Posts Tagged ‘Schwitters’

Blackpaint 597 – Striders and Chariots and Modern Art in Madrid

May 22, 2017

Giacometti at Tate Modern

Well I know he’s great and the creator of unmistakeable, iconic figures that define stillness and movement and contain both humour and pathos – but he is a little repetitive.  You say that the repetition is a mark  of his obsessive drive to attain the unattainable,  a heroic, almost tragic striving for perfection…but he is a little same-y.  Maybe I’ve seen too much Giacometti (NPG a while back, Sainsbury Centre in Norwich more recently); but this is a big exhibition with lots of rooms.  Maybe it’s the breathless hero-worship he seems to inspire in the women art lovers of my generation, that I suspect has as much to do with the brooding, rugged, Italian peasant features as the art.

Anyway, the good things:

  • The dancing, or falling figure on the posters.

  • The Chariot figure on wheels.
  • The flint axe-head sculptures, cut off below the shoulders, several of which, to me, seem to resemble the Duke of Edinburgh, Her Majesty the Queen,  Princess Margaret and Charles de Gaulle.

  • The pictures on board or canvas that he has blackened so that they resemble sheets of lead, from which the even darker features of his sitters loom; a change from his usual ochre, orange, grey and black, with thin, ink-like lines.
  • The outsize figures, including the strider in the last room (a ringer for Prince Phillip, if he’d had his hands behind his back); a welcome change from the usual size.  It’s a good exhibition, essential probably, so don’t be put off by my jaded comments.

 

Reina Sofia Museum (of 20th Century Art), Madrid

I’ve just spent four days in Madrid, three of them in art museums, so pretty much enough for three blogs.  The first of these we entered at 4.00pm, “fresh” off the plane – and emerged at closing time, 9.00pm, hungry and dehydrated.  Not because we couldn’t find the exit, but because there was so much excellent art to see.  I’m just going to put up our photos with, here and there, my perceptive and witty comments to add to your visual enjoyment.

Schwitters

Behind glass, so my partner’s form can be made out in the centre, taking the photo and enhancing the quality of the artwork.

Ortiz

Lovely little cubist picture.

Oscar Dominguez

He of Decalcomania fame – lots of Dominguez in this museum.

 

Another Dominguez – The Thrower.

It’s rather hard to make out, but it’s a legless, headless and handless black torso, with a thick shard of glass chopping into it at the top.  Compare these two little assemblages as Surrealist images with the Dali painting below:

Dali, The Invisible Man

It seems to me that the Dominguez pieces express in each case a clear idea, or at most a couple of ideas, succinctly, rather as Magritte does.  They are surrealistic, that is to say contradictory or paradoxical (to be “properly” Surrealist, I think they should also be dreamlike – not sure they are); but they also have clarity.  That, I think, is not the case with the Dali, despite the facility of depiction and the multiple images detract from the painting.   Then again, I don’t like Dali – but then, I’m not that keen on Magritte either, so moving on –

Picasso – no comment necessary.

Picasso again – just to point out the roughness (or texture, or painterliness) of the grey, orange and red areas in the lower picture; unusual, I think, in Picasso’s work and  the better for it – not that the untextured stuff isn’t stupendous…

 

Angeles Santos, The Gathering (1929)

There were several paintings by Santos and another painter, whose name escapes me, f.rom the 20s and 30s, in this style – I include them because they remind me rather strongly of Paula Rego’s work (although I much prefer Rego’s execution).

And then, a roomful of CoBrA stuff, to my surprise:

 

Corneille – I like the yellow with the red line.

Appel, Figures

And then,  rooms of abstract expressionism, Tachisme and pop Art:

Yves Klein, his version of Nike

Tapies, Blue with four Red Bars.  Does what it says on the can.

 

Guerrero – It’s a (huge) matchbook with a few missing.

There’s a lot more to see (Bruce Connor, Bay Area and LA artist, and the making of “Guernica” – both special exhibitions, so NO PHOTO, por favor!) so you’ll need to go to Madrid forthwith.  Next time, the Prado.

