Posts Tagged ‘Roger Hilton’

Blackpaint 512 – Walker Gallery, Pasolini, Andrei and two Enricos

September 20, 2015

Walker Art Gallery, Liverpool

Excellent collections, notably of previous John Moores winners; the Roger Hilton is still the best for my money, but then I’m a fleabitten retro.

hilton moores

 

Other treasures, ancient and modern, below:

Gillian Ayres, Aeolus

gillian ayres aeolus

Fantastic; texture, colour, control – but not too much…

Allen Jones, Hermaphrodite

allen jones hermaphrodite

This Jones reminded me of the Chagall below, which is in the Pompidou Centre collection.  Not a serious comparison, just the panel shape and the shape of the images, somehow…

 

chagall pomp

 

Attributed to Nicholas Hilliard, Elizabeth I

hilliard

Hilliard is known as a miniaturist, of course, but this is full size.  It’s still has that jewel-like intensity of the miniatures.

 

roscoe

These “two pictures” in the Roscoe Collection were bought separately but were part of the same altarpiece (see pattern on dress).

Nostalgia, Tarkovsky

domiziana giordano

Poor Eugenia (Domiziana Giordano, above); she’s desperate to sleep with Andrei, the Russian poet she is translating for, but he, understandably, is more interested in the mentally ill man who is trying to save the world by walking through the water of a spa baths with a lighted candle.  The ending is still harrowing, as Domenico (the mad man) sets fire to himself and crawls, screaming, in flames, through the Roman square.  The very last scene has the poet in a Russian(?) landscape with horses, his family and that of Domenico’s looking on in silence – the whole landscape enclosed by the cloistering walls of a gigantic abbey.  Stunning, but what does it mean? Something mystical, probably, but what does it matter?

Pasolini, Abel Ferrara 

Not really a biopic, this is concerned with the period leading up to Pasolini’s murder in a seaside carpark in 1975, beaten and run over with his own car – opportunistic, homophobic or political (inevitable conspiracy theories).  It should be said, though of no interest to me, that there’s some spectacular close-up oral sex (male on rent boy) and more sex in a fantasy sequence from the film that Pasolini never got made; beautiful lesbians and gays copulating in a one-night-only festival to “propagate the species”; spectacular sex, spectacular fireworks.

William Dafoe is made for the part and brings his usual intensity (today’s word) to the role – but not much is made of the director’s  rather interesting politics.  I understand that Pasolini, a Marxist, was unusual – unique? – among European left intellectuals in NOT supporting the student movement in 1968; he saw the students as bourgeois and the police fighting them as members of the working class.  There is some socio-political chat, not terribly clear , and some spectacular images, notably of the Fascist building and statuary in Rome, the Palazzo della Civilta Italiana.

fascist palace

Midnight Cowboy, John Schlesinger, 1969

Bought the DVD for relief from Tarkovsky, put it on late Friday night and forced myself to turn it off at 2.00am.  Then hadto start it again last night and watch it straight through.  Voigt and Dustin Hoffman are brilliant of course, and Sylvia Miles and Brenda Vaccaro – I love the switching from colour to sepia –  although not new, maybe it was in Hollywood.  Voigt’s buckskin jacket getting greasier as he walks the mean streets, Enrico’s filthy apartment. the sweat on his feverish face as he lights yet another butt.  Then, just for a second, I thought I saw Bob Odenkirk’s  Saul in Hoffman.  I don’t know, really.

midnight Cowboy

Caruso

The other Enrico.  I’ve got a collection of his singles on cassette – most of them recorded over 100 years ago!  Fantastic, creaky orchestras, crackly, dramatic delivery, sobbing, soaring, sometimes surprisingly sweet – “Vesti la Giubba”,  “E lucevan le stelle”, Handel’s Largo. Brings tears to the eyes, still.

Grongar Hill

I love these lines from Dyer’s “Grongar Hill” ; similar sentiment to Shelley’s “Ozymandias”:

“A little Rule, little Sway,

A Sun-beam in a Winter’s day

Is all the Proud and Mighty have,

Between the Cradle and the Grave.”

RIP Brian.

sidelined

Work Still in Progress

Blackpaint

20.09.15

 

 

 

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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.

korakrit

 

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.

