Posts Tagged ‘Scarfe’

Blackpaint 418 – Whiteley, Schendel, Shining and Drowning

October 24, 2013

Brett Whiteley

I’d hardly heard of the above Australian artist until I saw “Art of Australia” this week.  What a brilliant painter he was  (died of an overdose in 1993); earlier stuff looked like Diebenkorn a bit – later, shades of Roger Hilton, Bacon and, I think, Scarfe and/or Steadman.  He mixed abstract, figurative, letters, techniques in a manner reminiscent of Albert Oelhen (but before Oelhen?).  Fantastic.

brett whiteley

Mark Bradford and Larry Bell at the White Cube Bermondsey

Bradford does huge canvases – I estimate the largest are 20ft * 18ft (dimensions not given and attendant didn’t know).  He plasters them with paper, paints it and then rips and shreds it down with a power sander.   The results resemble road systems and landscapes – one is like a coastline, another a tsunami investing a coastal city, another, Turner’s “storm at Harbour Mouth” (the sander swirls on black are like the rings on the cross section of a felled tree).  Some are bright – blue, pink, orange, white – reminding one of Peter Doig’s early paintings; others, dark and oppressive, like Anselm Kiefer’s work.

There are two beautiful Larry Bell pictures; they are like crumpled tinfoil and celluloid film, printed onto white canvas.  there are many more, but for my money, they are spoilt by being on black canvas and in black frames.

Blue Jasmine

Saw this Woody Allen film this week – it’s Streetcar, set in San Francisco rather than New Orleans.  Cate Blanchett does a great job of playing a neurotic, pampered, addicted, desperate woman, once rich, now broke, dumping herself on her despised working-class sister.  Script is great, but you never for a second forget you are watching acting; it’s naturalistic, rather than natural.  I can’t help comparing it to the fabulous Joanna Hogg films, Archipelago and Unrelated, that I’ve written about – in which, most of the time, no-one, pro or amateur, appears to be acting at all.

Reading Sebastian Faulks’ A Possible Life, which begins with a WW2 training exercise; officers lead their men mistakenly into flooded area and a soldier is drowned.  Strangely similar stories from two sources; Pete Seeger’s song “Waist Deep in the Big Muddy” (I have it by Dick Gaughan on his “Sail On” album) and a Scott Fitzgerald story I read recently – can’t find it at the moment, he wrote so many stories.  The SF version is the earliest – I wonder if it’s the original.

The Shining

Watched it yet again the other night; like Goodfellas and Casino, you only have to see a few seconds and you are hooked – these films are Ancient Mariners.  I can’t understand why Stephen King hates the Kubrick film – it’s obviously a work of art, unlike most attempts at filming King books.  Kubrick changed it a bit – killed off the Scatman and left the Overlook standing, whereas King blew its boilers and burned it down.  I think Kubrick’s ending was better.  Pity about the Scatman, though.

Klee at Tate Modern

Went round this exhibition again, and, yes, I was rather snotty about it last time.  Room 13 is great, with the ones that are composed of dots and look like little tapestries – also the blue one, “path into the Blue” I think it’s called.  There’s also the miniature opera stage set that reminded me of Picasso’s “Night Fishing at Antibes” – but much smaller.

Mira Schendel

Great antidote to Klee – Brazilian minimalist, recalling Lygia Pape and Oiticica a little; wobbly square…  Triangles, bi-and trisected canvases; then, rough paint drawings and collages of bottles on bars, drips and splatters; some brilliant black ink on off-white paper, strong lines and jagged scribbles.  Then letters appearing and playing with typefaces; hanging tablets of rice paper; Eva Hesse-like tubes of gold-ochre, suspended from ceiling; silky, white nylon threads hanging in masses and curling up like hairs at the floor; a series of rough, eye-catching tablets on walls with bible quotations – she was a struggling Catholic, apparently.



Also visited “Art Under Attack” at Tate Britain; save that for next time.


Work in Progress



Blackpaint 152

June 15, 2010

Rude Britannia

This is in no particular order, as I wrote it down as I remembered it when I got home.

The first thing that impressed was the drawings of Philip Dawe of the huge, ridiculous wigs worn by Regency women.  Also the “Macaroni”, an earlier version of the Beau or dandy. 

The Hogarths, Gin Lane, Beer Alley, the Roast Beef of old England, demonstrate a difference between him and the other well-known cartoonists of the era ,such as Rowlandson – Hogarth exaggerates only slightly; it is the situations that are outrageous (the woman allowing her baby to slide from her lap) rather than the actual representation of them, which is relatively realistic.  Rowlandson, with his huge backsides, drooling lips, gobbling diners, drooling distillers, bum suckers, shit eaters and so on, is the caricaturist, forerunner of Scarfe and Steadman.

Gillray’s stuff struck me as a little tame by comparison (although Laura Cumming points out that there is more savage stuff that was not included).  There is a series of cartoons depicting the conflict between the fleshy, unkempt, bloodthirsty yob Fox and the tall, gaunt patrician Pitt.  Its pretty clear where the cartoonist’s sympathies lie.

Cruikshank’s cartoons seem to rely on lengthy captions (too much reading required in these exhibitions – can’t be avoided, if you want to understand them though).  There is also his huge allegorical painting the Worship of Bacchus; Steve Bell seems to admire it; he (Cruikshank)  strikes me as an early killjoy supporter of the BMA unit mongers.  Some interesting caricatures by Sir Joshua Reynolds.

Moving on to WW2, there are Low’s cartoons and those of Leslie Illingworth, of lesser renown, but as good for my money.  Churchill donning armour while dogs marked Royal Navy and RAF attempt to hold back the dragon of Nazism; Stalingrad as a hedgehog of spears, bloodying Hitler.  Recognisably in direct line from Victorian cartoons in Punch and London Gazette.

Modern times – Fluck and Law of course, Steadman and Scarfe (always confuse them), David Shrigley’s banner holding stuffed cat, “I’m Dead”.  Steve Bell and Major’s underpants, kinnardphillips and Alison Jackson’s lookalike Blair and Bush.  Best joke was Angus Fairhurst’s cartoon of the two men clashing heads; also his ill-fitting gorilla suit video.  Most excruciating was the Bateman cartoon of the man biting his tongue off.

The bawdy bit – Donald McGill of course, and a really good Viz cartoon, parodying McGill’s style and exploding it.  Some really impressive erect penises in the work of Aubrey Beardsley and Grayson Perry.

The whole thing was stitched together with a commentary done in the Viz style, by Viz characters, but I couldn’t be bothered to read all that – apparently, it was the funniest part of the exhibition.

As always with these exhibitions, especially in the early stages, you require great patience.  There are those who stand close up to the cartoons so that no-one else can see anything until they have read every word; then they move to the next one and do the same thing.  They tend to have grey hair and goatee beards (the men), Hawaiian short-sleeved shirts and those glasses hanging from cords.  They are mostly teachers (prob. retired), as they delight in pointing out loudly to their spouses the incorrect spelling of “skillful” in the captions.  I know the type; I am one.

Listening to Mean Black Spider by Robert Junior Lockwood.

“You’re a mean black spider and your web’s all over town (*2)

I’m gonna get me a mean red spider, to tear your cobweb down”