Posts Tagged ‘Sokurov’

Blackpaint 544 – Still Life, Bare Life, Sokurov and CoBrA

May 7, 2016

Still Life

I’ve decided to abandon my usual practice of putting my own paintings at the end of the blog and to stick them at the beginning instead – just in case the reader gets fed up and goes elsewhere online before reaching my pictures.

still life

Still Life with Pomegranates – yes, I know, not the usual so I made some changes…

still life with pomegranate new

Still Life with Pomegranate – now that’s more like it!

 

“Bare Life” Catalogue (Hirmer)

In an  essay by Colin Wiggins, a similarity is identified between Freud’s “Big Man” and the Ingres portrait of Madame Moitessier – they are both below.  It’s the pose.

Ingres Moitessier

Ingres, Portrait of Madame Moitessier – he was eleven years painting this…

 

Freud big man

Lucian Freud, The Big Man

Hmm – and between Degas and Bacon (spine):

degas after the bath 2

Degas, After the Bath

Bacon three figures and a portrait

Bacon, Three Figures and a Portrait 

Well, yes, but marginal similarity at most. However, Wiggins is suggesting only a marginal, perhaps even subliminal influence, so fair enough.

The Sun, (dir Alexander Sokurov, 2004)

Described as a “companion piece to Downfall” on the DVD cover, this is a mesmerising portrait of Hirohito, an impotent god imprisoned by his destiny in his bunker, as WWII grinds to an end, with the destruction of Tokyo by Flying Fortresses and the cities destroyed by the atomic bombs.  There is a dream sequence in which the American bombers soar over Japan in the form of fire-breathing, flying fish.  But so far (I still have some to go), it seems unlike all the other Sokurovs I’ve seen – can’t quite put my finger on it…

The-Sun-Alexandr-Sokurov

 

downfall2

Having mentioned “Downfall”, I felt it was an opportunity to include my favourite German helmet shot from the film.  Traudl tries to blend in with the Wehrmacht and somehow manages to filter through the Russian troops…

CoBrA Museum, Amstelveen, Netherlands

This great museum is in the suburbs of Amsterdam, in a nondescript housing and shopping precinct that reminded me of Swanley in Kent (also Swindon, and no doubt many other towns which may or may not begin with “Sw”); I only wish Swanley had such a collection.

The thousands of regular readers of this blog will be familiar with CoBrA (Copenhagen, Brussels, Amsterdam, the home cities of the founders of the group) and its leading painters; Asger Jorn, and Karel Appel.  Here are works by them and some of the lesser-known artists of the group:

cobra1

Yellow Ochre Moon, Eugene Brands

 

cobra2

Village Scene, Lucebert (1962)

 

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Falling Sun, Carl-Henning Pedersen (1951)

 

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Red Mask, Egell Jacobsen

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Two Birds, Karel Appel

 

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The Fake Laugh (Tragi-Comic Image), Asger Jorn

 

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The Intermediate Reserve, Jorn

 

cobra10

The Spectators and the Assassin from Lurs, Jorn

 

cobra11

Harlequin, Jan Nieuwenhuijs

One important idea held by the group was the quite common notion that children see the world in a superior way to adults, who are jaded and corrupted and curbed by experience and socialisation; in childhood, there is some kind of direct access to the essence, which dissipates as we grow.  So, back to painting like the kids – a hopeless task, of course, but I think it produced a certain freshness and originality in their work.

See also recent blog with Appel stage settings and costumes from The Magic Flute and Noah, also at the CoBrA museum.

Blackpaint

7.5.16

 

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Blackpaint 406 – Tarkovsky and porn, events in Jane Austen, My Old Paintings

July 25, 2013

Uzak (cont.)

