Posts Tagged ‘Rothko’

Blackpaint 514 – Hoyland’s Cakes, The Serpent’s Egg, Auerbach’s Mustard

October 12, 2015

John Hoyland at Newport Street Gallery

hoyland1

These huge, voluptuous colour field pictures, around 40 of them, are on display at Damien Hirst’s new gallery near Vauxhall.  It’s enormous; white walls of course, lovely staircases, a line of big toilets with heavy doors as if he’s expecting coachloads of pensioners.  The paintings are from Hirst’s own collection and it’s great to see them here for free.

Acrylics for the most part – there are two oils, I think.  Several maroons with orange, leaf green (ugh!), turquoise, grey-blue, reds and greys, arranged in blocks or columns; a few with scraped edges and splatters, “smoking” tops (the result of trickle- downs and reversal of the canvas).  The central section upstairs I think of as the cake room; pinks, beiges and whites, like huge cake slices smashed and splattered against the canvas.  In the last room, deep, singing blues, reds and oranges, scraped to reveal gold, like clouds of fire; colours arranged in blocks and diagonals.

For an alternative view, try Jonathan Jones online – “Why is Damien Hirst opening his new gallery with this second-rate artist?”  He makes the laughable claim that Hoyland is trying to do Rothko, or Pollock, or Barnet Newman.  Actually, the painters who came to my mind were Hans Hoffman and John Golding (a bit).  Hoyland, says Jones,  is simply “messing about with paint”.

hoyland2

The Serpent’s Egg, Bergman (1977)

Falls into that genre of films like “Cabaret” and Visconti’s “The Damned”, in which the story is set in Weimar Germany, in this case, Berlin – sleazy drinking clubs, cabarets and brothels (often combined), cross- dressing, prostitution, obscene night club turns, dwarves, smeared, garish lipstick, lost innocence, sudden shocking violence, crazed Nazi bands, wet cobblestones, sense of doom…  Bergman’s film is set earlier than the others- 1923 I think, the time of hyper-inflation- but the similarities are apparent.  It becomes suddenly Kafka-esque towards the denouement; David Carradine is chased around a mysterious underground laboratory-labyrinth and confronts a mad scientist, more Nazi than Hitler himself (who is a minor demagogue at this time, about to launch his Munich Putsch).

Unlike any other Bergman film I’ve seen; sort of a low budget feel, strangely, since it was made in Hollywood, and the sound on the DVD is terrible.  I ended up watching it with subtitles for the hard of hearing, which improved it no end.

That Obscure Object of Desire, Bunuel (1977)

The story of this great Bunuel is well-known; Fernando Rey’s pursuit of the young Spanish flamenco dancer to Seville and eventually to Paris, her continual promising and then avoiding/refusing  sex with him (in one sequence arriving naked in his bedroom – apart from an impregnable, tightly-laced corset); the gifts of money he constantly makes to her and her complicit mother, culminating in his buying her a house.  After another provocation, he attacks her; she grins up at him through her bleeding lips and says, “Now I know you really love me!”  Dodgy sexual politics, to be sure.  I had forgotten the little “surreal” bits in the film – the mousetrap that goes off during one of Rey’s intense scenes with Conchita; the sack that he lugs around inexplicably in several scenes.

Conchita, the girl, is famously played by two completely different actresses –  the elegant, glacial Carole Bouquet and the effervescent Angela Molina.  This caused me great consternation when I first saw the film.  I rationalised it along these rather obvious lines: they represent the two halves of Conchita’s character; cold and hot.  That didn’t work though.  So, they represent the two ways she responds to Rey.  But that didn’t work either, for the same reason (they both encourage and reject him, rather than “taking turns”).

Wikipedia says that Bunuel got the idea to use different women in response to difficulties he was having on set with another actress,  Maria Schneider apparently, and that it had no deeper significance than that he thought it was an amusing idea and would” work well”.

I love that phrase; I’ve heard it so many times from different artists and said it often myself, in response to those who ask “What does that represent?” or “Why did you do that there?” – the answer is invariably mundane or unhelpful; it “looked good”, or “I thought it was black and when I put it on the canvas,  it turned out to be prussian blue”.  As often, a Jonathan Jones piece is instructive; reviewing the new Auerbach at Tate Britain, Jones recycles the old “colourless 50s” cliche: “Back in the 1950s, he (Auerbach) saw very little colour in the world.  Frankenstein faces loom like monsters in his early paintings.   Gradually came the colours: blood red, mustard yellow, and eventually orange, purple, blue, the lot – a rainbow slowly spreading…”.  Auerbach himself, speaking on his son’s film about him, explains that the new colours were the result of his progressively having more money to spend on paint.

