Posts Tagged ‘Sonny Boy Williamson’

Blackpaint 470 – Wet Paint and Whales, Sex Dolls, the Blues and Killers

November 21, 2014

Beware Wet Paint at the ICA

Upstairs at the ICA, a small exhibition of (mostly) big paintings, the best by the following three:

Korakrit Arunanondchai  He painted two big pictures, set fire to them, photographed the burning canvases, blew up the photos and used them as an underlay to the holed and charred originals – shades of Metzger and Miro also exhibited a few burned “remnant” paintings – or at least, the Hayward did, Miro being dead at the time.



Parker Ito,  who had a huge, Manga-style effort which was built around a cartoon girl eating ice cream;


Christopher Wool; big grey swipes and washes, black enamel paint Marden lines, from which, here and there, the central pigment had been wiped, leaving “ghost” lines – lovely painting, see below.

christopher wool


Leviathan, Zvyagintsev 

The director who did “the Return” 12 0r so years ago.  Town in northern Russia on the Barents Sea, rocks, cliffs, fiords, smashing waves, bleached whale skeleton.  Central character locked in legal battle with corrupt local mayor and officials, semi – gangsters; mayor wants to annex his house and land to demolish it and build on.  House-owner brings in his old army mate, who is a Moscow lawyer and comparatively honest…

More drinking even than the average Bela Tarr – although vodka rather than palinka – and/or smoking and scoffing pickled herring, sometimes all three simultaneously.  And target shooting with AK47 (I think).  The odd, oblique,  swipe at Putin, more direct fun-poking at previous leaders, both Communist and post – Soviet (but not Stalin).  A glimpse of Pussy Riot on TV; Orthodox Church shown as natural allies of the new state gangsterism.  Good, but heavy-handed with the symbolism; the bleached whale bones made a couple of predictable appearances.

Kettles Yard, Cambridge

Rather reminded me of visiting Charleston recently, although here they let you sit on the chairs in the house.  A brilliant collection of Ben and Winifred Nicholson, Christopher Wood – easy to mistake for early Ben, or I did anyway – David Jones, some very unusual drawings, nothing like his usual, busy, spidery style, and Gaudier-Brjeska, who has a whole storey to himself.  There’s the Ezra Pound below, the curved fish, the broad-shouldered man…  In addition, there is a great sketch of a nude woman by Brancusi over the piano and to the left, an unusual monochrome Roger Hilton.



Silent Partners, the Fitzwilliam Museum, Cambridge

This exhibition is about artists and their mannequins, used for artistic –  and other purposes in the case of Kokoschka and probably Bellmer – down through history.  Some highlights:

Janos Bortnyik, paintings of Adam and Eve, geometric buildings, natty man, pointy legs, tiny waist.



Millais, the Black Brunswicker; look at that white satin dress – fantastic.  The one on the left is the Brunswicker.

millais the black brunswicker


Oscar Kokoschka, a selfie in garish tones with a painted life-size doll (not the Alma one).  Good likeness of Oscar, not flattering of either.  Also photos of him with the furry- legged Alma Mahler doll, and Bellmer’s sexy poupee dolls, legs splayed…

kokoschka silent partners


Also, a great Degas artist and mannequin, Burne-Jones Pygmalion and Galatea  – Galatea long body, bruised eyes, real Victorian beauty.

The permanent collection at the Fitzwilliam deserves some space so I’ll defer it to next blog.

The Blues and Killers

I imagine it’s a function of TV writers’and researchers’ record collections – blues and even folk music popping up all over.  In the first “Fall” series, the killer was listening to Sonny Boy Williamson’s “Help Me” and others; the paedophile (or he’s shaping up to be) played by Ken Stott in “Missing” listens to Robert Johnson.  Johnson again, as well as the Copper Family and Karen Dalton, in “Down Terrace”, the brilliant, funny and horrifying gangster film by Ben Wheatley (although that was made in 2009).  I don’t buy it really –  can’t see blues fans as killers; anorak seekers after authenticity, more like.


