Posts Tagged ‘Van Gogh’

Blackpaint 647- Three at TB; Bowling, Nelson and VG

June 15, 2019

Frank Bowling, Tate Britain until 26th August

Brilliant show, and a real revelation.  I’d seen Bowling’s poured paintings a few years back at the Tate Britain, when they devoted a single room to them; in addition, there was the huge spiral staircase one that was on permanent display there (and which is in this show, of course), so I knew he’d had a Pop Art period, a sort of Hockney/Kitaj/Blake phase – see the first painting below.  There’s even a girl with a Who-type target on her tee shirt in another one.  The figurative elements gradually receded, however, until he arrived at pure abstraction – for a while, anyway.

 

 

I’d not seen these vast map jobs in screaming colours, though; Africa, South America, Europe, USA, and Asia are all there somewhere – though not necessarily in the usual positions (and, obviously, not all in the example below).

Bowling wanted – I think he still does – to be thought of as a painter, not as a black painter.  The poured paintings, for example, are not really about anything but colour and maybe texture; the properties of the paint.  When he went to the USA, he was out of step – his choice – with some of the black painters who were overtly political – some of their work was recently shown at the Tate Modern.  There is some politics on show here; this one (I think) is called “The Middle Passage”, a reference to the slavers’ sea route – but most of the (often long and oblique) titles are clearly personal, not political.

 

 

An example of the poured paintings, which he did on a tilting table of his own devising.

After the poured paintings, there is an “encrusted” period (see above); thick slathers of acrylic paint, often scraped or shaped into squares that look like slices of bread submerged in pigment.  Chunks or banana shapes of polystyrene are sometimes present, shipwrecked in the paint.  Still the colours though, are paramount.

 

 

These last two – the bottom one is huge, the other a much smaller panel shape – are quite recent; 2014-ish, I think.  So he’s still doing great work in his 80s.  Best in London, in my opinion, depending on whether the Bellany/Davie show is still on at Damien Hirst’s Newport Street Gallery.

 

Van Gogh and Britain, Tate Britain until 11th August

My fourth (or is it fifth?) visit to this show, and it’s still packed  every time.  You can get in OK but you will have to peer over shoulders or use binoculars to read the captions.  I think some of the links that the show seeks to make are rather contentious; I can’t see much similarity or evidence of VG influence in the Bomberg self portrait below, despite the caption.

 

 

Another Bomberg and the only still life I’ve seen by him; I suppose you could make a case for some VG influence here…  Great vase of flowers though. exploding in all directions – makes “still life” a ridiculous description, really.

 

The Asset Strippers, Mike Nelson, Tate Britain until 6th October

Nelson has been round the country, buying up redundant plant and machinery, which he presents as if each piece were a piece of sculpture in an exhibition.  Some are combined, that is, balanced or stacked on top of each other.  Lathes, milling machines, jacks, scales, agricultural machinery – is that a threshing machine? – knitting machines, sequin machines…  You think “Look at that machine!  It’s really complicated and it does one specific job.  What if someone says,” There’s a better way of doing that, we can skip that bit of the process by doing a or b or c…. “; That’s it for the machine – now it IS a piece of sculpture – or scrap.

 

Not sure what the “bed” of sleeping bags is supposed to represent, if anything.  Everyone in the exhibition seemed to be smiling, the old ones (and there were many) wallowing nostalgia; younger visitors trying to work out what the stuff was for.

That’s the three shows currently at Tate Britain; next time, Goncharova at Tate Modern and Huguette Caland at Tate St. Ives.

Three really old ones of mine to finish –

Angelico Tower

 

 

Fish Head

 

 

Red Guard

Blackpaint, 15/06/19

 

 

Blackpaint 644 – Van Gogh, Rembrandt, Symbolist Spiders and Greek Bees

May 20, 2019

Van Gogh and Britain – Tate Britain until 11th August

Starry Night, Sunflowers, Convicts and some famous self portraits are all here in this show, but are so well-known and frequently reproduced that I though I’d show only some of the other art on show here, either that influenced him or shows his influence.  Gustave Dore is a prominent one – others below:

 

Bomberg

Curious that Bomberg was an avant-gardist, almost abstractionist,  early in his career and later, went back to landscapes reminiscent of VG – an avant-gardist of an earlier generation.  Although I have to sai I can’t see much Van Gogh in this particular selection.  Actually, it’s not curious at all, is it?  Art history is full of examples of painters who started radical and went conservative later.

