Posts Tagged ‘Robert Rauschenberg’

Blackpaint 613- Degas, Soutine, Orwell, Proust and Brexit

January 2, 2018

Soutine again

Revisited this great exhibition at the Courtauld ; waiters, bellboys, patrons (the french kind), with those dipping shoulders, bending faces, pouting lips, supercilious sneers, rich blue and blood red backgrounds.  You can see the influence he had on de Kooning, and maybe Bacon.  That big, long red one reminds me of Beckmann.

Degas et al at the National Gallery

The Degas is free; it’s on the ground floor, in a room after a collection of beautiful small landscapes, of which more in a moment.  Most of the Degas pictures are pastels but there are at least two in oils that look like pastels.  Some lovely sturdy ballerinas, that big brown/orange one of the maid combing out the woman’s hair (usually on display in the first Impressionism room to the right of the main entrance) and a great one of racehorses with jockeys up, in a downpour; a whirl of Russian women dancers.

 

 

As for the landscapes, I thought the most striking was by Lord Leighton, a jutting outcrop against green, from an unusual angle.

Also, a couple of great Boudins, distant families on the beach, Trouville I think.  He’s a “red spot” man.

Orwell, Notes on Nationalism

Just re-read this essay, written near the end of WW2, but staggeringly relevant today (relevance is something you find pretty much every time you pick up an Orwell book).  I recognised my own mindset immediately, with regard to the Brexit “debate” and resolved to think of Orwell every time I read the Guardian.  Doesn’t work though, unfortunately; still teeth grinding and swearing.  Orwell is often spectacularly wrong; for example, he thought in the early days of the war and maybe later, that Britain was bound to lose unless the war became a revolutionary war, with the Home Guard maybe playing the role of a People’s Militia.  But there is always reason and clarity in his writing and he draws attention to his own errors willingly.

Proust 

I’m still ploughing through the books; on the fourth one now (title?).  It strikes me that the Dreyfus case, which keeps popping up in the salons of St. Germain and elsewhere, divided France in much the same way as the Brexit issue has divided Britain, perhaps not yet with the same degree of venom – but give it time…

Best exhibitions last year

Rauschenberg (Tate Modern)

Jasper Johns (Royal Academy)

Soutine (Courtauld)

Kabakovs (Tate Modern)

Holbein, Da Vinci, the Caraccis et al (National Portrait Gallery)

Best Films 2017

Get Out (dir. Jordan Peele)

Dunkirk (dir. Christopher Nolan)

Blade Runner 2049 (dir. Denis Villeneuve)

Best books 2017

The Dream Colony, Walter Hopps and Deborah Triesman

Road to Somewhere, David Goodhart

Caravaggio (Taschen)

Best TV 2017

Howards End

League of Gentlemen

Babylon Berlin

Best DVDs I’ve seen in 2017

Il Topo (Jodorowsky, 1970)

Caravaggio (Derek Jarman, 1986)

Blade Runner – the final cut (Ridley Scott, 2007)

Mahler (Ken Russell)

Mauve Nude

 

Black and White

Blackpaint

1/1/2018

Happy New Year.

 

 

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Blackpaint 608 – Blade Runner, Blue Lamp, Johns, Dali and Duchamp

October 20, 2017

Jasper Johns 2 (RA)

Second selection from the Johns show at the Royal Academy.  It’s nearly as good as the Rauschenberg at Tate Modern a while ago; the Rausch had the edge for inventiveness and variety, but only just.  I love the splashy colours, the encaustic (waxy surfaces) and the combinations, like Rauschenberg’s – see below:

Johns, Field Painting, 1963-4

Neon light at the top – reminds me of Martial Raysse at the Pompidou a couple of years ago.   I wonder who did it first – probably came up with it independently and simultaneously.

 

Johns, Watchman, 1964

For a while, he liked sticking limbs on paintings; see the spotty arms below.  I think the chair raises “Watchman” aesthetically, though.

 

Johns, Perilous Night, 1982

 

Johns, Green Angel, 1990

Beginning to resemble Sigmar Polke a bit, in this one – but then, Polke was always really hard to categorize too.

 

Dali/ Duchamp (RA)

This is also on at the RA and so is Matisse in the Studio still – so a pretty good selection at the moment.  Dali/Duchamp, however, is thin and tendentious; what’s the connection?  As far as I can see, it is that they were close friends for a long time.  The fact that they are so different as artists is put forward as a further justification for a joint show – very different, but so friendly, there must be something interesting there…

Anyway, the R.Mutt urinal is there, as is the lobster telephone, the moustachio’d Mona Lisa and other old friends; also, the usual contrived “surreal” Dali paintings, like the one below.  I think Orwell got him about right in his essay “Benefit of Clergy”, back in the 40s.

