Posts Tagged ‘Turner’

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

Blackpaint 304

November 10, 2011

A Canterbury Tale

The opening scenes of this strange Powell and Pressburger film are justly famous; Chaucer’s band of pilgrims ride towards the town (Pardoner, for example, clearly recognisable); the knight flies his falcon, which soars and becomes a Spitfire.  Cut back to knight – same face, but now topped by a 1940’s soldier’s helmet.  Fantastic, poignant – but I couldn’t help thinking that Eisenstein, or his editor, would have done it better.  There is a jump between the bird and the plane, not a smooth transformation.  Maybe I’m wrong; no expert.

It seems to me to be a strange, foreigner’s vision of rural England.  Dennis Price is an unlikely sergeant, with the accent of a toff – his cold eyes and brusque manner seem more appropriate to the serial killer he played in “Kind Hearts and Coronets” than the would-be church organist he plays here.

Then there is the absolute weirdness of the “glue man” story; a local (toff) magistrate, disguised as a soldier,  attacks young girls at night and pours glue in their hair.  Why?  To dissuade them from going with soldiers encamped nearby, who might be distracted from attending the magistrate’s local history lectures and learning about the Pilgrims’ Way.  I think I’ve got that right.

Nevertheless, it has a magic about it and some wonderful scenes of rural Kent in the 40’s – and there are the accents too.

John Martin “Apocalypse”

At the Tate Britain.  A whole Martin exhibition is interesting, but he suffers from the repetition of Apocalyptic and biblical scenes – I liked his paintings much better when there were just a couple of them in the old “Nutter’s Gallery” as we called it, decades ago, in cruder, crueller times.  Martin needs some Dadds and others to vary it a bit.  The searing, shiny pink deserves a special mention, as do the glaring reds and yellows.  His angels, I think are rather Turnerish and I see he uses scraping on rocks and mountains, as Turner did sometimes.  One or two pictures had that bejewelled quality that Gustave Moreau’s paintings have. 

 His version of Milton’s Pandaemonium looks just like the Houses of Parliament; the wall notes, indeed, say he was influenced by the plans for the same.  When all is said, though, he does a great lightning bolt and Earth turning upside-down.

Barry Flanagan

Also at the TB.  Later work is the sinister giant bronze hares, but I preferred (predictably) the earlier stuff – thick coils of yellow rope snaking across the floor, sacking, hessian (hanging and folded) or stuffed tightly with sand to make shrivelled vegetable shapes, or those odd, upright, cut-off tubes of sacking that look like shapes from a David Shrigley cartoon.  Wigwam shapes made from thick cut branches, bark still on – bit of a Beuys vibe, I might say, if I were not afraid of appearing pretentious.  And a few beautiful drawings, one of a figure lying prostrate, which look as if they were executed in a single, perfect stroke (OK, he probably had a few tries, picked the best and chucked the others away); impressive, anyway.

Biennale

Nick Relph – video with blue and yellow filters, hand drawn, over film – appeared to be about GIs in Korea or WW2, phasing into another one about the production of textiles.  Colours punchy and saturated, like Rist.

RH Quaytman – beautiful, black and white photographic print of sun on the surface of a lake, then zoomed in and enlarged in next one.  A sort of fractured, distressed quality to them, reminscent of Richter’s white pictures, I think.

Blackpaint (Chris Lessware)

10.11.11

Blackpaint 283

July 3, 2011

Last Year in Marienbad

Watching this, I have discovered, like thousands before me, no doubt,  the source of many parodies – especially that one where actors speak a pretentious sentence whilst gazing out at the audience and mid-sentence, the scene changes and they’re in different clothes or a different place.  This is not to denigrate the film – it’s beautiful (and so is Delphine Seyrig) and anyway, I love pretentious films; cliches and parodies are so often born from great art, n’est-ce pas?  Loved the Max Ernst feather dress, too.

