Posts Tagged ‘Stanley Spencer’

Blackpaint 626 – Talking Pictures, Blake and his Followers – and the Demon

September 4, 2018

Talking Pictures Channel

This is worth checking every night, if you are (like me) a fan of British cinema in the 50s, 60s and 70s; three recent offerings below.  They tend to come round again in a week or two.

Live it up (dir. Lance Comfort, 1963)

Steve Marriot, later of the Small Faces, third from left, shouting at the back of Heinz Burt’s head.  A group of GPO dispatch riders form a beat group led by David Hemings and go through a set of unlikely adventures, before getting their inevitable hit.  It features Kenny Ball’s Jazzmen, Sounds Incorporated, Gene Vincent and Patsy Ann Noble.  The blond Heinz Burt of the Tornados looks, on his motorbike, rather like Sting on his scooter in the much later Quadrophenia.

Villain (dir. Michael Tuchner, 1971)

The great Richard Burton as a London gangster, clearly with a touch of Ronnie Kray.  Here he is with his boyfriend, Ian McShane.  There’s a good payroll robbery, lots of claret flying about; McShane has an interesting abstract mural over the bed in which he entertains his rich “dolly birds”, as they were known in those unenlightened days.  I remember seeing the trailer for this years ago; Burton glares at the rubberneckers as he is arrested and roars: “Who are you looking at?”  Back comes the answer from the posh voiceover: “You’re looking at the face of a villain!”  Nostalgic scenes of railway arches and wasteland around Battersea Power Station.

Night of the Demon dir.Jacques Tourneur (1957)

With the great Niall MacGinnis as Karswell the satanist (MacGinnis played Captain MacMorris in Henry V).  That’s the demon in the picture, by the way, not MacGinnis.  The film is based, loosely, on the MR James story, “Casting the Runes”.  Brilliant demon, very convincing; sure I’ve seen him on some Italian cathedral walls…

Tate Britain, Blake and followers

In the upper reaches of Tate Britain, reached through the Turner galleries, are two rooms, one devoted to William Blake, the other to various followers.  I’ve included pictures by Ceri Richards and Stanley Spencer, which I think are great and as a contrast, one of several by Cecil Collins – which are perhaps not so great.

 

Ceri Richards, Do Not Go Gentle Into That Good Night…

That owl with the shroud looks very Graham Sutherland to me.  At first, I thought the corpse was a dead bloodhound…

 

Cecil Collins

 

Stanley Spencer, The Sword of the Lord and of Gideon (1921)

 

Elsewhere in Tate Britain – 

Ceri Richards, Two Females

Painting and collage, almost a sculpture really; by way of contrast with the one above.

 

Peter Lanyon, Wreck

A favourite of mine is now back on the wall at TB.  Noah’s Ark jumps the shark – and the red guitar.

 

Malcolm Drummond, Girl with Palmettes (1914)

Fabulous portrait by Drummond, a member of the Camden Town Group, who died in 1945.  I love those patches of pink and green on her neck and face.  Though it was a Scottish Colourist like Cadell or Fergusson at first.

 

Top Shots – 

– or top down aerial shots, as I believe they are correctly known.  These are the ones you often now get on opening credits, that once would have involved a helicopter or light plane.  Presumably drones are now used and top downs are everywhere.  Examples on British TV (although not necessarily British made): Cardinal, Wanderlust, Picnic at Hanging Rock; think I’ll count them this week.

Two pictures of mine, this week:

Bloody Glacier

 

Ochre Bolt Hole

Blackpaint

4/09/18

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Blackpaint 622 – On the Beach and the Aftermath

June 18, 2018

On Chesil Beach (dir. Dominic Cooke, 2017)

A rather slender book from Ian McEwan in 2007, this turned out to be one of his best novels.  A sort of tragedy, brought about, I had thought,  by the ridiculous secrecy and shame surrounding sex in English manners (amongst the respectable classes anyway), it concerns the catastrophic breakdown of a marriage before it even gets started.

