Posts Tagged ‘Rubens’

Blackpaint 533 – Brussels; a Dog’s Breakfast and God on an Egg

February 21, 2016

Musee Des Beaux Arts (Museum of Ancient Art) Brussels

OK, a selection of the fantastic art in the above, starting, oddly, with the massive Alechinsky below – just like an Asger Jorn, lots of little animal and elf heads swirling around in it – but not exactly ancient.  It’s in the vast entrance hall, as is the Wappers below it.

 

alechinsky2

 

wappers

Scene from the 1830 revolution, this has got everything in it, all going on at once.  Even a dog in there, women with babies, drummer boy…  Reminds me a bit of that Copley in the Tate Britain, gates of St. Helier, death of some officer..?

christ on egg

Magnificent picture by??   God appears to have four legs, two of which are balanced daintily on a big egg.  Looks like a Last Judgement to me.

 

ribera

de Ribera – Apollo Flaying Marsyas.

Apollo is delicately stripping the skin from Marsyas’ leg as if it were a salmon steak.  And look – the raw flesh echoes Apollo’s lovely gown!  I’m sure M would appreciate that.

Now, a series of huge Rubens:

rubens1

Titian-like compo; and that cadmium red against the yellow ochre, against the blue…

 

rubens2

I think Lucian Freud did a painting looking down on a man in bed with his arm raised like that.  Look at the muscles in the shoulder and arm of the kneeling woman and the red dress of the fleshy angel on the left.

rubens4

The Martyrdom of Saint Livinus.  He’s had his tongue torn out; that’s it, in the pincers, being offered to the dog.

 

rubens5

 

rubens6

A couple of the dozen or so Rubens sketches on show.

 

boy with bobbin

I don’t know who did this picture – the label was too blurred to read in our photo.  Look at the grubby left hand clutching the  – what is it? a bobbin, maybe? – whatever, its one of the great hands.  And the absorbed expression..

Kitaj, Marco Livingstone, (Phaidon, 2010)

kitaj cecil

Kitaj – Cecil Court

Consider this quotation from the end of Livingstone’s account of Kitaj’s life and work: “… he provided both clues to the meanings of his pictures and traps with which to ensnare the inattentive spectator.  The more knowledge one brings to his work, and the more prepared one is to follow up the references and the quotations…..the more one is rewarded.  Long after the artefacts made by many of his contemporaries have exhausted themselves and been drained of content, Kitaj’s paintings will continue to gnaw away at our curiosity and to yield their secrets.”

Or not.  Kitaj’s work is abstruse and impenetrable in many cases because it makes continual reference to his own reading, and his cultural, historical, political and sexual interests (obsessions).  Read the same books, live the same life – you might get it; but you might not, because he likes to be puzzling.  For me, the interesting information in the pictures concerns form, colour, line, composition, texture and a whole load of other things to do with painting that can’t easily be put into words.  That’s the point of painting pictures, figurative or non – figurative.  I don’t want to “follow up the references and the quotations” or avoid the “traps with which to ensnare the inattentive spectator” – PAY ATTENTION, you at the back there! – I just want to look at the pictures.

By the way, Cecil Court, above, is one of the few Kitaj pictures in which there’s any sense of perspective.  Most of his pictures  seem to press up against the “screen” of the front of the canvas.  Not a criticism, just an observation.

Rabelais, Gargantua and Pantagruel

Fascinating explanation of the reason why miles (leagues) are shorter near to Paris and get longer as you head towards Brittany etc.  There’s a great deal to learn in this riveting old book.  I wonder why it was never made in a children’s version, the old Classics Illustrated for example.

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WIP.  Seems to be a droopy charcoal penis in the left centre, on a pink background.  It has no significance to the picture, which is totally abstract.

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Blackpaint 526 – the Inevitable (yawn…) Review of the Year

December 31, 2015

Best Exhibitions

auerbach eow on bed

Auerbach, Tate Britain

pollock no14 1951

Pollock, Tate Liverpool

bacon figures in a landscape

Bacon, Sainsbury Centre

 

Torso 1928 Dame Barbara Hepworth 1903-1975 Presented by the executors of the artist's estate 1980 http://www.tate.org.uk/art/work/T03128

 

Hepworth Exhibition, Tate Britain

 

goya mirth

Goya, Courtauld

dumas helene

Dumas, Tate Modern

diebenkorn seated woman

Diebenkorn, RA

sargent children

Singer Sargent, NPG

hoyland2

Hoyland, Damien Hirst’s Newport Street Gallery

Wreck 1963 by Peter Lanyon 1918-1964

Lanyon, Courtauld

 