Jones’ review is otherwise not bad, apart from his habitual thumping overstatement and childish posturing – “My generation owes Auerbach an apology..”…

serpents egg of obscure desire

The Serpent’s Egg of Obscure Desire

Blackpaint

12.10.15

 

 

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Blackpaint 498 – Ice Cream at Tate Modern, Breasts at the RA

June 7, 2015

Agnes Martin (Tate Modern)

Happy Holiday 1999 Agnes Martin 1912-2004 ARTIST ROOMS  Acquired jointly with the National Galleries of Scotland through The d'Offay Donation with assistance from the National Heritage Memorial Fund and the Art Fund 2008 http://www.tate.org.uk/art/work/AR00179

Happy Holiday

This is the new exhibition at Tate Modern – those familiar with Martin’s work will know what to expect: the palest “ice cream” pastels (Neapolitan) , vanishing into near invisibility, stripes, huge grids done in faint graphite with tiny squares, a roomful of a dozen white canvases, occasionally, background fields varied by tiny, pale, differently coloured blobs…  Her early work, influenced to a degree by other abstractionists, resembles Pasmore somewhat.  Strangely, her later work appears, to a dissenter like me, to have more going on – a coloured stripe through the centre, a blue square, two black triangles with the tops snipped off.  This seems the “wrong” way round, somehow.  Still, if you emptied out your pictures early on, I suppose you start putting things in again, if you live long enough.

Like Rothko’s Seagram pictures, this is art that I think requires a contemplative attitude in the viewer that I am unable to sustain.  I hope one day to be able to appreciate them more fully.

My Blake Calendar

Below is the picture for June.  It shows Oberon, Titania and Puck from A Midsummer Night’s Dream.  I find it enormously encouraging that even artists of William Blake’s taste and ability are capable of turning out crappy pictures occasionally.

Oberon, Titania and Puck with Fairies Dancing circa 1786 William Blake 1757-1827 Presented by Alfred A. de Pass in memory of his wife Ethel 1910 http://www.tate.org.uk/art/work/N02686

National Portrait Gallery

I wrote about this beautiful little portrait of Hardy a few months ago.

hardy strang

 Thomas Hardy, William Strang

A little while later, I bought a 70s Penguin paperback of EM Forster’s “The Longest Journey”; on the cover was this picture, also by Strang, called “Bank Holiday”.

Bank Holiday 1912 William Strang 1859-1921 Presented by F. Howard through the National Loan Exhibitions Committee 1922 http://www.tate.org.uk/art/work/N03036

I think it’s great – totally unlike the Hardy; for some reason, it makes me think of Norman Rockwell.

Forster and Woolf

While I’m on the subject of Forster and the above novel, I found it interesting that he, like Virginia Woolf (Lighthouse, Jacob’s Room, The Voyage Out), occasionally kills his characters off with quite brutal suddenness.  He does in this, anyway; I wonder if there was any influence, and if so, in which direction?

 Back to the NPG

Below are two more arresting paintings, both by John Collier.  The first is, of course, Charles Darwin; the second, the Labour and later, Liberal, politician, John Burns.  I suppose it’s partly the full square stance of both subjects and Burns’ hands on hips – defiance? frankness?  I have to say that Darwin’s picture reminds me faintly of an orang utan – in a good way – but I think that may be because it was parodied in a cartoon and I “see” the parody…

collier darwin

Darwin, John Collier 

by John Collier, oil on canvas, 1889

 

John Burns, John Collier

RA Summer Exhibition 

Proper review of this next week, but in the meantime, here is by far the best painting in the exhibition – the fact that Marion Jones is my partner has no bearing, obviously, on my opinion.

marion RA

 

Bars and Triangles, Marion Jones

Diebenkorn, RA

I made my third visit to the brilliant Diebenkorn exhibition after the RA Summer Show – I started seeing great little paintings within paintings in the earlier abstracts, Albuquerque and Urbana series; little sections that would make paintings in themselves.  I started to see slight parallels with some of Nicolas de Stael’s landscapes, especially “Sea Wall”.  But most startlingly, I saw breasts everywhere.  In “Albuquerque 57”  (below) for instance, there is a very clear sketch of a pair of breasts that I hadn’t noticed before.  After that, I saw them everywhere in these abstracts, mostly in the shape of the lobes.

diebenkorn berkeley 57

 

Just above the green and yellow rectangular shapes.

