Posts Tagged ‘Sickert’

Blackpaint 576 – Coprophagia, Clowns and Coogan

November 25, 2016

Robert Motherwell, Bernard Jacobson Gallery

Sorry, done it again – last day today.  Great little exhibition though, opposite the rear of the RA.  These three are big ones – 177, 194 cms, that sort of order; “California” (1959) is a bit like a Frankenheimer and “The Studio” (1987) surely channels Matisse.

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The Mexican Window (1974)

 

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California (1959)

 

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The Studio (1987)

 

Intrigue – James Ensor, presented by Luc Tuymans, RA

Bowled over by this; he had two or three styles, like Kitaj.  Here, in this dark one, he’s like Sickert –  there, in that dark drawing room, like Vuillard.  You can see Van Gogh, Turner (the green stage one, very like the Petworth Turners), Goya’s witches and penitents, Brueghel, Moreau – even Munch, but better.  Apart from the dark rooms, there are the fantastic still lifes, the skate, the cabbage and flowers with their sizzling, fizzing background – you’ll see what I mean – and the masks, chinoiserie, clowns, processions, skeletons, satirical cartoons (the Bad Doctors, winding out the patient’s small intestine, like an early martyr) – and a group of critics round the table, eating shit; first coprophagic instance.

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The Drunkards

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The Bad Doctors

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Intrigue

 

Alan Davie, the Seventies, Gimpel Fils until 14th Jan.

A rather disappointing flatness to these – no texture, no roughness.  In the gallery’s photo, however, they look brilliant.

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Collections of symbols/motifs (fruit segment moons, stripey snakes, Ace of Clubs (cf. Diebenkorn), lips, crowns…  sometimes reminds me, superficially,  of Aboriginal art, or should that be first nation Australian?

Always on Sunday – Rousseau (Ken Russell, 1965) – DVD of 3 Russell films for Monitor and Omnibus.

The artist James Lloyd plays Douanier Rousseau with his own broad Yorkshire accent in this Russell film for Monitor; it works brilliantly, of course.  Russell has a woman, Annette Robertson (below) playing Alfred Jarry, the tiny anarchist playwright and revolver enthusiast, author of “Pere Ubu”, who befriends Rousseau.  At a perfrormance of Ubu, the bourgeoisie gobble a stew of faeces on stage; in case you miss it, an actor announces”shitter!”, twice, to the disgust and outrage of the audience – second coprophagic episode.

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Isadora Duncan, the Biggest Dancer in the World –  (Ken Russell, 1966)

Isadora (Vivian Pickles) and 500 children in floaty costumes ran down a hill at the Devil’s Punchbowl in Surrey, towards the cameras and Ken waiting at the bottom. Unfortunately, they all ran to the right instead of parting and flowing past Ken on both sides, so they had to go back up and do it again.  Brilliant TV film of course. but NOT the feature film that I remember; that was based on a different memoir and directed by Karel Reisz.  It starred Vanessa Redgrave and in one memorable montage sequence, showed Isadora arriving at “London” station.  I think Readers Digest funded it.

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Nomad, Alan Partridge (Steve Coogan)

Alan Partridge and James Joyce are similar, in that their respective styles penetrate and corrupt anything you read immediately afterwards.  I remarked before on how Finnegans Wake affects me; I tend to read a few pages at a time, then move on to another book – for a while, you think you are still reading “Wake” and you can’t properly take in the new text.  I had the exact same thing with Partridge and Proust.  Granted, Alan was discussing the way his excess fat tends to form on his back and Marcel was spending three pages or so describing milk boiling over…

Three small ones on wood panel and one (Seated Figure ) on canvas:

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Seated Figure

 

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Fleeing Figure

 

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Still Life with Orange and Banana

 

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Bridgehead 2

Blackpaint

25.11.16

Blackpaint 540 – Bacon, Bela, Berlin and Dental Horror

April 9, 2016

Russian Portraits, National Portrait Gallery

Went to this again last Wednesday and it was thronged; while I was standing looking at the Vrubel portrait of Mamontov (see below), one of the two women in front of me declared “It’s just like a Francis Bacon!”  This seems to be a common observation to make about anything which isn’t a straightforward “realistic” representation – bit of smudging round the features? “Just like Bacon”; limbs a bit oddly positioned? “He’s doing a Francis Bacon”.

