Posts Tagged ‘Tracy Emin’

Blackpaint 336 – Tree of Life and the Leaking Pupae

April 10, 2012

Deep End

No wonder it sounded like a foreign film dubbed (see last blog); apart from main actors, most were German and it was filmed in Munich!  I wonder if that goes for the baths – I always thought in was an old public baths in the East End of London, Hackney or Tower Hamlets.

Jonathan Jones in the Guardian

Last week, this critic was saying that, with the Lucian Freud, Hockney and now the Damien Hirst exhibitions, women artists weren’t getting a fair share of showings in London.  Hard to sustain this argument, I would have thought; in the last couple of years or so, we’ve been to Roni Horn, Susan Hiller, Rachel Whiteread, Kusama,  Tracey Emin, Joan Mitchell, Lygia Pape, Mary Heilmann, Nancy Spero, Isa Genzken, Pipilotti Rist, Vaida Caivanho, Cecily Brown, Rose Hilton…  OK, the three blockbusters were all men – but Freud just died, Hockney has done a whole body of new stuff in his 70’s and Hirst is the world’s priceyest living artist.

Damien Hirst

At the Tate Modern.  All the expected stuff is there; the swirl paintings (impressive, I thought);  the shelves of packaged drugs (I was surprised how many of them I know by name – it’s part of modern life); the sharks, looking pretty shrivelled now, like flesh under water too long; the beef head with the blood puddle and the fat black flies dying in droves on the insectocutor; the cows and calves sawn in half (spine and gut street maps, if you queue to walk between the two halves);  the crematoria of stinking fag ends; the anatomical models and variations on same; but the butterflies were new.  That is to say, I’ve seen the wings before and the “stained glass window” type patterns assembled from them – but not the butterfly room.

This was overheated, of course, and painted white or hung with white canvases.  The walls were studded with a variety of strange pupae or chrysalises, which appeared to have exuded vertical streaks of coloured fluid down the walls.  The mature butterflies tended to the huge, and the highly coloured, iridescent blues predominating, I think.  On a table in the middle of the room, bowls of fruit, pineapple, melons, etc. were studded with insects, drunk on the fermented juices.  The experience was faintly nauseating, like the stink of rotting flesh and fag ends from the other exhibits.

We didn’t bother queueing to see the diamond-crusted skull, since images of it abounded – and to queue reminded me of lining up to see the saints’ relics in Santiago di Compostella and other Catholic shrines.  And the Crown Jewels in the Tower, of course.

Is it worth a visit?  It’s conceptual art; in this case, seen it once, no point going again – you probably won’t get anything new.  You don’t look at these things and think that’s great, I didn’t see it like that before.

Tree of Life

Terrence Mallick, just watched it.  First thought – he’s been watching Tarkovsky.  Next – when is all this religiosity going to stop?  The choirs, the heavenly music. the wafting white linen, the chubby babies…  Then, it’s “2001”; we’re in the galaxies, there’s the sea from Solaris, back on Earth, origins of life, Disney, Blue Planet, Imax, Jurassic Park….  Then, it suddenly gets better – we’re back in Texas in the 50s with Brad Pitt and the kids.   Then, 10 minutes from the end it becomes indescribably bad again.  Ditch the crap at the beginning and the end and it would have been fantastic.

Blackpaint

Easter Monday 2012

Blackpaint 325 – Fabric Penis Stalactites

February 16, 2012

Yayoi Kusama

This artist now in her 80s, has an exhibition at the Tate Modern at the moment and I went, expecting not very much.  From what I had heard, she was a performance artist from the 60s who now lived voluntarily in a mental institution in Japan, and tended to cover everything in sight with coloured spots, from tiny to huge.  True, but much more, it turned out. 

First, there is are some surrealist drawing/paintings, resembling vaguely threatening dragons or snakes, and then some quite beautiful small drawings/collages/paintings in vibrant colours; moons, bacteria, some that reminded me of Hartung, dots, lines, fish (deep-sea phosphorescent)… terrific.

Then, the “Infinity Net” paintings, huge, white, covered with little bobbles of paint, with maze-like patterns just visible.  There are nine or ten of these, and I must admit they don’t look that great in the exhibition book – better on the wall. 

Then, you come to the bit where she covers a variety of things – a rowing boat, sofa, armchair, ladder, cabinet, women’s shoes – with sewn and stuffed little bags in the shape of penises.  An old-fashioned kettle hangs from one.  By way of variety, flowers and macaroni are used to cover shirts and coats and there is an attractive “Bronze Coat”, covered with sewn bags like horse dung.  The echoes of Oppenheim’s fur cup and the jacket covered with glasses (Duchamp?) are obvious.  I thought the penises looked like some mineral growth of little stalagtites – very pleasing.

Then. you come to the dark room, covered with little reflecting coloured discs that show up in one of those fluorescent lights –  and then to the reflecting mirror room, in which hundreds (?) of little coloured lights succeed each other in casting reflections into the surrounding mirrors and shallow pools of water, creating ever-receding pinpints of light.   Careful here – one chap stepped unwittingly into the water.  In the photos, this room resembles a Peter Doig painting somehow; but not in the “flesh”.