It’s about alienation, of course – hence “Distant”, meaning of Uzak.  The distance between Yusuf and Mahmut, Mahmut and his ex-wife, Yusuf and the pretty girls he half-heartedly stalks, the distancing effect of the snow on Istanbul’s streets and buildings… you get the picture.  The country cousin Yusuf, with his hungover, hangdog expression, “sailor’s cigarettes” and childish laugh manages to generate some sympathy; the rat-faced Mahmut, drinking in trendy jazz cafes, watching Tarkovsky and porn, and resenting the lack of sophistication of his lumpish guest, is the more dislikeable of the two.

uzak2

Some great shots, as well as the snow scenes I mentioned last blog; one in particular, a silver fish flipping on the pavement, having fallen from the full creel; the camera pulls back and up to close-up of Yusuf, and then beyond him to the traffic that flows both ways across the screen, slightly out of focus against a leaden grey sky.  Hard to explain why so good – something to do with the closeness and the angle of shot, maybe.

Ceylan now my third favourite director, after Bela Tarr and Fellini – but then there’s Bunuel and Herzog and Sokurov and Ken Russell….and Visconti and Pasolini….

Simon of Sudbury

Sight of the week on TV was on BBC4 last night, in “Chivalry and Betrayal” :  the head of the above-named unfortunate, still with some skin clinging, kept in a wall safe at a church in Sudbury, having been chopped off 600 plus years ago by Wat Tyler’s followers in the Peasants’ Revolt.  Sudbury thought up the first poll tax – bad idea, as he was dragged out of the chapel in the White Tower and dispatched unceremoniously by the unimpressed taxees (is that a word?  It is now).

Simon of Sudbury

Jane Austen  (no, that’s Simon of Sudbury above)

Great that her face is going on banknotes; I once used to say that I would go to my grave without reading Jane Austen – now that I have made it to chapter 44 of “Sense and Sensibility”, I wish I’d stuck to that.  Event-free, is how I would describe it; things livened up a little when it looked as if Marianne was going to die – but she got better.  Maybe she’ll have a relapse in the last 6 chapters.  What I find really difficult is keeping up with who is related to who – who, for example, is Mrs. Jennings?  I can’t be bothered paging back through the Kindle; I’ll have to go to Wikipedia, I  suppose.

Some Old Work

I’ve not finished a new painting since last blog and latest is in no fit state to insert as a work-in-progress (must get rid of the lime green patch first) – so here is some old work that I’ve never used or not shown for ages:

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Sweet England

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Grey Landscape 

bushes-and-briars

Bushes and Briers

finsbury mud 1

Finsbury Mud

glass and fog

Fog and Glass

OK – enough old stuff for now.  I hope to have at least one new painting to show by next blog; depends on the lime green and its willingness or otherwise to go away.

Blackpaint

25.07.13

Blackpaint 401 – Manhugging at the Fair; Annoying in Chechnya

July 4, 2013

Lowry at Tate Britain

I think he’s more important as a social historian than as a painter; the old Mitchell and Kenyon films which play in this exhibition show that his particular vision was spot on.  No-one else was covering this sort of industrial, municipal vista so consistently.

As I said in last blog, I think there’s something of Brueghel in there and not just the small figures and the white background.  B documented the lives of his peasants and Lowry  is doing the same for the people of his northern towns, to an extent; the Fever Van, the Funeral, Going to and Coming From Work, the Fair at Daisy Nook (twice, at least).  His figures are less solid than B’s, caricatures really, but he does give them individual details, even if they come out looking the same.

Several characters recur; a pair of drunks (?) “man-hugging”, kids, and those two dogs – probably more that I didn’t notice.  None of the figures seem to cast a shadow – indeed, they look somehow separate, even when they overlap, as if collaged.

lowry2

No dogs in this one.

When you see the paintings surrounding you, their filmic quality is obvious; you can easily imagine the figures coming to life and swarming through the factory gates towards the smoking chimneys.  I thought of that film of snow-covered Nevsky Prospect and the people  scattering under fire during the 1905 revolution.  It’s on the cover of the paperback of Trotsky’s “History of the Russian Revolution”.

My favourite painting is uncharacteristic and one of the first in the exhibition – it’s the little brick terraced house with the flowers in the window.  Look closely at it- it’s beautifully painted, especially the brickwork.