 

gaudier1

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.

bortnyik1

 

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.

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For Derrida, Blackpaint

21.11.14

 

 

 

 

 

Blackpaint 420 – Australia at the RA; Whiteley’s Murder Pictures

November 7, 2013

Australia at the Royal Academy

This exhibition has had an astonishingly savage reception in some quarters, notably from Waldemar Januszczak and from Brian Sewell, who slates the aboriginal painters as ravaged by alcohol and trotting out pictures that are meaningless, when divorced from their ritual tribal functions.  Adrian Searle is also exercised by the omissions and patchiness of the show.  Clearly, it has bitten off too much to chew – impossible to do a whole continent thoroughly, with the rich and complex aboriginal cultures and the European tradition.  Still, there’s some great stuff to see, so you can go and be stimulated and entertained AND pontificate about how sketchy and incomplete the exhibition is…

To start with the aboriginal paintings; they are segregated from the others for the most part.  They are surprisingly huge and striking; there is one that is just like a Per Kirkeby, red, pink and white in a tower- or hill- like structure.  Another in this first room is a huge white square with pink and blue borders, with a wave-like swoosh in the centre; it looks like a tapestry.  Everywhere there are concentric circles, stars, giant figures built from blobs and stars of paint; “Cyclone Tracy” by Rover Thomas, a black funnel-shaped swathe through a striped landscape; another showing the story of a cannibal old woman who lived in a cave and ate kidnapped children.  It’s like a map – a blob in the middle is the woman’s cave.

australia3

Cyclone Tracy by Rover Thomas

There are paintings from the early days of European settlement; a couple that look almost like Caspar David Friedrich.  the early Euros obviously had difficulty seeing with “Australian” eyes.  Later, there are the Australian Impressionists, Roberts and Streeton etc. ; diggings, camps, sheep shearing; a great picture, “Lost”, a girl adrift in a eucalyptus forest; a radiant moonrise, a pink/grey dawn.  if you stand in the centre of the room, you can see there is an Australian colour set – dusty, tawny, orange but bleached out.

Then, we are at the modernist section; Sidney Harbour Bridge, painted by Grace Cossington Smith , who also painted the beautiful screen, like something Duncan Grant might have painted at Charleston.  Flesh hunks roasting on a beach, the sand and sea represented by blazing bands of yellow and blue; a collection of athletic, Lempicka-like figures tossing balls to each other, showing off.

Now the Nolans; several Ned Kellys – police at a burning beacon, Ned’s sister quilting the inside of his helmet, the shootout at Glenrowan.  And an odd one with a parrot (see below).

australia2

Now the 60s 0n – a Brett Whiteley of a bay, orange with small boats –

australia1

Olsen’s “Sydney Sun”, which hangs above you like a mirror over a bed – so I’m told – a bilious yellow, and compared by Januszczak to diarrhoea; two pictures by Fred Williams, small fragments and twists of paint in flat landscapes of grey and brown; a black and white Fairweather, a lot like Bryan Wynter and an enormous Arthur Boyd – a roughly drawn white figure, like a Bacon, on a black background, with a window looking out on a blazing white yard.

In the later galleries, two things of note – Fiona Hall’s set of opened sardine tins, with silver trees growing from the tops, containing not sardines, but penises, vaginas, and other “artefacts of a sexual nature”.  And a great abstract landscape, brown, grey, splattered, brushwork rather like Rose Wylie, with a bright, cream channel down the middle.  I think it was by Elizabeth Cummings but I can’t find it on the net.  Anyway, great exhibition, despite the savaging.

Brett Whiteley

I was so impressed by this painter that I bought the Thames and Hudson “Art and Life” catalogue at the RA.  The influences on him are quite obvious;  Diebenkorn in the early abstracts, maybe a little Adrian Heath too; William Scott – there’s a frying pan – and Roger Hilton, in the drawn line.  In both the drawings and the paintings, line and colour, Francis Bacon.  But he’s so good that he’s much more than the sum of these influences.  I prefer the earlier stuff, but fantastic.