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Dali, Apparition of Face and Fruit Dish on a Beach (1938)

 

Duchamp, The King and Queen Surrounded by Swift Nudes (1912)

 

The Bride Stripped Bare by her Bachelors, even.

(Duchamp 1915 – 23, reconstructed by Richard Hamilton)

 

Blade Runner 2049 (Denis Villeneuve, 2017)

Since I am in a dismissive mood, I might as well do this, as it has been roundly praised by all the critics I’ve read.  Not a patch on the original; it lacks the kinetic energy and whirling colour of Scott’s film and I found myself checking my watch about 40 minutes in.  There’s a crap Bond-type blind villain trying to create the perfect cross-over android (I think – attention strayed at this point)  There’s an entertaining blitzing battle in a scrapyard – but I’m sure I’ve seen something similar in a “Star Wars” somewhere or other.  There is dust and gloom and red haze (like last week here in London on Ophelia day – dust from the Sahara and smoke from Portuguese forest fires, apparently).

Strangely, towards the end, I felt the director thought it was taking too long to resolve; we were suddenly in small fighting rocket ships shooting at each other, just like the original Star Wars and then in a hand-to-hand fight to the death in a craft filling with water – so that was the reason for those earlier spectacular shots of the dam…  What is true of the film is that it is truly Dick-like in the ramifications of the story; much more coherent than Dick, in fact.  I’ve said elsewhere in this blog that Dick has great ideas and writes brilliant short stories, but his novels are all over the place.

The Blue Lamp (Basil Dearden, 1950)

This popped up on TV the other night and for the first time, I stayed with it, and was glad that I did.  First, it was a beautiful, clear, clean print, sharp and sparkling, as if made yesterday.  The story was tight and mostly credible and there was a great car chase around Ladbroke Grove, police bells ringing, schoolgirls crossing the road as the police car screams round the corner.  It was out of a past that felt very distant; the villains, the sweaty Bogarde and his mate spud (Patric Doonan) use a music hall appearance by Tessie O’Shea as an alibi for the robbery and shooting of PC Dixon; scruffy, dirty kids in long shorts and hand me downs play in the streets and by a canal.  Everyone  (adult) smokes, there are horses pulling various vehicles, there are real bomb sites.  Bogarde (Tom Riley, the shooter) looks like a desperado from an Italian neo-realist picture, with his mop of unruly hair and shabby sweater.

I wrote “mostly credible”; it went into fantasy a little way in the White City dog stadium sequence.  When the petty villains and tic-tac men (google it) join with the police in the search for Riley and signal his whereabouts in the stadium, I was reminded of Fritz Lang’s “M”, in which the hapless (and also sweaty) child killer Peter Lorre is hunted down and put on trial by the underworld; at least, I think that’s what happens – it’s hard to see through the cigarette smoke.

Did you notice the rhyming title?  Slick, eh?  Oh well, please yourselves…

Ophelia

Blackpaint

19/10/17

 

 

 

Blackpaint 607 – Dream Homebase, Queer Tate

October 2, 2017

Jasper Johns, RA

Unsurprisingly, the best art show in town (apart from the magical Holbeins at the NPG).  It doesn’t quite have the impact and variety of the recent Rauschenberg at TM, but maybe it suffers a bit by coming after.  I’ll be going again, probably several times, so below are just a few of the delights on display. They are mostly of one type, the splashy, multi coloured early ones.  In addition, there are (of course) the flags and targets; the metal beer cans, torches, paintbrushes, spectacles; the combinations (broom, severed, spotted arm, piece of wire); the several-panelled pieces combining paint and silkscreen, again, like Rauschenberg.  Anyway, I shall return…

 

 

Painting with Two Balls, 1960

 

No (I think); note the wire structure attached, hard to see in this photo, reminiscent of Rauschenberg.

 

Rachel Whiteread, Tate Britain

This is like a visit in a dream to Homebase; or no, more a building supplies warehouse, Jewsons maybe?  Doors and windows and little model houses made of mauve, orange or green resins; fireplaces and bathtubs and mattresses made of moulded concrete or plaster or plastics; a little group of moulded hot water bottles in pastel-shaded plaster; great piles of shuttering, is it? in white concrete; also in white concrete, a central block of upside-down stairs.  There is a block of resin in the exact shade of those cider ice lollies you used to get, that lost their colour as you sucked on them and some intriguing dark grey moulded (actually, pretty much everything is moulded) plaques made from papier-machee, “spattered” with primary colour.  A selection of her rather delicate drawings and plans down at the far end of the warehouse.

