Posts Tagged ‘Vassily Grossman’

Blackpaint 391 – A Pair of Brown Eyes and Storm Clouds on the Volga

April 25, 2013

Tate Modern

Some other “new” stuff worth seeing that I didn’t mention last time:

Bill Woodrow‘s big elephant head sculpture, with car doors, unravelling maps and machine gun held in trunk;

Rachel Whitehead‘s sarcophagus-like black bath-tub thing;

Roger Hilton‘s waving, leaping “Oi-Yoi-Yoi”;

A huge Frank Bowling figurative painting, in style and coloration rather like an early Hockney, or maybe Kitaj;

A whole roomful of Chapman Bros. imitation tribal fetishes – look closely, they all have Macdonald’s motifs;

An apocalyptic Primrose Hill by Frank Auerbach;

A Bacon triptych;

Some of those lumpy sculptures by Rebecca Warren – I like them, but none have the presence and personality of de Kooning’s Clamdiggers.

There is a room devoted to Basic Design, with characteristic works by Pasmore, Richard Hamilton, Alan Davie, William Turnbull and Rita Donagh – interesting to those (like myself)  following the thread of abstraction in British art.

Finally, there is a portrait by George Clausen called “Brown Eyes”, which I didn’t mention before because I was afraid it was banal and sentimental.  My very unsentimental partner said it was “arresting”, however, so I mention it now.

clausen

Actually, it seems he did quite a few of the same girl, whoever she was, and when you look at several of them together, the sentimentality oozes back rather – but still….

Gert and Uwe Tobias at the Whitechapel Gallery

They are brothers, born in Romania.  Went to the private view for this last week, and felt – wrongly, I’m sure – that there was a smartly black-shirted attendant behind me the whole time.  There were certainly plenty of them, to stop you taking drinks upstairs or straying through wrong doors…

Large, bright, childlike images of E. European folklore on black backgrounds, creating a wallpaperish effect – lots of butterflies and other insects, strange birds – shore larks, maybe – thorny vines and spindly witch dolls.  Sometimes an echo of Picabia’s odd machines.  I enjoyed the smaller, brightly coloured pieces the most.

gerd and uwe

Upstairs were the photographs of Karl Blossfeldt, mostly from the 20s and 30s, I think, from the German mags in which they appeared.  Close-ups of parts of common plants that obviously echoed – or inspired – architectural forms.  Some looked like spiral staircases or pagodas or whatever; I wasn’t sure whether he was a scientist, an artist or some sort of mystic.  I guessed he might be a follower of Rudolf Steiner, but nothing on the internet.  That thing about natural forms reproduced in human works sounds very like Steiner to me.

Ilya and Emilia Kabakov,” The Happiest Man”( under the  University of Westminster, Baker Street)

It is “under” too; down the iron stairs and turn immediately right – don’t go along the underground delivery passage, like we did.  There’s notice pointing to the gallery, set just so you miss it at the foot of the staircase.

It’s a sort of underground cinema, with a little, cosy Russian room, full of knick-knacks, armchair, sofa, pictures on the wall, a kulak’s place maybe, not an impoverished peasant’s hut; you can watch the films through the window, or sit outside in the cinema.

The films are extracts from musicals of the 30s, 40s and 50s; healthy, headscarved, fleshy women, wearing their medals, running to work behind tractors or on combine harvesters; smiling, preening moustached men, flirting with the girls, Cossack hats set at rakish angles, plucking guitars – the song of the couple in the buggy sounded like “The Carnival is Over” to me – everyone happy.  The film was blurred and this added to the beauty of the images; buttery, tawny cornfields, golden dust,  HUGE, deep, deep blue skies, winding river (must surely be the Volga, or maybe the Don), crumbling bluffs, great, black, thunderous, rolling clouds…  The same colours can be seen in Sokurov’s “Save and Protect” (his version of Madame Bovary).

So, the beauty offsets the irony, somewhat.  Vassily Grossman’s “Everything Flows” has an account of the Ukrainian famine – man-made- of 1933, in which millions died and armed guards were placed outside villages to ensure that starving peasants were kept from dragging themselves towards the towns (nevertheless, some managed to make it to cities, where they presented a spectacle of horror to the citizenry).  Ilya Kabakov, I read in the pamphlet, acknowledges the realities, whilst admitting to the nostalgia that these films induce in him.  It’s a great exhibit and it’s free to see.

