Posts Tagged ‘Sean Scully’

Blackpaint 650 – White Show, Bacon and Sea Star

July 22, 2019

At the The Edge  of Things, Agnes Martin, Jo Baer and Mary Corse, Pace Gallery until 14th August

This is a very white exhibition, as can be seen from the examples below.  In the words of the booklet, these three painters “paint what we don’t yet know.  They make paintings about how the eye sees, not what it sees – altogether sidestepping the problems of illusion, illustration, even expression.  For them, a painting is not an image that says or shows us something, it’s an object that does something to us.”

Baer’s pictures have a dark blue border round them; some of Martin’s have patterning that resembles tiny bricks and one has faint, wide pastel stripes.  Mary Corse did the one immediately below.

 

 

I’m generally not a fan of minimalism, so not the target audience, perhaps – I should say however that the other visitors to the gallery there at the same time as me were very enthusiastic, as are the comments on Twitter etc. that I’ve read.

 

 

Couplings, Francis Bacon, the Gagosian Grosvenor Hill until Aug 3rd

I’m not sure I fully understand the rationale behind this exhibition – the title and the Bacon quotations cited seem to suggest that the pictures are those that involve more than one person, or entity; as Bacon says, (I paraphrase) once you have two people in a picture, you have a narrative.  One of the paintings, though, is Bacon’s famous picture of Peter Lacey, who is alone.  Who cares, though?  Great show, including some of his best figure studies (the early 50s ones are the best, for my money).

 

Is this an appropriate frame for the contents? Hmm….  Love the bedsheets.

 

Detail of the above.

 

The above picture with admirers.

 

Not keen on this one, of naked figures working on an allotment(?); I include it as an example of later work.

 

 

Bacon’s marching men, apparently unaware of the polar bear lurking on top of the glass cube….

Sorry about the levity – I am a genuine fan of Bacon and thoroughly recommend this show.

 

Sea Star, Sean Scully, the National Gallery until 11th Aug

A fabulous exhibition, free like the Bacon and the white one, based on Scully’s response to Turner’s “Evening Star”, which is also on show.  I’m not sure about the connection – but Scully’s work, as in Venice two years ago, has sections of fabulous slippery, syrupy paint applied with a looseness of brush technique.  The green square in the centre of the painting below, for instance, has a richness of brushmarks that almost makes it a painting within a painting.  I’ll stop now, before I get into Pseuds Corner country.

 

 

Sometimes, he does these inset squares in the larger picture…

 

 

 

 

A couple of details, showing the brushmarks I’m on about.

 

Bermejo, National Gallery

No photos of this, I’m afraid.  He clearly loves doing armour; a pair of soldiers in the resurrection are clad in armour that makes them look like samurai.

 

Loveless, Dir. Andrey Zvyagintsev 2017

Fascinating film.  Bourgeois Moscow couple, marriage collapsing, at each other’s throats, ignoring the suffering of their son.  He goes missing and the film shows the attempts of the voluntary organisation that searches for missing children to find him.  The police can do no more than take details; the actual searching is done by the volunteers.  In this respect, it strangely resembles a public information film – but not too much.  The sulphurous relationship of the parents keeps the focus tight.  There is a great cameo of the boy’s grandmother, a blistering, hate-filled babushka living in a rural cottage, visited by the warring couple and the volunteers, on the off chance that the boy may have fled to her – some hopes!

Some of my efforts to finish, as usual:

 

Judgement

 

Judgement (Detail)

 

Headless 1

 

Headless 2

Blackpaint

23/07/19

 

 

 

 

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Blackpaint 629 – Venice under Water and Anni Albers at the Tate

November 2, 2018

Venice under Water

Just back from flooded Venice, where I ran the 33rd Venice Marathon with my three sons, to raise money for Myeloma UK and to celebrate, if that’s the right word,  my 70th birthday.  This year, the conditions were the worst ever, at least for us slower ones ; a blasting headwind, driving hail into one’s face for several kilometers on the long bridge over the lagoon, followed by a step into calf-deep salt water on the car-free touristy stretch.  Sloshing on to St.Mark’s Square, with some desultory jogging over the seven or eight ramps to the finish by Giardini.  The day before, we were laughing at the tourists buying blue, orange and green galoshes; the day after, my eldest son had to go out early and find four pairs for us at E20 a pair.  BUT I did spot a peregrine falcon, cruising among the gulls in the red dawn sky over the Grand Canal, on the way to the start.