 

Richard Parkes Bonnington

Actually looks more like a Bourdin than a Van Gogh, I think, if it had been a beach scene that is; Bonington was only 26 when he died of TB.  Staggering talent; see more of his works in the permanent Wallace Collection.

 

De Nittis

As much Manet as VG, I think.

 

Harold Gilman

Gilman’s take on that VG with the psychedelic bark.  Either he’d been at the absinthe that day, or some secretion in his brain was producing that “creeping lines” illusion you get on LSD, as I am led to believe…

 

William Nicholson

Wonky looking base, but lovely flowers AND pot…

 

Spencer Gore

I love his violet shadows and the chiselled edges of the roofs and gables; a roomful of these might be a little insipid, though…

 

Unknown – to me anyway, as I didn’t get the name.

Clear VG influence in the sky and trees – as well as a touch of Hockney’s Yorkshire Dales?

Good exhibition, especially the flower pictures; not altogether convinced by the attribution of influence, though.

 

Rembrandt, “Thinking on Paper” at the British Museum Print Room until 4th 

One big advantage over the Van Gogh – the VG costs £22.00, This is free.  below, some examples:

 

The Three Crosses, 1653

Drypoint and burin on vellum.

 

Reclining Nude, 1658

Copper Plate.

 

Young Woman Sleeping, 1654

Brush and brown wash.

 

Self Portrait Leaning on a Stone Wall, 1639

Etching with drawing in black chalk.

Very different, aren’t they?  On the evidence of these four examples, even allowing for the different techniques, you wouldn’t know they were by the same artist.

 

Symbolist Prints – Print Room with the Rembrandts until 18th July

A visual accompaniment to the morally unsound, absinthe- and drug-suffused, sexually advanced world of 19th century French poets, with their drunken boats, evil flowers and lobsters on leads – have I got that right? – a series of atmospheric and beautifully executed prints, an example by Redon below:

 

Odilon Redon

 

The Beekeeper, dir. Theo Angelopoulos, 1986

I’ve just watched Angelopoulos’ sad and funny film again in honour of International Bee Day today.  The story line, which involves an ageing Marcello Mastroianni on a road trip across Greece in search of spring pollens for his crates of bees would probably attract the displeasure of critics if made now, since it involves – eventually – a sexual encounter with a much younger woman (although the encounter is sort of consensual).  Funny?  Unintentionally, I think – poor old Marcello is made to fling himself bear-like onto surprised and displeased women (one of them his estranged wife) and after a few seconds of desultory struggle, to give up and sink into a torpor.  It’s the contrast between the suave Marcello of “Dolce Vita” and the shabby hulk of the beekeeper…

The film ends with what I thought was a unique “suicide by bees”; the Wikipedia entry, however, tells me that the beekeeper is not dying, but actually signalling in Morse code with fingers I took to be drumming in agony.

An old one of mine to finish –

Skinningrove

Blackpaint

20/05/19

 

 

 

Blackpaint 637 – Bonnard, Nolan and Lift to the Scaffold

January 31, 2019

Bonnard, Tate Modern

I can’t really recommend this show too highly; I’ve been looking forward to it for weeks, been twice already and like everyone else, took photos of everything possible.  The colours are beautiful; mauves, blues, oranges, yellows (don’t know why I’m listing them, you can get a fair idea from my crappy, fuzzy snapshots below – all the good, clear ones were taken by my partner.

I was surprised at Adrian Searle’s negative review in the Guardian; despite giving a reasonably fair assessment of Bonnard’s achievement, he ended by saying he couldn’t get away from it fast enough.  No accounting for taste and Bonnard WAS a pretty dyed-in-the-wool bourgeois – he certainly looked it, anyway.  I suppose it’s all a bit old, white, privileged, domestic, smug, middle-class for Guardianista taste – but at least he’s Euro, not British.  Wonder what he thinks of Matisse?

