Posts Tagged ‘Sam Francis’

Blackpaint 494 – House of Leaves, Murder in Moscow and Eric in Dulwich

May 10, 2015

Down Dog

Down Dog

I’m deeply traumatised by the election result and the prospect of 56 SNP-ers coming to take all our English money away and leave us defenceless against Russia et al, so tonight’s blog will be short and hurriedly written (no change there then, I’m tempted to write – but I won’t because I’m trying to avoid cliche).

House of Leaves, Mark Danielewsky

Now a hundred or so pages into this experimental horror(?) novel, with several hundred more to go – but since many of these pages are blank or nearly so, might just make it.  The experimentation, so far at least, consists of a labyrinthine structure of textual references, many obviously fictional, some probably real authors but fictional works, some probably the other way round.  There are “windows” of text which is reversed on the obverse page, as if the paper were transparent; some of the refs continue over numerous pages and are printed upside down.

At the core of this playfulness are two continuous narratives, one an intermittent commentary on the other, which can be read in a conventional way – so the “experimentation” forms a sort of packaging for the story and as such, can be more or less ignored – you still get the gist.  One of the narratives is rather flat and impersonal in tone, an “objective” report of events; the commentary is slangy, wild, peppered with expletives and full of graphic sexual and chemical encounters, real or imagined.  It reads a bit like the Stephen King of The Dark Half.

So, an experimental novel, rather like most of BS Johnson; odd- looking textual things going on, little jokes and metaphors dancing around – but a solid central narrative core provided by identifiable narrative voices (so far).

NOT Finnegans Wake, then; Joyce’s dream language retains the power to subvert, corrupt, or, at least, to flavour anything else you choose to read after putting Finnegan down.

Ravilious at Dulwich Picture Gallery

Went round this in half an hour, as the gallery was about to close; the pictures – and there are plenty of them – have a delicate beauty and cleanliness, but can be rather bloodless in bulk.  The best ones. I think, are those where he has used darker hues, obviously night ones like that below.  His other weakness, to my mind, is the human figure; his people tend to be stiff and cartoon-ish.  Great illustrator though, reminiscent of Paul Nash and maybe Ben and Winifred Nicolson.

ravilious

Force Majeure, Ruben Ostlund

A funny film, looking at the aftermath of an avalanche threatening (apparently) diners at a ski resort restaurant; how one’s behaviour stands up to examination when the danger has passed.  As is the convention, male behaviour is unheroic, selfish, foolhardy, self-justifying, self-obsessed, vain, pathetic and consequently very funny.  The women tend to be relaxed, responsible, caring, t0lerantly amused – perhaps stressed by the demands and insecurities of the men, but basically proper people.  The Scandinavian norm.

There is a terrifying sequence in which an incompetent (male) coach driver attempts to get his laden vehicle round hairpin bends above a chasm – couldn’t watch it.

force majeure

This is Moscow Speaking, Yuli Daniel

I first read this in 1970 at university and just re-read it; it’s fantastic – tough, poetic, fearless.  It’s 1960 in Moscow – the authorities announce August 10th to be Public Murder Day.  All citizens over 16 can kill who they choose, certain categories (police, prison officers) excepted…

It got Daniel 5 years in prison, along with Andrei Sinyavsky.  Alexander Ginzberg also got 5 years for protesting at the imprisonment – and eventually, Daniel’s wife got 4 years for opposing the invasion of Czechoslovakia.

Tate Modern, Painting After Technology

club foot

Club Foot, Amy Sillman

Great “new” works on display at Tate Modern, notably by Amy Sillman, Albert Oelhen, Christopher Wool and Mark Bradford.  And a most wonderful huge Sam Francis; see it through the arch, it looks much better from a distance.

And nearby, in the Geometric bit, two great Pasmores and a black-based, coloured Mary Martin sculpture.

