Posts Tagged ‘Turner’

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

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Blackpaint 463 – Awkward English Painters, Campion and Amis

September 30, 2014

The Later Turner, Tate Britain

Well, all the usual suspects are there; the Slave Ship, Sea Monsters, Burial at Sea, Steam Boat off a Harbour’s Mouth,  Parliament burning,  Rain Steam and Speed, Exile and the Limpet, the whaling pictures – and some of the most hideous gold frames you could imagine.  Apart from those paintings listed, the sketches of Venice and elsewhere in Italy and Switzerland are, of course, fantastic.  Maybe I’m Turnered out, though; I’ll go again this week and see if there’s anything new to say.

turner

 

Storm at Sea; Steam Boat off a Harbour’s Mouth  

Sickert and Bomberg on BBC4

Two great programmes (I missed the one on Paul Nash).  The Sickert one showed direct lines back to Degas and TL, and forward to Auerbach and even Bacon (the self-portrait).  The paintings from photographs – Edward VIII and the Italian Count (didn’t get the name) after the conference – were linked by Andrew Graham – Dixon to Warhol.  This was not such a radical idea; I came across the suggestion in Robert Hughes’ “Nothing if not Critical” the next day.

sickert1

The Bomberg prog did justice to the variety of his styles during his career and showed how his “Sappers” painting – is it still on exhibition in Tate Modern? – was based on the Caravaggio Crucufixion of St.Peter.  There’s an exhibition of Dorothy Mead, one of his best disciples, on in London at the moment.

bomberg sappers

 Bomberg, Sappers Under Hill 60

caravaggio st peter

 Caravaggio, Crucifixion of St.Peter 

Portrait of a Lady, Jane Campion

Watched a DVD of this film starring Kidman and Malkovich, and I was astounded to see a sequence in sepia straight out of Fellini – like “The Ship Sailed On”.  Moments later, it turned into Bunuel, when a plateful of ravioli pockets, I think, developed mouths and started speaking to Kidman.  Then it was gone and we were back to relative naturalism.

Zone of Interest, Martin Amis

This is the first Martin Amis I’ve read; it is gripping, and Amis has done the research on Auschwitz and the Holocaust that the subject requires.  He does, however, use the camps as the setting for a story about the commandant and his wife; not sure about this.  Maybe the only story should be the story OF the camps. He has a Jewish girl point at herself before her murder and say “Eighteen years old”.  I came across the source of this in “Rise and Fall of the Third Reich”, in the evidence of a German civilian who saw the incident at a massacre by an einsatzgruppe at Dubno in Ukraine, not in Auschwitz.  She was 23, not eighteen.  Still, there’s a good essay by Amis at the end and I don’t think it insults the memory of the victims.  Probably more on this next blog.

 

crete5

Cretan Plants (a Figurative Interlude)

Blackpaint

30.09.14

Blackpaint 462 – Constable, John and Albert, Turtle Burners’ Best

September 18, 2014

Alastair Sooke on Constable

Two things surprised me in this programme:  first, the fact that Turner was established as a Royal Academy member before Constable; I’d always thought it was the other way round (I suppose because Turner strikes me as the more “modern” of the two); second, the great enthusiasm for Constable in France.  Delacroix apparently repainted one of his own works after seeing a Constable.  The latter treated this adulation with contempt and steadfastly refused to go to France to promote his work.

Still not convinced by Sooke’s case that Constable was a revolutionary figure in the art world, however.

Programmes on Abstract Art, BBC4

I found the Matthew Collings prog great – an hour and a half on abstract art, what could be wrong? – but inevitably, some omissions.  Nothing, I think, on Lanyon, Frost, Hilton, Blow or any of the other St.Ives painters.  Hoyland was there, but not enough and the fabulous Albert Irvin surely was worth another ten minutes.  I like Collings’ own paintings – they always remind me of Festival of Britain motifs – but they don’t look much fun to produce.