It strikes me that L’Age d’Or could have been done as an “anti – Marienbad” – if it wasn’t 30 years older.  the couple in Marienbad are sort of polar opposites to the couple in the Bunuel film – stylistically anyway.. but now I’m starting to see parallels, so will stop with that…

Laura Cumming on Magritte

Last Sunday, reviewing the Magritte show at the Tate Liverpool, LC wrote in the Observer that Magritte’s work was “a sustained exploration of painting itself, how it works, what it can ever show or truly say”.  I think this is an astonishing claim for a painter who, most critics seem to agree, was no great shakes as a user of paint, but was a competent illustrator – a man who was a good commercial artist.  Surely, it’s the power of his images that makes him interesting, as well as the champion poster – shifter, apparently (or maybe it’s the most book covers).  His painting is as good as it needs to be to get the idea across – he’s a conceptual artist, who doesn’t really explore painting at all.

Cartoon Museum – Steve Bell  

This is in a little street opposite the front entrance of the British Museum and contains a great exhibition of Bell’s work.  I was surprised at how well some of his characters stand up after a few years (Bell turns his politicians into characters, for example the Iron Lady and Major with the underpants, Blair with the mad eye, Cameron with the condom head); I remember them seeming a bit crude and even silly to me, when he first did them.  Now, they strike me as epic.  Then, there are the variations on famous paintings; my favourites are Major’s underpants burning on the Thames (after Turner), Blair about to be inundated by an overcurling tidal wave of shit in the form of Gordon Brown (after Hokusai) and Brown as a boxer, flat on the mat, punching himself in the face (I think that was a Bell original).

There is also the French artist, the penguin, the monkey, the sheep, the chief inspector….

There’s a fascinating video of Bell going about his work at party conferences and doing his own commentary.  As you would expect, he finds a physical peculiarity and develops it – Cameron’s smooth cheeks and a certain wateriness of the eyes that suggest a fishiness to him; Osborne’s slightly bulging neck and, especially, the bum nose-end.  Go and see it, after the Australian prints and drawings in the BM.

Whitechapel Gallery 

Here, for free, is an exhibition of some of the art works that have been chosen by various politicians and diplomats to decorate their offices and reception rooms.  The one I particularly liked was a photograph by David Dawson of Lucian Freud, painting the queen.  She’s sitting there, in a plain plastered room (presumably in Buck House?? – no; St.James’ Palace ) with a crack running across one wall, in a very ordinary-looking coat – with her crown on.  More of this exhibition tomorrow, along with Vorticists, Twombly and others.

Blackpaint

02.07.11

Blackpaint 271

May 4, 2011

Max Ernst

Bought the Phaidon book on Ernst by Ian Turpin and was surprised by the variety of techniques and effects Ernst achieved over the years, many of which come under the heading of “oil on Canvas”.  frottage (rubbing of pencil et al over a textured surface), grattage (scraping away of paint), decalcomania (laying paper or some other medium onto an area of wet pigment and then shifting it slightly and peeling it away), this latter invented by Oscar Dominguez – as well as collage, of course.  Birds, plants, insects, plumage, jungle, psychomachinery, eyes, thin, overlapping panels of paint (colour fields, in fact) – echoes of Picabia, Magritte, De Chirico, Douanier Rousseau, Dali, even one that looks like a Chris Ofili! (“One Night of Love”, demonstrating yet another technique; coiling twine or string down onto wet paint and then removing it to leave the trail).

My current favourites are “Garden Aeroplane-Trap” from 1935, in which white, bony, plane-ish structures lie in wooden trays piled up into citadels, being crawled or grown over by pink, fuzzy, mollusc-like plants, or maybe shellfish – AND –

“The Robing of the Bride”, 1939.  A naked, elongated, high-breasted woman is cloaked in a robe of rich red feathers which mask her head and face, attended by a green feathered snake-bird man holding a big broken arrow, another long naked girl, and a four-breasted, little green Manalishi thing with a distended belly, picking its nose with a thumb.

What does it mean?  Possible sexual connotations, I would think – and the text refers to Duchamp, if that’s any help.