Another interesting and uncharacteristic painting was a Welsh scene, I think called “Bargoed”; somehow, the perspectives are more conventional (his townscapes often look like two or three different photographs cut up and collaged together and the diminishing size of the figures as they recede is often “wrong”) and the whole picture has a more “muscular” feel – not better than the townscapes, but much more conventional.

lowry1

Quick visit to our favourite room, the one with Bigger Splash and the red Caro – I looked closely at the Bacon triptych and was interested to notice how thin the paint was – the weave of the canvas fabric was clearly visible.  His own remarks about the role of accident and chance in a painting and the common (mis)conception that he painted with a sort of vigorous abandon had led me to believe that the paint would be applied more thickly.

The Tony Cragg “Stack” – how did they install it without its falling to pieces?  It’s surely not stuck together and yet there is no way it could be raised – unless it was on a palette that was somehow slipped out from under it when it was in place…

Aleksandra, Sokurov

How irritating Sokurov’s characters can be.  This is the film about the grandmother who visits her army officer grandson when he is on active service in Chechnya.  She goes around being provocative, as if the presence of a matriarchal figure, overweight and with  bad legs, should be treated as completely normal by the gormless boy soldiers.  They have to help her out and keep her safe.  She meets some Chechnyan counterparts and treats them, and a young Chechnyan assigned as her guide, to a string of platitudes that, I’m sure, would have gone down really well with the population during Russia’s war on the Chechen “rebels”.

I was reminded of the diplomat in Russian Ark; he is also an irritating figure, pushy, inquisitive and  annoying to everyone in the film.  Unlike Alexandra, of course, he (the character, that is) is not Russian, but French or Swiss.  And then there is the Mephistopheles character in Faust – but its right for him to be annoying, I suppose.

Salter, “Light Years”

There’s a great scene in this, where Viri, the central male character, is at a party, getting drunk – except that you don’t know he’s plastered, until he insists on doing a costumed imitation of Maurice Chevalier, unbidden, before the guests, forgets and repeats lines, then passes out in the maid’s bedroom as the others go in to dinner.  It’s a trick that Richard Yates also uses, I think in “Easter Parade”, where the male lead instigates a punching contest with a younger character who is annoying him by being younger and having opinions…

Imagine, Vivian Meier

BBC programme on the staggering work of “amateur” photographer and professional nanny Meier, who printed only a tiny proportion of her 100, 000+ negatives and kept the rest in storage, to be sold off after her death.  She seemed to have taken pictures in just about any style, all good, many stunning.  Joel Meyerowitz made a good point about her portraits, which were often of street people; he said that using a Rolleiflex, which you looked down at while you pointed it at the subject from your midriff, meant that you didn’t have to confront people by raising the camera to your face and looking at them directly.  Maybe that helped – whatever the reason, great pictures were the result.

poor tom

Poor Tom – an old one, but I like it…

Blackpaint

4.07.13

Blackpaint 366 – Darkness on the Danube, Bovary on the Steppe

November 8, 2012

Hungarian National Gallery, Budapest

Magnificent, gloomy galleries, on a dark afternoon above the Danube.  Best 19th century painters on show were Mihaly Muncacsy – dark, atmospheric, romantic compositions in a realist style, for example the condemned man’s last night (or similar title) below: 

and Laszlo Paal; some beautiful woodland scenes, reminiscent of Russian woodscapes of same period:

Other painters of note were Ferenczi, Durkovits and my favourite, the quirky Farkas.

Walk by the Water, Istvan Farkas

I love the woman’s blue face.  The rest of the 19th and 20th century stuff on display was mediocre, derivative and disappointing.  Some vast, panoramic battle scenes, princes in winged helmets, Turks and Magyars tumbling, bloody, into rivers from bridges…

The mediaeval galleries, however, were full of beautiful paintings, reminding me of Germans, Lochner maybe; martyrs with attributes (Stephen with his stones), Christ crucified, crown of thorns, whipping, saints beheaded – noticeable was the extraordinarily long, thin, tapering fingers of the virgins, saints and martyrs.  Is this a characteristic of Hungarian art of the period, or maybe it is the work of one particular artist or school?

MALBA (Museum of Latin American Art, Buenos Aires)

Lurching across Europe and the Atlantic to Argentina now.  My son brought me back the guide to the Malba collection and I was immediately struck by pages 90 – 93, that display three paintings by different Argentinian artists from the year 1963.  they are:

Romulo Maccio, “That Crazy Brother of Theo”, Ernesto Deira, “the Awards” and Jorge de la Vega, “Try Again”.

