Posts Tagged ‘Vuillard’

Blackpaint 576 – Coprophagia, Clowns and Coogan

November 25, 2016

Robert Motherwell, Bernard Jacobson Gallery

Sorry, done it again – last day today.  Great little exhibition though, opposite the rear of the RA.  These three are big ones – 177, 194 cms, that sort of order; “California” (1959) is a bit like a Frankenheimer and “The Studio” (1987) surely channels Matisse.

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The Mexican Window (1974)

 

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California (1959)

 

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The Studio (1987)

 

Intrigue – James Ensor, presented by Luc Tuymans, RA

Bowled over by this; he had two or three styles, like Kitaj.  Here, in this dark one, he’s like Sickert –  there, in that dark drawing room, like Vuillard.  You can see Van Gogh, Turner (the green stage one, very like the Petworth Turners), Goya’s witches and penitents, Brueghel, Moreau – even Munch, but better.  Apart from the dark rooms, there are the fantastic still lifes, the skate, the cabbage and flowers with their sizzling, fizzing background – you’ll see what I mean – and the masks, chinoiserie, clowns, processions, skeletons, satirical cartoons (the Bad Doctors, winding out the patient’s small intestine, like an early martyr) – and a group of critics round the table, eating shit; first coprophagic instance.

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ensor-the-drunkards

The Drunkards

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The Bad Doctors

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Intrigue

 

Alan Davie, the Seventies, Gimpel Fils until 14th Jan.

A rather disappointing flatness to these – no texture, no roughness.  In the gallery’s photo, however, they look brilliant.

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Collections of symbols/motifs (fruit segment moons, stripey snakes, Ace of Clubs (cf. Diebenkorn), lips, crowns…  sometimes reminds me, superficially,  of Aboriginal art, or should that be first nation Australian?

Always on Sunday – Rousseau (Ken Russell, 1965) – DVD of 3 Russell films for Monitor and Omnibus.

The artist James Lloyd plays Douanier Rousseau with his own broad Yorkshire accent in this Russell film for Monitor; it works brilliantly, of course.  Russell has a woman, Annette Robertson (below) playing Alfred Jarry, the tiny anarchist playwright and revolver enthusiast, author of “Pere Ubu”, who befriends Rousseau.  At a perfrormance of Ubu, the bourgeoisie gobble a stew of faeces on stage; in case you miss it, an actor announces”shitter!”, twice, to the disgust and outrage of the audience – second coprophagic episode.

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Isadora Duncan, the Biggest Dancer in the World –  (Ken Russell, 1966)

Isadora (Vivian Pickles) and 500 children in floaty costumes ran down a hill at the Devil’s Punchbowl in Surrey, towards the cameras and Ken waiting at the bottom. Unfortunately, they all ran to the right instead of parting and flowing past Ken on both sides, so they had to go back up and do it again.  Brilliant TV film of course. but NOT the feature film that I remember; that was based on a different memoir and directed by Karel Reisz.  It starred Vanessa Redgrave and in one memorable montage sequence, showed Isadora arriving at “London” station.  I think Readers Digest funded it.

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Nomad, Alan Partridge (Steve Coogan)

Alan Partridge and James Joyce are similar, in that their respective styles penetrate and corrupt anything you read immediately afterwards.  I remarked before on how Finnegans Wake affects me; I tend to read a few pages at a time, then move on to another book – for a while, you think you are still reading “Wake” and you can’t properly take in the new text.  I had the exact same thing with Partridge and Proust.  Granted, Alan was discussing the way his excess fat tends to form on his back and Marcel was spending three pages or so describing milk boiling over…

Three small ones on wood panel and one (Seated Figure ) on canvas:

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Seated Figure

 

hard-abstract

Fleeing Figure

 

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Still Life with Orange and Banana

 

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Bridgehead 2

Blackpaint

25.11.16

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Blackpaint 471 – Grayson, Grace, Nazis and the Queen

December 1, 2014

Fitzwilliam Permanent Collection

This Cambridge museum is staggeringly ornate inside; the entrance hall is like some gilded cathedral.  Quite a lot of rather mediocre pictures by some great painters, like the Quai d’Orsay – some so-so Titians, an unremarkable Veronese, two really shit Matisses, a bad Degas.  I’m not complaining; it’s interesting to see that the masters can be mediocre too.  And there ARE some beautiful pictures – a great Vuillard interior, a fabulous black paint sketch by Degas, Dutch, French and Spanish still lifes on black ground – butterflies, rotting fruit and lizards (what do they signify?) among the flowers.

