Posts Tagged ‘Sandra Blow’

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 415 – Sandra Blow and the Pavilions at Venice

October 5, 2013

Sandra Blow at Kings Place

Went to see the Long Notes, great Irish/Scots folk group, at Kings Place last night and was delighted to find an exhibition of Blow’s work had opened the same day.  The earliest painting was from 1959, when she was part of the St.Ives set, and the latest from 2006, the year she died.  There are a number of huge canvases that are painted in acrylics and collaged with strips of tape, sacking and canvas patches; rich earth and water hues, ridges of rough texture, chevrons and ingots of high colour piercing through, a little reminiscent of Terry Frost – and of Burri (a partner) and Tapies.

The highlights of this group are:

Breakwater

Blow1

Glad Ocean (1989)

blow2

Brilliant Corner (1993 – detail)

blow3

There are also some beautiful prints, brightly coloured, wobbly geometrics.  A fantastic exhibition, and we only saw part of it – the gallery was closed, we only saw the stairwells and balconies.

Venice Biennale – the Pavilions

I think four are worth a mention; first, the British one (of course), featuring Jeremy Deller.  You get a free cup of tea and mini prints of the two big pictures on display, which you stamp out yourself with a rubber stamp.  The pictures, covering a wall each, are of a giant harrier, grabbing and lifting a Range Rover in its talons, and an angry, giant William Morris, standing in the ocean and thrusting a cruise ship, bows downward, into the water.  The first refers to an incident when a harrier was shot on a royal estate, the second, I think, to the ships of the wealthy that blight Venice and other Med resorts.  Additionally, there is some very satisfying film of Range Rovers being pulped, to the strains of Bowie’s “the Man who Sold the World”, played  by a steel band.  It’s one of the few pavilions which have a truly national feel to it; the Danish one, for example, is a fantasy about African migrants, lost in a facsimile of Paris, actually built in China.

Next, Belgium; “Cripplewood”.  In a dark chamber, a giant wooden and wax entity, fabric like bandages at the joints of limbs, twisted, arthritic bundles of twigs and branches – a little like Kiefer’s supine trees, or a huge, beached whale – made me think of Bela Tarr’s “Werkmeister Harmonies”… or even the Elephant Man.

The most sinister pavilion show was that of Indonesia.  There were life-size shadow puppets, a Paul McCarthy – style assemblage of a man with a TV head and a flower-covered figure rolling a bamboo roller “raft” – baffling – but then…

A dark, church-like space with desks on which enormous white books lie open, the whole surrounded by pictures of rough forest/jungle, charred, like the woodwork..

AND – a group of officers, ex-presidents apparently, seated around a table, a uniformed woman standing as if presiding.  One figure lies face down, apparently dead, another gestures towards a third with a knife, as if inviting him to kill himself with it.  Their faces appear bashed in – “distorted”, according to the guide book.  The commentary in the guide book has no mention of politics; instead, it goes on about Shakti, a religious principle which, it says. governed the creation of the works…

Finally, there is the Romanian pavilion – which is empty; EXCEPT for a group of (I think) eight young dancers, four men, four women.  They announce, with great solemnity, the title of a Biennale prize work from years gone by and then proceed to mime its content.  Sounds mildly amusing but is actually very funny, because of the limitations, as much as anything.

Enough Venice now.

The 70s, presented by Dominic Sandbrook

Odious presenter, explaining with relish how working people in the early 70s caused their own hardships by buying things on HP, wanting houses and cars and holidays that they should have known were not for them, but for the people who could afford to buy them outright.  I don’t remember the people I knew running to the shops waving Access cards.  I hate hearing glib generalisations presented with certainty, by smug academics who were (maybe) at school at the relevant time.

??????????

Pellet

Blackpaint

5.10.13

Blackpaint 258

March 9, 2011

Cumming on Spero

Laura Cumming on Nancy Spero at the Serpentine in Sunday’s Observer says the following: ” She did not paint with oil on canvas – the canonical male medium – and she did not sculpt.”  Instead, Spero used paper as a feminist statement.  I assume that the words “the canonical male medium” are Cummings’, since they are not in parenthesis in the paper.  It’s nonsense, isn’t it?  All of the women artists that I can think of paint with oils on canvas at least sometimes.  Ayres, Mitchell, Clough, Blow,  Frankenthaler, Krasner, Dumas, and on and on…..  Canvas is not “gendered”, as far as I can see, and neither are oils.  It’s OK – desirable, really – for Spero to have been a bit mad; she was an artist, after all.  Critics surely should maintain a – critical stance.

