Posts Tagged ‘Virginia Woolf’

Blackpaint 498 – Ice Cream at Tate Modern, Breasts at the RA

June 7, 2015

Agnes Martin (Tate Modern)

Happy Holiday 1999 Agnes Martin 1912-2004 ARTIST ROOMS  Acquired jointly with the National Galleries of Scotland through The d'Offay Donation with assistance from the National Heritage Memorial Fund and the Art Fund 2008 http://www.tate.org.uk/art/work/AR00179

Happy Holiday

This is the new exhibition at Tate Modern – those familiar with Martin’s work will know what to expect: the palest “ice cream” pastels (Neapolitan) , vanishing into near invisibility, stripes, huge grids done in faint graphite with tiny squares, a roomful of a dozen white canvases, occasionally, background fields varied by tiny, pale, differently coloured blobs…  Her early work, influenced to a degree by other abstractionists, resembles Pasmore somewhat.  Strangely, her later work appears, to a dissenter like me, to have more going on – a coloured stripe through the centre, a blue square, two black triangles with the tops snipped off.  This seems the “wrong” way round, somehow.  Still, if you emptied out your pictures early on, I suppose you start putting things in again, if you live long enough.

Like Rothko’s Seagram pictures, this is art that I think requires a contemplative attitude in the viewer that I am unable to sustain.  I hope one day to be able to appreciate them more fully.

My Blake Calendar

Below is the picture for June.  It shows Oberon, Titania and Puck from A Midsummer Night’s Dream.  I find it enormously encouraging that even artists of William Blake’s taste and ability are capable of turning out crappy pictures occasionally.

Oberon, Titania and Puck with Fairies Dancing circa 1786 William Blake 1757-1827 Presented by Alfred A. de Pass in memory of his wife Ethel 1910 http://www.tate.org.uk/art/work/N02686

National Portrait Gallery

I wrote about this beautiful little portrait of Hardy a few months ago.

hardy strang

 Thomas Hardy, William Strang

A little while later, I bought a 70s Penguin paperback of EM Forster’s “The Longest Journey”; on the cover was this picture, also by Strang, called “Bank Holiday”.

Bank Holiday 1912 William Strang 1859-1921 Presented by F. Howard through the National Loan Exhibitions Committee 1922 http://www.tate.org.uk/art/work/N03036

I think it’s great – totally unlike the Hardy; for some reason, it makes me think of Norman Rockwell.

Forster and Woolf

While I’m on the subject of Forster and the above novel, I found it interesting that he, like Virginia Woolf (Lighthouse, Jacob’s Room, The Voyage Out), occasionally kills his characters off with quite brutal suddenness.  He does in this, anyway; I wonder if there was any influence, and if so, in which direction?

 Back to the NPG

Below are two more arresting paintings, both by John Collier.  The first is, of course, Charles Darwin; the second, the Labour and later, Liberal, politician, John Burns.  I suppose it’s partly the full square stance of both subjects and Burns’ hands on hips – defiance? frankness?  I have to say that Darwin’s picture reminds me faintly of an orang utan – in a good way – but I think that may be because it was parodied in a cartoon and I “see” the parody…

collier darwin

Darwin, John Collier 

by John Collier, oil on canvas, 1889

 

John Burns, John Collier

RA Summer Exhibition 

Proper review of this next week, but in the meantime, here is by far the best painting in the exhibition – the fact that Marion Jones is my partner has no bearing, obviously, on my opinion.

marion RA

 

Bars and Triangles, Marion Jones

Diebenkorn, RA

I made my third visit to the brilliant Diebenkorn exhibition after the RA Summer Show – I started seeing great little paintings within paintings in the earlier abstracts, Albuquerque and Urbana series; little sections that would make paintings in themselves.  I started to see slight parallels with some of Nicolas de Stael’s landscapes, especially “Sea Wall”.  But most startlingly, I saw breasts everywhere.  In “Albuquerque 57”  (below) for instance, there is a very clear sketch of a pair of breasts that I hadn’t noticed before.  After that, I saw them everywhere in these abstracts, mostly in the shape of the lobes.

diebenkorn berkeley 57

 

Just above the green and yellow rectangular shapes.