Several lovely Camden Town paintings, Harold Gilman, Sickert and Ethel Sands, whose work looked just like the great Gilman to me.

National Portrait Gallery – Grayson Perry

Pottery and tapestry that goes with Perry’s recent TV prog, in which he interviewed a diverse selection of people living in Britain today and produced portraits of them.  There is a big tapestry in which he lists various aspects of the British self-image;  the Modern Family (two men and a child); the Ashford Hijab (below); the Alzheimer’s sufferer and his amazing wife; the Children of God family, and several others.  My favourites are the three love goddesses, that remind me of the Willendorf Venus – but bigger, of course –  and the Cuman figures from the Ukraine that are in Berlin (see next week’s blog).

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The Ashford Hijab

I took the opportunity to go round the collection and discovered a few great pictures with which I was unfamiliar:

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WG Grace by Archibald Wortley

Straight off the cigarette card, I think – I love the loose way he’s done the shirt and arms (see Rivers below);

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Thomas Hardy, by William Strang

Small, fantastic, Holbein-ish, except for the downward gaze; love the green on red background.

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David Sylvester by Larry Rivers

Written about this picture before.  The looseness of the background is now a common style; I’m thinking of that portrait of the officer in his dress uniform after a party, at the BP Prize a couple of years ago.  Also, I like the way he has pink soup cascading over his neck and shoulder.

Lore (2012) 

Made in German by Cate Shortland, an Australian, I found this film to be a refreshing take on the Nazi regime – it shows a couple of formidable and chilling old Nazi diehard women, one Lore’s “Omi” (grandmother), the other a peasant woman, lamenting the dead Fuhrer and how the German people had let him down.  Necessary corrective to the attractive face of Nazism presented by Alexandra Maria Lara, who plays Traudl Junge in “Downfall”.

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Remember Me

Three- part ghost story on BBC1, starring Michael Palin; that beach scene in the opening credits, where the tall, black-shrouded figure appears, is surely inspired by Jonathan Miller’s B&W adaptation of MR James’ “Whistle and I’ll Come to You Lad” – a masterpiece, featuring another Michael -Hordern – and which, for me, ranks with “The Ring” for creepiness, despite its age.

First Love, Last Rites

Still on that theme of finding comparisons, I’ve just finished Ian McEwan’s early short stories (see last blog) and the book that came to my mind was “Tomato Cain” by Nigel Kneale, author of the Quatermass books.  Kneale’s stories lack the explicit sex, of course – it was the 50s – but I thought McEwan’s “Butterflies” in particular was very like Kneale.

Turner Prize

It should have been Tris Vonner -Marshall or James Richards (see Blackpaint a few blogs ago).

 Berlin

Just back from four days of museums and galleries, for which see next blog, but I have to mention Nefertiti in the Neues Museum; all on her own in a darkened chamber, her face is somehow completely modern – I thought maybe behind a desk at an airport.  the beauty  is in the consummate skill of the modelling, the long neck, smooth skin – like a Holbein portrait (see below) it’s more than just brilliant, in that it goes beyond style.

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nefertiti

And Holbein…

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The Merchant George Gisze, Holbein

Different clothes, but I’m sure I saw this bloke on the UBahn on Friday… And to follow Holbein, here’s my latest:

photo (55)

 Water Engine, Blackpaint

01.12.14

 

 

 

 

Blackpaint 250

February 10, 2011

Frankenstein at the Olivier

Danny Boyle director and Nick Dear, writer – or rather, adaptor of Mary Shelley’s original.  But the important thing for the audience, which contained a number of excited teenage girls, was Benedict Cumberbatch playing the monster, and to a lesser extent, Jonny Le Miller, playing Victor.  They are going to alternate the roles.

