Posts Tagged ‘Richard Dorment’

Blackpaint 488 – Ingrid and Ingmar, Liz and Phil and Eleanor at the Tates

March 29, 2015

Marlene Dumas

OK, I know I’ve done this twice already, but I’ve got a member’s card for Tates Brit and Mod, so it feels like free when I go.  Anyway, two things – no, three – to say in addition to previous: first, the picture of the woman in tears, entitled “For Whom the Bell Tolls”; it’s not Dumas herself, as I’d thought, but Ingrid Bergman (of course, because she stars in the film, but it got past me); secondly, the paintings of her daughter Helene – the facial portrait titled “Helene’s Dream”, in which the lips, the nose and the closed eyes seem to be floating on a somehow convex surface of smooth coffee and the full-length picture of her wrapped in a bath towel, looking irritated (girl, not towel).

dumas helene's dream

dumas helene

 

I like the way she’s painted the hair in the top one; single, square-edged strokes of a drying brush.  And in the second one, it’s the knees – it looks rough at first, but it’s precise and subtle.  There’s a lot of “looks rough at first” in this exhibition, but it’s mostly (not always!) subtle underneath, so to speak.

And third thing is the little, quick, brush drawings; the one on the far left of that little group opposite the full-length prone body drawings – can’t find a picture of it, so go and look.

Sculpture Victorious, Tate Britain

This is interesting and funny, rather than jam-packed with great art.  The pieces on show suggested novelties turned out for Great Exhibitions, which they were in some cases.  There are miniature busts of the young queen, turned out by Chevenor’s Reducing Machine – you put a big one in and a sort of pantograph affair carves a perfect small version out of a soft -ish medium.  Ivory was good, unfortunately for “up to 6000 elephants a year”.

There’s a statue of some baron, Winchester possibly, who was at Runnymede for Magna Carta, which was coated with copper by an electro-plating process (the statue, not Magna Carta – or Runnymede); an Eleanor of Aquitaine, lying comfortably on her back, atop her tomb presumably, reading a prayer book or bible, as if she was reading “Gone Girl” on the beach; and there’s a life size piece of Elizabeth I playing naval chess – the pieces are galleons – with Philip II of Spain.

sculpture victorious

 

It looks like one of those clockwork – or maybe magic – pieces you get in a necromancer’s workshop in a Polish film, where the players “come to life” with a lot of clicking and whirring…  I’m thinking “Saragossa Manuscript” or maybe Bergman’s “Nicholas and Alexander”.

There are two slave women in chains; one white, one black.  The white woman, a captive of the Turks in the War of Greek Independence, is beautiful of course, with a very shapely bottom and downcast eyes and is completely naked.  The black woman, also beautiful, but with slightly odd features, the eyes I think, wears a sort of skirt.  I find this interesting, in that it is a reversal of the old National Geographic racialism; in the 1950s and before, magazines would show “native peoples”, male and female, naked, whereas white people had to be clothed, except in pornography, which was illegal anyway.  Maybe because the white slave resembles a classical Graeco-Roman statue in pose, Hiram Power thought he could get away with it.  The black woman, or American Slave, was done by John Bell in answer to Abolitionist demand; apparently, the white slave was interpreted as an attack on slavery too.  Surprising to me; it strikes me more as an opportunity for the sculptor to do a provocatively naked woman in a submissive pose and dress it up with a moral message – then, that could be said of a lot of sculpture, Victorian and earlier…

sculpture victorious white girl

 

White Slave

sculpture victorious black girl

 

 

Black (American) Slave

Some of the other sculpture on show – big muscles, heroic poses, firing arrows, struggling with snakes, gazing fiercely into distances – looked distinctly pre-Nazi to me; would have fitted in at Goering’s hunting lodge.

Worth a visit then, despite Richard Dorment’s blistering Telegraph review, which I recommend, online.  Dorment roundly berates the curators for lack of focus, stating the obvious and getting major things wrong; for instance, the reason why Alfred Gilbert  resigned from the Royal Academy.  He knows, because he’s written a book on Gilbert, and  catalogue notes for the RA.  it’s a pity Tate didn’t ask him to advise, before rashly going ahead with the show.  He does describe the black slave as a nude statue, however.

