Posts Tagged ‘Robert Johnson’

Blackpaint 470 – Wet Paint and Whales, Sex Dolls, the Blues and Killers

November 21, 2014

Beware Wet Paint at the ICA

Upstairs at the ICA, a small exhibition of (mostly) big paintings, the best by the following three:

Korakrit Arunanondchai  He painted two big pictures, set fire to them, photographed the burning canvases, blew up the photos and used them as an underlay to the holed and charred originals – shades of Metzger and Miro also exhibited a few burned “remnant” paintings – or at least, the Hayward did, Miro being dead at the time.



Parker Ito,  who had a huge, Manga-style effort which was built around a cartoon girl eating ice cream;


Christopher Wool; big grey swipes and washes, black enamel paint Marden lines, from which, here and there, the central pigment had been wiped, leaving “ghost” lines – lovely painting, see below.

christopher wool


Leviathan, Zvyagintsev 

The director who did “the Return” 12 0r so years ago.  Town in northern Russia on the Barents Sea, rocks, cliffs, fiords, smashing waves, bleached whale skeleton.  Central character locked in legal battle with corrupt local mayor and officials, semi – gangsters; mayor wants to annex his house and land to demolish it and build on.  House-owner brings in his old army mate, who is a Moscow lawyer and comparatively honest…

More drinking even than the average Bela Tarr – although vodka rather than palinka – and/or smoking and scoffing pickled herring, sometimes all three simultaneously.  And target shooting with AK47 (I think).  The odd, oblique,  swipe at Putin, more direct fun-poking at previous leaders, both Communist and post – Soviet (but not Stalin).  A glimpse of Pussy Riot on TV; Orthodox Church shown as natural allies of the new state gangsterism.  Good, but heavy-handed with the symbolism; the bleached whale bones made a couple of predictable appearances.

Kettles Yard, Cambridge

Rather reminded me of visiting Charleston recently, although here they let you sit on the chairs in the house.  A brilliant collection of Ben and Winifred Nicholson, Christopher Wood – easy to mistake for early Ben, or I did anyway – David Jones, some very unusual drawings, nothing like his usual, busy, spidery style, and Gaudier-Brjeska, who has a whole storey to himself.  There’s the Ezra Pound below, the curved fish, the broad-shouldered man…  In addition, there is a great sketch of a nude woman by Brancusi over the piano and to the left, an unusual monochrome Roger Hilton.



Silent Partners, the Fitzwilliam Museum, Cambridge

This exhibition is about artists and their mannequins, used for artistic –  and other purposes in the case of Kokoschka and probably Bellmer – down through history.  Some highlights:

Janos Bortnyik, paintings of Adam and Eve, geometric buildings, natty man, pointy legs, tiny waist.



Millais, the Black Brunswicker; look at that white satin dress – fantastic.  The one on the left is the Brunswicker.

millais the black brunswicker


Oscar Kokoschka, a selfie in garish tones with a painted life-size doll (not the Alma one).  Good likeness of Oscar, not flattering of either.  Also photos of him with the furry- legged Alma Mahler doll, and Bellmer’s sexy poupee dolls, legs splayed…

kokoschka silent partners


Also, a great Degas artist and mannequin, Burne-Jones Pygmalion and Galatea  – Galatea long body, bruised eyes, real Victorian beauty.

The permanent collection at the Fitzwilliam deserves some space so I’ll defer it to next blog.

The Blues and Killers

I imagine it’s a function of TV writers’and researchers’ record collections – blues and even folk music popping up all over.  In the first “Fall” series, the killer was listening to Sonny Boy Williamson’s “Help Me” and others; the paedophile (or he’s shaping up to be) played by Ken Stott in “Missing” listens to Robert Johnson.  Johnson again, as well as the Copper Family and Karen Dalton, in “Down Terrace”, the brilliant, funny and horrifying gangster film by Ben Wheatley (although that was made in 2009).  I don’t buy it really –  can’t see blues fans as killers; anorak seekers after authenticity, more like.


For Derrida, Blackpaint







Blackpaint 98

March 29, 2010

Roger Hilton

Hilton once drew up a list of rules for painting, some of which were useful, some not.  What to make of: “Paint as if you were painting a wall”, for instance? 

However, one rule was absolutely right, for me anyway, and it was “If you have a full brush and you have made a mark, do not think you have to use the paint on your brush, wash it out.”  I always remember this, just after using the paint on my brush and wishing I hadn’t done it.

In the spirit of Hilton, then, here are some rules I sometimes observe, both for painting and looking:

  • Spoil the canvas, make some marks – you can always paint over.
  • If, like me, you like to shake blotches of paint straight on to the canvas, use a controlled, repeated wrist flick, rather than a violent chopping motion from the shoulder (although the resulting chunky splat!! can be quite satisfying).  Ensure all completed canvases in the area are turned to the wall first.
  • Completed canvases should in any case be turned to the wall, so that when you look at your new effort, the eye isn’t choked by the riot of colours coming from your other work.
  • Look at your picture from the corner of your eye, or an acute angle; can you perceive a definite structure?  Are there good bits?  This doesn’t always work –  if it’s composed of spidery all-over patterns they will merge, of course.
  • Does it look better from far away?  If you think it’s rubbish, it may be that it’s a surface thing.  I’ve found this with Gorky, recently (see Blackpaint…)
  • Does it have a definite orientation, a top and bottom?  Sometimes, just reversing it works.  I suppose this only works with abstract stuff – although Baselitz turned his pictures upside-down.. unless of course he painted them that way… 
  • Leave it on the wall for a week before deciding to paint over it; sometimes they improve with age.
  • If it really is bad and you decide to paint it over, look hard first to see if there are any sections worth saving.

There’s only eight here; I know convention demands ten but I’m an anarchist, so I decided to leave the other two out.

Here’s the latest:

Listening to Robert Johnson, Me and the Devil Blues.

“I want you to bury my body down by the highway side (*2)

(spoken) Babe, I don’t care where you bury me when I’m dead an’ gone,

So my old evil spirit can catch a Greyhound bus an’ ride”.