The Christie Pictures

In the mid 60s, Whiteley was living in London and he became interested in the sex murders carried out in Notting Hill by John Christie in the 40s and 50s at 10 Rillington Place.  Whiteley did a series of paintings and drawings relating to the murders, some depicting Christie actually carrying out the killings.  The paintings are indistinct; they show naked bodies (Christie and the victim) fragmented and entwined and several show the penis-like nozzle of the gas pipe he used to gas the women.

When you flick through the book, you are struck first by how great the drawings and paintings are and you derive pleasure from them.  Then you read the titles, and you are repelled by the subject matter.  Still great art though?  see what you think.

christie1

christie2

I suppose there is a precedent for this; Sickert’s depiction of the Camden Town murder, say – or the Goya Disasters of War.  The sexual content in the Whiteleys adds another disturbing layer, though.  I wonder where they are – it’s hard to imagine anyone having them on the living room wall.  I bet they’re in storage in a gallery archive.

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The Stadium

Blackpaint

7/11/13

Blackpaint 418 – Whiteley, Schendel, Shining and Drowning

October 24, 2013

Brett Whiteley

I’d hardly heard of the above Australian artist until I saw “Art of Australia” this week.  What a brilliant painter he was  (died of an overdose in 1993); earlier stuff looked like Diebenkorn a bit – later, shades of Roger Hilton, Bacon and, I think, Scarfe and/or Steadman.  He mixed abstract, figurative, letters, techniques in a manner reminiscent of Albert Oelhen (but before Oelhen?).  Fantastic.

brett whiteley

Mark Bradford and Larry Bell at the White Cube Bermondsey

Bradford does huge canvases – I estimate the largest are 20ft * 18ft (dimensions not given and attendant didn’t know).  He plasters them with paper, paints it and then rips and shreds it down with a power sander.   The results resemble road systems and landscapes – one is like a coastline, another a tsunami investing a coastal city, another, Turner’s “storm at Harbour Mouth” (the sander swirls on black are like the rings on the cross section of a felled tree).  Some are bright – blue, pink, orange, white – reminding one of Peter Doig’s early paintings; others, dark and oppressive, like Anselm Kiefer’s work.

There are two beautiful Larry Bell pictures; they are like crumpled tinfoil and celluloid film, printed onto white canvas.  there are many more, but for my money, they are spoilt by being on black canvas and in black frames.

Blue Jasmine

Saw this Woody Allen film this week – it’s Streetcar, set in San Francisco rather than New Orleans.  Cate Blanchett does a great job of playing a neurotic, pampered, addicted, desperate woman, once rich, now broke, dumping herself on her despised working-class sister.  Script is great, but you never for a second forget you are watching acting; it’s naturalistic, rather than natural.  I can’t help comparing it to the fabulous Joanna Hogg films, Archipelago and Unrelated, that I’ve written about – in which, most of the time, no-one, pro or amateur, appears to be acting at all.

Reading Sebastian Faulks’ A Possible Life, which begins with a WW2 training exercise; officers lead their men mistakenly into flooded area and a soldier is drowned.  Strangely similar stories from two sources; Pete Seeger’s song “Waist Deep in the Big Muddy” (I have it by Dick Gaughan on his “Sail On” album) and a Scott Fitzgerald story I read recently – can’t find it at the moment, he wrote so many stories.  The SF version is the earliest – I wonder if it’s the original.

The Shining

Watched it yet again the other night; like Goodfellas and Casino, you only have to see a few seconds and you are hooked – these films are Ancient Mariners.  I can’t understand why Stephen King hates the Kubrick film – it’s obviously a work of art, unlike most attempts at filming King books.  Kubrick changed it a bit – killed off the Scatman and left the Overlook standing, whereas King blew its boilers and burned it down.  I think Kubrick’s ending was better.  Pity about the Scatman, though.

Klee at Tate Modern

Went round this exhibition again, and, yes, I was rather snotty about it last time.  Room 13 is great, with the ones that are composed of dots and look like little tapestries – also the blue one, “path into the Blue” I think it’s called.  There’s also the miniature opera stage set that reminded me of Picasso’s “Night Fishing at Antibes” – but much smaller.

