Posts Tagged ‘the Saragossa Manuscript’

Blackpaint 500 – Sinful Sculptor, False Memories, Orgreave and the Flood

June 21, 2015

How to be Bohemian with Victoria Coren Mitchell, BBC4

After my partner’s RA picture got a split second exposure on TV last week, it was my turn; a glimpse of my grizzled head, appearing like a growth on another artist’s shoulder for a whole second, left of screen.  BUT – later in the programme, my hands drawing in close-up for about five whole seconds.  Fortunately, they didn’t show the drawing.

As to the programme’s content, Eric Gill was the most interesting topic; as well as being a stunning artist and craftsman, he had sexual intercourse with two daughters, his sisters – and his dog.  He recorded, or alluded to, all these exploits in his diaries.  The obvious question is: does the awareness of this depravity undermine the art?  VCM said it did for her – but she may have been playing angel’s advocate.  Fiona MacCarthy said, what about Wagner?  Well known anti-semitic views – do you listen to the music or turn it off?  VCM went for the latter.

No-one mentioned timing in this;  Gill’s criminal habits weren’t known when he was alive and producing fantastic work, such as Prospero and Ariel; his biographer, MacCarthy, revealed them in 1989, a previous biographer having omitted any reference.

Gill1

 

Prospero and Ariel, Eric Gill

 

False Memory Syndrome

Last week, I walked half the Ridgeway long-distance path, from Avebury in Wiltshire to Goring on Thames in Berkshire – around 40 miles.  I first did it 30 or so years ago, with a tent, and camped beside the path – this time, we got B and B.

I had vivid “memories” of being under the stars next to the path, by my tent, opposite the 3000 year old White Horse at Uffington, fully visible across the way on the flank of the down.  When we arrived at the horse this time, I was astonished to find that you can’t see it from the path – you have to go a hundred yards or so, maybe more, across a stretch of lush grass and psychedelic buttercups.  Then, you are just above the head and can see just a few dazzling white lines in the downside (it was made by being dug out and filled with chalk).  You can’t see it properly from below either – apparently, the only good view is from a car on the B4507. And yet, I could have sworn that I’d looked at it by starlight all those years ago.

uffington

Uffington White Horse

So what’s the significance of all this?  Last week, I wrote about a “circular” joke in the Polish film, “The Saragossa Manuscript”, in which someone inexplicably falls from height into a laundry basket, an incident which is explained later in the film.  But I was only halfway through the DVD – it’s 180 mins long.  It transpires there are no laundry baskets; the circular joke involves a voice, supposedly from Purgatory and a fall into a barrel.  It’s far too complex to explain in detail.  And yet, I could have sworn…  Maybe the laundry basket thing is some corruption of the Merry Wives of Windsor, where Falstaff hides in the dirty laundry and gets chucked into the ditch (reference to same in “Breaking Bad” – I think – can’t be sure of anything any more).

Fighting History at Tate Britain

A review, or random selection of “history” works old and new. panned as “moronic” and overly left-wing by Jonathan Jones in the Guardian.  I suppose the inclusion of memorabilia and filmed reminiscence of Jeremy Deller’s Battle of Orgreave reconstruction is a bit lefty – here are some of the other works:

  • “The Battle of Hastings” by Allen Jones – nice painting, Pop Art style, impenetrable.

The Battle of Hastings 1961-2 Allen Jones born 1937 Presented by E.J. Power through the Friends of the Tate Gallery 1980 http://www.tate.org.uk/art/work/T03090

  • “A Visit to Aesculapius” by Poynter – group of beautiful women, no pubic hair, was “the chief centre of attention” at the RA in 1880.