The film, for the most part, is true to the period (1962) and the actors are brilliant, especially the central couple Florence and Edward, played by Saoirse Ronan and Billy Howle. However, I left the cinema moaning that the film contained a clear suggestion that Florence’s father had abused her sexually, a suggestion which I was sure was not in the book, as was my partner.   Turns out we were both wrong – it’s there in the book, unmistakeable and not even that subtle, yet neither of us noticed it, first time round.

However, McEwan, who did the adaptation for screen himself, has added a couple of other differences; the man who hits Mather and is beaten up by Edward in retaliation, is described in the book as a rocker in a leather jacket, as is his wife/girlfriend.  In the film, they are “respectably” dressed.  This changes the message about 60s England; Mather is assaulted, for his bookish, or more likely Jewish, appearance by a man of conventional society, rather than a rebellious member of a violent sub-culture.

The other difference is that, in the book, Edward and Florence never meet again after Chesil Beach.  In the film, he attends her farewell concert a lifetime later, at the Wigmore Hall, she spots him in the audience, tears run down aged faces and the whole thing sinks into sentimental slush.  And the ageing makeup makes Edward look ridiculous, like an R.Crumb cartoon.

Aftermath (Tate Britain, to 23rd September)

It’s the aftermath of WWI; the question is, of course, when does the aftermath finish and the prelude to WWII start?  Obviously, the war memorials should be in there (fantastic bronze reliefs from Sargeant Jagger, an almost Socialist Realist maquette of a British soldier reading a letter from home and the soaring, Spencerish angel by Ernst Barlach, with Lovis Corinth’s face).  Ditto, the mutilated card players of Dix, Grosz’s precisely drawn cartoons of German amputees, profiteers and prostitutes, Beckmann’s “Night” et al.  But what about Ernst’s  “Celebes”?  Anyway, some wonderful art – my selections below:

 

Stanley Spencer, Unveiling Cookham War Memorial

I think the flanneled youths reclining on the green are war dead.

 

John Heartfield and George Grosz

Reminiscent of Picabia – or maybe even Ed Kienholz (see last blog)?

 

Kurt Schwitters

This great collage apparently demonstrates the need to reassemble the shattered pieces of post WWI Europe…

 

Georges Rouault, Face to Face

There are several more Rouaults, but the tend to have crucified Christs in them, a demerit in my view.

 

Oskar Nerlinger, Radio Mast Berlin

A striking view straight up the tower – you spot this from the preceding room through the archway; very impressive.

 

Oskar Schlemmer

I love his Bauhaus figures; there’s that great painting of the students going up the stairs…

Also numerous paintings of striking and/or marching workers, serene English countryside and serene English ladies, German pigs, a great William Roberts jazz club dance and the top bit of Epstein’s “Rock Drill”

 

Lisa Brice – Tate Britain

There’s a roomful of these at TB at the moment; that blue and red combination is really striking.  Women in various states of undress, sitting around, smoking, drinking…  She’s South African and some of her drawings (in paint) are reminiscent of Marlene Dumas.  At least one looks to be based on a William Rothenstein, which is also in TB, a couple of rooms away.

 

Tomma Abts, Serpentine Sackler Gallery

German Turner Prize winner from a few years back; sort of trompe l’oiel pictures, abstract but resembling twining metal strips, reflected light – they are all the same (small) size, which tends to be undermining when there are a lot of them together.

 

 

Per Kirkeby

He died a couple of weeks ago.   I love those huge, dark canvases he did with the blooms of colour (see below) and the credits to the von Trier film with Bjork, “Dancer in the Dark”.  In his earlier work, like the first one below, he reminds me a bit of Sigmar Polke and even Asger Jorn – but that’s probably because of the variety; books, poetry etc.

Per Kirkeby, A Youthful Trick, 1964

 

Kirkeby, Flight into Egypt, 1996

Manet 

This great self portrait (?) of Manet was on a TV prog called “Great Art” a while back – but no details were given.