There’s much more, but it should be seen, not described.  I have to say, I didn’t see anything here that indicated she was more mentally ill than any other artist – obsessive, maybe, but most artists are, really.  After all, doing art is essentially playing.  Academies have been set up, rules laid down, techniques set in granite,  critics like Robert Hughes intone solemnly on the practices of Auerbach, say, working every day, 10 hours a day, covering everything in charcoal dust, taking 2 years on every portrait – it has to be done properly.  Then, along comes someone who breaks all the rules, sticks up two fingers to tradition, and becomes a huge success.  I love it – long live Damien and Tracy, and Julian Schnabel, who Hughes doesn’t seem to like much.  Play away, make (more) shedloads of money.

Albert Irvin

I’ve just discovered Tate Shots on YouTube, which are short films on artists, talking about their work, and watched the one on Albert.  The paintings (which I hated at first) are now so beautiful that, if I weren’t a working-class boy from South London, would make me weep with ecstasy.  No, not really – but they are good, especially that one with the great, diagonal sweeps of purple with little splats of blue.  Nice bloke, too.  Fiona Rae’s film is good as well – she has a little gizmo for squeezing all the paint out of a tube; must get one.

Flodden, Albert Irvin

Fellini

I’ve just bought the DVD of “the Ship Sailed On”, by the above, but haven’t yet seen it; I am intrigued by the book I have on Fellini, in which he avoids answering the question “What is the significance of the rhinoceros?”  Needless to say, … well it’s needless to say, so I won’t say it.

Can’t decide which way up this should go, so here’s both until I make my mind up.

OR…

Blackpaint

16.02.12

Blackpaint 108

April 12, 2010

Blackpaint back

from Paris, with controversy and ignorant comment, bad art and dated musical references.  I see my readership has plummeted in the last few days; no doubt, this post will continue the process of decline.

Pompidou Centre

The lower floors have an exhibition of women’s art, entitled “Elles a centrepompidou”, mostly from the 60’s, 70’s and 80’s.  There is some brilliant, though familiar stuff (Dumas faces); some equally brilliant, though less familiar (Louise Nevelson, a huge black gate affair with Leger/Ernst- type shapes and Sylvie Fanchon, a huge sky blue canvas with bright red linked chain painted across it, just like a big Prunella Clough); and a few exhibits that a less principled viewer of either sex might have found provocative – even titillating.

First, a big B&W video by (and of) Hannah Wilke, in which she makes a series of ironic, pouting faces to camera and touches herself, performing a striptease.  Next to this, another video;  artist (Kiki Smith?) strips, or already is, naked and slathers wallpaper paste all over herself and rolls on the floor in wallpaper.  A small black sculpture by Smith portrays a woman prone beneath a goat which is apparently having sex with her.  My delicacy here is perhaps misplaced, because nearby is Betty Tompkins’ “Fuck Painting”, which portrays a large penis entering a vagina, I think from below, but not sure.  Nearby again, a series of small drawings by Tracey Emin, some of which at least, show an enormous penis moving towards an eagerly smiling cartoon girl, who is the same size as itself.

Like everyone else, I looked at all this solemnly and was reminded of Tompkins the following day in the Musee d’Orsay when I saw the famous Courbet picture of a woman’s thighs and lower torso, legs spread to display the furry vagina – and a group of six or so, including a couple of women, peering at it, absorbed.  The Courbet was the more accomplished painting, I think, though with less going on than the Tompkins.  More on the d’Orsay tomorrow.

Some more from the Pompidou women’s exhibition – Annette Messager’s rag dolls on long sticks propped around the walls; Eva Hesse’s giant white worms rearing up (perhaps some phallic significance here) and Lee Bontecou’s “Untitled” from 1966, a combination of painting and sculpture, curved surfaces bulging out from the picture painted cream, brown and red.  Reminded me of some Frank Stellas, in this “coming out of the wall” sense.

Finally, there was Eva Aeppli’s installation of 13 gaunt, gowned figures all apparently male, seated on folding chairs, in an unfortunate juxtaposition with Sigalit Landau’s “Barbed Hula” – a video of a female, bikini’ed torso hula hooping, but wait – the hula hoop turns into barbed wire! Marks left, but no blood drawn.  The juxtaposition is unfortunate, in that it looks as if they are ogling the bare belly of the hula girl.

Since many of these exhibits are 25, 30, 40 years old, the historical context has changed, perhaps largely as a result of the art itself: consequently, art that was once radical, startling, outrageous seems now very similar to quite mild pornography.  Something similar happens to all of us, I suppose; the difference is there’s always the chance that  it will all come round again for the art.  I hope I die before I get old.

Tomorrow, the rest of the Pompidou and the Orsay.

Listened to “Watch Your Step” by Bobby Parker; raw metal guitar riff nicked and slightly adapted by Beatles for “I Feel Fine”, blistering sax solo, soulful screaming and very disturbing “stalker” lyrics “..You ditched me baby, but you’ll get yours one day, you better watch your step…”

Also “Meet on the Ledge”, Fairport Convention, where Sandy comes in..

“The way is up; along the road,

The air is growing thin;

Too many friends have tried, blown off this mountain with the wind…”

Blackpaint 12.04.10