To finish, here is a minimalist work of mine, in homage to Agnes Martin:

Close of a long day

Close of a Long Day

Blackpaint

6.6.15

Blackpaint 427 – Sources of Light, Crime and Punishment

December 26, 2013

Light Sources in Painting

Still reading Morton Feldman’s articles in “Give My Regards to Eighth Street”,  which are full of interesting assertions (backed by no evidence whatsoever) about painting and music.  As a composer, he can claim to be an expert; he knew many of the Abstract Expressionists, spent time with them at the Cedar Tavern, so can claim expertise there, too.  Here is what he says about light in painting; I haven’t investigated fully – see if you agree:

“Light from nature

raking light: Caravaggio, Vermeer

overhead light: Watteau, Courbet, Pissarro

refracted light: Monet

intellectualised light: Seurat

Pictorial light, not from nature

constructed light: Giotto, Mantegna, Picasso, de Chirico

invented light: Piero della Francesca, Rothko

non modulated light: Mondrian, Pollock

light without source: Rembrandt”

I reproduce some paintings by these artists; you can check the light.

caravag1

 

Caravaggio – raking light?  Yes, from left.

verm2

 

Vermeer – right again.  That is – from the left.

courbet1

 

Courbet – above?

rem1

 

Rembrandt – light without source?

I’ll look at some more next blog.

Team Nigella

After writing about Citizen Kane last week, I remembered that Kane (Hearst) was proud of making the news, not just reporting it.  A number of lesser examples of the same have been provided by the leftish press recently – no doubt the right-wing press do it all the time, but I don’t read them.  The Guardian and the Observer tend to be self-righteous about distortion, so these are the examples I offer:

David Cameron did not say he was on “Team Nigella” – he agreed with a reporter who used the term.  Little thing maybe, but I think it’s different.

He did not announce that it was “Mission Accomplished” for British troops in Afghanistan; the phrase was suggested by a reporter, and he agreed to it in a strictly limited definition (preparing the Afghan army to defend the country from the Taliban).  What else would he say?   “I’m bringing them home, job not done, leaving the Afghans in the lurch”?

An Observer headline stated that the Bulgarian PM had “issued a fierce” condemnation of the government’s attitude towards EU immigration; in fact, the paper was referring to remarks he had made in the course of an “exclusive” interview with the paper (presumably at the request of the Observer).  That’s not what I would call “issuing”.

The Desolation of Smaug

Serious signs of padding in this latest 3 hour stretch of a trilogy sort of based on Tolkein’s children’s book; brilliant battle scenes, great Orcs and the introduction of an Elf woman-warrior called Tauriel, who isn’t a real character – that is, she’s made up by the film writers, not Tolkein.  I was impressed by the dragon, until the final close-up of its face, when I got a flash of the original “Night of the Demon”, a film I love, but one in which the demon is not wholly convincing.  Left the cinema with my 3D specs on again, as in Gravity.

Dekalog

From the ridiculous to the – not sublime, but serious anyway.  Watched Dekalog 5, which is actually Kieslowsky’s “A Short Film about Killing”; only an hour long, I think, but it lingers.  A youth in 80s Poland strangles and beats a taxi driver to death in a protracted sequence, is condemned to death and hanged on screen.  The hanging takes place in the execution shed, there is a drop of only a couple of feet, a tray has been placed at the bottom of the pit to catch urine; the hangman’s assistant shouts and yells repeatedly in the seconds before the lever is pulled, presumably to confuse and distract the victim.  The taxi driver is portrayed as sleazy; he propositions a young girl.  He avoids picking up customers he doesn’t fancy taking; if he’d done his job properly, he wouldn’t have picked up the murderer…

Homeland

And another hanging.  I must admit I was surprised, shocked even, when Brody was hanged on a crane in Tehran.  Even though the execution was public, I was expecting some ruse by which he survived and escaped – such is the conditioning of TV.