On the Beach

Blackpaint

18.06.18

 

 

 

Blackpaint 567 – Fred in his Coffin, Julieta and the Deluge

September 4, 2016

William Eggleston, Portraits, NPG

Brilliant exhibition.  We were put off a little by the title, thinking of a series of head and shoulders photos – should have known better.  They are in context, of course – the context being the American southern states, mostly Mississippi, Louisiana and Tennessee from the 50s through to the 80s.  They have the air of snapshots; the subjects sometimes look startled, or mildly annoyed, or are in mid action, stepping off a kerb, say.  In that respect, they provide a contrast to the great photos of Saul Leiter, recently displayed at the Photographers Gallery (see previous Blackpaint).  A few favourites below:

egglestone 1

Self Portrait

 

eggleston 2

Touch of Psycho here?

 

eggleston 3

Stephen King, maybe – Firestarter?

In one or two pictures, you are reminded (slightly) of Diane Arbus – but without the sense that the grotesque has been consciously sought out.  Rather, challenge, vulnerability, self-consciousness, especially in the Disco series.  A few celebrities – Joe Strummer, blues singer Mississippi Fred McDowell (well, he’s a celebrity to me) in his coffin.. there’s context for you.

Julieta, Pedro Almodovar, 2015

julieta2

The latest Almodovar, and it has been received with reverence by film critics, notably Mark Kermode.  I think it’s great, but the reverence is misplaced.  It’s based on three Alice Munro stories, a heroine played by a young and older actress – sorry, actor, for Guardian readers – who transforms from one to the other during a hair-washing sequence.

As often happens in Almodovar films, women brightly and loudly tell each other outlandish and unlikely things in series, and the other just…accepts.  Also, there is the thing where a woman (usually) makes a completely unreasonable and inexplicable decision and demands that others simply accept without question – which they do.

Another Almodovar thing – women in comas, disabled by MS, dementia, weakened by nervous collapse.  There is a sort of soap opera feel to the plots, intentionally I’m sure; you could imagine them turning up in “Neighbours”.  Almodovar mixes in a bit of surrealism and surprising, unconventional sexual behaviour – rather like Bunuel’s realist brother.

As to visuals, the film is billed as “ravishing” and “gorgeous”.  It has its moments; the stag running with the train, stormy cloud- and sea shots, beautiful female actors, Julieta’s Klimt dressing gown.

julieta1

The plot hinges on the disappearance of Julieta’s daughter.  Without revealing the end, I thought Bunuel would have handled it differently; I’m thinking of “Exterminating Angel”.

Winifred Knights, Dulwich Picture Gallery

The drawings are impressive, especially the nude life drawing; there’s a pen and ink that’s just like the sculptor Flaxman – however, they are really static.  There are several scenes with multiple figures, with no movement at all.  Some like those medieval style Victorian tableaux.  Some nice coloured drawings or watercolours of Cuckmere and mountain scapes.  A group of pilgrims, sleeping amongst tit-shaped haycocks; another drawing of women sitting and lying that look just like flints from a couple of feet away.

knights1

The presiding influence in her work is a combination of the Vorticists and Della Francesca (static, statuesque, isolation of each figure in the picture – eg the Marriage at Cana).

knights2

Her masterpiece is “The Deluge” – massive, absurd, dramatic gesturing, static.  There are a number of precision sketches of the same, showing the preparation that went into the final work.  There’s a bit of Stanley Spencer in the colours; the shapes vaguely reminded me of the silhouettes on road traffic signs, for some reason.

The Deluge 1920 Winifred Knights 1899-1947 Purchased with assistance from the Friends of the Tate Gallery 1989 http://www.tate.org.uk/art/work/T05532

 

the sea of marmara

The Sea of Marmara

Blackpaint

September 2016

 

Blackpaint 423 – Spencer and Durer, Honey and Fire

November 28, 2013

Durer at the Courtauld

Drawings, woodcuts and etchings showing influence of Italy on Durer; includes great drawings by Mantegna as well.  Durer’s broken outlines, dense and varied hatching on display; great piglets (actually look more like wild boars) in Prodigal Son.  A young woman in a Mantegna drawing looks just as if she’s on her mobile.