Russia Vrubel

It’s not like Francis Bacon, is it?  Or maybe I’m missing something…

bacon nude 2

This is like Francis Bacon.

My partner, however, says that I’m just as wrong in comparing, as I did last week,  the Vrubel to Sickert or to Ruskin Spear – she says it’s more like Braque.

Whoever, if anyone, is right, it’s a brilliant exhibition.  A painting I didn’t mention last time is Repin’s Rimsky Korsakov; the hands again and that “fleshy” paper (can’t see it properly below – you need to go to the exhibition).

Repin Rimsky

Repin is like Adolph Menzel, the painter who nearly fills the Alte Nationalgalerie in Berlin (Blackpaint 473) ; history scenes, portraits, pastorals, scenes from plays, Repin does it all, much more than competently.

Autumn Almanac (DVD), Bela Tarr (1984)

bela tarr

The melancholy Miklos Szekely (tight-lipped, sour featured) is present, on the right in the photo above.  It’s claustrophobic, intense, violent – a man gets a beating (actually, nothing by today’s standards; more like a roughing up) which is filmed from below, through a glass floor, like that film of Pollock painting.  Like other Tarr pictures, notably Damnation, the characters speak to each other in undertones, smiling all the time even when angry, abusive or threatening; in one scene, the two women in the film fight, each smiling into the other’s face the whole time.

It strikes me that, unlike the great Tarr  films based on the books of Krasnahorkai ( Satantango and The Werckmeister Harmonies), and even The Man from London (taken from a Simenon story), Autumn Almanac shows violence and corruption developing out of the situation itself, with no need of an outside catalyst – in this, it resembles Damnation.  In Werckmeister, the cataclysmic violence arrives with the travelling show, the Prince and the whale; in Satantango, the “community”, such as it is, is destroyed by the arrival of the satanic pair, Irimias and Petrina.  In “London”, the agent of disturbance is the case of money which Maloin sees flung into the harbour when the murder takes place.

I’m not absolutely sure about this; you could argue that the schoolmaster in “Almanac” is an outsider and his ejection allows the others to achieve a sort of twisted, corrupt equilibrium.. or maybe not.  It’s Tarr anyway, so worth seeing, and uniquely for him, in colour (pretty dark, though).

Lucia Berlin, A Manual for Cleaning Women, Selected Stories (Picador)

First heard of this book when it was reviewed before Christmas; her stories were compared to those of Raymond Carver and you can see why.  There’s a similar economy (she often dispenses with verbs), a conversational tone and the settings and subject matter are “dirty”, as in Dirty Realism; alcoholism, abortion, dysfunctional families.  The second story, “Dr. H.A.Moynihan”, is a groin-shrivelling tale of manic dentistry that is the most horrific piece of fiction I’ve ever read – that’s if it IS fiction.  The stories appear to be strongly autobiographical.  I think she differs from Carver, in that he is maybe more experimental with point of view.  he writes as a female character in several stories, “Fat”, for example, and successfully, I think.

Anyway, the blurb on the front says her stories “are electric, they buzz and crackle”.  They don’t, but they are a great, if occasionally gruelling, read.

Actually, I’ve just thought of a piece nearly as physically wrenching (literally) as Berlin’s story – Ted Hughes’ poem about de-horning bulls.

I’ve done no new paintings since last time, so here’s an old one for now, appropriate to Berlin and Hughes perhaps;

Close of a long day

Close of a Long Day

Blackpaint

9.4.16

 

Blackpaint 479 – Birdman, Auerbach and Cat Strangling

January 24, 2015

Birdman

I think this is the best American film I have seen for years. I was about to say because the others are all superhero crap – but then so is this, in a way;  not crap, but superhero.  Michael Keaton is an ageing ex-superhero, Birdman, who is directing and leading in a Broadway version of a Ray Carver story, “What we talk about when we talk about love”.  The preview stage has been reached and Keaton is struggling with self-doubt and contempt, an egomaniac co-star (Edward Norton, magnificent), a disaffected daughter recently in “rehab” (Emma Stone, also brilliant, below) …. and so on, can’t bother with all this exposition.

Anyway, the dialogue crackles, as does the jazz drum accompaniment, the story is absorbing and funny, sentimentality is kept in check (though not absent) and the acting is great, as are the long takes following the actors’ tracks backstage and out of the theatre in one memorable scene.

