Posts Tagged ‘William Boyd’

Blackpaint 465 – Boyd’s Law, Nazis, Eyeballs and Ticky Tacky

October 17, 2014

William Boyd on Schiele

Boyd, writing in  last Saturday’s Guardian Review, praises  Egon Schiele (Courtauld Gallery exhibition opening on 23rd October) as a “phenomenal draughtsman”; fair enough, but he then goes on to revisit his argument that only great draughtsmen – there are only men in his list – can be “truly great”  painters:  “I believe that you can’t be a truly great painter if you’re not an excellent draughtsman.”  He cites Robert Hughes in support of this proposition: “..the naked figure, male and female (is) the ultimate test and validation, so the critic Robert Hughes has stated, of any artist.s merit and painterly ability.”   He (Boyd) goes on to single out Pollock: “Jackson Pollock, to name but one giant of modernism, is a pre-eminent example – he was a shockingly inept draughtsman – but there are dozens of others.” From the work of Pollock and these others, Boyd can tell – and so can we, he says –  that there is something “fundamentally lacking”.

Surely, this is nonsense.  How can you tell from Pollock’s “Lavender Mist” that he was a bad draughtsman?  Bridget Riley?  John Hoyland?  Joan Mitchell?  Gillian Ayres?  Rothko? All great painters, I would argue – but I’ve no idea if they could do a good figure drawing (apart from Rothko, who was no great shakes, I know).

To drag in Hughes is misleading, too, if you are going to have a go at Jackson – Hughes leaves little doubt in his essay on Pollock in “Nothing if not Critical”, that he regarded him as a true great, in spite of his limitations as a “draftsman”: “When he set up a repeated frieze of drawn motifs, as he did for Peggy Guggenheim in 1943, the result – as drawing – was rather monotonous.  But when he found he could throw lines of paint in the air, the laws of energy and fluid motion made up for the awkwardness of his fist, and from then on, there was no grace that he could not claim.  Compared with his paintings, the myth of Pollock hardly matters”.

The Schiele looks good, though; but a bit freaky, as if made for repro as posters for student bedrooms.  I think you’d soon get sick of them, despite the “phenomenal” skill involved.

schiele

 

 

Richard Tuttle at the Whitechapel Gallery

I went to the private view, sunk the regulation three glasses of fizzy wine, and now I’m going to be ungrateful;  I found this exhibition of the US minimalist to be very disappointing.  There are some beautiful prints, lithographs, or maybe monoprints, reproduced below; didn’t like the rest.  Tiny wall plaques with ticky-tacky little constructions stuck to them – one looked like a bed of cress; a sort of Schwitters construction like a giant mousetrap; bits of string in shapes on the floor; a few paintings combining blue and red marks on a white background with a lower section in black, oil stick maybe; sagging lumps of fabric, cut into odd shapes; some pieces that looked broken or collapsing on themselves (someone did similar stuff in a Turner Prize exhibition some years ago-can’t remember the name).  And poems, I think, on the walls, to go with the exhibits.  Didn’t read them.

richard tuttle

Sculpture at the Whitechapel

Don’t miss this.  There’s a de Kooning mud figure, a Schutte head on a tripod, some flayed figures by the Polish guy who was at the Biennale last year, a Louise Bourgeois that looks like a sawfish blade, a Henry Moore reclining figure…

Downfall

Had to watch it when it was on last week; third time, I think.  Goebbels and Magda are terrifying, Mohnke is great (the actor, not the real man; implicated in murder of British POWs at Wormhoudt) – and Traudl looks lovely in the German helmet…

downfall

Julia’s Eyes

Del Toro film, with some ludicrous bits, strongly relying on three “horrific” scenes: a knife through the mouth, a needle through the eye and a throat- cutting suicide (not as shocking as the one in “Hidden”).  Below, for your pleasure, I reproduce the needle moment and the eyeball cutting from Un Chien Andalou, by way of comparison.

julias eyes

un chien andalou

I think Chien still has the edge (pardon the pun).

Shark, Will Self

So, you’re reading away, inside someone’s head, hanging on and understanding maybe 70% – then, it all goes pear-shaped.  You’ve gone into someone else’s head without a signal and you might go a page or two without realising.  Then, you go back to look for the bit where it changed…  most annoying, but that’s experimental writing for you.

