Posts Tagged ‘Sidney Nolan’

Blackpaint 637 – Bonnard, Nolan and Lift to the Scaffold

January 31, 2019

Bonnard, Tate Modern

I can’t really recommend this show too highly; I’ve been looking forward to it for weeks, been twice already and like everyone else, took photos of everything possible.  The colours are beautiful; mauves, blues, oranges, yellows (don’t know why I’m listing them, you can get a fair idea from my crappy, fuzzy snapshots below – all the good, clear ones were taken by my partner.

I was surprised at Adrian Searle’s negative review in the Guardian; despite giving a reasonably fair assessment of Bonnard’s achievement, he ended by saying he couldn’t get away from it fast enough.  No accounting for taste and Bonnard WAS a pretty dyed-in-the-wool bourgeois – he certainly looked it, anyway.  I suppose it’s all a bit old, white, privileged, domestic, smug, middle-class for Guardianista taste – but at least he’s Euro, not British.  Wonder what he thinks of Matisse?

One thing Adrian Searle is right about is Bonnard’s wobbly portrayals of people.  The faces are pretty rudimentary; Monchaty, his lover, for example, in the first real portrait in the exhibition.  One of the Marthes, emerging from the bath(s), actually looks like a sea lion to me.  Now and then, though, they are close to Degas.  While I am on about resemblances, here’s a few:  Peter Doig, Klimt, Degas, Vuillard, Goncharova, Van Gogh.  Didn’t bother with titles; too crowded to get them.

Something that the exhibition touched on was Renee Monchaty’s suicide, after Bonnard had decided to marry Marthe.  It didn’t say that Bonnard found her body in the bath.  This is of interest, given that Bonnard spent years after, painting Marthe in, and getting out of , the bath – you’d have thought he would avoid the setting.

 

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Very fuzzy – a bit Vienna Secessionist, I think, with that monumental prone nude on the wall.  Dodgy armpit..

 

 

Detail of a garden – Doig-y?

 

Unusual sharpness to door frame.

 

In one of the rooms, some frames have been removed – I think the result is a big improvement on those great wooden gilt jobs.

 

Very poor photo, great painting, VAST bath (in one picture, it looks to be floating about six feet off the ground.  I think some of the background is reminiscent of Klimt.

 

Love the various planes of colour in this and the woman just visible through the opening.

 

Bonnard’s windows and doors are often wobbly; when the scene is outside, it can look like a heat shimmer.

 

 

Very unusual scene for Bonnard; non-domestic setting, lots of people.  Placement and execution of distant figures rather like Lowry, the colours pastel-like.

 

This one says Van Gogh to me (or might, if it was a person, not a painting…)

 

I love the orange cow, or calf, on the left – that’s where I got Goncharova from.  The painting’s massive, by the way.

 

Lovely painting – no comment necessary.

 

Ditto.

Sidney Nolan, BBC4

Some stunners in this great programme last week – and also some not so stunning (to my eye, anyway).  I was surprised that some of his portraits, especially the early ones, reminded me a little of (early) Lucian Freud; some of the later ones, veiled and distorted, of Bacon.  Here and there, you could see vegetation and rock as Bacon would have rendered it – and also, maybe, Michael Andrews.  And an echo, sometimes, of John Bellany (maybe that should be the other way round, but anyway).

 

 

 

 

touch of Brett Whiteley here?

Lift to the Scaffold, dir Louis Malle (1958)

Doing what the French do best.

Otherwise known as Elevator to the Gallows, tense, clear, cold film noir with perfect Miles Davis music and beautiful Jeanne Moreau, haunting rainy Paris by night, searching for her lover (Maurice Ronet, above right) – who is stuck in the elevator, after killing her husband on the top floor.  Like a fool, he left the rope and grapple he used to scale a couple of floors to the victim’s office, dangling from the balcony and had to go back to get it….  A couple of juvenile delinquents, as they used to be called, nick his car and his gun and go on a spree, just to complicate matters further.

Here’s mine for this week:

Slouching to be Born

Next blog – Bill Viola and Michelangelo at the RA.

Blackpaint

30.01.19

 

 

 

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Blackpaint 562 – O’Keefe, Caine, Keitel and Maradona

July 14, 2016

Georgia O’Keefe, Tate Modern

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Autumn Tree – the Maple

I’ve been to the O’Keefe exhibition and wasn’t keen, on the whole.  I think the trouble is with two things: firstly, the surfaces of her paintings – they’re too flat and dry, no texture.  They would do equally well as prints, it seems to me (I remember, we felt the same about Hopper).  Surface like Lempicka, even.  That’s a matter of taste, I suppose, and so is the other problem, which is really the subject matter.

As with “American Sublime” a few years back and a Samuel Palmer in the watercolour exhibition, I think some things aren’t meant to be painted.  Glorious sunsets, weird desert effects, they’re great in nature but mostly horrible on canvas.  Like those garish postcards that olden days people used to send home from Thailand or wherever they’d been on holiday, they don’t convey the real thing.  An exception is –

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The Mountain, New Mexico

Same thing goes for antelope skulls – the real things are fantastic objects in themselves; why turn them into detailed, accurate drawings (except to provide an accurate scientific record)?  Same thing should go for the flowers, but for some reason, I like those.