Having said that, the exhibition sounds worth a visit – “Men and women wheel through the air, impaled on helicopter blades.  Scorched bodies, the colour of burnt bacon…” – sounds like” Salo” without the shit eating.

Greer on art in the Guardian

Interesting article by Germaine Greer on above, in which she concludes that graffiti artists are true artists.  The sentence that caught my eye was this one: “(the graffiti artists) are working within a demanding tradition that requires the sequence of execution to have been worked out in detail in advance, before any mark can be made.”  This may well be so; it reminds me of Richard Dorment on Van Gogh, how (according to Dorment) VG worked out every colour and mark before starting a painting.  What a dispiriting thought!  No improvisation, no accidents, no going with the development, no errors and corrections, no intuition, no flying by the seat of the pants – sorry, cliche – what IS flying by the seat of the pants, anyway?  Sketches are usually better than worked-up paintings, anyway; more life, more fun.

Van Gogh

Probably mentioned this already, but I was struck by the description of his shading marks in drawings as being like iron filings arranging themselves around a magnet.  Read it in the Taschen double volume, but can’t  remember the source; good though.

Turner

A while back, I mentioned how there’s an obvious figure in Lanyon’s “Lost Mine” (in the Tate Britain), but I couldn’t see it for years until someone pointed it out.  Same with Turner’s “Sea Monsters” – I’d always seen it as one big fish face, staring out at the viewer; now, after reading the Taschen (I know, still no shares),. I can’t see it as anything but two fishes side on, sort of jumping at each other.

Entrance fees for London galleries and museums

Tristram Hunt’s bad idea.  Someone said to me its mostly foreign tourists who go – they expect to pay and can afford it.  Even if this were so, it seems to me to be something of a cheek to charge them on this basis; if they’re Greek, Iraqi, Iranian, Egyptian, Turkish, Afghan, Indian etc., they would be paying to see treasures that our forefathers disassembled and shipped home in dodgy circumstances.  We nicked most of it, didn’t we, one way or another.

Blackpaint

Shrove Tuesday

 

 

 

Blackpaint 253

February 22, 2011

Susan Hiller

At the Tate Britain.  Three or four things stuck in my mind, but I’m going again because I’m sure there’s more to it.  Trouble is, you have to read the artspeak explanations to fully understand – and life is too short.  Anyway, this is what I saw (and heard):

A large collection of sepia to Eastman colour postcards of huge waves crashing over British promenades – some of these may have been altered by artist; not sure.

Recordings of one line phrases in dying languages, by the last living speakers.  Several First Nation tribes of the Americas – Welsh Romany caught my eye and ear.

A collection of Victorian memorial plaques to people who had died trying to save others; lots of fires, drownings, falls through ice, traffic accidents (horse-drawn).  Lots of children trying to save siblings.

A dark room full of a forest of hanging ear phones; voices telling stories in a number of languages, the one in English I listened to was about UFOs.

A series of vivid red and yellow photos under glass, of faces blurred and faded – all female I think (?)

So, dying, fading, becoming extinct, blurring, failing to communicate, haunting …..  Now to read the booklet and find out what it was really all about.

Fellini’s Eight and a Half (How do you do fractions in figures on a keyboard?)

Fantastic film, of course; Mastroianni as a preening, but harrassed, film director, pursued by adoring and demanding lovers, scorned by an inexplicably bitter wife, tortured by the idea that he may just be superficial and have nothing to say.  He wears his overcoat over his shoulders and has a floppy, wide brimmed fedora as he saunters through the film, greeting, blowing kisses, politely stonewalling..  It ends with a startlingly affecting sequence in which the entire cast parade down an open staircase into an arena, led by  marching troupe of musical clowns.  Reminiscent of the closing sequence of Russian Ark (see Blackpaint 232).

Franz Marc and August Macke

German Expressionists, both killed in WWI, I’d tended to conflate their work – but they are actually quite distinct.  Marc’s colours are darker and glow more intensely; Macke’s are fresh, bright and lighter.  Think I prefer Macke, at the moment; I love those women with the ankle length skirts and no feet, like bowling pins.