Here are a couple of mine:

Seated Back, pastel blue

 

Seated Front, pastel green

Blackpaint

21/05/17

 

Blackpaint 380 – Adams, Attenborough and Lady Chatterley

February 7, 2013

Schwitters again

As threatened, I have visited this exhibition at Tate Britain again.  Second visit confirmed my first opinions – paper and material collages brilliant, straight lines good, curves and circles bad (unless rubber or cardboard or metal rings glued on), human figures or faces pasted in detract from the collages, paintings not good, poetry great .  Here’s an example: “Fumms Bo Wo Tiu Ziu UU”… actually, I can’t do umlauts on my keyboard, so this must look ridiculous – but it gives you an idea of Schwitters’ verse.

My favourites were:  “Opened by Customs”, “Mask”, “The Nipple Picture”, “Pine Trees”, “Horizontal”, “Windswept”…  Well, go and see for yourself.  Collage sounds childish to some people; sticking bits of paper in primary school, we all did it.  But Schwitters actually makes abstract pictures, where others might just have random bits of stuff stuck on a sheet of paper.

Ansel Adams at the National Maritime Museum

You expect a nature photographer – THE nature photographer, maybe – but in a sense, he is something more than this.  As the film which accompanies the photos makes clear, Adams considered himself an expressionist artist.  The photographs were supposed to  convey mood and emotion; consequently, he spent hours developing versions of what he’d photographed, darkening or lightening skies, creating pictures that did NOT show the river or the mountain or the sky that had been in front of his camera, but an adapted variation.

What you notice is the sharp edge or “cut” of the prints, the dense blacks, the textures of the rocks.  There is one picture which resembles a samurai in a kimono, sitting on a bank of sand or gravel by a fast flowing, Alaskan (?) river, with a dense layer of black bringing it into relief.  Another, of a rock with limpets or mussels attached, like a curving human back or elephant’s head; another “Japanese” looking picture, with “rushes” piercing bleached-out water surface that are really submerged trees.

These are the ones that impressed me most; there are also the dramatic mountain- and skyscapes, storm clouds billowing in the gaps between the peaks – no doubt, enhanced in the darkroom.  No little people to give scale; as far as I remember, no animals either.

ansel

Interesting to compare this exhibition to the

Wildlife Photography Prize at the Natural History Museum 

These are of such staggering technical brilliance that you are awed – or you would be, if you didn’t watch Attenborough’s current “Africa” series and/or the last one, the title of which escapes me for the moment.  In fact, this exhibition is rather like a collection of Attenborough stills and enlargements.  In one way it is better – you don’t get that terrible, jaunty penguin music, or the polar bear cub tubas, or the waltz for the fighting giraffes…  I prefer to watch it with the sound down now – you don’t hear the commentary, but that’s also taken a dive lately, with Attenborough anthropomorphising, which he said he’d never do…

Whilst at the NHM, there is an exhibition of paintings and drawings by early 19th century naturalists and some gifted amateurs, some of which are very beautiful; the Audubons of course, the Bird of Paradise plant, the various sketch books (more staggering brilliance), and the renditions of native Australians and ships at sea by the anonymous group called “The Port Jackson Painter” – an echo of those medieval Masters of here and there in the British Museum.

Joan Mitchell

joanmitchell

A documentary on Sky Arts the other night sent me straight back to the Livingston book on JM:  the beautiful, cold freshness of the greens, blues and pinks in the early ones; the ones built of interlocking swipes of blue, white and black; the floating, black or grey masses in the midst of frenzied streamers of colour in the “depression” pictures early 60s.  Sometimes her pictures remind me of dyed and shredded paper.

Lady Chatterley

Watched  this French film, directed by Pascal Ferran, noticing some baffling differences to the famous book – notably, the priapic gamekeeper was called Parkin, not Mellors.  Then, I discovered on Wikipedia that it is based on an earlier version by Lawrence, entitled “John Thomas and Lady Jane.”  So, that cleared that up.  The naked romping in the forest in the rain and the garlanding of various body parts were present and correct, however.    Haven’t yet seen the English effort, made for TV in 1993, directed by Ken Russell –  the master of naked forest romping – with Sean Bean as Mellors and Joely Richardson as Lady C; I expect Ken, Sean and Joely do a better job – chauvinism on my part, no doubt.  But surely the definitive version would be that of Just Jaeckin, starring the late Sylvia Kristel.