 

002

Samonas

Blackpaint

11.10.14

 

 

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Blackpaint 171

July 24, 2010

Michelangelo

His St. Matthew statue, emerging from the marble, brandishing a bible in left hand and with a curious square structure in chest region, looks like some sculpture from the 1910’s or 20’s – Gill maybe, but rougher of course; Epstein? Not really, but that era.  Later, I’ll be looking at something Michaael Craig-Martin said about drawing, how it can bridge the ages whereas sculpture and painting can’t; I think this is an exception.  It was  made as part  of the grandiose Julius Tomb project, which led to furious rows between Julius II and Michelangelo, and a flight from Rome to Florence by M.

Drawing

My moaning in Bp.170 about the Adrian Searle article was caused by the fact that articles exalting the process of drawing often go on to use it as an opportunity to attack Abstract Expressionism (carefully excluding de Kooning and a few others) on the grounds that they have to do abstracts because they can’t draw.  William Boyd, I think, was the last one I read putting this view forward.  Robert Hughes, in his diatribes against Basquiat and Schnabel, dismissed a later generation of artists on these lines, but would not include the earlier Ab Exes, whose integrity and importance are manifest.

The tone of this precious stuff about the supremacy of drawing can at times reach amusing levels – try the correspondence between John Berger and Leon Kossoff in the Penguin Book of Art Writing;   no doubt, they are both most sincere in their mutual praise, but even so, it’s a bit much…

Michael Craig-Martin

What he said was that drawings of great artists from  all ages can “speak directly to each other” in a way that paintings and sculpture cannot.  “The drawings of Rembrandt can speak directly to the work of Beckmann or Guston, …Leonardo to Newman or Andre, Michelangelo to Duchamp…”; paintings are more rooted in historical values, have a “cultural as well as  a physical density” that it is hard to transcend.

I suppose this boils down to “Some drawings look as if they could have been done yesterday or a thousand years ago, because techniques of shading etc. haven’t changed that much”.  That sounds fair enough, but the rest of the assertions need clarification, at least;  HOW exactly do Leonardo’s drawings speak directly to Newman or Andre?  We’ll never know, because this is art writing.

Barnett Newman

Since I’ve mentioned him, I have to refer to his appearance on “Painters Painting” DVD I blogged about in 170.  Drink and smoke in  hand (like all the rest), a bit tearful, looking like  anything but an  American Ab Ex in his tight suit and thick  moustache.  In the Penguin art book, he makes the wonderful, wild assertion that the creative, artistic  urge came before anything else for primitive man.  The whole article is a statement of pride really in his “calling”, although I’m not sure he would have called it  that.  Anyway, after reading that, I saw  his green zip painting in the DVD – anything you say is right, Mr. Newman.

Tom McCarthy

While we are on assertions, lovely one in the Guardian Review today from the above; in Blake’s Tyger, Tyger the beast represents the Industrial Revolution.  Blackpaint says: No, it doesn’t.  I thought the stuff on Finnegans Wake was interesting, though, containing as  it did assertions with which I agree.

Work in progress, by Blackpaint

22.07.10

Blackpaint 93

March 23, 2010

“Solar” by Ian McEwan

I’ve been taking a couple of days off art (reading, that is – not painting) and reading the above.  I had thought of McEwan as being in a league of his own – beautifully clear, original ideas, perfect metaphors – and this book has all of that;  but this time, I thought you could easily detect other British writers and works that have similarities.

The first that occurred to me was Malcolm Bradbury’s “History Man”.  I think it’s a combination of Beard’s self-absorption and womanising and the slightly unhinged cheeriness of Patrice when she takes her revenge (i.e. Tarpin).  Bradbury’s Howard Kirk and his wife Barbara come to mind.  Not only that, though; Bradbury’s ironic tone is there too, if a little lighter.  And there was his jetting academic, Maurice Zapp in another book, can’t remember the title, who bears a slight resemblance to Beard.

Then, there is Tom Sharpe, “Wilt” for example; Aldous’ unlikely death and the build-up of pressures towards the end seem similar.

A William Boyd novel, “Stars and Bars” had an American character reminiscent of Darlene, I think, and a preoccupation with food; vegetarian v. meat, as I recall.

Finally, and maybe I’m pushing it a bit, but I’ve recently re-read Keith Waterhouse’s brilliant “Jubb” and Tarpin the builder (and his house in Cricklewood) is exactly the sort of character that Waterhouse used to create.

None of this detracts from “Solar”, which I read in two days; several weeks is more my usual speed.

Anyway, back to painting; below, my Black Painting as promised – or threatened.  And actually black, white, orange blue and green, if you look closely and ignore the reflection of the flash…

Blackpaint 22.03.10