Also in gallery, Richard Serra drawings, consisting of masses of crushed black crayon pressed down by Mylar, a sort of transparent plastic.  So, quite a broad spectrum of drawing style on display at Courtauld…

Still think the best painting in the gallery is the Marx Reichlich portrait of the young woman below.

(c) The Courtauld Gallery; Supplied by The Public Catalogue Foundation

Skaters in courtyard below look just like figures in a Lowry, provided weather dull and overcast – pretty safe bet at this time of year.

Stanley Spencer at the Courtauld

In the Terrace Rooms, behind the ice rink, the murals from Burghclere, relating to WW1.  Only one shows action (I don’t think it’s one of the murals); Irish soldiers, struck by a salvo of shells from Turkish artillery.  The viewpoint is maybe 30ft above the ground; a great, looping, grey envelope of smoke, with shadowy forms of horses or men concealed in its folds.  Dead and injured are scattered on the rock or cinders, wounded being carried away.

All the other large pictures share a similar viewpoint – 10 – 30 ft above ground or floor, sometimes the ground tilting drastically upwards about halfway down the picture.  This is most noticeable in the strange picture of soldiers drinking from a spring or well or waterhole – they lie face down, capes stretching along their backs like folded ants’ wings, maybe, lapping at the water, as if pinned to a board tilted towards us.

In another picture, “Map Reading”, I think, only the officer is bothering; in the background, a bunch of soldiers gather berries from bushes in flower, as if they are on the Sussex downs or in a garden in Kent.

spencer mural

In several pictures, white sheets, mosquito nets, bandages, even buckets echo the idea of angelic wings; all tasks portrayed are mundane; scrubbing lockers, eating bread and jam, bathing…

Unfortunately, the Resurrection centre piece is represented only by a giant slide projection, since it is impossible to move the original.  The crosses don’t have that 3D quality they have in the photographs.  A great exhibition though, and free.

Bal

A Turkish film, director Kaplanoglu, set in lush green, mountainous forests, terraces of planted tea; a honey-gatherer who dies alone in the forest when he falls from a tree, his son who speaks only in whispers… A great scene of communal dancers at a mountain fair, women in traditional dress, curtains of mist drifting around the cars and stalls scattered around the hillside.  The pace is “stately” throughout, so be prepared for scenes in Bela Tarr time. “Bal” means honey; it’s one of the “Yusuf” trilogy, with Egg and Milk.

Gravity

When Sandra Bullock is aboard the Russian space craft and fire breaks out, the alarm screen says “FIRE!” in English.  All other notices and instructions are in Russian only.

A Passage to India

Finally got round to reading this, and I’m impressed with the way Forster unfolds the misunderstandings, crassness and arrogance operating between the British, the Indians and the “Eurasians”, and within the Indian groups.  I think I need to read “Burmese Days” again, as well.  Burma, not India, of course, and somewhat later than “Passage”, but I think it will be instructive.

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Skegness

Blackpaint

28.11.13

Blackpaint 400 – Dora, Mark and Stanley in Dulwich

June 27, 2013

Dulwich Picture Gallery – “A Crisis of Brilliance”

This is an exhibition of works by a number of British artists, connected with each other by way of the Slade, where they all studied under Tonks , and then by Bloomsbury etc., completed between 1908 and 1922.  WWI therefore features (there is the huge, rippling, faintly Kokoschka – like Bomberg of sappers under bombardment and Nevinson’s solitary, diving biplane) but does not dominate the exhibition.  My highlights as follows:

Stanley Spencer, “Mending Cowls at Cookham” – the  storm- threatening sky providing stark background to the  white of the cowls, as they are put in place.  That key shape does something too;

spencer cowls

Dora Carrington, “Soldiers at a Stream” – little painting, perfectly rendered and coloured, horses drinking, soldiers mounted;

Mark Gertler, “Pool at Garsington” – a touch of Cezanne, maybe; the L-shaped slice that seems to be collaged in, surrounding the house and tree;

gertler2

Carrington, that profile of Strachey with the stunning hands, fingers tented in thought (actually though, not- he’s holding a book).