 

Queer Tate Britain

The Queer Art exhibition is still on at TB; I notice that there are now a series of toilet options, a development perhaps related to the show .  The old male and female (though indicated by picture, I think, rather than the somewhat brutal categorising terms I have used) and two “Non-gendered” options.  These last also have pictures of wheelchairs, so it may be that they have always been there and I never noticed them; I am sure the non-gender descriptions are new, though.

Also, there is a sketchbook on sale, entitled “Erotic Fantasies” or some such, by the great Keith Vaughan.  These are not stylised, Tom of Finland-type cartoons, but naturalistic depictions of  various sex acts between males.  I would say “realistic”, but the equipment on display in the drawings is rather small…  Good to see that TB isn’t afraid to sell gay porn; maybe they think the quality of the drawings is justification (maybe it is).

Victoria and Albert Museum Theatre Room

This is a brilliant, quiet bit of the museum, top of the stairs and through the darkened jewellery room; videos, miniature stage sets, posters, costumes – Fred Astaire must have been really short, judging by the tails he wore in “Shall We Dance?” – puppets, memorabilia.  Some images below, including my favourite poster for “Bartholomew Fair” and the poster that provided title and characters for “Being for the Benefit of Mr. Kite”, from the Sergeant Pepper album.

 

 

While there, see the fantastic tapestries next door, and the Turner and Constable oil sketches in another adjacent room – much better than many of their more elaborate “worked-up” paintings in ornate gold-leaf frames.

 

Constable

 

Sluice Biennial

This art fair is taking place at various venues (a container block tower, underneath arches) around Hackney Central.  It ends tomorrow.  I was struck by those paintings which were representational in some way – they looked to be strongly influenced by one or more of the following: George Condo, Luc Tuymans and William Sasnal.  Maybe a little bit of Ryan Mosley too.  This seems to be a common matrix of influences these days; at the Saatchi Gallery, for example.

Two new ones of mine, to finish with:

Bridge

Blackpaint

Green Split

Blackpaint

02/10/17

 

 

 

 

 

 

Blackpaint 580 – The Best Exhibitions of the Year (and the worst…)

December 29, 2016

Compulsory Annual Review time

Kicking off with exhibitions, in order of merit (sort of):

Abstract Expressionism, RA

Room after room of masterpieces; the (first) red de Kooning and Joan Mitchell’s “Salut Tom” get my prize, but it’s all good stuff.

dk-at-ra

Robert Rauschenberg, Tate Modern

Staggering – although I don’t think he’s a “modern Da Vinci”; his inventiveness is confined to the art world.  I loved everything except the bubbling mud bath.

rob-estate

Hieronymus Bosch, s’Hertegenbosch, Netherlands

Exploding with imagination and an exquisite painter.  Everything on sale in town has a “Bosch” trademark.

bosch john the baptist

Saul Leiter, Photographers Gallery/William Eggleston, National Portrait Gallery

Separate exhibitions but equally brilliant – by sticking them together, I get one more place on my top ten.  Leiter made me think of Cheever and Norman Rockwell; Eggleston of “Psycho” and Arbus.  But they are both much more than that…

saul postmen

Leiter

eggleston 2

Eggleston

Intrigue, James Ensor, RA

Surprisingly brilliant, amazingly varied – and still on, like AbEx and Rauschenberg.

ensor-rhubarb

He does a scintillating vegetable and his skate is rather alarming (see below) – see also Chardin and Soutine for two other skates – but not a pair.

Ensor_TheSkate

William Kentridge, Whitechapel

I think it’s his flick book pictures I like best.

kentridge-1

 

Robert Motherwell, Bernard Jacobson Gallery

mother-4

Round the corner from the other AbExes at the RA, some lovely big pictures that were NOT from the “Requiem for the Spanish Civil War” group.

Etel Adnan, Sackler

Israeli artist; earlier pictures better, I think, reminiscent of de Stael.  Terrific colour and texture.

adnan2

Mary Heilmann, Whitechapel

Any other year, she would have been higher on the list.  I don’t like the spots and the nursery colours, however.

mary heilmann3

 

Russian Portraits, National Portrait Gallery

A revelation, before the Revolution (sorry).  Repin, Serov.. brilliant.

Russia Morozov

 

The list doesn’t include Baselitz, Paul Nash, Terence Donovan, Botticelli, Delacroix, Infinite Mix, Turner Prize (!), Saatchi Champagne Life…. what can you do?  An exceptionally brilliant year in every respect, except the US election, terrorist attacks, foreign wars, global warming…

Disappointing…

Georgia O’ Keefe at Tate Modern.  Well, not really – just don’t like her stuff generally (although I DO like the one below).

okmountain

Also disappointing…

Winifred Knights, Dulwich Picture Gallery

The Deluge 1920 Winifred Knights 1899-1947 Purchased with assistance from the Friends of the Tate Gallery 1989 http://www.tate.org.uk/art/work/T05532

Too mannered.And…

Wifredo Lam, Tate Modern

lam

Too black and white.  OK, films, museums, DVDs, theatre tomorrow.

lvg3

Cleveland Way, 82

Blackpaint

29/12/16

 

 

 

 

Blackpaint 579 – Hanging Buckets, Wedding Cakes and Birds’ Nests

December 22, 2016

Rauschenberg, Combines and Appel

Appel

Appel, 1950

A brief blog before Christmas.  Warning: some “challenging” material below!

