Posts Tagged ‘Whitechapel Gallery’

Blackpaint 630 – The Frenchman, the Sea Monster and the Swinging Light-Bulb

November 20, 2018

Edward Burne-Jones, Tate Britain

That glowing orange – red dress curving in its folds to the left is quite something….

….as is the fabulous female back in Perseus and Andromeda but spoilt, I think by the casual model-ish, stance, that makes her look a bit too pretty somehow; better if she’d been in water up to the thighs maybe.

 

Andromeda looks quite unconcerned as Perseus takes on the dragon, as if she doesn’t care who the victor will be.

Lots of well- muscled male buttocks on display in this huge exhibition of huge paintings; a little reminiscent of the recent Queer Art show, especially Duncan Grant’s swimmers.  Also, funny how these mythical maidens and warriors always carry Nazi associations for me – Wagner, Rhine maidens and all that, of course, but I think Ken Russell is also responsible.

Wonderfully skilled painter, great compositions, range of talents (tapestries, for instance)

Callan

My Christmas gift was box sets, in B&W initially, then colour, of the surviving episodes of this great series from the 60s.  It has the most haunting theme tune, played as a light bulb swings before the troubled eyes of Callan and then shatters as a bullet strikes it.

Callan left, Meres background

Callan is an ex-soldier and convict, brilliantly played by Edward Woodward, who is, reluctantly, employed by the Section, a very secret (illegal?) state security organisation, led by a series of toffs, each one codenamed “Hunter”.  “Hunters” are short-lived; there have been four so far, in the 12 episodes I’ve watched –  two of them killed, one by Callan himself.  The body count is high, male and female and the range of murderous agents Callan has had to take on is wide and interesting: old and new Nazis, KGB of course, Czechs, East Germans, OAS veterans (Algerian war) -even a British mercenary officer.  Callan operates in a constant state of barely controlled rage at his public school bosses and fellow agents.

My memory of the series was at fault in one very important aspect: I remembered Callan as a sort of semi-detached assassin, who was allotted a target, paid and was then on his own, especially if caught.  Actually, he is on the payroll and in fact, is the moral centre of the series; the others, especially Meres (Anthony Valentine) and Cross (Patrick Mower) are odious posh boys, lacking anything by way of a conscience.

One aspect of the series, peculiarly, reminded me of modern TV – Callan’s thoughts, like those of Mitchell and Webb in “Peep Show”, are often revealed in voice-over, as he searches a flat or lies in wait.

Faces in the Crowd,  2005, Whitechapel Gallery

Eduard Manet, Masked Ball at the Opera (detail)

I recently acquired the catalogue (above) for this terrific exhibition that I visited at the time but had completely forgotten.  It consisted of paintings, photographs and posters, including work by Manet, Picasso, Beckmann, Magritte, Kirchner, Sander, Walker Evans, Bomberg, Warhol, Bacon, Sickert, Giacometti…. and a hundred more.

Two fascinating facts I have learned from the catalogue: male harlequins are popularly supposed to be able to breastfeed – and Picasso apparently included harlequin figures in some of his sketches for “Guernica”.

Tony Joe White 

RIP.  See him on “Country Rock at the BBC”, tearing up “Polk Salad Annie” with a burning cigarette stuck on the end of one of his guitar strings; “Polk Salad Annie – the ‘gators got your Grannie (chomp, chomp)”…

Tony Joe also wrote “A Rainy Night in Georgia”; enough for one lifetime.  Honey-dripping voice, shit-eating grin.

 

The Frenchman

Blackpaint

20.11.18

 

 

 

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Blackpaint 587 – What would you do if I sang out of tune? Estorick, V and A, Whitechapel…

February 20, 2017

War in the Sunshine, The British in Italy 1917 – 1918, Estorick Collection

Several nice exhibitions in the Estorick at the moment:  photographs of British soldiers in the Italian theatre are accompanied by the paintings and drawings of Sydney Carline, a pilot and painter who did the aerial combat shown below.  He survived the war, only to die of illness during his first exhibition in 1929.