To finish, here is a minimalist work of mine, in homage to Agnes Martin:

Close of a long day

Close of a Long Day

Blackpaint

6.6.15

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Blackpaint 462 – Constable, John and Albert, Turtle Burners’ Best

September 18, 2014

Alastair Sooke on Constable

Two things surprised me in this programme:  first, the fact that Turner was established as a Royal Academy member before Constable; I’d always thought it was the other way round (I suppose because Turner strikes me as the more “modern” of the two); second, the great enthusiasm for Constable in France.  Delacroix apparently repainted one of his own works after seeing a Constable.  The latter treated this adulation with contempt and steadfastly refused to go to France to promote his work.

Still not convinced by Sooke’s case that Constable was a revolutionary figure in the art world, however.

Programmes on Abstract Art, BBC4

I found the Matthew Collings prog great – an hour and a half on abstract art, what could be wrong? – but inevitably, some omissions.  Nothing, I think, on Lanyon, Frost, Hilton, Blow or any of the other St.Ives painters.  Hoyland was there, but not enough and the fabulous Albert Irvin surely was worth another ten minutes.  I like Collings’ own paintings – they always remind me of Festival of Britain motifs – but they don’t look much fun to produce.

High time Hoyland and Irvin had books on them produced by Tate.

hoyland

 

 

Hoyland

irvin empress

 Irvin

Virginia Woolf at the National Portrait Gallery

Not that many paintings – lots of photos, diary extracts etc. – but the few that are there are great.  There’s the Duncan Grant portrait of Virginia that looks like a Toulouse Lautrec, the Vanessa Bell portrait of her with the features practically omitted, except for the mouth and the Grant portrait of a Strachey (I think), sprawled along or across a red sofa.  The best to my mind though, is the little Bell portrait of Saxon at the piano; looks like a Gwen John to me.

vanessa bell saxon

BP Portrait Exhibition, National Portrait Gallery

The two paintings that I thought stood out at the Turtle Burners’ prize this year were by Richard Twoze and William Kloze – I hope I have spelt them correctly.  I didn’t pick them because the names rhyme; didn’t even notice until later.

Twoze painting of Jean Clark got second prize; the Kloze one, of his wife at home in Thailand, has that thing that Freud was so keen on – everything in picture is given equal attention (almost); the metal lamp, the copper-lit doorway; the rendition of the wife has something of Euan Uglow.

richard twose jean woods

 

Twoze

william klose

 

Klose

 

I am in Crete at the moment, but back next week.  Until then, old ones will have to suffice.

001

 

 

Blackpaint

18.09.14

 

 

Blackpaint 456 – Malevich, Bohemia and Bloomsbury

July 21, 2014

Among the Bohemians, Virginia Nicholson

Just finished this rambling, but most enjoyable tour of “Bohemia” by Vanessa Bell’s granddaughter.  It suffers from jumping up and down the decades within themes, often without giving dates, but a good episodic read all the same.  I was astonished to read that Dora Carrington, whose appearance and paintings  give one an impression of strength and intelligence, shot herself after the death of Lytton Strachey.  Bohemia was about drink, drugs, sex and all that – but also about free thinking, freedom from convention, the use of the intellect; pity to read of a great woman artist destroying herself over the loss of a companion (Strachey was homosexual).

Nicholson seems to me rather reticent about Eric Gill, given his unconventional home life and the current climate of opinion in the UK about child abuse; since the word “Bohemian” denotes, among other things, unconventional behaviour, I expected to read more about Gill than was there.  She describes Gill’s behaviour as “preposterous”.

The Art of Bloomsbury, Richard Shone

This book was published in conjunction with a Tate exhibition of 2000; I’ve only just got round to reading it.  The painters it deals with are Duncan Grant, Vanessa Bell and Roger Fry.  I was surprised by the colour, beauty, variety and technique displayed by all three artists,,  having always thought of them as a bit “brown” and boringly British.  Just flicking through, there are works that resemble Lautrec (Grant’s Virginia Woolf), the Scottish Colourists (Fry’s Blythburgh and Studland Bay), William Nicholson (Bell’s Iceland Poppies), Bonnard (Bell’s The Open Door and Grant’s Window, South of France and the Doorway); there are fabulous abstracts by Bell that look like Winifred Nicholson, more by Grant and luscious still lifes by both Bell and Grant, the best of which is Grant’s Omega Paper Flowers on the Mantelpiece.  A lovely book and I’m off to Charleston as soon as poss.

grant vanessa

Grant

bell the open door

Bell

grant omega

Grant

bell abstract

 

Bell

 

Malevich, Tate Modern 

So, enough of all this Bloomsbury and Bohemia stuff – off to TM, where proper theoretical painting is on display.  that is to say, it’s underpinned and driven by theory, a good analysis of which can be found in Boris Groys’ “The Total Art of Stalinism”.