What has all this to do with art, you say?  Well, not a lot, but on the Monday (a dry day- the water comes and goes quickly with the tide and the wind), we came across the following, in a silent campo with several trees and surrounded by cloisters, on the other side of the island near Ospedale, and opposite the cemetery island:

Church of St. Francesco della Vigna

Big, white austere frontage with two huge bronze(?) statues, one a Moses horned like Michelangelo’s,  looming from alcoves about halfway up the wall – it’s got the feel of an abandoned Hawksmoor church about it (it’s not, of course – it’s Palladio; and it’s not abandoned).  And there’s the cloisters and no-one about at midday, a miracle in Venice.  In the gloom inside, there are a couple of great Veroneses, Tiepolo and the Negroponte below;  a fantastic painting, and no, I’d never heard of him before.  You have to drop a 50 cent piece in a box to get lights on the pics for a minute or so, like with the Bellini in S. Zaccaria.

 

 

Holy Family with Saints Anthony Abbot, Catherine and the infant John the Baptist, Paolo Veronese

Look at those fabrics, especially Catherine’s.

 

Resurrection of Christ, Veronese

 

Virgin and Child Enthroned, Fra Antonio da Negroponte

 

Another view of the above.  Love those putti swimming about in the sky under God, and the birds at the bottom; you can just make out a duck (mallard?) on the left and a hoopoe, last but one on the right.

Anni Albers at Tate Modern

I have to admit that this is not amongst my favourite exhibitions of all time, although I acknowledge the skill involved and the quality of the textiles displayed.  It’s all a bit too brown, grey and beige for my taste (although the examples I have picked to photograph seem to contradict that – because I picked ones I liked, I suppose).

I think you can see a resemblance to Paul Klee’s work in the second example especially; the interlacing tendrils in the 4th and 5th remind me of Brice Marden’s patterns – and maybe there is even a touch of Sean Scully in the pieces in general.  I thought the bedspread was nice, but better in a furniture showroom than an art gallery.  Yes, I know about the Bauhaus ethic of producing “practical”items, teapots, plates, chairs etc – I just like Rauschenberg and Jasper Johns and Joan Mitchell and the AbExes better.  No doubt, a major failure of taste and intelligence on my part, but I am an old white man, after all.

 

I really like this one.

 

But not so keen on this.

 

Crap frame.

 

An apology

First one above is blurred and I’m not sure it’s the right way up.

Trust (FX, Simon Beaufoy, Danny Boyle et al, 2018)

The US made, Simon Beaufoy version of the Getty kidnapping has to be the best thing on British TV this year.  Donald Sutherland is turning in a brilliant performance as the old man (Venice connection here – “Don’t Look Now” of course, and Fellini’s “Casanova”) Luca Marinelli, Hilary Swank.. well, they’re all terrific, as is the soundtrack, as is the camerawork and the script.  Shades of Godfather obviously, but also Fellini, I thought – or maybe the Sorrentino of “Il Divo” and “The Great Beauty”.  And there was all that hype about “the Bodyguard”…

Pictures of mine to finish with:

Rain over the Sound

 

Still Life with Milk Bottle

Blackpaint

02/11/18

 

Blackpaint 628 – Skinned Alive in Dulwich and Striped in Hanover Square

October 21, 2018

Jusepe de Ribera, Dulwich Picture Gallery

The most effective heir to Caravaggio, Spanish painter who worked in Naples (1591 – 1652)

I’ve been looking forward to this exhibition for months, having seen fantastic de Riberas in the Prado last year; vast canvases of stretched, prostrated male bodies undergoing torture… hang on, this is becoming rather weird.  They are not actually all that gruesome and it’s the brilliant rendition (unfortunate term, but the correct one) of the human body that’s fantastic, not the torture or bloodshed.

There are only four or five large canvases in Dulwich – St.Bartholomew, about to be skinned alive (two of those, I think); Marsyas, being flayed by Apollo; St Sebastian, having his arrows pulled out by a couple of women (the women rather perfunctory – de Ribera seems more interested in men).  There is a portrait of a man holding a knife and a flayed human skin, obviously inspired by the Michelangelo self portrait on the Sistine wall.

Additionally, there are a number of beautiful little drawings, some in red chalk, that are reminiscent in style of Leonardo, but Goya immediately comes to mind; the subject matter?  Executions, tortures such as the strappado, hangings, crucifixions, facial deformations…  You can imagine the visitor to Ribera’s studio, after seeing these: “And the one you’re working on at the moment, upstairs – would that be a harbour scene or some nice flowers in a jug, with butterflies?  Oh, a flaying…”.

