Posts Tagged ‘Warhol’

Blackpaint 546 – Venus, Golgotha, Ken Russell and Delius

May 21, 2016

Still Life with Green Glass

still life with green glasss 2

Blackpaint – continuing with my new policy of putting my painting at the start of the blog, in case you log out without reading on (unlikely, I know).

 

Botticelli Re-imagined at Victoria and Albert

This exhibition falls into three sections:

1. 20th and 21st century works inspired by Botticelli, one of which is the clip from the Terry Gilliam film below (1997):

 

botticelli Thurman

Uma Thurman, coming out of her shell in the Adventures of Baron Munchausen (dir. Terry Gilliam, 1988)

There is also the inevitable Dr. No clip of Ursula Andress, wading out of the waves to Sean (James Bond) Connery’s astonishment and appreciation;  Warhol’s Ribena/raspberry- coloured graphic of the head of B’s Venus; a Magritte, in which Flora from Primavera accompanies a bowler-hatted man;  David laChappelle’s Koons-ish psychedelic Venus, with two unclothed men holding suggestive conches; and a Munoz, in which Venus, a drawing collaged with nuts and washers rises from a sea of modern detritus.

2.  19th century works inspired by Botticelli:

Several works by Burne-Jones of the rich brown tones; a couple by Gustave Moreau (I like the scrapy one); an Ingres nude with a large vase, on which he worked with someone else whose name escapes me and which took him 36 years to finish; several Mucha-like pictures that reminded me of posters advertising fruit and veg, that I used to see in Mrs. Dean’s greengrocers round the corner in the 1950’s; a lovely, freshly- coloured tapestry by William Morris.  And-

3.  Works by Botticelli himself and “Workshop of..”:

Loads of Virgins with baby Christs, mostly hugely fat or nearly as big as the mother, often accompanied by a young John the Baptist.  Virgins usually good, Christs decidedly not so.  The faces have a very graphic, flat, drawn quality (see Simonetta below), maybe something to do with the use of tempera?  Also gives them a very modern look, somehow.

 

Botticelli Vespucci 1

Simonetta Vespucci, Botticelli

Two versions of the same woman, B’s decidedly more glamorous (compare nose, forehead, chin and figure) but del Garbo’s more convincing to my mind – she looks skeptical and rather bored.

Botticelli del Garbo

Simonetta Vespucci, del Garbo

Some great tondos, two portraits of a Medici man, the Mystical Nativity and B’s great (but difficult to make out) drawings of Dante’s circles of hell are the best things on show.

The Cast Rooms at V and A

The strangest sight in these stunning rooms is, of course, still the 12th century Shobdon Tympanum, with its hippy, androgynous Christ in the skirt and stripey sweat shirt-

shobdon tympanum

 

…but these two German Golgothas, the first the size of an old TV, the second a huge plaque, are also of interest, for the odd headgear as well as the brilliant carving:

 

Cast Room 1

Cast of Oak Altarpiece by Hans Bruggemann C.1514 – 21, Schleswig Cathedral

 

Cast Room 3

 

 

And the main event…

Cast Room 4

I don’t know who executed this – took a photo of the wrong label.

 

Song of Summer – Ken Russell’s 1968 Omnibus film on DVD

Russell’s Omnibus films on Elgar, Debussy and Delius (pictured) are out on DVD/BluRay at last; I got them in FOP, Charing Cross Road for £18 – they’re £29 odd in the BFI on the South Bank.  The early rules for art docs on the BBC seem  extraordinary now, and evolved as Russell made them, as a result of his pushing, I guess.  At first, he wasn’t allowed to have actors at all; for his Prokofiev he could only use archive.  For Elgar, he had a boy riding a horse and actors representing Elgar and his wife – but NO dialogue.  For Debussy, he had to do a film about Oliver Reed et al making a film about Debussy, with a fictional director.  Finally, for Delius, he managed actors and dialogue.  Why these restrictions?  I suppose a ferocious regard for accuracy and authenticity on the part of the BBC.

 

Delius 1

Christopher Gable (left) as Eric Fenby and Max Adrian as Delius – or is it Keith Richards in younger days?

 

delius 2

Fenby writing, Delius dictating

Russell based the Delius film on Eric Fenby’s book “Delius as I Knew Him” and on meetings with Fenby himself.  He (Russell) thought it was his best work and said that it was absolutely accurate; Fenby was reduced to tears on visiting the set, as it all came back to him – he’d had a nervous breakdown in the 20s after four years as a willing slave to the blind and paralysed composer-dictator.