Phillip Taafe

At the Gagosian Gallery, Kings Cross.  Huge, high white walls, silent, suited security attendants hold the door open for you.  Various painted layers on paper attached to canvas – huge rectangular or triangular works in a range of bright colours; pink, greens, blues, reds,  oranges, often featuring masks (Noh theatre) and harem-like grilles.  Scimitar shapes, one with gold, spidery, bursting fireworks or stars, another like petals cascading down in straight lines.  Faint echoes of Ofili again, and perhaps Gilbert and George without the swearwords.  Wallpaper-ish sometimes, too.

Turner

That strange painting of Napoleon against a garish sunset, contemplating a shell – its in the Tate Britain, the one in which his reflection makes his legs look twice as long.  There’s an Ernst, “Napoleon in the Wilderness”, in which N is contemplating an encrusted, but otherwise naked woman, holding a saxophone-shaped strap thing with an odd little dragon on the end, where the bell should be.  Did Ernst know the Turner?  Turpin makes no mention.

Anthony Quinn

What a brilliant thug he makes in “La Strada”, displaying not the slightest concession to manners, politeness, normal social intercourse anywhere in Fellini’s film, beyond addressing the audiences of his strong man act as “Ladies and Gentlemen” and a nun as “Sister”.  Otherwise, he leans scowling against walls, scratching, smoking into his cupped hand, grunting, swilling wine, roaring about on his motorbike with the caravan thing attached – and fighting and beating people up, of course.  Haven’t seen him as Michelangelo painting the ceiling, but his Gauguin bore some resemblance to Zampano.  Actually, it was Charlton Heston who played Michelangelo, not Quinn (BP, 6th Dec 2011)

I love those Italian films of the early 50s, “Bicycle Thieves” and “Miracle in Milan” for example, with huge blocks of flats on wasteground, Roman ruins, people living in shacks, caves, dressed in odd bits of uniform, forage caps, greatcoats, driving odd vehicles (broomsticks in “Miracle”)…

Van Gogh

Was surprised to read that VG was barred entry to Arles, as a result of a petition by the people, shortly after the ear incident, and was locked up on grounds of public safety; up to that point in the letters, he seemed a peaceful and harmless sort of cove, apart from some mild stalking of his cousin and tiresome religious mania…

Blackpaint

3/04/11

Blackpaint 266

April 11, 2011

Susan Hiller

Revisited this exhibition, and found several whole rooms I missed the first time.  In one, a series of different films were playing, each showing a young girl – I think they were all girls – displaying psycho-kinetic powers; moving things until they fell off tables, causing things to burst into flames (think I recognised Drew Barrymore in “Firestarter”).  Then,  a burst of what the catalogue calls white noise and everything changes place.

The fact that they were all girls or young women is interesting; I suppose Stephen King appropriated the idea with Carrie and then Firestarter.  The first example I remember, however, was a short story about a boy with such powers, who destroyed or “rearranged” things horribly when he heard his family or neighbours complaining – so they had to spend all their time saying how good everything was.  Can’t remember the author – Ray Bradbury maybe, or Richard Matheson.

The next room was another video display, this time of characters from Punch and Judy shows, blown up and slightly blurred, to the soundtrack of “Night of the Hunter” – the bit in which Robert Mitchum delivers a sermon based on the “love” and “hate” tattoos on his fingers.

Finally, there was a video of tourists and shoppe rs passing through a number of Juden Strasses in Germany or Austria.  The bright, chilly blue skies, shops, strolling tourists, backpackers.. generally, everyday, banal scenes make a powerful comment on the vanished history implied in the street names.

So, some memorable images – but I still found, on looking at the catalogue, that I’d missed most of it!  Get this more and more, the feeling that I’d been to a different exhibition to the one described.

Emil Kusturica, Underground

Exhausting, full-tilt charge through from WW2 through to the civil war(s) and the break-up of Yugoslavia – comic, surreal, tragic by turns and the source, perhaps, of that Balkan Brass/turbo-folk style that you hear all over the place, from the Django festival at Samois to that manic gypsy band  on “Later”, to the trumpet-based buskers by the Millennium Bridge.  At the end, all the dead come alive again underwater, climb out onto Yugoslavia island and float off together into memory.

