Posts Tagged ‘Steve Bell’

Blackpaint 590 – Petrograd, Cream Soda, Adam and Eve and the Third Reich

March 14, 2017

Revolution: Russian Art 1917 – 32, RA

Plenty of history here, even if some of the art is  – not so good, it’s always historically interesting.  Quite an overlap with Margy Kinmonth’s recent film (see Blackpaint 577); Filonov’s obsessively detailed “outsider-ish” paintings, Lentulov and, especially Petrov-Vodkin, who has a whole room to himself.

  • Brodsky, “Lenin at the Smolny Institute” (1930).  The empty chair (below) – the wall plaque says it invites you to put yourself in it.  I prefer Kinmont’s gloss, that it is symbolic of Stalin’s coming ascendancy.

  • Rublev’s “primitive” Stalin (1930).  Rublev meant well; predictably, Stalin didn’t appreciate it, so it wasn’t exhibited publicly.
  • Pakhomov, “Reaper” (harvest, 1928) – great sweeping red and blue/green shapes amid the corn.  My favourite.

  • Lentulov, “New Jerusalem” – gates and tower, bit like Soutine’s townscapes;
  • Tatlin’s “Letaelin” – birdy wooden flying – well, not really – structures, obviously reminiscent of da Vinci’s.
  • Deineka, “Defence of Petrograd” – Filmic, two-tier; marchers in profile, lower tier off to the battlefront, upper tier wounded, returning.  Like Eisenstein.
  • Deineka, “Textile Workers” (below) – fit, strong women, big feet…

  • An interesting – but not especially good –  abstract by Lizak, “Walk” (1928);
  • Great ad (below) – “Of course, Cream Soda!” – I think the posters and ads are actually the best art on show, apart, maybe, from the Malevich “harlequin” figures , black square and some well-known abstracts.  There are also extracts from Eisenstein and Vertov films, and a bedroom constructed, floor included, from 3 or 4 ply cardboard.

America after the Fall: Painting in the 1930s, RA

The “Fall” is the Wall Street Crash, of course.  Goes really well with the Russian exhibition, for some reason, I guess the left-wing leanings of most artists.  Figurative, mostly, but in a graphic, cartoon-ish way that differs from Socialist Realism.

  • Alice Neel’s proletarian portrait;
  • Hopper’s petrol pumps (below) and cinema usherette;
  • Shaw’s great “Wrigley’s Spearmint”;
  • Hart Benton’s “Cotton Fields” (below);
  • Stuart Davis’ colourful cartoon street scene (didn’t get the title);
  • Guston’s tondo, “Bombardment” (1937) – sort of Beckmann meets Picasso;
  • Grant Wood’s “Gothic”  of course, and a car accident on a country road (below) and a wooded valley with deep green sponge-like tree tops.  The Woods, in my opinion, best in show (What is this? Cruft’s ?)

 

Grant Wood

 

Thomas Hart Benton

Edward Hopper

Telegraph cartoon 

Bob, in the Telegraph the other day, did a parody of Michelangelo’s Adam and Eve; Theresa May, her face turned away from chancellor Hammond’s member, reaches for the apple “tax”.  They are then expelled from Eden.  Interesting to see the vitriol in the right-wing press, in response to the new NICS rates, which will hurt many middle-class self-employed Tory supporters.

A while back, Steve Bell in the Guardian, parodying Gillray,  commented on the relationship between May and Trump like this:

Some might consider these to be sexist responses, but there seems to have been no adverse comment, beyond a passing remark on Bell’s cartoon by that bloke from the Mail, on Sky’s “The Papers”.  I guess, Tory PMs are fair game and feminists think this stuff is OK, as long as it’s directed at May, or Amber Rudd, or Liz Truss…

While I’m on about politics, I should mention Ian McEwan’s talk in Barcelona.  The Guardian reported, no doubt inaccurately or out of context, that “he described the atmosphere in Britain as “foul” after a Brexit referendum that reminded him of Nazi Germany and an aftermath reminiscent of Robespierre’s Terror”.  He’s entitled to his opinion, of course, but so am I and I think this is a ridiculous overstatement. If it has ANY effect (in Britain, that is), it’s likely to drive moderate Brexit people towards the Right, which presumably, he wouldn’t want..