Actually a fantastic year in London; all the shows and books and DVDs below have been reviewed in previous Blackpaints, so you can see a proper evaluation – sort of – if you’re interested…

  • abstract geometry following on from Malevich at the Whitechapel with Adventures of the Black Square;
  • Marlene Dumas’ haunting and unsettling portraits and masks and nudes at TM;
  • Barbara Hepworth at TB (rather worthy, but some lovely little torsos from her and her contemporaries – maybe I’ve been to St.Ives too many times);
  • beautiful, modulating colours and shapes from Sonia Delaunay at TM;
  • Singer Sargent at the National Portrait Gallery – one delight after another, throughout;
  • Goya drawings and etchings of witches, penitents, “lunatics” and other unfortunates at the Courtauld (missed the National Gallery Goya, I’m afraid);
  • Giacometti, NPG – good but not THAT good..
  • Alexander Calder, TM – also GBNTG.

But the best:

  • Diebenkorn at the RA;
  • Rubens at the same time, same venue;
  • Frank Auerbach at TB;
  • Marlene Dumas;
  • Bacon and the Masters at Sainsbury Centre, UEA;
  • Singer Sargent;
  • Lanyon at the Courtauld;
  • Pollock at Tate Liverpool;
  • John Hoyland at Hirst’s new gallery near Vauxhall.

 

Best Films

No contest here; Jodorowsky’s Dance of Reality.  Violence, murder, suicide, live burial, plague, the Golden Shower, torture, operatic singing, more masks, Stalinism and nazism – all in the best possible taste and with an uplifting message.  And some wonderful scenery.

jodorowsky

Abel Ferrara’s Pasolini.  William Dafoe is great in the role; the sex is startlingly spectacular; mix of fantasy and reality – and a soundtrack including Tony Jo White of Polk Salad Annie fame (ask your grandparents).

Disappointing, given the hype:

Carol – woman -on- woman love story.  Good acting, good period feel, otherwise conventional.

Star Wars; the Force Awakens – Good action film, with a bit of nostalgia.  Found my attention slipping now and then (as in Carol); realised (I knew, of course, but didn’t know it in my bones) that criticism on TV and in papers is just part of the publicity machine.  They’re all for sale, from the Guardian to the Sun and beyond.

And the worst:

German’s Hard to be a God.

It is as if he deliberately set out to make it impossible to understand, or even to watch; its all too close – you can’t get any perspective.

 

Best DVDs /TV

Wild Tales – portmanteau mayhem in Argentina.

All is Lost – Robert Redford, convincingly against the elements.

One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest – Jack Nicholson against Louise Fletcher.

chief

The Swimmer– Burt Lancaster swims home across Cheeverland.

 

Best Books Read – poetry first

Gil Scott-Heron -Then and Now.  The words are great, even without the music.   What’s the word?

John Cooper Clarke – Ten Years in an Open Necked Shirt.  Evidently Chicken Town and Beasley Street – no more to be said.

Ted Hughes- Collected Poetry.  As Alan Bennett says, he’s not strong on humour, but the imagery is gritty and muscular and totally original.  Who is stronger?  Hughes, evidently…

Gaudete – also by Hughes.  His verse novel about the vicar from hell who visits vigorously all the women of his parish to found his new religion – and the efforts of the shotgun-owning menfolk to curb his enthusiasm…

 

Non – Fiction

Clothes Clothes Clothes, Music Music Music, Boys Boys Boys –  Viv Albertine.  great book – I couldn’t put it down.  Awful title, impossible to remember the right order.

Just Kids –  Patti Smith about her and Robert Mapplethorpe.  Surprisingly restrained and almost Victorian prose at times.  By the way, lovely exhibition of Mapplethorpe, featuring photos and film of the young Patti at Kiasma, Helsinki.

patti2

 

Fiction

Raymond Carver, Collected Stories – he just wipes everyone but Cheever off the map.

John Cheever, Collected Stories.  Torch Song, the Duchess, the Little Red Moving Van, The Country Husband, The Swimmer… no, Cheever’s the best.  Unless Carver is…

House of Leaves, Mark Danielewski – a sort of horror story, pretentious, experimental in form.

Shark, Will Self – pretentious and experimental in form and language.