The first 20 minutes or so were fantastic.  Cumberbatch was naked on stage, being “born” from a pulsing, pod-like womb (Body Snatchers, definitely not Spinal Tap); then flip-flopping prostrate like a fish; then swiftly learning to get to his hands and feet, then stand, shakily upright and walk, after a fashion.  There were clear references (I’m avoiding the use of “channeling” here, I hope other pedants will note) to Muybridge and Bacon – the crippled boy walking on all fours – and, above all, Blake.  I think it was the stance; upright, straight-legged, head thrown back – and perhaps the washes of light from the wide ribbon of light bulbs in the “ceiling”.

Then, the Industrial Revolution arrived, in the form of a train, loaded with working men and women who began laying about the stage with sledgehammers and tools – Metropolis – and soon the monster acquired a cloak and a jeering mob – the Elephant Man.  Later in the play, Dickens, in the shape of the children’s costumes, especially the cap of the little boy. The programme mentions Fuseli, but I must have missed that.

I had the feeling throughout that I was watching a musical; I wouldn’t have been at all surprised if someone had burst into song (there was some dancing, flamenco-ish guitar music and something that sounded rather like “Wimoweh” – ask the grandparents).  There was a great revolving stage, luminous huts descending, a mansion facade that also served as a ship at one point, and made reference to Kay Neilson.

I have to say that, as soon as we were back to straight, “naturalistic” exposition, everything went very flat; I was continually waiting for the next spectacle.  There were about four or five of these, I suppose.  In fact, I would have been happy if the whole thing had been done like the first sequence – as a sort of combination of mime, ballet, performance art, spectacle, and music.

There is a rather operatic rape, by the way; a man somewhere behind me was obviously shocked; “Oh no, oh dear “, he gasped in dismay.  The teenagers were undisturbed, needless to say.

National Gallery

Took a turn round the “modern” bit; especially the Degas(es) – what is the proper plural? – that never fail to astound me.  Those two “red” ones, just look at the hands, and the portrait of the pudgy little girl with the challenging stare.  Then, there is the little one of Princess Pauline de Metternich; I bet she wasn’t happy about the bags under her eyes.  What was Degas – an Impressionist? If so, it shows the limitations of these terms, two artists like, say, Degas and Monet yoked together…

That Ingres woman in the dress is Mme Moitessier, a banker’s wife, not a landlady as I said in previous blog.  A chap was copying the picture – I avoided mentioning that it took Ingres 12 years to finish.

A couple of horrible Vuillards; Madame Wormser and her kids.  I hate that acid greeny-blue, bluey green.

Turner’s Ulysses escaping from Polyphemus; how many ships in the picture?  I think four.

Finally, Hogarth’s “Marriage a la Mode”; the last, grim painting in the series, in which the mistress has poisoned herself and the servant who supplied the poison looks on in horror; I was reminded strongly of Madame Bovary, not surprisingly, since I have just reread it.  What is remarkable is that I am also reading “Vanity Fair” – and on Truffaut’s “Fahrenheit 451” the other night, the firemen hurled a bookcase to the floor prior to burning it and two of the books that fell from it, on which the director chose to focus in close up, were Bovary and Vanity Fair. Coincidence, you say?  I think perhaps not, my sceptical reader…

Sorry again, re-used image; new stuff from now on.

Blackpaint

10.02.11

Blackpaint 224

November 27, 2010

Last Suppers

Just watched Bunuel’s “Viridiana” again – and it has the best beggars’ banquet scene in it.  A nun invites the local beggar population to move into the mansion she inherited from her uncle (who hanged himself because she wouldn’t marry him).  As usual in Bunuel films,  naive (sanctimonious) kindness results in unexpected disaster – when she leaves them alone to go on an errand, they raid the cellars and kitchens, set themselves a sumptuous meal, get drunk, fight, fornicate, wreck the place.  At the climax of the feast, the drunken figures resolve themselves into a tableau of da Vinci’s “Last Supper”, grouped around a beggar “Christ”.