 

port jackson

 Blackpaint

10.05.15

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Blackpaint 403 – Gunslinging, Carbon and the Dummy Chamber

July 11, 2013

Sam Francis

I’ve been reading “Pacific Standard Time, LA Art 1945-1980” and I’ve been surprised to find that Francis did some Minimalist paintings as well as “happenings” in later 60s, like skiers with coloured smoke flares in Japan and “Helicopter Sky Painting”, again with smoke flares, also in Japan.  Buy the book if you can find it; it’s great.  Published by Tate.

Artists and guns

As well as Niki de Sainte Phalle, other artists used firearms in their work; Joe Goode produced a “Shotgun” series. in which he fired pellets at his canvases to reveal lower layers of paint – and Chris Burden staged a performance in 1971 called “Shoot”, in which a friend shot him in the arm with a .22 bullet from 15 feet.

A Field in England (cont.)

I’ve seen a couple of reviews since last blog and watched the film again; I missed the Western nature of the final shoot-out completely.  Seems unmissable now, when you see the big hats, dark cloaks, bloody wounds.  To make it even more obvious to me, the film that clocked in as the recording came to an end was “Chato’s Land” – like a continuation in colour!  Later, I caught the last shoot-out in Michael Winner’s 1971 “Lawman”.  Cold-eyed Terminator Burt Lancaster leaving three cowboys dead in the dust, including one shot in the back whilst trying to run away; the pathetic suicide of Lee J Cobb, on seeing the death of his son moments before.  Somehow colder and more depressing than “Unforgiven”, or “Pat Garrett and Billy the Kid”, films which explore similar or comparable themes – is that down to Winner or Lancaster?

Since I’m on about Westerns, I have to mention “Charge at Feather River” which was on recently, because it was the first film I ever saw, in 3D, back in 1953 – lances coming towards you, repeated three times at least – but also because it was based on the Battle of Beecher’s Island, in which, in 1868,  the Cheyenne chief Roman Nose was killed, besieging a small cavalry force under Colonel Forsythe ; (see the Buffalo Bill Annual 1951).

buffalo bill

And Trooper Wilhelm, a minor character who died early on in the film battle, provided the name for the “Wilhelm Scream”.  This was a recorded death scream, originating from the film “Distant Drums”, when a character was killed by an alligator. George Lucas used the Scream in “Star Wars” apparently.  The screamer was Sheb Woolley, who died recently – not by alligator action – and who recorded “The (one-eyed, one-horned, flying) Purple People Eater”; yes, I’ve got it, on 78.

“C” by Tom McCarthy

The rather highbrow book group to which I belong chose this to read and discuss.  Why shouldn’t I be a member of such a group?  Look at the credentials I have displayed in the last couple of paragraphs.  The others are into French theory, though; Deleuze gets mentioned quite a lot; I keep my head down at these moments.

The book embraces, amongst other things, the breeding of silkworms and the manufacture of silk, early radio technology, pre-war European spas and medical thought, WW1 observer pilots, drug culture and seances in 1920s London, spying, and Egyptology – so a lot of research, which is convincing for the most part, if a bit tiresome at times.  The theme is connectivity, everything resembling something else,  being a metaphor or analog for something else, melting or morphing into something else; the C of the title is carbon, the stuff of life and matter (as well, no doubt, as cocaine, communication and loads of other C’s).

There’s one thing that puzzles me – the dummy chamber.  McCarthy explains, through a character,  that Egyptians built dummy chambers in their tombs to fool grave robbers into thinking they’d found the real thing,  As the main character in the novel progresses through a delirious, sub- Joycean dream sequence in which the connectivity thing is made explicit, he cries out “The Dummy Chamber!”, implying that there’s something beyond the merging, morphing, connecting thing…  Maybe he’s going for a Moby-Dick, whale of a book, here-comes-everybody-and-everything-type of reception.

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OK, no more life drawings after today – will have some proper paintings by next blog.