Mira Schendel

Great antidote to Klee – Brazilian minimalist, recalling Lygia Pape and Oiticica a little; wobbly square…  Triangles, bi-and trisected canvases; then, rough paint drawings and collages of bottles on bars, drips and splatters; some brilliant black ink on off-white paper, strong lines and jagged scribbles.  Then letters appearing and playing with typefaces; hanging tablets of rice paper; Eva Hesse-like tubes of gold-ochre, suspended from ceiling; silky, white nylon threads hanging in masses and curling up like hairs at the floor; a series of rough, eye-catching tablets on walls with bible quotations – she was a struggling Catholic, apparently.

schendel1

schendel2

Also visited “Art Under Attack” at Tate Britain; save that for next time.

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Work in Progress

Blackpaint

24.10.13

Blackpaint 391 – A Pair of Brown Eyes and Storm Clouds on the Volga

April 25, 2013

Tate Modern

Some other “new” stuff worth seeing that I didn’t mention last time:

Bill Woodrow‘s big elephant head sculpture, with car doors, unravelling maps and machine gun held in trunk;

Rachel Whitehead‘s sarcophagus-like black bath-tub thing;

Roger Hilton‘s waving, leaping “Oi-Yoi-Yoi”;

A huge Frank Bowling figurative painting, in style and coloration rather like an early Hockney, or maybe Kitaj;

A whole roomful of Chapman Bros. imitation tribal fetishes – look closely, they all have Macdonald’s motifs;

An apocalyptic Primrose Hill by Frank Auerbach;

A Bacon triptych;

Some of those lumpy sculptures by Rebecca Warren – I like them, but none have the presence and personality of de Kooning’s Clamdiggers.

There is a room devoted to Basic Design, with characteristic works by Pasmore, Richard Hamilton, Alan Davie, William Turnbull and Rita Donagh – interesting to those (like myself)  following the thread of abstraction in British art.

Finally, there is a portrait by George Clausen called “Brown Eyes”, which I didn’t mention before because I was afraid it was banal and sentimental.  My very unsentimental partner said it was “arresting”, however, so I mention it now.

clausen

Actually, it seems he did quite a few of the same girl, whoever she was, and when you look at several of them together, the sentimentality oozes back rather – but still….

Gert and Uwe Tobias at the Whitechapel Gallery

They are brothers, born in Romania.  Went to the private view for this last week, and felt – wrongly, I’m sure – that there was a smartly black-shirted attendant behind me the whole time.  There were certainly plenty of them, to stop you taking drinks upstairs or straying through wrong doors…

Large, bright, childlike images of E. European folklore on black backgrounds, creating a wallpaperish effect – lots of butterflies and other insects, strange birds – shore larks, maybe – thorny vines and spindly witch dolls.  Sometimes an echo of Picabia’s odd machines.  I enjoyed the smaller, brightly coloured pieces the most.

gerd and uwe

Upstairs were the photographs of Karl Blossfeldt, mostly from the 20s and 30s, I think, from the German mags in which they appeared.  Close-ups of parts of common plants that obviously echoed – or inspired – architectural forms.  Some looked like spiral staircases or pagodas or whatever; I wasn’t sure whether he was a scientist, an artist or some sort of mystic.  I guessed he might be a follower of Rudolf Steiner, but nothing on the internet.  That thing about natural forms reproduced in human works sounds very like Steiner to me.

Ilya and Emilia Kabakov,” The Happiest Man”( under the  University of Westminster, Baker Street)

It is “under” too; down the iron stairs and turn immediately right – don’t go along the underground delivery passage, like we did.  There’s notice pointing to the gallery, set just so you miss it at the foot of the staircase.

It’s a sort of underground cinema, with a little, cosy Russian room, full of knick-knacks, armchair, sofa, pictures on the wall, a kulak’s place maybe, not an impoverished peasant’s hut; you can watch the films through the window, or sit outside in the cinema.

The films are extracts from musicals of the 30s, 40s and 50s; healthy, headscarved, fleshy women, wearing their medals, running to work behind tractors or on combine harvesters; smiling, preening moustached men, flirting with the girls, Cossack hats set at rakish angles, plucking guitars – the song of the couple in the buggy sounded like “The Carnival is Over” to me – everyone happy.  The film was blurred and this added to the beauty of the images; buttery, tawny cornfields, golden dust,  HUGE, deep, deep blue skies, winding river (must surely be the Volga, or maybe the Don), crumbling bluffs, great, black, thunderous, rolling clouds…  The same colours can be seen in Sokurov’s “Save and Protect” (his version of Madame Bovary).