In the first room, there is all sorts, as Malevich casts around for a style – some of it looked to me like German Expressionism, nudes surrounded by heavy black lines; Seurat – style landscapes; little collections of figures with Toulouse Lautrec figures; Munch/Nolde – like paintings; a strange, frog-like “dancer” with huge, clubbed hands and feet.

Next, Larionov/ Goncharova influenced peasants, growing more abstract, peasants with metallic, Leger like bodies; Theatre costumes like later Bauhaus efforts; the famous Black Square.

Malevich,-The-Woodcutter,-1912_original

Next, floating, coloured geometric shapes on white, the Suprematist paintings, seeming to be in the process of flying apart or coming together and, in one or two cases, resembling abstractified figures, despite the fact that Malevich gives one or two ironic “realist” titles when they clearly don’t represent the indicated “real” thing at all.

malevich

There is a room of drawings arranged by decade, often showing rough, freehand sketches of the geometric paintings; then, back towards figuration, with highly stylised peasants, metallic, harlequin, clown-like figures that wouldn’t have been nearly realist enough for the regime and finally Social Realist portraits that show the final capitulation of any independence or experimentation.

Malevich died of cancer in 1935, not in the gulag (although he had been imprisoned).  If he’d lived, I’m sure he would have been shot at some stage, despite the SR stuff.

Orlando, book and film

Back to Bloomsbury for a moment; I’ve started Woolf’s book and watched Sally Potter’s film of the same.  There are big differences in the narratives, but they are each great works in their own right.  It’s fascinating to read Woolf’s work in chronological order and see how she changes; this novel is certainly the easiest read yet (not quite Stephen King, but getting there) and the most visual.

The Potter film has strong resemblances to Greenaway’s style, in the use of location and music; the violence and grossness are missing, but it does have Tilda Swinton.

Big Painting

I’m trying to go big by sticking two canvases side by side and painting one image across them.  Results below  – the second image is  the painting as it stands now, but no doubt it will change.  It’s called, for obvious reasons, “Critical Theory – a Guide”.

 

 

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First Version

 

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Current Version

Blackpaint

22.07.14 

Blackpaint 422 – Painting and Guinness at the Tate, Woolf and Joyce about town

November 21, 2013

Tate Britain – Painting Now; Five Contemporary Painters

First, Tomma Abts.  Abstract shapes that resemble metallic strips, bent into shapes, gleaming and casting shadows. as if real; flat patterns and clouded surfaces too but the metallic ones are the ones that stick.  I want some texture, though.

Simon Ling does wonky East End buildings and shopfronts, corners of houses… he does a red/orange undercoat which shines through here and there like Poussin; heavy, livid Kippenburger colours.

simon ling

Catherine Storey paints odd, furniture-like, abstract structures; I liked the drawings of the shell chairs, on yellow baking paper.

Lucy McKenzie paints astonishing, trompe l’oeil “corkboards” with typed sheets and photographs apparently pinned to them – they’re paintings, but they fooled me at first.  What’s the point?  There is something in the leaflet about fascism and nazism, but I didn’t get it.  They have to be seen, though.

Finally, there is Gillian Carnegie.  Black cats lurking on dark staircases, black flowers in black paintings.

Alison Wilding

Her sculptures, no one anything like any of the others, are in the Tate hall.  The one that struck me is like a well head, made from alabaster blocks, broken at the top and “repaired” with poured black latex.  The alabaster is like giant blocks of Turkish Delight.. or the remains of Jacob and the Angel, the Epstein statue in another part of the gallery.

William Scott

The other new picture, in the room with the St.Ives painters, is called Composition in Orange, Black and Brown and looks as if it has a pint of Guinness embedded in it.

william scott

Refreshing image.

The New Staircase

The Tate’s new spiral staircase reminded me of the one photographed by Richard Pare in the Moscow Cheka  flats that I wrote about in Blackpaint 345. Curved steps shaped like orange segments – Fred and Ginger would look good on them, but maybe a bit narrow to dance down.