I can’t resist the urge to spot resemblances that has often (always?) been a feature of this blog;  I glimpsed Gene Hackman in Keaton, Helen Mirren in Naomi Watts, Matthew McConnaughey in Edward Norton, Richard Dreyfuss in Zach Galifianakis – and in the huge-eyed Emma Stone, Lucian Freud’s painting of Kitty Garman strangling the kitten, below.  Well, just the eyes really – and Kitty is just holding the kitty….

 

emma stone

Girl with a Kitten 1947 by Lucian Freud 1922-2011

 

London Art Fair, Islington Business Centre

Unfortunately, this is only on for another day, but I daresay that some of the paintings below will still be unsold, if you want to buy them (although the first four are not for sale, being part of the Chichester Pallant House Gallery’s exhibition-within-the exhibition, so to speak).

 

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 Frank Auerbach, Reclining Head of Gerda Boehm – the best painting in the building, a more intense blue than appears here

 

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Walter Sickert, Jack Ashore – you can see Jack in the background, but he’s not the main focus really – look at her left thigh; it’s made up entirely of loose dabs and strokes of white.  I’m not sure why this is good, but it is.

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 Peter Lanyon – didn’t get the title;

 

artfair denny

 

Robyn Denny – again, no title, and I’m not sure that this is the right way up.  It’s great though, from when he was doing AbEx stuff before going geometric and minimal.

The following were from various galleries showing at the fair:

 

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 Keith Vaughan

 

 

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 Keith Vaughan again – Two Figures

artfair mellis

Margaret Mellis – love that red

 

artfair cadell

 

 

Cadell – Ben More and Mull

artfair fergusson

 

Fergusson – Still Life with Fruit – I love these Scottish Colourists; there’s also a Melville, the Glasgow Boy, in the same display.

artfair gear

 

William Gear – Two landscapes, 1947 and 1948 

artfair kinley

 

Peter Kinley, Figure on a Bed, 1975

…and, as usual, several great Roger Hiltons, Allan Daveys, Gaudier-Brjeska figure drawings, Prunella Clough, John Golding – great stuff.

Conflict Time Photography, Tate Modern

Revisited this (see previous blog) and found a couple of things I missed last time:

  • The collection of photos of Northern Ireland – irritatingly, these go up the wall too high to see them all properly (they are small), but there are some interesting ones low down – a couple of men or boys, tied up and covered with whitewash (?) wearing placards; one proclaims him to be a drug dealer to “underage children”).  Also, the huge photo of a riot which seems to involve throwing of milk cartons – what does the big red circle indicate?
  • The series of photographs of relics of Hiroshima.  The lunchbox of a schoolgirl, contents carbonised; no sign of the girl.  The uniform tunic, discovered in branches of a tree, of a schoolboy; no trace of boy.  Single lens of eyeglass of a housewife; piece of skull found some weeks later.
  • The odd, but fascinating jumble of photos and memorabilia contained in the little sub-exhibition of “the Archive of Modern Conflict”.

 

Still haven’t done any proper painting for a while, so some life drawings to fill the gap.

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life drawing 4

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Life Drawings

Blackpaint

24.01.15 

 

 

 

Blackpaint 463 – Awkward English Painters, Campion and Amis

September 30, 2014

The Later Turner, Tate Britain

Well, all the usual suspects are there; the Slave Ship, Sea Monsters, Burial at Sea, Steam Boat off a Harbour’s Mouth,  Parliament burning,  Rain Steam and Speed, Exile and the Limpet, the whaling pictures – and some of the most hideous gold frames you could imagine.  Apart from those paintings listed, the sketches of Venice and elsewhere in Italy and Switzerland are, of course, fantastic.  Maybe I’m Turnered out, though; I’ll go again this week and see if there’s anything new to say.

turner

 

Storm at Sea; Steam Boat off a Harbour’s Mouth  

Sickert and Bomberg on BBC4

Two great programmes (I missed the one on Paul Nash).  The Sickert one showed direct lines back to Degas and TL, and forward to Auerbach and even Bacon (the self-portrait).  The paintings from photographs – Edward VIII and the Italian Count (didn’t get the name) after the conference – were linked by Andrew Graham – Dixon to Warhol.  This was not such a radical idea; I came across the suggestion in Robert Hughes’ “Nothing if not Critical” the next day.

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The Bomberg prog did justice to the variety of his styles during his career and showed how his “Sappers” painting – is it still on exhibition in Tate Modern? – was based on the Caravaggio Crucufixion of St.Peter.  There’s an exhibition of Dorothy Mead, one of his best disciples, on in London at the moment.