Hyacinths and Milk Jug, Still Life

Blackpaint

14/3/17

 

 

 

 

 

 

Advertisements

Blackpaint 524 – Karl, Kitaj and hanging about in the woods

December 13, 2015

A Death in the Family, My Struggle Vol.1,  Karl Ove Knausgard

The obsessive detail in which Knausgard describes the minutiae of everyday life can be crushing; when you see the denseness of the type on the Kindle page, no paragraphs in sight, it recalls Proust.  I’m glad to hear that reviewers have mentioned Proust in connection with his projected multi-volume memoir.  Others mention his unflinching confessional style, glossing over nothing for the sake of discretion. It’s surprisingly gripping, in the sense that you read page after page looking for somewhere to stop, thinking why doesn’t he just say he made tea, instead of telling you how he filled the kettle with water from the cold tap, pushed the button in, watched the red light glow….  Should he get up or should he have a wank?  The cartoonist Steve Bell broached this years ago in his “If” series; ex -Seaman Kipling posed himself the same question, but he described it as a “discreet Sherman”.

The critic James Wood described it as interesting, even when it is boring; I sort of see what he means.

Kitaj and his Life Drawings

I have to say I think Ron Kitaj’s life drawings are pretty much the business, so here’s a selection, some of which I’ve shown before:

kitaj1

kitaj2

kitaj3

kitaj

I know, male gaze and all that – but they are fantastic.

Bloomberg New Contemporaries, ICA

There were four stand out works for me:

bloomberg3

Katy Schwab

These are cross-stitch embroidery – pretty good, eh? There are four or five I think, and they are very small, but perfectly formed.  Made me think of Sonia Delaunay and Sophie Tauber -Arp.

 

bloomberg2

Jamie Fitzpatrick

The figure is made of wax – and he seems to have borrowed his paints from the artist below; the palette’s almost the same.

 

bloomberg1

James William Collins, “Ffion”

I thought a tiny bit Guston-y – but my partner frostily put me in my place, saying the colours were totally different to those of the great Phillip…

 

hilde krohn huse

Hilde Krohn Huse – Hanging in the Woods

A video sequence. in which the naked artist has contrived to suspend herself from a tree and undertakes a number of balletic or yogic movements which increasingly appear to be attempts to release herself.  It’s funny, sinister in the suicide connotations – and interesting to those of us who do life drawing, in the sense that you don’t often see the anatomy performing under such conditions.  I think next time I’m at Putney, I’ll suggest to the model they might try something similar; wonder what sort of reply I’ll get?

Carol, 2015 (dir. Todd Haynes)

Famously featuring Cate Blanchett as Carol and Rooney Mara as her younger lover.  It had a lot of effusive praise on “Film 2015”;  It looks great (that Zodiac palette, again, that you also see in the current Fargo series), the 50s cars and especially that train set in the department store) and the acting’s good, of course.  However, if it had been a male/female affair, it would have been unremarkable.  My attention strayed once or twice.

I had another attack of that thing where I catch glimpses of other faces; this time, it was Cate in profile with startled eyes and lips hanging open – Donald Sutherland in “Casanova”! And Rooney Mara, in a scene near the end, was suddenly the girl who plays Audrey Hepburn in the Galaxy chocolate advert.

The soundtrack was good, though; Billie Holiday singing “Easy Living” and a vocal group doing “One Mint Julep”.

heaven only knows 2

Heaven Only Knows 2

Blackpaint

12.12.15

 

Blackpaint 286

July 19, 2011

Steve Bell and Martin Rowson

Interesting to compare and contrast the differing approaches of these two Guardian cartoonists to the phone hacking scandal.  Bell has homed in on Rupert Murdoch’s obvious fondness for Rebekah Brooks; in his strip, the old man wants Brooks to replace the “Windsor bitch” (or rather, “butch”) as queen, but wants a shag first.  In the next strip she is dead – a comment on her pallor, presumably – which is not a problem for Rupert. as he isn’t averse to necrophilia… the strip alleges.

Rowson is rather easier on her; he portrays her before the upcoming MPs commitee, standing on a stool, like the Cavalier kid in the famous painting, “When did you last see your father?”  She is saying to her inquisitors, “When did your balls grow back?”, or similar words.  This has the effect of drawing the reader to her side, as the persecuted victim, spitting defiance at her hypocritical questioners, standing bravely against tyranny.

The Bell approach is crude, scurrilous and over the top;  I like it for that reason.