So, the beauty offsets the irony, somewhat.  Vassily Grossman’s “Everything Flows” has an account of the Ukrainian famine – man-made- of 1933, in which millions died and armed guards were placed outside villages to ensure that starving peasants were kept from dragging themselves towards the towns (nevertheless, some managed to make it to cities, where they presented a spectacle of horror to the citizenry).  Ilya Kabakov, I read in the pamphlet, acknowledges the realities, whilst admitting to the nostalgia that these films induce in him.  It’s a great exhibit and it’s free to see.

Oliver Stone’s Untold History of America

Brilliant to see this at the same time as reading Anthony Beevor’s history of WW2.  Stone makes a great deal of Roosevelt’s running mate, Henry Wallace; some sort of socialist, by US standards, apparently.  You get the impression from the programme that Britain, the USA and the Soviet Union all joined the war together, to crush Nazism – and then Britain and the USA sat back to let the Russians do it all.  It’s not the facts he states; it’s those he omits and the spin he spins…

Promised Land

Anti-fracking film, starring Matt Damon, set in farming town in mid-West.  Heart’s in the right place, but cliche-ridden (last minute conversion, emotive speech to erstwhile opponents).  Good to see Hal Holbrook again, soon after Lincoln, though.

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Great Leap Forward

Blackpaint

25.04.13

Blackpaint 321 – Yorkshire, Blackburn and the Leopard

January 23, 2012

Hockney at the RA

The weekend papers full of hype for this – Roy Hattersley droning on about Yorkshire, bringing in Captain Cook and other irrelevancies, interviews with bussed-down Yorkshire painters groups, Yorkshire tourist board planning Hockney tours…  More about Hockney’s “superlative” drawing skills,” richness and exuberance” of the colours.  I have to say that none of the repros I have seen particularly demonstrate Hockney’s (undoubted) drawing skills and some of the green, orange and Ribena colours look like no colours I have seen in “real life”, in Yorkshire or anywhere else.  An artist called Jim Bruce – not a Yorkshireman – tellingly referred to Hockney’s landscapes as “abstract”, while enthusing about them to an interviewer.  Laura Cumming in the Observer says “He is not primarily interested in the ever-changing rhetoric of weather, light or nature.  He is thinking about picture making..”   She refers to the colours as “Matisse crossed with Walt Disney” and I persist in being reminded of the animated Lord of the Rings.

The size of the paintings must contribute to the feeling of “Event”; I touched on the previous display of Hockney big trees at the Tate Britain when writing about John Martin’s spectaculars recently.  Interestingly, with regard to hype, I see that the Leonardo exhibition is described as “overpraised” in today’s Guardian.  Don’t think any critics had the nerve to say that when it opened.

Having said all that, the Hockneys are definitely distinctive; you couldn’t mistake the pictures for anyone else’s work and that’s something to prize, for sure.

London Art Fair

Acquired tickets for this, which normally cost £18 entrance fee, expecting a lot of dross; instead, saw the best British painting I have seen all year.  Admittedly, most of it was  St. Ives or other oldies, but that’s the rut I’m stuck in.  My partner tells me that the recession is leading collectors to sell off some good stuff, but I’m unconvinced; lots of cash around at the top end, I think.  Anyway, some lovely, brilliantly coloured Anthony Frosts (Terry’s son), loads of Alan Davie, including a great one on thick brown wrapping paper, Roger Hilton poster paints and others from earlier, loads of little Sutherlands, Keith Vaughans and great early Sandra Blows, when she was using sand and suchlike.  Several Ivon Hitchens, Prunella Clough, and a totally uncharacteristic Patrick Heron, that was bright little colours on a black base.  The best pictures were as follows:

Peter Lanyon, large oblong panel, with unusual, intense orange -red section and an almost grafitti feel to it; 

John Blackburn, new to me, but born 1932; beautiful white and blue panels on an upright rectangle, tucked away at back, very like Paul Feiler;

Paul Feiler (born 1918, Britain’s greatest living abstract painter), white and off-white square with red and blue broken and concealed lines breaking surface here and there; 

Adrian Heath, who taught Terry Frost in POW camp, Poliakoff-like geometric shapes in various colours, resembling collage;

Robin Denny, a big, wild, dark blue Ab Ex effort, so fantastic I stepped back carelessly for a better look, straight into a gent who was also gazing at it.  On the way home, we saw his (Denny’s) coloured rods design on Embankment tube – hard to believe same bloke did both.