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 Bomberg, Sappers Under Hill 60

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 Caravaggio, Crucifixion of St.Peter 

Portrait of a Lady, Jane Campion

Watched a DVD of this film starring Kidman and Malkovich, and I was astounded to see a sequence in sepia straight out of Fellini – like “The Ship Sailed On”.  Moments later, it turned into Bunuel, when a plateful of ravioli pockets, I think, developed mouths and started speaking to Kidman.  Then it was gone and we were back to relative naturalism.

Zone of Interest, Martin Amis

This is the first Martin Amis I’ve read; it is gripping, and Amis has done the research on Auschwitz and the Holocaust that the subject requires.  He does, however, use the camps as the setting for a story about the commandant and his wife; not sure about this.  Maybe the only story should be the story OF the camps. He has a Jewish girl point at herself before her murder and say “Eighteen years old”.  I came across the source of this in “Rise and Fall of the Third Reich”, in the evidence of a German civilian who saw the incident at a massacre by an einsatzgruppe at Dubno in Ukraine, not in Auschwitz.  She was 23, not eighteen.  Still, there’s a good essay by Amis at the end and I don’t think it insults the memory of the victims.  Probably more on this next blog.

 

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Cretan Plants (a Figurative Interlude)

Blackpaint

30.09.14

Blackpaint 445 – Ashmolean again, and Joanna Hogg’s Exhibition

May 8, 2014

Ashmolean Permanent Collection

As promised, a selection from the above:

di lorenzo

di Lorenzo – “St Nicholas of Bari banishing a storm”

Check out the mermaid in that pea green sea – and the C shaped boat.

uccello ashmolean

Ucello – “The Hunt in the Forest”

Cartoon – like, reds on dark green; flying hounds – like a Russian folk tale illustration.

michelangelo ashmolean

Michelangelo (possibly) – “Holy Family with John the Baptist”

The bloke on the left looks like an M, but not sure about the others…

master of bielefeld altar

Master of the Bielefeld Altar – “Christ Before Pilate”

Strange, Bosch-like figures…

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Daisy Linda Ward – “Still Life with Matchbox” (or similar title)

This beautiful little assemblage on a pristine tablecloth is the exception in a roomful of full-blown blooms, fruit and lobsters, overwhelmingly Dutch, on black “varnished” backgrounds.  They like beer in steins, crabs and lobsters, flies and crickets and butterflies, lemons with peel hanging in ribbons, shrimps, areas of rot on fruit..  there’s that bundle of asparagus, by Coote, that was on the TV prog on still lifes…

rembrandt ashmolean

 Rembrandt, of course – portrait of Catrina Hoogsaet

Nearly missed this one; it’s huge, but behind the stairs as you come into the room.  Also, a fantastic Manet, a woman in white on a balcony, I think she’s Berthe Morisot.  It looks unfinished and all the better for it, in a way.

martineau ashmolean

Martineau – “A Poor Actress’s Christmas Dinner”

She’s staring across the bedclothes at a Christmas pud.  Lovely drawing, in that highlighted, half-completed style.

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Inchbold – “Study in March”

A piercing, cold, blue sky; an almost photo -realist, Victorian painting.  Reminds me of Glasgow Boys.

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Walter Sickert – “Gaiete Montparnasse”

A theatre balcony from below right; unusual angle – maybe Degas or Toulouse Lautrec might have done similar? Some other great Sickerts; a rough-ish “Ennui” and “Pierrots”, both second versions of the ones at the Tate Britain, and a “Self-Portrait with Bust of Tom Sayers”, another good painting.

Also a balustrade by Singer Sargent, a cockatoo by William Nicholson, Samuel Palmer meadows, Boudin beaches and great Dutch interiors with pipes and armour.  There’s loads more, so go and see it.

Exhibition, Joanna Hogg (ICA)

hogg exhibition

As I said in last blog, this film is claustrophobic compared to “Unrelated” and “Archipelago”;  it’s just the two characters, artists, in their Bauhaus-y, but rather tacky and ramshackle private house, “somewhere near South Ken”, I read – somewhere.  The sliding doors rumble, the lift is rackety, the boiler needs attention; they work in different sections of the house and communicate on intercom.  Outside, emergency sirens wail, people shout and argue, cars with thumping sound systems roar past, female Eastern European voices issue instructions repeatedly and stridently into mobile phones…

I mentioned the several instances of female masturbation, undertaken (or attempted) lying back on a stool, then in bed, using sheer materials, oil massaged into breasts, high heels worn in bed – sometimes I was unclear at first whether Viv Albertine’s characters WAS masturbating – maybe she was practising a piece of conceptual art… she binds herself with tape for some pieces.

