Posts Tagged ‘Venice Biennale’

Blackpaint 609 – Soutine, Kabakovs, Green Penis Man and Giant Cloth Moths

November 7, 2017

Soutine at the Courtauld: Cooks, Waiters and Bellboys (until 21st January)

A great exhibition of Soutine’s colourful, wonky portraits that are so individual I’m hard-pressed to do my usual spurious comparisons.  Although maybe one or two remind me a little of Max Beckmann… and the ghost of Bacon is hovering about here and there.  I like that shoulder disparity below and, of course, the sticking-out ears, echoing the fall of the chef’s hat.  The sumptious blue of the background in the first portrait is worth mentioning too – Soutine uses it a lot.  He was a favourite of de Kooning; maybe some similarities there?

 

 

Ilya and Emilia Kabakov at Tate Modern: Not Everyone will be Taken into the Future (until 28th Jan)

Also one to see.  Ten rooms of the most varied works:  paintings, wooden model “theatres” that you peer into through little windows, full-size, re-constructed rooms full of artifacts, a winding, half-lit corridor, along which you walk trying to read the captions to the old photographs, led on by the voice of Ilya K himself, humming and crooning old Russian songs from somewhere ahead (Labyrinth (My Mother’s Album), 1990) – and the rear end of a train (the exhibition title piece, 2001).  The exhibition requires you to read the brief captions by the pieces to make sense of some; I don’t normally like doing that, preferring the visuals to do the work, but it’s worth doing here, to get the context of the Soviet setting.

The main tone is set by memory, nostalgia and fairly gentle satire; see the painting below, with its layer of torn, floating fragments, as well as the “Labyrinth” corridor.

My favourite piece is the model “Where is Our Place?” (2002 – 2017);  I missed the giant legs and feet completely until I read the caption.  Some of the paintings have a slightly Peter Doig feel to them (probably the “Snow” ones in Room 7) and the attachment of a severed arm to one item – I forget the reason given – recalled the current Jasper Johns show at the RA; very superficial connection,  I admit.

Ilya Kabakov was never imprisoned or persecuted under the Soviet regime, but showed only to “a close circle of artists and intellectuals”.  He married Emilia in 1992, after emigrating to the States.  It is not clear to me what Emilia’s contribution is – most of the pieces appear to be Ilya’s.

Venice Biennale (on until 26th November)

This year, the theme of the Biennale is “Viva Arte Viva”, a suitably Fellini-esque title for the often staggeringly pretentious pieces on show at the various sites.  This year’s theme is “The Journey”.  I quote from the Short Guide: “Along the journey of the Exhibition’s itinerary, the artists encounter each other; they draw near to, or distance themselves from one another, according to the affinities manifested in the impulses and stimuli which move them, in the challenges they must face, or in the practices they have chosen to follow”.  As far as I can make out, this means that some are like each other and some are not.  To give an idea of some of the pieces on display, I reproduce a few of the notes I jotted down as we went round the Giardini:

  • Huge fat blonde disco video (Divine?)
  • Eskimo paintings (Pootoobok)
  • Snow monkey video
  • Green penis man (Uriburu)
  • Trainer plant lattice
  • Hexagonal quartz pillars
  • Giant cloth moths

Plenty of variety, with the usual dubious connections made in the blurb(s):  migration, refugees, threatened ethnicity, climate change…  Below, three of the best from the national pavilions:

Frank Walter, Antigua and Barbuda Pavilion

“Outsider” painter (brilliant) and sculptor (not so good); lived latter part of his life in an isolated shack/studio, no power or running water, churning out the most vivid and exciting pieces on discarded and improvised supports, like old boxes of photographic equipment.  A couple of examples below – his colours are really piercing.

 

 

Geta Bratescu, Romanian Pavilion

This woman, now in her 90s, we knew from an exhibition at Tate Liverpool a couple of years ago – but there, the artworks were nearly all cloth pieces.  This time, her very varied graphic styles (she has at least three) are on display, ranging from the fiendishly detailed and accurate hands and mouth below to animated cartoon style.