Finders Keepers, Stephen King – the absolute master of plot and narrative drive; once you start any SK story you will finish it, unless you die first.

 

And the worst;

The Enormous Room, e e cummings – the archness of the language is unbelievable; a prison novel set in WWI, which is, so far,  a series of “comic” character sketches.  It’s driving me mad and I may give up on it.  The Penguin Modern Classic cover is a great Paul Klee, though…

 

And My Best of 2015

heaven only knows 2

Heaven Only Knows II

 

pellet1

A Pellet falls from Outer Space

Blackpaint

31.12.15

Happy New Year to all readers for whom it is New Year.

Blackpaint 487 – Diebens and Rubenkorn at the RA and Willem and Frank too

March 23, 2015

Richard Diebenkorn at the RA

Died and gone to heaven – well, very impressed anyway.  I think he’s my number 4, after Joan Mitchell, de Kooning and Peter Lanyon.  Some say he’s too easy; nice landscape-y images, pleasing, limpid palette… it’s a matter of taste, of course, but I went round and round, marvelling at one picture after another, and I’ll be going again, for sure.  Anyway, these are my highlights:

diebenkorn berkeley 57

Berkeley#57 

The busiest canvas, I think; can’t stop turning to look at it wherever you are in the gallery.  It all works better than in the photo above – colours are much richer.

 

diebenkorn seated woman

 

Seated Woman (on board) 

There’s something delectable about his drawings and paintings of women – they are sometimes rough, pentimenti showing, with a sort of intentional “clumsiness” as Jane Livingstone suggests in her book.  he likes striped tops and skirts (and no clothes at all, too).

diebenkorn day at the race

 

A Day at the Race 

The split screen effect; you can see it too, in “Interior View of Buildings”, in which the strip of buildings itself acts as a sort of divider.  It’s the Urbana series in which he uses this effect, I believe.  Like window frames sometimes.

The Cigar Box Tops

Tiny, perfect versions of the huge ones.

Still lifes

I love the knife in a glass – that putty colour.  And the Ashtray and Doors; looks to me like he’s painted over an old canvas, or board – the striations.

The figures

I’ve talked about the women – drinking coffee, reading the newspaper – there are a few men around, including one little one (picture, that is) that looks like Picasso – him, not one of his paintings.  They remind me a lot of David Park, a Bay Area painter.

diebenkorn ocean park 79

 

Ocean Park #79 

The best, I think, of the Ocean Park series – like your in an ornate, slightly shabby indoor swimming pool, with the light pouring through a huge skylight.  Takes me back to Deep End again (the Skolimowski film with Jane Asher that I’ve been watching in 30 minute chunks, because the script and acting are so clunky).

If I could, I would put in every picture in this exhibition.

Rubens and his Legacy (RA)

This got a blistering review in the Guardian from Jonathan Jones. I think; not enough big paintings, he said; too many sketches, too much padding, loads of pictures by artists who aren’t Rubens, and in which the “legacy” is spurious.  There’s a lot in what he says, but it’s still a great exhibition, in the sense of containing loads of pictures that are fantastic to look at.

 

rubens lion hunt

 Tiger, Lion and Leopard Hunt

This is the poster boy of the exhibition and deservedly so – just look at it; it’s all happening, just as it would have happened in real life!  One bloke is forcing open a lion’s jaws with his hands, while a tiger’s getting stuck into green man’s shoulder; and the other tiger has cubs in her mouth…  Enough sarcasm, it’s a staggering composition and swirl of colours.  I saw it at the top of the escalator at Tooting Bec tube station (poster, not the original) when I didn’t have my glasses on, and it looks fantastic as an abstract.

There are several other lion hunts by other greats, notably Rembrandt and a great lion hunt sketch by Rubens himself – they couldn’t have known those lion hunt reliefs from Nineveh, was it, or Nimrud…

Other Rubens highlights are:

rubens charles 1 with guard

 

James I uniting England and Scotland 

This sketch, from Birmingham Art Gallery, I’ve included because of the guard’s incredibly muscular left leg, not really well reproduced here, but massively impressive in the flesh, so to speak… reminds me of the left leg of the grey horse in the previous picture.  I like the angle of view in these ceiling sketches.

