Posts Tagged ‘Robert Hughes’

Blackpaint 573 – Imperfect Artspeak, Hughes and Narcos

October 25, 2016

Imperfect Reverse, Camberwell College of Arts

Some beautiful geometric abstracts on display here, some of them from the 60s and 70s Systems Group, some from younger artists working now.  I quote from the notes: “The term “imperfect reverse” intimates a move towards a structural logic, generative grammar, allowing an outside system or set of rules to drive the making of a series of works….This exhibition questions that transformation through a coercion that is both temporal and aspectual.  Examining an operational shift in working process towards a synthesis of experience.”

So there you are.  Whatever it means, there’s no doubt that the pictures are good; a selection of the best below:

camberwell-1

Sharon Hall

 

camberwell-2

Andrew Bick

 

camberwell-3

Richard Caldicott

 

camberwell-4

Natalie Dower

 

camberwell-5

Laurence Noga

The exhibition is at Camberwell until November, when it moves to Ruskin University Cambridge on the 23rd.

The Shock of the New

I’ve been watching Robert Hughes’ great series again – I recorded it ages ago, don’t know if it’s on DVD or some other source, but if so, it should be got hold of.  Apart from Hughes’ unmatched portentous delivery, the close-ups of the artworks struck me as the best I’ve seen – particularly Cezanne, Matisse and Bonnard.  Next to them, the dreary horror of Munch is fully exposed.  I know, he was doing something else – but he’s still a most depressing painter.

matisse-red-studio

Matisse, the Red Studio

 

cezanne-basket-of-apples

Cezanne, Basket of Apples

 

munch

Munch

I rest my case.  Hughes describes Matisse as the painter of the “Great Indoors” and that sounds about right to me; his landscapes are usually seen through a window frame.  Munch is often outdoors – but his skies are always dark, or lurid, weighing down upon humanity, as in the Ensor-ish group of walking dead above.  One of the world’s great painters obviously, but I just can’t be doing with him.

It’s always interesting to watch programmes from decades ago, to see how times and tastes have altered.  Hughes gives a great deal of prominence to Claes Oldenburg, for example, an artist who seems to me to be much less fashionable now; although perhaps I’m underestimating the influence of his giant soft sculptures.  Also, not enough de Kooning and no Joan Mitchell in there…..

Narcos

narcos

The Netflix series based on the life of Colombian drug baron Pablo Escobar, it seems to me to have a touch of Sorrentino about it – in several scenes I was reminded of Il Divo.  Multiple killings of course, and I’ve only seen the first episode of series one.  The box of the DVD says it’s a blend of “The Wire” and “Goodfellas” – I thought “Gomorrah”, but then it’s early days for me.

I’ve been trying to do something different in my painting, having realised some time ago that I’m doing the same images over and over (even if they are in a different palette or the other way up); I think I’ve managed it a little in the one below – but maybe not…

 

grey-fire-2

Fire, Water and Cloud

Blackpaint

25.10.16

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Blackpaint 465 – Boyd’s Law, Nazis, Eyeballs and Ticky Tacky

October 17, 2014

William Boyd on Schiele

Boyd, writing in  last Saturday’s Guardian Review, praises  Egon Schiele (Courtauld Gallery exhibition opening on 23rd October) as a “phenomenal draughtsman”; fair enough, but he then goes on to revisit his argument that only great draughtsmen – there are only men in his list – can be “truly great”  painters:  “I believe that you can’t be a truly great painter if you’re not an excellent draughtsman.”  He cites Robert Hughes in support of this proposition: “..the naked figure, male and female (is) the ultimate test and validation, so the critic Robert Hughes has stated, of any artist.s merit and painterly ability.”   He (Boyd) goes on to single out Pollock: “Jackson Pollock, to name but one giant of modernism, is a pre-eminent example – he was a shockingly inept draughtsman – but there are dozens of others.” From the work of Pollock and these others, Boyd can tell – and so can we, he says –  that there is something “fundamentally lacking”.

Surely, this is nonsense.  How can you tell from Pollock’s “Lavender Mist” that he was a bad draughtsman?  Bridget Riley?  John Hoyland?  Joan Mitchell?  Gillian Ayres?  Rothko? All great painters, I would argue – but I’ve no idea if they could do a good figure drawing (apart from Rothko, who was no great shakes, I know).