Four great under (fresh)water sequences – L’Atalante of course, Underground, Atonement (the fountain and Balham underground station) and Oh Brother Where Art Thou? (the flooding of the valley).  Saltwater – Jaws of course, Tabu, Gallipoli …

Laura Cumming’s Watercolour top ten

In the Observer;  The Turner, Palmer, Melville and Blake all good choices.  Ravilious boring – a greenhouse? – Gwen John OK.  Cumming’s number one was the Hockney self-portrait; not particularly watercolour, could have been oil or pastel, but a great SP – that intense stare that you get when you try to do a likeness of yourself.. like those descriptions of murderers – “But what I remember most, Officer, was his staring eyes”…

Michelangelo

At the time of his death, Michelangelo was still working on the Rondanini Pieta, now in Milan.  In it, the body of Christ is supported by the Virgin Mary – but it looks, in fact, as if she is being carried on the dead Christ’s shoulders.  In addition, Christ has a free-floating right arm, done in an earlier phase (the sculpture was begun in 1552 or 3), indicating a much bigger Christ figure.  It looks strangely modern, like a Rodin perhaps, and with a lovely, curving, downward sweep – echoing at the end the apparent modernity of Matthew, done in 1506.

Below, my cover for Greg Woods’ new collection, “An Ordinary Dog”, to be published by Carcanet Books this coming June.

New Rose

Blackpaint

11,04.11

Blackpaint 260

March 14, 2011

Mark Wallinger

Video installation  in the Tate Britain.  It’s been there for some time, but I took  the time to sit and watch it on Sunday.  It’s a film of people, mostly business types, coming through the exit gates at an airport, in slow motion, to some beautiful early church music.  The music and slow motion turn the whole thing into a ballet and endow every movement and facial expression with significance; raised eyebrows, for instance, to convey nonchalance, perhaps; a quick check of the mobile, a squaring of the shoulders..  At one point, a young man, student maybe, enters from the right with a cup of coffee, cutting into the path of a woman who has just come through the gate.  A collision seems inevitable, but no – they pass by as if the other did not exist.  In the final seconds of the loop, a young woman runs into the picture and towards the camera, again, close to an emerging passenger – and again, it’s as if they are unaware of the other’s presence.  The sort of exhibit that makes you want to go back to see if you missed anything.

Keith Arnatt

His “Artist as a Shadow of his Former Self” is worth a look (in the same room); just a photo of his truncated shadow on a brick wall, but with the title, and the wall, of course,  it felt related somehow to Banksy’s stuff, only years earlier.

Barry Flanagan

A whole room of lovely small drawings, actually prints, I think, of simple line drawings with a couple of portraits that reminded me of early Hockney.

Turner

Looking at the “Sea Monsters” in the flesh, so to speak, I noticed yet another imponderable – on the immediate left of the “face” (or the left hand fish, as I am coming to think of it) there is a thing like a head with a cap on top and blunt face with no nose.  Another sea monster??

Michelangelo

Vincent thought Michelangelo did legs too long – but that it didn’t matter; there was truth in the distortion.  He doesn’t say which piece or pieces he is referring to, unfortunately.  I have to say that I haven’t noticed any particular leg distortion, but I do have a problem with the breasts on “Dawn”, part of the Lorenzo de’  Medici tomb.  As Alan Bennett made one of his History Boys say, she has a man’s torso with a woman’s breasts stuck on – or words to that effect.  Or, maybe he was referring to the female figure on the Giuliano de’ Medici tomb, where the breasts are even more “stuck on”.

Michelangelo’s drawings of the Tasks of Hercules in the Royal Library at Windsor show poor Hercules getting a really painful looking chomp on the backside from one of the heads of the Lernean Hydra.  He wrestles with other heads and necks in the classic Laocoon pose.