 

 

 

Mark Bradford, US Pavilion

Interesting American artist who works on a giant scale, layering and tearing, scraping and sanding at his multi-coloured placards of paintings.  This huge downward bulge of a work requires you (or me, anyway) to stoop low as you enter the pavilion.

This giant head, if that’s what it is, reminds me a little of a Guston made out of Weetabix, or maybe shown on a giant TV with the reception breaking up.  Fizzing with energy.

Nothing completed by me recently, so best I can do is this work in “progress”.

Work in Progress

Blackpaint

5/11/17

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Blackpaint 518 – Last Venice; Red Roofs, Red Guards, Red Dress

October 30, 2015

Biennale – the Town

My last Venice blog – this Biennale, anyway –  is about the various exhibits scattered around the town.  In the case of Scully and the Bailey-Eno collaboration (see below), the magnificent venue is at least half the attraction.

Land Sea, Sean Scully

scully

Sean Scully

I’d considered Scully one of those one-trick artists whose work repeated itself, more or less;  stripes and intersections in greys, browns, blacks and whites, vaguely reminiscent of the side of a cattle truck  – and so, with sinister and depressing associations.  This show, of around thirty works, revealed to me a very different artist;  still stripes, but a variety of luscious colours and textures.  You can clearly see the thickness of the paint, slippery and glossy, and the sweep and chop of the brush marks.  Many are huge and some of the best are done on aluminium.  When he works in a variety of blues (the “Sea” bit, I guess),  he gets a depth and vibrancy of tone I’ve not seen matched.  The venue is one of those old, deserted mansions with ochre and sienna walls, roughly textured.  The walls made me think, totally inappropriately, of the Dirty Protest in the HBlocks…

 

The Sound of Creation – Sound Paintings, Beezy Bailey and Brian Eno

beezy bailey

Beezy Bailey 

This show is in the Conservatorio Benedetto Marcello, a working music academy in a beautiful seven or eight storey building with an enclosed courtyard.  As you climb the stairs, classical singing and orchestral music from the rehearsal rooms accompany you.

The paintings, vigorous, colourful, gloss on board, abstract and nearly abstract, are on the landings as you go up; some have earphones with them, through which you can hear Eno’s electronic music.  I found it pleasing, especially the one with the jaunty bass line and the unmistakeable whirr of an electric toothbrush, but not obviously connecting with, or enhancing the paintings.

Great view over the rooftops of Venice from the window next to the painting above; the slightly variegated roof tiles look like a Paul Klee painting.  As we descended, we couldn’t resist peering through a keyhole at a rehearsal in progress and only narrowly saved ourselves from falling forwards through the door.

 

Path and Adventure, Mio Pang Fei

mio

Mio Pang Fei

Chinese artist, now based in Macao, an astonishing body of work recapping Impressionism, Post Impressionism, Modernism and Abstract Expressionism, produced under one of the most hostile regimes in history.  A dim, crepuscular film playing, showing a series of horrible images from the Cultural Revolution; victims paraded with placards, heads bowed. as they are punched, manhandled, screamed at by manic Red Guards.  Many of those shown were surely shot soon after.  A line of nuns in white habits being given similar treatment.  Mio, on video, is low key and impressive but with no optimistic message for us – I’m glad to say; his work provides that.  Comparable with the ground floor of Russian pavilion.

 

…the Rest is Smoke, Helen Sear

More great art from Wales – Beddwyr Williams’ “Starry Messenger” at same venue two years ago.  The still below is taken from a looping sequence, in which a young woman in a red dress circles a beech tree, or maybe a series of beech trees, over and over again, caressing the trunk with one hand.  The tree trunks and leaves shine through her body; the reds and golds of the leaves echo her dress.  You never see more than the lower half of her face.  I found it erotic, hypnotic and ghostly.  There are other tree- and woodland- related images in the show, but this is the one that stayed with me.