There are some beautiful pencil drawings, hard to choose the best; self-portraits by Spencer and Carrington and Bomberg, all great (although Carrington’s, done at 16, looks nothing like Gertler’s portrait of her, done a few years later – Gertler’s is exceptionally fine, lightly but surely drawn and conveying a wealth of character; the gaze of love, presumably).

gertler1

Carrington’s heavy-hipped “standing Nude” is notable and the Gertler “Seated Nude”, done in watercolour pencils.

The clinker of the exhibition is Carrington’s “Bedford Market”, but she was very young when she did it and it’s very competent.

The exhibition is only three or four rooms, quite understated, but some real treasures.  I see I haven’t mentioned Paul Nash at all – probably because I’ve seen so much of his work lately.  The impact dulls with repetition; or does it always?  Maybe there are some painters who always grab you – for me, it’s de Kooning.  Forgot to mention Bomberg’s “In the Hold”, one of his horse-frightening geometric “abstracts”, way beyond anything else in the exhibition for experimentation and fittingly, separated from the others at the entrance.

Salter, All There Is

Finished this now, as well as “Light Years”; the writing in the earlier novel perhaps more consciously “fine”, sometimes crossing the border into pretentious territory – but I read them both, quickly for me, and am close to finishing his memoir, “Burning the Days”, for the second time.  There is a startling section towards the end of “All There Is”, when Salter’s protagonist Bowman rather forcefully overcomes the weak resistance of Anet, the young daughter of his ex-lover, takes her on a trip to Paris and abandons her there in a hotel room – an act of revenge on her mother, who had abandoned Bowman (and “robbed” him of a house in the courts).  Anet says “No” – but Bowman clearly knows she means “Yes”, and acts accordingly.  He’s right, of course; afterwards, she’s happy – until he ditches her.  Salter offers no hint of approval or disapproval; merely “describes”.  Maybe that’s what startled me about it – it’s so at odds with currently acceptable attitudes towards sexual conduct.

Almodovar, Talk to Her

This film is another case in point; it has a young woman in a coma, who is stalked – before the accident – by a pudgy mother’s boy.  He manages to become one of her carers when she is comatose, rapes her and makes her pregnant, a crime for which he is eventually imprisoned.

Unbelievably, given the circumstances outlined above, you feel a sort of queasy sympathy, rather than revulsion, for the rapist.  I’ve checked online; it’s not just me, the proper critics are united in their admiration for the film, which won an Academy Award and a Golden Globe in 2002.

So, how can this be?  Firstly, you don’t see the sex (although there is a fantasy sequence where a tiny dancer enters a rather stylised vagina).  The  surreal atmosphere of Almodovar’s films probably helps; and the rapist is portrayed throughout as a gentle, concerned character with a strong empathy for women, who is in love with (fixated on) the victim.  And he is caught, imprisoned and eventually kills himself.

Almodovar is clearly a follower of Bunuel in his anarchistic, surreal tendencies and his insistence on exploring the “unacceptable” faces of sexuality – fetishism and illness are prominent themes in the work of both.

What makes Almodovar’s film less jarring than the incident in Salter’s book?  I’m not sure.  To be continued.

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Blackpaint

27.06.13

Blackpaint 395 – The Tate Rehang, Richter and Frisco

May 23, 2013

Tate Britain Chronological Rehang

Finally, the TB is fully open again, and the rehang is impressive – though, if like me, you have too much time on your hands, you might well have seen most of it, gallery by gallery, as each room was re-opened.  Nevertheless, there are some paintings I haven’t seen before or recently, and some revelations:

There is a Gainsborough family group, done in 1850, that is NOTHING like those feathery, impressionistic portraits he’s famous for; much more like a Hogarth, say.

Joseph Wright of Derby,” The Smithy” – looks so much like a tableau at Tussauds, or in a museum; must be the “lighting” within the picture.

Reynolds – this sounds pathetic, but there’s a standing portrait of a lawyer – check out the hands, he can really do good hands.

The Etty nude – 18th century, but it looks really modern; perhaps the shading, somehow.