To drag in Hughes is misleading, too, if you are going to have a go at Jackson – Hughes leaves little doubt in his essay on Pollock in “Nothing if not Critical”, that he regarded him as a true great, in spite of his limitations as a “draftsman”: “When he set up a repeated frieze of drawn motifs, as he did for Peggy Guggenheim in 1943, the result – as drawing – was rather monotonous.  But when he found he could throw lines of paint in the air, the laws of energy and fluid motion made up for the awkwardness of his fist, and from then on, there was no grace that he could not claim.  Compared with his paintings, the myth of Pollock hardly matters”.

The Schiele looks good, though; but a bit freaky, as if made for repro as posters for student bedrooms.  I think you’d soon get sick of them, despite the “phenomenal” skill involved.

schiele

 

 

Richard Tuttle at the Whitechapel Gallery

I went to the private view, sunk the regulation three glasses of fizzy wine, and now I’m going to be ungrateful;  I found this exhibition of the US minimalist to be very disappointing.  There are some beautiful prints, lithographs, or maybe monoprints, reproduced below; didn’t like the rest.  Tiny wall plaques with ticky-tacky little constructions stuck to them – one looked like a bed of cress; a sort of Schwitters construction like a giant mousetrap; bits of string in shapes on the floor; a few paintings combining blue and red marks on a white background with a lower section in black, oil stick maybe; sagging lumps of fabric, cut into odd shapes; some pieces that looked broken or collapsing on themselves (someone did similar stuff in a Turner Prize exhibition some years ago-can’t remember the name).  And poems, I think, on the walls, to go with the exhibits.  Didn’t read them.

richard tuttle

Sculpture at the Whitechapel

Don’t miss this.  There’s a de Kooning mud figure, a Schutte head on a tripod, some flayed figures by the Polish guy who was at the Biennale last year, a Louise Bourgeois that looks like a sawfish blade, a Henry Moore reclining figure…

Downfall

Had to watch it when it was on last week; third time, I think.  Goebbels and Magda are terrifying, Mohnke is great (the actor, not the real man; implicated in murder of British POWs at Wormhoudt) – and Traudl looks lovely in the German helmet…

downfall

Julia’s Eyes

Del Toro film, with some ludicrous bits, strongly relying on three “horrific” scenes: a knife through the mouth, a needle through the eye and a throat- cutting suicide (not as shocking as the one in “Hidden”).  Below, for your pleasure, I reproduce the needle moment and the eyeball cutting from Un Chien Andalou, by way of comparison.

julias eyes

un chien andalou

I think Chien still has the edge (pardon the pun).

Shark, Will Self

So, you’re reading away, inside someone’s head, hanging on and understanding maybe 70% – then, it all goes pear-shaped.  You’ve gone into someone else’s head without a signal and you might go a page or two without realising.  Then, you go back to look for the bit where it changed…  most annoying, but that’s experimental writing for you.

 

002

Samonas

Blackpaint

11.10.14

 

 

Blackpaint 328 – Raw, Astonished Ranks

March 1, 2012

de Kooning

Interesting to read in the Retrospective book that DK had a problem doing hands; in his figurative pictures, they are either concealed in some way, or presented as stylised, jagged interlocks of fingers.  Doesn’t matter, of course – but it’s nice to find out that even the geniuses have their weaknesses.   Durer, for instance, couldn’t do rhinos.

Fellini

Which brings me yet again to “And the Ship Sails On”.  Hockney mentioned it to Andrew Marr in the film about his RA exhibition; he said that the film was about the difficulties of perception, I think, or something like that:  it makes sense, in view of the deliberate undermining of illusion in the film.  The rhino, as I said, is too big and obviously polythene; the smoke from the funnels of the battleship spreads out like a ridiculous Ascot hat and doesn’t disperse; the rolling sea across which Freddie Jones rows the rhino is clearly a glittering, artificial blue-green fabric – and at the end, the camera rolls back to reveal the whole film crew at work behind a monstrous rocking platform, bearing the “ship”.  Jones, incidentally, looks for an instant, during the ash scattering scene, exactly like Fellini’s wife – something about the wistful smile and sideways glance.