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There is a permanent collection, mostly of Italian Futurists and Surrealists, Boccione (below), Severini, Carra, de Chirico and others: look out for three great charcoal portraits by Boccione, which remind one somewhat of Auerbach’s early charcoals, writ light perhaps.

Boccioni, Umberto; Modern Idol; Estorick Collection, London; http://www.artuk.org/artworks/modern-idol-132962

Finally, there is a roomful of drawings by Giorgio Morandi.  No prize for guessing the subject matter.  But there are bottles too and a couple of trees, I think.

 

Edward Paolozzi, Whitechapel Gallery

Paolozzi was definitely hyperactive; my mental picture is of him leaping from one mode of expression to another, bit of sculpture, poster, design a dress, print, collage, make a film…  Big, strong, scattering fag ash – did he smoke?  Must have, they all did then – producing furiously.  Then again, everything is finished so beautifully and is often so detailed that this impression is probably wrong; there’s nothing slapdash about his work.  And although you can see glimpses of other artists, it’s quite original.  A few examples below:

 

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Touch of David Smith about these, maybe?

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I’m pretty sure this collage was 1950, pre-dating the obvious Richard Hamilton piece by ……

 

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Here’s three of his pre – psychedelia prints.

 

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A later poster.  It occurs to me that he resembles Rauschenberg and Hamilton as an ideas man, as well as maybe Fernand Leger in his visual style and workmanlike demeanour.  Maybe also Sonia Delaunay – the dresses and plates.  I’ve omitted his well-known, boxy, thin metal sculptures with crusts of embedded cogwheels and other bits and pieces; the Frinck-like heads; collages of comics and magazines; surrealistic, Monty Python-ish films…

This is a timely resurrection of an artist who seemed, to me at least, to be somewhat overlooked.  An explosive, exhausting artist.

You Say You Want a Revolution, the Victoria and Albert Museum

janis

It’s a pure nostalgia wallow, for the throng of  white haired ex-hippies – can this lot REALLY have worn loons and long hair and smoked dope and dropped acid and capered like idiots in the mud at Bath and the Isle of White?  No, of course not – it was just me.  the only cry to be heard, over and over again, unnaturally loud over the soundtrack playing into their earphones, was: “Look!  I used to have that one – and I’ve still got all three of those!”  Vinyl albums in the racks…  Biba, Granny Takes a Trip, Blow-Up, Stones, Pepper, Jethro Tull, CSNand Y, Joni, Janice, Jimi, Leary, Stokely, Huey, Eldridge, Angela – there’s Charlie! –  Vietnam, Kent State, Grosvenor Square –  some other stuff about space and Expo and then back to the real thing – a series of outtakes from Woodstock, mashed together to give 15 or 20 minutes.  Great Grace Slick and Airplane; oh no, Joan Baez – but thank God, saved by Joe Cocker; not enough Janice; Jimi’s “Star Spangled Banner”; Country Joe, “What does that spell?”; The Who, sounding rather lethargic to me – Live at the IOW is much better; the bloke who cleans the toilets and has one son in the crowd and another in Vietnam;  Arlo, completely out of his head..  I didn’t enjoy it at all.  Who’s that old git think he’s looking at?  Shit, it’s me, in the mirror glass…

The Cast Room, Victoria and Albert

After, walking through the cast room, we came upon this fabulous Michelangelo, which I’m sure I’ve never seen before:

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Another great back to add to my collection, with Kitaj, Ginger etc.

 

agostino-duccio

And this, in one of the Medieval rooms: Agostino di Duccio, I think.  It’s got a sort of Bosch feel to it, somehow.

Soutine

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I love Soutine.  Everything’s a bit (or a lot) bent in his pictures, especially out on the fields, where people sometimes walk on their sides like in Sokurov’s “Mother and Son”.

A Bigger Splash, (Luca Guadagnino, 2015) DVD

Starring Swinton, Fiennes, Schoenaerts and Dakota Johnson, this is the most ludicrous film I have ever seen.   We turned it off in the Fiennes/Swinton kareoke scene, but having bought the DVD, I watched the rest after my partner went to bed.  It improved, because Schoenaerts finally drowned Fiennes in the swimming pool, which he should have done much sooner.  I was astonished to see it described somewhere as a comedy-drama and more so at the quote from Monocle, on the case: “A dazzling, sun-soaked masterpiece”.