Chelsea Space

At this little gallery across the art school courtyard opposite Tate Britain, an exhibition of country music posters from Hatch Show Prints of Nashville.  Cash two tones, Nelson headband, Bill Monroe, Airstream, Corn Dogs…

Cash

 

Rescue Dawn

The Werner Herzog film about Dieter Dengler, US pilot shot down in Laos and his amazing escape through the jungle.  At one point, I thought I was back at Aguirre, Wrath of God – that whistling bird call.  Either the same species in Laos and the Amazon or there is a “jungle sounds” tape.  Then, there was a beheading with a machete; Aguirre again.  At the end, it turned into a cheerleader for the US, with the assembled crew of an aircraft carrier applauding Dengler – or maybe Herzog was being ironic.

The Act of Killing

Wrote about this disturbing film last week, directed by Joshua Oppenheimer; how did he pitch this film to the killers and get them to take part?  It must have been a sensitive task, to say the least – or maybe not.  Congo and his horrible mates seemed quite eager to co-operate and to let it all come out.  Proud, in fact.  they seemed to be on great terms with the director, frequently appealing to him on camera, as “Josh”.  Should be a documentary about the making, maybe.

Jacob’s Room, Dalloway, Woolf and Joyce

Interesting to read that Virginia Woolf had read the first few chapters of Ulysses by the time she wrote Jacob’s Room in 1918 and was reading it again while writing Mrs. Dalloway in 1922.  Both Jacob and Dalloway are reminiscent of Ulysses in the way that Woolf skips apparently at random from character to character (some merely one-line sketches) to build up a scene or sequence; Joyce does this, but it’s just one of a whole range of techniques he pioneers.  The sky writing plane in Dalloway reminds me a bit of the sandwich-board men, advertising Wisdom Hely’s in Ulysses.  Not suggesting she was plagiarising – she hated Joyce’s “indecency” and “board-school” showing off, as she termed it.  Fascinating that two such different authors should come up with the same thing at the same time.

??????????

White Line Fever 2

Blackpaint

21.11.13

Blackpaint 421 – Kienholz Dolls and the British on the Beach

November 14, 2013

Onnasch Collection at Hauser and Wirth

This spreads over both H&W galleries – the one in Piccadilly and the other in Saville Row.  I’ve only seen the Piccadilly one, but will certainly get to the other one.

There is a ridiculously high wooden chair on a sort of curved wooden boom, by Ed Suvaro and a group of wooden assemblages by Ed Kienholz: a pumpkin thing on a miniature bike; a group of bound, captive dolls atop a pedestal – with pedals; half a cello with a fat tube of squashy wire/wool stuff pumping out.

kienholz

Then there is Lance Tuttle, who makes cardboard and paper “plaques” with dangling plastic cups or drink cans; and George Brecht, a member of the Fluxus group, who made assemblages, for example, doll’s house furniture, a screw press, inside glass domes and Joseph Cornell – type boxes, cabinets, shelves of cards and magic tricks…

Finally, there is  a great block of turf-coloured bricks with red tongues of something curling out of them like flames, or some disease.  On closer inspection, it is apparent that these are the tips of gnomes’ hats – they appear to have been rammed through the blocks, as you can see the bases of the figurines on the other side.  it’s called “Dwarves”, I think, and it’s by Dieter Roth.

The Media Space at the Science Museum

There is a wonderful exhibition at the above, of the photographers Tony Ray-Jones and Martin Parr; they’re all black and white, from the 60s through to the 80s.  Fantastic, sad, funny pictures, both men very similar in approach (to my eyes, anyway).  The Britannia Coconut Dancers; serious seaside pleasures, men and women dozing in deckchairs with handkerchiefs under the lenses of their glasses, as if trying to make themselves as daft looking as possible; old men standing forlorn on run-down northern rugby grounds; a cinema queue for “Jaws”, which seems to contain Martin Carthy, Lucille from Coronation Street and Thora Hird; 1977 Silver Jubilee picnic tables, thronged with celebrants – then, in next picture, deserted, under driving rain.  Those old prams with their curly suspension struts; old women praying or dozing in chapel pews; squads of holiday makers excavating a beach, like building workers, below a fortress of a hotel in Newquay; Broadstairs beach with promenade and stairs in concrete (?) tiers, like a Moroccan citadel; echoes of Cartier – Bresson in the fat back of a man on the beach.  Both men have that facility of capturing several “events” in the one photograph.  My favourite, Parr’s, I think, is the sandwich queue at the mayor’s inaugural party in Todmorton – that bloke with the medals looks determined…

tony ray jones1

Impossible not to smile at these photographs, which are great art in my opinion.  Tony Ray -Jones died at 31, of leukaemia; Parr is still producing great pictures, of course, in colour now.