Arthur Melville, the Venetian tower watercolour – that incredible, vivid twilight blue sky.

Bit of a jump now to the 1960s and beyond (reflecting my interests, maybe):

Peter Lanyon, a beautiful big painting called “Thermal”, thick loops of white on blue and grey.

Next to it, a set of Kitaj grotesque faces called “the Erasmus Variations”, for some reason.

The huge Frank Bowling figurative painting “Mirror”, in colours reminiscent of Kitaj and maybe Hockney.

The Fiona Rae, with its squiggles and squirts of toothpaste, like an early Craig Kaufman.

Finally, the Tony Cragg “Stack”, like a pile of wood palettes – but actually there are no palettes at all!  It includes breeze-blocks, boards, rolls of material, and a couple of red plastic buckets, like the Turner spots of red.  An eight (?) – decker sandwich.

The rehang was reviewed by Laura Cumming in last Sunday’s Observer; she found it to be badly organised in some respects, some pieces obscuring the view of others; her review ignores the overall look of the rooms, though – if you stand in the archway, looking back at the corner with the Bowling and the Rae, with the Caro red metal sculpture to the right, the room just looks brilliant.

Stanley Spencer

Repeat of James Fox’s BBC4 prog on early C20th British painters; bloody awful portentous tone to all his comments but despite the overstatement, worth watching for the paintings.  The numerous crosses in Spencer’s mural in the Sandon Memorial chapel looked like 3D over Fox’s shoulder.

spencer crosses

 

Dekalog, Kieslowsky

Seen only the first of these Ten Commandments so far; an atheist lecturer is punished by a god which communicates through his (the lecturer’s, not the god’s) computer.  Queasy about the story, but great camerawork; I love the great monolith of the block of flats, standing in for god or maybe the tablet of stone…  Who is the young man in the astrakhan hood who sits by the fire on the river bank?  Ghost of the boy, sort of, maybe?

Heimat

Missed this when it was on channel 4 20 years go, and catching up now on DVD.  Those landscapes. when it changes to colour – they look just like Gerhard Richters.  Thought the same thing when I saw the film of the tornado which hit Moore – sure that will be a great comfort to the poor inhabitants.

Bay Area School at Thomas Williams, Old Bond Street

Interesting little exhibition on post – WW2 painters in San Francisco.  There are a couple of abstracts by John Grillo and a larger one by Ernest Briggs – like most abstracts, they look better when you stand well back.  The Briggs is one of those melters – the paint looks as if it’s slipping and sliding, touch of de Kooning and Joan Mitchell, maybe.  there’s a great little pink based abstract by Diebenkorn. and several so-so portraits by him; you wouldn’t know they were Diebs – but there’s a “Folding chair” that couldn’t be by anyone else.

My favourite picture is a half portrait by David Park (?) in thick black and white strokes, with a small touch of Auerbach about it.

 

 

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Red Line

Blackpaint

23.05.13

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…

002

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Blackpaint

21.03.13

Blackpaint 372 – It’s all about women, beaches and room 47

December 20, 2012

Tate Britain

They seem to be re-opening the galleries one or two at a time.  Went there a couple or three weeks ago and there were no 20th century rooms open; now several rooms have opened up – the Frank Bowlings are on view again and the early C20th room, with some new additions.  There is a Christopher Wood, “The Fisherman’s Farewell”, a nice little Alfred Wallis view of St.Ives and a beautiful, leaf green Dora Carrington of two tiny female figures in Edwardian white, gazing at a huge green hill which overhangs them.

There is  a Stanley Spencer Resurrection set in Cookham; in the middle of the graveyard, several African women – are they all women? – , one wearing a set of gold neck rings, are among those rising ; what’s the story there, I wonder?  Apparently, Spencer was unable to give a clear explanation, except that the picture was supposed to represent a sort of universality and some stuff about instinctiveness – also, he was interested in African art at the time.