High time Hoyland and Irvin had books on them produced by Tate.

hoyland

 

 

Hoyland

irvin empress

 Irvin

Virginia Woolf at the National Portrait Gallery

Not that many paintings – lots of photos, diary extracts etc. – but the few that are there are great.  There’s the Duncan Grant portrait of Virginia that looks like a Toulouse Lautrec, the Vanessa Bell portrait of her with the features practically omitted, except for the mouth and the Grant portrait of a Strachey (I think), sprawled along or across a red sofa.  The best to my mind though, is the little Bell portrait of Saxon at the piano; looks like a Gwen John to me.

vanessa bell saxon

BP Portrait Exhibition, National Portrait Gallery

The two paintings that I thought stood out at the Turtle Burners’ prize this year were by Richard Twoze and William Kloze – I hope I have spelt them correctly.  I didn’t pick them because the names rhyme; didn’t even notice until later.

Twoze painting of Jean Clark got second prize; the Kloze one, of his wife at home in Thailand, has that thing that Freud was so keen on – everything in picture is given equal attention (almost); the metal lamp, the copper-lit doorway; the rendition of the wife has something of Euan Uglow.

richard twose jean woods

 

Twoze

william klose

 

Klose

 

I am in Crete at the moment, but back next week.  Until then, old ones will have to suffice.

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Blackpaint

18.09.14

 

 

Blackpaint 446 – Poured Paint, Pigs, Saddam and Crocodiles

May 16, 2014

Helen Frankenthaler and Turner at Margate

A fantastic exhibition at Margate, unfortunately just finished.  I thought the comparisons between the two artists were totally fortuitous, but this didn’t matter at all, given the quality of work on show.  The Turners were all well known, I think; my favourites as always were the  watercolour sketches – and of the paintings, “Evening Star” and “Calais Sands at Low Water; Poissards Collecting Bait”.

The Frankenthalers were a revelation; the earlier ones from the 50s and 60s were oils, the later acrylics.  there was a wonderful film playing of her producing a painting by pouring thinned paint on a canvas on the floor and pushing the puddles around with sponges and mops.  A few below:

frank lorelei

Lorelei

frank 2 cromagnon

Hotel Cro-Magnon 

frank 1

 For E.M. (Eduard Manet)

Frank mountains-and-sea-1962

Mountains and Sea

This last one wasn’t in the exhibition; I include it because it was her famous “breakthrough” picture, painted (or poured and painted) in 1952.  In the literature, there is, as with several other abstract expressionists, a degree of dispute over representation and abstraction.  No problem here, though; it’s clearly a green rhino with blue feet and a body made of flowers, charging towards the sea.

Orwell – Animal Farm

Must be the sixth or seventh time I’ve read this, but I found I had tears in my eyes after the first of the massacres, when the dogs that Napoleon has been rearing in secret rip the throats out of the pigs who have been “assisting Snowball”, in his sabotage activities.  Robert Colls, in his “George Orwell:  English Rebel”, describes how Orwell was criticised for implying there was something inherently bad about the pigs (the Communist Party) in the book; there is no “mechanism” to explain why they behave as they do.  In reality, the revolutionaries in Russia came from a long tradition of clandestine, disciplined activity against the Tsars, involving terror and counter-terror, assassination, ruthless self-sacrifice and a readiness to use violence to further their ends.  This must surely go some way towards explaining the way events developed under Lenin and Stalin; you can’t blame Orwell for leaving this out – the book’s an allegory, not a history.

It brought back to me that appalling film of Saddam Hussein addressing a meeting of his Ba’athist party, while secret police tapped a succession of unfortunate members of the audience on the shoulder and led them out of the meeting to be shot.

As Orwell’s allegory stands, of course,  it seems that the pigs, under Napoleon, take over leadership and exploit the other animals because they are the most intelligent and organised and this leads to corruption – eventually, they are indistinguishable from the humans.  It’s unlikely that Orwell would have thought this an adequate explanation – to that extent, the criticisms are justified, to my mind.  Still one of the greatest works of the 20th century, though.