 

??????????

 

On the Way to Somewhere

Blackpaint

Boxing Day, 26th December 2013.

Blackpaint 368 – Dancing with Death, Small Talk at Parties

November 22, 2012

Death at the Wellcome Centre

Yes, “Death” is the title of the exhibition.  It’s the collection of one man, Richard Harris, and it’s astonishing that he can live with all this stuff; I managed about half an hour before depression drove me outside into the rain.

Not that the exhibits themselves are depressing – many are amusing, some beautiful and all are interesting.  It’s what isn’t there that’s a downer, since you can’t get it out of your mind (I can’t anyway).

So, what is there?  As may be expected, skulls are omnipresent, Dances of (and with) Death, Deaths and Maidens, Death (i.e. skeletons) playing the fiddle.  Dancing skeletons seem to have penetrated all cultures – excellent Japanese and sub-continental examples here; simple but somehow beautiful death dolls from C19th USA.  A fantastic sort of diorama from Argentina, including miniature novels, corpses, monks, towns and villages, made in 2011 but looking archaic, if it wasn’t for the modern dustjackets on the little books…  It was only when I looked back from across the room that I saw the whole thing was in the shape of a skull.

There are 50 small etchings or prints made by Otto Dix, showing the horrors of the trenches and inevitably, some Goya etchings with his own atrocities.  A set of playing card-sized depictions of military life by Callot, I think; rapes, murders, executions all depicted.

The centrepiece is a horrible wax sculpture by John Isaacs, entitled “Are You Still Angry with Me?”; a corpse is sitting on a crate, partially flayed, great sections of flesh removed from the long bones, as if butchered for an anatomy lesson, perhaps, or, in line with the title, a victim of shellfire or bombing.

All the worms, bones and dancing skeletons, however, depict a sort of life-in-death; what’s missing is that suggested by the work of Rothko, or Ryman, or Malevich; oblivion, nothingness.  I know that’s not what Malevich intended in his black canvases, or Ryman with his white ones; that’s what they suggest to me, though – sometimes.  Best done in poetry, Larkin’s “Aubade”; “Not to be here, Not to be anywhere, And soon; Nothing so terrible, nothing so true.”

Barbaric Genius, Sky Arts

Film on last week by Paul Duane about John Healy, the author of “The Grass Arena”, about his life as a drinker, rough sleeper, criminal, writer, chess master, yoga adept; a brilliant book, episodic, filmic – it’s been filmed, starring Mark Rylance – and a Penguin Modern Classic, despite Faber, his original publishers, having junked it, following a confrontation with Healy a decade ago.  I was introduced to him at a party some time ago, the only author of a Penguin Modern Classic I’m likely ever to meet; we talked about how much he liked cheese.

A Bigger Splash

The Tate Modern has  a show about action painting that I visited briefly last week; it’s very big and packed with info.  Unfortunately, the whole point of action painting is the action, so without it, you have only the remnants and the photographs, and sometimes the commentaries.  Nevertheless, it looked really interesting, if not visually stunning and I’m looking forward to going again.  Felt unwell halfway round, not the result of the Austrian Actionist photos, and had to cut it short.  What I do remember was the photos of the Yves Klein event in Paris at which a number of stunning naked models rolled in blue paint and left impressions of their bodies on great sheets of paper – all before a seated audience of bourgeoisie in evening dress.  Klein himself in dinner jacket and black tie, being the master of ceremonies.

More on this next time.

 

My Kitchen at Home

Blackpaint

22/11/12

Blackpaint 284

July 7, 2011

Cy Twombly and Poussin at Dulwich

Went round this last Sunday – then came news of Twombly’s death.  The obits always cast a faint sanctimonious glow over the dead; luckily, I wrote notes before the news, so can avoid the solemnity.

As always now, I try to avoid reading anything on the wall at an exhibition, or booklets, until I’ve had a good look at the art – so all I really got was that he used a lot of classical references (knew that already) as did Poussin, and presumably that provides the link.  They certainly don’t look much like each other, not even colours or forms.

The first room had a couple of large canvases in odd shapes, as if a giant ace of clubs were stuck onto the usual rectangle.  I recall a great, dark, grey-blue-green tumbling from top left to bottom right, with a froth of white against a creamy pink haze – like a huge ocean wave crashing down.

