Posts Tagged ‘Royal Academy’

Blackpaint 623 – Ghosts, Outsiders, Vampires and the Steppenwolf

July 8, 2018

A Ghost Story dir. David Lowery, 2017

Clear reference to “Hallowe’en” here in Casey Affleck’s sheety outfit – and maybe also Guston’s Klansmen, but that’s probably pushing it too far.  it’s basically sentimental,  as all ghost stories are (even MR James), relying as they do on some sort of continued existence after death; there are, however, a couple of moments – the Indian attack on the homesteaders and its aftermath, for instance.  The score is metallic and whining, like a lathe or drill and tends to drive the listener to madness for the first, maybe, 15 minutes.

Steppenwolf and Nausea (and the Outsider)

 

I read these two books at roughly the same time, back at the start of the 70s; recently re-read them both and was surprised at how many similarities there were.  Hesse’s novel is from 1926 and Sartre’s 12 years later; both deal with alienation from “bourgeois” society, a disgust and rejection of common values and they share a sense of apartness; the protagonists are outsiders, looking with disgust at their fellow beings,  In the case of Roquentin, Sartre’s hero, the alienation takes the form of a psychological dis-ease, in which things and people lose any meaning and seem almost to congeal in some way.

Obviously, these are just the sort of themes that students would lap up; being an outsider, contempt for the common herd,  being misunderstood, being in some sense special; we loved all that Steppenwolf stuff:  “Magic Theatre Not for Everyone”- and in Nausea: “I had dinner at the Rendez-vous des Cheminots.   Since the patronne was there, I had to fuck her, but it was really out of politeness…”  Yeah!  That’s the sort of thing we Outsiders did, or would have, given the opportunity…

I wonder if these books are still much read by today’s students.

Saatchi Gallery – Known Unknowns, until August.

Sometimes at Saatchi, you get some real pleasures in amongst these lesser-known artists.  Four of my favourites below – Mona Osman’s vampirish cartoons, colourful cowboys et al from Danny Fox, texture in abundance from Daniel Crews-Chubb and mishaps with tables and legs from Stuart Middleton.  Actually, I think Fox and Crews-Chubb might not be part of “Known Unknowns” – not sure, but they’re there anyway.

Mona Osman

 

Mona Osman

 

Danny Fox

 

Daniel Crews-Chubb.   It’s a bit de Kooning Woman, isn’t it?

 

Stuart Middleton

 

Royal Academy Summer Show

I wasn’t that impressed with this year’s summer show and my reaction was only slightly influenced by being rejected yet again.  It all seemed a bit too much like Grayson Perry-type stuff; quirky, trendy, funny, gimmicky.  There’s a portrait of Nigel Farage, for example; but it’s not very good (but it’s not supposed to be, because it’s ironic…)  It  wears thin pretty quickly for me.

RA – 250 years of Summer Show

This, on the other hand, contains some brilliant paintings, Turner, Gainsborough, John Collier’s fabulous “The Prodigal Daughter” (photo was too dark), and this beautiful Sandra Blow and the Kitaj below that:

Sandra Blow

 

The Killer-Critic Assassinated by his Widower Even, RB Kitaj (1997)

 

Enough for now – my seasonally titled piece below (for overseas readers, we in the UK are undergoing something of a heatwave).

Let the Sizzle Begin..  (Collage)

Blackpaint

8.07.17

 

 

 

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Blackpaint 616 – Peevish Charles, Resentful Leavers and the Platypus

February 21, 2018

RA- Charles I Exhibition

Obviously the Holbeins and Van Dycks are the stars of this show – that Van Dyck family portrait with the kids and dog and baby  is noticeably informal, compared to earlier group portraits.  The hunting portrait of Charles, borrowed from the Louvre, is great; I think it’s the satin-clad elbow poking out at you.  On TV, some pundit said the horse in the picture “stole the show”; I say the elbow does.  The triple portrait of Charles on the poster captures a sort of querulous obstinacy; weak-eyed, peevish but with clear indications of an inflexible wilfulness.

