Posts Tagged ‘Tony Cragg’

Blackpaint 490 – Geometrics in Fulham, History at the Hayward, Missile on the Verandah

April 12, 2015

Remembering Poetry

I’ve been reading the Four Quartets for the first time (why did Eliot call them that?  They’re each in five parts.  Is it that there are four of them and they go together to make a whole?  But then they would be one quartet, surely…).

Anyway, after reading them through a couple of times with the assistance of the notes of Hermann Servotte and then reading them again right through, I set out to write down what I remembered.  It went something like this:

The briar and the rose….brown edges of swimming pool….wounded surgeon….ruined millionaire…..dove…..Pentecostal fire…….frost and fire……”Yet being someone Other”……..broken king…….”Zero summer”…..blah, blah, blah….brown baked face…..jaws of sea……tin leaves……winter lightning….. You get the point; what you remember in the first instance is concrete images, plus a few memorable phrases (which might stick, like “zero summer”, because you’ve no idea what they mean).

I should say I loved the poems and thoroughly recommend them – I’m sure this TS Eliot will go far.

“From Centre”; Loud and Western building, 65 Broughton Road, London SW6, until 26th April

A pop-up exhibition of clean-cut, texture-free geometric abstract painting and sculpture.  The great venue, an old works of some sort, being converted into flats, I should think; very white, wooden staircases, lovely balcony and some great abstracts.

 

from centre 1

No.317, Fold, 2012 – Rana Begum 

Paint on powder-coated mild steel.

 

from centre 2

 Polymorph, 2013 – Natalie Dower

For some reason, I thought these were young artists; then I checked the biogs.  Natalie Dower is 84; others include Tess Jaray (b.1937), Trevor Sutton (b.1948), Peter Lowe (b.1938)… Begum (b.1977) is a mere child.  Some fantastic work from major artists, and free.  We paid a voluntary fiver for the excellent booklet.

“History is Now: 7 Artists Take on Britain (Hayward Gallery)

Actually, six different takes, since the Wilson sisters go together.  It’s really more like journalism or history with a lot of art objects, than an art exhibition.  There’s a Bristol Bloodhound surface-to-air missile on the verandah, for instance; where would you see something like that in an art exhibition?  Well, there were Fiona Banner’s planes in the Tate a couple of years ago…

The artists are Simon Fujiwara – a group of objects of significance to the artist, including a huge slice of coal, Meryl Streep’s Margaret Thatcher costume from a film, a Hockney Ipad enlargement;

The Wilsons – political conflicts, including Greenham Women, Northern Ireland, social and political movements – look out for Penelope Slinger’s surrealist feminist photos, Stuart Brisley’s cage of gloves (looks like it should be about Auschwitz – actually, each glove represents 66,000- odd unemployed) and the Pasmores;

stuart brisley

Stuart Brisley

Roger Hioorn – BSE/CJD and Scrapie; horrifying subject, mostly film and newspaper reports, with some rather tangential stuff, for example, a Lygia Clark sculpture that just happens to resemble a prion;

John Akomfrah – film, including Gilbert and George, Francis Bacon and Barbara Hepworth;

Hannah Starkey – photographs, notably Chris Killip, Bill Brandt, Martin Parr.

Richard Wentworth – great wartime, Festival of Britain, 50s and 60s stuff – Paul Nash, Paolozzi, Ben Nicholson, Tony Cragg, Eagle Annuals, early Penguins and Pelicans.

tony cragg

 Tony Cragg

Britain from the North

 

Under the Skin (Jonathan Glazer)

OK, I understand she (Scarlett Johansson) is an alien lifeform, acquiring skins from unwary Scottish blokes; but who is the motorcyclist and how did the Tesco man escape, if only temporarily? and why did she have to kill the Czech man in the wetsuit?  Horrible attempted rape scene.

 

Painting

Getting nowhere except the Slough of Despond with my current effort – maybe I’ll chuck some bright paint on the canvas and ride my bike over it, and call it Aphrodite at the Waterhole…except Tony Hancock’s already used that (see “The Rebel” – essential viewing for artists).

work in prog 1

Work in progress???