The performances of Christopher Gable – a prominent ballet dancer – as Fenby, Maureen Pryor as Jelka, Delius’ wife and especially Max Adrian as the “monster” himself are stunning.   David Collings is also good as the irritating Percy Grainger, chucking his tennis ball over the house and tearing through to catch it on the other side – impossible, surely.  Fantastic film; Russell was a genius.  I could remember nearly every detail from seeing it on TV in 1968.

Blackpaint

21.05.16

 

 

 

 

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Blackpaint 493 – Whitechapel, Faust, Finnegan, Krapp

May 3, 2015

Christopher Williams at the Whitechapel Gallery

There are four striking photographs in this exhibition; two are reproduced below – the other two are a white cockerel in profile, and a close-up clutch of large red apples on the bough.  As can be seen, the colours are saturated and intense and the images have the glamour of advertisements.

There is more to it than this, of course; Williams is saying something about the process of photography – there are many other photos of cameras and photographic equipment – and probably much else.  I find from reading the critics Sean Hagan and Laura Cummings that one of the apples is dented (i.e. imperfect) and this is significant.  Similarly, the colour sample in the “turban” pic below does not contain yellow; also significant, perhaps.  I can’t be bothered to work out, or read about the significances, however.  I tend towards the philistine notion that the picture should really stand alone; don’t like reading reams of stuff on the wall or listening to a commentary on headphones.

christopher williams2

 

christopher williams1

There are also some photos of President Kennedy – these are apparently more significant because they were taken not long before his assassination.  In one, he is walking away from the camera into the distance…  I’m not sure about this  – a picture of a football pitch looks the same, whether or not we know there is a mass grave below it – the difference is in our mind.  If we know, we see it differently.

Lynette Yiadom- Boakye curates at Whitechapel

My favourite selection is the Gary Hume giant hand below.  There is also

  • Peter Doig – big orange and green painting
  • Warhol – Cow’s Head
  • Hockney – Sunflowers
  • film of an Estonian artist, dancing to Jimi Hendrix’ “Voodoo Child” at his father’s gravestone (artist’s father, not Hendrix’ father)

 

Gary-Hume

 

Faust, Murnau (1926 )

I got my VCR – that’s a video player – working again the other day and was able to watch my video of this great expressionist film for the first time in several years.  I sat and watched the whole thing through in one sitting, unusually for me (short attention span).  It’s main strength is the fantastic Emil Jannings as Mephistopheles (see below); but also there is the dark expressionist doorways and windows and the cityscape – Feininger, surely.

faust

Krapp’s Last Tape, Samuel Beckett

So then, I dug deeper into the video collection, blew the dust off, and found, after an old “Brookside” episode, this great treasure; Patrick Magee in “Krapp”.  Brilliant play, iconic actor, profoundly depressing content for anyone, like me, who is a compulsive diarist.  “Spool” is a great word, however, and bananas are a wonder food.  Magee sweats expressively – and impressively- throughout.

NPG x127343; Patrick Magee as Krapp in 'Krapp's Last Tape' by Ida Kar

Finnegans Wake

If, like me, you read a few pages of about ten or twelve different books a day – I’m retired, not rich – you find that, when you switch over, the last author’s style stays with you for a few moments and you sometimes get a sort of mental blending, or corruption even, of the latter text.  Perhaps not surprisingly, this effect is strongest with “Finnegan”; for several lines, your mind continues to expect Joyce’s dream language and you don’t immediately recognise plain English.  Most disconcerting.

 

phil3

 

Phil on Fire

Blackpaint

03.05.15

Blackpaint 463 – Awkward English Painters, Campion and Amis

September 30, 2014

The Later Turner, Tate Britain

Well, all the usual suspects are there; the Slave Ship, Sea Monsters, Burial at Sea, Steam Boat off a Harbour’s Mouth,  Parliament burning,  Rain Steam and Speed, Exile and the Limpet, the whaling pictures – and some of the most hideous gold frames you could imagine.  Apart from those paintings listed, the sketches of Venice and elsewhere in Italy and Switzerland are, of course, fantastic.  Maybe I’m Turnered out, though; I’ll go again this week and see if there’s anything new to say.

turner

 

