look like archways or windiws…  started to do some like that myself – only 35 years later, of course…

The song the spider sings

Blackpaint

Sept 13th 2011

Blackpaint 218

November 11, 2010

Richard Diebenkorn

I’m quite bemused at Diebenkorn’s career, really; for my money, the earlier abstracts from the 50s and 60s are very much better than those of his second abstract period.  If you look at the Albuquerque, or Berkeley paintings, you see a series of rich, textured colour patches and tracts, marked and scored with black paint and sometimes (like Roger Hilton’s) charcoal, scribbles, smears and thickly-painted squirls in desert-tawny, red, greys and whites, sometimes a lavender or mauve.  They are, unmistakeably, abstractions of aerial landscapes.  I’ve gone on about them before, somewhere.

The Ocean Park pictures, though interesting, are much less so.  The colours are more sickly, the reds, yellows and blues thinner and more acidic (many are acrylic on paper).  There are ruled lines, geometric shapes – many resemble shuttered windows.  They’re  dead, compared to the earlier stuff.  Jane Livingstone’s book cites the influence of Mondrian here, and quotes his dictum that “chance must be avoided, as much as calculation”.  What, you may ask, do you utilise, if not  chance or calculation?  Mondrian’s  answer is “intuition”.

If you avoid the intervention of chance, accident, whatever you call it, I think you lose the possibility of that “life” that sometimes  is caught in a picture, flickering across or against a smooth, uniform patch of colour.  Diebenkorn’s early abstracts  capture a lot of  those moments – just check  the series I have mentioned.  The Ocean Park pictures, sadly, never do.

Bonnard

Something that I did not previously know about the above was that one of his models, Renee Monchaty, commited suicide – in  her bath.  And Bonnard discovered the body.This was  in Rome, in 1923.  He subsequently (and famously) went on to do a number of  paintings of his wife Marthe getting in and out of the bath and in  two at least, lying full length  in the tub.  Surely, whenever he painted a bath scene, he would have been reminded…  Clearly, real artists are different to the rest of us; I’m reminded of  Bacon painting George Dyer with his new lover’s head  substituted (see Blackpaint 96), and Araki’s wife.

Quiz

In whose work does a businessman sit in a bar with a chamber pot on  his head?

Millbank by Blackpaint

11.11.10