Anyway, I got “echoes” of a whole range of artists going round, some of them surprising:

Richard Hamilton – there were a couple of sheets of parchment-like paper, reminiscent of Hamilton’s early drawings of car fronts and fridges.

Luc Tuymans – grey/white sheets, tied or folded in the middle.

Marc/Macke – Lake George, Coat and Red (below)

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Black Mesa Landscape (below) reminded me of Lawren Harris, who paints mountains like distant white blancmanges.

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Generally,  I thought of Nolan’s and other Australian’s  renditions of landscape, Ayer’s Rock/Uluru for example.

Again generally, I got Mexican muralists for some reason.  The picture I liked best was Winter Road (below) – hardly typical.

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Youth, Sorrentino (2015) DVD

What is Sorrentino doing?  He seems to be imitating the style of Terence Malick in the Tree of Life – but not doing it very well.  The only memorable image is that of the enormously-bellied hotel guest on the tennis court, propelling the ball into the air time and again with a sort of nimble, fat athleticism.  He’s supposed to be Maradona, apparently.

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Fellini said that he’d chosen Donald Sutherland to play Casanova because the actor was wooden – Sorrentino perhaps chose Michael Caine for the same reason.  Caine never seems to be acting in anything I’ve seen him in; he just says his lines, with an occasional slight gesture towards emotion – anger, or grief, say – as an indication of what his character might be feeling.  He’s Michael Caine; why bother?  He does look a lot like Sorrentino regular Tony Servillo in this, though.  Harvey Keitel’s exit is hilarious.  The music – Simple Songs, was it? – is terrible.

It got excellent reviews and won some prizes; must take another look to see what I missed.

So, nothing good this week (including the “change” of government).  Stood all weekend in a Brixton street art fair with a bunch of my paintings and didn’t sell a single one.  Then I turned out this pinkish affair, which I include only to have something new in the blog.

wip

Work (not) in progress,

Blackpaint

14.7.16

 

Blackpaint 420 – Australia at the RA; Whiteley’s Murder Pictures

November 7, 2013

Australia at the Royal Academy

This exhibition has had an astonishingly savage reception in some quarters, notably from Waldemar Januszczak and from Brian Sewell, who slates the aboriginal painters as ravaged by alcohol and trotting out pictures that are meaningless, when divorced from their ritual tribal functions.  Adrian Searle is also exercised by the omissions and patchiness of the show.  Clearly, it has bitten off too much to chew – impossible to do a whole continent thoroughly, with the rich and complex aboriginal cultures and the European tradition.  Still, there’s some great stuff to see, so you can go and be stimulated and entertained AND pontificate about how sketchy and incomplete the exhibition is…

To start with the aboriginal paintings; they are segregated from the others for the most part.  They are surprisingly huge and striking; there is one that is just like a Per Kirkeby, red, pink and white in a tower- or hill- like structure.  Another in this first room is a huge white square with pink and blue borders, with a wave-like swoosh in the centre; it looks like a tapestry.  Everywhere there are concentric circles, stars, giant figures built from blobs and stars of paint; “Cyclone Tracy” by Rover Thomas, a black funnel-shaped swathe through a striped landscape; another showing the story of a cannibal old woman who lived in a cave and ate kidnapped children.  It’s like a map – a blob in the middle is the woman’s cave.

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Cyclone Tracy by Rover Thomas

There are paintings from the early days of European settlement; a couple that look almost like Caspar David Friedrich.  the early Euros obviously had difficulty seeing with “Australian” eyes.  Later, there are the Australian Impressionists, Roberts and Streeton etc. ; diggings, camps, sheep shearing; a great picture, “Lost”, a girl adrift in a eucalyptus forest; a radiant moonrise, a pink/grey dawn.  if you stand in the centre of the room, you can see there is an Australian colour set – dusty, tawny, orange but bleached out.

Then, we are at the modernist section; Sidney Harbour Bridge, painted by Grace Cossington Smith , who also painted the beautiful screen, like something Duncan Grant might have painted at Charleston.  Flesh hunks roasting on a beach, the sand and sea represented by blazing bands of yellow and blue; a collection of athletic, Lempicka-like figures tossing balls to each other, showing off.

Now the Nolans; several Ned Kellys – police at a burning beacon, Ned’s sister quilting the inside of his helmet, the shootout at Glenrowan.  And an odd one with a parrot (see below).

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Now the 60s 0n – a Brett Whiteley of a bay, orange with small boats –

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Olsen’s “Sydney Sun”, which hangs above you like a mirror over a bed – so I’m told – a bilious yellow, and compared by Januszczak to diarrhoea; two pictures by Fred Williams, small fragments and twists of paint in flat landscapes of grey and brown; a black and white Fairweather, a lot like Bryan Wynter and an enormous Arthur Boyd – a roughly drawn white figure, like a Bacon, on a black background, with a window looking out on a blazing white yard.