Autumn of the Patriarch, Marquez 

The author’s recent death sent me back to this book to finish it, after 20+years; should be easy, since it’s full of colourful sex and violence, skinning alive, feeding to crocodiles, assassinations and terrible revenges – but it’s hard going, there being no paragraphs and only one full stop every 5 – 10 pages.  I thought Krasnahorkai was tough going.  Makes Conrad seem like Stephen King…

Exhibition (again)

Re-visited Joanna Hogg’s new film at the ICA (see previous) and some new thoughts; the “trouble”, whatever it is, depression maybe, is his, not hers.  I’d forgotten the scenes in which she is obviously afraid for him when he’s locked in the toilet or bathroom and when she is so afraid that something has happened to him in the street that she runs out of the house in her underwear, barefoot.  The artspeak is good –  “Yeah, she’s totally into what I do…” – and the excruciating little exchanges on the intercom – “Do you still love me?”  “I’m cold”  “Do you want me to turn the heating up?” (pause) “Wouldn’t mind…”

I mentioned the “crazing” on the window pane in some of the shots – this was actually the reflection of thick, small shrubbery on the glass.

I’m really struggling with my latest canvas, which is a raucous blast of blood red, black and grey at the moment, so an old one to be going on with…

001

Blackpaint

16.05.14

Blackpaint 443 – Deacon, Cezanne, Fellini and Bragg

April 25, 2014

Richard Deacon at Tate Britain – until Sunday!

I was unexcited about the prospect of visiting this exhibition, since painting is more my thing than sculpture usually; that’s why it took me so long to get around to it.  I was surprised – it’s great.  Wood, metal, cement. sometimes all three together – wooden strips looping along the floor and rearing up like lassos; an oblong metal “shell”, open at both ends, with a flat metal lip overlapping and then blending with the edge of the orifice.  It just lies there on the floor, like a giant grey metal cream horn.

deacon1

A splintered and tortured steamed oak and metal structure, writhing all over the floor – how does he twist the wood like that?  I presume it’s made possible by the steaming process.

deacon2

A black “hogan” shaped thing, or maybe giant seed case called “Struck Dumb”, rather spoilt in my view by a red bow tie shape at one end;  “After”, a huge, “wickerwork” snake, curling across the gallery, stiffened by a wide silver metal band running from end to end.  A group of small, organic shapes, sculpted in various materials, like a group of sea creatures washed up by the tide.  And terrific, looping, diagramatic drawings with erasures and fuzzed lines in blue ink.

deacon 3

Great sculptures and great engineering.  It finishes this Sunday, so go this weekend.

Ruin Lust, Tate B

I thought this stretched the definition of “ruin” a bit far; there is a series of photographs by Gerard Byrne, for instance, which show hangovers or survivals of 60s design in present-day architecture and society – great photos, interesting idea, but not really “ruin”.  Unlike Waldemar Januszczak, however, I don’t really care if the concept is stretched though, as long as there’s some good art to look at in the exhibition.  And there is some; several paintings and prints of Llanthony Abbey to kick off.  I know it well and none of these look much like it (not that it matters).   The usual suspects are here; Turner, Constable, Wilson Steer.  There’s a mildly Apocalyptic John Martin, of the Pompeii eruption, which looks to me as if it’s happening in a vast underground chamber – my partner tells me he did some designs for sewers during the cholera epidemics, so maybe that influenced him. They are in Jeremy Deller’s exhibition in Nottingham, I understand.  Photos of stupendous German bunkers and gun emplacements on the Atlantic coast, by the Wilson sisters;  A couple of familiar surrealistic pictures by Paul Nash; a great Sutherland and a Piper church.

piper 1

I thought Ian Hislop’s description of Piper as “a committed Modernist, in love with the Olden Days” (The Olden Days, BBC2) was spot on.  Some war photographs from Rachel Whiteread and a Patrick Caulfield, which displays the contrast between his clean, radiantly coloured, graphic style and the ruinous subject matter.  Not one of the great exhibitions, but a good 30 minute job. if you are a Tate member and don’t have to fork out specially.

Cezanne and the Modern , Oxford Ashmolean Museum

This is just packed out with interesting things, as is the permanent collection at the museum ( I’ll write about that in next blog, along with the Matisse cut-outs).