Also in Embankment station, a besuited Peter Blake, several of whose works were on show at the Angel.

Three other painters whose work I liked were Mark Surridge, little Lanyon-y panels; Rebecca Salter, gauzey, gossamer surfaces to her canvases,; and Chloe Lamb, whose abstracts, often in variations of ochre, I loved, but thought the paint could have been slapped on more thickly.  There is another Chloe Lamb, featuring on Google.

The Leopard, Visconti

Made in 1963, just seen the DVD.  Sicily in Garibaldi’s time, eras ending, the stately old aristos intermarrying with the new bourgeoisie – Burt Lancaster surprisingly perfect, once you get used to the dubbed voice; another sumptuous, hypnotic ball to go with the one in Russian Ark; those quirky mazurkas.  And Romolo Valli, the hotel manager in Death in Venice, here a sycophant priest.  And music by Nino Rota.

Old one, I’m afraid; batteries in my camera gone.

Blackpaint

23/01/12

Blackpaint 320 – The Shire, the Sunset and the Pequod

January 19, 2012

David Hockney

His new show at the RA seems to be dividing the critics somewhat, so I am eager to go see.  Some seem to be casting him as Grand Old Man of figurative painting, upholding traditional old English values (that thing about drawing, a sort of fetishism I think) against the conceptuals, the empty, sensationalist Hirstites. His grumpy old squire-ishness and eccentricities about smoking and the calendar assist in this, I suppose.  Some reviewers are writing in awed tones about beauty and soul – enough to make you sick, or me anyway.

Martin Kettle in the Guardian expresses this identification with traditional values – he chucks in Yorkshire pride too, no nonsense in Yorkshire – most strongly; he writes that “Hockney and his art express and address the kind of people and country that he and we wish we were”.  What does this mean?  That we are  people who love landscape painting, hate abstract and conceptual art, admire the “useful”, despise the frivolous, can draw really, really well?  All sounds deeply conservative to me, as if Hockney’s art was made to chime with Cameron’s current version of Thatcherism.  He’s probably right about many people living in Britain today – when times are hard and uncertain, you tend to cling to what you see as safest.  Not sure he’s right about Hockney, though.

Hockney’s tree pics and landscapes strike me as so oddly coloured that I think of them almost as cartoons – the repros I have seen remind me of the graphics that you used to see in pre – CGI animation; not so much East Yorkshire as The Shire.  That bright green, the beetroot – to – mauve colours he uses for paths; it all lacks the denseness and richness and subtlety of trad English landscape.  So what – he’s using trees and landscape to make pictures and if the pictures don’t look like the landscape, it shouldn’t be a problem.  The only question is, do you like the pictures?

Giorgione

Was in the National Gallery today, and I came across a couple of paintings by this mystery man of Venice.  The first, Il Tramonto, the Sunset, had a lot going on in it as well as the sun setting; St. George killing the dragon, St.Anthony waving out of a cave, St. Roch (maybe) getting his leg bound up, and a pond with a very humpy monster sitting in it.  What is the relationship between all these?  Like the Tempest, in the Venice Accademia, no-one has much idea what’s going on.

The other picture was the Adoration of the Kings, that little panel with the groom crossing his legs and looking down at his feet, way off to the right out of the main action of the picture, but stealing the attention completely.  The glowing yellows and reds are up to Raphael standard.

Catena

Why does Catena have partridges wandering about in both the pics on display next to the Giorgiones?  there they are, in both a St. Jerome in his study (lion with very human face) and in an Adoration (baby Jesus with head like a cannonball).

Travelling Light

At the Whitechapel, the latest government pictures selection, by Simon Schama this time.  Best pictures; Roger Hilton’s fabulous Pequod (thought it was a big Alfred Wallis, from across the room); Bomberg’s Jerusalem Armenian Church, and Marta Marce’s “Scalectrix” loops.  There’s that great portrait of Byron, done up like a Greek soldier, but looking very soft – not like the mad satanic near rapist portrayed in Ken’s “Gothic”.  Once again, fantastic booklet, made for bloggers so they don’t have to take notes.