The Abdication of Persephone

Luminous little painting, fabulous but couldn’t find a repro…

Among the other painters represented, it’s worth mentioning the Kokoschka cartoon, in which Queen Victoria sits astride a shark, feeding it seamen (I quote the caption on the wall).  Presumably its based on a Rubens painting.  There’s a great Bocklin, “Battle on the Bridge”, shades of those Degas boys riding bareback in that famous picture.  Also works by Picasso, Reynolds, Lawrence, Cezanne, Delacroix, Gericault – and in a related exhibition curated by Jenny Savile, three de Koonings, including a juicy one from 1977, in which the paint swipes are so thick that the paint has stretched and puckered into tiny holes as it dried.  There’s also one of those red/orange/pink panel size women from 1971, and a collage from earlier.  AND two colourful Auerbach portraits, brilliant obviously, and a fabulous Bacon nude, George Dyer, by the look of it.  Savile herself has a big monochrome painting,  a bit like a Kiefer, and Cicely Brown has a DK – ish picture that’s not up to her best.  I’d pay to go and see this sub-exhibition alone.

The Fall of the Obese

There is a whole room full of Falls and in Rubens’ case, the sinners going to damnation all seem to be overweight.  But then of course, so do most humans in Rubens’ works, particularly the women; I mention the wife of Captain Pugwash again, in this connection…

Anyway, too much to say for one blog, so continued next week, along with all three new exhibitions at Tate Britain.

These are the counter rhythms2

These are the Counter Rhythms (WIP)

Blackpaint

22.03.15

 

 

Blackpaint 482 – Marlene, Noel, Numan and Nosferatu

February 15, 2015

Noel Gallagher in the Saturday Telegraph Magazine

Check out the cover (below right) without your glasses or your eyes narrowed – looks like an Auerbach, doesn’t it?  Photo by Nadav Kander.

auerbach gallagher gallagher telegraph

 

Marlene Dumas, The Image as Burden, Tate Modern

Where to start with this one?  Has to be the style, I think.  dark, crude, slippery brush sweeps,  apparent, but intentional clumsiness here and there, mask-like portraits, a photographic quality of “deadness” in the line and colour, and the occasional blurriness of the image – you can see similarities in Tuymans, Gerhard Richter, William Sasnal, Chantal Joffe, Tracy Emin’s drawings…  It’s become a sort of common style of drawing with paint or ink.  I  think her work at times strongly resembles Munch’s paintings, if the depressing colours were drained out of the latter.  Sounds as if I don’t like them, but I think most are brilliant.

It seems to me that, with many of her paintings, she reverses what Luc Tuymans and Richter have done:  they present the sinister (Tuyman’s Martin Bormann, Richter’s Uncle Otto) as banal – she presents the banal as sinister (the child with paint on hands, her self-portrait, the group “photo” of schoolgirls).  She paints from photos, not life, and you can see that sometimes in the way light reflects in the eyes.

dumas red

Almost like Larry Rivers, this one;

 

dumas self

Her “evil” self-portrait;

 

dumas child

 

 

For my money, the best pictures are in the room to the left, with the warning:

dumas shrimp

This one’s called “The Shrimp”, rather a shocking association somehow – but I love that staining technique.

dumas

A portrait from a surprising angle, that would be difficult to hold for a long time.

There are, of course, many works that deal with “darker” material (the porn stuff, Baader Meinhof, Bin Laden, dead people – i.e. corpses) but there is no coherent political line that I can make out; she has provided  a lot of commentary on the walls but it’s pretty inarticulate, like that of most artists.  I wondered if she’d had a negative reaction to her paintings of black people, apparently sexualised, or mask-like as they (the pictures) sometimes are; she is a white South African, after all – but apparently not.  Nothing in Wikipedia anyway.

A terrific exhibition; I’ll be going again, for sure.

Drawing Gallery, Courtauld

A room now dedicated to drawings from early Renaissance to relatively modern: a fabulous Rubens reclining nude, a Dutch windswept river bank, a Joshua Reynolds sketch of a dancing woman, and a Larry Rivers “map” sketch in ochre and green with tape on it.

rubens nude

Rubens

 

The Enigma of Kaspar Hauser, Werner Herzog

Brilliant performance by Bruno S, especially the scene where he burns his hand in the candle flame and tears start out from his eyes with no other change in his facial expression.