In the corridor, large rectangular canvases, some covered with Twombly scribbles and swirls in pencil, or pastel crayon, some with the white dribbles like semen, rough sketches of penises among other dubious items and thick clots of paint splashed on to harden; lines of poetry or names scrawled on canvases.

In the end room, the famous Four Seasons, in raspberry, acidic yellow, Prussian Blue, dark green.  One has Autumn scrawled on it, but they all looked like summer to me.  The smears and trickles and smashes of colour suggested Joan Mitchell a little to me.

The best works for me were two smaller ones in the corridor; Venus and Adonis, and Bacchanalia.  The first had a pad of pink that reminded me of the Osborne bum nose. The second was a rolling scrawl of black, grey and brown pastel like a brown wave rolling in, or maybe a tangle of wire.  Full of movement, lovely picture.  Both of these had pictures stuck to the top part of   canvas; the first an illustration of a rhubarb leaf (!) from an old book, the second a classical engraving of a number of figures.  When I skimmed through the book of the exhibition, I found that Twombly had done four or five of these Bacchanalias, for different months from March to November (the one on show).  They looked pretty similar to me.

As for the Poussins – two types; several dark, brownish, varnished look, like Sickert’s ancestor, the others the sort more familiar to me – the brighter colours, the big cast of parading or dancing characters, the reddish tinge of the undercoat.  The compositions are great, the figures wonderful – a Veronese back in one – but the faces crude.  An inappropriately serene Goliath’s head being carried on a stick like a huge toffee apple; a herm with a red face, which the wall labels (read after) linked to the Twombly rhubarb leaf, and which I thought was pushing it a bit.

So it’s great, if not huge.  Twombly’s pictures demanded a new way of looking that now is part of the orthodoxy, to go with Pollock’s spiralling drips, Rothko’s arches and all the others – we have Twombly’s scribbles too.

Tarkovsky

The boxed set is now out.  I’ve only managed Ivan’s Childhood so far – black and white, pretty conventional WW2 story line, but a couple of striking dream sequences and some great night time shots in the marshes (Pripet Marshes?) with flares arcing in the sky and dropping into the water.  Started watching, resigned to ploughing through a boring early work, but fairly gripped by the end.

Blackpaint

07.07.11

Blackpaint 273

May 11, 2011

Ai Weiwei

I understand that the Tate Modern has “Release Ai Weiwei” in enormous letters on the outside of the building; if this was the case when I wrote, criticising the management, I hope they will accept my apologies.  I was up there the other day – Sunday, I think – and didn’t notice it; maybe it was on the other side.  Good to see two new exhibitions at Somerset House and Lisson Gallery and campaign for his release gaining momentum.

Tate Modern

The Rothkos are back in their central “temple” after being temporarily replaced by Agnes Martin and the bloody Austrians.  Looked a long while at the Dubuffet, “Busy Life” –  saw the boulder thing.  The figures, scattered at all angles, look as if they are scraped into rock.  Maybe this is because I saw Herzog’s “Cave of Forgotten Dreams” the other day (see 270).

Stanley Spencer

His “St. Francis Feeding the Birds” looks very much like a portrait of Mike Leigh in costume – unlikely, given the disparity of dates.  This brings me to today’s main theme, which is top ten portraits.  I have two lists of my favourites:  20th Century and pre – 20th century.

Portraits pre 20th Century

1.  Holbein – Thomas Cromwell.

2.  Holbein – Unknown Lady with Squirrel and Starling

3.  Velasquez – Pope Innocent X

4.  Rembrandt – self in age.  Any of them – but especially at the age of 63.

5.  Gainsborough – Mrs.  Siddons, or the Linley Sisters

6.  Leonardo – Lady with an ermine, Cecilia Gallerani (doesn’t the ermine resemble her?)

7.  Ingres – the landlady in the National Gallery.

8.  Goya – Duchess of Alba

9.  Salvatore Rosa – Self portrait.

10.  Whistler – Symphony in White no.2

20 th Century Portraits

1.  De Kooning – Marilyn Monroe.

2.  Marlene Dumas – Jule the Woman.  The red face.

3.  Francis Bacon – 3 studies of Muriel Belcher, or 3 studies of George Dyer.

4.  Gerhard Richter – Betty.

5.  Lucien Freud – Harry Diamond next to the Aspidistra – it’s called “Interior in Paddington”.

6.  Larry Rivers – David Sylvester.

7.  Frank Auerbach – all of them!

8.  Otto Dix – Von Harden

9.  Singer Sargent – Ena and Betty Wertheimer.  And, of course, Lady Agnew.

10.  Joyce’s father – Patrick Tuohy.

Bela Tarr (cont)