Deira

Jorge de la Vega

What strikes me about them, apart from the fact that they are great, is the resemblance to the paintings of the CoBrA group, particularly Jorn and Appel.  Google the images of all three Argentine painters and be delighted, as I was.

Save and Protect, Sokurov

This is Sokurov’s version of Madame Bovary, just out on Artificial Eye in a box set of three Sokurov films.   It’s painterly, fly- and featherblown, and full of naked sex, in the grass on the steppe, on a plush bench in a railway carriage and at least once, in a bed.  Cecile Zervudacki looks like an older Katrin Cartlidge (Mike Leigh and von Trier actress, died in 2002) and her youngest lover, a little like Di Caprio.  At one point, she emerges from a church in 19th century dress and youngest lover follows her out in a 1960s style raincoat; a big black saloon drives by;  thereafter, we revert to 19th century again.  It’s a stork moment; maybe I get too obsessed with these surreal flashes – but why?  to emphasise the timelessness of the story?  Bunuel’s “Milky Way” comes to mind.

Anyway, it’s great visually and horrific, like the book; the print is really scratchy though.

Couldn’t believe the fawning nature of the accompanying “documentary” on Rostropovich and his opera singer wife, Galina.  I’ve never seen anything so sycophantic; “the Maestro” this and that… halfway through, there is a list of the medals he has been awarded.  I wonder if the Rostropoviches would have enjoyed “Save and Protect”.

I thought “Andriassy” (see last blog) was too congested, so I’ve retouched it as below.

Blackpaint

Andriassy

8.11.12

Blackpaint 360 – Faust, Laocoon and the Red Desert

September 27, 2012

De Kooning

I was surprised to read in the Retrospective that DK got into a fight with Clement Greenberg in 1961 (this was when DK’s drinking was “becoming a problem”; unfortunately, it doesn’t say who won, painter or critic).  Even more of a surprise was to read that the whole of Janis’ stable of Abstract Impressionists had left gallery when he showed an exhibition of “New Realists”; Dine, Warhol, Lichtenstein, etc.  Guston, Motherwell, Rothko and dK walked. Those were the days…

Sokurov

I’ve just bought his “Faust” on DVD.  It often goes into that washed-out colour that Sok. used in “Mother and Son” and also uses the elongation and tilting of figures that featured in that film.  The Margareta and Mephistopheles characters are both sinister and memorable – the Grand Guignol dissections are fun too.  I lent my video of the silent Faust – Murnau, was it? – to someone and never got it back, but I remember a scene in that where Faust swings his cloak and it shrouds the entire city – nothing in Sokurov’s to equal that but it’s still very good.

Keith Vaughan

At an art fair at the Royal College of Art in Kensington Gore last week, saw this artist’s “Laocoon Man”, which is the cover picture for the new catalogue of Vaughan’s paintings.  I loved it for the combination of that singing blue background and the rough, cream/grey chevrons within the central figure.  Very beautiful paintings.

I was interested to see that a great, dark Albert Irvin from 63 I think, nothing like the brightness of his later and current work, was going for £14,000 – compared to over £50,000 average for dead British painters of, I guess, similar or lesser fame.  Presumably, at this level, the massive price hike happens  once you are dead.  I wonder how soon after?

Another painter new to me was William Brooker.  A great still life on a beige tablecloth, the folds opening towards the viewer with trompe l’oeil effect.  The precision and lines much like Euan Uglow, though Brooker earlier, I think.

Rachel Whiteread

When writing about Saatchi recently, should have mentioned the chess sets in separate gallery upstairs.  Whiteread’s has 60’s period doll’s house furniture as pieces; lamps, cabinets, a radiogram, I think.  Carpet and lino squares form the chess board.  Sounds twee, but quite funny.  Also, Matthew Roney’s; a picnic laid out on a tablecloth, picnickers having fled something that came out of the woods.  Bits of food and mustard, ketchup for the pieces – four erect penises at each corner for the rooks (maybe salt and pepper pots it occurs to me) –  but definitely penis shaped.