A Visit to Aesculapius 1880 Sir Edward Poynter 1836-1919 Presented by the Trustees of the Chantrey Bequest 1880 http://www.tate.org.uk/art/work/N01586

  • A Flood by Dexter Dalwood, containing a quotation from a nearby (awful) Turner Flood, a Guston head, a Lichtenstein wave and a pile of swiss rolls.
  • Another Flood, by Danby; I like the terrified lion, clinging to the tree.
  • A huge King Lear, Fuseli eyes and a fleshy dead Cordelia, by James Barry.
  • The battle at Jersey, by Copley, the one with the dead officer and the black servant firing at the French; there are some Rubens/Pugwash women fleeing on the right.
  • Zoffany’s “Death of Captain Cook” – a very brown painting, compared with his famous one of the Indian Governor and the Cockfight.  Jones likes this one because the feather headdresses have been accurately rendered.

Go and see it; it’s not that bad and the Deller stuff won’t turn you left-wing if you’re not that way already.

A life drawing and a work in ?Progress? to finish with:

amanda face down2

Amanda on her Front

geometry4

Work in Progress

Blackpaint

21.06.15

Blackpaint 488 – Ingrid and Ingmar, Liz and Phil and Eleanor at the Tates

March 29, 2015

Marlene Dumas

OK, I know I’ve done this twice already, but I’ve got a member’s card for Tates Brit and Mod, so it feels like free when I go.  Anyway, two things – no, three – to say in addition to previous: first, the picture of the woman in tears, entitled “For Whom the Bell Tolls”; it’s not Dumas herself, as I’d thought, but Ingrid Bergman (of course, because she stars in the film, but it got past me); secondly, the paintings of her daughter Helene – the facial portrait titled “Helene’s Dream”, in which the lips, the nose and the closed eyes seem to be floating on a somehow convex surface of smooth coffee and the full-length picture of her wrapped in a bath towel, looking irritated (girl, not towel).

dumas helene's dream

dumas helene

 

I like the way she’s painted the hair in the top one; single, square-edged strokes of a drying brush.  And in the second one, it’s the knees – it looks rough at first, but it’s precise and subtle.  There’s a lot of “looks rough at first” in this exhibition, but it’s mostly (not always!) subtle underneath, so to speak.

And third thing is the little, quick, brush drawings; the one on the far left of that little group opposite the full-length prone body drawings – can’t find a picture of it, so go and look.

Sculpture Victorious, Tate Britain

This is interesting and funny, rather than jam-packed with great art.  The pieces on show suggested novelties turned out for Great Exhibitions, which they were in some cases.  There are miniature busts of the young queen, turned out by Chevenor’s Reducing Machine – you put a big one in and a sort of pantograph affair carves a perfect small version out of a soft -ish medium.  Ivory was good, unfortunately for “up to 6000 elephants a year”.

There’s a statue of some baron, Winchester possibly, who was at Runnymede for Magna Carta, which was coated with copper by an electro-plating process (the statue, not Magna Carta – or Runnymede); an Eleanor of Aquitaine, lying comfortably on her back, atop her tomb presumably, reading a prayer book or bible, as if she was reading “Gone Girl” on the beach; and there’s a life size piece of Elizabeth I playing naval chess – the pieces are galleons – with Philip II of Spain.

sculpture victorious

 

It looks like one of those clockwork – or maybe magic – pieces you get in a necromancer’s workshop in a Polish film, where the players “come to life” with a lot of clicking and whirring…  I’m thinking “Saragossa Manuscript” or maybe Bergman’s “Nicholas and Alexander”.