Turner

Andrew Graham -Dixon made an interesting observation on the Culture Show, that maybe Turner needed the medium of watercolour, its propensity to spread and run of its own accord, to achieve the sort of freedom he showed in “Ship on Fire”.  Maybe, but when you see what he could do in oils, the Petworth paintings, Sea Monsters, the storm at the harbour mouth with the long title – you know the one …

The Taschen is good on Turner’s perspective “problems” in “House of Commons on Fire” – check the far end of the bridge in relation to the fire – and in the one of Raphael in Rome – the balcony.  Does it matter? Of course not, but interesting.  Also, there is the recurring woman, rear view, leaning forward, in the Petworth and “bivalve” paintings.

“Fig Leaf” – Obscured Objects of Desire

A couple of things popped up on this survey of sculptural censorship on TV last night that were new to me.  First, the Greeks used to paint their statues.  Apparently, this is common knowledge to the decently educated, but was news to me.  Does that mean the Romans did too?  I would guess it does – which implies a break with tradition, on the part of the Renaissance sculptors.

Second, an explanation for the diminutive genitals on Greek statues; a small penis was a sign of “control and restraint – of good citizenship”, according to Stephen Smith, author and presenter of the programme.  This explains the small penis displayed by David – Michelangelo was following the tradition.  I’m glad to have an answer to this question, which I have touched on in earlier blogs.

The Risen Christ

Smith featured the above sculpture, in which Michelangelo presented Christ naked, with one arm around a cross.  It was attacked with a hammer by a monk in the 17th century and now wears a bronze loincloth affair.

Laura Cumming on Watercolour

Excellent review in Observer, except that she seems to share Searle’s inexplicable dislike of Blow’s “Vivace”.  Cumming describes it as “hugely inflated” – so it is, but in a totally good way.  Sometimes it’s right to blast away the understated, quietly magical, wonderfully executed, minutely observed, immensely subtle….  Chuck a great big bucket of red over it.

Blackpaint

22.02.11

Blackpaint 235

December 26, 2010

Banksy

Watched the Banksy-related DVD “Exit Through the Gift Shop” yesterday and was taken in for the first 40 minutes or so; then Thierry put the camera down and became Mr. Brainwash and the film suddenly looked too much like Spinal Tap to be true.  We were interested enough to check on Wikipedia though and it says there was a show by Brainwash in LA which attracted thousands – so concluded that it was cooked up by Banksy and the American with “Thierry” as the front-man.  But then it’s Wikipedia, so could be a false entry….

Banksy’s stuff is good; accessible, funny, provocative, daring and well-executed.  If he makes a few bob out of his art and stunts, good luck to him.  I think you only sell out when you join the other side and/or start criticising others who come after you – other than saying, “I did that first,” which is fair enough (assuming you did, of course).  It’s not his fault that he became the next big thing for a while.

Van Gogh

Have got a copy of VG’s selected letters, so will be able to check on comments made by Richard Dorment in the Telegraph about the letters and paintings exhibition at the RA early in the year (see Blackpaint 230, 13th December 2010).  Only just started, and already I notice a sort of prissy, bossy tone in the letters to Theo – a great long list of mostly obscure painters he (Theo) should look at.  Funny really, considering Theo ended up supporting him throughout his short life.

Paul Morley also does this – makes lists of artists, not supports Van Gogh financially –  in his Observer music column every week; personally, I don’t think this is good journalism.  I am sometimes tempted to make lists of painters I admire – de Stael, Jorn, Appel, de Kooning, Lanyon, Sandra Blow, Joan Mitchell, Diebenkorn, Heron, Hoffman, Rauschenburg, Auerbach, Kitaj, Giotto, Fra Angelico, Michelangelo – but I manage to avoid it.

Blackpaint

26.12.10

Blackpaint 231

December 16, 2010

Norman Rockwell

Wrote about him in last-but-one blog (Blackpaint 229) and now I hear there is an exhibition at Dulwich Picture Gallery, on now.  I compared him to the Soviet Socialist Realists, in regard to his presentation of American life – fine and dandy, the American Dream – just as the communists portrayed life in the Soviet Union.  Jonathan Jones in the Guardian, however, recalls his 1964 painting of the black girl Ruby Bridges, going to her school, defying the rotten vegetables thrown at her by southern whites opposed to desegregation.  So I was being a little unfair to Rockwell; the Dulwich show leaves this picture out, according to Jones, and sticks to the conservative stuff prior to 1964.  In these Evening Post covers, American life is shown in a glowing, nostalgic light.