There are great shots of the spiral staircase (reminded me of those Soviet buildings photographed by Richard Pare – see previous Blackpaint) and the interior and balconies of the building, especially reflection shots, through and on top of the venetian blinds, “crazing” on glass – colours are a sort of dark but garish, livid German 80’s Expressionist, Kippenburger, say.

The film has been compared to Haneke’s “Hidden”, but it has no narrative thrust like Haneke’s; there is a suggestion that Something Bad has happened; Gillick occasionally appears to have depressive fits or fugues; once, I thought Albertine was agorophobic, then realised she’d been out several times… maybe she’d been raped?  But no, too crass, too “narrative”.  At some point, she ditches the jeans, starts wearing shiny dresses, suddenly looking “sexy”; this, on reflection, coincides with the successful completion of the sale of the house and the resumption of sex with Gillick – previously, she’d declined to participate actively.

Anyway, I’m seeing it again tomorrow, so may have more to say then.

Escape From Alcatraz

Made in 1979, Clint Eastwood as Frank Morris; I saw it when it came out, forgot how brilliant it was, discovered it again in TV last week; not a single wasted second.  I hope the real Morris, and the Anglin brothers, made it; Morris would be 89 now – hope he’s alive and happy somewhere.

 

 

 

 

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Plesiosaur

Blackpaint

9.05.14 

Blackpaint 419 – Gouged Eyes, Smashed Noses, Livid Flesh (but no sex)

October 31, 2013

Art Under Attack – Tate Britain

A great exhibition.   It starts with the iconoclasm under Henry VIII and Edward VI; some very beautiful small statues, smashed noses, broken in half, eyes gouged out (to avoid the possibility of eye contact with the common people – a superstitious fear that a rapport might be established, based on the idea, perhaps, that the soul is visible through the eyes?); paintings scored and scratched.  Becket’s image scraped out of beautiful Books of Hours.

A statue of Charles I by Hubert LeSueur in black metal, with the crown hacked – not much damage though; must be tough metal.

There is a painting of the Pope being stoned with boulders by the four Evangelists, owned by Henry VIII; a fantastic large statue of the dead Christ, dug up after centuries of being buried.

Moving on historically, there is the destruction of Nelson’s Column in Dublin by the IRA in 1966 – pushing the definition of art, surely – and then the Sufragettes, who defaced sexy Pre-Raph paintings and slashed the Rokeby Venus; this I found interesting; didn’t know they concerned themselves with presentation of women as sex objects, as well as agitating for the vote.

Then, there is a section on auto-destructive art, Metzger on the South Bank, destroying paintings with acid to reveal St Paul’s across the river, and Ortiz destroying a piano – the remains are on the wall, looking a bit like a large Schwitters – Austrian Actionists in a group photo, looking like a bunch of manic perverts, appropriately perhaps.

Finally, there are modern artworks that have been attacked, like Allen Jones’ woman as an office chair, the face of which was defaced with acid. presumably by a feminist saboteur.  Andre’s bricks are there and some Goya(?) prints purchased and defaced by the Chapmans.

There is perhaps a disconnection between religious and political iconoclasm and the destruction of works by the artists themselves for aesthetic purposes; it doesn’t matter really. though – a great exhibition.

Dancer in the Dark

The Von Trier film, featuring Bjork.  Check the opening credit sequence – it’s Per Kirkeby, like drawings or prints of fossils in red and indigo inks.  Not keen on Bjork’s acting though.

Sebastian Faulks, A Possible Life

In the last blog, I mentioned the similarity between the drowning incident in the above book to that in Pete Seeger’s song “Waist Deep in the Big Muddy” and to a Scott Fitzgerald story about WWI.  I’ve found the SF story; it’s called “I Didn’t Get Over”.  It’s not really the same; Scott Fitzgerald’s concerns a raft which capsizes and results in the drowning of more than twenty soldiers.  In Seeger’s song, the only casualty is the foolhardy officer.  The common denominator of the three is the foolishness and/or stubbornness of the officers involved.  There was a real incident, in the US in the 60’s I think; the Ribbon Creek incident, in which six marines drowned.