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Blue Billboard

Blackpaint

07.02.13

Blackpaint 374 – Review of the Year (Yawn)

December 31, 2012

The Blackpaint Annual Review 

Exhibitions – went to about 40; these are the most memorable:

Bronze at the Royal Academy

That statue of the dancer that languished on the seabed; Praxiteles?  Maybe…

Also, the Etruscan smiley god and de Kooning’s Clamdigger.

Migrations – Tate Britain

The fantastic Schwitters collage and Singer Sargent’s Ena and Betty.

Burtynsky at the Photographers’ Gallery

Shipbreaking at Chittagong and the ship apparently set in a sea of coal.

Kusama at Tate Modern

The boat covered in fabric penises and, of course, the darkened room with mirrors, reflecting pinpoints of coloured light, with shallow water around the walkways.  Everything was interesting.

London Art Fair at the Royal College of Art

The beautiful Keith Vaughans.

Albert Irvin at Gimpel Fils

Blinding colours, stars, flowerheads, flak streams – he really does yellow well, not an easy thing.

Films

Once upon a Time in Anatolia – that apple bouncing down the stream bed in the night.

The Master – Dodd mincing about singing “We’ll go no more a-roving” to a room full of fawning acolytes – and suddenly, they’re all naked – or was it just the women?

Anna Karenina – the horse race, exploding over and out of the stage set.  Many disagree, apparently, but I think Keira Knightley is a really good actress.  Lately, it seems to me that male critics feel they can praise only the following actresses: Imelda Staunton, Tilda Swinton and especially, Anna Chancellor.

DVDs and TV Films

Where to start?  Ken Russell, of course –Women in Love,  The Devils, The Music Lovers, Gothic.  The last three fantastically over the top; Oliver Read tearing himself from a crucifix to couple with a swooning Vanessa Redgrave; how beautiful Glenda Jackson was as Gudrun Brangwen.

Red Desert (Antonioni) – those colours in the industrial landscape.. Monica Vitti…

The Gospel According to St.Matthew (Pasolini) – I had it on at Easter; one after another, my atheist children came in, fell silent, watched it through to the end.

Tree of Life (Malick)  – America’s Tarkovsky.  Beautiful, and like Tarkovsky, utterly devoid of humour.  These chaps know they are important.

Melancholia (Von Trier) – The opening sequence, that white horse falling backwards, Kirsten Dunst and Charlotte Gainsbourg both riveting.

The Leopard (Visconti) – Burt and Claudia in the ballroom scene, prefiguring “Russian Ark”.

Swingtime – Fred and Ginger awesome in “Pick Yourself Up”, beauty and perfection in “Never Gonna Dance”.

The King of Marvin Gardens – Bruce Dern and Jack Nicholson, both staggeringly good.

Books

The Grass Arena by John Healy.  Unique, I think; boxer, fighter, drinker, criminal, rough sleeper, chess master, yoga practitioner, writer…

Ulysses, James Joyce.  6th time I think.  Still the most important work of fiction in English written in the 20th century; difficult to see how any fiction could supplant it.  Also really filthy, sexy and funny.  How could he have written like that when he did?

The Road and Everything Flows by Vassily Grossman.  Sort of fiction, but Grossman often strays into journalism; not a problem as he has stupendous stories to tell, about the war, the purges, the gulag…

And here’s my best painting this year – Happy New Year, to those for whom it is New Year.

005

Cap Frehel

Blackpaint

31.12.12

Blackpaint 323 – Dinosaurs, Members and Moustaches

February 4, 2012

 Z  Costa -Gavras

Brilliant sequence at the end of the film, where a succession of senior Greek army officers, charged with the murder of a leftist politician, leave the magistrate’s office and attempt to exit, desperately, by the same locked door, shaking and rattling it,  before their lawyers find the right way out.  In the book, they use dinosaurs as pseudonyms – “Mastodontodon”, I remember… but aren’t we all?  Dinosaurs I mean, not pseudonyms…

Migrations

Exhibition at the Tate Britain, which “explores how migration into this country has shaped the course of art in Britain over the last 500 years”, to quote the handout – which is a disappointing map of the rooms with blurb by some luminaries about what they think of the pics.   At the Whitechapel, you get a booklet with miniatures of all the paintings in the exhibition – and that’s for a free show; you have to pay for this one.

