Posts Tagged ‘Seurat’

Blackpaint 448 – Theory, Violence, Horror, and Nature

May 29, 2014

Theory and Non – Theory (cont.)

Since last week’s blog and my (defensively) sarcastic comments about the French and French/Algerian masters of critical theory, I have discovered Paul Strathern and his potted guides, “Derrida in an hour” etc.  Fantastic.  I’ve done Derrida, Foucault, Wittgenstein and have Heidegger lined up; what Strathern needs to do is to get his finger out and do Barthes, Baudrillard, Lyotard, Deleuze and one or two others, then I’ll be OK for my book group next time.  Trouble with the group is that if you want to hold your end up, you have to read not only the scheduled book, but every other book in the world that has any bearing on the subject.  I can’t hope to do that but maybe can fake it with Strathern’s help.

Comics Unmasked, British Library

jonah

(Not the Jonah on show, but gives you an idea)

The best work on display in my view is a Beano spread from the early 60s, I guess, of Ken Reid’s fantastic ” Jonah”.  This is so busy and full of energy that it practically moves on the page as you peer at it.  Also very striking was “Gwendoline”, and the Rupert Bear and the Gypsy Grandma  from the International Times, or maybe Oz – delicacy prevents me from description.  For some reason, R Crumb was omitted altogether??? and there was only one Posy Simmonds, a page of  “Tamara Drewe”.  Despite the graphic sex, the most shocking cartoon for me (although I have the book in which it was published) was Reg Smythe’s Andy Capp, reproduced below:

andy-capp

This was presumably first published in the Daily Mirror, before inclusion in the collection I own.  Private Eye, I remember, used to run a strip by Bill Tidy, The Cloggies, in which there was a character called  “The Blagdon Amateur Rapist.”  Can’t remember when, but I guess well into the 70s, maybe later.

There are many other treasures and I strongly recommend the exhibition. I got a great compendium of early 50s US horror comics too; “The Horror, the Horror!” by Jim Trombetta, £20 and well worth it.

DH Lawrence, The White Peacock

Lawrence’s first novel, in which the action is beset throughout by great wodges of nature description; we know at all times what the lapwings, clouds, forget-me-nots, brooks and grasses are doing.  This seems a common syndrome with first novels; Almayer’s Folly by Conrad and Orwell’s Burmese Days both have the same characteristic, not necessarily a fault, in my view; I think Orwell brings it off well.

The Lawrence has a more amusing fault; the narrator is one of the characters, yet he is “all-knowing”.  He tells us what his sister Lettie says and does explains that with her suitor George when they are off alone in the woods, for instance.  I wonder how common this error is in literature; I can’t offhand think of any other examples, yet it struck me immediately in “Peacock”.

Clark at Tate Britain

Here are the Seurats in the Clark exhibition:

seurat clark 1

seurat clark 2

I think the first one is usually in the National Gallery – but the second is new to me.

Asger Jorn – Restless Rebel

New book on Jorn, essays on various periods.  It’s great of course – below, Jorn in his studio.

jorn in studio

 

And here’s my latest effort, which turned into a landscape when I put it on its side.  I hate it and will vandalise it with green and blue paint as soon as I publish this.

 

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 Blackpaint

29.05.14

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Blackpaint 447 – Ken Clark’s pictures, Theory and Non-Theory, Capitalism, Fellini and Orwell

May 23, 2014

Kenneth Clark Collection at Tate Britain 

This is an astonishing exhibition; four and a bit big rooms of great art, most of it actually owned by Clark.  Some of the treasures on show listed or shown below:

pasmore clark 1

Victor Pasmore

A couple of portraits and nudes by Pasmore that are new to me, along with the more familiar river side pictures like Hammersmith and “Evening Star” in which, unlike the Turner of the same name I saw the other week at Margate, the star in question is readily visible.  The rear view nude on the bed (which I can’t find a picture of) looks like a fore-runner of Uglow.

sutherland clark1

Graham Sutherland, Sun rising between two Hills

A number of great Sutherlands, landscapes, foundries, Blitz damage, portraits (of Clark himself); also Pipers on similar themes, and Paul Nash – especially his magisterial “Battle of Britain” with it’s vapour trails making a great, plant-like shape in the sky above the Thames and the coast.

bell clark1

Graham Bell, Brunswick Square, 

A new one on me – love that violet blue.