 

helen sear

Helen Sear

 

 

work in prog 1

An old one of mine, but I’m anxious to publish.  Next week – Manchester galleries.

Blackpaint

30.10.15

 

 

 

Blackpaint 516 – Deaf in Venice; Biennale I

October 28, 2015

The Biennale

The 56th Venice Biennale finishes on 22nd November, so readers have plenty of time to drop everything and go.  If that is not convenient, you can view my highlights here over the next three days.  I’m just back from Venice, deafened by the constant click/buzz of photos being taken on phones, tablets and even the odd camera.  At the Biennale venues, saw many tourists just snapping everything, without looking at the pieces; all nationalities guilty, but some more guilty than others.  Two particular examples of photomania stand out:

  • a woman who sat in front of a 3D movie made by a Russian film collective and apparently attempted to photograph every frame (if films still have frames – they probably don’t).  She must have taken more than fifty pictures;
  •  in a square by the Accademia bridge, saw a circle of maybe 30 tourists round one of those central wells with the iron covers, all snapping away furiously; when they moved back, I saw the attraction – a ginger cat had been sitting there.

There are a lot of beautiful paintings in the Accademia,  Giorgione’s mysterious “Tempesta” for example, but the various Giovanni Bellini Virgins with child are the highlight for me.  He clearly used the same young girl as a model in several of the pictures and her slightly pudgy but somehow beautiful face is  obviously that of a real person, rather than some stylised ideal.  The kid’s not bad either, by the standards of the day, and that green panel in the background turned up in several virgins by different painters.  More Bellinis to come.

bellini1

Giovanni Bellini

Arsenale

There are three venues for the Biennale; the Arsenale, the Giardini where most national pavilions are situated –  and various individual and national displays scattered around the city.  I’ll do the three best from the Arsenale today, the Pavilions tomorrow and the scattered venues on Friday.

 

kay hassan1

Kay Hassan

South African artist; they are collaged faces, built up into thick, placard-like posters – or poster-like placards.  He calls them “Everyday People”.

 

helen marten1

Helen Marten

UK artist.  I don’t know how to begin to describe her constructions; they are made up, as you can see, of a multitude of..things and bits of things and are sometimes presented against a painted board background – or in at least one case, through a painted board background.

 

sibony2

Gedi Sibony

American artist.  His work is done on sheets of metal from cut-up trailers.  Logos or advertising material (these examples are drink cans) are then roughly painted over, in white, black, yellow paint.  Sounds like a crap idea but I think they look great.

sibony 3

Gedi Sibony

I’ve left out a whole load of great stuff – George Baselitz has some huge hanging figures (upside down, of course) that are sharper somehow than his previous work, as if done in inks.

 

polruan

Polruan

Blackpaint   28.10.15

Tomorrow, I’ll do the Giardini with the Pavilions.

If you do go to Venice, eat at the Rosso Pomodoro (Red Tomato).  Nice and informal, no pressure to have the expensive dishes, like elsewhere.  Have the spaghetti and prawns, chittara I think it’s called.  Fantastic.

 

 

 

Blackpaint 414 – Saggy Pottery and Flashing Images

October 1, 2013

Biennale – the Arsenale

Most of the artworks in the Arsenale are those of individual artists, but there are several national pavilions too, which I’ll cover in another blog.

I’ll mention four artists today:  first, Jessica Jackson Hutchins.  She does big, saggy pottery, drooping over the armchairs and paint – smeared leather settees.  sounds like rubbish but it’s brilliant.

jessica

Next, Eugene Von Bruenchenhein (yes, honestly).  Two very distinct groups of his work were on show; one, highly coloured depictions of organic or botanic forms, etched or drawn in great detail; the other, a series of “glamour” photos of his wife Marie, semi-nude, wearing colourful pieces of tropical clothing 50s style make-up.  I first assumed that these were self-portraits by a woman artist like Cindy Sherman, adopting a glamour persona ironically. I thought they had a sort of period charm and were really attractive.  I was surprised to find they were Bruenchenhein’s; no irony then.  Made me wonder if the content is affected by the executor; that is, are they different because they were taken by a man?