Blackpaint

12.4.15

 

 

 

 

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Blackpaint 401 – Manhugging at the Fair; Annoying in Chechnya

July 4, 2013

Lowry at Tate Britain

I think he’s more important as a social historian than as a painter; the old Mitchell and Kenyon films which play in this exhibition show that his particular vision was spot on.  No-one else was covering this sort of industrial, municipal vista so consistently.

As I said in last blog, I think there’s something of Brueghel in there and not just the small figures and the white background.  B documented the lives of his peasants and Lowry  is doing the same for the people of his northern towns, to an extent; the Fever Van, the Funeral, Going to and Coming From Work, the Fair at Daisy Nook (twice, at least).  His figures are less solid than B’s, caricatures really, but he does give them individual details, even if they come out looking the same.

Several characters recur; a pair of drunks (?) “man-hugging”, kids, and those two dogs – probably more that I didn’t notice.  None of the figures seem to cast a shadow – indeed, they look somehow separate, even when they overlap, as if collaged.

lowry2

No dogs in this one.

When you see the paintings surrounding you, their filmic quality is obvious; you can easily imagine the figures coming to life and swarming through the factory gates towards the smoking chimneys.  I thought of that film of snow-covered Nevsky Prospect and the people  scattering under fire during the 1905 revolution.  It’s on the cover of the paperback of Trotsky’s “History of the Russian Revolution”.

My favourite painting is uncharacteristic and one of the first in the exhibition – it’s the little brick terraced house with the flowers in the window.  Look closely at it- it’s beautifully painted, especially the brickwork.

Another interesting and uncharacteristic painting was a Welsh scene, I think called “Bargoed”; somehow, the perspectives are more conventional (his townscapes often look like two or three different photographs cut up and collaged together and the diminishing size of the figures as they recede is often “wrong”) and the whole picture has a more “muscular” feel – not better than the townscapes, but much more conventional.

lowry1

Quick visit to our favourite room, the one with Bigger Splash and the red Caro – I looked closely at the Bacon triptych and was interested to notice how thin the paint was – the weave of the canvas fabric was clearly visible.  His own remarks about the role of accident and chance in a painting and the common (mis)conception that he painted with a sort of vigorous abandon had led me to believe that the paint would be applied more thickly.

The Tony Cragg “Stack” – how did they install it without its falling to pieces?  It’s surely not stuck together and yet there is no way it could be raised – unless it was on a palette that was somehow slipped out from under it when it was in place…

Aleksandra, Sokurov

How irritating Sokurov’s characters can be.  This is the film about the grandmother who visits her army officer grandson when he is on active service in Chechnya.  She goes around being provocative, as if the presence of a matriarchal figure, overweight and with  bad legs, should be treated as completely normal by the gormless boy soldiers.  They have to help her out and keep her safe.  She meets some Chechnyan counterparts and treats them, and a young Chechnyan assigned as her guide, to a string of platitudes that, I’m sure, would have gone down really well with the population during Russia’s war on the Chechen “rebels”.

I was reminded of the diplomat in Russian Ark; he is also an irritating figure, pushy, inquisitive and  annoying to everyone in the film.  Unlike Alexandra, of course, he (the character, that is) is not Russian, but French or Swiss.  And then there is the Mephistopheles character in Faust – but its right for him to be annoying, I suppose.

Salter, “Light Years”

There’s a great scene in this, where Viri, the central male character, is at a party, getting drunk – except that you don’t know he’s plastered, until he insists on doing a costumed imitation of Maurice Chevalier, unbidden, before the guests, forgets and repeats lines, then passes out in the maid’s bedroom as the others go in to dinner.  It’s a trick that Richard Yates also uses, I think in “Easter Parade”, where the male lead instigates a punching contest with a younger character who is annoying him by being younger and having opinions…

Imagine, Vivian Meier

BBC programme on the staggering work of “amateur” photographer and professional nanny Meier, who printed only a tiny proportion of her 100, 000+ negatives and kept the rest in storage, to be sold off after her death.  She seemed to have taken pictures in just about any style, all good, many stunning.  Joel Meyerowitz made a good point about her portraits, which were often of street people; he said that using a Rolleiflex, which you looked down at while you pointed it at the subject from your midriff, meant that you didn’t have to confront people by raising the camera to your face and looking at them directly.  Maybe that helped – whatever the reason, great pictures were the result.