While visiting the brilliant Rauschenberg exhibition at Tate Modern and noting the variety and incongruity of the objects attached to his various “Combines” (a sock, a boot, electric fans, a ceramic dog, numerous parasols and parachutes, lightbulbs and lumps of metal), I remembered this piece made by Karel Appel in 1950, some ten years(?) before Robert began his.  Not only does it have a bucket hanging from it, but it’s painted on a barn door.

Apparently, Appel and his associates made a number of these combines in the late 40s/early 50s; maybe Rauschenberg knew of them (via his tutor at Black Mountain, Joseph Albers) – or maybe it’s coincidence, a sort of parallel evolution.

That would be a great exhibition for 2017 at TM – Appel, Jorn and CoBrA –  and/or Appel and other Dutch modernists, Nanninga, Wagemaker, Oepts, Bram van Velde et al…  No chance, I suppose.

Feminist Avant-Garde Art of the 70s, The Photographers’ Gallery

ulrike-rosenbach

Ulrike Rosenbach, Art is a Criminal Act

(Rosenbach is the one on the left – and right).

 

fem6

Hannah Wilke, SOS

fem3

Penny Slinger, Wedding Invitation (1973)

 

fem4

Birgit Jurgenssen, Nest (1979)

I didn’t notice, I promise, how these four images make pairs that echo each other until I’d put them in.

fem5

lynda-benglis

Lynda Benglis (in action, 1969)

It was a surprise to me to realise how familiar many of these images are to me, an old white man – the candour and wit on display here must have driven quite deep into my psyche.  Then again, it could be because the artists were young and beautiful  and not averse, to say the least, to posing naked; and since many works parodied the exploitative cliches of advertising, art etc., this would have been unavoidable.

The only really shocking image is the cover photo of a French magazine, showing the body of a young woman victim of the Hillside Strangler (two perpetrators acting together, as it turned out), surrounded by police and photographers on a hill above LA.  This occasioned a protest event featured in the exhibition.

Missed marketing opportunity by the PG; in a corner vitrine, you can see a copy – maybe the only one – of “The Cunt Colouring Book”.  With the recent vogue for adult colouring books and Christmas coming up, a repro could do well…

Lord Halifax’s Ghost Book – The Bordeaux Diligence

My second surprise of the week was to come across this story in this lovely book, published in 1936 (my Fontana paperback edition is from 1961 – we are promised on the back that “your flesh will creep; you’ll bolt your doors to no avail”), which is worthy of a Bunuel film, or a segment in one at least.

van-gogh-diligence

A Frenchman is asked by an old woman to do her a favour; will he ask that gendarme at what time the Bordeaux Diligence (a horse-drawn carriage) starts?  In all innocence, he does so – and he is arrested and taken to court.  When he repeats his question in court, the shocked judge sends him to a penal colony.  he hasn’t learned his lesson yet; he tells the governor why he is there – and ends up in solitary confinement.  And so on.  Eventually, he gets home and spots the old woman.  She agrees to tell him the reason for his misfortune – but when he stoops to hear her explanation, she bites his ear and drops dead.

 

lvg2

The Black Sea, December

Happy Christmas to all my readers.

Blackpaint 

22/12/16

 

 

Blackpaint 578 – Rauschenberg, Johns, John and Schvendel

December 13, 2016

Rauschenberg at Tate Modern

Have now visited this three times; it is FANTASTIC (sorry to shout).  There is one beautiful room with a huge Combine called “Ace”, which I wrote about last week; see below.  you have to visit though, because the photo doesn’t do it justice.  Blues, yellows, rose red swatches and swags of paint; a wooden plaque with the title stuck at the top. a screwed-up rag rather like a dragon crouching on its surface.

ace

Ace, Rauschenberg (1962)

In the same room, a pair of panels in red and white, one  with a pair of electric fans attached on opposite sides of the painting, a swirling mass of silver, cream and pink brushstrokes enclosed between; the other (below), with wire coils, a watch and a piece of metal bolted on.