Storm at Sea; Steam Boat off a Harbour’s Mouth  

Sickert and Bomberg on BBC4

Two great programmes (I missed the one on Paul Nash).  The Sickert one showed direct lines back to Degas and TL, and forward to Auerbach and even Bacon (the self-portrait).  The paintings from photographs – Edward VIII and the Italian Count (didn’t get the name) after the conference – were linked by Andrew Graham – Dixon to Warhol.  This was not such a radical idea; I came across the suggestion in Robert Hughes’ “Nothing if not Critical” the next day.

sickert1

The Bomberg prog did justice to the variety of his styles during his career and showed how his “Sappers” painting – is it still on exhibition in Tate Modern? – was based on the Caravaggio Crucufixion of St.Peter.  There’s an exhibition of Dorothy Mead, one of his best disciples, on in London at the moment.

bomberg sappers

 Bomberg, Sappers Under Hill 60

caravaggio st peter

 Caravaggio, Crucifixion of St.Peter 

Portrait of a Lady, Jane Campion

Watched a DVD of this film starring Kidman and Malkovich, and I was astounded to see a sequence in sepia straight out of Fellini – like “The Ship Sailed On”.  Moments later, it turned into Bunuel, when a plateful of ravioli pockets, I think, developed mouths and started speaking to Kidman.  Then it was gone and we were back to relative naturalism.

Zone of Interest, Martin Amis

This is the first Martin Amis I’ve read; it is gripping, and Amis has done the research on Auschwitz and the Holocaust that the subject requires.  He does, however, use the camps as the setting for a story about the commandant and his wife; not sure about this.  Maybe the only story should be the story OF the camps. He has a Jewish girl point at herself before her murder and say “Eighteen years old”.  I came across the source of this in “Rise and Fall of the Third Reich”, in the evidence of a German civilian who saw the incident at a massacre by an einsatzgruppe at Dubno in Ukraine, not in Auschwitz.  She was 23, not eighteen.  Still, there’s a good essay by Amis at the end and I don’t think it insults the memory of the victims.  Probably more on this next blog.

 

crete5

Cretan Plants (a Figurative Interlude)

Blackpaint

30.09.14

Blackpaint 378 – Urinals and Wooden Specs

January 24, 2013

Breaking the Ice: Moscow Art 1960 – 80s

I’ve now visited this show again (Saatchi Gallery until 21st Feb) and will try to do it a little more justice than last time.

Vladimir Nemukhin and Lydia Masterkova, colourful and energetic abstracts with overtones of Kandinsky and anthropop colours.  Yuri Zlotnikov, like dots and lines and dashes escaped from Malevich’s Constructivist abstracts.  Oleg Tselkov’s bulky, masklike faces, remind one of Botero maybe or even Lempicka in the execution.  Oskar Rabin’s black, grey and white Caligari houses and streets and crucified vodka bottle and fish.  Dmitri Plavinsky’s scabrous grey tablets, like Rosetta Stones studded with bits and pieces. Dimitri Krasnopevtsev’s distorted dungeon stairs and arches in grey, black and white.

Ilya Kabakov’s rough, Socialist Realist pastiches that he “attacked” with an axe in a studio Happening, or stick paper rosettes on in neat lines.  Rough, giant wooden Soviet (rose-coloured?) spectacles, and a rickety wooden Tatlin tower model – who did those? – and Lenin meeting Giacometti man (Leonid Sokov).  Alexander Kosolapov’s Suprematist Urinals – really smart or “cherry”, as the LA Cool School artists would say; bet they’d sell in the gift shop.  And Warhol pastiches with Soviet imagery – bit obvious, but funny.  The best painting by Victor Pivovarov, big, pastel colours, looks abstract until you see the figures on the sides.  Colours reminded me of Gary Hume.  Couldn’t find it online.

So: the obvious reaction is admiration that this work was produced at all, given the lack of opportunity to show without state interference.  Great show, especially for free and with the main event downstairs, the contemporary Russian art.

breaking the ice 2

The Garden of the Finzi Contini

Vittorio de Sica’s sunlit but harrowing film from the 70’s with Dominique Sanda as the doomed heroine – the pre-deportation scenes in the schoolhouse are hard to bear.  Unfortunately, I have a tendency (like many others, I suspect) to be assailed by inappropriate thoughts at grave moments; I couldn’t help but notice Sanda’s occasional resemblance to the Lady Penelope puppet in  Thunderbirds.  

The London Art Fair

Discussing this last week, I forgot to mention the fantastic photos of Homer Sykes; British folk customs caught 30 – 40 years ago, including the great Britannia Coconut Dancers at Bacup in Lancashire.  Also, Ian Beesley’s photos, featured last week in the Guardian.  Google them both and see some great images.