The Cezannes are mostly watercolours; the best of these are one of a rockface or quarry, almost like an early Hamilton car fender drawing from a distance; and one called “Undergrowth”, I think, like a pen and ink and wash drawing.  Then, there is a single, large, unfinished oil painting called “Route to le Tholonet”, which has beautiful, subtle blue, brown and green hillsides behind a couple of tree trunks and a sketchy cottage – it’s oil, but it looks like watercolour, especially in the exhibition guide (good for £5).  Also pears in a bowl, a skull and a shimmering bottle still life.  Great St.Victoire, next door with the others.

Others: Great Modiglianis, one of Cocteau, pink cheeks, spidery body and features, wrists and chin and a male face, a Russian I think, with a crooked, “stuck on” nose;

A striking Degas nude, “After the bath, woman drying herself” – her bum is right in your face as you enter the gallery; she appears to be diving forwards, her arm and shoulder outlined in red, head disappearing behind divan, or whatever.  Her head’s in the wrong place, it seems to me, too far to the right…;

degas ashmolean

A Van Gogh, “the Tarrascon Stage”, the paint badged on thickly in sticky-looking squares;

A fabulous Manet, “Young Woman in a Round Hat” – on the wall above is a quotation from Manet; “There are no lines in Nature…” and yet, round the woman’s left shoulder and arm, a very visible black line.  Great painting though.

manet round hat

 

Soutine – these are a revelation; he’s much more than the sides of beef.  A thick red-lipped, crop-headed self portrait; A beautiful, sad-eyed portrait of an unknown woman in a black dress, with a dark blue background;  an awful choirboy and an awful hanging turkey BUT – three expressionist paintings of the town of Ceret, that look a little like Auerbach building sites, but with curving lines.  There’s a church spire from below looking up, recalling Delaunay’s Eiffel Tower.  Another, with two paths meeting to form a triangle, like the legs of that Boccione statuette… all done in the late 20s.

soutine 2

Fellini, “81/2”

Stunning opening and closing sequences – in the opening, Mastroianni (Fellini) floats high above, attached by the ankle to a line and to a car (it’s a dream sequence) – and the closing, the actors take part in a Dance of Fools, hand in hand, to the music of a clown band – shades of “The Seventh Seal”.

The Olden Days (BBC2)

I mention this series again, NOT because my son Nicky was a researcher on it (although he was), but because I was struck by the startling resemblance of Billy Bragg to the photograph portrait of the older William Morris…

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Heaven Only Knows (final version)

Blackpaint

25.04.14

Blackpaint 418 – Whiteley, Schendel, Shining and Drowning

October 24, 2013

Brett Whiteley

I’d hardly heard of the above Australian artist until I saw “Art of Australia” this week.  What a brilliant painter he was  (died of an overdose in 1993); earlier stuff looked like Diebenkorn a bit – later, shades of Roger Hilton, Bacon and, I think, Scarfe and/or Steadman.  He mixed abstract, figurative, letters, techniques in a manner reminiscent of Albert Oelhen (but before Oelhen?).  Fantastic.

brett whiteley

Mark Bradford and Larry Bell at the White Cube Bermondsey

Bradford does huge canvases – I estimate the largest are 20ft * 18ft (dimensions not given and attendant didn’t know).  He plasters them with paper, paints it and then rips and shreds it down with a power sander.   The results resemble road systems and landscapes – one is like a coastline, another a tsunami investing a coastal city, another, Turner’s “storm at Harbour Mouth” (the sander swirls on black are like the rings on the cross section of a felled tree).  Some are bright – blue, pink, orange, white – reminding one of Peter Doig’s early paintings; others, dark and oppressive, like Anselm Kiefer’s work.

There are two beautiful Larry Bell pictures; they are like crumpled tinfoil and celluloid film, printed onto white canvas.  there are many more, but for my money, they are spoilt by being on black canvas and in black frames.