So – there are Dutch landscapists and portraitists, Canaletto (Horseguards Parade), Americans like Singer Sargent, and paintings by artists from migrant communities, Jewish, Afro-Caribbean and Asian.  The Singers are stupendous, of course; lovely, lively women in silks looking straight out at us (even if one appears to have a moustache and the hand of Betty Wertheimer seems to be in the wrong place on Ena’s waist – makes her arm too long).

A number of the works are familiar from the Tate’s permanent collection; the Bombergs, of course, “Mudbath” and the other one, Keith Piper’s series “Go West Young Man”. with  images of lynching and slavery, Mirza’s Crucifixion, with Christ like a giant holly leaf.  for my money, the Schwitters collage “picture of Spatial Growth; Picture of Two Dogs” was the best thing on show – from an angle and a distance, the surface evens out and it looks like an ochre and white painting.  Close to, it’s got a hank of black hair like a moustache (again!) in the middle.  Dates: 1920 – 1939!! Did he stick one bit on a year?

Other paintings I liked were Frank Bowling’s rough, yellow red and green take on Barnett Newman and Donald Rodney’s “How the West Was Won”, with that radioactive blue and child-like draughtsmanship – not the proper Coldstream, at all.

Life Drawing

As an English abstract painter, I suffer from that sneaking suspicion (on the part of myself, as well as others) that I do abstracts because I can’t do figurative, i.e.” proper”, painting.  Abstraction is a way of making pictures that can’t be properly tested; you can’t compare them to nature.  This mindset is very common amongst people in England who  consider themselves knowledgeable about art.  I’ve recounted in previous blogs how I heard a woman in the Tate Modern pointing out to her friend how Picasso’s early pre-cubism paintings were really good, “before he went all funny”.  Or watching visitors to Tate Britain recoiling with baffled shrugs from Turner’s more experimental paintings like  “Sea Monsters”.  And the Picassos and Turners are ,after all, figurative.  Real abstraction, Pollock or Stella, say, is blobs and squiggles or meaningless stripes and pretty colours.  Stella is better than Pollock because a child or an elephant with a brush held in its trunk can’t do a Stella – the lines are too straight.  I know I’m exaggerating a little, but not much.  The funny thing is that abstract paintings are old hat, retro, old fashioned – figurative painting is much more the vogue nowadays.

So, because of all this, but also because I enjoy it, I go to life drawing and painting classes.  Trouble is, the others in my class are too good and you come away each week thinking how rubbish you are – I know, it’s not a competition –  but it is, really.  Anyway, I thought I could use some of my life drawings to illustrate errors, as I’ve done in previous blogs.

Some pitfalls illustrated below:

1.  Don’t do the face and then rub it out.  In fact, don’t do the face at all – it usually looks crap.  On the other hand, it can divert the viewer’s attention from all the other little errors – like the left arm in second drawing.

2.  In a 5 minute drawing. don’t think you’ve finished with 10 seconds to go, and then discover you’ve left out the left arm completely (see second pic below).

3.  What about the package?  Do you render it faithfully, in which case it becomes the focal point – or do you suggest it in a sketchy, somehow more tasteful manner?  As can be seen, I’ve adopted the middle way by leaving the end off.  Hope I situated it correctly; looks a bit high up to me now.

And here’s a proper one that I did earlier:

“Baffled Shrug”

Blackpaint

04.02.12

Blackpaint 302

October 31, 2011

Tarkovsky

I mentioned that Bunuel was deaf in last blog, and that may be why music was apparently not so important in his films; watching Tarkovsky’s “The Sacrifice” last week, and his use of, for instance, Bach’s Matthew Passion, it’s clear that Tarkovsky is the opposite of Bunuel in this respect – as also in the total lack of humour in any of his films (T., not B., that is, of course).  One other thing in “Sacrifice”; the painterly, bleached, interior scenes, are surely based on Hammershoi.  It was filmed in Sweden, after all.

Middlemarch

Exchange of literary opinion on the North Downs Way last week:  “How you getting on with Middlemarch?”

“More than half way through.”

“Anything happened yet?”

(Pause..) “No.”