Warhol

Some early drawings by Warhol featured (again in the Guardian) and the owner compares them to Schiele, saying they show a brilliant talent.  Well, maybe – but so what?  Surely the least important thing about Warhol is his ability to draw hands “properly”; it’s that Robert Hughes bit again – you can’t be a proper artist unless you can draw properly.

Fernando Pessoa

I’m reading his “Book of Disquiet” – cross between Sartre in “Nausea” mode (lots of things make him sick), Celine and a slight touch of Adrian Mole.  He’s got my number on art though: “The downfall of classical ideals made all men potential artists, and therefore bad artists.  When art depended on solid construction and the careful observance of rules, few could attempt to be artists, and a fair number of these were quite good.  But when art, instead of being understood as creation, became merely an expression of feelings, then anyone could be an artist, because everyone has feelings.”  That’s me then.

A Prophet

Watched this brilliant, long, French prison film again and I have to mention Niels Arestrup, as the ageing Corsican gangster Luciani; poignant scene when the other Corsicans sing as they leave him behind and even more, when el-Djebena is released from the hole and “transfers” to the Muslims.

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Bloody Window

Blackpaint 

24.01.13

Blackpaint 301

October 21, 2011

Tacita Dean in the Turbine Hall

..of the Tate Modern, of course.  Must be enormous pressure to do something spectacular.  She’s chosen to celebrate the medium of film and the display is a tall, window-shaped projection on the back wall, with film sprocket holes on either side.  Critics have variously described it as a cathedral window or a lift shaft – I tend to the latter.  So, what happens is that a series of images come and go for 11 minutes, then the sequence starts again.

The images include (from my memory):

Shaggy Ink Cap mushrooms; rapids, with the middle section flowing backwards); pink flower; lump of resin(?) suspended on string or wire; mountain (Matterhorn?) pictured in different colours; a human eye, opening and closing; large orange dots.  I’ve resisted the temptation to add more, gleaned not from memory, but other critics’ lists – and that’s the thing; you can’t help doing a cuddly toy – listing what you remember.  Not really what you ought to be doing when contemplating a great work of art.

So- it’s nice, but it’s not Eliasson; more in the class of the Rachel Whiteread.  Better that that thing with the bunk beds and paperbacks or the Salcedo split in the floor;  but I think the Balka was more memorable.  Actually that’s a lie; the Balka thing came to mind after I’d thought of all the others mentioned.

Gerhard Richter

Interesting that Richter is now the greatest living artist, according to various critics (Laura Cumming, for instance), when a while back, it was Boltanski, when he had his installation in Paris.  Latest thing, I suppose.

But the Richter at TM is great, and I’ll be going again, several times (we get in free as my partner is a member – cheap, if you go a lot).  I’ll take it in sections:

First, there’s the blurred photo paintings; bomber raids, Wehrmacht Uncle Rudi,  victim Aunt Marianne, with a baby in arms – is that Richter? – , the creepy, smiling dog with the clown face, couples, tiger, ruins… must stop this, making lists again.

Next, grey/black curved liquid spurt, reminded me of Bacon painting about which he was gleeful, apparently, at bringing off a perfect squirt of water. Also,  a grey swirl, with orange-green splats.

Next, “Damaged Landscapes” – Turner-ish grey Alps; Paris decomposing into curling, black and white squares and L shapes, like melting wax mixed with ash; kitsch snowy mountains; an empty, anonymous concrete city.

Grey Paintings – a dense undergrowth of grey sword-like strokes, recalling both Laurie Lee’s childhood jungle-garden memories and Christopher Wool’s paintings – although Wool’s are more slippery and soft-edged.

Figuration meets abstraction – brown cloudscapes, enlarged and smoothed out; two large coloured paintings that were originally little painterly sketches of – something that escapes me now – enlarged, blurred and smoothed until just two oblong blobs in pink and white.  A blurred Annunciation, based on Titian, apparently.

Genre Paintings and Early Squeegee – and the exhibition explodes into colour.  Blazing greens, reds, yellows, pinks; green tendrils of paint.  Completely overwhelming the little skull and candle paintings, and a fantastic iceberg.