Just too much to list really – Cezanne drawings. Coptic tapestry figures from the 5th – 7th century AD, a Lippo Lippi Moses striking the rock, a couple of Nolans, one horrible the other fantastic, a couple of great Seurats, a Samuel Palmer, Cornfield by Moonlight and Evening Star (again), Henry Moore in the shelters and the mines, oh, a couple of Leonardo drawings…  It’s amazing that one man could have amassed all this in the 20th century.

Theory

I attended a symposium at UCL a couple of weeks ago, on “Real Abstraction”.  A series of distinguished academics, who discussed matters like materiality in very abstruse terms, assuming familiarity with the terms on the part of the audience (many of whom looked as if they were up to speed on the topic).  All the speakers, I think, mentioned Adorno; Capital also made an appearance in every presentation.  It was soon clear to me that the real subject was how abstraction in art could be accommodated by Marxist theory of the Frankfurt school – for the first speaker anyway.  We listened to six of the speakers and none of them made any attempt to define what “Real Abstraction” was. We listened quietly, applauded politely and visited Habitat in the lunch hour, buying a nice glass flask for £8.00.

More Theory

My painting has always taken account of “theory” – Foucault, Barthes, Derrida, Baudrillard, Deleuze – I suppose it’s obvious from the content.  At my book group the other day, I discovered from one of the academics that there are “theory” and “non-theory” people in the universities; the latter would be traditionalists, liberals or conservatives, using analytical processes not determined (although perhaps informed) by the writings of the above and their followers.  Glad I’m not one – now I can add Adorno to the list too.

Orwell, Eileen and 1984

Perhaps the ultimate non-theory person; I was interested to read in the great Crick biography that Orwell’s wife Eileen worked for the Ministry of Food during the war, persuading the people to eat whatever vegetables were currently plentiful – one month, she might be stressing the health benefits of potatoes; the following month, there may be a shortage, and she would switch to pointing out how fattening potatoes were.  Crick suggests plausibly this filtered into Nineteen Eighty-Four.

Fellini, The Ship Sails on

Watched this again and was freshly impressed by the performance of Freddie Jones  as the reporter-narrator, who ends up in the rowing boat with the rhino (you have to get the DVD and watch it, too complicated to explain) and Barbara Jeffords as the suppressed operatic diva.  Fantastic.

 

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For Derrida

Blackpaint

23.05.14

Blackpaint 223

November 25, 2010

Bridget Riley at the National Gallery

This exhibition contains both Riley’s own works and those of artists she has herself chosen, presumably to illustrate her inspirations and connections with her paintings.  “Escape 3” is the first of her works on show.  It is a canvas of modulating grey and blue wavy horizontal lines.  When I looked at this in the gallery, it appeared to me that the top half was irregular in terms of the width of the lines and their spacing, whilst the lower half consisted of two areas which “tilted” towards the viewer like a hinged sandwich.

Later, I saw the exhibition reviewed on TV and it was obvious that this division was false; the undulating, horizontal lines are “crossed” by regularly- spaced “creases” running diagonally top to bottom.  Optical illusion, but I only “got” the proper illusion, as it were, when the TV distanced me from it.

Opposite is Mantegna’s “Introduction of the Cult of Cybele to Rome”.  Processions of celebrants going this way and that, very strong sculptural effect, almost 3D.  Riley says the painting has “an all – embracing rhythm with which he (Mantegna) builds horizontals and verticals”.  The connection is “the special nature of pictorial space” in his paintings.