Facing the Modern; Portraits from Vienna, National Gallery

This is a fascinating exhibition; the pictures range from the most painstaking naturalism to quite extreme expressionist renditions.  Schiele and Klimt need no description, of course; Arnold Schoenberg has several of his portraits – the faces are similar, but there is something very attractive about the paintings, despite their gaucheness.  Another painter,  new to me, is Richard Gerstl – the Fay sisters, seated in their white dresses, terrifying; Gerstl’s brother, in an officer’s uniform, staring out from a Vuillard-like drawing room, the whole thing rendered in Seurat-ish blobs.

gerstl1

Fay Sisters

gerstl2

Gerstl’s Brother

Kokoschkas in livid greens and purples on ochre, twisted features (Kokoschka’s people never look at each other). ugly scratches on the background that add nothing; then, three fabulous dark portraits that recall Sickert, for me anyway.

There is a family group, viewed from a high angle, by Anton Kolig – rough, impressionistic, quickly executed and terrific.  It reminds me of the work of Michael Andrews; look at that little girl’s drawing arm.

kolig1

Kolig

And there are the Schieles; that livid flesh, composed of a brush marks in a variety of colours, prefiguring the flesh tones of Freud, Bacon, Jenny Saville….

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Schiele and Schoenberg

Another great exhibition.  A preoccupation with death, incidentally; a lot of death masks, deathbed portraits, memorial portraits – apparently there was a very high suicide rate amongst young Jewish men at that time.

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White Line Fever 1

Blackpaint

31.10.13

Blackpaint 386 – Abstract and Figurative; Painting the Churches

March 21, 2013

Lanark

The Alasdair Gray trilogy; I’ve arrived at the part where Thaw (I’m assuming this is at least semi-autobiographical) paints a giant Genesis on the ceiling and altar wall of the church.  It’s an echo of Michelangelo’s Sistine ceiling and wall, of course, but without the 30 year gap – but it also closely recalls the sequence in Joyce Cary’s “The Horse’s Mouth”, with it’s appropriately Apocalyptic denouement.

The descriptions of the paintings in both books would seem to place both Thaw and Gulley Jimson in a stylistic line of British figurative painters including Stanley Spencer, the two Roberts (Colquhoun and MacBryde), Jock Mcfadyen, John Bellany, Peter Howson and Paula Rego; figurative but distorted, surrealistic..  Alasdair Gray too, of course, but not so much.. more illustrative.

Figurative and Abstract

The British figurative tradition of which the above list may be considered the extreme – left? – wing, is very strong and pervasive, having dominated movements in Britain through to street or Grafitti or Urban art whatever you like to call it.  Auerbach, Freud, Bacon, Uglow, Hockney, Blake, Doig, Shaw, Ofili, Dalwood..  OK, non-figurative; Riley, Davenport, McKeever, Ayres, Blow, Lanyon, Hilton, Heath, Feiler, Denny, Hodgkin – fair enough, just as many, if not more.. Hoyland, Wynter, Frost (Terry and Anthony), Turnbull…  What is it, then, that makes me think that abstraction is somehow not quite perceived as the British way?

Maybe it’s to do with exhibitions.  Recent big blockbusters for foreign abstractionists – Schwitters, Richter, Boetti.. when was the last big exhibition of  a British non-figurative painter?

Tate at yourpaintings

Carrying on with my trawl, there’s Albert Irvin‘s Empress (1982)

irvin empress

Sickert’s Ennui (1914) – just a fantastic image; and

Robin Denny’s Golem I (1957 – 8)

Robyn Denny; (c) Robyn Denny; Supplied by The Public Catalogue Foundation

 

There Will Be Blood

Glad to see this again on TV, a chance to compare Day Lewis’ Plainview with his Lincoln.  I preferred the Plainview with his John Huston voice, sudden bursts of violence and cruelty and the moustache – but you could see glimpses of Plainview in the Lincoln.