Bela Tarr

The Wallinger shows how the right music and slow motion can make the ordinary fascinating and full of moment; Tarr’s film, “The Man from London” (see Blackpaint 256 ) uses the music in this way throughout throughout – instead of slow motion, however, he uses stillness and a development from dark to lit, blurred to clear.  In one sequence, a character is walking along a harbour wall and the camera, travelling with him, swings in such a way that he appears to be making no progress against the background at all – indeed, it looks as if he is walking forwards but moving backwards.  Highly unsettling.

Blackpaint

14.03.11

Blackpaint 259

March 13, 2011

Steve Bell

I can’t help but notice the likeness of Bell’s William Hague to the Martians in the Classics Illustrated version of “War of the Worlds”.  The Martians in Wells’ story were eventually killed off by bacteria…

Turner

I know this is trivial, but I’m constantly amazed at what I miss in his paintings.  For instance, “The Deluge” and “After the Deluge”; at first – and second – glance, I would have said there was nothing in the first painting but rain, sun (or moon) as a central light source, rough, indistinct land and water.  I missed the Ark in the distance, the procession of animals winding towards it, the wrecked house or tent in the foreground and the prone human figure(s)!  In the second, I saw the central figure and the snake, of course – but not the skeletons of fish littering the right foreground, nor even, at first, the scores of heads, like an audience at a public reading (which, I suppose, is what they are).  And I always have difficulty finding the hare in “Rain, Steam and Speed”.

Salo

The horrible cruelty in this film makes it difficult to watch, but I was interested to hear, in the accompanying documentary by Mark Kermode, that Pasolini regarded it as a critique of modern capitalism and mass consumerism, despite the fact that it is set in Fascist Italy, and the torturers are fascist officials.  It is suggested that the constant eating of faeces is supposed to represent mass consumption of processed and fast food.  The sado-masochistic sex Pasolini regarded as representing the commodification of the body (and everything else) in capitalist society. Three historic periods in one then; de Sade’s original, Fascist Italy and modern – or 70’s – Italy.

I’m sure that Pasolini would have thought his film irrelevant now, though, given the improvements in public life that have taken place during the Berlusconi era.

John Martin

Nice to see this painter getting an exhibition to himself.  I remember that The Tate, back in the days when there was only one Tate, had a room of Martins, and Dadds and I think Fuselis, especially that one of the Dream with the moths; we used to call it the Nutter’s Room in those less enlightened times – affectionately, of course.  There was that huge black gorge on the rear wall – “Gordale Scar” by James Ward.  Now, I realise that with the exception, perhaps, of Richard Dadd, who murdered his father, they were all fairly normal for Victorian Britain.

Blackpaint

Saturday Night

Blackpaint 258

March 9, 2011

Cumming on Spero

Laura Cumming on Nancy Spero at the Serpentine in Sunday’s Observer says the following: ” She did not paint with oil on canvas – the canonical male medium – and she did not sculpt.”  Instead, Spero used paper as a feminist statement.  I assume that the words “the canonical male medium” are Cummings’, since they are not in parenthesis in the paper.  It’s nonsense, isn’t it?  All of the women artists that I can think of paint with oils on canvas at least sometimes.  Ayres, Mitchell, Clough, Blow,  Frankenthaler, Krasner, Dumas, and on and on…..  Canvas is not “gendered”, as far as I can see, and neither are oils.  It’s OK – desirable, really – for Spero to have been a bit mad; she was an artist, after all.  Critics surely should maintain a – critical stance.

Having said that, the exhibition sounds worth a visit – “Men and women wheel through the air, impaled on helicopter blades.  Scorched bodies, the colour of burnt bacon…” – sounds like” Salo” without the shit eating.

Greer on art in the Guardian

Interesting article by Germaine Greer on above, in which she concludes that graffiti artists are true artists.  The sentence that caught my eye was this one: “(the graffiti artists) are working within a demanding tradition that requires the sequence of execution to have been worked out in detail in advance, before any mark can be made.”  This may well be so; it reminds me of Richard Dorment on Van Gogh, how (according to Dorment) VG worked out every colour and mark before starting a painting.  What a dispiriting thought!  No improvisation, no accidents, no going with the development, no errors and corrections, no intuition, no flying by the seat of the pants – sorry, cliche – what IS flying by the seat of the pants, anyway?  Sketches are usually better than worked-up paintings, anyway; more life, more fun.