One thing Adrian Searle is right about is Bonnard’s wobbly portrayals of people.  The faces are pretty rudimentary; Monchaty, his lover, for example, in the first real portrait in the exhibition.  One of the Marthes, emerging from the bath(s), actually looks like a sea lion to me.  Now and then, though, they are close to Degas.  While I am on about resemblances, here’s a few:  Peter Doig, Klimt, Degas, Vuillard, Goncharova, Van Gogh.  Didn’t bother with titles; too crowded to get them.

Something that the exhibition touched on was Renee Monchaty’s suicide, after Bonnard had decided to marry Marthe.  It didn’t say that Bonnard found her body in the bath.  This is of interest, given that Bonnard spent years after, painting Marthe in, and getting out of , the bath – you’d have thought he would avoid the setting.

 

.

Very fuzzy – a bit Vienna Secessionist, I think, with that monumental prone nude on the wall.  Dodgy armpit..

 

 

Detail of a garden – Doig-y?

 

Unusual sharpness to door frame.

 

In one of the rooms, some frames have been removed – I think the result is a big improvement on those great wooden gilt jobs.

 

Very poor photo, great painting, VAST bath (in one picture, it looks to be floating about six feet off the ground.  I think some of the background is reminiscent of Klimt.

 

Love the various planes of colour in this and the woman just visible through the opening.

 

Bonnard’s windows and doors are often wobbly; when the scene is outside, it can look like a heat shimmer.

 

 

Very unusual scene for Bonnard; non-domestic setting, lots of people.  Placement and execution of distant figures rather like Lowry, the colours pastel-like.

 

This one says Van Gogh to me (or might, if it was a person, not a painting…)

 

I love the orange cow, or calf, on the left – that’s where I got Goncharova from.  The painting’s massive, by the way.

 

Lovely painting – no comment necessary.

 

Ditto.

Sidney Nolan, BBC4

Some stunners in this great programme last week – and also some not so stunning (to my eye, anyway).  I was surprised that some of his portraits, especially the early ones, reminded me a little of (early) Lucian Freud; some of the later ones, veiled and distorted, of Bacon.  Here and there, you could see vegetation and rock as Bacon would have rendered it – and also, maybe, Michael Andrews.  And an echo, sometimes, of John Bellany (maybe that should be the other way round, but anyway).

 

 

 

 

touch of Brett Whiteley here?

Lift to the Scaffold, dir Louis Malle (1958)

Doing what the French do best.

Otherwise known as Elevator to the Gallows, tense, clear, cold film noir with perfect Miles Davis music and beautiful Jeanne Moreau, haunting rainy Paris by night, searching for her lover (Maurice Ronet, above right) – who is stuck in the elevator, after killing her husband on the top floor.  Like a fool, he left the rope and grapple he used to scale a couple of floors to the victim’s office, dangling from the balcony and had to go back to get it….  A couple of juvenile delinquents, as they used to be called, nick his car and his gun and go on a spree, just to complicate matters further.

Here’s mine for this week:

Slouching to be Born

Next blog – Bill Viola and Michelangelo at the RA.

Blackpaint

30.01.19

 

 

 

Blackpaint 505 – Francis, Rembr’ndt and the Chimp’nzees

August 2, 2015

Bacon and the Masters, Norwich (UEA)

Afraid this exhibition is now finished – I got to see it in its last week – so its a bit redundant now to review it.  However, I’m rather redundant myself, so here’s a few words.  First, I have to take issue with Jonathan Jones’ assessment in the Guardian; he thought the “Masters” (Matisse, Rembrandt, Velasquez, Van Gogh, Bernini et al), whose works Bacon used as  templates or providers of inspiration, actually made Bacon’s efforts look rather “silly”. His previous admiration for the British painter evaporated in the presence of the Masters.

There is no doubt that the Rembrandts are striking and the terracotta Bernini torsos staggeringly powerful, even though small; my feeling is, however, that Bacon’s work stands up well and does justice to those whose works he used – or rather, the photographs of them, since he famously avoided seeing the originals.