Urban Art, Josephine Avenue, Brixton SW2, Saturday and Sunday 13th and 14th July. Art in the street, come and see.  Easy access to Brixton tube from Heathrow, if you’re flying in from USA, Oz, NZ, Ukraine, Brazil……

Blackpaint

11.07.13

Blackpaint 393 – Skewed Nipples and Zambian Spacemen

May 12, 2013

Souzou – Japanese Outsider Art at the Wellcome

This is a great exhibition.  Lots of surface covering, obsessive repetition, writhing fleshiness (shades of Kusama and even R. Crumb, in the skewed nipples); hairy embroidery, ceramic figurines of dragons and heroes that turned out, on close inspection, to be made of paper and cellotape; sinister, fleshy, soft dolls in family groups – why sinister?  By association, I suppose, all those horror films – and enormous, imaginary cityscapes, taking up several walls.  But it’s good to look at, not just therapy; go and see if possible.

Rebecca Ward at the Ronchini Gallery in Dering Street

Linens with warp or weft cut away in diagonals, or at margins, or halves, leaving “ghosts” on the remaining threads.  Some were like finer versions of the Trockel textiles at the Serpentine Gallery.

Patterning is done with dyes or acrylics, varying from monochrome “cloud” marks to colourful – the best one is called “The Heretic” and reminds me of a miniature Sam Francis.  Also chevron patterns, and some distressed with holes and rips, and rumpled, creased surfaces.  Some boxes, like filing boxes, painted with bright devices – not so keen on them.  They are mostly quite small works, 40 * 30 in, that sort of size.

rebecca ward

The Heretic

Deutsche Borse Prize at the Photographers Gallery

Good double to do with the Ward, since it’s just down from Oxford Circus, in Ramillies Street.  I thought there was something sneery about Cristina de Middel’s set of works, the Afronauts, based on the Zambian Space Programme of the early 60s – apparently they were working on a catapult launch.  OK, I’m going to stop right now and check to see if any of this is true.

Back now, and yes, there was really a Zambian space prog.  The trouble is that de Middel mixes up fact with fiction in her presentation, which makes for some good and funny images, but seems a bit like taking the piss to me.  Fair enough, no reason to spare them just because it’s an African country and I’m sure her intentions are good…

Also Misha Henner’s pictures of prostitutes by the side of the road, in Italy, I think; mostly standing by lush green fields under concrete bridges, or in lay-bys.

And Chris Killip’s black and white pictures of fishermen and street life in the North East in the 80s; great photo of the huge ship bordering the terraced houses at Swan Hunter on Tyneside.  Also the one of the lad in his big boots, sitting cradling his head, on the brick wall.

Madame Bovary

The Chabrol version, with Isabelle Huppert.  Much more conventional than the Sukorov version “Protect and Save”, Chabrol’s film nevertheless spares none of the gruesome details, especially when it comes to Hippolyte’s “operation” and subsequent gangrene.  Sukorov’s film has the merchant as a much more demonic character, however, dressing up in his Chinese outfits, and of course, Sukorov’s Bovary is fiercely intense.  There’s a lot more explicit sex in fields and trains in the Russian one as well, all absolutely necessary to the story and not at all gratuitous (not that that would be a problem, particularly).

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Blackpaint

Figure Drawing

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Figure Drawing 2

Blackpaint

12.05.13

Blackpaint 292

September 5, 2011

Edward Lucie-Smith

I’ve just acquired a used copy of his “Movements in Art since 1945” (Thames and Hudson, 1970); I’ve no idea if it’s still in print – it would have been updated, of course – but it contains a whole load of colour illustrations of paintings I’ve never seen before, in a beautiful matt finish, much nicer that the usual glossy.  Some listed below:

  • Gorky, the Betrayal (47);
  • Hofmann, the Rising Moon (64) – the characteristic “push-pull” rectangles on a red background;
  •  De Kooning, Woman and Bicycle (52-3) – ELS links De Kooning’s sharp-toothed women to Warhol’s later Marilyns;
  • Heron, Manganese in Deep Violet (67) – glowing, of course;
  • Sam Francis, Blue on a Point (58);
  • Asger Jorn, you Never Know (66) – swirling yellow, blue, red;
  • Appel, Women and Birds (58) – swirling blue and red, a little less yellow than Jorn;
  • De Stael, Agrigente (54) – eye-burning, “abstract” landscape…

and loads more.