Venice Guggenheim

Was transported to Venice as a birthday present, so expect many Venetian entries in blogs to come.  The Guggenheim has a bunch of Miros, Ernsts (Bride stripped bare, for instance), Picassos, Braques, Kandinskys, Klees..  I’ve picked four of the most striking paintings:

El Lissitsky

Beautiful, clean, geometric, shades of Malevich.

Motherwell

I think it’s called “Personage”.  Again, clean, clear colours, bit dirtier, more painterly than the El.

Schwitters

Little collage this one, with a corroded metal disc (or that’s what it looks like) and a butterfly.

A great transparent cyclist by Metzinger and a portrait of the painter Frank Burty Haviland by Modigliani, early, utterly unlike his almond-headed nudes and portraits.  And, a load of early Pollocks, including one of those Synasthaesia ones (see earlier Blackpaints on Pollock).

Incidentally, have been given the Taschen on Modigliani and I’ve revised my opinion of him drastically.  I’d thought of him as a sort of Lempicka, doing tasteful pin-up nudes in an endlessly reproduceable, stylised way; but the portraits are great, the styles more varied, the flesh surfaces unexpectedly painterly (hate that word, won’t use it again) – look at the surface, for instance, of the Courtauld Gallery nude…. the problem for me is the pretty faces. The bow lips, demurely downcast eyes, long lashes, come-hither looks would be OK on a biscuit tin, though not sure about the naked bodies.

More Venice, including the Biennale, in the week.

Blackpaint (Chris Lessware)

28.10.11

Blackpaint 275

May 21, 2011

Bela Tarr

In  “Satantango”, his three DVD, 7 hour film, Irimias and Petrina sleep together, like Morecambe and Wise, in a little cubicle, in their overcoats.  Petrina covers the sleeping Irimias with a blanket.

When the charismatic Irimias is not there,  his disciples lose faith – rightly, of course – and only the faith of Lajos’ wife is unshaken; she does them the disservice of talking them round again.  Only Futaki, with his grim, thin, vinegary face, is unconvinced and strikes out alone.  I haven’t seen the end yet, however; maybe he comes around again.  Another hour or 90 minutes to go.

I’m seeing shades of Beckett and Bunuel in Tarr’s work.  I was going to say he stands at the opposite pole of my other obsession, Fellini – but then there are the whales, in “Satyricon” and “The Werckmeister Harmonies”…  I suppose what I really like about Tarr is the complete lack of pretension in his work.

An Ordinary Dog, by Gregory Woods

“Jerome”, one of Woods’ poems in the above collection, is clearly based on a painting of the eponymous saint; I can’t decide which one, however.  Woods mentions Jerome resting his slippered feet” on the upholstered ribcage of a dormant lion” – I thought the Durer, but no slippers and the lion is a foot or so away from the saint’s feet.  Maybe I’m being too literal; one of my many faults.  The last line – “Call me trivial but I can hear his stomach rumbling” – reminds me of that poem in Penguin Poetry of the Thirties, “The Progress of Poetry” by Christopher Caudwell:

“In evening’s sacred cool, among my bushes

A Figure was wont to walk.  I deemed it an angel.

But look at the footprint.  There’s hair between the toes!”

Kurt Schwitters

Just done another umber, alizerin, grey and black panel that looks (intentionally) a bit rough and rugged, like something from the beach at St. Ives, a chunk of sunk rowing boat maybe.  I thought of sticking some real wood to it, making it a sculpture or collage at least – then, flicking through an art book, came on Schwitters’ stuff done in the 20’s and a host of others, of course – Burri and Tapies with the sacking – and thought I’d better leave it.  There is nothing new under the sun, as I keep finding out – anew every day.

Max Ernst

His sculpture “Capricorne” , of a seated, bull- headed (Minotaur?) figure, flanked by a standing “wife” (Tanning) with a fish-shaped head – actually, the fish looks more like a hammer about to crash down on the bull’s head – holds in his right hand  – what?  It  looks to me like a giant toothbrush, which of course is entirely possible in Ernst’s work.  It’s now destroyed, anyway – book doesn’t say how.

The Minotaur

Must be one of the most frequently recurring images in art; I can think of Ernst, Picasso of course, Keith Vaughan, GF Watts… Actually, that’s about it.  I’ve just checked and, apart from a load of fantasy comic illustrations and figurines, a Greek vase and a Canova sculpture, I can’t find any others.  In film, there’s “Oedipus Rex” and “Satyricon”, of course.

