Posts Tagged ‘William Gear’

Blackpaint 506 – Light through the Thorns, Parrots in Boxes, Budgies in Trunks

August 8, 2015

William Gear – A Centenary Exhibition, Redfern Gallery, Cork Street W1

gear redfern 1

A couple of blogs ago (Blackpaint 502), I wrote about the Neil Stokoe exhibition at the Redfern, to which I’d gone. expecting William Gear.  Now the Gear is on, until September 5th and it’s well worth the trip to Green Park tube and the heat of Piccadilly to see it.

Gear exhibited with CoBra in 1949 – he and Stephen Gilbert were the only British artists – but I have to say, I don’t think he has a lot in common with painters like Appel; his work strikes me as much more like Adrian Heath, Bryan Wynter and even sometimes Patrick Heron, than the wilder, thicker, more gestural products of Appel and Jorn.  There is one painting, however, “Le Marche aux Fleurs” (1947), which could easily have been an early Jorn.

There are several recurring features of Gear’s work, the most prominent, perhaps, being the tangled bundle of jagged, hooked, thorn-like shapes he seemed to fling across his canvases, so that the patches of bright colour seem to peep out through a thicket of scrub.  The shapes are often, but not always, black.  Gear isn’t afraid of yellow; he uses a full spectrum, but it’s the yellow and black that stay with you after the Redfern.

Triangular grids are another feature, and there are a number of works like “Black Form on Red”(1957), that comprise two or three colours used in large, simple shapes, looking rather like sheets of thin leather or felt, collaged onto the canvas – Poliakoff, maybe, or Burri.  An influence that is suggested in the catalogue is that of Nicolas de Stael – I couldn’t see that, I have to say.

gear redfern 3

Good exhibition, in association with the Towner Gallery in Eastbourne, where Gear was the curator in the 60s.  There was a great black, thorny self-portrait on show at the Pallant House in Chichester recently; maybe its still there.  made me think of Tony Bevan, a bit.

gear redfern 2

Joseph Cornell at the RA

cornell 1

This is an exhibition for those, and there are many of them apparently, who like quaint objects and photographs displayed in shallow boxes.  Inevitably, there is a large overlap with the likes of Max Ernst, Rene Magritte and other European surrealists; the difference being that, whereas Ernst, for example, also painted and sculpted, Cornell stuck to the box formula permanently.  Clearly, he had a thing for parrots and cockatoos; his work goes completely against the grain of North American art of the time (40s and 50s) in two ways – it’s small and it’s in boxes.  Although there were later, feminist, artists in the states who put things in drawers and boxes to display them – not parrots, though, as I recall….

cornell2

The Swimmer, Frank Perry (1968) DVD

I think John Cheever’s short story is a masterpiece of the form, one of the best of the 20th century; hard to think of others so perfect, maybe a couple of Joyce’s Dubliners or Margaret Atwood’s Serpent’s Egg.  The film is also a work of art, though very much of its era (Hamlisch’s lush theme music, coupled with jagged Johnny Staccato jazz riffs and some eye -watering psychedelic visuals).  Burt Lancaster is brilliant as the ageing playboy Ned Merrill, in his budgie smuggler trunks, swimming home across the county, by way of the “river” of swimming pools of his “friends”.  Lancaster is by turns genuinely creepy and strangely sympathetic, despite his insensitivity. The pools are not there for freeloading swimmers to propel their sweaty bodies through.

 

The Longest Journey, EM Forster

Even though I’m currently re-reading “Finnegans Wake”, Forster’s book is the strangest, most difficult novel I’ve struggled through for ages; I had to keep going back and reading bits over again to make sense of it.  the problem is twofold – the language: very arch, ironic, riddled with Edwardian Oxbridge phraseology and slang – and the concerns; “love children”, family disgrace, inheritance, the intellect v. the physical, the prosaic v.the poetic, genetic flaws, town and country, social class… Actually, that’s quite a lot and I’m sure I missed plenty.