Some of his remarks are interesting, given the time at which he is writing; he says that Hockney’s then current works of the California, lawns and pools,”Bigger Splash” phase lack the irony and bite of the earlier, cartoon boys period.  He yokes Balthus and Bacon together as figurative outsiders, dealing in comparable, transgressive or shocking images (surely Bacon is by far the superior of the two).  He notes the intriguing mixture of nostalgia and modernity in the work of Pop artists, such as Peter Blake, and the way that British Post -Painterly abstractionists like John Walker were still prepared to use perspective in their works, whereas such  use was banished from the Americans’ work.

He has a 1962 quotation from Duchamp, regarding the “Neo-Dadaists”, which is simple, but hugely important:  “This Neo-Dada, which they call New Realism, Pop Art, Assemblage,vetc., is an easy way out and lives on what Dada did.  When I discovered ready-mades I thought to discourage aesthetics.  In Neo-Dada they have taken my ready-mades and found aesthetic beauty in them.  I threw the bottle rack and the urinal into their faces as a challenge and now they admire them for their aesthetic beauty” (ELS. p.11).  What better expression is there for the problem I was on about in the last blog – how you make things look “good” in a painting by making them look like something somebody has done before?  There’s the answer – paint something which looks crap, then do it over and over again until you get used to it and it becomes a style….

St. Martin’s MA show

Beautifully produced catalogue for this, “on sale in the foyer”, and only two quid.  Here are some exhibits I remember:

Helen Sorensen, Peas and Music – green shoots from a huge soil bed, surrounded by speakers that weren’t playing when we visited; oddly touching, for some reason;

Oliver Guy-Watkins – don’t know title – a stairwell and whole section of basement smothered with fake snow; reminded me of the inside of my un-defrosted fridge;

Elsa Philippe, the Conductor – a video in which the artist (if it is she) resembles a member of the Incredible String Band in one of their early 70’s entertainments;

Laura Degenhardt, Thames Boat – didn’t see this in the flesh, but liked it in the catalogue for it’s painterly qualities – but I’ve just noticed the dimensions; 20*25 cms!  That’s about a postcard, isn’ it?

 

In the Dark Australia

Blackpaint

5/09/11

Blackpaint 289

August 20, 2011

Guggenheim Bilbao – Painterly Abstraction

Great exhibition, based on Gug’s own collection, including Ab exes, colour fielders and even minimalist/post painterly abstractionists like Frank Stella – seems to bely the title, but maybe that room wasn’t part of the main show – doesn’t matter.

Asger Jorn

A beautiful Asger entitled “Green Ballet”; usual Jorn goblin faces and globular, floating things in a green sea.  Loads of brilliant colours and textures swirling around, that made me want to go straight home and paint.

Sam Francis

“Red and Black”,  cluster of red globules, rising into a Prussian blue, then black upper field.  Also “Shining Back”, that characteristic Francis indigo, violet blue with orange, sliding/dripping down the unbleached canvas.

Jack Twarkov

“Red Lode” – fiery coals of red piled at the base; rest looks like grey-black, but on closer inspection, it contains fields of dark blue and green.

Jose Guerrero

“Signs and Portents”; awful title, but striking picture – yellow, orange, blue with black dabs, swipes and dribbles.

Corneille

“Spell of the Island” – There was a painting in the Tate Britain by Gillian Ayres a while ago that resembled the parts of a full English breakfast spread out; this Corneille looks like a giant yellow pizza with the Ayres bits gathered round and on it like toppings and side dishes.  It’s very enjoyable.

Conrad Marca-Relli

Collages produced by overlapping cuts of shaped canvas – a strange, Diebenkorn – like effect.  Never heard of him before.