Blackpaint

21.05.11

Blackpaint 144

May 31, 2010

More Exposed

Some more photos and sequences from the Tate Modern exhibition:

  • The Iraq convoy, smashed in the first Iraq war, like the Germans in the Falaise pocket (but without the hedgerows).  The WWI aerial photos, taken from about 500 ft, I thought – dangerously low, anyway – where you can see the individual soldiers advancing under clouds of shell smoke.  The Normandy cliffs, from higher up, but not that much.
  • The sex in the Japanese park sequence, where the photographer actually gets in on the action, pushing the idea of voyeurism to its extreme.
  • The Araki nude seen from behind, kneeling and resting her body across a chair or something, with a twist of her body at the waist; a beautiful life drawing pose, surprisingly, perhaps
  • Various actual surveillance photos of barbed wire, hangar-like buildings, deserted roads, deserts.
  • Northern Ireland army installations like cages; an IRA man in an armchair with a stocking over his flattened features.
  • paparazzi photos of celebs, Marilyn, Burton and Taylor.
  • The Kennedy assassination shots.

So, some great shots but all familiar; too much maybe, too wide a definition for one visit.  OK if you’re a member and can go back for a second or even third time.

Other Stuff

from yesterday’s visit, not  mentioned before;

  • the drooping coils of Marisa Merz’s metal schlangs, dangling from the ceiling;
  • The Dieter Roth plaque of blue,  pink and yellow card, treated with glue, next to the great (but small) wooden Schwitters;
  • the strangely sexy pile of old clothing against the naked statue in the Arte Povera bit (didn’t get the artist’s name);
  • Lucia Nogueira’s video of kite flying on windy verges in, surprisingly, Berwick-on-Tweed.  Why surprisingly?  because she was Brazilian.  I remember seeing her ink and paint-blot pictures a while ago.

Brief today, because not many readers on a Bank Holiday.

Blackpaint

31.05.10

Blackpaint 69

February 15, 2010

Gorky

Since I wrote on Gorky yesterday, I’ve read Laura Cumming’s review of the exhibition and I think I was a bit sniffy about it – under the evil influence of Brian Sewell, no doubt.  Maybe I missed the radiance a bit; if de Kooning thought he was the business, who am I to be critical?  And he must have been the only painter in the USA doing this stuff in the early 40’s, so the importance of the link with European abstraction…

Van Doesburg

Got to visit this again, and as always, there was stuff that impressed 2nd time round that I’d barely noticed the first: Huszar’s “Composition with Female Figure”; a fantastic Schwitters with one of those long titles full of numbers – it began with “Merz”; the paintings of Bortnyik, Maes and El Lissitsky that all used perspective, a rarity in  this exhibition; and a Futurist machine picture in black, white and red by Victor Servranckx, who gets 2nd prize for great name, after Vantongerloo.  I was puzzled by Jean Gorin’s “No.3 emanating from the equilateral triangle” – couldn’t see a triangle for the life of me.  I presume it was implied.  Cesar Domela had three lovely pictures, one a tilted square with corners coloured and finally VD himself, “Simultaneous Counter Composition”, in which the coloured squares (tilted of course) appear to be sliding apart under a thin black frame.

Richard Hamilton

Interview with Rachel Cooke, in which he claims that a teacher at the Royal Academy described Picasso et al as “a load of fucking dagoes!”  The art schools of the 40’s and 50’s sound like a nightmare; I remember reading that Terry Frost once spent 6 weeks on a painting without a comment from his teacher.  When Frost felt he was finished and asked for a comment, he was told, “If I were you, I’d scrape it all off and start again.”

Painting

Going two ways at the moment; doing Mondrian- style stuff freehand, so its messy (childish, but even messed up, it looks OK) – and flinging paint on flat canvas and spreading it with the edge of a postcard.  Really messy.

Listening to” That’ll be the Day”, Buddy Holly and the Crickets (of course):

“When Cupid shot his dart, he shot it at your heart,

So if we ever part then I’ll leave you..”

For decades, I thought it was “When Cupid Charlie starts…”: again, makes no sense, but I still prefer it.

Blackpaint

15.02.10