Landscapes and Portraits – A huge abstract with seething red and orange on the right (of the picture) and cool, squeegee’d blues and greens sliding and curving on the left – can’t remember what’s in the middle.  Another with a shower of fat, purple bloody drops.  Betty turning away – apparently she’s looking towards a grey painting, although it looks like a plain dark background –  and another of her reading; both very slightly blurred “photographs”, it seems to me.  Some blurred landscapes with houses.

18 October 1977 – the Baader-Meinhof pictures.  Some Warhol-ish repetition of Meinhoff dead, although unlike Warhol, minor variation and blurred surface.  These, and the earlier, “Uncle Rudi” ones, brought to mind those blurred, sometimes touched-up photos you used to get in True Detective magazine, like Ruth Snyder in the electric chair or Charles Starkweather under arrest.

Abstraction in the 90’s – a huge beetroot – coloured squeegee job; a grey picket fence pattern; eight small, piercingly colourful scrapy abstracts, one with folds of scraped paint resembling bright leaf insects. 

2001 and beyond – the September picture that I have already written about (the planes hitting the WTC); the booklet appears to contradict the Guardian McCarthy article I cited – maybe I misread it.  OK, have reread it and I did misunderstand- it was a number of sketches that Richter thought to be abstract, until a friend pointed out that they showed the attack on the WTC;  Richter then based this picture on them.  Also, some great small ones in white with black line markings, like atom particle tracings on a metallic plate.

Cage – exhibition ends across cafe, in the room with the 6 huge scrapeys that are on permanent display.  Inspired by John Cage’s music, they look to me like swamp, scraped out in varying colours.

Bunuel

My mate Paul tells me he was deaf, which is why there’s not much music in his films.  Not many people know that.

Blackpaint (Chris Lessware)

20.10.11

Blackpaint 276

May 26, 2011

Jonathan Jones’ review of Mark Leckey at the Serpentine Gallery

I haven’t yet seen the show, but Jones’ review in Tuesday’s Guardian has to be the most damning I have ever read:  I have to recommend it for the degree of vehemence contained – it’s an artwork in itself.  Several reader comments on Jones’ review assumed it was some sort of post-modern satire (he denies this and asserts it’s a genuine opinion).  A few extracts: the headline refers to “farting about with speakers and screens”; “…how terrible an exhibition I had stumbled into”; “The installation GreenScreenRefrigeratorAction with its bonkers talking gadgets…. is one of the worst works of art I have ever seen in a serious gallery”;  “Nothing prepares you for the stupidity and arrogance of the central exhibit…” – and so on.  Read the review on the Guardian website to feel the heat.

What makes this really intriguing is the review posted under Jones’ name for the 2008 Turner Prize, later won – by Leckey.  Here are some extracts:  “This year I care (about the Turner Prize) because Mark Leckey is on the shortlist..”; “Mark Leckey is a fantastically creative example..”; “I find this artist irresistible..’; and he refers to Leckey’s art as “captivating, mysterious, soulful and provocative.”

I checked and, yes, it’s under Jones’ name on the site, dated 13th May 2008.  So what’s happened – has Leckey deteriorated, or has Jones had a Road to Damascus?  The degree of hostility in the recent review suggests the latter.

Violence in Painting (2)

Wrote about this recently in relation to the Caravaggio Abraham and Isaac in the Uffizi.  I was going to do more on pre-20th century paintings of violence – then I realised the scale of the job! Consider the following:

Goya’s horrors of war, Saturn scoffing his young, the witches, the cudgel fighting, the firing squad;

Various Massacres of the Innocents (Rubens comes particularly to mind);

Crucifixions and scourgings of Christ (Grunewald for instance);

Beheadings, sawings, grillings, stonings, skinnings, piercings by arrow of numerous saints – Catherine, John the Baptist, George, Ursula with her Virgins – 11.000 was it?  Agatha with her breasts on a plate…  that  saint having his thin intestine wound out round a tree.

And none of this is shocking to see; we look at it with perfect equanimity in the National Gallery et al, with maybe a wince at the idea of poor Agatha, say.  So what about the 20th and 21st centuries?

Beckman’s Night;

Grosz’s scenes of murder and suicide in Berlin;

Dix’s mutilated Card Players and corpses in the trenches;

The War artists’ pictures of the two World Wars;

Warhol’s car crashes and fallers;

Marlene Dumas’ Dead Marilyn.

Again, none of these are shocking to us, except perhaps the Warhols, because they are prints of actual photographs.  Bacon’s paintings are still more “violent” and shocking than these actual depictions.