Red Desert

Watched this visually staggering film on TV the other day (sorry about the “staggering”, but it really is).  Monica Vitti fretting and smouldering throughout and Richard Harris thoroughly wooden – “doltish”, as the Encyclopedia of Film describes him.  Ridiculous portentous dialogue, of the kind sent up by Woody Allen, but extraordinary shipyard and quayside scenes in saturated greens and reds; ships looming through fog, pylons, derelict, polluted countryside – fantastic.

Saw” Bronzes” at the Royal Academy last Sunday – next blog.  WordPress appears to be breaking down – can’t do tags or insert more pictures!  Hope it works next time.  If not, I’ll be closing down.

Cap Frehel

Blackpaint

27.09.12

Blackpaint 358 – Bach, Charcoal, Chalk and Tracer

September 13, 2012

As Promised:

Top 10 uses of music in films (excluding musicals – to come later):

1.  The Gospel According to St. Matthew (Pasolini) – Blind Willie Johnson, Missa Luba and the last movement of the Matthew Passion; no contest for no.1, I think –

UNLESS it is 2.  Satantango (Bela Tarr) – that sobbing, throbbing accordion across the darkening plain;

3. 2001 (Kubrick) – Also Sprach Zarathustra, as awareness glimmers in the hominid’s eye, and he begins crushing the skull with the bone (could also have the jazz crooner over the still of Nicholson at the end of The Shining, or Beethoven’s 9th in The Clockwork Orange);

4.  Any Fellini film with Nino Rota music, but especially La Strada and the parade music at the end of 81/2 (eight and a half – don’t know how to do halves on laptop) – also the Godfather, of course;

5.  Russian Ark (Sokurov) – the Glinka mazurka;

6.  Death in Venice (Visconti) – the Mahler, 5th I think, when he decides to return to the hotel and is smirking to himself in the gondola;

7.  Performance (Roeg) – Sympathy with the Devil sequence;

8.  The Wicker Man (Robin Hardy) – naked Britt slapping the wall, driving poor Edward crazy and singing that gauche “folk” song; also the Summerisle population doing Sumer is a-coming in while Edward is roaring out his defiant Prot hymn as the flames climb higher….

9.  Fitzcarraldo (Herzog) – Caruso belting out of the gramophone on the boat, into the Amazon jungle; Kinsky with his cigar clenched in his teeth, serenaded by the chorus of I Puritani, as the boat sails back into Iquitos;

10.  Gallipoli (Peter Weir) – another boat, this time the troopship – the abrupt shift from patriotic song to Albinoni, as the ship glides in to the embattled beach, shells and tracer sailing overhead in the night sky…

Albert Irvin

I’ve bought a book of his stunning prints and was pleased to read that he thinks his flying experience contributes to his work.  He was a navigator and rear gunner in RAF  Bomber Command during the war and says that the awareness of motion and speed feeds in – I’d thought that some of the marks he makes resemble bomb bursts and tracer bullets, as well as the general coloration of the pieces – but no doubt that’s pushing it too far.

Kings Place, Sculptors’ Drawings

A huge, fantastic and free exhibition, with some brilliant drawings.  I especially liked Michael Kenney’s for the way he drives chalk marks into the charcoal, Alison Wilding’s lovely, messy ink storm, the beautiful head by Glyn Williams and Anthony Caro’s great nude – look at that right knee!

P:atrick Kieller at the Tate B (Robinson exhibit)

There’s a Kieller photograph of a gate below Graham Sutherland’s “Entrance to a Lane”; the deep, louring, black/blue of the sky is stunning and it looks just like a little painting.  Also at the Tate, I noticed for the first time how Lanyon’s “Porthleven” has been positioned with the Reg Butler insect woman and the Graham Sutherland biomorphic shapes to its left; all three pieces echoing each other visually.

Figure drawing

Bray Dunes

Blackpaint

12/09/12

Blackpaint 356 – Night Fishing, Rick and Ilsa, Sidney’s Fez

August 30, 2012

Away from wi-fi so couldn’t publish last week.