Take the paintings below, for instance; the powerful, sinister “Figures in a Landscape” (1956):

bacon figures in a landscape

 

or the portrait (1957) of Peter Lacey, Bacon’s sadistic “true love”, who did the painter quite serious injury in lovemaking (I don’t know if Bacon returned the compliment – I suspect not); I think the portrait suggests one of the Furies about to descend…

bacon lacey

or this great sketch or half-started work on linen from 1981, one of the three large sketches that begin the exhibition:

bacon three figures 1981

 

Here’s one of the Berninis for comparison:

bernini

The only Bacon that I felt was not up to par was a sketch of the Screaming Pope.  it suggested a Steve Bell to me…

Look closely at any Bacon and you will see how thinly and carefully he paints, with a stroke that is often very dry.  The portraits are painstaking and the famous distortion does not obscure the likeness in most cases; it’s dissection and reassembly, not butchery, not by a long way.

Afterwards, using one of the luxurious WCs in the Sainsbury building, I saw myself in the mirror which takes up the whole rear wall. Slightly crouched, toilet paper in hand, trousers around lower legs, furtive expression… a rather typical Bacon scenario, to match those in the gallery…

Watching an Arena DVD on Bacon, I was struck again by his odd pronunciation of Rembrandt – it was “Rembr’ndt”.  A while later he did it again with “chimp’nzee”.  I thought it was unique – then I watched a DVD on Auerbach and he said “Rembr’ndt” too.

John Golding, UEA

golding2

Up the stairs from the Bacon exhibition was this large show of paintings from Golding, a major British abstract artist, somewhat akin to Hoyland, I think, as a sort of counterweight to the great figurative master on the ground floor.  Here are three works, all large, from different periods.  This show may still be on – worth a trip to Norwich, if it is.

 

golding3

 

golding6

The Double Life of Veronique, Kieslowski

This film was on TV last week.  I can’t make my mind up about Kieslowski’s work – sometimes, as here, it strikes me as sentimental and soft focus, a little bit “Truly, Madly, Deeply”; she falls in love with a handsome puppeteer, for god’s sake.  Then again, he did “A Short Film about Killing”, with the long murder and the hanging scene….

Two old pictures that I have overpainted somewhat, to finish:

jungle

The Road to Mandalay

 

10th May 1941

 

10th May 1941

Blackpaint,

2.08.15

Blackpaint 503 – UrbanArtBrixton, Neglected AbExes (who happen to be women)

July 10, 2015

Urban Art in the street 

I’m exhibiting in the street in Brixton tomorrow and Sunday with a few other select artists – about 200, I think – between 10.00am and 6.00pm; come and see.

geometry1

Geometry 1 

Evert Lundquist

Swedish Expressionist painter 1904 – 1990.  Someone told me about this painter, who reminds me a little of Munch (can’t stand Munch, but I like this painter for some reason) and sometimes, a little of Van Gogh:

lundquist1

 

lundquist2

lundquist3

Grace Hartigan

Why no book on this great American painter?  She’s as good as Frankenthaler – but maybe not so innovative –

and not far behind the sublime Joan Mitchell, in my opinion.

hartigan1

hartigan2

Pat Passlof

Another interesting AbEx, a pupil of, and obviously influenced by de Kooning – but with a twist of her own:

passlof1

 

passlof2

And just for comparison, here’s a Joan Mitchell:

mitchell - george went swimming

Stunning, eh?  Anyway, desperately trying to sort stuff out for Brixton tomorrow, so will post now.  Few words, lots of pictures for once.