Two life drawings to finish:  one ballerina,  doing three poses in each drawing.

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3-ballerinas

Yes, I know it looks like she’s kicking her mate…

Next time, Hockney and Tillmans at the Tates, and Picasso at Barsa, which I didn’t get round to, this time.

Blackpaint

20/02/17

Blackpaint 559 – Yellow, Pink and Tweedy Things

June 20, 2016

I’m not sure if this is a finished painting or not, or if it’s the right way round.  One thing I am sure of is that it lacks good taste, so that’s a point in its favour.  Like several other paintings I’ve done, it looks a bit like someone running away to the left, trying to escape, perhaps, from the threatening mass of yellow coming in from the right.

yellow one 2

The Yellow Thing

Blackpaint, 20.06.16

 

Mary Heilmann at Whitechapel Gallery

Great free exhibition, some examples below.  One criticism:  too many dots.  They remind me of Smarties and give the whole show a sort of nursery overtone (enhanced by the fluorescent little pieces of furniture).  I know this is not a valid point, but more of an unreconstructed male prejudice, but there we are.

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This spidery motif is repeated effectively in several other works, as are the spots and stripes.

 

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Reminds me of that great Vanessa Bell abstract (below), done with less muted colours – and less texture, but texture is something that Heilmann does do elsewhere, swirling her brush where you might expect matt finish.  That pink square in that position must be a reference, surely.

bell abstract

Vanessa Bell

 

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Still my favourite Heilmann painting; I like the thin, trickle- down effect in that beautiful blue-green.  Terrific exhibition, if you can handle the dots.

New Tate Modern gallery – the Switch House

switch house

The cladding, spaced – out beige bricks (they seem to be supported by rubber washers), looks like tweed.  A vaguely Aztec tweed tower with a pleat up the side.  Inside, blond wood floors and stairs, Fred and Ginger spirals, the “Maria and Peter Kellner Bridge”.  Dizzy, full window views here and there.

Most of the memorable art seemed to be by women; I think they are operating a 50-50 policy now, I guess that’s only in the new bit.  These are the works I remember:

  • Roni Horn’s big glass pink cube.
  • Rebecca Horn’s roomful of surreal costumery, inspired surely by Ernst (feathers) and maypoles (head extension).
  • Lygia Clark’s huge grey metal – well, air conditioning unit, it looks like, lying in the middle of the gallery, as if brought from the Ali Baba kebab restaurant in Bloomsbury (NB – I THINK it’s Clark’s; the labelling generally is infuriatingly difficult to match to the pieces).
  • A roomful of Louise Bourgeois pieces, very similar to those currently on show in the Guggenheim, Bilbao – see last blog – and containing several of the very few paintings of any description in the new bit; Mark Bradford’s big, dark, abstract cityscape-ish picture is the only other thing on a wall, as I recall.

 

roni horn

Roni Horn’s pink cube

  • Ana Lupas, Romanian artist, farmers’ wheat structures, contained in “tins”.
  • Down at the bottom in the tanks, when we went, there was a musician playing a sort of hurdy-gurdy, amplified electronically; it made a clicking drone which seemed to loosen your fillings.

 

Lygia Clark at Alison Jacques Gallery, W1

An exhibition of Clark’s work from the fifties.  She was Brazilian, died in 1988 and made a whole lot of intricate little hinged metal pieces, one of which is in the new Tate Mod gallery – maybe two, if she did the “AC unit”, described above.  But that is neither hinged, nor little…  There is a MOMA catalogue of Clark’s work in the gallery and when you see a whole lot of these contrivances together, they take on the feel of executive desk toys.  I liked the pieces below, however, especially the miniature room – seen a lot of these lately, in the Bilbao Bourgeois show for example.

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Gomorrah, Sky Atlantic

It’s Series 2, episode 12 or 13 already, but I’ve only just discovered it.  The gangster taste, the violence, the haircuts, the huge, dilapidated, concrete spaceship flats -fantastic, but above all, the language.  Neapolitan dialect, sounds like Portuguese to me, nothing like Italian, and the theme – “Nuje Vulimme ‘Na Speranza” by Nto’ and Lucariello.