Colour

Thought I’d pick out some paintings that demonstrate startling or memorable colours this week, so here goes:

Picasso, Night Fishing at Antibes (1939).  Indigo, Claret and verdigris green.   Look how much he’s packed in, too – not only the boat, the man with the spear, the fish, sea, birds, but the quayside and a woman with a bike.

De Kooning, Woman with Bicycle.  The Picasso suggested this to me – maybe to DK too.  He chucks in all the colours but manages to make them look fresh.

Per Kirkeby, Flight into Egypt, 1996.  The flaring reds and oranges against that blue, and the textures.  The red and blue combo shows up in aseveral done in 1995 -6; Nikopeja I and II, Siege of Constantinople and an Untitled (Asger Jorn had a stage of giving apparently abstract pictures historical titles too – maybe an influence there).

Patrick Heron, Fourteen Discs (1963).  Two fried eggs – one with a green yolk and blue “white”; the other, natural yolk, green “white”.

Jorn, King of Hades. 1942.  Grid of black bars, sea green/blue and fiery red/orange glimmering through.

Casablanca

Saw this all the way through in one go for the first time last night and was, of course, bowled over.  The dodgy sets, the Wilson, Keppel and Betty costumes of the waiters, Sidney’s fez, Conrad Veidt’s unconvincing (?) German officer, Claud Rains’ apparent infatuation with Bogart (“If I were a woman, I’d want to marry him”, or words to that effect) – and Ingrid Bergman, sexier even than Ginger Rodgers.  The dialogue so full of quotations, and that song; I’d assumed it was by someone famous, Irving Berlin or Cole Porter, but no – Herman Hupfield.  Dooley Wilson was Sam; he was a drummer who couldn’t play the piano – but it’s his voice on “as Time Goes By”.  Acted with Lena Horne and Bill Robinson in “Stormy Weather”.

In the Paris flashback, Bogart looked to me uncannily like Robert Wagner.  I know it’s prurient, but did Rick and Ilsa “renew their relationship” in Rick’s flat over the club?  It seems to me it was implied by the fade out after she pulled the gun on him.  I’d like to think so – but then, they’d always have Casablanca, as well as Paris…

Top 10 films

Critics recently did one of these, so here’s mine, with reason in brief:

Satantango (Bela Tarr) – they plod through the relentless rain, across a darkening plain, to majestic, melancholic accordion music…

Amarcord (Fellini) – the fog scene, and meeting the ocean liner in the rowing boats….

L’Atalante  (Vigo) – the underwater scene and the clarity of the filming.

Mirror (Tarkovsky) – she raises her head from the tub, hair over her face, ropes of water spraying around – and everything else really, the fire, the snow scene, the newsreel of the balloon ascent.

The Leopard (Visconti) – Burt and Claudia dancing at the ball; stunning…

Russian Ark (Sokurov) – That staircase at the end as they flock down to oblivion dressed in their Napoleonic finery.

Death in Venice (Visconti) – Bogarde throughout, the Mahler 4th and 5th, the ginger player with the front teeth missing, the tut-tutting hotel manager (also in Leopard, what’s his name?)

Women in Love (Ken Russell) – Glenda radiant, Oliver brooding and smouldering, Eleanor Bron’s dance. the naked wrestling…

I realise none of these films contain any meaningful sex scenes,  so next blog will contain my top five high quality films containing sizzling sex; why only five?   Only seen five.

Sables – les – Pins

Blackpaint

30.08.12

Blackpaint 313 – Pretentious is a Pre-condition

December 18, 2011

Fred Cuming

Saw a book of Cuming’s paintings – landscapes, gardens, studio interiors – today.  Doesn’t sound very exciting, but they are really stunning; I looked him up on Google Images and they all looked very similar, sort of blue and misty.  when you zoom them, though, the glowing fires concealed open up.  I don’t usually go for traditional landscape and figurative painters – modern ones, that is – but he’s great; best English  figurative stuff I’ve seen since Rose Hilton, up in Cork Street a few months ago.