Nosferatu, Herzog

This alternates between brilliance and bathos throughout.  Kinski, as Dracula, strongly resembles a bald Gary Numan; Renfield’s giggling is way over the top; Dracula carts a coffin through a graveyard to a mausoleum and flinches at a cross on the wall – having passed half a dozen crosses in the graveyard.  The soundtrack, with the alpine horn, is fantastic; Isabelle Adjani as Lucie is a beautiful pre-Raphaelite tragic heroine; the cinematography is great.  There’s a shot of a carriage crossing a causeway over a lake, with the horses and carriage reflected – same thing in “Pat Garrett and Billy the Kid” and, I think, in “Night of the Hunter”.  The feast scene with the plague victims is straight out of Brueghel.

kinski numan

Numan and Kinski

I alternated bits of Nosferatu with Dawn of the Dead (George Romero 1975), which I’d also recorded; the shoot-outs in the mall livened things up and I was able to return, refreshed, to Dracula’s castle, from zombies back to vampires.  It struck me that Dawn would make a great double with the original John Carpenter “Assault on Precinct 13”.  I’m sure Dawn was shot on a tight budget – I saw the same check-shirted, long-haired zombie get blasted at least three times.

 

watercolour7

 

Sonia’s Back, Blackpaint 

Blue Slide

 

Blue Slide, Blackpaint

Feb. 15th 2015

 

 

Blackpaint 371 – Cezanne’s Skull and the Gamekeeper’s Moustache

December 13, 2012

Bloomberg New Contemporaries

I know I did this ICA exhibition last time, but didn’t give any names of the artists – going to put that right now.  The “strolling” video (glamorous Japanese(?) women strolling in a mannered way around gardens and statuary) is by Tony Law.  The squares with diagonal cross inside, black on white canvas – the ones a bit like Bram van Velde – are by Jack Brindley.  He also has a sculpture made of a bent metal rod, like a very thick aerial; doesn’t sound much, but it’s good, I think.  The blurry paintings on unbleached linen are by Emanuel Rohss – one of them looks like a sinister head and shoulders figure now, maybe a comic superhero covered in leaves….

Jennifer Bailey did the acid green, triangular, Varda Caivano – like paintings, and Suki Seokycong Kang did the loopy, Twombly-Wool grey and pink painting.  Finally, Nicole Morris did the video in which a woman model tries out poses against a background of blue partitions.

A couple of exhibits I didn’t mention last time:  there is a video on a TV showing a series of clips, repeated a defined number of times each.  A young man in a swimming pool jumps onto the back of another, while someone’s midriff passes the camera; a host introduces a singer on stage; a woman sings a song from “Evita”; a parrot squawks; all these repeated a number of times.  I think the point is that repetition creates integrity, or “establishment” in some way.  The repetition acts as a sort of frame, starting and cutting off the sequence at given points and establishing a sort of completeness.  Think of repetition in music, the idea of a “riff” in jazz.  Yes, it might drive you mad of course – but I find the idea interesting.  The video is the work of Piotr Krzymowsky.  Finally, there is a huge linen, covered by a spidery dark blue and burnt orange expressionist pattern by Max Ruf.

National Gallery

Spent two hours there the other day.  I think I saw everything – five things stuck with me in particular: Samson’s huge left shoulder and arm in Ruben’s painting and that dark crimson robe; the executioner’s snappy white and blue(?) striped tights in the Master of Kappenburg’s painting; the fantastic Degas paintings in the first of the Impressionist rooms, the black outlining of the hands – is it good or bad, I can’t decide; the Cezanne self -portrait, in which the colours on the bald skull of the painter  echo those on the rocks of the landscape by the same painter, a few feet away; and that lovely wet Paris street at night by Pisarro.  And the Titians and Raphaels and Tintorettos… I still don’t think the Manchester Madonna and the other unfinished one look much like Michelangelos, however.

La Regle du Jeu

Started watching this creaky film out of sense of duty – often cited as one of the greatest ever – and after a few minutes, totally hooked.  The shooting party scenes I only realised were a metaphor for the spread of Fascism when I watched the commentary, I’m sorry to say.  What it reminded me of , more than anything, was “L’Age d’Or”.  the country house setting, the madcap entertainments, or course, but above all, Schumacher the gamekeeper, with the moustache and glaring eye.  When I looked it up – yes, same guy, who played “the Man” in L’Age d’Or nine years earlier.

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006

Saint’s Head, Man’s Back

Blackpaint

13th December 2012

Blackpaint 339 – Toads, Pus, and Self-Indulgent Vice

April 26, 2012

Figure Drawing

Trying to keep my hand in on the figure drawing front until I can return to my Friday sessions, I bought a big pad and have been copying nudes out of the Louvre and Courtauld guidebooks.  After two days, I’m thoroughly sick of Rubens nudes in lesbian fantasy poses, bouncing about with tambourines, and naked slave girls being artfully stabbed at the court of Sardanopolis, and I’ve taken refuge in the works of Kirchner.  Pointy feet, skinny. insect-like bodies, pus, lime green and acid orange instead of rosy pinks and fleshy curves.