More from Guggenheim next time.

Pretention

A correspondent has taken me to task for calling “Last Year in Marienbad”  pretentious;  I think all art contains pretention – difficult to see how you can make anything worthwhile without overreaching sometimes, and doing something laughable/ludicrous/ridiculous.  Sometimes you get the sublime and the ridiculous in the same work.  This especially applies to film makers – I can think of bits of both in the work of Tarkovsky, Tarr, Pasolini…  Bunuel and Fellini, of course, are both sublime at all times.

Thomas Hardy

Some great scenes in “Return of the Native”;  two men gambling frenziedly by night on the open heath – by the light of glowworms!  A secret assignation, in which the agreed sign that the man has arrived is the throwing of a moth into a candle flame!  Can you imagine arriving on time to meet your lover and then having to chase moths around until you find one slow enough…

The Two Gentlemen of Verona

Re-reading this for the first time since 1989, and I think there is clear evidence that Shakespeare lost interest and wanted to get on to the next play.  Proteus is about to rape Silvia (Valentine’s beloved) when he is prevented – but he says sorry to Valentine.  I’m paraphrasing here, as you might guess, but Valentine’s reaction boils down to; “Oh well, if you’re sorry, that’s OK – let’s be friends again and you can have her.”  Lots of phrases that foreshadow Romeo and Juliet.

 

Yes, the fingers are part of this work.

Blackpaint

19.08.11

Blackpaint 200

September 27, 2010

Gerhard Hoehme

Fantastic painting, ” the Wild Blue Picture”,  in “Action Painting – Jackson Pollock” (Hatje Cantz).  Also a number of grey and/or cream collages involving pins and wires or threads wound round them, sometimes multi-coloured.  Have a look – more interesting than I’ve made them sound.  Hoehme, like Sam Francis and  Joseph Beuys, was a flier in WWII – he died in 1989.

Huang Yong Ping

Wrote about Huang’s work in last blog, but knew nothing about him (didn’t stop me writing, of course).  He left China in 1989 and has since lived in Paris.  I should havr included him in my list of artists who use strange materials (see Blackpaint 162) – he has used live snakes and scorpions and stuffed bats.  Had a show in UK at Curve in 2009; it commented on Anglo-Chinese history, mainly Palmerston and the Opium Wars.

Next example of artists whose work can be linked in a totally dubious way – (although I think this comparison is actually quite fair)

 Cecily Brown and Elizabeth Neel.  Have a look at their work on Google.  I think Neel’s is actually more abstract;  Brown tends to conceal bodies – often naked and engaged in sex – in a mass of foliage or swarming brush strokes.  They have a link through Bacon; neither resemble Bacon in style, but they both have used his scenarios and motifs. 

Gauguin

Since there is a “blockbuster” exhibition about to start, I thought I would get in early by mentioning “The Vision after the Sermon (Jacob and the Angel)” 1888.  It’s at the NG of Scotland in Edinburgh and I’ve probably written about it in an earlier blog.  That red against the white of the women’s caps… The women are watching the fight, but in their imaginations, of course.  To my eyes, its a totally atypical Gauguin and I would never have recognised it as such, without being told.

Seurat 

Whilst I’m in Edinburgh, mentally that is, I should refer to Seurat’s “la  Luzerne, Saint Denis”; recently, I realised that I had used the phrase “positively seethes” twice in quick succession, when referring to surfaces.  If I were still using the phrase, I would use it here.  Seurat’s field of alfalfa and poppies appears to be alive with worms of colour, red, yellow, green and blue.

Japan and China

Two works to mention, just because they are staggeringly beautiful and very old.  The first is Japanese, “The Tale of Genji”, sea(?) green and light brown on paper with a pattern of heads like abstract black clocks, by an unknown artist from 1130.  The Chinese one is by the Emperor Song Huizong, from 1112; it is entitled “Auspicious Cranes”.  Again, ink and colour, this time on silk, light brown mist(?) rises around the palace gateway and against the grey-blue sky, 2o cranes, black and white, circle or perch.  Both of these works are in the Phaidon “30,ooo years of art”.