The accordion plays the melancholy, repetitive tune, while two drunken old men execute a dance by a snooker table, involving brandishing a chair.  A crowd of unshaven, capped, feral, moustached, semi-drunken men wait in a cobbled square; one forces spirits down the throat of a timid youth who is foolish enough to approach him.  The same youth comes eyeball to eyeball with a rotting, stinking whale in a huge wooden container in the same square – it resembles the recent Balka installation at the Tate Modern (container, not whale).  A drunken mob invades an asylum and lethargically beat the occupants with sticks, fists and feet.

The Banks of the Nile

Blackpaint

11.05.11

Blackpaint 229

December 9, 2010

Art and Propaganda

Wrote about this some time back (see Blackpaint 26, Jan 2010), but I really only mentioned Spanish Republican posters (Miro) and Socialist Realism (workers living in and loving an idealised Soviet Union).  I also mentioned Nazi art, statuary and paintings and posters, which are strikingly similar to Socialist Realism and demonstrate the convergence of approach under totalitarian regimes.

Abstract Expressionism

I didn’t discuss the way the US government used the AbExes to publicise the cause of free enterprise and democracy.  Ironically, since Ab Ex was widely regarded as nonsensical in the West, abstract art was championed as evidence of individualistic freedom by the Congress for Cultural Freedom (a CIA front organisation).  It put on a series of exhibitions in West Germany, starting in 1945, and taking place every few years, under the title “Documenta”.  I’m not sure how much  the individual painters, initially Motherwell, Pollock, Calder and the critic Greenburg, were aware of the way they were being used; will look into that.

The huge irony is that the Socialist Realist style would probably chime much more with the tastes of the “masses” in the capitalist world than the efforts of the abstractionists, which they rejected and ridiculed in large part as incomprehensible.  Indeed, there is a strong Socialist – Realist resemblance in the work of Norman Rockwell, the popular American painter – tables weighed down by big Thanksgiving turkeys, shining-faced, healthy kids, kindly shopkeepers, postmen, policemen, etc.,etc.

Shigeko Kubota

I wonder what the American public would have made of the above Fluxus artist, who in 1965 attached a brush to her crotch and ,crouched above a sheet of paper, swung it about loaded with red paint, to create her “Vagina Painting”, thereby “dismantling the seemingly never-ending mythology of Pollock’s virile painting performances with a single, scandalous gesture” (chapter on Fluxus, “Art since 1900”, Thames and Hudson 2004).

Unfortunately, the book doesn’t show the painting, only an interesting photo of Kubota producing it.  However, I doubt that she achieved the beautiful results that Pollock did.  He argued, reasonably, that his drip method allowed for the intervention of an element of chance in his otherwise rather controlled,  or at least guided works.  Apart from the rather misguided statement “I am Nature” – maybe he was joking; don’t know the context –  I’ve found his remarks on his work really straightforward, sensible and informative.  Rather like Francis Bacon (although Bacon often twisted the truth somewhat) and unlike, say, Rothko. 

And his nickname – Jack the Dripper – though meant unkindly, has to be the best painter’s nickname.  Better, even, than Blackpaint.

Quiz

Which playwright did Sutherland paint, seated in front of a yellow wall ( playwright, not Sutherland(?

Blackpaint

10.12.10

Blackpaint 224

November 27, 2010

Last Suppers

Just watched Bunuel’s “Viridiana” again – and it has the best beggars’ banquet scene in it.  A nun invites the local beggar population to move into the mansion she inherited from her uncle (who hanged himself because she wouldn’t marry him).  As usual in Bunuel films,  naive (sanctimonious) kindness results in unexpected disaster – when she leaves them alone to go on an errand, they raid the cellars and kitchens, set themselves a sumptuous meal, get drunk, fight, fornicate, wreck the place.  At the climax of the feast, the drunken figures resolve themselves into a tableau of da Vinci’s “Last Supper”, grouped around a beggar “Christ”.