Other things new at the Tate, in the permanent galleries:  Phoebe Unwin, “Man with Heavy Legs” or something;  Vicken Parsons, tiny room paintings; a huge Rose Wylie pattern painting; and a new Kitaj, a man as a cat…

Next blog – two more Tate Britain shows, Salt and Silver and the Waplington/McQueen show.

vanessa5

vanessa6

Vanessa, standing and stooping

Blackpaint

29.03.15

 

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Blackpaint 235

December 26, 2010

Banksy

Watched the Banksy-related DVD “Exit Through the Gift Shop” yesterday and was taken in for the first 40 minutes or so; then Thierry put the camera down and became Mr. Brainwash and the film suddenly looked too much like Spinal Tap to be true.  We were interested enough to check on Wikipedia though and it says there was a show by Brainwash in LA which attracted thousands – so concluded that it was cooked up by Banksy and the American with “Thierry” as the front-man.  But then it’s Wikipedia, so could be a false entry….

Banksy’s stuff is good; accessible, funny, provocative, daring and well-executed.  If he makes a few bob out of his art and stunts, good luck to him.  I think you only sell out when you join the other side and/or start criticising others who come after you – other than saying, “I did that first,” which is fair enough (assuming you did, of course).  It’s not his fault that he became the next big thing for a while.

Van Gogh

Have got a copy of VG’s selected letters, so will be able to check on comments made by Richard Dorment in the Telegraph about the letters and paintings exhibition at the RA early in the year (see Blackpaint 230, 13th December 2010).  Only just started, and already I notice a sort of prissy, bossy tone in the letters to Theo – a great long list of mostly obscure painters he (Theo) should look at.  Funny really, considering Theo ended up supporting him throughout his short life.

Paul Morley also does this – makes lists of artists, not supports Van Gogh financially –  in his Observer music column every week; personally, I don’t think this is good journalism.  I am sometimes tempted to make lists of painters I admire – de Stael, Jorn, Appel, de Kooning, Lanyon, Sandra Blow, Joan Mitchell, Diebenkorn, Heron, Hoffman, Rauschenburg, Auerbach, Kitaj, Giotto, Fra Angelico, Michelangelo – but I manage to avoid it.

Blackpaint

26.12.10

Blackpaint 230

December 13, 2010

Van Gogh

Richard Dorment, on the Royal Academy exhibition “Van Gogh, the Artist and his Letters”, which took place earlier in the year, writes in the Telegraph: “We learnt (from the letters) that even if it only took Vincent an hour or two to paint a picture, before his brush touched  the canvas he had chosen and mixed his pigments, and knew precisely where he would place every touch of colour” (my emphasis).

Can this really be so?  Precisely? Every touch?  I find this hard to believe – no element of chance at all, no revising, no improvising.  Many other painters and artists of every kind claim there is an  element of re-working, revision, spontaneity, change of some sort during their working process.  The idea of a painter following a pre-determined plan with precision sounds like painting by numbers – which doesn’t sound likeVan Gogh.

I didn’t see the show, so I can’t comment on the match between particular letters and paintings; if VG described the process after doing the painting, maybe he did some unconscious editing, “tidying up”.  Maybe not; must read the letters, so until then, will say no more on VG and stick to Dorment’s comments.

It is interesting to me that Richard Dorment equates this preparedness and precision with “consummate professionalism”.  I’m sure he’s right, but a bit of spontaneity, improvisation and chance properly acted on can be professionalism too, surely; otherwise, a lot of great painters are amateurs.  Then again, one purpose of the exhibition was, I believe, to demonstrate a rational and controlled approach on Van Gogh’s  part, as opposed to the popular view of him as “the madman touched with genius”, so perhaps Dorment’s comments must be seen in this light.

He finishes: “The brilliance of this show was that it forced us to see what is really there and not what our imaginations add to it”.  This opens wider a giant plastic bin liner full of live eels with almost every word – but I’ve gone on too much already, so will change the subject.

Sandra Blow

Lovely, but short, DVD (the Eye, Illuminations) on the above done in 2006, the year she died.  She lived with Burri in Italy after the war and acknowledged that she got the idea of using sacking in her paintings and collages from him – not often you hear artists confirm their “borrowings” so freely.  She mentioned two other important sources of influence – the Underwood book on African art and the work of Ruskin Spear and Walter Sickert on her “brown” phase.  I’m still very taken with her “Vivace”, which I saw at Tate St.Ives a few months ago and which, in its spontaneity, was untypical of her work.  She put wellington boots on to hurl red paint across the huge canvas, making an enormous “V”.

Quiz

Who put a zebra and a parachute in the same picture?

Lambton Worm

Blackpaint

13.12.10