Poetry 

I suppose this is obvious, but I was struck this week by the way some lines stick hard in your head, whilst others immediately sink into nothingness, even though you try to recall them.  I was trying to learn Kipling’s “Edgehill” and the phrase “raw, astonished ranks” has stuck fast.  the rest I can retain for minutes only.  I would guess that’s the case with paintings too; you remember an aspect, a patch of colour, a gesture, whatever, and retain only an impression of the rest.  This is proved to me by the number of times I’ve described a picture in this blog, then looked at it again and found I’d got it badly wrong.

All’s Well that Ends Well

Just finished reading this again and found it for the most part a tiresome experience – as opposed to seeing it done, of course; there is one notable aspect of it though, and that is the character of Parolles, who, like Toby Belch, has similarities to Falstaff – with the possible exception of Bloom, the richest character in world literature.  Parolles is a boaster, a coward, and basically everything contemptible in Elizabethan society.  He is exposed and humiliated cruelly by his soldier “comrades” – but instead of endorsing his downfall, Shakespeare gives him an almost defiant speech in which he accepts his nature and affirms his right to be as any other:  “Captain I’ll be no more;  But I will eat and drink and sleep as soft As captains shall…There’s place and means for every man alive.”

Auerbach and de Kooning

Interesting that both these artists had a high regard for the work of Chaim Soutine, the flesh painter; I wonder if Freud – yes, in the Taschen Freud, it says that he admired Soutine’s paintings of dead animals and reproduces a 1919 Soutine painting of two pheasants, which is similar to Freud’s Dead Heron of 1945.  Not really the same thing, though; I was thinking of Freud’s later naked humans.

Robert Hughes

I’ve been dismissive of Hughes’ pompous attitude to some artists, but I must say, he writes beautifully about painting; in his Auerbach, he refers to “E.O.W” (Stella West) as being “carved from a block of butter-like substance” in one picture and of figures and things being stuck like flies in jam on Auerbach’s surfaces.

Hedda Sterne

The woman at the back – and the only woman – in the famous photo of the “irascibles” , including de Kooning, Pollock, Rothko, Still and others; a presence that, sadly, she appears to be famous for, rather than her excellent and varied paintings.  Died last April, another one I missed – must have been away.  Well worth a look on Google.

A couple of pictures from my life class, and a proper one below.  Any reader in vicinity of Dartford (Kent, UK) may care to drop in to the What if..Gallery over the next 10 days and see some of my pictures, along with those of Marion Jones and Chris Grice.

Blackpaint

1/3/12

Blackpaint 325 – Fabric Penis Stalactites

February 16, 2012

Yayoi Kusama

This artist now in her 80s, has an exhibition at the Tate Modern at the moment and I went, expecting not very much.  From what I had heard, she was a performance artist from the 60s who now lived voluntarily in a mental institution in Japan, and tended to cover everything in sight with coloured spots, from tiny to huge.  True, but much more, it turned out. 

First, there is are some surrealist drawing/paintings, resembling vaguely threatening dragons or snakes, and then some quite beautiful small drawings/collages/paintings in vibrant colours; moons, bacteria, some that reminded me of Hartung, dots, lines, fish (deep-sea phosphorescent)… terrific.

Then, the “Infinity Net” paintings, huge, white, covered with little bobbles of paint, with maze-like patterns just visible.  There are nine or ten of these, and I must admit they don’t look that great in the exhibition book – better on the wall. 

Then, you come to the bit where she covers a variety of things – a rowing boat, sofa, armchair, ladder, cabinet, women’s shoes – with sewn and stuffed little bags in the shape of penises.  An old-fashioned kettle hangs from one.  By way of variety, flowers and macaroni are used to cover shirts and coats and there is an attractive “Bronze Coat”, covered with sewn bags like horse dung.  The echoes of Oppenheim’s fur cup and the jacket covered with glasses (Duchamp?) are obvious.  I thought the penises looked like some mineral growth of little stalagtites – very pleasing.

Then. you come to the dark room, covered with little reflecting coloured discs that show up in one of those fluorescent lights –  and then to the reflecting mirror room, in which hundreds (?) of little coloured lights succeed each other in casting reflections into the surrounding mirrors and shallow pools of water, creating ever-receding pinpints of light.   Careful here – one chap stepped unwittingly into the water.  In the photos, this room resembles a Peter Doig painting somehow; but not in the “flesh”.