Van Gogh

Probably mentioned this already, but I was struck by the description of his shading marks in drawings as being like iron filings arranging themselves around a magnet.  Read it in the Taschen double volume, but can’t  remember the source; good though.

Turner

A while back, I mentioned how there’s an obvious figure in Lanyon’s “Lost Mine” (in the Tate Britain), but I couldn’t see it for years until someone pointed it out.  Same with Turner’s “Sea Monsters” – I’d always seen it as one big fish face, staring out at the viewer; now, after reading the Taschen (I know, still no shares),. I can’t see it as anything but two fishes side on, sort of jumping at each other.

Entrance fees for London galleries and museums

Tristram Hunt’s bad idea.  Someone said to me its mostly foreign tourists who go – they expect to pay and can afford it.  Even if this were so, it seems to me to be something of a cheek to charge them on this basis; if they’re Greek, Iraqi, Iranian, Egyptian, Turkish, Afghan, Indian etc., they would be paying to see treasures that our forefathers disassembled and shipped home in dodgy circumstances.  We nicked most of it, didn’t we, one way or another.

Blackpaint

Shrove Tuesday

 

 

 

Blackpaint 257

March 6, 2011

Tristram Hunt

What is it about politicians with this surname?  first, the Tory Jeremy hands the media over to Murdoch and now, the Labour( !?) MP Tristram wants London museums and galleries to start charging for entrance, not just for “special” exhibitions.  The Murdoch victory was, of course, to be expected, but what is Tristram up to?  I remember when Blair got first got in and abolished museum charges, thinking to myself, well, whatever else they do, at least there’s this – as New Labour developed in government, this became more and more important to cling to.

Comes the coalition, free entry remains (so far); and now, Labour is signalling its end, through Hunt – surely, he ran it past Ed first.  Why? Presumably, because only well-heeled middle classes go to museums and art galleries, and enjoy that poncy rubbish.  And/or it’s the London thing; why should well-heeled Londoners enjoy this “privilege” when hard-up folk in Stoke et al have to fork out? And anyway, they charge in US and Italy, so it must be right to charge here.

Art, culture, history – necessities, not luxuries.  Free entry to museums and art galleries, the people’s palaces, paid for by the taxpayer –  a right NOT a privilege.  Abolish charges everywhere rather than hitting Londoners, some of whom are not bankers or millionaire pensioners.  So the Americans and Italians charge for entry? they also make you pay for medical treatment.

Fellini’s Amarcord

Another magical Fellini film – at first, I thought, surely the source of the dwarf killer in “Don’t Look Now”; there’s a scene in Amarcord where a boy wanders in fog, wearing a duffle coat and hood and looking just like Roeg’s dwarf from behind (although coat is grey, not red) – but they were both completed in 1973, so maybe a coincidence.  Also, the scene with the large-bosomed lady; possibly a source, subliminal maybe,  for Bigas Luna’s “Jamon, jamon”?  I loved the mad motorcyclist who tears through the town at intervals, to scatter everyone and get shouted at.

Leonardo

Interesting how its really his drawings that we love now; same with Michelangelo, I suppose (except for a few minor works, like Sistine ceiling and wall and a few sculptures).  I’ve been looking at the Windsor Castle drawings – in a book of course, haven’t yet received my invitation to the castle – especially, the pen and inks of the Neck and Shoulder of a Man, the Foetus in the Womb and the Studies for the Legs of a Man and of a Horse.  They’re so much more interesting than the paintings, aren’t they, really?

Same with Turner; the sketches of Venice and the Petworth interiors and sea and weather things, compared to those highly finished, ornately framed, formal history paintings.  Like Penguin paperbacks, compared to big old leather-bound volumes; give me the paperbacks any day.

Quiz

Which Russian exhibited “Black on Black” as an answer to another Russian’s “White on White”?