poor tom

Poor Tom – an old one, but I like it…

Blackpaint

4.07.13

Blackpaint 398 – Murder on the Ark, Merkel at the Tate

June 13, 2013

Michelangelo

noahs sacrifice

Mich himself reminded me that I haven’t mentioned him much lately – I was dusting the bookshelf when the giant Taschen fell on me.  Sorry as I am to be disrespectful,  the first thing I noticed on flicking through was the comedy cow’s face in the “sacrifice of Noah” section of the ceiling (see above); that eye isn’t right, surely – and what about the horse’s head behind?  I know I’ve said this in previous blog, but what is going on at the end of the Ark?  It looks like an axe murder to me.

ark

Tate Britain Re-hang – Caro, Hockney, Cragg

Looking at the Caro sculpture again, positioned as it is, in front of Hockney’s “A Bigger Splash”, it looks as if short red diving boards are positioned above the pool in the painting.  If you’re really being fanciful, the thin, curly, red bits echo the streaks of water flying up in the painting…

The Tony Cragg “Stack” could be a four- (or five, with a top shot) faced painting, with the bucket or the blanket like a Turner red spot.

cragg

Blake- William, not Peter

In the Blake room – easy to miss, tucked away – I was looking at that body of Newton’s, in the picture where he’s using the calipers; the muscles under the skin make his body look like a snake’s – or rather, how you would imagine a snake’s body to be.

Patrick Caulfield and Gary Hume

There’s a double exhibition of these two painters at Tate Britain at the moment, and it seems an appropriate pairing, although I can’t quite work out why.  Surface, I think – they’re both about surface, Gary Hume avowedly so.

Caulfield’s paintings have perspective but are mostly rendered in thick dark diagrammatic lines, with insets in a photographic or painterly style as contrast.  The effect is all in front, no depth.  The diagrammatic bits depict restaurant rooms or complicated terraces and staircases, empty of life except for a linear proprietor, lounging through a serving hatch, strangely effective as part of this set of lines.  The Alpine lake and castle scene, “caged” with the fish tank by these lines, looks like a blown- up photograph; I’d always assumed it was, but on close inspection, it looks like a screen print touched up, or maybe even hand painted, super realist-style.  Other insets include Kalf lobsters and drinking glasses, surfaces precisely rendered.  He loves doing different styles; the catalogue roses, for example.

At times, it looks as if he’s doing impossibilities with perspective and architecture, like Escher – but no, on close inspection, it’s all right and accurate; just complicated.

Hume, famously, paints on aluminium panels, using gloss paint, often in sickly pastel shades, poured on to avoid brush marks.  I think that he uses some sort of string or filament to  stem the flow, forming ridges where two colours meet, or patterns under the paint.  Maybe it’s some sort of cut-out or stencil.  One painting looked like poured toffee or caramel, gone hard.  I only really liked one – the “portrait” of Angela Merkel, with its curved white border.

Dubliners

I’d always thought these stories were beautifully written, but that their beauty lay in the characters and the stories.  Re-reading “A Mother”, however, I find it’s full of great images: “She sat amid the chilly circle of her accomplishments, waiting for some suitor to brave it and offer her a brilliant life”.  Or: “His conversation, which was serious, took place at intervals in his great brown beard”.

Point Break

Surfing, sky-diving, bank robbing film directed by Katherine Bigelow; ridiculous story, fantastic surfing and free falling.  The bank robbery scenes, with the ex-president masks, are straight out of “The Friends of Eddie Coyle” and the chase through the back gardens reminded me strongly of “Straight Time”, the great Dustin Hoffman/Theresa Russell film.  There is a link to the Bigelow film in the presence of Gary Busey, who gets shot in both.

The Fall

Watching Gillian Anderson’s highly sexualised performance in this serial, I wondered if the writer or director had seen the down- market Swedish crime series “Those Who Kill” (see previous Blackpaints).  Laura Bach, as the woman detective, wears a similarly sexy “uniform” and at one stage, is actually having sex with the serial killer she is hunting – unwittingly, of course.  To be absolutely clear – she knows she is having sex with him; but not that he’s a serial killer.  I hope that we don’t get something like this in the second series of “The Fall”.