Megiddo

Megiddo

Blackpaint

10.07.15

 

Blackpaint 480 – Phallic Forests, Greek Mist and the old East End

January 29, 2015

Emily Carr, Dulwich Picture Gallery

Canadian North-West painter, died in 1945, did forests, abandoned Canadian tribal villages, totem poles, sea canoes…  She had several different styles – two  of these paintings could be Duncan Grant, a few others are close to Fauves, there’s a room of swirly treescapes that could be anthroposophical (except the colours were different), a few more that used the Van Gogh short line marks… Many of the paintings are oil on paper, which is not the best medium; they look somewhat brown and dowdy.  Canvases are better.  Oddly, she had connections with Mark Tobey, who I had always thought was a sort of abstract expressionist – his paintings are often in books on AbExes, anyway.  Turns out he was a “spiritual” painter (Baha’i faith) so they’re not really abex at all – more like visions of heaven or wherever.  The other painter mentioned in the exhibition blurb in connection with her  is the execrable Lawren Harris, member of the Seven, and painter of the white blancmange mountains (see previous Blackpaint).

Tree trunks and totem poles – bit phallic, really.  I could see her in therapy with Rebecca Front on “Psychobitches” (Sky Arts)…

emily carr1 emily carr2

 

London Countryway

For the last five years, a couple of friends and I have been walking in the countryside around Orpington in Kent (we only have one map) and following the various “Green” urban footpaths around London.  Judging by the following, Jonathan Meades had already done all our routes.  I came across this in his essay “Hamas and Kibbutz” – it’s pretty close to poetry:

…roads to nowhere whose gravel aggregate is that of ad hoc Second World War fighter runways, decrepit Victorian oriental pumping stations, rats, asbestos sheets piled up in what for obvious reasons  cannot be called pyres, supermarket trolleys in toxic canals, rotting foxes, used condoms,  pitta bread with green mould, ancient chevaux de frise, newish chevaux de frise, polythene bags caught on branches and billowing like windsocks, greasy carpet tiles, countless gauges of wire – sturdy strands it takes industrial kit to cut through, wire gates in metal frames, rolls of barbed wire like magnified hair curlers in an old time northern sitcom, chicken wire, rusting grids of reinforcing wire – flaking private/keep out signs that have been ignored since the day they were erected, goose grass, artificial hillocks of smelt, collapsing Nissen huts, huts full stop, shacks built out of doors and car panels, skeins of torn tights in milky puddles, metal stakes with pointed tops, burnt-out cars, burnt-out houses,  abandoned cars, abandoned chemical drums, abandoned cooking oil drums, abandoned washing machine drums, squashed feathers, tidal mud, an embanked former railway line, fences made of horizontal planks, fences made of vertical planks, a shoe, vestigial lanes lined with May bushes, a hawser, soggy burlap sacks, ground elder, a wheelless buggy, perished underlay, buddleia,  a pavement blocked by a container, cracked plastic pipes, a ceramic rheostat, a car battery warehouse constellated with CCTV cameras, a couple of scraggy horses on a patch of mud, the Germolene – pink premises of a salmon smoker, sluice gates, swarf Alps, a crumpled Portakabin, a concrete block the size of a van, bricked-up windows,  travellers’ caravans and washing lines, a ravine filled with worn car tyres, jackdaws, herons, jays, a petrol pump pitted and crisp as an overcooked biscuit, traffic cones, oxygen cylinders, a bridge made of railway sleepers across duckweed, an oasis of scrupulously tended allotments. (2008)

From “Museum Without Walls”, Jonathan Meades, Unbound pbk, £12.99

Voyage to Cythera, Theo Angelopoulos (1984)

cythera1

Stern, tall, uncompromising old rebel, dancing in the mist at the top of a mountain, back home in Greece after 30 years’ exile in the Soviet Union.  Later, towed out by the police, alone on a floating platform, in sheeting rain, to international waters.  Finally, joined by his wife, having cut the rope, drifting off together into the mist.  Fantastic – and timely, with the Greek elections.  Go Tsipras! Re-negotiate those terms….  You have time, as there are another four Angelopoulos DVDs in my Xmas box set….

cythera2

Nigel Henderson at Tate Britain

Free exhibition in the room to right at top of coloured stairs; it’s about the work of Paolozzi, the Smithsons, Henderson and two other photographers whose names escape me.  There’s a continually changing  triptych of slides projected on the wall,showing the very square Paolozzi – looks like a wrestler – seated amongst collections of Modernist art – think I saw an Adrian Heath – with Henderson’s fabulous photos of the old East End popping up right and left.  Old shops, markets, bombed-out waste land, coronation celebrations, cranes, under floor central heating… I’ll stop now, before this becomes another Meades – style list.