For some reason, this scene annoyed the church in Spain, where Bunuel directed the film after 25 years in exile, and it was suppressed by the Spanish government.

Bridget Riley

Read Hilary Spurling in the Guardian Review and found that, yet again, I must have missed something – there was a Rubens included in the exhibition.  Have to go again, but that won’t be a problem; the painting “Red on Red” that I mentioned was reproduced in the paper and looked even more beautiful than I remember.  The only problem is that it very faintly reminded me of a British Gas logo.

Asger Jorn

As always – well, often – happens when I look at art books,  I find myself reproducing in a general sort of way, the style or look, if not the techniques of artists I like.  I suppose this lurks around the plagiarism area, but it’s not conscious; it just happens.  I’ve been burrowing in Guy Atkins’ book “Jorn in Scandinavia 1930 – 53” and a very pale something of the following pictures seems to have lodged in my head and come out on the paper (run out of canvas, pro tem): “Wounded Beast”, “Buttadeo”, “Sickly Phantoms” and “Return to the Detested Town”.  These are all from 1951 and all feature heavy black scoring (looks like charcoal) around ghostly white or green faces, emerging from a maelstromic – is that a word? – background.  I seem to have picked up on the black scoring, for now anyway.

Bonnard  

Last Bonnard for a bit;  Bonnard was always revising his work and Julian Bell tells the story of Vuillard and Bonnard going to museums in which B’s works were displayed, where Bonnard would alter a picture with which he had become  dissatisfied, while Vuillard diverted the attendant.  I can’t believe this happened more than once, but a great story, nevertheless.

Quiz:  who did the “Broken Obelisk” sculpture at the Rothko Chapel in Houston?  Clue: not Rothko.

Blackpaint

27.11.10

Blackpaint 186

September 3, 2010

Tate St. Ives “Object, Gesture, Grid” (cont.)

The “Gesture” room presumably refers to Abstract Expressionism and its St.Ives co-abstractionists (but see previous blogs on whether Lanyon, for example,  can truly be called an abstract painter; its a convenience term).

Appel

First, a great Appel called “Amorous Dance”, the movement vaguely recalling that long jazzy Pollock in the Tate Modern.  Pollocky looping lines on basic grey, but close up the usual swirl of multi-coloured ropes of paint, so thick they look like waves and hummocks.  The painting’s under glass, maybe to hold the paint in.  It looks dingy close up, but clean and beautiful from 8 feet away.

Feiler

Paul Feiler, the only living artist here, I think – that must be an odd feeling – white, grey, black and brown, scraped surface, disc, recalling the Mellis next door.  The Feiler is great but has spawned a host (argh! cliche!) of imitations in little art galleries around the country.

Pollock

“Yellow Islands”, squares of yellow, peeping through swirls of white and black, on raw canvas(?).  At the edges, the black has blotted in to the canvas like a Frankenthaler.  A big blotch of black in the centre has run down.  Lose yourself in the layers, working out what he did first.

Rothko

One of those huge black and red arch things that he did for the Seagram, and that were on display in a sort of inner sanctum in the Tate Modern a while ago.  Out of that context, I think it’s empty.  Controversial, I know.

Bryan Wynter

“Riverbed”, cream, grey, red, interlocking key-like shapes, one of which, hugely enlarged, I’m sure I saw in Barbara Hepworth’s garden later.  Also from the Tate M.

Sandra Blow 

“Vivace”, huge white canvas with a pot of paint apparently flung at it to make a big “V” shape, recalling a simplified bird in flight.  This splosh has been allowed to run down in thin trickles and then the canvas has been turned on its side.  Blow has then attached collaged strips of different colours to the right hand side.

Patrick Heron

A very Joan Mitchell- like painting – in her later, Monet-ish manner.  Dabs of bright colour, some allowed to trickle, all over canvas; then partly obscured by white, snow-like blobs.

Hans Hoffman

“Nulli Secundus” – deep red on black “floor”, cream/green toothpaste sweeps downwards.  Blocks of fizzing powder blue at the top.  how does this all work? It shouldn’t but it does.