Jacob’s Room

Several times, I caught similarities to the “Wandering Rocks” section of Ulysses in this, the most experimental of Woolf’s novels, surely.  It ends with Bonamy and Jacob’s mother clearing out his room; presumably he dies in WW1.

I notice that Woolf seems to like a little surprise at the end.  I thought that Katharine Hilbery, in Night and Day, was showing signs of mental illness – fugues, detachment, going walkabout – but no-one else on the net seems to think so; one read it as a romantic comedy.

Augustus

John Williams epistolatory novel about the Roman emperor – it’s good; like Stoner, it’s a “whole life” job – but again, like Stoner, it takes Williams for ever to kill his hero off.  Minor fault, perhaps.

The Act of Killing

I’ve only seen the first 25 minutes of this terrifying film, in which old gangsters gleefully re-enact their mass murders of “communists” in the coup of 1965; the repulsive Congo bears a slight, but disconcerting, physical resemblance to Nelson Mandela.

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Solo Flight

Blackpaint

14.11.13

Blackpaint 417 – Size Matters; Big it Up

October 18, 2013

Paul Klee at Tate Britain 

Some of these are quite nice.  Not a ringing endorsement, I know, but my genuine reaction.  Klee is a techniques man ; his “oil transfer” drawings are an example – the method produces a yellow-brown, stained background on which the spidery lines of the drawing appear to be roughly scorched in.  Then, there are the dots; tiny, variegated blobs of colour that produce a tapestry or carpet effect – which is tasteful and nice.  There are the dark tiles of midnight blue and grey and black with a disc of bright yellow and a patch of orange; “Full moon and fire”, or some such title – no prize for spotting the moon…

klee1

There are a lot of fish, tastefully drawn and coloured; little imp figures that recall – or maybe prefigure – Victor Brauner and other surrealists; many of the pieces remind one of rock and cave drawings, thick black lines done with a scorched stick, maybe.  Hot air baloon heads, spider web drawings…, there’s a touch of those early Mondrians, with the interlocking lines before he moved on to squares.  And maybe a bit of Asger Jorn, without the texture…

klee2

What I really missed, however, was some size.  They are all small; after five or so rooms, you want to see something by some drunken American abstract expressionist who has crashed his car into the Tate front door, strode in trailing fag smoke and whisky fumes, and started to hurl paint over a five metre square canvas, stretched on the floor (canvas, not drunken ab-ex).

When you look at the catalogue, however, the pictures look beautiful – glowing and luminous.  That’s the way to see them, in a book.

Unrelated

Joanna Hogg’s 2007 film, I think it’s the first of a trilogy, with “Archipelago” and her latest film “Exhibition”, with Liam Gillick, Viv Albertine and Tom Hiddleston.  In “Unrelated”,   Kathryn Worth plays Anna, a middle -aged  woman on a Tuscan holiday with her best friend’s family, including Tom Hiddleston as the eldest son.  She tries to keep up with the “youngs”, swimming naked, smoking dope, fancying Hiddleston, and ultimately being politely rebuffed by him when she makes the offer.  Anna is taking time out from her partner but staying in touch with him by means of anguished mobile phone conversations at the top of hills – shades of Kiarostami’s “The Wind will Carry Us”.  Again, the acting is totally believable: Hiddleston and Worth are fantastic and excruciating.

The cinematographer is Owen Curtis, but the look is the same as “Archipelago”;  those doorway shots, light limning figures in bedsheets in dark rooms, Tuscan landscapes instead of the Scilly Isles, but that same Old Master quality of light on the skin in the close-ups.  The director of photography for “Archipelago” is Ed Rutherford, so I guess it must be Hogg herself who sets the look of the films.  Just great; can’t wait to see the latest film.

Jacob’s Room

I’m now on the third novel in Virginia Woolf’s collected works (NOT illustrated by R Crumb, more’s the pity), after “The Voyage Out” and “Night and Day” – for the first time, I realise how she could possibly be compared to James Joyce, in terms of narrative experimentation.  the first two were conventional; in “Jacob’s Room”, you have to wait for the next page to find out where you are (or more accurately, where Jacob is) and what’s going on.  Incredibly annoying, but I’m still reading.. no doubt, I’ll end up thinking she’s a genius.  Could be worse, could be Jane Austen.

Phil Chevron

Died recently – wrote “Thousands Are Sailing”, the Pogues classic, which if you never did anything else of note…..

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Meeting at Roissy

Blackpaint

18.10.13