I was interested to see that Forster kills his characters  in an even more offhand way than Virginia Woolf; a “hurt” at football, a drowning and a steam train across the knees- the last completely unsignalled (sorry) and dispassionate: “It is also a man’s duty to save his own life, and therefore he tried.  The train went over his knees.  He died up in Cadover, whispering “You have been right,” to Mrs Failing”.  That’s it.

 

finsbury mud 2

 

Finsbury Mud 2,

Blackpaint

08.08.15

 

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Blackpaint 483 – War in Spain, the Auctioneer and the Dancing Chicken

February 21, 2015

Pallant House Gallery, Chichester

This gallery must be visited as a matter of urgency because there’s such a lot of really good paintings in it.  Go on Tuesday, when it’s half price.  What’s it got?  Well…

  • Terry Frost “Lorca” prints – a roomful.
  • Several fantastic, quite late, Ivon Hitchens, less..well,  oblong than usual and highly colourful;

pallant ivon hitchens

  • A sort of St.Ives room, with Heron, John Wells, Barnes-Graham, a nice John Tunnard (actually, he was elsewhere) and a great Ben Nicholson (see below);

pallant ben nicholson

  • There’s also a Ben panto horse in brown fields and some nice Winifred portraits;
  • Bomberg, two Rondas I think, and a corner of his disciples, Dorothy Mead, Crenfield etc.;
  • Then there’s a bunch of self-portraits by various, the most striking of which were by William Gear, the lines of which resembled burnt briars or maybe barbed wire (fascinating to learn he was connected to CoBrA) and the one below by Peter Coker, with a black outline on a narrow canvas in a corner;

pallant peter coker

  • A room of Kitaj, of whom more later.
  • Then there is the main gallery, with some lovely big pictures – Michael Andrews dark coastal painting with figures; a Bacon, two figures who look to be wrestling..possibly..; a great Keith Vaughan; a Colin Self pop art group with one of those women with bright lipstick – bit like Pauline Boty, I thought – and a Peter Blake with an uncharacteristically(?) rough, blurry finish, very effective.  A couple of paintings of domestic scenes by Victor Willing, Paula Rego’s late husband, which have that distorted, slightly monstrous quality of her work.
  • Finally,  there’s Spain; a special exhibition relating to the British role in the International Brigade during the Spanish Civil War.  Great photo of the poet John Cornford and of Felicia Browne, the first British volunteer killed in the war, with a couple of her sketches – and very good they are too.  Banners of the British Battalion – 15th, was it? – with the battle names on it: Brunete, the Gandesa, Belchite, Teruel, the Ebro; lump in the throat time.

felicia browne

Felicia Browne

Cornford

John Cornford and Ray Peters

Figures in a Landscape, Alexandropoulos

Two children, a girl of about twelve and her kid brother, run away from their Greek home to try to reach Germany, mostly by rail, sometimes by hitchhiking.  The Travelling Players show up on the way, having wandered in from another film.  There’s a scene in which they escape from a police station when it starts snowing – all the adults wander outside and freeze in a trance, looking up at the falling flakes.  So whimsical, you think – then the girl is raped in the back of a lorry by the driver, thankfully not on screen.  They press on and eventually arrive at the border; a shot sounds as they cross the river.  They run through the thick mist to embrace a tree on a hilltop – symbol of the father?  Are they dead?  End.

Stroszek, Werner Herzog

The great Bruno S. again (from Kaspar Hauser).  Three “vulnerable” Germans go to the USA to escape from their tormentors.  I think it’s a comedy, but there’s some sickening brutality towards Eva, the prostitute, in the early part of the film.  It must be seen, however, if only for the fastest auctioneer in the universe – he must be! – and for the dancing chicken and the fire truck rabbit.  Also a beautiful electric guitar instrumental version of “The Last Thing on my Mind”, which accompanies the driving scenes.  Don’t know who it is.

RB Kitaj

Got a cheapo catalogue of the above in the Pallant House, including two fantastic pictures; “The Rise of Fascism” and “the Architects” (see below).