bruenchenhein 1

 

bruenchenhein 2

Now,Kan Xuan, Vietnamese artist.  Dozens, no scores of slide units, flashing up, in rapid succession, sets of related images in pink, green, red and yellow tones – stone lions, fields, diggings, trees – but too fast to get a fix on, to “consume”.  I was interested and amused to see several punters attempting to get still photographs of the images.

kan xuan

This difficulty to consume is also a problem (for me) in the work of Stan VanDerBeek

A huge curved wall as a screen for his 1968 film; ever-changing, overlapping, flashing up on the left, popping up on the right, there in the centre but gone before you can focus, much slower than subliminal, of course, but well fast enough for me.  Ginsberg dancing naked, Mona Lisa, old musicals, Reagan (of course), Martin Luther King (ditto)… a touch of Monty Python graphics here and there, no doubt they learnt from VDB…  Great soundtrack – Bessie Smith, Maybelline…  It’s suggested that this film prefigures the internet age and the way that children and young adults absorb information from a variety of sources simultaneously – mobile, lap top, TV, conversation – but I don’t think that’s right.  The young adult processes the various inputs for her/himself; VanDerBeek was processing the information for us.

vanderbeek

OK, enough for today, more tomorrow.  No new paintings, so must finish with a leftover life drawing.  PS – thanks to Cynthia Swain for correcting me on spelling of Hofmann.

 

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Blackpaint

01.10.13

Blackpaint 413 – Venice; Three Saints and their Beastly Companions

September 30, 2013

Guggenheim Museum in Venice

Just back from a week in Venice to visit the Biennale (bit late – it closes next month).  Venice full of German, American and Japanese tourists and very few native Venetians; the streets were practically deserted by 8.30 pm, apart from rather subdued groups and pairs of lost tourists.  The Biennale, both the Arsenal and the park pavilions, more impressive than last time; I’m going to blog every couple of days this week until I’ve done everything worth mentioning.  Some of the very best things we saw were not part of the Biennale however, but were at the  Guggenheim; four, no five new pictures hung last year.First, Hans Hoffman’s “Spring on Cape Cod”.

hans hoff at the gug

Next, de Kooning’s “Woman, seated”.

DK at gug 2

Joan Mitchell, Untitled, in her amazing, clean, cold greens, oranges, reds and blues.

joan mitchell gug

And Burri, brown and black, underneath a sheath of cellophane.

Carpaccio

Going back a little, there were the Carpaccios at the Scuola di Giorgio dei Greci; the famous St. George and Dragon with various scattered body parts – the lance seems to be on the wrong side of the horse’s head; wrong, that is, for martial, not artistic purposes.  In the next panel, George again, with the dead dragon, about to strike off its head for the assembled, be-turbaned crowd.

carpaccio1

Next, we have St.Tryphon, just like a little boy, with the Basilisk demon he has just exorcised from the little girl’s body.  It looks rather like a little donkey – pity it wasn’t a Gryphon, for reason of rhyme.

carpaccio2

St. Jerome next, with his newly tamed lion, trying to introduce it to a group of elders, who appear strangely reluctant to meet it.  And then, a much younger Jerome in his study, fine red leather chair, all sorts of scientific instruments at hand and a little white dog, looking on while he has his vision.

Don’t Look Now

Watched this again as soon as I was back from Venice and not much evidence of change in the last 40 years – the water ambulances are different and there were no giant cruise ships obliterating the views, but otherwise the same.  What I did notice was how everyone in Venice appeared to have some sort of secret personal agenda, signified by meaningful looks, gazings into the distance (priest), murmurs of “Ah, yes, of course” (police inspector)…  Only the English headmaster and his wife were free of the air of mystery – but they were in England.

More on Venice, particularly the Biennale, this week.

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Work in Prog

Blackpaint

30.09.13