Posts Tagged ‘Stan VanDerBeek’

Blackpaint 515 – The Thicker the Better, Chaps.

October 19, 2015

Auerbach at Tate Britain

There are three fantastic modern painters of wildly different types on in London at the moment – John Hoyland at Hirst’s Newport Street Gallery, Peter Lanyon at the Courtauld and Frank Auerbach at Tate Britain.  I did Hoyland last week; now for Auerbach (the only one still living and, very much, still painting).

Below are two of my favourite paint “cakes”; the earlier paintings are REALLY thick, the paint in semi-detached curls in some cases.  The paint is built up almost into reliefs or sculptures on the canvas.  “Earls Court Road, Winter” (1953)  is brown, black, grey and almost green, a scabby mass of wrinkled oil like a chunk of mud excavated from the site and hung in the gallery.  The paint gets progressively thinner as the years pass, but it’s always oily, slippery, layered and brushed through other colours, picking them up on the way.

auerbach eow on bed

EOW Nude on Bed (1959)

auerbach eow half length

EOW Half-Length Nude (1958)

The heads and portraits are pretty much all fabulous; some of the cityscapes, parks and buildings less so.  I found myself thinking the sacrilegious thought about the picture below: “I could have done that when I was 11”; and then three or four more times, with others, “Mornington Crescent Looking South” (1996) and “The House” (2011), for instance.  The point is, I didn’t and Auerbach did, although not at 11.  Auerbach invites this sort of random, outlaw thought by stating (on the wall, at the start)  that he wants us to consider each picture as a thing in itself, not an example of how he was painting in a given decade.

auerbach vincent terrace

Interior Vincent Terrace (1982 – 4)

As always with Auerbach exhibitions, we were plagued with those who stand for minutes, an inch away from the surface, sometimes delivering lectures to their girlfriends – it’s always men, I’m sorry to say – and blocking everyone else’s access to that picture.  It’s stupid of course, because the portraits mostly resolve into quite startlingly sharp images from about 12 feet away.  Up close, they are a mass of intricate, indecipherable whorls.  Sometimes, they are better like that, though.

I’ve lots more to say on this exhibition, but I’m going for the third time tomorrow, so I’ll save it for next time.

Lanyon, the “Glider”  Paintings, Courtauld Gallery

lanyon solo flight

Solo Flight

I reckon about 20 pieces of work in this exhibition, staggeringly beautiful images; blue curtains of rain or mist, vortexes, cloud, coastline, reproduced in his gestural swipes and sweeps, scrapings, splatters, dribbles and pools – no, oceans – of deep green/blue.  He’s painting the invisible air currents a lot of the time.  There are also several of his assemblages. incorporating thick bits of broken blue glass, scrawled with black paint.

lanyon cross country

Cross Country

It was startling, then, to see two paintings,”Near Cloud” and “North East”,  both from 1964 (the year of his death, after a glider crash) which were “emptied out”, like late de Koonings.  They were flat, untextured, thinly painted, almost diagrammatic.  What happened there?

Sluice Art Fair, by the Oxo Tower

Lots of little art works, some very classy; photographic prints, collages, tiny drawings on blocks – but at gasp-inducing prices.  For example, a small square with some very attractive gestural lines and patterns sketched on it, by Kark Bielik, was priced at £800.00!  Clearly, the labour theory of value not operating in the art world at any level (obvious, I suppose).

One of those riveting and irritating films in which disparate images are flung before your eyes for less than a second before they are thrust out (images, not eyes) by another.  Your mind is always processing them in retrospect.  A lot of war images – there go some Russian attackers! Now it’s a mine going off! – in this one; I think we saw the prototype of this sort of film montage at the Biennale a couple of years ago, by Stan VanDerBeek  (Blackpaint 414).   This one’s by Laura Pawela.

Gargantua and Pantagruel and Finnegans Wake

No doubt someone has done a thesis on it, but reading these simultaneously – well, a bit of one after a bit of the other, as it were – I was struck again by the lists.  They both, Rabelais and Joyce, like a lovely long list of silly names, or disgusting objects, or what have you.  By long, I mean pages in Joyce’s case.  Sometimes funny – often irritating.


buff tit 2

Buff Tit,




Blackpaint 414 – Saggy Pottery and Flashing Images

October 1, 2013

Biennale – the Arsenale

Most of the artworks in the Arsenale are those of individual artists, but there are several national pavilions too, which I’ll cover in another blog.

I’ll mention four artists today:  first, Jessica Jackson Hutchins.  She does big, saggy pottery, drooping over the armchairs and paint – smeared leather settees.  sounds like rubbish but it’s brilliant.


Next, Eugene Von Bruenchenhein (yes, honestly).  Two very distinct groups of his work were on show; one, highly coloured depictions of organic or botanic forms, etched or drawn in great detail; the other, a series of “glamour” photos of his wife Marie, semi-nude, wearing colourful pieces of tropical clothing 50s style make-up.  I first assumed that these were self-portraits by a woman artist like Cindy Sherman, adopting a glamour persona ironically. I thought they had a sort of period charm and were really attractive.  I was surprised to find they were Bruenchenhein’s; no irony then.  Made me wonder if the content is affected by the executor; that is, are they different because they were taken by a man?

bruenchenhein 1


bruenchenhein 2

Now,Kan Xuan, Vietnamese artist.  Dozens, no scores of slide units, flashing up, in rapid succession, sets of related images in pink, green, red and yellow tones – stone lions, fields, diggings, trees – but too fast to get a fix on, to “consume”.  I was interested and amused to see several punters attempting to get still photographs of the images.

kan xuan

This difficulty to consume is also a problem (for me) in the work of Stan VanDerBeek

A huge curved wall as a screen for his 1968 film; ever-changing, overlapping, flashing up on the left, popping up on the right, there in the centre but gone before you can focus, much slower than subliminal, of course, but well fast enough for me.  Ginsberg dancing naked, Mona Lisa, old musicals, Reagan (of course), Martin Luther King (ditto)… a touch of Monty Python graphics here and there, no doubt they learnt from VDB…  Great soundtrack – Bessie Smith, Maybelline…  It’s suggested that this film prefigures the internet age and the way that children and young adults absorb information from a variety of sources simultaneously – mobile, lap top, TV, conversation – but I don’t think that’s right.  The young adult processes the various inputs for her/himself; VanDerBeek was processing the information for us.


OK, enough for today, more tomorrow.  No new paintings, so must finish with a leftover life drawing.  PS – thanks to Cynthia Swain for correcting me on spelling of Hofmann.