There’s much more, but it should be seen, not described.  I have to say, I didn’t see anything here that indicated she was more mentally ill than any other artist – obsessive, maybe, but most artists are, really.  After all, doing art is essentially playing.  Academies have been set up, rules laid down, techniques set in granite,  critics like Robert Hughes intone solemnly on the practices of Auerbach, say, working every day, 10 hours a day, covering everything in charcoal dust, taking 2 years on every portrait – it has to be done properly.  Then, along comes someone who breaks all the rules, sticks up two fingers to tradition, and becomes a huge success.  I love it – long live Damien and Tracy, and Julian Schnabel, who Hughes doesn’t seem to like much.  Play away, make (more) shedloads of money.

Albert Irvin

I’ve just discovered Tate Shots on YouTube, which are short films on artists, talking about their work, and watched the one on Albert.  The paintings (which I hated at first) are now so beautiful that, if I weren’t a working-class boy from South London, would make me weep with ecstasy.  No, not really – but they are good, especially that one with the great, diagonal sweeps of purple with little splats of blue.  Nice bloke, too.  Fiona Rae’s film is good as well – she has a little gizmo for squeezing all the paint out of a tube; must get one.

Flodden, Albert Irvin

Fellini

I’ve just bought the DVD of “the Ship Sailed On”, by the above, but haven’t yet seen it; I am intrigued by the book I have on Fellini, in which he avoids answering the question “What is the significance of the rhinoceros?”  Needless to say, … well it’s needless to say, so I won’t say it.

Can’t decide which way up this should go, so here’s both until I make my mind up.

OR…

Blackpaint

16.02.12

Blackpaint 198

September 24, 2010

Giotto

I’m looking at the Anne Mueller von der Haegen book on G. in the “Masters of Italian Art” series – those reds and blues are just beautiful.  The blue has a touch of green showing through and the reds are actually more dark orange, shading down to raw sienna almost.  The Last Judgement fresco in the Cappella degli Scrovegni in Padua strikes me as the best today – tomorrow it’ll be a different one.  On the right,  a fat blue devil stuffs the damned into his mouth as they cascade down to him as if washed there by rivers of blood and fire.  Here and there, men and women dangle naked from gallows in various recesses of hell, two upside-down and facing each other, as if having a conversation.  Another is horizontal on a turning spit.

Opposite, beneath an assembly of saints and martyrs, little, squat, bewildered people are rising naked from the ground or their tombs, as if from trunks.  they turn reverently, arms raised in supplication.

way up, on either side of the window, armoured angels clutch the edges of a red scroll, very much like giant sticks of rock.  Staggering, beautiful, weird; I will certainly be returning to these pictures again and again.

Chaldon

By way of contrast, I visited the church at Chaldon (1086), near Coulsdon in Surrey, to see that mural again (see Blackpaint 44).  Dark red/purple background, white figures that I suppose may once have been painted, and those strange, huge, big -eyed, three – toed demons that Eric Von Daniken would certainly have selected for his “Was God a Spaceman?” books, back in the 70’s, 80’s or whenever it was.

Tate Britain rehangs

That fantastic St. Ives room at the above – with the red and black Hilton, the black and white sand Blow, the Lanyons – green and blue water pulsing through them – the black Scott and the penis salt pots, the exploding black octopus Alan Davies, the lime green yellow Heron with the ingots showing through – all great, but they’ve been there over a year (except for the Bryan Wynter that was changed so that “Riverbed” could go to St.Ives). 

Why don’t they change a couple of the paintings every 2 or 3 weeks?  They must have several by each artist, maybe dozens.  Surely it can’t be too much work to change a few paintings regularly – where do they keep them; down below in the cellar?  Come on, more paintings by the same people, give the collections a proper workout and let the people see them.  Same goes for Tate Modern, and for all I know, for National Gallery too.  If there are problems with this, I would love to hear them.

Well done by the way; great paintings, free of charge – but let’s see more!

Basquiat (see Blackpaint 46 and 70)

I think Robert Hughes really screwed up badly by misjudging this artist as a lightweight, who only made it because he was black and in the right place, etc.  Lovely sense of colour and design, great drama, the words, the structures and textures; they are colour bombs, remind me of Miro Spain posters and Appel, a bit.  Not as “good” (rich, complex, sustaining) as either, but way up there nevertheless.