 

rob-combine

Also in this room, see and marvel at “Gold Standard”, the gold screen with an HMV dog attached (also an old boot).  “Black Market” and the one in the corner with the two panels divided by a short ladder – they are all great.  This room alone is a breathtaking exhibition, but there is much more:

The silkscreens with paint on, best of which is “Estate” –

rob-estate

Estate 

The cardboard sculptures, like the one below, with the “exploded” section:

rob-cardboard

The “Gluts”, metal scrapyard pieces (see below):

rob-sunset-glut

Sunset Glut

rob-stop-sign-early-winter-glut

Stop Side Early Winter Glut, 1987

And the “Jammers” (flag/banner pieces), “Oracle”, a five-piece sculpture made from stripped-down car door, air conditioning unit et al, all mounted on little wheels, several landmark pieces, such as the erased de Kooning drawing, the “crime scene” bed, “Monogram” (the goat in the tyre, which Alistair Sooke described as a metaphor for homosexual intercourse – a suggestion which visibly shocked a woman curator on an excellent BBC2 documentary on Rauschenberg the other day) – and loads more (dance videos, old socks, parasols and parachutes, bubbling mud, a ladder to a porthole to the wall, a sketchy toothbrush…).

What I like about Rauschenberg is the colour – and the texture, of course, but the colour is beautiful.  He uses that yellow over and over again, the one on the bent fenders in “Sunset Glut”.  They are sort of industrial, but beautiful.

Interesting to see his clear influence on Johns – not surprising, really – who was hanging brooms on his pictures and inserting balls into crevices within pictures, and painting in those big swatches too; maybe he was the influence, but my money is on Rausch, given his later diversity.  Also, there was an Appel abstract, with a bucket dangling from it, which I wrote about some time back; must look it up.

johns-according

According to What, Jasper Johns (1964)

Schvendel

I have to mention “Schwendel” again; in the film “Painters Painting”, Rauschenberg is interviewed about his Red Paintings and speaking about how red has a lot of black in it, he says something like “..it’s the abundance of colour in the painting, rather than the schvendel of the painting…”??  I can’t find the word anywhere; does anyone know what schvendel is?

Elton John’s photo collection, Tate Modern

Rather gone over the top on Rauschenberg, and will be going back there, so only a quick superficial mention of this exhibition in the Switch Room.  Several Penns, mostly, like Stravinsky, celebrities squashed into a corner of a bare room…

penn-stravinsky

Igor Stravinsky, Irving Penn

John seems to have Hoovered up a set of the most well-known images from the USA, USSR (Rodchenko) and elsewhere;

1936 --- Florence Owens Thompson, 32, a poverty-stricken migrant mother with three young children, gazes off into the distance. This photograph, commissioned by the FSA, came to symbolize the Great Depression for many Americans. --- Image by © CORBIS

Dorothea Lange

Also, several of those Man Ray photos with the thin black line round the image, like that of Sir Kenneth Clark’s wife.

The Godfather 

At my eldest son’s wedding on Saturday, speeches over, sitting waiting for the food, on my fourth (or fifth) prosecco refill; looking around –  radiant bride in white, no.1 son, lovely wife, the other two “boys” in sharp suits with cream ties, deep in conversation with their neighbours at table, I had that slow-motion film cliche moment again: a huge, tongue-tied minion, uncomfortable and sweating in his tight suit, approaches me deferentially, hands me an envelope stuffed with banknotes and addressing me as Don Chich, assures me of his everlasting loyalty on the occasion of the marriage of my son….and then I woke up, prosecco coming round again..

lvg1

First of a set of ten paintings on theme of time and place, this is November Lisbon.

Blackpaint

13/12/16

Blackpaint 577 – Saatchi Painters, Russian Painters, Russell and the Little People

December 4, 2016

Painters’ Painters, Saatchi Gallery

The only common denominator for these painters is the fact that they ARE painters – supposedly a rarity in this age of video and multi-media installation.  Actually, on reflection, there is another thing they have in common; the deadness of the painted surface.  None of them seem to glow; there is a liverish colour that many share in their backgrounds – as far as I can make out, it seems to be a mix of crimson, grey and maybe insipid cream, and/or mauve.  Where they are bright (as in Bjarne Melgaard, below), they are livid; still no glow.  The photographs actually glamourise the paintings a bit.

One other common factor – they’re all men.  But, to be fair, there are three women artists exhibiting individually in the upper galleries, and the last main exhibition was all women…

 

ryan-mosleysaatch

Ryan Mosley

 

ryan-mosleysaatch2

Ryan Mosley

 

saatchi-4

Bjarne Melgaard

 

saatchi-5

Don’t know who did this one, but I love that right buttock…

The reason I made the adverse comments about colour is that I’ve twice visited the stupendous Rauschenberg exhibition at Tate Modern this week and the colours are rich and glowing.  The most staggering work – and there are many – is the Combine “Ace” (below), no photo of which comes anywhere near doing it justice.  Review next blog.

ace

Robert Rauschenberg, Ace.  This pic doesn’t do it justice, it has to be seen in the flesh, so to speak.