Fantastic Mantegna series of the Roman Triumph; tapestries based on Raphael cartoons, especially The Miraculous Draft of Fishes; I’m not keen on that Titian of the man in furs with the big dog jumping up at him.

Leavers and Remainers  (Trauma, Requiem)

Maybe because I’ve just read David Goodhart’s The Road to Somewhere, I keep seeing the two sides in the Brexit vote represented in TV drama.  The John Sims character in “Trauma”, bitter, obsessive, smouldering with self-righteous anger at the doctor who failed to save the life of Sims’ son after he was stabbed.  He’s the Brexiter, of course, hating and pursuing Adrian Lester’s smooth, rich, elite surgeon.

There is also “Requiem”, with the Remainers being the young cellist and her devoted accompanist, the Brexiters being the hostile, defensive Welsh villagers, burning with resentment towards these invaders from London with their nosy questions.  More to both these series of course; probably just my obsession.

The Post, dir. Spielberg (2017)

Very old-fashioned Spielberg film – stirring music at strategic moments, Hanks and Streep doing the Right Thing in defiance of the US government, an admiring group of young women gazing up at Streep as she leaves the courtroom…   I did reflect, though, that the Washington Post’s publishing of the Pentagon Papers would never have happened in the UK, with the various restrictions on the media that can be brought into play here and, indeed, the willingness of the British media to cave in to the government.

Loveless, dir, Zvyagintsev (2017)

The poster said “mesmerising” and “riveting”; can be code for very, very slow…  But, happily, the film is both (mesmerising and riveting, that is).  After “Leviathan”, Zvyagintsev has shifted his focus from politics and the new gangster elites in Russia to the personal; furious, bitter fighting between his divorcing parents lead a Russian teenager to go missing in a forest near Moscow.  Much of the film concerns the campaign by a volunteer group to trace the youngster, setting about the search in a determined and disciplined way, going to considerable lengths to do what the police might be expected to do, or at least, attempt.

Brett Whiteley

I’ve been looking at Whiteley’s work again, and I have to say, he takes collage to stunning lengths; among the objects affixed to various works are the following: teeth, brain (actually a slice on a slide, by the looks of it in the photo), eggs, birds – and a platypus.

To Yirrawalla (1972)

 

Little Van Gogh

I’ve got some pictures with this group, which rents paintings out to offices, moving them around every few months.  Examples below – they’re all mine.

 

Blackpaint

21.2.18

 

Blackpaint 506 – Light through the Thorns, Parrots in Boxes, Budgies in Trunks

August 8, 2015

William Gear – A Centenary Exhibition, Redfern Gallery, Cork Street W1

gear redfern 1

A couple of blogs ago (Blackpaint 502), I wrote about the Neil Stokoe exhibition at the Redfern, to which I’d gone. expecting William Gear.  Now the Gear is on, until September 5th and it’s well worth the trip to Green Park tube and the heat of Piccadilly to see it.

Gear exhibited with CoBra in 1949 – he and Stephen Gilbert were the only British artists – but I have to say, I don’t think he has a lot in common with painters like Appel; his work strikes me as much more like Adrian Heath, Bryan Wynter and even sometimes Patrick Heron, than the wilder, thicker, more gestural products of Appel and Jorn.  There is one painting, however, “Le Marche aux Fleurs” (1947), which could easily have been an early Jorn.

There are several recurring features of Gear’s work, the most prominent, perhaps, being the tangled bundle of jagged, hooked, thorn-like shapes he seemed to fling across his canvases, so that the patches of bright colour seem to peep out through a thicket of scrub.  The shapes are often, but not always, black.  Gear isn’t afraid of yellow; he uses a full spectrum, but it’s the yellow and black that stay with you after the Redfern.