There are two slave women in chains; one white, one black.  The white woman, a captive of the Turks in the War of Greek Independence, is beautiful of course, with a very shapely bottom and downcast eyes and is completely naked.  The black woman, also beautiful, but with slightly odd features, the eyes I think, wears a sort of skirt.  I find this interesting, in that it is a reversal of the old National Geographic racialism; in the 1950s and before, magazines would show “native peoples”, male and female, naked, whereas white people had to be clothed, except in pornography, which was illegal anyway.  Maybe because the white slave resembles a classical Graeco-Roman statue in pose, Hiram Power thought he could get away with it.  The black woman, or American Slave, was done by John Bell in answer to Abolitionist demand; apparently, the white slave was interpreted as an attack on slavery too.  Surprising to me; it strikes me more as an opportunity for the sculptor to do a provocatively naked woman in a submissive pose and dress it up with a moral message – then, that could be said of a lot of sculpture, Victorian and earlier…

sculpture victorious white girl

 

White Slave

sculpture victorious black girl

 

 

Black (American) Slave

Some of the other sculpture on show – big muscles, heroic poses, firing arrows, struggling with snakes, gazing fiercely into distances – looked distinctly pre-Nazi to me; would have fitted in at Goering’s hunting lodge.

Worth a visit then, despite Richard Dorment’s blistering Telegraph review, which I recommend, online.  Dorment roundly berates the curators for lack of focus, stating the obvious and getting major things wrong; for instance, the reason why Alfred Gilbert  resigned from the Royal Academy.  He knows, because he’s written a book on Gilbert, and  catalogue notes for the RA.  it’s a pity Tate didn’t ask him to advise, before rashly going ahead with the show.  He does describe the black slave as a nude statue, however.

Other things new at the Tate, in the permanent galleries:  Phoebe Unwin, “Man with Heavy Legs” or something;  Vicken Parsons, tiny room paintings; a huge Rose Wylie pattern painting; and a new Kitaj, a man as a cat…

Next blog – two more Tate Britain shows, Salt and Silver and the Waplington/McQueen show.

vanessa5

vanessa6

Vanessa, standing and stooping

Blackpaint

29.03.15

 

Blackpaint 315 – Splat!! on the Windscreen

December 27, 2011

Holmes; a Game of Shadows

With Robert Downey Jr as Holmes and Jude Law as Watson, the latest Guy Ritchie film was almost fast-moving enough to counter the graveyard cold of the Streatham cinema in which I saw it on Christmas Eve.  As there were only eight customers, including myself, I assume that the only way the cinema could operate was by eliminating overheads – such as heating. 

anyway, the film has the predictable joke Germans and Frenchmen, a French gypsy camp at which Irish fiddle music is played, and a My Fair Lady version of London.  The fight scenes are those loud ones which are too fast to see what’s going on, but in Martial arts tradition, blows are occasionally slowed to stop time and then concluded in a sort of sucking rush.  The same happens with bullets passing through sleeves or the bark of trees.  there is a wonderful set piece in the Paris Opera – Don Giovanni – and another in a snow-bound forest, involving artillery and mortar fire.  There are shades of the Saragossa Manuscript trick that he used in “Snatch”, with the milk carton splattering the car windscreen, at least once.  Basically, an unexplained event happens and is explained later.  In the Saragossa Manuscript, it is a man falling through a ceiling into a trunk; in Ritchie’s film, it is Holmes flinging Watson’s new wife from a train into the waters of a lake far below.

There is a hint of Chronos in the clinking and closing of metal breeches and hinges, and the disguises Downey uses are presumably taken from theart of Liu Bolin, the camouflage artist – by the time the credits came up, I was too chilled to notice whether he got a credit.  Great film, anyway (not Bela Tarr, though).

Liu Bolin

Albert Oelhen

Got a really expensive book on Oelhen from the Whitechapel Gallery, and was surprised to read that he used a computer to generate basic images in some pictures and then painted on top of them.  He calls the process “educating” the pictures.  An Oelhen painting may include collage, computer generation, Ab-Ex style gestural painting, airbrushing and elements of surrealism.

Oelhen

Best Picture

Best picture I have seen in the flesh this year was Asger Jorn’s “Green Ballet” at the Guggenheim Bilbao.  Best pictures in books recently were in the Vitamin B2 collection, by Vaida Caivanho and Amy Sillman. 

Here is my last picture this year:  Figures in a Landscape 2.

Blackpaint, 27.12.11