001

Headlong Changed

Blackpaint

13.06.13

Blackpaint 390 – Blind Gary, Sybil and The Magic Board-Rubber

April 18, 2013

Dobell’s at the Chelsea Space

Little gallery in the Chelsea Art School complex opposite Tate Britain.  Photos from the 40s, up to when Dobell’s moved to Tower Street.  I knew it best from then on, when Les Fancourt used to sell me Texas 50s blues on Krazy Kat pretty much every week, but some familiar faces in the photos, notably Jimmy Asman and Maureen from Asman’s in New Row (sadly, also gone).  Asman sold me my first jazz record, by Billy Banks’ Rhythmmakers in 1932; “the Hottest Jazz Ever Recorded”, the sleeve announces.

The original record racks are in the exhibition, and the Phil Seaman, Billy Butterfield and Dill Jones sleeves – I’m sure they were all in the rack the last time I looked in the shop!  Also those great bags with the record spines; I wish I’d kept some.  The famous shop was at 77 Charing Cross Road, hence 77 Records – see the Blind Gary Davis LP cover below (although I think my copy came from Dave Carey’s Swing Shop in Streatham – sadly, also long gone).

gary davis

Also in the photos, Ray Smith of Ray’s Jazz, which survives in Foyle’s of course, but without Ray or  Bob Glass, who knew everything about jazz and blues, most things about all other kinds of music – and everything, really.

Chelsea Interim MA Show

Worth a look;  there is –

A cardboard ocean liner crashing from heaven into a table (or maybe a chair);

Bright, fragmentary Japanese – style abstracts, stuck like jigsaw pieces to the wall;

Video of a woman bound like a mummy in coloured wool strands, which plays in colour on the floor and in B&W on an old TV on a stand;

Video of PP Arnold in B&W, playing on another TV (I liked this basically because I identified PP Arnold – “First Cut is the Deepest”, before Rod – without seeing the label);

A room full of detritus – Pyms bottles, rubbish, fractured polystyrene, dubious smears and puddles – with a curtain screen at one end, from which hip-hop music emerging.

Sir William Nicholson

Got a catalogue called “Making Waves” in Campbell’s by the Tate Mod for a quid; it had two fantastic compositions by the above, one of which, Portrait of Sybil Hart-Davis, is below.

william nicholson 3

It’s great, isn’t it?  And this one too –

william nicholson 2

I love the composition, the colours, the space in the Hart-Davis one…

Tate Britain

They’ve rearranged the pictures in some of the 20th century rooms and put some new stuff up;

There’s a sort of landscape room (although it’s got that huge Lytton Strachey portrait by Lamb and some other pics that are not really landscape) – I liked the three fibreglass moulds of earth and rock by Mark Boyle, the Tacita Dean lighthouse film, the Wilson Steer girl from behind, and the Spencer Gore.

There’s a huge Hoyland canvas in a dark pink on grey, just big expanses of colour with grey stripe and a sort of inset panel of paint; the colours throb.

Tony Cragg’s “Stack” – like a pile of palettes (although it’s not), with all sorts of matter wedged in – another jigsaw.

A nervy, colourful AbEx job from Fiona Rae, lots of jaggedness on white canvas.

My favourite Gillian Ayres breakfast – although her title is “Breakout”, I think.

Loads more – next time.

In The House

Director Francois Ozon, with Kristin Scott Thomas, Fabrice Luchini and Ernst Umhauer.  A lonely schoolboy insinuates himself into the home of a schoolmate as an unofficial maths tutor, but really to write about the family and maybe seduce the mother.  He writes up his visits and shows them to his literature teacher, who is himself seduced and starts to encourage and aid in the project.  Very funny, but quite slight – unlikely to stay with you long.

Two observations:

  •  It’s another example of that “turning the tables” thing that French directors seem to love – the boy’s obsession captures the teacher, and later transfers to KST, the teacher’s wife (there was another example on TV this week, a film from 2003 starring Daniel Auteuil, called Apres Vous).
  • The prose style of the boy’s regular reports on the family reminded me strongly of Camus’ Outsider.  Must re-read it.

The Magic Board rubber

In Arne Dahl’s The Blinded Man, episode one.  I thought I was seeing things, until Chris Grice mentioned it to me.  It rubs out – then it restores.

Man Hands

Also indebted to Chris for pointing out the Seinfeld episode in connection with last week’s discussion of the Holbein portrait.

