Posts Tagged ‘William Morris’

Blackpaint 509 – Patti in Helsinki, Ray and Tobias, Hard to be a God

August 28, 2015

KIASMA – Helsinki Museum of Contemporary Art

Concrete ramps receding into the distance inside – a cross between the New York Guggenheim and the sets for “Caligari”.  There is a stunning Robert Mapplethorpe exhibition; the leathery penises on show I thought rather diminutive but the shots of Patti Smith were riveting.  When she was young, one of the most photogenic women I can think of – not beautiful; skinny, hairy legs. but still..

Patti Smith 1976 Robert Mapplethorpe 1946-1989 Accepted by HM Government in lieu of inheritance tax from the Estate of Barbara Lloyd and allocated to Tate 2009 http://www.tate.org.uk/art/work/P13083

patti2

As I’ve said before, a biopic needs to be made featuring Charlotte Gainsbourg, before she gets much older.

Other Mapplethorpe portraits of note – Keith Haring, Arnie, Gere, Burroughs, Capote, Sontag, Leibowitz, Rauschenberg, Hockney, Warhol of course.

Helsinki Design Museum

Interesting that Finland had an Arts and Crafts movement very like that in England driven by William Morris, about the same time too.  20th century stuff is arranged by decade.  Current catwalk designs below – far left rather like my current look.

design museum

Ray Carver and Tobias Wolff

Wolff’s stories are reminiscent of Carver’s – except that Wolff tells you what his people are thinking.  Carver mostly tells you what they do and you draw your own conclusions – unless they are talking straight to you over a coffee, say, and then they follow the conventions of the dialogue.  Wolff’s best stories: “Hunters in the Snow” and “Leviathan” – this week, anyway.  Carver’s?  All of them.

Hard to be a God, Aleksei German, 2013

Russian film, black and white.  set on another planet, on which it appears to be Brueghel/Bosch time; the knobbly, gap-toothed, beaky faces are Brueghel peasants or soldiers, the cartwheel gallows, corpses and infernal machinery of “The Triumph of Death” are all there.  The mud is Flanders 1917; everyone is caked with it and shit, the torrential rain is sticky, everyone treats everyone else with brutality throughout, dwarves abound, bowels slide forth, eyes are gouged, etcetera, etcetera.  Through the chaos wanders a “God” from Earth, who resembles Dave, of Chas and Dave, occasionally blowing an outlandish alto saxophone-thing, sub Albert Ayler.  There is some kind of sci-fi/Game of Thrones-type plot (it’s based on a novel, see Wikipedia for plot summary), but the dialogue is so fractured and disjointed, it seems designed to prevent understanding.

hard to be a god

 

Visual references abound: in addition to Brueghel, there is Goya (the conical hats of the Inquisition victims); Pozzo and Lucky from Godot; Fellini’s Satyricon; the Saragossa Manuscript (the gallows corpses); Tarkovsky’s Ivan Rublev (general look, and the use of a peasant’s head – still attached  – as a battering ram).  Unintentionally I’m sure, and probably for British audiences only, there is a strong odour of Monty Python and Blackadder.

The film is around 3 hours long and seems longer – as well as the impenetrable plot, there is the relentless use of close-up.  Most of the time, you are struggling to make out what is going on and when the camera draws back, you sigh with relief.  The actors keep peering and poking at the camera lens which is amusing, at first.  The sub-titles are occasionally adolescent – “zits”, for example – which adds to the Thrones/steampunk/video game feel. German, who died aged 75 in 2013, was no punk wunderkind, however; he never emigrated, but faced a constant struggle to get his films made and shown.

So, it’s probably a critique to some degree of Putin’s Russia and no doubt a masterpiece – I’ll get the DVD when it comes out and watch it in 30 minute bursts; might be bearable, or even brilliant like that.  At the last, beautiful, snowbound scene, I was getting that thing where you pray that nobody will come on or start the dialogue again, so that it can fade out.  Last had that in “Once Upon a Time in Anatolia”, which was definitely a masterpiece.  My advice is to read the Wiki plot summary a few times before you go, if you feel you really have to…

shoreham dog

Shoreham Dog

 

down by the river

Down by the River – rather Expressionist for me, but still.

Blackpaint 

28.08.15

 

Blackpaint 443 – Deacon, Cezanne, Fellini and Bragg

April 25, 2014

Richard Deacon at Tate Britain – until Sunday!