Cyclists

Wandering about on the common today, getting used to walking and stretching my stitches, I felt like one of those unfortunates loitering in the park,  in the Larkin poem Toads Revisited – “Waxed-fleshed out-patients,  Still vague from accidents”; always exciting nowadays  though, with the constant need to jump out of the path of the determined, hard-eyed cyclists, sprinting towards you along the No Cycling paths.  It reminded me of this I saw in the Guggenheim in Venice – it’s by Metzinger:

But actually not quite right; not enough malevolence.

Luc Tuymans

I came across this painting of his in Phaidon’s 20th Century Art Book; it’s from 1990, and is entitled “Body”.  The commentary, rather than the work itself, I found interesting.  “…a small, near-abstract composition, painted with an almost careless disregard.  Tuymans deliberately wishes to avoid the appearance of sophistication, seeing virtuosity as a self-indulgent vice.  He uses cheap paints, badly stretched canvases, and sometimes employs a medium for the base coat which causes the surface layers to crack, resulting in premature ageing… Tuyman’s colours are dismal and sickly, like the nicotine-stained walls of a decaying mental hospital.”  It seems to me that this commentary applies to a whole swathe of painters, both figurative and abstract, ranging from de Kooning and Diebenkorn to Marlene Dumas and William Sasnal – give or take the remarks about colour and cheap paint.  It is an approach that has been absorbed into the aesthetic of the last 50 years, yet it still divides people on the question of “proper art”.  Rough, cheap, dismal and sickly – sounds good to me.

Meek’s Cut-off

Saw this on TV last night.  What are we to make of the ending?  I thought Bela Tarr and Tarkovsky had cured me of the need to ask such questions, but after a straight telling of an intriguing story, with two clear possibilities presented, the film just stopped and I felt cheated.  Did the Blackfoot lead them to water or slaughter?  Still want to be told a story with a proper ending…. pathetic really.

Figure Drawing 5

Blackpaint

26.04.12

Blackpaint 288

August 11, 2011

Santiago de Compostella

It means Saint James of the Field of Stars and refers to James the Greater (there were two disciples  named James, the Greater and the Less), whose bones allegedly rest here in the Cathedral, having been stolen and smuggled away from Alexandria in the night.  Perhaps at odds with the disciple image is James’ reputation as the Moor Killer; he is supposed to have turned up to support the Christian side in a battle with the Moors  and killed 60, 000 of them.  There is a statue in the cathedral of him on horseback, slashing his sword down, presumably on the head of an enemy; in  his big, floppy pilgrim’s hat, he resembles a Remington version of General Custer or Buffalo Bill.

The Cathedral has some curious sights for those not of the faith; there is no escaping an Indian, or perhaps Thai aspect to the numerous turrets, the elaborate altarpieces and the general profusion of decoration;  It reminded me of Fatehpur Sikri in Rajahstan.  The figures of Christ and the madonna were strangely doll-like; one, Christ with sword and orb (actually it might have been a Spanish king, but I think it was Christ) looked as if it might step down stiff-legged like a Golem and start slashing away.  There were several booths containing priests ready to hear confession – one had a placard listing the languages he spoke, another was apparently fast asleep – giving the impression of fortune tellers awaiting clients.

You go up the narrow steps behind the gold – is it the sun, or the head of Christ or the Virgin? – thing on the main altar and straight down the other side, no time to linger.  As you descend, you look up and there are two huge cherubs hanging above your head like Ron Mueck babies, but not quite so lifelike.  The descent into the crypt, to pass the silver box containing relics of the saint, is conducted at a similarly brisk rate.

Tapestries

There are threee sets of tapestries in the Cathedral museum which are  “based on” designs by Rubens, Teniers and Goya.  The Rubens ones have the usual Pugwash women, but with rather crude facial features; they show Achilles being dipped in the Styx, and some Greek love myths.  The Teniers are scenes of village life; dancing, drunkenness, rowdies being chucked out of celebrations, a man urinating discreetly in a corner, a skating scene and possibly some work going on.  The Goyas were various; a boy trying to trap a bird, children playing drums – the characteristic things were the hats, tall and pointy for soldiers, curling and oddly drooping at the  sides for those matador jobs.  Also the stance – that shoulders back, bum thrust out, hand on hip stance for the bully-boy soldier.