In the same, or maybe the next room, several beautiful Gwen Johns, especially one called “the Invalid” or “The Convalescent”; it’s next to Harold Gilman’s “Mrs. Mounter”.  And there’s a great nude by Wilson Steer – I always thought he did landscapes.

wilson steer

I like to do that thing of standing in the middle of the room and scanning round with half-closed eyes – yes, you get curious glances – to see which paintings grab your attention.  Sometimes, of course, it’s the most garish ones, like the Francis Hodgkin one with the green faces; often, it works though, and you get the “best” pictures.  This time, it was the Whistler “Woman in White”, leaning on her mantlepiece, her head against the mirror (surely the reflection is a bit too low?)  and – maybe in an adjoining room – that Vanessa Bell from 1912, of the women on the beach with the sun hats and the bathing tent.  Simple but magic and very early.

whistler

vanessa bell

Turner

There is a whole roomful of mostly watercolour sketches, clouds, skies, beaches, that are so much more beautiful (to the modern eye) than the more conventional of his big, finished canvases.  One in particular, called “A Lay In”(?), like ripples across a sandy surface.  Among the bigger paintings, one should seek out the whaler boiling blubber – it has a much longer Turner title – and the Doge marrying the sea in Venice – where else?

Hidden and Inland Empire

Great Michael Haneke film with Binoche and Daniel Auteuil, in which the French media bourgeosie are threatened and made uneasy by guilt over their colonialist past, embodied by an impoverished North African and his son..  They deserve it for being very smug and irritating, completely unlike the British bourgeoisie, who, of course, are neither smug nor irritating and always behaved impeccably in the colonies.  

I happened to watch David Lynch’s “Inland Empire” immediately afterwards; there was an apparent coincidence.  In Hidden, a sudden suicide takes place in room 47 of an apartment block; in Empire, Laura Dern shoots someone and then runs into room 47.  In Empire, a leering face with blood pouring from mouth, appears straight after this; in Hidden, there are mystery drawings sent – of a face with blood pouring from mouth.  I thought I’d discovered something here – but no, someone in a Southern California university has already written a long piece on it.

La Regle du Jeu

Schumacher the gamekeeper was played by Gaston Modot, who, as I said last blog, was also “The Man” in “l’Age d’Or”; I should also have mentioned the beautiful Nora Gregor, the fatal femme Christine – a cross between Marlene Dietrich and Kristin Scott Thomas, I think.

Happy Christmas to my readers.  Log on to Paintlater’s blog to see some fantastic AbEx paintings.

003

Oceanic Orpheus

Blackpaint

20.12.12

Blackpaint 340 – Dustmen, Chlorine and Gerhard’s Enormous Squeegee

May 3, 2012

Orchestra Rehearsal, Fellini

Is this film just reactionary?  Takes me back to my student days in the early 70s (chanting slogans, sitting in, exaggeration, graffiti, posters, charismatic, long-haired, moustachioed student leaders speechifying in apocalyptic terms, gazing into the socialist future with shining eyes, seeing themselves as Leon, or Che, or Makhno,  sitting in….  sorry, back to the film.

There are gibes at the unions’ demands on  demarcation and tea breaks and Fellini clearly identifies with the maestro, who is scorned and abused.  The old caretaker, however, reminisces to the audience about the good old days, in which the maestro’s word was law and the musicians would accept physical punishment for playing a bum note or coming in late – sounds like fascism to me and Fellini steers clear of wishing for that, I think.

At the height of the “anarchy”, a wrecking ball comes through the wall (representing what?  The philistinism of  contemporary culture?  Television?); it kills the harpist and the musicians “come to their senses” – like good pupils, they submit their individual wills to the maestro and proceed to make music together, sheltering in their common pursuit from the external enemy – but the maestro’s angry rebukes soon begin once more…

Paintings that Smell

Not literally, of course – Stanley Spencer’s “The Lovers” comes to mind first; the dustmen, worshipped by the housecoated women, the rubbish – old cabbage leaves, tea leaves, tea pots – the picture smells of Jeyes’ Fluid to me, disinfectant with decay underneath, and a suspicion of armpits.  Maybe it’s because I used to be a dustman for a short time, many years ago, before black plastic bins and bags.  The maggots and seafood restaurants were the worst – and that cold trickle of liquid down the back of your neck as you hoisted the tin bin onto your shoulder; what was it – rose water, maybe? Probably not.