Blue Jasmine

Saw this Woody Allen film this week – it’s Streetcar, set in San Francisco rather than New Orleans.  Cate Blanchett does a great job of playing a neurotic, pampered, addicted, desperate woman, once rich, now broke, dumping herself on her despised working-class sister.  Script is great, but you never for a second forget you are watching acting; it’s naturalistic, rather than natural.  I can’t help comparing it to the fabulous Joanna Hogg films, Archipelago and Unrelated, that I’ve written about – in which, most of the time, no-one, pro or amateur, appears to be acting at all.

Reading Sebastian Faulks’ A Possible Life, which begins with a WW2 training exercise; officers lead their men mistakenly into flooded area and a soldier is drowned.  Strangely similar stories from two sources; Pete Seeger’s song “Waist Deep in the Big Muddy” (I have it by Dick Gaughan on his “Sail On” album) and a Scott Fitzgerald story I read recently – can’t find it at the moment, he wrote so many stories.  The SF version is the earliest – I wonder if it’s the original.

The Shining

Watched it yet again the other night; like Goodfellas and Casino, you only have to see a few seconds and you are hooked – these films are Ancient Mariners.  I can’t understand why Stephen King hates the Kubrick film – it’s obviously a work of art, unlike most attempts at filming King books.  Kubrick changed it a bit – killed off the Scatman and left the Overlook standing, whereas King blew its boilers and burned it down.  I think Kubrick’s ending was better.  Pity about the Scatman, though.

Klee at Tate Modern

Went round this exhibition again, and, yes, I was rather snotty about it last time.  Room 13 is great, with the ones that are composed of dots and look like little tapestries – also the blue one, “path into the Blue” I think it’s called.  There’s also the miniature opera stage set that reminded me of Picasso’s “Night Fishing at Antibes” – but much smaller.

Mira Schendel

Great antidote to Klee – Brazilian minimalist, recalling Lygia Pape and Oiticica a little; wobbly square…  Triangles, bi-and trisected canvases; then, rough paint drawings and collages of bottles on bars, drips and splatters; some brilliant black ink on off-white paper, strong lines and jagged scribbles.  Then letters appearing and playing with typefaces; hanging tablets of rice paper; Eva Hesse-like tubes of gold-ochre, suspended from ceiling; silky, white nylon threads hanging in masses and curling up like hairs at the floor; a series of rough, eye-catching tablets on walls with bible quotations – she was a struggling Catholic, apparently.

schendel1

schendel2

Also visited “Art Under Attack” at Tate Britain; save that for next time.

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Work in Progress

Blackpaint

24.10.13

Blackpaint 379 – Respect, Abe; Straight Lines, Kurt.

February 1, 2013

Lincoln

It IS sentimental and over-respectful; too many adoring gazes from black servants, soldiers quoting the Gettysburg Address, heart-rending “freedom chords” at strategic points, telling you how to feel, as Adam Mars-Jones puts it.  Daniel Day-Lewis is brilliant and does “disappear into the role” (Kirsty Wark, I think) and it’s fun to play spot the actor in the supporting cast; there’s Shane out of “The Shield”, Layne out of MadMen playing Ulysses Grant – sorry, spoiler there – and that elderly, white-locked bloke who has been in everything since forever, playing Preston.  Tommy Lee Jones is great and Sally Field as irritating as ever.

Back in 1981, I visited Mormon HQ in Salt Lake City.  They had a series of life – size dioramas portraying the history of the Mormon religion. At times, “Lincoln” reminded me of this, especially towards the end.  However, one shouldn’t be too critical – it’s hard to see how Spielberg could avoid paying his respects, given Lincoln’s stature and the issues involved.  I suppose if someone over here did Churchill in WW2 it would be as respectful – or maybe not?  One last, obvious comparison: The West Wing.

Schwitters at Tate Britain

I can’t think of an exhibition I have seen in the last few years which had a higher ratio of successes to duds than this one.  The fabric and paper collages, though many were tiny, were great, for the most part.  Age helped, maybe, in that most were slightly browned and faded, softening the colours to pastel; fragments of words and numbers, for some reason, work well – maybe because they provide a sort of ready-made motif.  Easy to overdo, though, and he rarely overdoes.  I didn’t like the ones where he used cutouts of people; I thought that he strayed into surrealist, Max Ernst territory when he did this; one or two were almost like Stezaker.