Picasso 

Free to see, in a private gallery nearby, 60-odd etchings by Picasso from 1931 – 33.  They contain some wonderful images of course; the one I know best is the Minotaur relaxing with a glass of wine and a female admirer.  Many are on the theme of the artist and model, but the one that stuck in my mind was one that contained two Guernica horses, done several years before the famous painting.  There were also two that showed a woman asleep on a table or the artist’s lap, which foreshadowed the famous Dream (the one where half her face appears to resolve into a penis).  They were entitled the Vollard Collection.

Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep?

The Philip K Dick book on which “Blade Runner” was based, of course.  I’d never read it before and was surprised to find he never used the term Blade Runner (it comes from William Burroughs, via the script writers presumably).  They must also have come up with Roy Baty’s famous lines about the shoulder of Orion and the Tannhauser Gate – they are nowhere to be found in the Dick original.  On the other hand, the film left out the cult of Mercerism, Buster Friendly,  the coveting of animals and  the philosophising.

So, two distinct works of art; Ridley Scott’s stripped-down, cold-hearted action thriller film and Dick’s original – little character development,  perfunctory in places, but fizzing with ideas.  I think all his novels are like this; he can’t be bothered to finish them before starting to develop some new idea that has occurred to him.  The short stories, conversely, are beautifully succinct and focused.

Blackpaint

11.08.11

Blackpaint 227

December 6, 2010

Cezanne’s Card Players

At the Courtauld Gallery.  There are maybe 12 pictures, 5 of card players, the rest pipe smokers and sketches.  What I noticed particularly was the way that the grey or brown jackets were not just grey or brown, but contained patches or layers or streaks of quite different colours, so that if you took an extreme close-up you’d have an interesting abstract picture in itself.  Elementary now, I suppose, like breaking up the outline; but still instructive to the untutored like me.  Also, the bare canvas showing through in most of the paintings, like snowflakes (or dandruff) on their clothes.  The best card players, which are the two paintings on the wall to your left as you enter, are really solid in aspect – the tablecloth looks like wood, or maybe leather.

Also of note

I’ve done the Courtauld  fairly recently (see Blackpaint 77, Feb. 2010), but there were a couple of paintings that were newly displayed.  There was Keith Vaughan’s “Delos, 62”; de Stael – like blocks against a striking blue background.  In the same room, Graham Sutherland’s “Study for Origins of the Land”, 1950, which was a sketch for the Festival of Britain.  Scarlet/pink bricks or blocks, scattered amongst  which are various objects, one like a button, another the skeleton of a bird.  It’s supposed to be a cross section down through the earth – you can see a little sun on the top of the picture; the earth’s surface.

Bacon

There was a Bacon: two figures or half – figures wrestling (maybe) on the ground, against a black background.  Strokes of paint, like straw or grass, reminiscent of the strokes in the Bacon version of the lost Van Gogh picture, the one in which the straw-hatted painter walks along a sunlit lane with his easel  under his arm.  Nearby, the Daumier picture of Don Quixote and Sancho Panza, which Bacon apparently regarded as a major work.  The sculpting of the painting and the skeletal quality of Quixote and his horse vaguely resemble some of Bacon’s work.

Rubens

There are two fantastic versions of the Deposition – in both, someone is chewing on the shroud, or rather holding it in their teeth while they lower the body with their hands.  Finally, I should mention “The Birth of Saint Augustine” by Murano, down on the ground floor with the Gothic stuff – Augustine’s mother looking very dubious about the vertical, grub-like baby in tight swaddling, being presented to her, eyes wide open.  Shades of Eraserhead.

Quiz

In Grunewald’s “Crucifixion”, who points a finger at the crucified Christ?

Blackpaint

06.12.10

Blackpaint 124

April 30, 2010

National Gallery

As well as visiting the Kobke (see last blog), also had a general look around the gallery.  I was with one of those friends who take a perverse pleasure in acting like Philistines; “What’s good about this one, then?  Why is that a great picture?” and so on.  I went on , not very convincingly, about structure and composition and movement and surface and was very soon boring myself and feeling a bit sick.  As always, when this sort of interrogation happens, I found myself agreeing with him; yes, it’s not a very good Rubens, yes the head is too big and looks stuck on (Titian, the Flight into Egypt) – and so on.  The Vendramin family portrait looks as if apprentices did the children;  King Charles’ horse in the Van Dyck is definitely wrong (neck too thick, head too small).  As for the Van Gogh sunflowers… no, stop – a bridge too far.  Although, actually, I was never a big fan of the sunflowers; one of those blind spots, I suppose.

