Posts Tagged ‘Twombly’

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

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Blackpaint 284

July 7, 2011

Cy Twombly and Poussin at Dulwich

Went round this last Sunday – then came news of Twombly’s death.  The obits always cast a faint sanctimonious glow over the dead; luckily, I wrote notes before the news, so can avoid the solemnity.

As always now, I try to avoid reading anything on the wall at an exhibition, or booklets, until I’ve had a good look at the art – so all I really got was that he used a lot of classical references (knew that already) as did Poussin, and presumably that provides the link.  They certainly don’t look much like each other, not even colours or forms.

The first room had a couple of large canvases in odd shapes, as if a giant ace of clubs were stuck onto the usual rectangle.  I recall a great, dark, grey-blue-green tumbling from top left to bottom right, with a froth of white against a creamy pink haze – like a huge ocean wave crashing down.

In the corridor, large rectangular canvases, some covered with Twombly scribbles and swirls in pencil, or pastel crayon, some with the white dribbles like semen, rough sketches of penises among other dubious items and thick clots of paint splashed on to harden; lines of poetry or names scrawled on canvases.

In the end room, the famous Four Seasons, in raspberry, acidic yellow, Prussian Blue, dark green.  One has Autumn scrawled on it, but they all looked like summer to me.  The smears and trickles and smashes of colour suggested Joan Mitchell a little to me.

The best works for me were two smaller ones in the corridor; Venus and Adonis, and Bacchanalia.  The first had a pad of pink that reminded me of the Osborne bum nose. The second was a rolling scrawl of black, grey and brown pastel like a brown wave rolling in, or maybe a tangle of wire.  Full of movement, lovely picture.  Both of these had pictures stuck to the top part of   canvas; the first an illustration of a rhubarb leaf (!) from an old book, the second a classical engraving of a number of figures.  When I skimmed through the book of the exhibition, I found that Twombly had done four or five of these Bacchanalias, for different months from March to November (the one on show).  They looked pretty similar to me.

As for the Poussins – two types; several dark, brownish, varnished look, like Sickert’s ancestor, the others the sort more familiar to me – the brighter colours, the big cast of parading or dancing characters, the reddish tinge of the undercoat.  The compositions are great, the figures wonderful – a Veronese back in one – but the faces crude.  An inappropriately serene Goliath’s head being carried on a stick like a huge toffee apple; a herm with a red face, which the wall labels (read after) linked to the Twombly rhubarb leaf, and which I thought was pushing it a bit.

So it’s great, if not huge.  Twombly’s pictures demanded a new way of looking that now is part of the orthodoxy, to go with Pollock’s spiralling drips, Rothko’s arches and all the others – we have Twombly’s scribbles too.

Tarkovsky

The boxed set is now out.  I’ve only managed Ivan’s Childhood so far – black and white, pretty conventional WW2 story line, but a couple of striking dream sequences and some great night time shots in the marshes (Pripet Marshes?) with flares arcing in the sky and dropping into the water.  Started watching, resigned to ploughing through a boring early work, but fairly gripped by the end.

Blackpaint

07.07.11

Blackpaint 278

June 6, 2011

British Museum

Spent just an hour wandering through the galleries on second floor; after a couple of minutes found myself deeply absorbed in those black and red earth pots that look as if they were made yesterday, rather than 2000 years ago.  Stories of Theseus, Hercules, the Trojan War, distance runners, javelin throwers…  Then, there were the paintings from the walls of Pompeii – Icarus nose-diving, Odysseus tied to the mast while the Sirens sing (harpy-like birds instead of beautiful women), Ariadne watching Theseus, leaving her abandoned on Naxos…  Then, those bearded, smugly smiling Cypriot statues, then the Judgement of Paris, done by the Etruscans in that Egyptian-style profile, cartoon faces with pointy noses and chins, eyes set halfway down the nose, copied the style from Picasso, maybe. A large plaster or stone plaque, showing Anthony “pleasuring” Cleopatra, as they say, in the back of a barge, while a boatman stares determinedly ahead…

Then, the Medieval Europe room, and the Tring Tiles; non-biblical legends of Jesus as a child, accidentally killing several of his playmates and then reviving them under the direction of his mother, the BVM.  Similar story on a Young Tradition album I have.