(c) The estate of R. B. Kitaj; Supplied by The Public Catalogue Foundation

 

 Marlene Dumas

Visited this again and found that the red faced-woman wasn’t in it (see last blog) – I’d seen it somewhere else.  Just as good – no, better – on second visit; look out for the Japanese Boy, the full-length portrait of Helena and the head of the dead young man, killed in the Chechnyan incident – or was it the Moscow theatre siege?  Beautifully painted, anyway.

Sprout Gallery, Moyser Road, Tooting SW16

If you are in London next week, visit the Sprout Gallery  and avail yourself of the opportunity to buy my paintings, and those of my partner, 11.00am – 6,00pm, any day but Monday.  Not the one below, however; it’s still wet.

 

 

Blue Crouch

 

Blue Crouch

Blackpaint

22.02.15

Blackpaint 479 – Birdman, Auerbach and Cat Strangling

January 24, 2015

Birdman

I think this is the best American film I have seen for years. I was about to say because the others are all superhero crap – but then so is this, in a way;  not crap, but superhero.  Michael Keaton is an ageing ex-superhero, Birdman, who is directing and leading in a Broadway version of a Ray Carver story, “What we talk about when we talk about love”.  The preview stage has been reached and Keaton is struggling with self-doubt and contempt, an egomaniac co-star (Edward Norton, magnificent), a disaffected daughter recently in “rehab” (Emma Stone, also brilliant, below) …. and so on, can’t bother with all this exposition.

Anyway, the dialogue crackles, as does the jazz drum accompaniment, the story is absorbing and funny, sentimentality is kept in check (though not absent) and the acting is great, as are the long takes following the actors’ tracks backstage and out of the theatre in one memorable scene.

I can’t resist the urge to spot resemblances that has often (always?) been a feature of this blog;  I glimpsed Gene Hackman in Keaton, Helen Mirren in Naomi Watts, Matthew McConnaughey in Edward Norton, Richard Dreyfuss in Zach Galifianakis – and in the huge-eyed Emma Stone, Lucian Freud’s painting of Kitty Garman strangling the kitten, below.  Well, just the eyes really – and Kitty is just holding the kitty….

 

emma stone

Girl with a Kitten 1947 by Lucian Freud 1922-2011

 

London Art Fair, Islington Business Centre

Unfortunately, this is only on for another day, but I daresay that some of the paintings below will still be unsold, if you want to buy them (although the first four are not for sale, being part of the Chichester Pallant House Gallery’s exhibition-within-the exhibition, so to speak).

 

auerbach gerda boehm

 Frank Auerbach, Reclining Head of Gerda Boehm – the best painting in the building, a more intense blue than appears here

 

sickert jack ashore

 

Walter Sickert, Jack Ashore – you can see Jack in the background, but he’s not the main focus really – look at her left thigh; it’s made up entirely of loose dabs and strokes of white.  I’m not sure why this is good, but it is.

artfair lanyon

 Peter Lanyon – didn’t get the title;

 

artfair denny

 

Robyn Denny – again, no title, and I’m not sure that this is the right way up.  It’s great though, from when he was doing AbEx stuff before going geometric and minimal.

The following were from various galleries showing at the fair:

 

artfair vaughan2

 

 Keith Vaughan

 

 

artfair vaughan1

 Keith Vaughan again – Two Figures

artfair mellis

Margaret Mellis – love that red

 

artfair cadell

 

 

Cadell – Ben More and Mull

artfair fergusson

 

Fergusson – Still Life with Fruit – I love these Scottish Colourists; there’s also a Melville, the Glasgow Boy, in the same display.

artfair gear

 

William Gear – Two landscapes, 1947 and 1948 

artfair kinley

 

Peter Kinley, Figure on a Bed, 1975

…and, as usual, several great Roger Hiltons, Allan Daveys, Gaudier-Brjeska figure drawings, Prunella Clough, John Golding – great stuff.