094

 

Blackpaint

18.04.13

Blackpaint 245

January 23, 2011

Royal Academy, Modern British Sculpture

First room, anteroom really, Lutyens Cenotaph and photographs of Epstein’s figures from the British Medical Association, naked, genitaled figures holding babies and items of medical significance.

First room: sculptures of the – when? 30s to 50s? in polished woods and marbles, echoing the ancient artefacts from Egypt, Assyria, Mexico that inspired or informed them.  Skeaping, Gordine, Moore of course, Hepworth – an extraordinary phallic torso – Eric Kennington, an Indian style relief entitled “Earth Child”; which surprises when you go behind it to see it is cupped by a giant hand, Eric Gill – another relief of a nude girl with strong echoes (for me) of the Shobdon Tympanum – and Underwood, an “Embryo” and a “Nucleus”.  Laura Cumming in Observer says they suffer in comparison with the “old originals” – and she’s right, for the most part; the exceptions being the Moores and the Hepworths.

Next room, Epstein’s massively thighed and buttocked – well, massive all round really – carved albaster figure of Adam.  Giant penis flattened against thigh as if in a wind tunnel, or glued above the copious scrotal sac.  The penis looks as if it ‘s attached to a plate below Adam’s stomach.  The other exhibit in this room is a small, knotted, phallic snake in Aztec/Mayan style, by Henry Moore.

Next door is a bronze Adam by Charles Wheeler, standing alert, with conventional musculature and tiny genitalia, which won’t do, so close to the Epstein gargantua.  Nearby is Philip King’s “Genghis Khan”, a black cape with bats’ wings and an enthroned Victoria from 1892, by Alfred Gilbert.  It looks like one of those Indian figures encrusted with decorative flourishes.  There’s a gold crown and crusts of gilded decoration all over the throne.

When I was at school, I remember posters showing Peoples of the World, wearing national dress and doing national things; Eskimos fishing through holes in ice, Kenyan women with long necks stretched by brass rings, Swiss in leather shorts, blowing Alpine horns, Canadian lumberjacks, Texan cowboys… Everyone else had a culture, but we English were normal, lived in redbrick terraced houses, didn’t dress up; the others were exotic.  This statue of Victoria looked as strange to me as, for example, the saints’ effigies that are brought out from Spanish churches on saints’ days.

Victor Pasmore and Richard Hamilton next; a walk-through assemblage of hanging, coloured plexiglass (?) rectangular panels, making corridors and rooms by slicing the air into shapes.  Caro’s “Early One Morning”, the long, red metal structure like a plough with end plates attached; also cuts the air, but into different shapes.

Next room, Carl Andre’s 60 bricks, Richard Long’s “Chalk Line”, Keith Arnatt’s photos of “Self Burial” – going, going….  Tony Cragg’s “Stack” like a 10 or 12 decker wooden sandwich, stuffed with breeze blocks, blankets, rags, a red plastic bucket like a pickle.  Boyle Family (Irish folk singers?) *Olaf Street Project”, photo of a bit of road, tilted vertical, littered with rocks and a milk bottle.

Sarah Lucas, “Portable Smoking Area”,  chair with a large box on tripod tilted over it to be lowered over smoker’s head; Damien Hirst’s “Let’s Eat Outdoors”, a table set with plates of food and wine, white plastic chairs – and a thick carpet of juicy dead flies over all.  Fly executor over table, but we didn’t see any fatalities in the two or three minutes we watched.  A faint, urine-y, formaldehyde smell near glass – presumably flies rotting.

John Latham; his burnt books, smeared in blue paint and stuffed in a giant white, bursting eyeball.  Also three books set as if driven into a large, thick fragment of broken glass, hung on a frame.  On closer inspection, the books were a Qu’ran, a Torah, I think,and a Christian Bible.  Can’t imagine him getting away with that today, which is interesting.

In the last room, a boxed exhibit by Stuart Brisley, called “Null Comma Null”; in a container -like box, rendered virtually impossible to see by a blinding spotlight.  Catalogue says “It deliberately hides its contents, thereby creating an air of mystery..” ; certainly creates strong irritation.

So, some great exhibits (Epstein, Moore, Hepworth, Gill, Cragg, Hirst, Latham, Arnatt) but as Cumming says, no obvious logic in who was included and who left out.  A sample of British Modern Sculpture, not a survey.

Blackpaint

23.01.11