Triangular grids are another feature, and there are a number of works like “Black Form on Red”(1957), that comprise two or three colours used in large, simple shapes, looking rather like sheets of thin leather or felt, collaged onto the canvas – Poliakoff, maybe, or Burri.  An influence that is suggested in the catalogue is that of Nicolas de Stael – I couldn’t see that, I have to say.

gear redfern 3

Good exhibition, in association with the Towner Gallery in Eastbourne, where Gear was the curator in the 60s.  There was a great black, thorny self-portrait on show at the Pallant House in Chichester recently; maybe its still there.  made me think of Tony Bevan, a bit.

gear redfern 2

Joseph Cornell at the RA

cornell 1

This is an exhibition for those, and there are many of them apparently, who like quaint objects and photographs displayed in shallow boxes.  Inevitably, there is a large overlap with the likes of Max Ernst, Rene Magritte and other European surrealists; the difference being that, whereas Ernst, for example, also painted and sculpted, Cornell stuck to the box formula permanently.  Clearly, he had a thing for parrots and cockatoos; his work goes completely against the grain of North American art of the time (40s and 50s) in two ways – it’s small and it’s in boxes.  Although there were later, feminist, artists in the states who put things in drawers and boxes to display them – not parrots, though, as I recall….

cornell2

The Swimmer, Frank Perry (1968) DVD

I think John Cheever’s short story is a masterpiece of the form, one of the best of the 20th century; hard to think of others so perfect, maybe a couple of Joyce’s Dubliners or Margaret Atwood’s Serpent’s Egg.  The film is also a work of art, though very much of its era (Hamlisch’s lush theme music, coupled with jagged Johnny Staccato jazz riffs and some eye -watering psychedelic visuals).  Burt Lancaster is brilliant as the ageing playboy Ned Merrill, in his budgie smuggler trunks, swimming home across the county, by way of the “river” of swimming pools of his “friends”.  Lancaster is by turns genuinely creepy and strangely sympathetic, despite his insensitivity. The pools are not there for freeloading swimmers to propel their sweaty bodies through.

 

The Longest Journey, EM Forster

Even though I’m currently re-reading “Finnegans Wake”, Forster’s book is the strangest, most difficult novel I’ve struggled through for ages; I had to keep going back and reading bits over again to make sense of it.  the problem is twofold – the language: very arch, ironic, riddled with Edwardian Oxbridge phraseology and slang – and the concerns; “love children”, family disgrace, inheritance, the intellect v. the physical, the prosaic v.the poetic, genetic flaws, town and country, social class… Actually, that’s quite a lot and I’m sure I missed plenty.

I was interested to see that Forster kills his characters  in an even more offhand way than Virginia Woolf; a “hurt” at football, a drowning and a steam train across the knees- the last completely unsignalled (sorry) and dispassionate: “It is also a man’s duty to save his own life, and therefore he tried.  The train went over his knees.  He died up in Cadover, whispering “You have been right,” to Mrs Failing”.  That’s it.

 

finsbury mud 2

 

Finsbury Mud 2,

Blackpaint

08.08.15

 

Blackpaint 265

April 4, 2011

Cause Celebre

Interested on Friday night to hear Germaine Greer on the Review Show saying – I think – that there was doubt that Alma Rattenbury killed herself.  I remember from “60 Famous Trials” that Alma stabbed herself and jumped into a river within days of George Stoner’s death sentence.  I checked and that appears to be right; Stoner’s sentence was commuted to life imprisonment later.  I gather from the discussion that Terence Rattigan changed Stoner’s name in the play for some reason.  I was also interested to see Rattenbury’s entry in Wikipedia as a famous architect in British Columbia; sadly, he’s now much more famous in England as a murder victim.

While I’m on about “60 Famous Trials”, I must mention the poisoner Vaquier, a Belgian barman working in England,  who was in love with the landlord’s wife.  When he bought the poison, he used an assumed name that he thought the shopkeeper would not remember.  The name he chose was Mr. Wanker.

Ulysses and Madding Crowd

Jonathan Coe in the Guardian was on about unsuccessful film adaptations of classic novels.  He cited Joseph Strick’s 1967 “Ulysses” again – but why?  I found it a brilliant, funny rendering; Milo O’Shea was great in the brothel fantasy scenes, especially the trials and the humiliation by Bella Cohen.  The cast was wonderful – TP McKenna as Buck Mulligan, Milo as Bloom and Sheila O’ Sullivan as Molly, and Maurice Roeves made a fair stab at Stephen.  I’ve read the book six or seven times, so I know it pretty well; there was a lot left out (of course, and thank goodness), but what was left in was done brilliantly.