Blackpaint

06.03.11

Blackpaint 253

February 22, 2011

Susan Hiller

At the Tate Britain.  Three or four things stuck in my mind, but I’m going again because I’m sure there’s more to it.  Trouble is, you have to read the artspeak explanations to fully understand – and life is too short.  Anyway, this is what I saw (and heard):

A large collection of sepia to Eastman colour postcards of huge waves crashing over British promenades – some of these may have been altered by artist; not sure.

Recordings of one line phrases in dying languages, by the last living speakers.  Several First Nation tribes of the Americas – Welsh Romany caught my eye and ear.

A collection of Victorian memorial plaques to people who had died trying to save others; lots of fires, drownings, falls through ice, traffic accidents (horse-drawn).  Lots of children trying to save siblings.

A dark room full of a forest of hanging ear phones; voices telling stories in a number of languages, the one in English I listened to was about UFOs.

A series of vivid red and yellow photos under glass, of faces blurred and faded – all female I think (?)

So, dying, fading, becoming extinct, blurring, failing to communicate, haunting …..  Now to read the booklet and find out what it was really all about.

Fellini’s Eight and a Half (How do you do fractions in figures on a keyboard?)

Fantastic film, of course; Mastroianni as a preening, but harrassed, film director, pursued by adoring and demanding lovers, scorned by an inexplicably bitter wife, tortured by the idea that he may just be superficial and have nothing to say.  He wears his overcoat over his shoulders and has a floppy, wide brimmed fedora as he saunters through the film, greeting, blowing kisses, politely stonewalling..  It ends with a startlingly affecting sequence in which the entire cast parade down an open staircase into an arena, led by  marching troupe of musical clowns.  Reminiscent of the closing sequence of Russian Ark (see Blackpaint 232).

Franz Marc and August Macke

German Expressionists, both killed in WWI, I’d tended to conflate their work – but they are actually quite distinct.  Marc’s colours are darker and glow more intensely; Macke’s are fresh, bright and lighter.  Think I prefer Macke, at the moment; I love those women with the ankle length skirts and no feet, like bowling pins.

Turner

Andrew Graham -Dixon made an interesting observation on the Culture Show, that maybe Turner needed the medium of watercolour, its propensity to spread and run of its own accord, to achieve the sort of freedom he showed in “Ship on Fire”.  Maybe, but when you see what he could do in oils, the Petworth paintings, Sea Monsters, the storm at the harbour mouth with the long title – you know the one …

The Taschen is good on Turner’s perspective “problems” in “House of Commons on Fire” – check the far end of the bridge in relation to the fire – and in the one of Raphael in Rome – the balcony.  Does it matter? Of course not, but interesting.  Also, there is the recurring woman, rear view, leaning forward, in the Petworth and “bivalve” paintings.

“Fig Leaf” – Obscured Objects of Desire

A couple of things popped up on this survey of sculptural censorship on TV last night that were new to me.  First, the Greeks used to paint their statues.  Apparently, this is common knowledge to the decently educated, but was news to me.  Does that mean the Romans did too?  I would guess it does – which implies a break with tradition, on the part of the Renaissance sculptors.

Second, an explanation for the diminutive genitals on Greek statues; a small penis was a sign of “control and restraint – of good citizenship”, according to Stephen Smith, author and presenter of the programme.  This explains the small penis displayed by David – Michelangelo was following the tradition.  I’m glad to have an answer to this question, which I have touched on in earlier blogs.

The Risen Christ

Smith featured the above sculpture, in which Michelangelo presented Christ naked, with one arm around a cross.  It was attacked with a hammer by a monk in the 17th century and now wears a bronze loincloth affair.

Laura Cumming on Watercolour

Excellent review in Observer, except that she seems to share Searle’s inexplicable dislike of Blow’s “Vivace”.  Cumming describes it as “hugely inflated” – so it is, but in a totally good way.  Sometimes it’s right to blast away the understated, quietly magical, wonderfully executed, minutely observed, immensely subtle….  Chuck a great big bucket of red over it.

Blackpaint

22.02.11