Conflict Time Photography, Tate Modern

Revisited this (see previous blog) and found a couple of things I missed last time:

  • The collection of photos of Northern Ireland – irritatingly, these go up the wall too high to see them all properly (they are small), but there are some interesting ones low down – a couple of men or boys, tied up and covered with whitewash (?) wearing placards; one proclaims him to be a drug dealer to “underage children”).  Also, the huge photo of a riot which seems to involve throwing of milk cartons – what does the big red circle indicate?
  • The series of photographs of relics of Hiroshima.  The lunchbox of a schoolgirl, contents carbonised; no sign of the girl.  The uniform tunic, discovered in branches of a tree, of a schoolboy; no trace of boy.  Single lens of eyeglass of a housewife; piece of skull found some weeks later.
  • The odd, but fascinating jumble of photos and memorabilia contained in the little sub-exhibition of “the Archive of Modern Conflict”.

 

Still haven’t done any proper painting for a while, so some life drawings to fill the gap.

life drawing 1

life drawing 3

life drawing 4

life drawing 2

Life Drawings

Blackpaint

24.01.15 

 

 

 

Blackpaint 317 – Wandering Ears and Landskips

January 4, 2012

Van Gogh’s Ear

The Taschen book shows three self portraits done in August and September1889, in which Vincent appears to show the left side of his face in half-profile.  In two, the ear is clearly intact; in the other one, it is mutilated.   Since it was the left ear that was damaged, the viewer is probably seeing a mirror image transcribed by VG.  The same goes for the two pictures with bandaged ear; the bandage appears to be on the right ear, so it must be mirror image.  In the third self portrait, presumably also done with a mirror, the ear is damaged .  So, what’s happened here?  He must have realised the “error”, and put it right – or maybe he just preferred himself with the ear intact.  Doesn’t matter, I know; but he had a thing about realism and it intrigued me to know.

Gainsborough

Reading the Phaidon book on above, and to my surprise, it’s fascinating.  Gainsborough refers to a “landskip” and my Dutch mother-in-law tells me that’s the Dutch spelling of landscape – which makes sense, as the Dutch more or less made the genre their own in the 17th century.  The author suggests that G may have had a job putting little figures in imported Dutch landscapes to make them acceptable to the English market.

“Landscape with Sandpit” – to my eyes, completely atypical of Gainsborough; chunky, blocky, low sandhills surrounded with lush vegetation, like some Caribbean treasure island (Dutch landskips by Ruisdael and Hobbema, for instance, sometimes look like Sumatran jungle, rather than European woods and copses).

There is that staggering portrait of the Linley sisters, in the Dulwich Picture Gallery.  The distinctly creepy, challenging stare and smile of Mary, peering slightly down on us head-on, rather than slightly tilted in other portraits.

Unfinished

I was surprised to read that several of the best-known pictures are unfinished; The Andrews husband and wife icon is one; there is a patch of plain canvas in Mrs. Andrews’ lap, under her folded hands.  The portrait of G’s two daughters pursuing the butterfly is also unfinished, as is the Diana and Actaeon.  I have to say that I don’t think they are any the worse for this; like Turner, whose sketches of Venice outshine many of his highly finished works.

William Gear

The book on the two Roberts that I referred to in the last blog, mentions this Scottish painter as one of the earliest British abstractionists; he apparently exhibited with CoBrA in 1949, so maybe they should have got an “E” for Edinburgh in the title somewhere.

Klee

Reading a Taschen on Klee – sounds like a tiresome individual in a number of ways.  A couple of paintings, one called “The Daub”, remind me of a wobbly Sean Scully.

Girl with a Dragon Tattoo

Again, the cinema (Ritzy) was freezing, but at least they had an apology pinned to the door.  I think the success of the Swedish Wallander (Kristerson) and The Killing was partly due to the distance provided by the foreign language and subtitles, which somehow smooths over the ridiculous plots and unlikely twists.  This new version of the Larsson is in English, so the absurdity of the plot is all too apparent.  However, Rooney Mara is a real face; she reminded me a little of Darryl Hannah’s replicant in Blade Runner – the black eye make-up, I think – and also, strangely and I don’t know why, of the girl in Franju’s Yeux Sans Visage.

Blackpaint

4/01/12