The same can perhaps be said of cinema.  How many genuinely shocking instances of violence in recent TV or cinema?  Very few, since Reservoir Dogs started the intensification process in cinema and CSI followed suit on the small screen; we (or at least, I) have become unshockable – nearly.  So in cinema, this is my short list of shocking moments:

Antichrist, the self mutilation of the Charlotte Gainsbourg character;

The Pianist. Again, self harm, this time Isabelle Huppert:

The Orphanage, when the car hits and kills the old woman;

Salo, the scalpings and blindings at the end – but like St.Agatha, this is more the idea than what is actually seen;

Man Bites Dog, the rape and murder scene;

As for TV, I can only think of the John Lithgow killings on Dexter, which I think really pushed the limits.

The knowledge of reality is all – genuinely shocking and distressing, and destined to remain so, is the footage of people falling on 9/11 and the few seconds of the einsatzgruppen in action and the Kovno murders.

So – that’s enough of this unsavoury topic; didn’t set out to dwell so much, but things kept popping up in my head (worrying, in itself, really).  Next blog on still life and flower painting.

Blackpaint

26.05.11

 

Blackpaint 274

May 16, 2011

Chagall Windows

Came across these last week walking in the Kent countryside, at All Saints, Tudeley, near Tonbridge.  Not the sort of place or denomination, where you expect to see stained glass windows designed by a world famous Russian Jewish artist . There they were, in narrow windows shaped like the head and torso of a man, with one larger altar wall one, containing a Christ figure.  For the most part, they were in that clear, singing Chagall blue, one of the four blues I see plain in the mind’s eye:  Perugino, Klein International, Chagall and Titian’s Ariadne on Naxos.

What are they doing there?  Memorial to Sarah Avigdor-Goldberg, drowned in 1963 yachting accident, whose parents once lived at the manor.  The church is worth Googling, if you can’t get down (or up) to Tudeley.

Van Gogh

He got a good review from a journalist and sold a picture, famously his only sale, for 400 francs – to a relative, it’s true, not  a civiian, but a sale all the same – AND was getting praise from fellow artists, notably Gauguin – all shortly before shooting himself.

Typically, he wrote to the journalist, thanking him and sending him a picture of a cypress… but then proceeded to tell him he’d got it all wrong and should be praising Monticelli instead of himself.

His fits sound distressing – they involved swallowing paint and turps and eating dirt on occasion.

He wrote a lot about Delacroix, the “master colourist” as he called him, and his last great enthusiasm was for Puvis de Chavannes.  Like many of us, he clearly had no idea how good he was.

Bronzino and Holbein

A chance TV programme on above the other night, from which I learned that Bronzino’s real worth was as a portraitist; brilliant, stagey portraits, dramatic lighting effects, use of props, magnificent, detailed clothing – but also solid, smoothed flesh and sculpted features, imbued with character.  Not a Holbein though – where did H come from, he seems to have dropped from the sky.  His portraits are perfect, completely naturalistic, none of that tendency to all look vaguely alike, precise, quivering with life.. well, they look as if they might.  Completely modern – but better.  Fascinating, too, the disparity between Holbein’s portraits and the religious and history works; in the latter, he seems to revert to a much earlier, less naturalistic style, more in keeping with his contemporaries.

National Portrait gallery

I’ve written about the Tony Bevans and the Larry Rivers; there are two more on that first floor that deserve a mention.  They are Warhol’s Jagger, in which the thick, straight black strokes around his head make him look like a monk in a cowl – and Ruskin Spear’s Francis Bacon, transfixing the viewer with his owl’s eyes.

Ai Weiwei

Six weeks missing now, and two exhibitions in London, at the Courtauld and the Lisson Gallery.  He must be by now the world’s most famous living artist.  If it goes on, there will be that debate again about whether to exert “pressure behind the scenes” or protest openly.  I remember when the Chinese premier visited and the Met lined the route with big policemen and confiscated banners so that he wouldn’t be offended by the sight of Free Tibet protesters.  Let’s keep Ai Weiwei and all other imprisoned artists in our minds and continue to pressure our lot to pressure their lot…

Michelangelo

His “Crucifixion of St. Peter” in the Pauline Chapel of the Vatican clearly contains another self-portrait,  the old man on the right of the picture.  The Taschen refers to Peter, being hoisted upside down on his cross, as looking out at the viewer but he looks to me as if he is eyeing the ground, hoping he won’t fall off head first when the cross is raised.  One other thing – there is a vast plain behind the scene, as there is in the companion piece “The Conversion of Paul”;  despite these huge vistas, not a single tree is depicted.  I remind the reader of my major discovery, strangely ignored by the world’s press, that Michelangelo Doesn’t Do Trees (see previous Blackpaint blogs too numerous to mention).