Twombly 

A sculpture!  It’s small, like all the others; a foot or 18″ tall.  It’s bronze, and like a cannon, or the juggernaut – never would have guessed Twombly.

Lanyon

“Wreck”.  It’s like Noah’s Ark, resting on top of the soundhole of a guitar – you can see the strings.  Sea greens and lemon yellow – shouldn’t  work, but it does (that should be the title of this exhibition).

David Smith

Nearly forgot David Smith – fantastic sculpture, like a dream farm implement… What do I do with this?

de Kooning

“The Visit” – always save the best to last.  A pink woman, with her legs wide open, sweeping, gestural brushstrokes at the top, those pastel greens and yellows and red splatters…. he’s just the boss, surely.

Can’t stomach writing about minimalism tonight.  Back tomorrow, keep reading.

Listening to What Made Milwaukee Famous, Jerry Lee Lewis:

“It’s late, and she is waiting,

And I know I should go home;

But every time I start to leave, they play another song;

Then someone buys another round, and wherever drinks are free,

What made Milwaukee famous has made a loser out of me …”

Old shit one, but I like it.

Blackpaint

03.08.10

Blackpaint 172

August 11, 2010

Blackpaint is back

Dozens of readers have contacted me in a state of confusion and  panic about my absence, but I am happy to say  I’m back, with much to report.  “Dozens” may be a small exaggeration…

Guggenheim, Bilbao 

Did the usual walk through the Serra iron alleyways, said hello to the Dine giant red wooden Venuses, the Koon flower dog and the Bougeois spider.

Abstract Expressionists

A delightful surprise, this – a room with three Motherwells, a huge Rothko, a Clyfford Still and  a de Kooning. 

Motherwell

 “Venetian Red Studio”, a red rectangle with a black outlined square in top right corner (we’re talking big here; 6 ft by 10, maybe); “Iberia”, one of a sreies, all black with a white square “torn” out of corner, like a Still; and “The Voyage; Ten Years after” – tripartite landscape canvas, ochre, white and black sections with big blue and black splatters and a big, spreading brown stain, like gravy.  I thought it was a Helen Frankenthaler at first, because of the staining.  Doesn’t sound too good, does it, but actually looks  great.  No, really.

Rothko

“Untitled”, of  course.  Vast, maybe 14ft by 10, in four segments from bottom, like wide stripes; red, yellow, yellow-green, lime-ish green, reminded me strongly of the Miles Davis “Sketches of  Spain” cover (although I think that had a little black Quixote and Panza silhouette).  Opposite the entry arch, a breathtaker.

Clyfford Still

Much smaller, maybe 4 by 2ft, a plain canvas with lots of brown foliage-like markings and a thin red strip or “zip” down or up the length of canvas – according to Still, it was up,apparently very  important.

de Kooning

“Villa Borghese”, portrait, say 6 ft  by 5, pink, green, blue, yellow and green/yellow smear/splurges.. smurges?  Vigorous strokes, almost swipes, up, across, and in triangular shape.  You can see its a picture of  a big house and garden – if you need to.

Rousseau

Douanier, that is.  An exhibition of his stuff upstairs.  Apparently influential on Cubists, particularly Picasso, his “painted collage” style – background painted first, then foregrounding in stages, giving a stuck-on effect to foremost images, which is very striking.  Some “jungle” pictures (famously based on in the local zoological gardens) and some decidedly dodgy portraits.

Two pictures stood out for me – “Les Artilleurs”, obviously from a photograph; 14 soldiers, white trousers, blue tunics, big artillery piece.  The other, surreal clowns in a wooded landscape, very high moon, huge twilight sky, and a VERY low ground – reminded me of that Kobke painting in National Gallery earlier in year, the one done from the roof of the castle, way down the canvas with vast sky.  Only in terms of the perspective, however;  you couldn’t really call Kobke’s stuff surreal – it’s so normal, yet empty (but then, Delvaux, de Chirico…).

Did Picasso really revere him?  there’s something in Penguin Book of Art Writing on a party at R’s, which I think implies they made fun of him – I’ll  re-read it for tomorrow.  I was thinking maybe Rousseau was a sort of Ornette Coleman- type figure, sort of derided at first, too advanced in his approach to be appreciated by anyone but a handful.  I’ll come back to that too.

No new paintings yet, so an old one will have to do..

St. John on Patmos