Rowson’s idea contains a great truth; these MP’s committees often have a lot of posturing and sanctimony, from MPs who fancy themselves as Rumpoles – bit early to be changing the focus and fostering sympathy for the Murdoch side, though; I think they’re quite capable of looking after themselves and even “blagging” their way through to a result.

Urban Art, Brixton

Spent Saturday and Sunday standing under stair rods of rain or waving away clouds of little gnat – like flies under a chestnut tree in Josephine Avenue, re-arranging pictures every 5 minutes in an attempt to trap customers.  Everyone else there seemed to have some sort of “thing” they did – paintings of kitchen chairs and tables and frying pans, fish prints, graffiti style “street” spray paintings, dog and cat portraits, imitation butterflies in box frames, swimmers at the lido….  Abstract paintings on canvas pretty thin on the ground.  There’s no way you can be sure that your work will sell; should it be bigger, smaller, under glass??  Total lottery.  Lots of visitors though, even in the pouring rain.

Tarkovsky’s “Stalker”

Very PK Dick- like future story, set in Russia; a Stalker takes people to the Zone and guides them around the deserted area hit by a meteorite or a missile or something, and forbidden of course; there, you can confront your inner self, desires, fears, in a room.  You can’t go directly or come back the same way; the Stalker has to throw sheets wrapped around metal nuts.  where these land, that’s the way you go.  Derivative story, fantastic images; Tarkovsky does that thing of switching to colour in the Zone, B & W outside.  Not original; Bertolucci’s “Before the Revolution” has it – but effective, all the same.

Blackpaint

19.07.11

Blackpaint 283

July 3, 2011

Last Year in Marienbad

Watching this, I have discovered, like thousands before me, no doubt,  the source of many parodies – especially that one where actors speak a pretentious sentence whilst gazing out at the audience and mid-sentence, the scene changes and they’re in different clothes or a different place.  This is not to denigrate the film – it’s beautiful (and so is Delphine Seyrig) and anyway, I love pretentious films; cliches and parodies are so often born from great art, n’est-ce pas?  Loved the Max Ernst feather dress, too.

It strikes me that L’Age d’Or could have been done as an “anti – Marienbad” – if it wasn’t 30 years older.  the couple in Marienbad are sort of polar opposites to the couple in the Bunuel film – stylistically anyway.. but now I’m starting to see parallels, so will stop with that…

Laura Cumming on Magritte

Last Sunday, reviewing the Magritte show at the Tate Liverpool, LC wrote in the Observer that Magritte’s work was “a sustained exploration of painting itself, how it works, what it can ever show or truly say”.  I think this is an astonishing claim for a painter who, most critics seem to agree, was no great shakes as a user of paint, but was a competent illustrator – a man who was a good commercial artist.  Surely, it’s the power of his images that makes him interesting, as well as the champion poster – shifter, apparently (or maybe it’s the most book covers).  His painting is as good as it needs to be to get the idea across – he’s a conceptual artist, who doesn’t really explore painting at all.

Cartoon Museum – Steve Bell  

This is in a little street opposite the front entrance of the British Museum and contains a great exhibition of Bell’s work.  I was surprised at how well some of his characters stand up after a few years (Bell turns his politicians into characters, for example the Iron Lady and Major with the underpants, Blair with the mad eye, Cameron with the condom head); I remember them seeming a bit crude and even silly to me, when he first did them.  Now, they strike me as epic.  Then, there are the variations on famous paintings; my favourites are Major’s underpants burning on the Thames (after Turner), Blair about to be inundated by an overcurling tidal wave of shit in the form of Gordon Brown (after Hokusai) and Brown as a boxer, flat on the mat, punching himself in the face (I think that was a Bell original).

There is also the French artist, the penguin, the monkey, the sheep, the chief inspector….

There’s a fascinating video of Bell going about his work at party conferences and doing his own commentary.  As you would expect, he finds a physical peculiarity and develops it – Cameron’s smooth cheeks and a certain wateriness of the eyes that suggest a fishiness to him; Osborne’s slightly bulging neck and, especially, the bum nose-end.  Go and see it, after the Australian prints and drawings in the BM.

Whitechapel Gallery 

Here, for free, is an exhibition of some of the art works that have been chosen by various politicians and diplomats to decorate their offices and reception rooms.  The one I particularly liked was a photograph by David Dawson of Lucian Freud, painting the queen.  She’s sitting there, in a plain plastered room (presumably in Buck House?? – no; St.James’ Palace ) with a crack running across one wall, in a very ordinary-looking coat – with her crown on.  More of this exhibition tomorrow, along with Vorticists, Twombly and others.