 

Also at Saatchi…  Not part of “Painters Painting”, there are separate exhibitions in the upper galleries by Phoebe Unwin and Mequitta Ahuja.

Phoebe Unwin

unwinsaatch

I love this imprisoning criss-cross patterning.  Other works here by Unwin suggestive of Gerhard Richter’s faded photo style.

 

Mequitta Ahuja

woman

I still think there is a hint of Ofili in these great action portraits (surely selfies) of a woman with a cast in one eye.

 

Bloomberg New Contemporaries, ICA

Several arresting works, including these two:

Janina Lange, Shooting Clouds (video)

bloomberg-2

Jamie Fitzpatrick, The King (wax sculpture)

bloomberg-3

Revolution – New Art for a New World (Margy Kinmonth, 2016) – ICA

Fascinating documentary made by Kinmonth based on research in the Russian archives and interviews with curators and descendants of the artists discussed. The usual suspects are there; Malevich, Kandinsky, Chagall, Rodchenko – but also lesser known artists, namely:

Filonov, Lentulov, Klutsis, Konchalovsky, Popova, Stepanova and Petrov-Vodkin.

klutsis

Klutsis

 

petrov-vodkin

Petrov-Vodkin

The history is sort of GCSE level, but I guess Kinmonth wanted to get onto the art as soon as possible, so fair enough.  It’s sobering to remember the fate of some of these artists, in particular Klutsis and Meyerhold, the theatre director, both of whom were shot, after vicious beatings and torture in the case of Meyerhold.  Why? To wring out vital information about directing and screenprinting?

 

Dante’s Inferno, Ken Russell (1967)

oliver-and-gala

Oliver Reed and co-smoulderer Gala Mitchell as (respectively) Dante Gabriel Rossetti and Jane Morris, in this fabulous Ken Russell film for the BBC, made in 1967.  According to Russell’s film editor, Michael Bradsell, Reed had three “settings” – Smoulder 1, 2 and 3.  Russell would simply call out the number he wanted and Reed would deliver the appropriate intensity of smouldering look.

 

Little People

A couple of my life paintings to finish, from my series “Little People” (actually, it’s the canvases that are little, not the people – but anyway…)

little-people-faun

Faun’s Afternoon

little-people-man-sitting-uncomfortably

Man Sitting Uncomfortably

Blackpaint

4/12/16

Blackpaint 472 Lard, Lilith and Daybreak in Paris

December 8, 2014

Nefertiti again

Reading my Phaidon “30,000 Years of Art”, I find that the astounding head in the Berlin Neues Museum was done as a sort of template for Nefertiti heads – it wasn’t even intended as a masterpiece, but as a pattern!  The unpainted eye was on the less important side; apparently, the right profile was the important one in Egyptian culture (but what about figures “walking” towards the left?  Are they all looking behind them?).  No, of course they’re not – I just checked.

nefertiti2

 

 

The Hauptbahnhoff Museum

This is an old station, converted;  it has a vast central hall, with a series of display galleries to the left and right of the entrance and downstairs, long corridors of white walls, opening on big and small white chambers, packed with great stuff – although not really “packed”; loads of room,so well spaced out.  There is so much fantastic stuff in here that I can only mention a few pieces (why? – because otherwise I’ll be writing this for ever and I want to publish and go to bed).

First, to the left, for Beuys.  There’s the old felt suit, shoals of blackboards with his crazy lecture notes all over them, rusted iron rails attached to an iron cannon barrel with an iron man’s head poking out – iron’s wired up, something to do with iron storing electric earth energy like a battery….  But the standout exhibit is a roomful of giant blocks of “tallow” – not candle wax but lard.  It’s made from mutton fat, leavened with some beef fat to stiffen it and moulded into blocks by the contours of some underground subway on a new concrete estate. He had been invited to celebrate the completion of the estate with an appropriate work.  Some of the chunks are strapped together with bolted metal struts, some are wired up to detect heat in the centre to see if they had solidified.

No doubt, those who invited Beuys’ contribution were well pleased.

photo 1

 

Blocks of lard, Joseph Beuys 

There is a room of Warhols, giant prints of kitchen knives, flowers (green and blue), Elvis with the six-gun, and a HUGE face of Chairman Mao, surrounded by slapdash strokes of yellow paint.  There is also that horrible ambulance crash, with the dead woman hanging backwards out of the smashed window; I couldn’t see how such a crash could have happened – I wonder if it was staged in some way.  Then again, he used other shocking images that were not staged, like the woman jumping to her death from the flat…

Moving on from Mao, there are four or five big Twomblys, the usual fragments and scribbles, looking indefinably great somehow and three fabulous Rauschenbergs (see below).

photo 1 (1)

 

photo 2 (2)

photo 2

Just a little bit like Karel Appel, I think.