Doris Seidler

She has died in the US, aged 97.  Never heard of her until I read the Guardian obituary and saw that beautiful, rectangular, black, ochre and grey collage entitled “Comp with Etched Fragment”, they used to illustrate it.  Its a shame to find out about these artists only when they die.  Not much on the web, either.

Sandra Blow

On the other hand, there are several great paintings by the above, if one goes to Google images.  Right in the middle of page 4, however, there is an interesting image that has nothing to do with the artist, but clearly relates to her surname; there are more throughout the rest of the entry.   Lovers of abstract art should not be deterred by this.

Tate Britain rehang

Some of the rooms have been reorganised on chronological lines.  In the Sickert “end of the pier” room, there is one of the geometric Bombergs entitled “Ju Jitsu” – can make out the interaction of the fighters, but not what the moves are.  There is a nude Spencer on a bed with his nude wife and a joint of lamb, I think – could be beef, though.  Also, his remarkable “Woolshop”, in which the hanks of wool seem to intertwine with the women’s hair.   There is a four panel Eileen Agar, shades of Miro a bit, something to do with the development of an embryo; and a lovely Tunnard, mustard yellow, geometric, entitled “Fulcrum”.  Finally, a picture by Winifred Knights, called “Deluge”, in which women and girls are doing some sort of slanting eurythmic dance.  All vthese pictures are very distinct from each other, the beauty and drawback of a chronological approach.

A large Keith Vaughan in the next room attracts the attention; There’s a reclining and a standing figure, rather featureless and flabby pink – it’s Theseus and the Minotaur, although can’t see it myself.  Not a patch on his de Stael – type pictures.  There’s an Alan Davie, “Black Mirror”, in which the brushwork is very like Bacon’s, say, on his black ones with writhing figures and metal rails; a Hockney pyramid and giant palm in front of it; and a beautiful Auerbach building site in jewel-encrusted orange.  There’s a Heron, one of those in which he uses straight white lines to delineate figures and a Bacon dog, a little, fizzing grey ball of energy, in a frame of course.

Blake

Adjoining these rooms, there is a Blake room, with Nebuchadnezzar crawling, Newton measuring and the Good and Bad Angels, all instantly recognisable and fantastic (in every sense).  There are also several paintings that formed illustrations for Dante’s “Divine Comedy”.  Plutus, the guardian and tormentor of those who have committed sins of avarice, has distinctly Jewish features says the label – although I must say, I couldn’t make this out clearly.  Apparently Blake had an interest in phrenology, which was fashionable at the time.  Thieves are being tormented by snakes, one of which appears to be emanating from a woman’s vagina (this is not just me; the label points it out) – a reminder of Michelangelo’s linkage of snakes and sexuality on the Sistine wall.  There is Brunelleschi being tormented by a 6 footed serpent and a barrator (political power broker) having his skin torn off in lumps; all good stuff – but dodgy on the phrenology front.

Blackpaint

16.12.10

 

 

Blackpaint 230

December 13, 2010

Van Gogh

Richard Dorment, on the Royal Academy exhibition “Van Gogh, the Artist and his Letters”, which took place earlier in the year, writes in the Telegraph: “We learnt (from the letters) that even if it only took Vincent an hour or two to paint a picture, before his brush touched  the canvas he had chosen and mixed his pigments, and knew precisely where he would place every touch of colour” (my emphasis).

Can this really be so?  Precisely? Every touch?  I find this hard to believe – no element of chance at all, no revising, no improvising.  Many other painters and artists of every kind claim there is an  element of re-working, revision, spontaneity, change of some sort during their working process.  The idea of a painter following a pre-determined plan with precision sounds like painting by numbers – which doesn’t sound likeVan Gogh.

I didn’t see the show, so I can’t comment on the match between particular letters and paintings; if VG described the process after doing the painting, maybe he did some unconscious editing, “tidying up”.  Maybe not; must read the letters, so until then, will say no more on VG and stick to Dorment’s comments.

