Posts Tagged ‘Vrubel’

Blackpaint 540 – Bacon, Bela, Berlin and Dental Horror

April 9, 2016

Russian Portraits, National Portrait Gallery

Went to this again last Wednesday and it was thronged; while I was standing looking at the Vrubel portrait of Mamontov (see below), one of the two women in front of me declared “It’s just like a Francis Bacon!”  This seems to be a common observation to make about anything which isn’t a straightforward “realistic” representation – bit of smudging round the features? “Just like Bacon”; limbs a bit oddly positioned? “He’s doing a Francis Bacon”.

Russia Vrubel

It’s not like Francis Bacon, is it?  Or maybe I’m missing something…

bacon nude 2

This is like Francis Bacon.

My partner, however, says that I’m just as wrong in comparing, as I did last week,  the Vrubel to Sickert or to Ruskin Spear – she says it’s more like Braque.

Whoever, if anyone, is right, it’s a brilliant exhibition.  A painting I didn’t mention last time is Repin’s Rimsky Korsakov; the hands again and that “fleshy” paper (can’t see it properly below – you need to go to the exhibition).

Repin Rimsky

Repin is like Adolph Menzel, the painter who nearly fills the Alte Nationalgalerie in Berlin (Blackpaint 473) ; history scenes, portraits, pastorals, scenes from plays, Repin does it all, much more than competently.

Autumn Almanac (DVD), Bela Tarr (1984)

bela tarr

The melancholy Miklos Szekely (tight-lipped, sour featured) is present, on the right in the photo above.  It’s claustrophobic, intense, violent – a man gets a beating (actually, nothing by today’s standards; more like a roughing up) which is filmed from below, through a glass floor, like that film of Pollock painting.  Like other Tarr pictures, notably Damnation, the characters speak to each other in undertones, smiling all the time even when angry, abusive or threatening; in one scene, the two women in the film fight, each smiling into the other’s face the whole time.

It strikes me that, unlike the great Tarr  films based on the books of Krasnahorkai ( Satantango and The Werckmeister Harmonies), and even The Man from London (taken from a Simenon story), Autumn Almanac shows violence and corruption developing out of the situation itself, with no need of an outside catalyst – in this, it resembles Damnation.  In Werckmeister, the cataclysmic violence arrives with the travelling show, the Prince and the whale; in Satantango, the “community”, such as it is, is destroyed by the arrival of the satanic pair, Irimias and Petrina.  In “London”, the agent of disturbance is the case of money which Maloin sees flung into the harbour when the murder takes place.

I’m not absolutely sure about this; you could argue that the schoolmaster in “Almanac” is an outsider and his ejection allows the others to achieve a sort of twisted, corrupt equilibrium.. or maybe not.  It’s Tarr anyway, so worth seeing, and uniquely for him, in colour (pretty dark, though).

Lucia Berlin, A Manual for Cleaning Women, Selected Stories (Picador)

First heard of this book when it was reviewed before Christmas; her stories were compared to those of Raymond Carver and you can see why.  There’s a similar economy (she often dispenses with verbs), a conversational tone and the settings and subject matter are “dirty”, as in Dirty Realism; alcoholism, abortion, dysfunctional families.  The second story, “Dr. H.A.Moynihan”, is a groin-shrivelling tale of manic dentistry that is the most horrific piece of fiction I’ve ever read – that’s if it IS fiction.  The stories appear to be strongly autobiographical.  I think she differs from Carver, in that he is maybe more experimental with point of view.  he writes as a female character in several stories, “Fat”, for example, and successfully, I think.

Anyway, the blurb on the front says her stories “are electric, they buzz and crackle”.  They don’t, but they are a great, if occasionally gruelling, read.

Actually, I’ve just thought of a piece nearly as physically wrenching (literally) as Berlin’s story – Ted Hughes’ poem about de-horning bulls.

I’ve done no new paintings since last time, so here’s an old one for now, appropriate to Berlin and Hughes perhaps;

Close of a long day

Close of a Long Day

Blackpaint

9.4.16

 

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Blackpaint 539 – the Firm of Repin, Serov, Vrubel, Astrup, and Vinyl

April 2, 2016

Russia and the Arts: the age of Tolstoy and Tchaikovsky ( National Portrait Gallery)

Lovely show.  I’ve started with Repin, who is the most famous, but I think Serov and Vrubel run him pretty close.

russia turgenev

Repin, Turgenev – great hands, aren’t they?

 

russia repin stasov

Repin, Stasov – surely Michael Gambon in a Russian shirt..

russia countess.

Repin, Baroness Hildebrandt – love the red star hat; probably not a revolutionary though…

Serov, Madame Ermolova – Really impressive full-length painting of this theatrical woman in a jet-black dress; I thought Singer Sargent at first, but now I think maybe more like Toulouse-Lautrec in execution.  However, can’t find a picture, so you will have to go see.

Russia Vrubel

Vrubel, Mamontov – Jonathan Jones reckons it’s sort of pre-Cubist, the angles and especially the shirtfront.  I think it looks like a Sickert, or maybe even Ruskin Spear.

 

Russia Morozov

Serov again, Morozov – reminds me of a Scottish Colourist, Fergusson or Cadell, with those flowers behind.

Nightcrawler (2013), Dan Gilroy

Gyllenhaal’s eyes must surely have been “enhanced”; They looked too big to be real to me.  He reminded me of a meerkat.  Obvious comparisons: Jim Carrey in “Cable Guy” and maybe Robin Williams in “One Hour Photo”.  I’d be interested to know just how far they were pushing it; are there really TV stations in LA that would show footage of murder victims in a private house, filmed before the arrival of the police (even with faces and wounds pixillated)?

Vinyl

I liked the comment about Elvis, singing Polk Salad Annie in Vegas: “He’s singing about lettuce…”.  It’s way by far the best thing on TV at the moment.  The man who played Elvis in the white- suited Vegas era was brilliant.

Art of Scandinavia, BBC4

What happened to the 20th century?  The Denmark episode dealt with LEGO and furniture and the Danes’ supposed love for cosy miniaturism in architecture – no mention of Asger Jorn, Per Kirkeby, CoBrA…

Swedish episode was better;  Zorn, Gan(?) – but then, more furniture and design, model housing for 30’s factory workers…  The only 21st century art mentioned was the graffiti artist who covers everything in black swirls.  More painting in future, please (and sculpture, I suppose).

Nikolai Astrup (Dulwich Picture Gallery

Norwegian painter, died 1928.

astrup woodcut

My first impression on entering the gallery was green – and brown and blue, but mostly green.  The canvases are nearly all landscapes, or lakescapes, with trees and they are  crowded.  There are blossoms that recall Hockney’s “maggot” hawthorns from his huge show a few years ago; there is a breast-shaped dark mountain that pops up in several pictures.  Where there are people, they are mostly women or girls in long peasant dresses that remind me of Munch’s figures.  In the last room, the green is relieved a little by yellow, in a series of pictures depicting enormous bonfires in the dusk.  His brushwork is somewhat rough and blurry – one of the most effective pictures was of Monet-like blurred trees in twilight with a couple of lanterns glowing in the background.

He also did woodcuts, which show a distinct Japanese influence (and a much lighter green), like the one above.

 

St. Anthony 1

St. Anthony and his Pig

Blackpaint

02.04.16