As for “Madding Crowd”, Coe thought it was OK, if a little “swinging 60’s”, presumably because Stamp and Christie were in it – hard to see how you could avoid this aspect, considering that it was made in the swinging 60’s; maybe use a different, less fashionable cast.  Nothing particularly swinging about it, to my way of thinking.

British Museum

In Prints and Drawings, some new old cartoons by  Heath.  He’s new to me anyway; some interesting surreal touches, notably Duke of Wellington with a lobster claw for a head.

Wellcome Trust

Has an exhibition about waste, dirt and disease.  For some reason, it has a great de Hooch on display, one of those red brick alleyways in Delft (or Leyden?) – these Dutch painters, de Hooch and Kalf and the like, the fore-runners of Super Realism.

Royal Academy

I took two paintings up for the handing-in day on Thursday – what’s the quote? “The triumph of hope over experience”?  I’m stuck in a groove at the moment, of St. Ives/60s style abstraction.  Surely there’s a retro market for this stuff?  Might have to start doing stylised frying pans or kitchen tables or ingredients in a pattern…  Seems to be a constant demand for that sort of thing,as long as it’s bright and well-executed.

Vincent’s letters

I’m getting a bit sick of VG’s eternal admonitions to his brother.  “Look Vincent,” Theo should have said, “just do me a few hanging frying pans, or kitchen scenes, or harbours and fishing boats in nice, bright colours, that I can shift.  Enoughof the muddy peasants and potatoes and dodgy portraits of yokels – just do something that people can look at and say, “It was just as if you were there – you could almost smell the grass…”.

Blackpaint

04.04.11

Blackpaint 42

January 18, 2010

Royal Academy Exhibition

I thought I’d have a crack at this, this year, never having tried before.  I didn’t realise they had themes – this years is as follows:

” Raw”

Selectors “wish  to ‘cut to the chase’ and take a look behind the exterior of the pristine; to address the properties of the materials and the working finger prints left in pursuit of curiosity. Raw can be stark, natural, unrefined, honest, bleak, tender and new.”  They want ” candour beyond disguise”.

Well, I should have no problem with “stark, natural, unrefined” and “bleak” – “tender and new” might be a bit of a stretch though – and as for honest… 

It got me thinking about which artists’ work might fit these descriptors.  I would have said Franz Kline; his stuff is certainly stark, and some might say bleak – but then it turns out to have been highly considered and prepared, so you couldn’t call it unrefined.  Other “gestural” painters – Wols, Mitchell, Pollock – sometimes have the appearance, at first sight, of rawness or spontaneous improvisation; but a few minutes consideration are enough to reveal the care, planning, and controlled delicacy of most of their work. 

The painters I would choose are Karel Appel, Dubuffet and (some, but by no means all) Asger Jorn.  Some of Dubuffet’s stuff appears quite literally scraped raw – for instance, the one in Tate Modern where you pick out the figures – and that goes also for the two Jorns, “Proud Timid One” with its scraped surface, and the other one with the little globular people looking out at you.  Virtually all of Appel’s fabulous paintings are great swirls of thickly applied, fresh, blinding colour.  Giacometti drawings are another example, I suppose, in the sense that they are worked and reworked and built up, and of course, Auerbach.

There is a problem here of course, in the sense that these artists produce “raw” work in appearance – the “fingerprints” are left in, the properties of the materials are exploited – but you couldn’t really call their work raw in any other sense.  Auerbach’s, famously,  is very “cooked”, gone over and over again, erased and redone umpteen times.  Again, we see that an “unrefined” appearance is often very deceptive – and these terms that seem so straightforward at first, are quite problematic.

Listening to Frank Sinatra with the Tommy Dorsey Orchestra, doing “Begin the Beguine”;

“So don’t let them begin the Beguine, don’t let them play;

Let the spark that was once a fire remain an ember…”

Hard, raw swing with brash, blaring brass and a hard -edged, yearning, perfect vocal.

Blackpaint

18.o1.10