 

St Sebastian

The sprawling male bodies are the obvious focal point – the skin often white or greyish, grainy, rippled over the belly, livid white and scooped out by shadow in turn.  Wher the flaying is actually in progress, it is the foot or arm that is being “done” and is easy to miss.  De Ribera is also pretty hot on fabric; see the example below.

 

By coincidence, the night before going to this, I watched the film “Bone Tomahawk” (dir. S.Craig Zahler, 2015) on TV, in which cave-dwelling cannibal throwbacks scalp a living man, then upend him and chop him in two from the crutch; it seemed to make an appropriate double with Ribera.

Amy Sillman, Camden Arts Centre, Finchley Road tube

By way of slight contrast, this beautiful set of paintings and drawings, and a cartoon film in the overheated Camden Arts Centre.  Lovely big, green, pink, blue abstract canvases (see below) and cartoony characters, like the crawling, vomiting (?) creature that make their way, like Kentridge’s people and coffee pots, into the film.  The pictures have surface; sometimes hard, smooth and glazed, sometimes rough, scraped, paint in bobbles and rills.  She seems, again like Kentridge and many other artists, to have recurring images; the thing that looks like an old vinyl record pickup in “TV in Bed” below; or is it an unconscious deep sea diver, lying on his back on the sea bed and wearing flippers…

Apart from Kentridge, Guston (the pinks), Oehlen and for some reason, Marlene Dumas came to mind.

 

What the Axe Knows

 

TV in Bed

 

Slant

 

 

 

Sean Scully, “Uninsideout”, Blain/Southern, Hanover Square

For some reason, someone tweeted that Scully “should be ashamed of himself” for this exhibition…  Why?  He did stripes before and he’s doing stripes now – what’s wrong with these stripes?  Too colourful, maybe…

Anyway, they are huge; lush, syrupy sweeps of paint on aluminium supports, very painterly, with a depth of colour like those he showed in that fabulous palace in Venice, at last year’s Biennale.  Additionally, there are a couple of enormous, quilt-like assemblages with inset panels (three pictures down, below).  Downstairs, smaller works on paper in pastel.  In Scully’s handwriting, some guff about clashing colours suggesting The Clash rock band – great art doesn’t, or shouldn’t need explanation or justification.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Two of mine to finish with, somewhat smaller than Scully’s:

Ice Candle

Blackpaint

 

Little Crashing Out

Blackpaint

21.10.48

 

 

 

Blackpaint 518 – Last Venice; Red Roofs, Red Guards, Red Dress

October 30, 2015

Biennale – the Town

My last Venice blog – this Biennale, anyway –  is about the various exhibits scattered around the town.  In the case of Scully and the Bailey-Eno collaboration (see below), the magnificent venue is at least half the attraction.

Land Sea, Sean Scully

scully

Sean Scully

I’d considered Scully one of those one-trick artists whose work repeated itself, more or less;  stripes and intersections in greys, browns, blacks and whites, vaguely reminiscent of the side of a cattle truck  – and so, with sinister and depressing associations.  This show, of around thirty works, revealed to me a very different artist;  still stripes, but a variety of luscious colours and textures.  You can clearly see the thickness of the paint, slippery and glossy, and the sweep and chop of the brush marks.  Many are huge and some of the best are done on aluminium.  When he works in a variety of blues (the “Sea” bit, I guess),  he gets a depth and vibrancy of tone I’ve not seen matched.  The venue is one of those old, deserted mansions with ochre and sienna walls, roughly textured.  The walls made me think, totally inappropriately, of the Dirty Protest in the HBlocks…

 

The Sound of Creation – Sound Paintings, Beezy Bailey and Brian Eno

beezy bailey

Beezy Bailey 

This show is in the Conservatorio Benedetto Marcello, a working music academy in a beautiful seven or eight storey building with an enclosed courtyard.  As you climb the stairs, classical singing and orchestral music from the rehearsal rooms accompany you.

The paintings, vigorous, colourful, gloss on board, abstract and nearly abstract, are on the landings as you go up; some have earphones with them, through which you can hear Eno’s electronic music.  I found it pleasing, especially the one with the jaunty bass line and the unmistakeable whirr of an electric toothbrush, but not obviously connecting with, or enhancing the paintings.

Great view over the rooftops of Venice from the window next to the painting above; the slightly variegated roof tiles look like a Paul Klee painting.  As we descended, we couldn’t resist peering through a keyhole at a rehearsal in progress and only narrowly saved ourselves from falling forwards through the door.