Albert Irvin

Bought a cheapo catalogue of Irvin (see last blog) up at King’s Place the other day; the usual eye – burning raspberry, yellow and green stars and flowers etc.; I was surprised to read that an early influence was De Kooning; apparently, he (Irvin) used a lot of black in those days – don’t think he touches it now.  But his main influence was Peter Lanyon.  I can see that in the sweeping brushstrokes sometimes, but not in the colours.  Good, if short,  essay by Alice Correia, containing some interesting observations about abstraction:

Irvin

Lanyon

Cinema

I think I’ve only seen four films at the cinema this year; all of them were great.  They were Days of Heaven (Malick), Il Quattro Volte (Michelangelo Frammartino), Caves of Forgotten Dreams (Herzog) and We need to Talk about Kevin (Lynne Ramsay).  See previous blogs on all.   But this has been  a year in which I got into “World Cinema” in a serious way and discovered a world of pleasure (and pain) by accepting certain pre-conditions:

First, don’t demand a story.  You might find there is one after a while, but watch the film for the images (sound as well as visual).  Second, half-hour chunks can be good – I love Bela Tarr, but I’m not ready to do a whole film at one sitting (unless, like a number of his characters, I am very drunk on Hungarian fruit brandy).  Third, don’t scorn pretention; all art is arrogant and pretentious, or it is if it’s any good. 

10 Best films I’ve seen on DVD this year are:

Satantango, Bela Tarr (twice)

Russian Ark, Sokurov (three times)

Amarcord, Fellini (twice)

l’Age d’Or/le Chien Andalou, Bunuel/Dali (three or four times)

Satyricon, Fellini

Damnation, Bela Tarr

Werckmeister Harmonies, Tarr

Salo, Pasolini

The Discreet Charm of the Bourgeoisie, Bunuel

Women in Love, Ken Russell.

I want to publish, so it’s a bit short today.  I see I have a bad attack of brackets, so will try to avoid them henceforth (will do my best, anyway).

Figures in a Landscape

Blackpaint

17/12/11

Blackpaint 305

November 14, 2011

Richard Hamilton

At the Tate Britain last week, saw Hamilton’s iconic “Just what is it that makes today’s homes so different, so appealing?” for the first time in the flesh- it’s the one with the Charles Atlas cutout holding a giant lollipop, while a semi-naked woman with a lampshade on her head pouts from a nearby armchair – it’s so small!  26*25 cms!  I’d always thought it would be huge, perhaps because it was so famous…   Dali and Miro and Ernst and Turner pictures have all provoked the same surprise in the past.

Great Movie Scenes

Two today; first, “Russian Ark” (Sokurov), after the ball, the officers, officials and ladies in period dress descend the great staircase of the Hermitage toward the sea of oblivion awaiting them;

Second, “Satantango” (Bela Tarr) – Irimias, Petrina and the boy march, heads -down through the driving rain, across the empty, darkening Hungarian plain towards the twisted trees along the horizon.  An accordion plays a tune vaguely reminiscent of Beethoven’s 7th, the Allegretto – just the first two chords, really.  They arrive at a house; instead of following them inside, the camera lingers on the steps and the slanting rods of rain, lit up in the doorway, surrounded by swallowing blackness.  The accordion plays on…

Degas at the RA

Ballerinas – or rather, ballet dancers; ballerinas sounds too fey.  These girls are sturdy, the legs sometimes heavily outlined in black, the errors and corrections, as Degas strives to get the positions exactly right, enhancing the drawings.  Perhaps “strives” is putting it rather too strongly.  The “Fourth Position” drawings, I think, are the best; the way the girl’s shoulder bends forward.  Her features look African or mixed race to me – Dago Red commented recently that Degas was himself Creole (see Blackpaint 295, comments).  Another striking one is the Arabesque, the male dancer thrusting his torso forward out of the picture at the viewer.

The oil paintings actually look like pastel drawings, those warm reds and ochre rich and beautiful.  Can’t stand that bloody awful chalky, but acid, green that he sometimes uses, though; Gauguin also prone to use it at times.

I understand that the girls would be from the lower social classes and were targeted by numbers of “gentlemen” for prostitution; Degas’ interest in them seems to have been technical, however; notes on some of the drawings about positions – he was trying to get them right, as if for an instruction manual.  Whatever his reasons, beautiful drawings – I have to say, though, a bit of variety in the subject matter would have improved the show.  Enough of the ballet dancers already.