Blackpaint

19.01.12

Blackpaint 314

December 22, 2011

Sutherland

Laura Cumming in her review of the Sutherland show in Oxford (see Observer last Sunday) remarks on his adoption of  realism with the outbreak of WWII, or at least, the Blitz.  I remarked on this in Blackpaint 128, in relation to Bomberg, with his involvement in the First World War – it’s as if the sights of warfare call for a more realistic depiction, or some artists no longer feel that an experimental approach can do them proper justice.  Maybe this is understating it, in the case of Bomberg – according to Robert Hughes in his book on Auerbach, Bomberg was so traumatised by his time in the trenches that he shot himself in the foot, a capital offence at the time.

Irvin

I mentioned the Alice Correia essay I read in the Irvin book – she quotes Roger Hilton as follows: “Words and painting don’t go together.  The more words that are written about painting, the less people will see the painting.  Half the difficulty that people find in “understanding” painting is that they think they have to put it into words.”  The truth of this  is easily demonstrated – just think of the number of times you have gone to an exhibition and spent more time reading the labels and info on the walls than looking at the pictures.  A bit of context is OK, but a work, especially an abstract one, should speak through the image – otherwise, why bother?

Unfortunately, she spoils it for me on the previous page: “Why is it that that non-representational art draws so much negative attention? …The work of Jackson Pollock… still has the ability of infuriating viewers who feel they are being duped in some way….It could be because abstraction does not have any easy answers.  The question is not “what is it of?” but rather, “how does it make me feel?” ”  

Well, no.  Back to words again!  The “feelings” proposal negates Hilton’s comments entirely.  Pictures don’t need to represent feelings either.  She asserts that Irvin’s pictures are about hope, an easy conclusion to reach, since they are vibrant, bright colours and contain little black. But  he was in the RAF during WW2; some of them could easily represent burning German cities from a plane, with daisy-like bomb explosions (Plimsoll, Skipper and Brandenburg, for example).  Let the pictures speak for themselves.

Van Gogh

I’m sure I have remarked on this before, and that loads of others have also noticed it, but some of Vincent’s late paintings look as if he is painting  LSD experiences.  The blazing stars, of course, but also tree bark, meadow grasses, fields and hedgerows seem to swarm, somehow, or are outlined in light, in a way that I remember from long-ago “experiments” with hallucinogens.  Not to suggest that he was an early adopter; maybe a chemical imbalance made him see in that way.  Then again,  not all painters paint what they see – probably not even most.  Certainly not me, even in life drawing; I’m happy with anything that looks halfway OK, even if it’s nothing like what I see. 

The Music Lovers

Sample reviews,  from Wikipedia:

Dave Kehr of the Chicago Reader described the film as a “Ken Russell fantasia – musical biography as wet dream” and added, “[it] hangs together more successfully than his other similar efforts, thanks largely to a powerhouse performance by Glenda Jackson, one actress who can hold her own against Russell’s excess.”

TV Guide calls it “a spurious biography of a great composer that is so filled with wretched excesses that one hardly knows where to begin . . . all the attendant surrealistic touches director Ken Russell has added take this out of the realm of plausibility and into the depths of cheap gossip.”  Ken Russell must have been immensely proud of these, and other, worse, reviews.

My own realist efforts.

And latest, abstractified Figures in a (winter) landscape.  This was called “Life Drawing 1”, a couple of blogs ago.

Blackpaint

22/12/11

Blackpaint 164

July 8, 2010

Warrior Taking leave of his wife, 440BC

It’s painted on an oil jar in the museum in Athens.  The warrior appears to be handing his helmet to his wife, who sits impassively before him, one arm casually thrown over the back of the curly chair.  Surely she should be handing him the helmet?  The thin white slip coating the jar gives a matte surface to paint on.  like many of these artefacts, this one looks as if it was made some time last week, rather than 2500 years ago, give or take.  See it in Phaidon’s “30,000 years of art”, if you don’t live in Athens.