I’ve Been Loving You So Long

Far be it from me to criticize anything Kristen Scott Thomas is in – apart from the English Patient – but the ending is a cop-out.  She killed her kid as an act of mercy; he was dying from some horrible, painful disease.  At the trial, she refused to explain or defend herself and consequently, was regarded as some sort of monster.  Why resolve it like this?  Better to leave it unexplained.  Same with Festen – the father is eventually condemned for incest and rape; better if the family had continued to rally round him.  Same with The Hunt – the community re-absorbs the “molester” when he is proved innocent; better (and more true) if they’d continued to persecute him anyway.   There’s no redemption, except for celebs and politicians.  The worst cop-out was Ordet though; the religious obsessive actually manages to bring back the daughter-in-law from the dead!  What are we to make of that?

OK, here’s a couple of my pictures – not comparable to those above,I know, but it’s my blog…

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Blackpaint

21.03.13

Blackpaint 241

January 10, 2011

Van Gogh

Interesting to read in the Taschen VG the symbolism of his painting of April 1885 of the Bible and Zola’s “Joie de Vivre”, which he called “Still Life with Bible”.  The bible represents his father (solidity, authority, religion) and the dead candle signifies his recent demise.  The Zola volume is VG himself.  Zola’s story asserts the value of life and the life force in the face of sufferings, whilst the bible is open at Isaiah 53, which exalts those who suffer.  This sort of reading is more familiar to those who have read the Hagens’ interpretations of Renaissance paintings, which abound with symbolism, but it can still be used with more modern artists. I don’t have Van Gogh’s complete Letters, but my selected Letters doesn’t include such an analysis by VG himself – I imagine that it is the (plausible) effort of the authors, Walther and Metzger.

Veneziano

In the Uffizi guide, the Santa Lucia dei Magnoli Altarpiece.  That green and rose pink background remind me of Fra Angelico (Man of Sorrows) and maybe Duccio.  The really memorable aspect, however, is the rough, vigorous peasant face of John the Baptist, staring out at the viewer.  Nobody in the picture – two other saints and the Virgin and Child – is looking at anybody else; it’s like a room full of statues (the flesh tones on the V and C are pretty stone-coloured too).  Oddly, it seems to increase the picture’s power, in the same way that della Francesca’s figures sometimes do.

Altdorfer

Still perusing the Uffizi guide and Altdorfer’s “the Martyrdom of St. Florian” strikes me.  Florian, with a massive white millstone chained to his neck, kneeling on the rough logs of a pier or bridge with a great throng of people behind him.  Several of them look surprisingly solicitous, taking his cloak, gesturing towards the water, as if assuring him that its not too cold.  Florian looks unpersuaded.  Things are not looking good for him.

Leonardo

His early painting (c.1480) of St. Hieronymus contains the first really credible picture of a lion that I have seen in the early Renaissance.  Durer’s efforts, for instance, seem to me to flounder when it comes to the eyes; his lions have human eyes, if somewhat large.  The Hieronymus lion, although unfinished, has the unmistakable profile of a genuine African male.

Quiz

In the Sickert picture “Ennui”, what is the old boy at the table doing?

Listening to Martin Carthy, “Newlyn Town”:

“I robbed Lord Golding, I do declare,

And Lady Mansfield in Grosvenor Square;

I shut the shutters and bid them goodnight,

And home I took my loot,

And home I took my loot to my heart’s delight…”

Blackpaint

10.01.10

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 84

March 10, 2010

Whitechapel Gallery

Free admission to a great exhibition of drawings called “Threshold”, curated or chosen by Paula Rego and with an expensive-looking leaflet with loads of repros of the drawings.  It’s from the British Council collection.

Without looking at the leaflet, I remember the following:  several coloured drawings by Graham Sutherland, ditto from Sickert, a couple of Victor Willings, a Prunella Clough, two Burras, an Augustus and a Gwen (latter better, I think), a tiny Ofili head, a large Auerbach in black and white chalk, a Harold Gilman, Chris Orr’s “Vegetables go to School” , a Patrick Caulfield, a surprising Stanley Spencer – can’t remember more, but I’m sure there was more.  It’s only on until 14th March.

Celeste Bourgier – Mougenot

At the Barbican Curve gallery, live birds playing electric guitars for free.  Everyone there was smiling – and it was free.

RIP – painted over this (above), over last two days – now looks like this (below – but still changing)

Listening to “Sunday Morning Coming Down” by Johnny Cash.

“On a Sunday morning sidewalk, I’m wishing, Lord, that I was  stoned,

‘Cos there’s something in a Sunday that makes a body feel alone;

And there’s nothing short of dying, half so lonesome as the sound

Of a sleeping city sidewalk, and Sunday morning coming down”.

Blackpaint

10.03.10