henderson1

 

 

water engine 2a

Water Engine 2 

 Blackpaint

29.01.15

 

 

Blackpaint 458 – Braque, Yoko and Johnny at Bilbao

August 15, 2014

Braque at the Guggenheim, Bilbao

First, a full-size ballet stage set; very rough-cut “curtains and crooked arches, roughly-painted houses, windows of a “working class section” of an Italian town – I didn’t record the name of the ballet. Quite strong resemblance to a de Chirico.

Next, his Fauvist pictures.  One or two look like the Soutine paintings at the Ashmolean exhibition, but without the Expressionist writhing intensity.

Early Cubist stuff – guitars, mandolins, Sacre-Coueur, a port scene – very familiar and formulaic, they appear to my jaded eyes; the usual greys and browns.  Then, the ones that Patrick Heron “borrowed”, only done about thirty years earlier – white outlines round black lines, black, brown, blue, green, yellow, flowers, jugs, interiors.

One beautiful, dark salmon-based one with sand mixed into the paint, looking great from a distance.  Ditto the pink tablecloth one.

braque red tablecloth

I wasn’t keen on the silhouettes of women at card tables, against large lemon-green patches.

Several of the paintings are on black, brown or maybe navy blue backgrounds; the best is the Packing Case.

braque the packing case

Then, there is the Billiard Table, with mysterious white lines binding it, or in which it appears suspended.

braque billiard table

There is a tiny “Basket of Fruit” that looks just like a Winifred Nicholson.  Lots of masks and fishes (black, red, spotted), newsprint, Picasso -like skulls and women – one, greeny yellow with a huge single breast rising from her stomach.

There are some statuesque, brawny women, reminiscent of those Matisse reliefs, with stylised brown breasts and a repeated stomach design like an X ray of the kidneys.

The final room has a series of tiny landscapes, several of which had a touch of Van Gogh – stormy skies, “V” shaped birds.  They (the paintings) are narrow and stretched, as if through the viewing slot of a bird hide.  Interesting that de Stael apparently loved these; I can only think it was the stripe layers that resemble his own late sea and harbour scapes (see last blog).  The last painting is very like Van Gogh’s crows over the cornfield, but with a big, black plough lying detached and still in the foreground.  Suddenly reminded me of the Lanyon sketches on paper, displayed at Gimpel Fils recently and reviewed elsewhere in this blog.

A brilliant show; I’m looking forward to trying painting on dark backgrounds.

Yoko Ono at Bilbao

Most of the stuff on show here is the same or similar to the Serpentine Gallery show reviewed a while back in this blog – the stepladder and magnifying glass, photos of the clothes cutting happenings around the world, a series of bottles of water, each labelled with a famous person’s name; a couple of condoms, half filled with water (I presume) and suspended; a joky room with a huge magnet attached to one wall, pulling kitchen furniture and implements off kilter; a load of furniture sawn in half.

yoko furniture

 

There is, however, a wall of meticulous ink drawings, done with thousands of dots, of intricate abstract geometric shapes, showing real skill.  That was a surprise to me (not the skill, but the anomaly of the drawings amongst the conceptual stuff).

yoko drawing

De Stael

At the Le Havre exhibition (see last blog) I got a DVD about the painter which is in French.  I can just about understand most of it, but was intrigued that they kept returning to the same picture, the giant one reproduced below.  It turns out it was the one he was working on when he killed himself.

de stael the grand concert

 

A Separation 

Riveting Iranian film, directed by Ashgar Farhadi in 2011; I’m still halfway through, but  it concerns the trials of a man and his daughter trying to get help to look after his father, who is suffering from Alzheimer’s, and the crises that arise from this in their lives and that of the pregnant woman they hire.  Not a happy film, but compelling, I suppose, is the word I’d go for.

Johnny Winter

Saddened to read of the death of this blues colossus the other week; the only way to negotiate the Scalextrix – style motorways before Bilbao is to put on Winter’s “Scorching Blues” and join in the mayhem to the appropriate sounds.