Pollock

Looking at “Croaking Movement” and “Shimmering Substance” from “Sounds in the Grass” series 1946; the first with its white triangles and globes, the second with its squirming yellow worms of paint – he must have been trying to express sound, like Kandinsky and others, that idea of synaesthesia.  he did one later called “Untitled (scent)”, which is a strange sort of title, but implies he was trying to do the same with smell.  That seems to me to be a very tall order, harder than sound which can be harsh, jerky, smooth, soft etc.

Have to be cautious here, however, since it’s well known that others, dealers and gallerists, supplied some of the names for his paintings, such as those with a mythological title.

Roger Hilton

Very characteristic of Hilton’s paintings from early 50s is that mottled, fluffy whiteness, forming a background to the floating, disparate shapes he was doing in 1953.  Later, from about 61, there are the areas of bare canvas, the scruffy charcoal lines and splashes and lozenges of colour, blues, brown, reds. 

Have to stop now – private view tonight. 

Elgin Movements,  Blackpaint

08.07.10

Blackpaint 139

May 24, 2010

Scottish National Gallery, Edinburgh

A lot of real treasures and the most helpful attendants I’ve encountered.

First, they’ve got an exhibition relating to “Dance” in a little gallery at the back; I was astonished to see a Roger Hilton woman, the blue and yellow “Dancing Woman”, leaping across the wall opposite me; interesting to see how ropey the drawing was, close up – the beauty is in the energy of the image.  There was a Sickert chorus line, Degas ballet dancers and two astonishing postcard -size watercolour pictures by Arthur Melville, one of the Scottish Boys, done in 1889.  They are titled Dancers at the Moulin Rouge, which the pink, white and black one shows, but the other one is abstract.  It has a large patch of egg-yolk yellow with a touch of brown decalcomania at the base, a mid region of Prussian-ish blue and a red/orange patch on grey/brown at the bottom.

1889 is early for a British abstract, surely; more surprising when you consider the other beautifully done, but conventional watercolour paintings by Melville on display (conventional in composition – he was an experimentalist with the watercolour medium).

Tipu

The ground floor is dominated by a huge, mad canvas by Benjamin West, of a Scottish Mediaeval king being saved from a raging stag by the spear of one Colin Fitzgerald.  Opposite is the defeat of Tipu Khan (of Tipu’s Tiger fame) by David Wilkie.  Nearby is a portrait of Lady Kinneard, wife no doubt, of Lord FU Kinneard of legendary fame.

Rembrandt

In an alcove is Rembrandt’s “A Woman in bed”; it’s Saskia, leaning out of a four-poster, pushing the canopy curtain aside – and her hands are enormous.  Her left is towards us, so that might be right, but her right is away from us, across her breast, and its the same size.  They’re good hands, but they’re  too big.  Yes, it’s an obsession with me (see blog on Mick’s David, Blackpaint 106)

Dutch Lobsters

There are several perfectly painted Dutch lobsters with glistening fruit; my partner says it’s because lobsters were an expensive status symbol – I suspect it might be that one painter, Kalf for example, did a really brilliant lobster and all the others had to try to beat him.

Velasquez

The old woman cooking eggs, with the blunt-featured, crop-haired young boy looking on; a picture so beautiful that I  can’t think of a sardonic comment.

I’m going to leave the Titians, Raphaels, Leonardo and the Impressionists until tomorrow and finish with

“the Death of St.Ephraim and incidents in the lives of the Hermits”. 

I think that’s what it’s called; irritatingly, it isn’t in the otherwise brilliant Companion Guide to the gallery and I can’t remember who painted it – the Master of somewhere or something. 

It’s full of strange little vignettes – a hermit, cave and lion like  St.Jerome; a monk chasing naked women; black demons in boats with naked women; a circle of flagellants processing round a sort of maypole, scourging themselves; a skeletal corpse rising from a rock to terrify-passers-by; a monk riding a dragon… Who was St.Ephraim? Must look him up.

The Snail Crab Dance by Blackpaint

Listening to Cinnamon Girl, by Neil Young and Crazy Horse

“A dreamer of pictures you run in the night,

You see us together, chasing the moonlight, my Cinnamon Girl”.

Blackpaint

24.05.10