Now Kiefer.

Three things: a parody of a wedding dress, on a stand, penetrated with great shards of broken glass, like that of a reinforced window; a huge, black, wooden plaque, scarred and scored, with cartoonish portraits of great figures of German and world history (I think Bismarck and Einstein both there).  Finally, on end wall, “Lilith” – a long plaque of grey lead, with big, loose lead rolls and sheets attached; in the centre, a number of little girls’ dresses. half-painted over and stuck on.  There is a blurb on the wall about Lilith, Adam’s first wife in the Kabbala and the legend – but anyone can see it’s about the camps, whatever Kiefer might say; in that respect, he’s a prisoner of German history.

photo 1 (2)

 

Lilith, Anselm  Kiefer 

Of the rest, Katharina Grosse reminded me a little of Kiefer in the use of two felled trees for her exhibit; he goes in for using entire felled trees on occasion.  As can be seen below, however, Grosse uses distinctly unKiefer-like spray colours on her trees; Anselm sticks to silver and gold, browns, black, greys and white, pretty much.

photo 2 (1)

 

Le Jour se Leve, Marcel Carne, 1939

At last out on DVD, the great Jean Gabin, on his push-bike, with that slouchy flat cap and the ribbed sweater; working class hero, holed up in his attic room, chain smoking, besieged by the flics, awaiting daybreak and the inevitable.  I was astounded to see a brief – but not that brief – shot of Arletty totally starkers; a surprise to say the least, seeing as it was made in 1938 or 9.  It mirrors the fall of the Popular Front, according to the commentary on the DVD.

The Narrow Road to the Deep North, Richard Flanagan

I’m only about half way through, but I’m seriously wondering how this won the Booker Prize.  Apart from the laughable and well-publicised sex scenes  and the interminable, slushy affair that bogs down the first half, there’s a bit of a problem with the camp scenes; he’s inclined to do that Gallipoli thing where they ‘re all larrikins, ex-shearers, roo hunters, prospectors… He actually says at one point that they have arrived in the prison camp from the 19th century.  He seemed like a nice bloke on the telly, though, and there is the fact that his father was a POW of the Japanese and died before it was published.  Maybe the judges have been softened up by all the WWI stuff.  Or maybe they haven’t read any of those red-spined Corgi war paperbacks from the 50s and 60s, RH Whitecross’s “Slaves of the Son of Heaven”, for example.

 

photo

 WIP,

Blackpaint

08.12.14

 

 

 

 

 

Blackpaint 405 – Rembrandt’s Mother, Mating Slugs and Shipwrecks

July 20, 2013

Top of The Lake

Holly Hunter as GJ shaping up already to be the most irritating act on TV, with Peter Mullan’s as the character you would most like to see blasted with a shotgun.  Is rural New Zealand really like this?  Those two from “Flight of the Conchords” seemed harmless enough.

Bought with Love BBC4

Prog about early private collections in England.  Many astonishing paintings, but the one that stuck in my mind’s eye was the portrait of Rembrandt’s mother at Wilton House; the old woman’s face seems to be coming out of the picture towards you, while the papers she is reading stay below within the bounds of the canvas.

rembrandts mother

OK, that effect not so obvious here, but on the telly….

Uzak

It means “distance”.  2002 film by Nuri Bilge Ceylan of “Once Upon a Time in Anatolia”.  Ravishing shots of Istanbul in snowstorm, especially scenes in the docks that remind one of “Red Desert” somehow.  There is a whole ship tipped over on its  side; the cranes and containers under the snow inevitably recall Brueghel, and therefore Tarkovsky – obvious tribute here, I think the video which Mahmut watches is “Stalker”; that is, until he swaps it for a porn film…  You can hear owls hooting in the night streets of Istanbul, apparently.  And I’m only halfway through…

Roberto Zabetta at the Ronchini Gallery in Dering Street

Huge, black and grey, swirling, sliding paint on canvas – “rhythmic spurts of paint and expressive brush strokes”…  like half a Rauschenberg, without the graphics.

Lun Tuchnowski at Annely Juda (next door to Ronchini) 

Fantasy metal helmets, like Lord of the Rings props, one like a Mickey Mouse Club hat, another with hedgehog spikes;  dangling, entwined, metal tubes and coils, like giant slugs mating; a wall full of giant, pouting bronze lips; a huge, plastic or fibre glass coloured wheel and bobbin, like space  escape capsule and marker buoy.

Also at Annely Juda, the Russian Club present Wonderland (?) 