For some reason, this scene annoyed the church in Spain, where Bunuel directed the film after 25 years in exile, and it was suppressed by the Spanish government.

Bridget Riley

Read Hilary Spurling in the Guardian Review and found that, yet again, I must have missed something – there was a Rubens included in the exhibition.  Have to go again, but that won’t be a problem; the painting “Red on Red” that I mentioned was reproduced in the paper and looked even more beautiful than I remember.  The only problem is that it very faintly reminded me of a British Gas logo.

Asger Jorn

As always – well, often – happens when I look at art books,  I find myself reproducing in a general sort of way, the style or look, if not the techniques of artists I like.  I suppose this lurks around the plagiarism area, but it’s not conscious; it just happens.  I’ve been burrowing in Guy Atkins’ book “Jorn in Scandinavia 1930 – 53” and a very pale something of the following pictures seems to have lodged in my head and come out on the paper (run out of canvas, pro tem): “Wounded Beast”, “Buttadeo”, “Sickly Phantoms” and “Return to the Detested Town”.  These are all from 1951 and all feature heavy black scoring (looks like charcoal) around ghostly white or green faces, emerging from a maelstromic – is that a word? – background.  I seem to have picked up on the black scoring, for now anyway.

Bonnard  

Last Bonnard for a bit;  Bonnard was always revising his work and Julian Bell tells the story of Vuillard and Bonnard going to museums in which B’s works were displayed, where Bonnard would alter a picture with which he had become  dissatisfied, while Vuillard diverted the attendant.  I can’t believe this happened more than once, but a great story, nevertheless.

Quiz:  who did the “Broken Obelisk” sculpture at the Rothko Chapel in Houston?  Clue: not Rothko.

Blackpaint

27.11.10

Blackpaint 114

April 19, 2010

Ten Male Artists whose work  should be published in cheap editions by Taschen or Tate or anyone good

Partly to demonstrate the anti-sexist credentials of Blackpaint’s blog, but also to mention a slew of painters I like but can’t get cheap books about:

  • Hans Hoffman – I can only find one book on this seminal colour field artist and teacher (in Henry Pordes, Charing X Road) and it’s 65 quid! 
  • Richard Diebenkorn – highly desirable book by Jane Livingston, but it’s 35 quid.  Bit cheaper on Amazon, but I like to  buy the old-fashioned way.
  • Richard Guston
  • John Hoyland
  • Graham Sutherland
  • Pierre Bonnard – the colours in the Phaidon are dead; Taschen required urgently.
  • Eduard Vuillard
  • Asger Jorn, Appel – all the CoBrA people, really.
  • Keith Vaughan
  • Albert Oehlen

A mixed bunch, to be sure; but I have actually  searched for cheap editions of all these and have only really been lucky with odd ones in catalogues.

Michelangelo  and Trees

I missed one (see Blackpaint 112) ; there are actually two pretty basic and dead trees in the Flood (Sistine).  I have amended the blog accordingly, but my point remains, I  think.

Goldsmiths

Watching the BBC4 programme on Goldsmiths, I was struck with the obsession they – both tutors and students – have with “meaning” in art.  They construct their tableaux or objects or  whatever and  then worry that the public won’t get their meaning.  one said,”They won’t think hard enough about it”.  The prof, however, when pressed, said, “It’s all about the art, really; the rest is bullshit”.  This I  found reassuring, but I’m told  by those who know, that art schools require context and meaning and argument and that  artists who refuse to discuss their work in these terms and assert that a work of art should, as it were, speak for itself, will not get far in academia.

Strange really; it’s a sort of marxist or pseudo-marxist position, that art has to be experienced and appreciated in context.  I remember writing an essay arguing just that,  several years (well, decades) ago at university.  The tutor’s comment  was “Interesting – but I don’t think you would convince a purist.”  Now I’m the purist, I suppose.

I also find it interesting that what I  do, a lot of the general public regard as “modern art” – but it’s really old-fashioned, of course, abex or colour field stuff being the equivalent of, say, modal jazz, Coltrane doing “My Favourite Things” or Miles Davis’ “Kind of Blue” – 51 years old!

Blackpaint

19.04.10