Back to the Greeks a moment – I was pleased to see how many different sorts of pots and cups and jars they had to deal with the task of wine drinking; the kratos for mixing, others for cooling, amphorae for storage with the long, pointed ends for handling.  Clearly, they kept their units up.

Tate Modern

Did the Miro again, and this time, I liked those metallic grey-black-brown ones with the piercingly bright red, white and black blobs crawling on them – “Escape Ladder” and the others – better than last visit.  I thought one of the burnt canvases looked OK; the others like try-outs.  Still liked the Black Fireworks and the condemned cell one, and this time, noticed the three wooden staves at the end – the King, Queen and Prince.  Thought they were quite good, as Adrian might say.

Mitch Epstein

US photographer, pictures of working and derelict industrial structures, oil derricks etc., in the coastal southern states.  In one photograph, of a derrick on the sea shore, the reflection in the water looks just like one of those “Season” Twomblys.

Do Ho Suh 

Look up – there’s a red polyester staircase starting in mid-air above your head.  A bit Whiteread, a bit Abakanowicz…

Painting

Seriously thinking about that good taste thing – that’s to say a picture looks good or OK when you can say it looks a bit Lanyon, or Scully or Twombly – you have to refer to some other painter who is good.  No point in that, really; but it’s really hard to get away from.  Maybe force yourself to stop before you’ve got it to that stage (i.e. when it still looks shit) or get a good Lanyonesque and then sabotage it with pink lines or something.

Un Chien Andalou

I was surprised to find, on buying the DVD (l’Age D’or) that the eyeball-slitting scene comes at the beginning, not the end, as I falsely remembered. It’s still very funny, I think; the bicycle crash, the desperate expression of the youth watching the ants run from the hole in his hand,  the two seminarists being dragged across the floor with the piano and the dead donkeys.  One of them was Dali (the seminarists, not the donkeys).  The youth reminds me of Richard E Grant in “Withnail”.  The end, with the two of them half-buried in sand, maybe lodged in Beckett’s mind; it’s like “Happy Days”.

According to Wikipedia, the woman in the film commited suicide – she burnt herself alive ; the young man also killed himself, with an overdose.  Bringdown, as we used to say in the 60s.

Blackpaint

06.06.11 

Blackpaint 183

August 27, 2010

Wolfgang Tillmans at the Serpentine

This artist seems to perplex some critics with his breadth of activity.  He seems to cover a lot of different techniques and subjects in his photographic work, to the extent that critics have wondered just what he considers to be art (see Laura Cumming, 27th June, in the Guardian): “Tillmans had no style but every style, no particular subject but everything around him”.  To be fair, Cumming is describing her reaction to him at the time of his Turner Prize award in 2000; now, her conclusion is that his art is about the processes and techniques  of photography.  If I have not misunderstood, that makes this show something like a glorified showreel.

To some degree, I think that’s right, but there are some striking images and several artists, painters and photographers, come to mind.

There are several huge photographs with a pink-cream base, which look like pinpricks of blood-red ink beginning to dissolve in liquid.  They could easily be Twomblys.  There is one even more massive, with indigo “ink”, in swirls that resemble comb strokes.  There are assemblages of glossy sheets, each in a different, bright colour, some folded and re-straightened – little Kleins?

Then, there are fuzzy black and white photos of a man working on  scaffolding; looks like photo-journalism, something out of Exposed at the Tate Modern, as if from a sequence.  Something is going to happen in the next frame.

 A couple of works have the scraped pattern appearance of Richters and  there is an enormous, glamorous portrait of female heptathletes at a  meet that immediately recalls Renike Dijkstra. 

The most memorable image is an unpretentious small photograph of a swimmer digging a splinter from his foot.  It’s a great shape – there’s something about the extended neck of the swimmer and his hunched figure and bent leg that recall a Figure at the base of a Crucifixion – the bleached colour photo of another swimmer apparently balancing on his right arm – or is he executing some sort of dive? – is marginally  less interesting.