Oliver Stone’s Untold History of America

Brilliant to see this at the same time as reading Anthony Beevor’s history of WW2.  Stone makes a great deal of Roosevelt’s running mate, Henry Wallace; some sort of socialist, by US standards, apparently.  You get the impression from the programme that Britain, the USA and the Soviet Union all joined the war together, to crush Nazism – and then Britain and the USA sat back to let the Russians do it all.  It’s not the facts he states; it’s those he omits and the spin he spins…

Promised Land

Anti-fracking film, starring Matt Damon, set in farming town in mid-West.  Heart’s in the right place, but cliche-ridden (last minute conversion, emotive speech to erstwhile opponents).  Good to see Hal Holbrook again, soon after Lincoln, though.

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Great Leap Forward

Blackpaint

25.04.13

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Blackpaint 374 – Review of the Year (Yawn)

December 31, 2012

The Blackpaint Annual Review 

Exhibitions – went to about 40; these are the most memorable:

Bronze at the Royal Academy

That statue of the dancer that languished on the seabed; Praxiteles?  Maybe…

Also, the Etruscan smiley god and de Kooning’s Clamdigger.

Migrations – Tate Britain

The fantastic Schwitters collage and Singer Sargent’s Ena and Betty.

Burtynsky at the Photographers’ Gallery

Shipbreaking at Chittagong and the ship apparently set in a sea of coal.

Kusama at Tate Modern

The boat covered in fabric penises and, of course, the darkened room with mirrors, reflecting pinpoints of coloured light, with shallow water around the walkways.  Everything was interesting.

London Art Fair at the Royal College of Art

The beautiful Keith Vaughans.

Albert Irvin at Gimpel Fils

Blinding colours, stars, flowerheads, flak streams – he really does yellow well, not an easy thing.

Films

Once upon a Time in Anatolia – that apple bouncing down the stream bed in the night.

The Master – Dodd mincing about singing “We’ll go no more a-roving” to a room full of fawning acolytes – and suddenly, they’re all naked – or was it just the women?

Anna Karenina – the horse race, exploding over and out of the stage set.  Many disagree, apparently, but I think Keira Knightley is a really good actress.  Lately, it seems to me that male critics feel they can praise only the following actresses: Imelda Staunton, Tilda Swinton and especially, Anna Chancellor.

DVDs and TV Films

Where to start?  Ken Russell, of course –Women in Love,  The Devils, The Music Lovers, Gothic.  The last three fantastically over the top; Oliver Read tearing himself from a crucifix to couple with a swooning Vanessa Redgrave; how beautiful Glenda Jackson was as Gudrun Brangwen.

Red Desert (Antonioni) – those colours in the industrial landscape.. Monica Vitti…

The Gospel According to St.Matthew (Pasolini) – I had it on at Easter; one after another, my atheist children came in, fell silent, watched it through to the end.

Tree of Life (Malick)  – America’s Tarkovsky.  Beautiful, and like Tarkovsky, utterly devoid of humour.  These chaps know they are important.

Melancholia (Von Trier) – The opening sequence, that white horse falling backwards, Kirsten Dunst and Charlotte Gainsbourg both riveting.

The Leopard (Visconti) – Burt and Claudia in the ballroom scene, prefiguring “Russian Ark”.

Swingtime – Fred and Ginger awesome in “Pick Yourself Up”, beauty and perfection in “Never Gonna Dance”.

The King of Marvin Gardens – Bruce Dern and Jack Nicholson, both staggeringly good.

Books

The Grass Arena by John Healy.  Unique, I think; boxer, fighter, drinker, criminal, rough sleeper, chess master, yoga practitioner, writer…

Ulysses, James Joyce.  6th time I think.  Still the most important work of fiction in English written in the 20th century; difficult to see how any fiction could supplant it.  Also really filthy, sexy and funny.  How could he have written like that when he did?

The Road and Everything Flows by Vassily Grossman.  Sort of fiction, but Grossman often strays into journalism; not a problem as he has stupendous stories to tell, about the war, the purges, the gulag…

And here’s my best painting this year – Happy New Year, to those for whom it is New Year.

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Cap Frehel

Blackpaint

31.12.12