“…So much shit in Texas,

Bound to step in some”

(Dallas)

Next blog: Pompidou Centre and Martial Reysse.

175

Blackpaint

15.08.14

 

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 429 – Four Cities; Paris, Rio, Hiroshima, Nagasaki

January 11, 2014

Toulouse- Lautrec

I have acquired Patrick O’Connor’s “Toulouse-Lautrec – The Nightlife of Paris” (Phaidon Books) which confirms me in my opinion that TL was every bit as good as Degas; a few pictures below to back that up:

Lautrec - the englishman

The Englishman at the Moulin Rouge

lautrec5

Caudieux

rue des moulins

Rue des Moulins

I think the only real difference is the element of caricature in TL’s work, absent from Degas; maybe also the penchant for swirling, vibrant backgrounds as above, more reminiscent of Van Gogh than Degas.

Vitamin D2

Another Phaidon book, this one the latest in their Vitamin series of drawings.   My favourites:

Moshekwa Langa

moshekwa langa

A Turn in the South

and J Valentine Parker

J Parker Valentine

Untitled 2012

Langa’s highly colourful, Parker’s in that lovely, scrapey, rough, Diebenkorn-ish charcoal.  Nothing new, I know, but great.

Flying down to Rio

Fred and Ginger’s first film together, hard to get hold of as a DVD; my copy is Spanish and I have to watch it in English with Spanish subtitles.  The usual ridiculous plot, not enough dancing from F and G – but it’s worth getting hold of for the fantastic aerial sequence at the end.  Dozens of beautiful girls dancing, posing, stripping off (only to the swimsuits; this was 1933), on the wings of planes – to an orchestra conducted by Fred, playing in a hotel courtyard thousands of feet below.  I can’t watch any Fred and Ginger film without finding a foolish smile on my face at the end.

Command and Control, Eric Schlosser

Another Christmas present, this one containing some staggering facts.  here’s a sample:

The Little Boy atom bomb – the Hiroshima one – had a firing mechanism that included bags of gunpowder;

Nagasaki was an alternative target for the Fat Boy bomb – the first target was Kokura, but it was too cloudy to attack (only visual contact was good enough for the command structure) and the bomber went instead for Nagasaki, almost out of fuel;

No blueprints were kept for the Hiroshima bomb, so when the US government wanted to manufacture more, they had to reassemble the team and start more or less from scratch;

Most startling of all, Schlosser says that Bertrand Russell favoured a pre-emptive nuclear strike on the USSR in the time before Russia acquired its own bomb.  I’m only a hundred-odd pages in, so no doubt there will be more “would you believe it?” stuff.

New Colours

New paints for Christmas, as requested, some decent earth colours; when I use them, however, I tend to bottle out and revert to whites and greys and paint the same pictures over and over again.  Got to make that break…

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Work in Progress

Blackpaint

10.01.14

Blackpaint 322 – Canyons, Maggots and a lot of Trees…

January 29, 2012

Hockney at the RA

Went on Thursday afternoon and queued for only 20 minutes.  First, a couple of lovely, dour English paintings of Bradford scenes, then into the 60’s; cartoon boys tearing along in a car heading, so the caption said, from Switzerland to Italy, toothpaste colours in striped and chevrons, “An Ordinary Painting” with top and bottom balancing.

Then, some roaring red, roasted American landscapes; “A Closer Grand Canyon” (98) and “Nichols Canyon” (80) – the latter a fluorescent quilt, like that early Miro, the Farm, in the recent exhibition.  In the corner, “Garrowby Hill” and “The Road across the Wolds” (date 200?),  ribbons of road winding around hills, as the names suggest, the lower two thirds of each canvas flat , the top third a receding perspective of fading patchwork fields; really odd and effective. 

Watercolour trees and puddles from 2004, smudgy blue-grey skies – quite striking in their pallor, in the prevailing Ribena and lettuce-coloured surroundings. These must be the paintings that Alastair Sooke describes as “dull-as-ditchwater” in the Telegraph.  Welcome relief, I thought.

