Posts Tagged ‘Tate Britain’

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

19.10.15

 

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Blackpaint 497 – Metzger on Metal, AbEx Women

May 31, 2015

Gustav Metzger at Tate Britain

They’ve reorganised some of the rooms at TB and I was surprised and delighted to see a whole roomful of great Metzgers.  I thought the second and third were abstract but apparently they are pictures of a table.  I knew of Metzger as one of those Auto-Destructive artists from the 60s who set fire to things and smashed up pianos and the like – in the recent “Art Under Attack” exhibition at TB, there was a film of Metzger with a big screen up opposite St. Pauls, which he destroyed with acid (the screen, not St.Pauls) so that the cathedral slowly appeared through the growing holes.  Before this, he was one of Bomberg’s disciples and there are a couple of paintings which are instantly recognisable as school of Bomberg.  Is there any other painter who had such an iron grip on his followers as Bomberg did?

metzger1

 

This one is on metal.

metzger3

 

metzger2

 

Yes, easy to see the table now – but I had to be told.  My partner thinks he’d seen Matisse’s “La Table de Marbre Rose” (1916);

matisse table

 Matisse

 

Also new at TB, a darkened room containing Ralph Peacock’s brilliant “Ethel”:

Ethel 1897 Ralph Peacock 1868-1946 Presented by the Trustees of the Chantrey Bequest 1898 http://www.tate.org.uk/art/work/N01672

Look at that face: “How long am I going to have to sit here?”

Mitchell, Frankenheimer, Hartigan

Last blog was half about the imbalance of “influential” male and female artists in the 80s and 90s, at least as it was reflected in Taschen books.  It didn’t allow me to include any abstract expressionist painters, so here are works by these three women, fighting their corner in the famously macho AbEx “community”.  Joan Mitchell is my favourite painter. Helen Frankenthaler is also a seminal figure, of course – Grace Hartigan much less well-known, but also fantastic (see below).

frank lorelei

 Frankenthaler

joan mitchell gug

Joan Mitchell

Hartigan

Grace Hartigan, Paper Dolls

Beckett – Fail Better

I keep hearing and reading people quoting Beckett’s famous phrase as if it’s some sort of positive guidance.  He’s taking the piss, surely – if you fail, you fail.  Consider this exchange from “Rough for Radio 1”:

“She (astonished): But he is alone!

He: Yes.

She: All alone?

He: When one is alone one is all alone.”

When you fail, you fail.  And on that note –

asger's revenge

 

Asger’s Revenge

Blackpaint

31.05.15 

Blackpaint 489 – Slagging Tate Britain, Rain in Hong Kong and Rioters on the Roof

April 4, 2015

Penelope Curtis Leaves Tate Britain

I’ve been rather taken aback at the vehemence with which the Guardian critics, Jones or Searle or both, have attacked the regime of this person at TB; you would think the place was devoid of visitors, who have taken their business elsewhere, alienated by a succession of misconceived, dull or just plain bad exhibitions.  In fact, it’s always busy, thronged with school parties, parents with buggies and kids called Oliver and Rosie, and old gits in jeans with white hair and day bags (like me). Like most visitors, no doubt, I’d never heard of Penelope Curtis – I love Tate Britain, however, and much prefer the light, white galleries to the stuffiness of the Royal Academy and the gloom of the V&A.  I sort of resent the slagging off that the critics feel entitled to dish out; I hope no-one takes any notice of it.

Recent good or great things at Tate Britain – Deller’s Folk Art; the Turner exhibition; the Paolozzi and Henderson stuff; the fabulous Auerbachs of the Freud bequest; the Phyllida Barlow thing in the main hall; the Frank Bowling pictures; the life drawings in the Archive Room; the permanent collection, of course.  I think the Sculpture Victorious exhibition is interesting and funny, although not necessarily stuffed with great art.  I suppose a punter is satisfied if there’s something good to look at – s/he is not always worried if the focus isn’t sharp enough, or it’s got too much or too little stuff in it, etc., etc….

auerbach

 

barlow2

Salt and Silver, Tate Britain

Early photos, on now.  In the architectural ones and some of the landscapes, a little figure present, presumably for scale or maybe it wasn’t a proper picture without a human presence.  By 1860s, that seemed to have changed.  I was surprised to see an Indian rowing team, apparently about to plunge  their oars simultaneously into the water; I thought you needed a long exposure.  Then it was pointed out to me that the surface of the water was unbroken – they must have been frozen in the pose.  Some treasures here – but rather a lot of buildings and ruins…

salt and silver

 

Nick Waplington and Alexander McQueen,  Working Process, Tate Britain

Third TB exhibition; the fashions are extreme and interesting – some of the dresses recall Dubuffet – but for me, the real interest lies in Waplington’s huge, sharply focused rubbish photographs (i.e. photos of rubbish).  From the distance of the next room, they look to me just like de Koonings;  go and see.

I’m in the Mood for Love, Wong Kar -wai

The real interest of this hypnotic film is threefold:  first, the seemingly endless series of high necked dresses Maggie Cheung wears – I think she only wears one twice; second, the torrential rain storms that beat down on the dark alleys; third, and most important, the haunting theme tune.

in the mood for love

Strangeways: Britain’s Toughest Prison Riot (BBC2)

There was some fascinating film here of the rioting prisoners on the smashed up roof, wearing balaclavas, captured prison officers’ caps and various pieces of fancy dress, dancing to a loudspeaker and waving wooden clubs at the helicopter buzzing them: the footage reminded me of film of the miners’ strike (no, I’m not equating the miners with the prisoners, neither with regard to the cause or the behaviour – just the carnival atmosphere and the defiance).  There were chilling accounts from one of the prisoners of assaults and near-murders of sex offenders, who were dragged from their cells and injuries inflicted on guards with scaffold poles and slates hurled from the roof.

It was instructive to hear from the reforming governor of the prison, Brendan O’Friel, who seemed an enlightened soul (he introduced women prison officers to the Strangeways, stopped the officers wearing racist golliwog badges and actually spoke to the prisoners informally on occasion).  He recognised the acute problem of overcrowding in the prison; yet when the riot broke out and the occupation of the prison by the rioters became prolonged – I think it lasted 25 days – he seemed to lose his liberal attitude; he described it as “pure evil”.  This sounds a bit extreme to me, in the era of Islamic State and al-Shabaab and Boko Haram…

John Renbourn

Hero 60s guitarist, up there with Davy and Bert and Roy Harper.  I have a tape somewhere of him backing Doris Henderson on TV, doing “the Leaves that are Green”  – trouble is, I haven’t got a tape recorder any more.  RIP.

Albert Irvin

One of the greatest, and an untimely death – he was only in his early 90s.

irvin empress

One of mine, to finish:

burnt norton

Burnt Norton

Blackpaint

4.04.15