The other paintings she has selected are Raphael’s “St.Catherine”, in which more rhythmic currents in the portrayal of robes, the wheel, the figure are present; and three small Seurat figures -in -landscape  sketches, which presumably resonate with her palette (as does the Raphael).

There are two huge paintings, one on linen, the other directly on the wall (executed by assistants), which are in pastelly blue, green, beige and orange and resemble  cut out and concertina’d paper decorations, leaning viewer’s left to right, and stretched across an area of wall.  “Arcadia”, on linen, was done in 2007, “Blue” this year, of course.  The rhythms are there, the colours echo the Seurats to a degree. 

 There is a whole wall covered with empty black circles, which intersect like Venn diagrams; a colourful, vertical stripes painting (like those Mod blazers from the 60’s – yes, I had one); and a shimmering, modulating – again- set of black through to white dots, set in a circular pattern.  The most striking work, I think, is “Red on Red”, a beautiful, flame-like image in red, pink, orange and Prussian blue.

So, at first glance, highly unlikely combination  of images, but possible to see what she is driving at.  I’m unable to swallow Andrew Graham – Dixon’s assertions that her work reflects her love of natural forms, however;  I think you can probably take ANY painter and set your terms wide enough to discover ANY influences, echoes, associations you like – or, at least, art journalists can.  Just chop and wave your hands, assert EMPHATICALLY and pause for dramatic effect before the last word.

Quiz; Who painted the tower at Neunen, over and over again (no, I mean paintings, not the actual tower)?

Blackpaint, unfinished yet.

25.11.10

 

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 116

April 21, 2010

Best figure drawers

I’m excluding Mich and Leon, Raphael and the rest of their Renaissance mates because they’re just too good  really; I’ll run a specially pointless and spurious competition with myself to establish which of them is the best at some later date.  So, this  is just between the more recent chaps.  They are mostly chaps, not because men draw better, but for all the reasons that there are (historically) more male than female artists.  The women who come to my mind are Gwen John, Paula Rego and Elaine de Kooning.  As for the men-

  • Degas
  • Lautrec
  • Ingres
  • Stubbs (horses, I know, but horses  have figures too)
  • Seurat
  • Bonnard
  • Uglow
  • Diebenkorn
  • Kitaj

What do you think?  I’m talking rubbish, aren’t I?  What about Picasso, Matisse, Delacroix, Velasquez etc., etc. – Please comment, as I enjoy a pointless argument based purely on prejudice and  selective ignorance as much as the next person.

I have to stop now, and I want to publish so more fully rounded blog tomorrow.

Listening to the Blackleg Miner by Steeleye Span.

“So join the union while ye may,

And don’t wait til your dyin’ day-

For that might not be far away,

You dirty blackleg miner.”

Blackpaint

22.04.10

Blackpaint 92

March 22, 2010

Arshile Gorky

Went for a second time to this exhibition at the Tate London.  This time, I noticed the nifty little blue aeroplane paintings, full of technical detail – reminded me of some of the stuff in the Van Doesburg.  However, I found the thin, spidery black lines an irritation this time, also the fluffy white backgrounds of some pictures and the rather sickly nature of the colours generally.  Also annoying were the pretentious titles and I left thinking no, not one of the greats – except clearly as a catalyst, for de Kooning, for instance.  Definitely this time, I noticed how some of them look great from the far end of the gallery, and how they disappoint as you draw near.

BUT – second visits are often like this; it’s the mood you’re in. 

Seurat

I’ve been looking at a Thames and Hudson book of above and have to say how stunning his drawings are; sketches in Conte crayon composed of swimming particles that seem to swarm before your eyes like atoms coalescing (maybe partly the glasses, but still) – just fantastic.  It’s that thing of thinking you know someone, not really looking at their stuff any more – Gauguin, OK, know what he  did; Cezanne, yes, Mont St. thing  again; and then you actually look.

It appears that I can’t download pictures again, so words only today.

Blackpaint

Sunday Night

OK – so I could download – but it took all night and all day.