Hereward again – Blackpaint

24.09.10

Blackpaint 171

July 24, 2010

Michelangelo

His St. Matthew statue, emerging from the marble, brandishing a bible in left hand and with a curious square structure in chest region, looks like some sculpture from the 1910’s or 20’s – Gill maybe, but rougher of course; Epstein? Not really, but that era.  Later, I’ll be looking at something Michaael Craig-Martin said about drawing, how it can bridge the ages whereas sculpture and painting can’t; I think this is an exception.  It was  made as part  of the grandiose Julius Tomb project, which led to furious rows between Julius II and Michelangelo, and a flight from Rome to Florence by M.

Drawing

My moaning in Bp.170 about the Adrian Searle article was caused by the fact that articles exalting the process of drawing often go on to use it as an opportunity to attack Abstract Expressionism (carefully excluding de Kooning and a few others) on the grounds that they have to do abstracts because they can’t draw.  William Boyd, I think, was the last one I read putting this view forward.  Robert Hughes, in his diatribes against Basquiat and Schnabel, dismissed a later generation of artists on these lines, but would not include the earlier Ab Exes, whose integrity and importance are manifest.

The tone of this precious stuff about the supremacy of drawing can at times reach amusing levels – try the correspondence between John Berger and Leon Kossoff in the Penguin Book of Art Writing;   no doubt, they are both most sincere in their mutual praise, but even so, it’s a bit much…

Michael Craig-Martin

What he said was that drawings of great artists from  all ages can “speak directly to each other” in a way that paintings and sculpture cannot.  “The drawings of Rembrandt can speak directly to the work of Beckmann or Guston, …Leonardo to Newman or Andre, Michelangelo to Duchamp…”; paintings are more rooted in historical values, have a “cultural as well as  a physical density” that it is hard to transcend.

I suppose this boils down to “Some drawings look as if they could have been done yesterday or a thousand years ago, because techniques of shading etc. haven’t changed that much”.  That sounds fair enough, but the rest of the assertions need clarification, at least;  HOW exactly do Leonardo’s drawings speak directly to Newman or Andre?  We’ll never know, because this is art writing.

Barnett Newman

Since I’ve mentioned him, I have to refer to his appearance on “Painters Painting” DVD I blogged about in 170.  Drink and smoke in  hand (like all the rest), a bit tearful, looking like  anything but an  American Ab Ex in his tight suit and thick  moustache.  In the Penguin art book, he makes the wonderful, wild assertion that the creative, artistic  urge came before anything else for primitive man.  The whole article is a statement of pride really in his “calling”, although I’m not sure he would have called it  that.  Anyway, after reading that, I saw  his green zip painting in the DVD – anything you say is right, Mr. Newman.

Tom McCarthy

While we are on assertions, lovely one in the Guardian Review today from the above; in Blake’s Tyger, Tyger the beast represents the Industrial Revolution.  Blackpaint says: No, it doesn’t.  I thought the stuff on Finnegans Wake was interesting, though, containing as  it did assertions with which I agree.

Work in progress, by Blackpaint

22.07.10

Blackpaint 46

January 22, 2010

Life Drawing

My class today, and as usual quick poses – 1 minute, 2 minute and so on up to 6.  Then small sketches of pose and a long drawing – 90 mins.  As usual, I reached a point where I started to mess up, so stopped and started a new one.  Ended up with two reasonable, but not spectacular drawings that stayed at the school for future critiquing, and I brought the quick poses home (see below).

I started life drawing because, if I’m honest, I think it’s “proper”, in some way.  It’s craft.  If you can do life drawing, you’re somehow entitled to do abstract stuff.  Total bollocks of course, but it echoes Robert Hughes’ assertions about Basquiat and Schnabel in particular, and US art schools in the 80s in general, that they had turned out a generation at least who couldn’t draw properly – and that, somehow, that meant they couldn’t do “proper” abstract art.  This notion has recently popped up in William Boyd’s article on Rothko in the Guardian (see Blackpaint 13); he extends it to Rothko, Pollock and Kline. 

Anyway, having started it, it has become a pleasure in itself, sort of separate from the stuff I paint and exhibit – but it has probably rubbed off, maybe in the use of charcoal or the sort of forms which emerge (that word again) in my canvases – although, to be sure, not the latest ones.

Listening to Mahler’s 5th, the “Death in Venice” bit, where Aschenbach has found an excuse not to leave Venice and is heading joyfully back to his hotel in a gondola.

Blackpaint

22.01.10