The hawthorn and blossoms were a highlight for me; big, square blocks of branch, the blossom squirming like bunches of white grubs on the limbs.  Ghosts of Paul Nash and maybe early Craxton hovering.

The uniform size and number of the IPad panels surrounding the room, I found a little off-putting; what stayed with me – the reflecting puddles and the swirling leaf/tree tunnels, created by multiple small strokes, the Van Gogh effect.

One thing very apparent, especially with the huge composite image of “Spring in Woldgate Woods” (2011), is the crudity of the drawing – the trunks are often just flat shapes, outlined with a thick dark line.  Flowers and leaves are simple shapes like cut-outs coloured in.   This may be the result of the enlargement of IPad drawings – I didn’t read the notes carefully enough to be sure.  However, it is even more apparent in the Yosemite pictures, which are recent and are definitely enlarged IPad images.  The only thing I really liked about these was the clouds in one of them.

There is a sequence of paintings in different styles which are versions of a Sermon on the Mount by Claude.  Hockney’s final version has Christ preaching on what looks like the top of a giant carrot.  These pictures seem somehow out of place, except for the carrotty colour.

The sketchbooks in glazed cabinets are good, but then, isolating and presenting images in this way gives them added significance – for me, the repetition and uniformity of size of the other images detracts, although it did occur to me that, if you saw many of these pictures in a gallery “on their own”, with  paintings by other artists, you might walk past them without a second glance.

BUT – having said that, a bit of distance makes all the difference.  If you stand right back, the other end of a room, say, some of them look great.  It’s obvious really; they’re made to be seen from far off.

I haven’t mentioned the charcoal drawings; they are really quite powerful – big, square cliff faces of tree at intersections and crossroads, looming like liners or huge black department stores.  One of them reminded me of an enormous black owl’s head.

To return to this thing about presentation for a moment – I saw the show reviewed on BBC4, the Review Show (appropriately).. and all the pictures looked fantastic – the winding roads and patchwork fields, the blossom maggots, the Technicolour woods, even the red-raw Grand Canyon.  Photographs, and especially television, glamourise everything drastically.  There’s no point in going to exhibitions, everything looks much better on the telly. 

 And of course, with IPad drawings there’s no texture, no lumps, bumps, trickles or ridges – just SMOOTH, how a picture ought to look.

Interesting to see the uniform chorus of approval on the prog for Hockney’s “positivity”; he has “brought the colour home” from the States; he is showing “bravery” for still doing new work at his advanced age (Leonard Cohen, too, got similar praise).  This positivity thing seems to be in the air in the art world; something to do with the Olympics, all being in it together, the Big Society – art in the service of society under the coalition.  Paul Morley, in particular, condemned any negative criticism of the Hockney and took a sneering swipe at the RA visitors as middle class, for making facetious remarks like “Too many trees” within his hearing.  Too many trees is, however, true and to-the-point. 

 One last thing – one test of a work to me is if the image stays in your mind with any sort of clarity, once you stop looking at it.  The Hockney pictures certainly do that.

Wilhelmina Barns – Graham

Just around the corner from the RA, in Berkeley Street, an exhibition of the above Scottish and St.Ives painter, showing a pleasing diversity if styles, from naturalism to total abstraction.  One glowing yellow ochre and brown harbour scene, resembling Prunella Clough’s early worker pictures; some lovely abstracts with magisterial brush sweeps of white; in a corner, a group of brilliant, brightly-coloured abstract shapes (with one terrible pink-based one, the larger one in the middle of the wall) and by far the best painting, a brown and red job that looked like a pair of pliers clenching a red-hot ingot – just like a Roger Hilton, I thought.  Great little exhibition, just right for my little British tastes.

The Russell Omnibuses on Elgar and Delius

Fantastic – the images and the music.  That avenue of  poplar trees filmed from below in a tracking shot in Elgar, the stunning acting of Max Adrian as Delius – “Are you ready, boy?   Take this down – Tan -ta-TAA, Tan -ta-TAA….”.  Russell was a great, great film-maker.

Blackpaint

29/01/12