I was unexcited about the prospect of visiting this exhibition, since painting is more my thing than sculpture usually; that’s why it took me so long to get around to it.  I was surprised – it’s great.  Wood, metal, cement. sometimes all three together – wooden strips looping along the floor and rearing up like lassos; an oblong metal “shell”, open at both ends, with a flat metal lip overlapping and then blending with the edge of the orifice.  It just lies there on the floor, like a giant grey metal cream horn.

deacon1

A splintered and tortured steamed oak and metal structure, writhing all over the floor – how does he twist the wood like that?  I presume it’s made possible by the steaming process.

deacon2

A black “hogan” shaped thing, or maybe giant seed case called “Struck Dumb”, rather spoilt in my view by a red bow tie shape at one end;  “After”, a huge, “wickerwork” snake, curling across the gallery, stiffened by a wide silver metal band running from end to end.  A group of small, organic shapes, sculpted in various materials, like a group of sea creatures washed up by the tide.  And terrific, looping, diagramatic drawings with erasures and fuzzed lines in blue ink.

deacon 3

Great sculptures and great engineering.  It finishes this Sunday, so go this weekend.

Ruin Lust, Tate B

I thought this stretched the definition of “ruin” a bit far; there is a series of photographs by Gerard Byrne, for instance, which show hangovers or survivals of 60s design in present-day architecture and society – great photos, interesting idea, but not really “ruin”.  Unlike Waldemar Januszczak, however, I don’t really care if the concept is stretched though, as long as there’s some good art to look at in the exhibition.  And there is some; several paintings and prints of Llanthony Abbey to kick off.  I know it well and none of these look much like it (not that it matters).   The usual suspects are here; Turner, Constable, Wilson Steer.  There’s a mildly Apocalyptic John Martin, of the Pompeii eruption, which looks to me as if it’s happening in a vast underground chamber – my partner tells me he did some designs for sewers during the cholera epidemics, so maybe that influenced him. They are in Jeremy Deller’s exhibition in Nottingham, I understand.  Photos of stupendous German bunkers and gun emplacements on the Atlantic coast, by the Wilson sisters;  A couple of familiar surrealistic pictures by Paul Nash; a great Sutherland and a Piper church.

piper 1

I thought Ian Hislop’s description of Piper as “a committed Modernist, in love with the Olden Days” (The Olden Days, BBC2) was spot on.  Some war photographs from Rachel Whiteread and a Patrick Caulfield, which displays the contrast between his clean, radiantly coloured, graphic style and the ruinous subject matter.  Not one of the great exhibitions, but a good 30 minute job. if you are a Tate member and don’t have to fork out specially.

Cezanne and the Modern , Oxford Ashmolean Museum

This is just packed out with interesting things, as is the permanent collection at the museum ( I’ll write about that in next blog, along with the Matisse cut-outs).

The Cezannes are mostly watercolours; the best of these are one of a rockface or quarry, almost like an early Hamilton car fender drawing from a distance; and one called “Undergrowth”, I think, like a pen and ink and wash drawing.  Then, there is a single, large, unfinished oil painting called “Route to le Tholonet”, which has beautiful, subtle blue, brown and green hillsides behind a couple of tree trunks and a sketchy cottage – it’s oil, but it looks like watercolour, especially in the exhibition guide (good for £5).  Also pears in a bowl, a skull and a shimmering bottle still life.  Great St.Victoire, next door with the others.

Others: Great Modiglianis, one of Cocteau, pink cheeks, spidery body and features, wrists and chin and a male face, a Russian I think, with a crooked, “stuck on” nose;

A striking Degas nude, “After the bath, woman drying herself” – her bum is right in your face as you enter the gallery; she appears to be diving forwards, her arm and shoulder outlined in red, head disappearing behind divan, or whatever.  Her head’s in the wrong place, it seems to me, too far to the right…;

degas ashmolean

A Van Gogh, “the Tarrascon Stage”, the paint badged on thickly in sticky-looking squares;

A fabulous Manet, “Young Woman in a Round Hat” – on the wall above is a quotation from Manet; “There are no lines in Nature…” and yet, round the woman’s left shoulder and arm, a very visible black line.  Great painting though.

manet round hat

 

Soutine – these are a revelation; he’s much more than the sides of beef.  A thick red-lipped, crop-headed self portrait; A beautiful, sad-eyed portrait of an unknown woman in a black dress, with a dark blue background;  an awful choirboy and an awful hanging turkey BUT – three expressionist paintings of the town of Ceret, that look a little like Auerbach building sites, but with curving lines.  There’s a church spire from below looking up, recalling Delaunay’s Eiffel Tower.  Another, with two paths meeting to form a triangle, like the legs of that Boccione statuette… all done in the late 20s.

soutine 2

Fellini, “81/2”

Stunning opening and closing sequences – in the opening, Mastroianni (Fellini) floats high above, attached by the ankle to a line and to a car (it’s a dream sequence) – and the closing, the actors take part in a Dance of Fools, hand in hand, to the music of a clown band – shades of “The Seventh Seal”.

The Olden Days (BBC2)

I mention this series again, NOT because my son Nicky was a researcher on it (although he was), but because I was struck by the startling resemblance of Billy Bragg to the photograph portrait of the older William Morris…

??????????

Heaven Only Knows (final version)

Blackpaint

25.04.14