Generally, Schwitters is best when he sticks to straight lines, unless he’s sticking a round object straight on; the ones with curves or painted circles I thought were less successful.  That goes, in fact, for the paintings in general.  There are some unremarkable portraits,  a couple of dodgy seascapes, some quite bad feathery abstract efforts and an especially bad “Madonna and Child”, like a wave with two rings on the crests.  often, the colours are too garish.

I loved the sound poetry – half recited, half sung, with the “words” on the wall.  Still, for me, the best of the large collages is the one that was in the “Migrations” exhibition a while ago – “Picture with Spatial Growths – Picture with Two Small Dogs”.  That great, convex sweep from top left to just right of centre at the bottom, on the area of black – from a distance, it looks like a painting.  Highly recommended; I’m definitely going again, soon.

schwitters2

Turner

Before the Schwitters, I took a walk through the Turner galleries; there are two new seascapes that caught my eye immediately – “Rough Seas” and “Rough Seas with Wreckage”.  Both very “abstract”, especially the first; superficially, from a distance, with your eyes half-closed, it looks Twombly-ish.

Sprout Gallery

Readers in UK and Europe might want to drop in to the above gallery in Moyser Road, Tooting, London SW16 6SE to see (maybe to buy) my paintings, or those of my partner, between Tuesday 5th and Sat 16th Feb, 11.00am – 5.00pm.  For those in the Americas, Middle and Far East and Australasia, I realise the journey may be a little too much but you never know…

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Blackpaint

1.02.13

Blackpaint 377 – The Chocolate Staircase and the Shinjuku Thief

January 17, 2013

Constable, Gainsborough, Turner and the Making of Landscape at the Royal Academy

Sounds impressive, but most of the pictures on show are etchings and other prints made from original paintings by the above.  I’m always amused to see the little figures in them – you couldn’t just do a landscape in England; it wasn’t a proper picture.  There had to be a kid with a cart and some cows, or maybe a mythological subject – a giant snake killing some chap by a stream, maybe, or some hero fighting a dragon.  I think it might have been Gainsborough who broke that taboo and did the first true “landskips”; have written about it in a previous blog.

Some really bizarre scenery on show – there are several etchings of cwms – is that right? – in Wales that appear to be surrounded by monolithic, flat faced slabs of rock, the likes of which I have never seen.  Plenty of thunderstorms, wild seas, rainbows, billowing cloud; a few beautiful, postcard-sized Constables tucked into corners.  And there are a few large paintings; dark and dramatic in the midst of all the black and white prints.

In the stairwell, an incongruous sight, but a very welcome one; a huge painting by Basil Beattie that looks like a melting, chocolate cream staircase on raw brown-green linen – a staircase in a stairwell.

basil beattie

Swinton and Scott Thomas

Watched films starring these two actresses in foreign films recently; Tilda Swinton in an Italian film, “I Am Love” (English title) and Scott Thomas in “Leaving”, a French film.  At times, I felt as if the two films were somehow bleeding into each other.  Both women married and comfortable/wealthy; Swinton falls for an Italian chef, Scott Thomas for a Spanish builder.  lots of torrid sex in idyllic, rural mountain surroundings; both leave their boring, bourgeois husbands for the exciting studs.  OK, the endings are rather different but the general situation and shape the same.  Continental art films – they can churn this stuff out endlessly.

Oshima

RIP. ” Ai No Corrida” I’ve got on video – yes! Video still working! – but will someone please bring out “Diary of a Shinjuku Thief” on DVD?  Can’t remember much about it from seeing it at UEA many years ago – except that I spent a rather sleepless night, tossing and turning, after seeing it.

Other films that need to be brought out on DVD as soon as possible (I’ve been looking for them for ages):  “The Damned”, directed by Visconti and “The Spider’s Stratagem”, Bertolucci, I think.