Blackpaint

02.07.11

Blackpaint 259

March 13, 2011

Steve Bell

I can’t help but notice the likeness of Bell’s William Hague to the Martians in the Classics Illustrated version of “War of the Worlds”.  The Martians in Wells’ story were eventually killed off by bacteria…

Turner

I know this is trivial, but I’m constantly amazed at what I miss in his paintings.  For instance, “The Deluge” and “After the Deluge”; at first – and second – glance, I would have said there was nothing in the first painting but rain, sun (or moon) as a central light source, rough, indistinct land and water.  I missed the Ark in the distance, the procession of animals winding towards it, the wrecked house or tent in the foreground and the prone human figure(s)!  In the second, I saw the central figure and the snake, of course – but not the skeletons of fish littering the right foreground, nor even, at first, the scores of heads, like an audience at a public reading (which, I suppose, is what they are).  And I always have difficulty finding the hare in “Rain, Steam and Speed”.

Salo

The horrible cruelty in this film makes it difficult to watch, but I was interested to hear, in the accompanying documentary by Mark Kermode, that Pasolini regarded it as a critique of modern capitalism and mass consumerism, despite the fact that it is set in Fascist Italy, and the torturers are fascist officials.  It is suggested that the constant eating of faeces is supposed to represent mass consumption of processed and fast food.  The sado-masochistic sex Pasolini regarded as representing the commodification of the body (and everything else) in capitalist society. Three historic periods in one then; de Sade’s original, Fascist Italy and modern – or 70’s – Italy.

I’m sure that Pasolini would have thought his film irrelevant now, though, given the improvements in public life that have taken place during the Berlusconi era.

John Martin

Nice to see this painter getting an exhibition to himself.  I remember that The Tate, back in the days when there was only one Tate, had a room of Martins, and Dadds and I think Fuselis, especially that one of the Dream with the moths; we used to call it the Nutter’s Room in those less enlightened times – affectionately, of course.  There was that huge black gorge on the rear wall – “Gordale Scar” by James Ward.  Now, I realise that with the exception, perhaps, of Richard Dadd, who murdered his father, they were all fairly normal for Victorian Britain.

Blackpaint

Saturday Night

Blackpaint 228

December 8, 2010

Turner Prize

Won by Susan Philipsz, the sound artist, who had a recording of herself singing “Lowlands” installed under three bridges on the Clyde.  It was re-installed in the Tate Britain without the bridges, which some critics felt detracted from the work – difficult to see how to get round that one.  Anyway, she won and had apparently been the favourite throughout.  As I’ve said before, readers should listen to the Ann Briggs version, or Martin Carthy’s, if they can find it. 

A piece in the Guardian by Adrian Searle praised Philipsz’ work in the following terms: “Her current Artangel project, Surround Me, insinuates itself down alleys and courtyards in the City of London…. singing melancholy works by John Dowland… I have stood in shadowy old courtyards and between gleaming office blocks, weeping as I listen.”  Please, Mr. Searle, pull yourself together; we British don’t cry and we certainly don’t “weep”.

Having said that, I occasionally get the odd prickle in the corner of an eye when listening to the Matthew Passion or the Mass in B minor – and even in the presence of great paintings; Lavender Mist, Palisades, Berkeley series, most things by Joan Mitchell…

Martin Rowson

Has, well – deservedly, won the Low Prize for political cartoonists – despite the fact that you need to be really seriously up to speed on politics to get everything going on in his cartoons.  He has, however, failed to produce an arse- sucking drawing since I requested the same some time back (in a TV interview, he said that he had toned down such a cartoon at the request of an editor who was hungover and feeling sick).

Surely, the time for a double arse-licking cartoon has arrived, with the Assange affair: British magistrate licks Swedish prosecutor, who in turn licks Obama – or maybe Clinton…  Steve Bell has obliged today, with Uncle Sam fucking an ostrich; nice to see vulgarity standards falling – or rising – with BBC radio presenters saying “cunt” on air at every opportunity.

Quiz

Who did a painting of a massive Gordon’s Gin advert above a branch of Woolworths (that is, the advert was above Woolworths in the painting..)?

Blackpaint

08.12.10