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Maybe it’s better this way round?

Blackpaint

20.06.16

 

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.

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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 478 – Just a Quick One

January 15, 2015

Slate Projects; Demimonde at 17 Thurloe Place, opposite V&A

Great exhibition in a derelict house (once Margot Fonteyn’s); the paintings and sculptures hang and lurk amongst bare plaster and boards, baths, sinks and toilets, rickety staircases and holes in the walls.  There are abominable snowmen, lifesize figures in some lead- like material with heads encased in Monopoly boards and more conventional painting, examples below.  I like the big ones by James Collins and the slightly Chantal Joffe-ish one below (didn’t get the artist’s name).  It’s only on until the 18th January and it’s free, so must be seen.  The venue is unheated, so gloves and woolly hat required.

james collins

James Collins

slate unknown

 

Demimonde, ??? is this your picture??? 

Adventures of the Black Square, Whitechapel Gallery

I was lucky enough to get a ticket to the private view for this survey of geometric abstraction 1915 – present and so was able to see the works in the context of their natural Fellini-esque audience.  Several retro figures who looked to have arrived from the set of la Dolce Vita, with accents to boot.  Favourites as follows:

Clay Ketter

The wall cracks are photographic, not actual.  Like the last standing wall of a demolished house, with the “ghosts ” of rooms, doors, joists left sketched on it.

Sophie Tauber-Arp

Love that blue – it’s a tapestry, by the way.

tauber arp

Ivan Kliun

Associate of Malevich, obviously.

Jenny Holzer

A touch of Oiticica (who is also here).

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Liu Wei

Like a gigantic barcode, in red and turquoise.

Loads of delicious stuff, and assistants patrolling about wearing giant circular and triangular mirrors.  Famous names: Oroszco, Palermo, Alys, el Lissitsky,  Trockel, Pape, Clark, Moholy -Nagy, Malevich (of course) and plenty of others.  Now, what is needed is a parallel exhibition of expressionist abstraction.

The Poetry of John Cooper Clarke – Ten Years in an Open Necked Shirt

It’s up there with Ginsburg, Auden and Plath.  Although Cooper Clarke lacks the unique perspective on nature of  Ted Hughes or the erudition (and casual anti-semitism) of Eliot, he has his own kingdom of the urban back-street:

The fucking pies are fucking old

the fucking chips are fucking cold

the fucking beer is fucking flat

the fucking flats have fucking rats

the fucking clocks are fucking wrong

the fucking days are fucking long

it fucking  gets you fucking down

evidently chicken town

With beautiful illustrations by Steve Maguire, Vintage pbk, £7.99.

Three liquitex on card life drawings to finish:

 

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watercolour11

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Blackpaint

15.01.15

 

Blackpaint 84

March 10, 2010

Whitechapel Gallery

Free admission to a great exhibition of drawings called “Threshold”, curated or chosen by Paula Rego and with an expensive-looking leaflet with loads of repros of the drawings.  It’s from the British Council collection.

Without looking at the leaflet, I remember the following:  several coloured drawings by Graham Sutherland, ditto from Sickert, a couple of Victor Willings, a Prunella Clough, two Burras, an Augustus and a Gwen (latter better, I think), a tiny Ofili head, a large Auerbach in black and white chalk, a Harold Gilman, Chris Orr’s “Vegetables go to School” , a Patrick Caulfield, a surprising Stanley Spencer – can’t remember more, but I’m sure there was more.  It’s only on until 14th March.

Celeste Bourgier – Mougenot

At the Barbican Curve gallery, live birds playing electric guitars for free.  Everyone there was smiling – and it was free.

RIP – painted over this (above), over last two days – now looks like this (below – but still changing)

Listening to “Sunday Morning Coming Down” by Johnny Cash.

“On a Sunday morning sidewalk, I’m wishing, Lord, that I was  stoned,

‘Cos there’s something in a Sunday that makes a body feel alone;

And there’s nothing short of dying, half so lonesome as the sound

Of a sleeping city sidewalk, and Sunday morning coming down”.

Blackpaint

10.03.10