In the later galleries, two things of note – Fiona Hall’s set of opened sardine tins, with silver trees growing from the tops, containing not sardines, but penises, vaginas, and other “artefacts of a sexual nature”.  And a great abstract landscape, brown, grey, splattered, brushwork rather like Rose Wylie, with a bright, cream channel down the middle.  I think it was by Elizabeth Cummings but I can’t find it on the net.  Anyway, great exhibition, despite the savaging.

Brett Whiteley

I was so impressed by this painter that I bought the Thames and Hudson “Art and Life” catalogue at the RA.  The influences on him are quite obvious;  Diebenkorn in the early abstracts, maybe a little Adrian Heath too; William Scott – there’s a frying pan – and Roger Hilton, in the drawn line.  In both the drawings and the paintings, line and colour, Francis Bacon.  But he’s so good that he’s much more than the sum of these influences.  I prefer the earlier stuff, but fantastic.

The Christie Pictures

In the mid 60s, Whiteley was living in London and he became interested in the sex murders carried out in Notting Hill by John Christie in the 40s and 50s at 10 Rillington Place.  Whiteley did a series of paintings and drawings relating to the murders, some depicting Christie actually carrying out the killings.  The paintings are indistinct; they show naked bodies (Christie and the victim) fragmented and entwined and several show the penis-like nozzle of the gas pipe he used to gas the women.

When you flick through the book, you are struck first by how great the drawings and paintings are and you derive pleasure from them.  Then you read the titles, and you are repelled by the subject matter.  Still great art though?  see what you think.

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I suppose there is a precedent for this; Sickert’s depiction of the Camden Town murder, say – or the Goya Disasters of War.  The sexual content in the Whiteleys adds another disturbing layer, though.  I wonder where they are – it’s hard to imagine anyone having them on the living room wall.  I bet they’re in storage in a gallery archive.

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The Stadium

Blackpaint

7/11/13

Blackpaint 277

June 2, 2011

Exhibition

Had an offer to take part in an exhibition the other day, which was nice;  however, when I asked for details, I was told that one condition was no nudity, or partial nudity (I presume they meant in the paintings).  The reason was, the venue was a church hall and nudity might offend those who used it for purposes other than looking at art.  They have a point, I suppose – some of the Michelangelo stuff on the Sistine ceiling and wall might alarm cubs or scouts;   the implied oral sex in Adam and Eve for instance, or the wielding of huge phallic columns, or the snake biting Minos’ penos – sorry, penis – then again, it might not.  The images are distant and difficult to make out, after all.  Anyway, although my stuff is abstract, any figures anyone might read into the blotches and smears are definitely nude and might well be taking part in some obscene act – so had to decline, regretfully.

Ai Weiwei

Went to see the bronze Zodiac animal heads in the courtyard of Somerset House, with the fountains and kids playing within their semi-circle.  They actually look like hard, moulded brown plastic (the heads, not the kids) and feel like it too.  There was a rat, cockerel, dragon, snake, lion (or tiger), hare, bull, horse, pig… must be three more, but can’t remember.  They are based on figures that were outside a Chinese palace, I think, and that a British army stole or destroyed during an Opium War; so there is an irony in  them being on display in a British “Palace”.

The Lisson Gallery show has the neolithic pots that Ai plastered with garish, modern industrial paint.  This iconoclastic streak in Chinese art makes sense in the context of a society so bound by rules and convention and order; smash it up, break free, clear the decks, start afresh.  In this respect, a negative (or rather positive) image of the Cultural Revolution, the Red Guard, the Little Red Book – but done from below, by insanely brave individuals trying to achieve a sort of freedom of thought and action.

Ai Weiwei is still being held without charge by the Chinese authorities.

Out of Australia, British Museum

Prints and drawings by the “Angry Penguins” group of Australian artists, Tucker, Nolan, Boyd, Brack and Hester; also some drawings by German Jewish WW2 internees, and abstracted landscape pictures by the great Fred Williams.  These drawings, particularly Nolan’s and Boyd’s, are well worth a visit, but it is the Native Australian pictures, by the likes of Judy Watson and Kitty Kantilla  that are really interesting.  There is one of a lightning god, in the form of a grasshopper with “wrists” chained to “ankles” and little hammers on the elbows; another of sand whorls on the ground, another with arrows of a cyclone heading towards lines at right angles, representing the land…  They look like abstract tapestry patterns, but are all representative.  I’m explaining this badly; go and see.

Aguirre, Wrath of God

Watched this again the other night;  the whirring, wheeling whistle of that bird, Kinsky’s mad, sneering glare, the sinister “la, la, la”-ing of Aguirre’s accomplice, the beautiful, doomed girls…  fantastic film, enhanced in some strange way by the crap subtitles.

Blackpaint

02.06.11