No Name as yet – Blackpaint

 26.09.10

 

 

Blackpaint 199

September 26, 2010

Giotto again

“The Renunciation of Possessions”, one of the St.Francis frescos in San Francesco, Assisi – Francis with a dubious looking bishop holding up a towel(?) around Francis’ midriff.  Francis’ father, like an assistant in a clothes shop, trousers over his arm, looks on.  God’s hand poking down through the sky; quaint angles of columns, steps and canopies on the buildings – or bits of buildings – nearby.

“Judas’ Betrayal” – Judas receiving his bag of gold, with a bearded, completely black devil peering over his shoulder.  Two bystanders discuss Judas, one pointing over his shoulder at Judas, as if to say, “Who is his mate?”

Vasari’s “perfect circle” story; Giotto proves his artistic prowess to the pope’s representative by drawing a perfect circle in one movement, but moving only his wrist, not the whole arm; quoted in the Penguin Book of Art.  I think Giotto was certainly in the genius zone, but for his use of colour and for his compositions and emotional power.  The idea of him as some sort of master of drawing technique, or “magic hand” may be true, but is misleading.  that’s more Michelangelo, somehow.

Sam Francis

been looking at his stuff from the late 50s, 56 and 58 – usually called “Untitled” irritatingly – so like some of Joan Mitchell’s stuff (again, who first, Joan or Sam?) – the flaring colour lozenges, the dribbling paint lines, the spatters… except that Francis uses those vivid blues and orangy reds.  Hold on – back to Giotto again! Actually, not really, Francis’  blue is more like a Klein blue than Giotto’s greenish one.

Huang Yong Ping

“The History of Chinese Art …. after two Minutes in the Washing Machine”.  done in 1987, this is a pile of pulped paper in a trunk, with sheets of glass and Chinese writing on the lid.  The pulp is the remainder of two books, “The History of Chinese Art” and “A Concise History of Modern Art”.  Dada of course, but impressive in the context of China in 1987.  Needless to say, his work is censored in galleries and shows at home.  Wonder how he is doing – must look him up on Wiki.

Nicolas de Stael

No apologies for writing yet again about this great painter.  “Countryside” – yellows, oranges, reds, brown, cream, in scraped ingots with roughened and sometimes blackened borders.  Beautiful, abstract work.

Second to Last Judgement (WIP) by Blackpaint

25.09.10

Blackpaint 71

February 17, 2010

Gorky

Read today something of interest on influence of above: he is cited as an influence on Sam Francis, in his use of thinned paint allowed to run down canvas, and in his predilection, shared by Francis,  for biomorphic forms, resembling, say, leaves.  I never would have thought of that, the two seem so different; Sam Francis to me usually means vivid deep blues in flower or petal shapes, interlaced maybe with bright yellows or ruby reds. 

Gotz

Karl Otto; great bloke, painted with a broom!  He swept great swathes of black towards the corners of his paintings.  He had a knack for titles too – “Painting of Feb. 8th, 1953”, much snappier than the earlier “Painting of Feb.5th, 1953” – but then, that one was smaller.  Taschen page on him ends with this sentence: “Gotz managed not to let uncontrolled autonomism end in artistic chaos, but instead to direct it along compositional channels” – so, he managed to control his lack of control.

The broom thing brings to mind another favourite, Kazuo Shiraga, who, according to the catalogue of “Action Painting – Jackson Pollock”, “would paint canvases (lying on the floor) that he had previously thrown lumps of paint at whilst hanging by his feet from a rope”.

Listening to Blind Lemon Jefferson, Matchbox Blues:

“I don’t mind marryin’ but  I can’t stand settlin’ down (*2)

Gonna act just like a preacher so’s I can ride from town to town.”

Blackpaint

17.02.10