Secondly, Hockney’s “Bigger Splash”; chlorine, of course.

De Kooning Retrospective, Thames and Hudson

Fabulous paintings, but something of a tedious text, which seems overconcerned with delving into the crowded abstracts and retrieving identifiable bits and pieces of images – door, ladder, mouth, teeth, penis, vagina, window, chair…  This approach soon palls and threatens to undermine the magic of works like Gansevoort Street, Easter Monday, Interchange and the rest.  Pictures are mouth-watering, though.

Tate Modern

That corner in the surrealism bit is where I go now – Appel yellow wooden plaque next to Motherwell’s Ulysses; swing right to Joan Mitchell’s huge grey painting and further right to the Dorothea Tanning…  BUT still missing my Franz Kline black bridgehead with the two Asger Jorns facing it; Proud, Timid One and Letter to my Son – I want them back as soon as Damien Hirst is over.

Gerhard Richter

I watched the new DVD on Richter last night and was fascinated to see him dragging his enormous wooden squeegee down and/or across the painted surfaces of his canvases, blending, covering or scraping off the pigment.  Several times when he did it, I thought “Great!  Now leave it!”  But he didn’t – he dragged it again and wiped the image out.  The film left me with the impression that it’s really difficult to paint with someone pointing a camera at you while you do it.  Richter said as much, politely; he talked about painting being a secret (private) activity.

That squeegee is a bit of a WMD, really; he uses a big brush to modify after it has passed over – but I would have thought he’d be moving on soon as regards technique, if he hasn’t already.

Work in progress (note Baselitz influence)

Blackpaint

2.05.12

Blackpaint 128

May 6, 2010

Abstract and Figurative

In the Tate Modern yesterday, I wandered into the Futurist gallery, killing time more than anything else.  Not that the paintings (or some of them) aren’t good, but I’m sort of familiar with them – or I thought I was.  There was David Bomberg, a picture very much like “The Mud Bath” in form – zigzag solid forms that turn out on close inspection to be people.

Then, at the end of the gallery, I looked at the other Bomberg; a giant picture of soldiers at work under a light blue sky, it’s called something like “Canadian sappers mining Hill 60, in the St.Eloi sector” and it was painted in 1919-20.  It’s a strange picture, a sketch apparently, and it reminded me a little of a Spencer/Kitaj cross.  The soldiers appear to have slightly wobbly arms.  It is, however, conventional in its depiction of the human figure, compared to “The Mud Bath” paintied four or five years earlier.

What had happened in between, of course, was the Western Front and Bomberg’s participation in it.  Perhaps it seemed somehow inappropriate (strange word to apply to painting – who would want to paint “appropriate” pictures?) to render the troops in his abstract style.  After the industrial-scale slaughter, perhaps it seemed right to one who had been there to paint them as individual people rather than anonymous, semi-geometric shapes. 

After the war, there were the Palestine  landscapes, then Spain and Cornwall.  I think these paintings were more conventional than the pre – war paintings; my partner says no – the Vorticist stuff was faddy and superficial, a sort of blind alley; the landscapes more exciting in the use of paint and structure.

Either way, I was interested in this apparent abandonment of abstraction by one who had been so “radical”.  An obvious parallel – on the face of it, anyway – is Philip Guston and I’ll look at him tomorrow as I have urgent business to attend to at the polling station.

Interesting that Susan Philipsz’ entry for the Turner Prize is a recording of her singing “Lowlands” under a Scottish bridge (sorry – unclear.  She’s not singing under a bridge – The recording is played under a  bridge).

The Cock Crew by Blackpaint

“I dreamed a dream the other night;

Lowlands, lowlands away my John;

I dreamed a dream the other night;

My lowlands away.

I dreamed I saw my own true love;

Lowlands, lowlands  away, etc.

He was green and wet with weeds so cold,

Lowlands, lowlands away,” etc.

Blackpaint

06.05.10