It is interesting to me that Richard Dorment equates this preparedness and precision with “consummate professionalism”.  I’m sure he’s right, but a bit of spontaneity, improvisation and chance properly acted on can be professionalism too, surely; otherwise, a lot of great painters are amateurs.  Then again, one purpose of the exhibition was, I believe, to demonstrate a rational and controlled approach on Van Gogh’s  part, as opposed to the popular view of him as “the madman touched with genius”, so perhaps Dorment’s comments must be seen in this light.

He finishes: “The brilliance of this show was that it forced us to see what is really there and not what our imaginations add to it”.  This opens wider a giant plastic bin liner full of live eels with almost every word – but I’ve gone on too much already, so will change the subject.

Sandra Blow

Lovely, but short, DVD (the Eye, Illuminations) on the above done in 2006, the year she died.  She lived with Burri in Italy after the war and acknowledged that she got the idea of using sacking in her paintings and collages from him – not often you hear artists confirm their “borrowings” so freely.  She mentioned two other important sources of influence – the Underwood book on African art and the work of Ruskin Spear and Walter Sickert on her “brown” phase.  I’m still very taken with her “Vivace”, which I saw at Tate St.Ives a few months ago and which, in its spontaneity, was untypical of her work.  She put wellington boots on to hurl red paint across the huge canvas, making an enormous “V”.

Quiz

Who put a zebra and a parachute in the same picture?

Lambton Worm

Blackpaint

13.12.10

Blackpaint 113

April 18, 2010

Ten women artists who should have a cheap Taschen or Tate book written about them

With loads of their paintings in, of course.  Google each of them for an afternoon’s inspiring viewing.

  • Gillian Ayres
  • Grace Hartigan
  • Prunella Clough
  • Wilhelmina Barns-Graham
  • Sandra Blow
  • Helen Frankenthaler
  • Roni Horn
  • Cecily Brown
  • Margaret Mellis
  • Joan Mitchell

This list is based purely on personal choice and prejudice, of course, and has no pretensions to objectivity.  

Wallander 

The Swedish version of course – Branagh’s angst is far too near the surface.  Very bad slip last night, when Kurt made a joke about blow jobs with women present (albeit police officers).  This isn’t what we expect from a kindly, suppressed, approaching retirement police officer in a liberated country like Sweden.  Contrary to what my partner says, these are real people who live in the real town of Ystad and frequently have to send to Malmo – or Malmer, as it is apparently pronounced- for reinforcements.

Painting

I’ve just looked round the room at my latest paintings and realised that they are all the same – in some cases, turning them from lanscape to portrait or vice versa makes them just about identical to another.  So, here is the last in my current “style”; I am going to ring some radical changes in the days to come.

Listening to 1952 Vincent Black Lightning by Richard Thompson.

“I see angels and Ariels in leather and chrome,

Swinging down from heaven to carry me home.”

And he gave her one last kiss and died,

And he gave her his Vincent to ride.

Blackpaint

Sunday 18.04.10

Blackpaint 100

March 31, 2010

100 glorious years – sorry, blogs

I have reached my centenary (actually, this is 101; first one was not numbered but titled, modestly, “I am Blackpaint”).  By way of celebration, I am going to give you my ten best St. Ives pictures, long awaited since Blackpaint 96.

1.  Fly Away, Peter Lanyon 1961.

2.  Moon Quay, Terry Frost 1950.

3.  Soaring Flight, Peter Lanyon 1960.

4.  Untitled 1968, Roger Hilton (the one that looks like an obese tapir with a long snout on orange, green and white).

5.  Alfred Wallis, Night Fishing, 1935 (a ship sails vertically down a bend in river in profile).

6.  Fourteen discs July 20th 1963, Patrick Heron – 1963, of course.

7.  That lime green/yellow one in the Tate Britain, Patrick Heron.

8.  That one by Sandra Blow with sand mixed into the paint, in the same room of Tate B.

9.  Red Black and White, Terry Frost 1956.

10.  Skara Brae, William Scott 1959. 

Soaring Flight

Moon Quay

Actually, there are loads more – Sandra Blows, Hiltons (wish he’d given them all names), John Wells, McKenzie….  Still, can always revisit.

Royal Academy

Put my two in yesterday; they were tiny, compared with the canvases other painters were lugging in from white vans illegally parked in Burlington Gardens.  still, size isn’t everything…

Here’s an old one of mine:

Blackpaint

31.03.10