There’s much more of note; flowers, parchment, electrical bits and pieces,  a cow tormented by flies, gardens, rockeries, drunks and scrapyards.  There is a desk display of magazine newspaper items relating to religious persecution of gays and women, genital mutilation and hangings in Iran. 

There is an aerial view of a huge industrial(?) complex or transport centre that I first took for a close up of a silicon chip.  On closer inspection, groups of tiny container lorries could be made out on roads and long ingots turned out to be sheds or hangars.  Big, square, empty areas give the impression of  flooded fields.  The inevitable comparison is with Gursky.

Very varied, then; painterly “art” photography, reportage, politics, portraits, huge, small, nature, industry….  No wonder he irritates critics – hard to get a “take” on, like, say, Gerhard Richter.

The Road to Mandalay

Blackpaint

27.08.10

Blackpaint 174

August 13, 2010

Frank Lloyd Wright

Documentary on the above on TV- I was amused by the fact that he was traditionalist as far as painting was concerned; he couldn’t make out the work of the Abstract Expresionists at all.  This in itself not funny, I grant you; but the Ab Exes such as de Kooning and Franz Kline vehemently opposed to his design for the Guggenheim in NY (the famous white spiral); they didn’t think it would show off their works properly.  Nice case of the traditionalist attacked by the avant garde for being too innovative.

I’d never heard the story of the murder of Mamah Borthwick and her kids at “Taliesin” in Wisconsin.  Mamah, for whom Wright left his wife and children and set up home in Taliesin, was axed to death with six others by a cook, Julian Carlton, who’d been dismissed.  He cooked their dinner, then poured petrol all round the house, set fire to it and chopped them down as they emerged.  Wright was in Chicago at the time.  So, Wisconsin Death Trip yet again.  To think I spent a couple of nights camping out in that state some years ago…

Wright rebuilt “Taliesin” on the same spot; you’d have thought he’d never want to see the place again.

I was intrigued at the difference between, say, the Guggengeim and his prairie houses and their furnishings; the latter had touches that reminded me of William Morris, those high-backed chairs, for instance.  And the low ceilings, to emphasise the horizontal distances within; I got the impression that the buildings came first, people later.  Unusual that, for an architect.

Guggenheim Bilbao 3 

The huge paintings room

My name for it, obviously.  Huge canvases by “post Ab Exes” (my term too, as far as I know).  It seems to me that the artists on display have only that in common.  Twombly first; “Nine Discourses on Commodus”.  Nine portrait panels in grey, with pink, white and yellow splotches and squirts, writing-like marks, sometimes drips and dribbles and at least one faint, sketchy grid.

Warhol – Marilyns on black, in greens, mauves, yellow too, I think.  150 Marilyns, if you count the top row of half Marilyns.

Yves Klein – huge, blue smash on canvas, done in dry pigment and resin, presumably to stick the pigment on – how was it applied? Naked women’s bodies, perhaps, although no tell-tale signs…

James Rosenquist – Raspberry, yellow and metallic silver-grey airbrush – a metal paint tube, possibly, or maybe toothpaste, with US flag stars.  Vast of course.

Robert Rauschenberg – my favourite painting in the building.  Black, white and grey, photographic transfers, painted on here and there.  The whole thing could have made 4,5 or 6 separate works.  It’s called “Barge”, for no obvious reason – maybe there’s one in it I missed.  From left to right, top to bottom: a screen,  a sketched box, several mosquitoes, an open-plan building, clouds, waterfall, umbrella, American footballers, black water cloud, shower, milky spurts, swimmers, space capsule, army vehicles, Velasquez’ Venus, a “spaghetti” road system top shot, prairie water towers, a parabolic structure, black shower, workers fuelling space craft, drawn box…. and so on.  Look it up on Google.

One more to come from Guggenheim – Rauschenberg’s Gluts, tomorrow.

Should have a new painting by tomorrow – here’s another old one.

Listening to Charlie Jordan’s Hunkie Tunkie Blues.

“Love you, woman, love your husband too;

Got to love your husband to get next to you.”

Blackpaint

13.08.10