Bela Tarr

The camera pans slowly across a darkening horizon halfway down the screen, interrupted in places by the black silhouettes of leafless trees; an accordion plays, over and over, a Hungarian folk tune which sounds very like part of Beethoven’s Fifth.  The scene changes; now, a small flight of outdoor stone steps, lit in the blackness only by light from the door at the top.  In the light, the rain squalls and buckets down…


New images next blog.

Blackpaint

16.05.11

Blackpaint 211

October 25, 2010

Colour

My birthday the other day, and I got three cards of different painters: Albert Irvin, Vincent van Gogh and Alfred Wallis.  with them lined up on the mantelpiece, it struck me that Irvin’s and van Gogh’s colours were so different that it was almost as if you needed a different word to describe them – VG’s muted, rich, glowing, nuanced; Irvin’s brash, bright, glaring (fluorescent even), with no blending or sculpting, hardly any texturing.  But it’s more than this – they just seem to be from two different worlds altogether, can’t explain more clearly.  Irvin seems to go with Warhol and maybe Albert Oehlen, no-one else I can think of.

As for Wallis, his palette in this picture, white, Prussian Blue, yellow ochre is really characteristic of St.Ives.

This stuff is all because I’ve been bought a load of different oils and am trying to work out what pictures I can paint with them – the “old” ones have the wrong forms, textures etc.

Michelangelo and Raphael

Pretty much sticking by what I said in last blog, but there are some Raphael compositions that you couldn’t really call “static”:  Galatea, the various St. George’s and St.Michael’s, Road to Calvary (the so-called “spasimo” – though even this is restrained, compared to Mick).

One thing – “Dream of Jacob of the ladder to heaven”; it’s on the wall of the Palazzi Pontifici in the Vatican.  It’s sooty and badly drawn and looks as much like a Raphael as an Albert Irvin.  It’s not in the Wikipedia list of his works, for some reason.  I think a workman knocked it out during Raphael’s lunch hour.

Reading Diebenkorn book by Jane Livingstone, and again reminded of Lanyon in his attitude to figurative v. abstract, and to landscape.

Back properly soon.

Nameless as yet, Blackpaint

25.10.10

Blackpaint 174

August 13, 2010

Frank Lloyd Wright

Documentary on the above on TV- I was amused by the fact that he was traditionalist as far as painting was concerned; he couldn’t make out the work of the Abstract Expresionists at all.  This in itself not funny, I grant you; but the Ab Exes such as de Kooning and Franz Kline vehemently opposed to his design for the Guggenheim in NY (the famous white spiral); they didn’t think it would show off their works properly.  Nice case of the traditionalist attacked by the avant garde for being too innovative.

I’d never heard the story of the murder of Mamah Borthwick and her kids at “Taliesin” in Wisconsin.  Mamah, for whom Wright left his wife and children and set up home in Taliesin, was axed to death with six others by a cook, Julian Carlton, who’d been dismissed.  He cooked their dinner, then poured petrol all round the house, set fire to it and chopped them down as they emerged.  Wright was in Chicago at the time.  So, Wisconsin Death Trip yet again.  To think I spent a couple of nights camping out in that state some years ago…

Wright rebuilt “Taliesin” on the same spot; you’d have thought he’d never want to see the place again.

I was intrigued at the difference between, say, the Guggengeim and his prairie houses and their furnishings; the latter had touches that reminded me of William Morris, those high-backed chairs, for instance.  And the low ceilings, to emphasise the horizontal distances within; I got the impression that the buildings came first, people later.  Unusual that, for an architect.

Guggenheim Bilbao 3 

The huge paintings room

My name for it, obviously.  Huge canvases by “post Ab Exes” (my term too, as far as I know).  It seems to me that the artists on display have only that in common.  Twombly first; “Nine Discourses on Commodus”.  Nine portrait panels in grey, with pink, white and yellow splotches and squirts, writing-like marks, sometimes drips and dribbles and at least one faint, sketchy grid.

Warhol – Marilyns on black, in greens, mauves, yellow too, I think.  150 Marilyns, if you count the top row of half Marilyns.