Not sure exactly what this is all about – they’re not Russians; but there is a very striking video of an artist nursing his bare right leg – I think its his right – as if it were a baby.  After watching for a few moments, you do get the illusion that it is actually detached…

Bernard Jacobson Gallery, Cork Street – Robert Motherwell collages

Big, rather simple collages, usually consisting of one or two stuck-on paper components, a magazine or ticket, say, with coloured and striped background.  Reminded me somewhat of the Kitaj collages at the British Museum prints and drawing room.  Very different to the Schwitters collages, which usually consist of far more disparate elements assembled in a pictorial way – not sure that makes sense, I just mean the Motherwells are bigger and more simple.

Daughters of Mars, Thomas Kenneally

The early parts of this book about Australian nurses in WWI are riveting; Gallipoli, the sinking of the Archimedes… second half. however, while still readable, beginning to remind me of those prestige costume dramas you get on Sunday on BBC; Birdsong, maybe, or the Paradise.  Kenneally, interviewed at Hay Festival, did say one interesting thing, though; that authors (I think he meant male ones) write about sex far more than they actually get it – wonder if that applied to Salter, in his younger days of course.. he is 87 now..but then again, you never know.

 

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Blackpaint

20.07.13

Blackpaint 330 – Guns, Knives, Spaghetti and Rubbish

March 12, 2012

Niki de Saint Phalle

I have been looking at her “Shooting Piece” for many short periods, during the last 11 days – reason being, it’s on the March page of our Tate calendar, which hangs on the toilet door.  On Saturday, at the Tate, I had the chance to look at it in the flesh, or rather, plaster.  It’s a white plaque of thick, rumpled plaster, down which several trails of paint –  red, blue, yellow, violet – have been allowed to dribble.  It seems that she put paint into polythene bags, buried them in the plaster, and invited fellow artists – Jasper Johns and Robert Rauschenberg – to fire bullets into the work.  The paint released then ran down, in and out of the ridges randomly (sorry about the inadvertent alliteration).

I like the work; I find it pleasing visually and quite memorable.  I think I could have gone on liking the work and not knowing how it was produced, without being troubled by it.  Or rather, now that I know, it doesn’t alter my feelings in any way.  Is it now a joint work by Saint Phalle, JJ and RR?  Does the element of chance add or subtract meaning?   Not for me; I respond to its looks, not the information I have about its origins, the intentions of the artist, its context, in short.  Very shallow, maybe, but a good rule of thumb in galleries – unless you want to spend a lot of time peering at wall info, or blocking everybody’s view while you listen to some long audio commentary.

Igor and Svetlana Kopystansky

I watched their film, made in Chelsea district of NY over 2 years.  Called “Incidents”, it’s basically rubbish blowing about the streets in strong winds.  It’s hard to avoid the thought that they may have cheated by introducing particularly interesting bits of rubbish – why is this cheating?  Don’t know – it turns the film into something manufactured, rather than observed (but editing, which they of course did, does that as well).  Completely contradicts what I said about Saint Phalle, but blogger’s privilege…  Anyway, these plastic bags, cartons, bits and pieces slide and whirl about, occasionally pouncing on other bits like predators or mating insects.  Reminded me of one of those Czech cartoons you used to get on TV when they had a slot to fill.

Alighiero Boetti

At the Tate Modern.  Starts with a bunch of Arte Povera pieces, such as a perspex cube containing a sort of chest made from a variety of brown materials like bamboo and spaghetti; huge rolls of stiff paper, pulled out like a giant’s toilet roll.  Lots of writings on large yellowing paper sheets, noughts and crosses, alphabets, little broken symbols like Braille crossed with pixcels (not easy on the eye. requiring close study); letter/word colour tiles, that were almost the same as pieces by Gavin Turk, shown in a weekend paper a couple of weeks ago – some sort of hommage, presumably?

Aircraft drawn on blue in biro, apparently,; “Tutti” – tapestry wall hangings with everything in them, crammed in – bones, horses, people, trumpets…..; and the famous Afghan map hangings in bright colours, countries with flags embroidered on them.  Did it in 20 minutes, having not been stirred to serious thought or moved to tears by visual splendours.  I’d put it in the same slot as the Orozco show, a while back.

Colquhoun and MacBryde

I was interested to read in the Bristow book, “The Last Bohemians”, that Ken Russell made a BBC film about them for Monitor – only 10 minutes long, entitled “Scottish Painters”.  From Bristow’s description, it sounds like a serious study of their painting techniques and work.  A few years later, when Ken was in more florid mode,  would he have included the scene, related by Bristow, of a drunken, naked Colquhoun chasing a drunken, naked MacBryde around a front garden in Wembley, waving a knife. and lit up by occasional lightning?  I don’t think he could have resisted..

Stained Glass

Blackpaint

12/3/12