London Art Fair at the Angel

Went there today; a very mixed bag, but some beautiful paintings by Adrian Heath, Robyn Denny (especially), Paul Feiler. and two real beauties by Douglas Swan – that blue one with the yellow circle.

douglas swan

Also, however, some real clinkers – a terrible Keith Vaughan, an awful, and huge, Hoyland – red, green, yellow and crude – and Patrick Heron, especially one that looks as if he’s painted it over with white enamel.  It’s very heartening for a painter to see that the masters can knock out rubbish from time to time,too.

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Bloody Doors and Windows

Blackpaint

17.01.13

Blackpaint 372 – It’s all about women, beaches and room 47

December 20, 2012

Tate Britain

They seem to be re-opening the galleries one or two at a time.  Went there a couple or three weeks ago and there were no 20th century rooms open; now several rooms have opened up – the Frank Bowlings are on view again and the early C20th room, with some new additions.  There is a Christopher Wood, “The Fisherman’s Farewell”, a nice little Alfred Wallis view of St.Ives and a beautiful, leaf green Dora Carrington of two tiny female figures in Edwardian white, gazing at a huge green hill which overhangs them.

There is  a Stanley Spencer Resurrection set in Cookham; in the middle of the graveyard, several African women – are they all women? – , one wearing a set of gold neck rings, are among those rising ; what’s the story there, I wonder?  Apparently, Spencer was unable to give a clear explanation, except that the picture was supposed to represent a sort of universality and some stuff about instinctiveness – also, he was interested in African art at the time.

In the same, or maybe the next room, several beautiful Gwen Johns, especially one called “the Invalid” or “The Convalescent”; it’s next to Harold Gilman’s “Mrs. Mounter”.  And there’s a great nude by Wilson Steer – I always thought he did landscapes.

wilson steer

I like to do that thing of standing in the middle of the room and scanning round with half-closed eyes – yes, you get curious glances – to see which paintings grab your attention.  Sometimes, of course, it’s the most garish ones, like the Francis Hodgkin one with the green faces; often, it works though, and you get the “best” pictures.  This time, it was the Whistler “Woman in White”, leaning on her mantlepiece, her head against the mirror (surely the reflection is a bit too low?)  and – maybe in an adjoining room – that Vanessa Bell from 1912, of the women on the beach with the sun hats and the bathing tent.  Simple but magic and very early.

whistler

vanessa bell

Turner

There is a whole roomful of mostly watercolour sketches, clouds, skies, beaches, that are so much more beautiful (to the modern eye) than the more conventional of his big, finished canvases.  One in particular, called “A Lay In”(?), like ripples across a sandy surface.  Among the bigger paintings, one should seek out the whaler boiling blubber – it has a much longer Turner title – and the Doge marrying the sea in Venice – where else?

Hidden and Inland Empire

Great Michael Haneke film with Binoche and Daniel Auteuil, in which the French media bourgeosie are threatened and made uneasy by guilt over their colonialist past, embodied by an impoverished North African and his son..  They deserve it for being very smug and irritating, completely unlike the British bourgeoisie, who, of course, are neither smug nor irritating and always behaved impeccably in the colonies.  

I happened to watch David Lynch’s “Inland Empire” immediately afterwards; there was an apparent coincidence.  In Hidden, a sudden suicide takes place in room 47 of an apartment block; in Empire, Laura Dern shoots someone and then runs into room 47.  In Empire, a leering face with blood pouring from mouth, appears straight after this; in Hidden, there are mystery drawings sent – of a face with blood pouring from mouth.  I thought I’d discovered something here – but no, someone in a Southern California university has already written a long piece on it.

La Regle du Jeu

Schumacher the gamekeeper was played by Gaston Modot, who, as I said last blog, was also “The Man” in “l’Age d’Or”; I should also have mentioned the beautiful Nora Gregor, the fatal femme Christine – a cross between Marlene Dietrich and Kristin Scott Thomas, I think.

Happy Christmas to my readers.  Log on to Paintlater’s blog to see some fantastic AbEx paintings.

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Oceanic Orpheus

Blackpaint

20.12.12

Blackpaint 363 – Naked Smoking and Hoovering; watch where you drop the ash.