Yves Klein – huge, blue smash on canvas, done in dry pigment and resin, presumably to stick the pigment on – how was it applied? Naked women’s bodies, perhaps, although no tell-tale signs…

James Rosenquist – Raspberry, yellow and metallic silver-grey airbrush – a metal paint tube, possibly, or maybe toothpaste, with US flag stars.  Vast of course.

Robert Rauschenberg – my favourite painting in the building.  Black, white and grey, photographic transfers, painted on here and there.  The whole thing could have made 4,5 or 6 separate works.  It’s called “Barge”, for no obvious reason – maybe there’s one in it I missed.  From left to right, top to bottom: a screen,  a sketched box, several mosquitoes, an open-plan building, clouds, waterfall, umbrella, American footballers, black water cloud, shower, milky spurts, swimmers, space capsule, army vehicles, Velasquez’ Venus, a “spaghetti” road system top shot, prairie water towers, a parabolic structure, black shower, workers fuelling space craft, drawn box…. and so on.  Look it up on Google.

One more to come from Guggenheim – Rauschenberg’s Gluts, tomorrow.

Should have a new painting by tomorrow – here’s another old one.

Listening to Charlie Jordan’s Hunkie Tunkie Blues.

“Love you, woman, love your husband too;

Got to love your husband to get next to you.”

Blackpaint

13.08.10

Blackpaint 126

May 3, 2010

Moore and Ofili revisits

Second visits are often disappointing, and I wasn’t as impressed this time by the big elm “recliners”:  however, I had a good look round Moore’s archetypal recliner (the one the cartoonists always parody) and noticed the way the hole disappears when you look at it from behind and above and the shoulders become even more massive; also, the way the light falls on the planes, emphasising the perfection of the sculpting. 

The little so-called sketches like jewels, worked over carefully in pen, pencil, crayon, pastel etc., and the pen sketch with the blots which are themselves attractive – something similar on TV last night, that thing about Warhol by Sooke; Warhol used a technique of pressing paper against the wet ink line of a drawing to get a broken, blotty line.

There was a funny little mother and child at the start in which the baby was huge, the size of a small adult (and mother’s face seemed to reflect this).  Reminded me of some of those 12th century madonna and child icons in the National Gallery etc, in which the Christ is a full-grown man on mother’s knee.

Although it might be true, as Laura Cumming asserted (see Blackpaint 80), that Moore’s subject matter is rather limited (Mothers with child, recliners, masks, helmets, stringed sculptures, the “atomic” maquette, the warrior, the miner drawings, the shelter drawings..), the varieties of material and style are wide.  African Wonderwood?  and how did he get that gleaming smooth finish on concrete?

As for Ofili, I liked it as I did first time around.  No new insights, other than the humour and the really strong sense of unity of the whole set of work – must be the colours, because he’s stopped using the elephant dung.  One thing – that exchange between Ofili and Jonathan Jones about the function of the hanging man (see Blackpaint 54, 55); the painting’s called “Iscariot Blues”, something I overlooked last time.  Best paintings still the art nouveauish “Raising of Lazarus” and the cocktail girl next to it.

Fundamental Painting

A Tate room devoted to stern, dark, minimalist work from the 60’s;  Alan Charlton (born 1948), four huge paintings in shades of charcoal grey.  The first has a long slot cut in it, the second four square holes in the corners, the third is cut into 20 equally sized “sleepers” and the last, a square, framed with a 2″ interval.  Other artists; Edwina Leapman (one all blue, one all red, slight gradations of pigmentation); Bob Laws (huge plain canvas with a black frame painted in 2″ from edge;  Alan Green, Peter Joseph (dark blocks of black, green, blue).  What’s it about?  Asking questions like “What is a painting?”

John Golding 

Born 1929, a canvas called “CV 1973”.  Two unequal rectangles, one egg yolk yellow, the other dark flesh pink.  A white frame of plain canvas all round with swipes of paint here and there – vaguely reminiscent of a landscape Clyfford Still.  My partner tells me the salient point is that the pink is layered, built up in a Rothko-type way.  Two other Goldings, one blue one green, quite different.  The blue one, “Toledo Blue”, lines across a sort of misty surface, vaguely like a Futurist painting, Boccione maybe, not much close up, but great through archways from a couple of rooms away.

I Mailed it in the Air, by Blackpaint

Listening to Gus Cannon’s Jug Stompers;

“I wrote a letter, I mailed it in the, I mailed it in the – air indeed, lord,

I wrote a letter, I mailed it in the air,

So you know by that I have a friend somewhere”.

Blackpaint 03.05.10