Building the Revolution

Also at the RA; Russian artists and designers and their influence on Russian architecture in the 20s.  Popova, very Futurist; Klutsis, with his designs for loudspeakers, podia, propaganda kiosks (where and when else?); Sternberg, Korelev and, of course, Rodchenko.  They provide the drawings, paintings and plans – the other half of the exhibition is made up of  photographs, many of them huge colour ones,  taken by Richard Pare in 1998.  The photos include the circular, stainless steel bakery, the Cheka Buildings (fantastic, curling staircase, curved building, chilling name), the derelict “Red Banner” textile works.  You can plainly see the influence of the curves, circles, intersecting lines…  The dilapidation of some of the buildings enhancing the “glamour” of the colour photos, somehow – like Degas’ “mistakes”.  Very familiar Bauhaus- type features – that ocean liner profile, those curves.  The Melnikov Building, with diamond shaped windows studded into a cylindrical “funnel” of pure white; a Palace of Culture, by contrast, almost without windows – looking like a prison.

Leonardo next time, whether I get in or not; always ready with an opinion.

Blackpaint (Chris Lessware)

14.11.11

Blackpaint 298

October 10, 2011

Open House

Last two weekends spent at home, waiting for the public to come and buy.  They came and were polite, even enthusiastic – but there’s not much money about, so I must content myself with compliments and expressions of surprise at how many paintings there are (quantity, not necessarily quality).  Not much abstraction aversion this year, though; “Where do you get your ideas?” rather than “What is this supposed to be?”  Comment in the visitors book from someone’s child; “These pictures are very nice.  I like scribles”.

Russian Ark

Have probably said this before, but the single tracking shot that comprises this film, somehow wields enormous emotional clout at the end.  The doomed officers and aristos come together slowly, like two sides of a zip, on the staircase and the balconies, as the camera passes between them.  The movement and the closeness of the faces, looking quizzical, amused, maybe faintly annoyed as the camera passes, induces a sort of vertigo or unsteadiness in the viewer (me anyway).  Its echoed by one of the characters, when she says, “I feel as if I’m floating..”; and so on, down the staircase, to where the open doors look out onto a frozen sea, smoking with cold, and awaiting the soon- to- be- swallowed-up gentry – although Sokurov pictures them sailing its waters for ever.

Cezanne

I was surprised to read in the Taschen by Ulrike Becks-Malorney that Cezanne spent months, even years, on his paintings.  They don’t look as if they took months to do, in the sense that time is not represented by wealth of detail – I’m thinking of Ingres, for example.  It may be  interesting to find out and compare the average time spent on a painting by various artists, so I think I’ll make a little occasional project of this, until I get bored.

Offhand, I can think of  a couple of slowhands; Ingres I’ve mentioned, Auerbach of course – but not sure about him; does it count as slow if you do someone for a year and scrape it off every night, then knock out the actual picture in a few hours?  As for speedies, there’s Vincent of course, with virtually a painting a day in the month leading up to his suicide and Michelangelo, who knocked out the Sistine ceiling in three, or was it four years.  Staggering, but then he had to get it done before the plaster dried…

Just for argument’s sake, these are my favourite Cezannes:

1.  Madame Cezanne in the Red Armchair (Striped Skirt) 1877 – the marbling effect of the blue and red on her face and hands, the almost vertical striping on the skirt, like a picket fence.

2.  The Blue Vase, 1855 – 7 (!)

3.  Vessels, basket, fruit (the Kitchen Table) 1888-90 – the one with the most pronounced disparities of angle and size, to demonstrate a heightened “reality”; to show you the inside of the vessel as well as the outside.

4.  The Lac d’Annecy, in the Courtauld.

5,  Mountain in Provence, 1886 – how solid!

6.  Mont Saint-Victoire, 1904 – 1906.  Shimmering, or rather bristling in the heat, an effect achieved by little vertical brushstrokes, like VG, with the light blue iceberg of the mountain against the scooped-out, echoing blue of the sky.

 

Blackpaint

10.10.11