For Derrida, Blackpaint







Blackpaint 50

January 26, 2010


Just watched this film again after a couple of years and was struck again by the images – I love that when you have to fast forward to the bit where you left off, and you get a succession of stills; a film like this (and Tarkovsky’s) really shows up as a set of composed images.  The washed out landscapes, the bare trees, bridges, cranes, cobblestones, angled shots along the ground or up quayside walls…  The sinister night shots of the woman in her wedding dress on the barge and under the water, the sexual frankness – its highly sexually charged, considering its the 30’s.  Michel Simon is quite – well, I was going to say sinister, or creepy, but neither word is quite right – odd is the best I can do.  The pedlar’s suit with those peaked shoulders reminded me of “Brighton Rock” or Olivier in “The Entertainer”.  There’s a feel of surreal anarchy bubbling under the surface; the faces remind me of L’Age D’or & Chien Andalou – and there is the brawl in the dance hall and the pursuit and attack of the bag snatcher.  And the music is haunting.

Chris Ofili

In Blackpaint 20, I advanced the idea that the works of some artists are prone to particular interpretations that arise from their history; specifically, Polish artists and the Holocaust, Scandinavian artists and Norse mythology.  Adrian Searle’s Guardian review of Ofili’s new exhibition at the Tate Britain provides another example: “..two men making music on a wooden platform…a hanged man dangles naked beside them…Why is he there?  Ofili has told one interviewer that this presence was provoked by the empty space he had left on the right hand side of the painting.  But it is hard not to think of some colonial outrage, its aftermath on a hot night.”  So, Afro- Caribbean connection (Ofili is British, of course, but is now based in Trinidad) equals “colonial oppression” interpretation, despite artist’s assertions to contrary. 

Which is fair enough, of course; once it’s in the public domain, we can take from a work whatever we want and give it whatever meaning we choose – and artists have often misled the public about their work, just for a laugh sometimes I think.  Anyway, the show sounds good and I will definitely go.

Naming a Painting

I’ve had to come up with names for a bunch of my paintings at short notice and it got me thinking about how important titles are for paintings and artworks, and how they add or detract from a picture.  More tomorrow, when I’ve thought it through.

Listening to Don’t Start Me Talking by Sonny Boy Williamson (Rice Miller)

“Goin’ down to Rose’s, stoppin’ Fanny Mae,

Gonna tell Fanny what I heard her boyfriend say,

Well, don’t start me talkin’, I’ll tell everythin’ I know;

Gonna break up this signifyin’,

Somebody got to go”.

I thought for years it was “scene of crime”, not “signifyin'” – then saw the words printed somewhere.  I prefer scene of crime, even though it makes no sense.



Blackpaint 39

January 14, 2010


Finally got round to hanging our paintings today, half a dozen each, one pub wall each; mine are all orange-y, my partner’s are all turquoise and mauve.  Mine were all part of a series – you never know, someone might feel they ought to buy them all for the sake of completeness.  then again, it might put possible buyers off buying any of them.  I find one always indulges in these fantasies about buyers when paintings first go up; after that, the days pass quietly…

Fischli and Weiss again

Still thinking about the Tate Modern exhibit by these two;  it strikes me that it is difficult to explain the point of it.  There is a sort of tableau of a workspace, in which every mundane article has been perfectly reproduced with great skill and unusual patience – and it’s done so well that you have to be told that it’s all artificial.  So – the gallery visitor raises a smile, wonders at the ingenuity on display and appreciates the humour.  Is that it?  All of it?

The answer will be that it raises questions.  That’s how most explanations of conceptual art begin; “it raises questions about (a,b.c)” …  I’m not being sarcastic here, I think it’s good to raise questions in art, better than answering them, really.  F &W raise questions about the application of artistic skills, or craft.  Does the high level of skill and painstaking work involved in reproducing this stuff raise the finished article above the level of the mundane?  if not, then art is not necessarily about skill, patience, hard work and perfection.  Again, I’m aware that these points will have been made many times and much better elsewhere – but I’m still working through them.


Giles Brandreth was on TV last night, mentioning the theory that Turner (and Monet, apparently) suffered from cataracts and this may go some way towards explaining the particular artistic vision he showed in his later paintings.  Interesting, this line of thinking – did Picasso or de Kooning have some visual peculiarity that led them..  I’m being facetious, of course – but now I think I remember reading in Michael Peppiat’s book on Bacon that Giacometti once told him (Bacon) that people really did look “like that” to him!  We’ve got a Van Gogh repro in the toilet, and the tree trunks in it remind me of how trees looked to me the last time I took LSD (many years ago), except that they weren’t pulsing.  Maybe Van Gogh… no, it wasn’t around then – but maybe absinthe?  

Listening to Bluebird Blues, John Lee “Sonny Boy” Williamson.

“Now Bluebird, Bluebird, please take this letter down south for me

Now you can tell my babe that I’m up in St.Louis,

Oh, but I’m just as blue as I can be.”