 

Path and Adventure, Mio Pang Fei

mio

Mio Pang Fei

Chinese artist, now based in Macao, an astonishing body of work recapping Impressionism, Post Impressionism, Modernism and Abstract Expressionism, produced under one of the most hostile regimes in history.  A dim, crepuscular film playing, showing a series of horrible images from the Cultural Revolution; victims paraded with placards, heads bowed. as they are punched, manhandled, screamed at by manic Red Guards.  Many of those shown were surely shot soon after.  A line of nuns in white habits being given similar treatment.  Mio, on video, is low key and impressive but with no optimistic message for us – I’m glad to say; his work provides that.  Comparable with the ground floor of Russian pavilion.

 

…the Rest is Smoke, Helen Sear

More great art from Wales – Beddwyr Williams’ “Starry Messenger” at same venue two years ago.  The still below is taken from a looping sequence, in which a young woman in a red dress circles a beech tree, or maybe a series of beech trees, over and over again, caressing the trunk with one hand.  The tree trunks and leaves shine through her body; the reds and golds of the leaves echo her dress.  You never see more than the lower half of her face.  I found it erotic, hypnotic and ghostly.  There are other tree- and woodland- related images in the show, but this is the one that stayed with me.

 

helen sear

Helen Sear

 

 

work in prog 1

An old one of mine, but I’m anxious to publish.  Next week – Manchester galleries.

Blackpaint

30.10.15

 

 

 

Blackpaint 317 – Wandering Ears and Landskips

January 4, 2012

Van Gogh’s Ear

The Taschen book shows three self portraits done in August and September1889, in which Vincent appears to show the left side of his face in half-profile.  In two, the ear is clearly intact; in the other one, it is mutilated.   Since it was the left ear that was damaged, the viewer is probably seeing a mirror image transcribed by VG.  The same goes for the two pictures with bandaged ear; the bandage appears to be on the right ear, so it must be mirror image.  In the third self portrait, presumably also done with a mirror, the ear is damaged .  So, what’s happened here?  He must have realised the “error”, and put it right – or maybe he just preferred himself with the ear intact.  Doesn’t matter, I know; but he had a thing about realism and it intrigued me to know.

Gainsborough

Reading the Phaidon book on above, and to my surprise, it’s fascinating.  Gainsborough refers to a “landskip” and my Dutch mother-in-law tells me that’s the Dutch spelling of landscape – which makes sense, as the Dutch more or less made the genre their own in the 17th century.  The author suggests that G may have had a job putting little figures in imported Dutch landscapes to make them acceptable to the English market.

“Landscape with Sandpit” – to my eyes, completely atypical of Gainsborough; chunky, blocky, low sandhills surrounded with lush vegetation, like some Caribbean treasure island (Dutch landskips by Ruisdael and Hobbema, for instance, sometimes look like Sumatran jungle, rather than European woods and copses).

There is that staggering portrait of the Linley sisters, in the Dulwich Picture Gallery.  The distinctly creepy, challenging stare and smile of Mary, peering slightly down on us head-on, rather than slightly tilted in other portraits.

Unfinished

I was surprised to read that several of the best-known pictures are unfinished; The Andrews husband and wife icon is one; there is a patch of plain canvas in Mrs. Andrews’ lap, under her folded hands.  The portrait of G’s two daughters pursuing the butterfly is also unfinished, as is the Diana and Actaeon.  I have to say that I don’t think they are any the worse for this; like Turner, whose sketches of Venice outshine many of his highly finished works.

William Gear

The book on the two Roberts that I referred to in the last blog, mentions this Scottish painter as one of the earliest British abstractionists; he apparently exhibited with CoBrA in 1949, so maybe they should have got an “E” for Edinburgh in the title somewhere.

Klee

Reading a Taschen on Klee – sounds like a tiresome individual in a number of ways.  A couple of paintings, one called “The Daub”, remind me of a wobbly Sean Scully.

Girl with a Dragon Tattoo

Again, the cinema (Ritzy) was freezing, but at least they had an apology pinned to the door.  I think the success of the Swedish Wallander (Kristerson) and The Killing was partly due to the distance provided by the foreign language and subtitles, which somehow smooths over the ridiculous plots and unlikely twists.  This new version of the Larsson is in English, so the absurdity of the plot is all too apparent.  However, Rooney Mara is a real face; she reminded me a little of Darryl Hannah’s replicant in Blade Runner – the black eye make-up, I think – and also, strangely and I don’t know why, of the girl in Franju’s Yeux Sans Visage.

Blackpaint

4/01/12