Tate Modern

Nice, quiet little anteroom to the Pollock/Kline/Jorn gallery with sculptures by Victor Pasmore, Mary Martin and somebody Biedermayer.  They were highly coloured little shelves and geometric protrusions in wood, plastic or metal, mounted on a flat board.  Similar stuff in Tate Britain by Pasmore and Ben Nicolson.  In the same, or next room, work by Helio Oiticica – the work that Serota said he would have to save in the event of a fire, because it’s so rare.  It consists of squares and oblongs drawn or painted on brown cardboard sheets; the blurb compares them to Mondrians – except that each of these are the same colour and they are set at very small angles, as if jostling each other across the board.

There was some other Brazilian and Venezuelan work with it, surprisingly minimal and colourless – I suppose I expected stuff that was more lush, colourful, vivid; Franz Ackermann, say.

The Kiefer palm tree has gone and in its place, huge, hanging, red and orange sisal sculptures, like a great, soft Marsyas.  Done in the 60s by Magdalena Abakanowicz, a Polish sculptor (sorry, one of the world’s leading woman artists), she  calls them  “Abakans”.  I thought that these soft sculptures might disprove my Polish thesis (see Blackpaint 20 and 21 ), that critics tend to analyse all works by Polish artists in terms of references to Auschwitz, WW2 and/or the post-war Communist period – but I was wrong.  From various sites, I found that her work is “emotive”, “disturbing”, about “lasting anxiety”, about “the missing”, the “crowd” and the individual’s struggle – it “reflects the emotional heritage of her political environment”.  Not Auschwitz then, but not far off.

Parrot, by Blackpaint.

Listening to If IGet Lucky by Arthur Big Boy Crudup.

“If I get lucky mama. with my trainfare home (*2)

I’m goin’ back to Mississippi now, mama, where I belong”.

Blackpaint 118

April 23, 2010

Jerusalem

Blackpaint celebrated St. George’s Day (and Shakespeare’s spurious birth and death day) early, by going to see the Jez Butterworth play at the Apollo Shaftesbury Avenue last night.  It was nearly as good as the reviews;  my only disappointment was that the language didn’t quite match the Shakespearean overtones.  Rooster Byron clearly invites some comparison with Falstaff, as an unofficial Master of Revels and a “misleader” of youth; I kept waiting for the “chimes at midnight” line, but it never came.

There were a couple of excellent monologues, put in the mouth of the confused professor; one was a long rhyme that sounded traditional, the other a short account of the St.George legend – again, I think  it was a quotation.

At the end of the play, Byron calls up a long line of English, Anglo-Saxon and other(? Yggdrasil?  isn’t that the Norse tree that joins earth to heaven?) folk heroes and mythic figures and I was reminded of the Donmar Theatre years ago, watching the end of Albert Mtwla’s “Woza Albert”, where  the heroes of the Liberation struggle are invoked one after another.

That was the second occasion that I was transported back in time;  the first was 10 or 15 minutes earlier, when Sandy Denny’s “Who knows where the time goes?” was used for a dance sequence.

It was December 1966 and I was in Charing Cross  Road, opposite St Martins -in- the-Field, by Trafalgar Square.  I was humping a big, brown leather briefcase  back to my firm’s West  End office.  Beatle hair over my ears and collar, suit and tie.  Suddenly, right in front of me, emerging from a taxi, carrying a guitar case and  wearing a black cape, Sandy Denny.  I’d seen her play and sing at the Nag’s Head in Winstanley Road, Battersea on the previous Sunday night and I like to think  she recognised me (it was a small, smoky upstairs room).  Anyway, I was smitten, although she was a couple of years older than me.

She saw me staring at her, paused and gave me a little quizzical smile; obviously at this point I  should have approached, told her I was a big fan, got an autograph – didn’t do  any of those; too shy- went red, turned away, walked on, kicked myself every night for a month…

Anyway, art.

Five great St. Georges; google them.

  • Tintoretto, National Gallery
  • Uccello, National gallery
  • Raphael, National gallery of Washington
  • Rubens, Prado
  • Odilon Redon – at least three versions, very strange.

My St.George (again)

Blackpaint

23.04.10