October 18, 2012

Richard Hamilton at the National Gallery

Paintings – although they mostly look like giant photographs – done with laser colour sprays on canvas, controlled by computer program.  Colour gradations, especially flesh tones of the young naked women who inhabit the pictures, are so perfect.  The naked women make telephone calls, hoover, wander around or take part in tableaux that rehearse famous historical paintings – Annunciation (Leonardo? Lippi?), Sanraedan’s cavernous Dutch church interiors, Nude descending a Staircase, The Bride Stripped Bare.  The “action” takes place in hotel lobbies, or Hamilton’s various homes – one at Cadaques, I was interested to see.  The main exhibit consists of three pictures, in various media and states, of a nude woman lying on a couch in a position reminiscent of a Titian nude, overlooked by portraits of Courbet, Titian and, I think, Rubens.   Here and there are areas of blurring that recall Richter.  The disengagement of the nude women suggest Delvaux’s dream women, to me at least.  The tones are mostly subdued greys and pinks.

Technically brilliant, I found them flat, uninspiring and  lifeless.  Why do people keep re-doing the Old Masters?

Before leaving Hamilton, I should mention Jonathan Jones’ review of same last week in Guardian:  “What a dude!” he was moved to exclaim.  Compare with Rachel Cooke’s comments on Conrad Shawcross (gorgeous) and Ed Ruscha (also gorgeous) in recent-ish reviews.  Good to see journalistic standards are being maintained in the broadsheets; that’s what distinguishes them from  bloggers.

Kitaj

Unfortunately, after the sarcasm, I have to admit to an inaccuracy myself.  I cited the Kitaj back as one of the great backs in art (which it is), but totally failed to notice that the model is smoking.  This is somewhat important, as the picture is called Matryka Smoking.  This compounds the error, since I said I thought it was Kitaj’s wife, Sandra.  So that’s that sorted.  My obsession with backs comes from my usual spot in the life drawing session – behind the model.

  Howl

Saw the film on Ginsberg on TV last night; great poetry, terrible animations.  Far too literal – spirit-like hipsters swooping about the night sky transparently, like Peter Pan.  The obscenity trial was good though, based on the actual transcripts.

Lemming

Much better was this French “black comedy thriller” with Charlottes Gainsbourg and Rampling.  The latter adopts a chilling deadpan expression, bringing to mind Robert Shaw’s great Jaws description of sharks’ dead, black, doll-like eyes.  Charlotte Gainsbourg, a bit like Keira Knightly, has one of those faces that shift from beautiful to ugly, vulnerable to contemptuous in an instant.  great film, very highly recommended.

Vija Celmins

At Tate Britain, small charcoal and graphite drawings and lithographs, mostly of galaxies and spiders’ webs.  the question, as with Anna Barribal (see  Blackpaint 358) is: how does she do it?  Surely she doesn’t put the black in, leaving thousands of tiny, blurred, round, white star spaces?  This again is an example of art which painstakingly – no, the word is not strong enough – obsessively, fanatically reproduces that which a photograph could, perhaps, also reproduce.  It’s fascinating. but is it any more than that?  No doubt it is,and someone will comment to tell me how.

A couple of other things from the Tate – a new Turner, “Venice, the Doge marrying the sea” or some such title; look at it from the archway, it’s brilliant from a distance, less effective close up.  Also the Yass wire walker film – if you watch it through the archways from the other end of the galleries, it looks great, painterly, especially the tower block.  The Keiller exhibition was being dismantled while I was there; huge crates labelled “H. Moore” standing around in the main hall; but I did have a good look at the Lowry, and noticed how weird his perspectives are; they seem to start again at the end of every street going away from you, like a mediaeval painter maybe.

Harris Savides

Obit in Guardian of the above, cinematographer on David Fincher’s “Zodiac” and so responsible for that great yellowish look that the film had – I don’t know how better to describe it, but it fitted the period and the theme perfectly – as did Donovan’s Hurdy Gurdy Man; what a sinister song.

Dinosaur Walk

Blackpaint

18.10.12