Posts Tagged ‘Woolf’

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….


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 461- Pablo and Francis, Will and George and Gustav

September 7, 2014

Bacon and Picasso

It occurred to me while looking at Picasso in Tate Modern that the shapes of some of Bacon’s nudes are very much like those of Picasso – that is, you could paint out the flesh in the Bacons and substitute a matt cream, or light green or blue and you’d have a Picasso.. sort of…  Take a look below, to see what I mean:

bacon nude 1

picasso nude 1


bacon nude 3



0picasso nude 2


You could “Picasso” the Bacons and “Bacon” the Picassos, so to speak.  So what? you might ask – and you’d be right.  Incidentally, if you Google “Bacon Nudes”, the selection of pictures you get is much more varied and interesting than “Picasso Nudes”…

Bright Lights, Brilliant Minds (BBC4)

I watched the James Fox prog on Vienna last night (on Catch Up); he mentioned the high suicide rate amongst young Viennese intellectuals in the pre-WW1 years – the programme centred on the year 1908 – which reminded me of the recent RA exhibition “Making Faces”, on the same place and general period.  Neither the exhibition, as I recall it, nor Fox, offered any explanation of this phenomenon, however.

One picture that cropped up in the Fox programme was the stupendous Klimt below:

klimt 2

Portrait of Fritza Riedler, Gustav Klimt

Will Self on Orwell

I have to say I think Self is right about Orwell’s rules on good writing; they are ridiculously restrictive and would exclude Joyce, Woolf and DH Lawrence for a start.  Probably Self too, but I haven’t read anything of his, apart from a couple of articles in the Observer; I can’t be bothered to be looking up every tenth word.  Is Orwell’s writing “mediocre”?  Surely not; he’s always a positive pleasure to read (except for the Goldstein document in Nineteen Eighty-Four and a couple of other stretches of politics, in “Homage to Catalonia” for instance) and even where there are weaknesses, they don’t strike you while you are reading.  For my money, “Burmese Days” and “Coming up for Air” are excellent,”A Clergyman’s Daughter” and “Aspidistra” are at least very good, with brilliant bits (the hop picking in “Daughter”, for instance).  “Animal Farm” is just about perfect as allegory, notwithstanding TS Eliot’s remarks about the pigs; and “Nineteen Eighty-Four” is a tightly written, thrilling and absorbing novel, quite apart from its importance as a critique of totalitarianism.  I’ve read it three or four times, like all of Orwell’s published novels and essays, and still found it gripping.  I can’t say that for any other writers, except Joyce.

I referred to “Homage to Catalonia” – there’s a point in that book where Orwell says he’s about to launch into a chapter on the details of Spanish politics and tells the reader that he can skip to the next chapter if he wishes, without loss of continuity.  I realised with amusement that I read a similar directive years ago – in “The Ka of Gifford Hillary”, a supernatural thriller set in WW2, by Dennis Wheatley.  Wheatley does a 40 -or -so page  detour into the world of British Intelligence, telling the reader, like Orwell, to skip.  I think their politics differed more than slightly, however.

Far From the Madding Crowd (John Schlesinger, 1967)

I watched this again, over a couple of late nights, and I have to say, like Ken Russell’s “Women in Love”, it’s just about perfect; the cast (Stamp, Bates, Christie, Finch), location, adaptation, music, that staggering Dick Turpin performance in the circus ring…




Derby Ram






Blackpaint 438 – Hop Picking in Orwell, Sudden Death in Woolf, Lurking in Sprout

March 14, 2014

Orwell – A Clergyman’s Daughter

Re-read Burmese Days and of course, was immediately hooked again by Britain’s most readable author, journalist and writer in general; so now I’m on Clergyman’s Daughter, racing through.  Some terrible stereotypes and dodgy dialogue, it’s true; but the scenes in the hop-picking areas of Kent are memorable and visual and strike one as accurate.  The section in Trafalgar Square and the cafe in Charing Cross Road, which Orwell has done as a play is clearly inspired by the Night Town sequence in Ulysses; the character of Mr. Tallboys, the unfrocked parson, continually reciting and distorting biblical passages and prayers, for example, is very reminiscent of Joyce.  At one point, Orwell seems about to tip over into surreal fantasy like Night Town –  but draws back at the last moment, and turns it into a dream.

To the Lighthouse

Suddenly, after a hundred pages or so (maybe – I’m reading it on a Kindle, so can’t tell exactly), Woolf starts killing off the characters in a line or so each, as if bored with them; first, Mrs Ramsay, then Andrew (blown up by a shell on the Western Front), then Prue  (in childbirth)… all three within a few pages.  Reminded me oddly of BS Johnson’s Christy Malry – Johnson gives him cancer and kills him quite suddenly, ending the book in what feels like midstream.  Like real life, I suppose, which was Johnson’s point.  Now I think, sudden death has happened in all the Woolf books I’ve read so far – The Voyage Out, Jacob’s Room, Mrs Dalloway, Lighthouse – the only exception is Night and Day.

Bay Area Painters

I know I’ve written about them before, but must mention Frank Lobdell, Nathan Oliveira and Joan Brown, who took part in life drawing sessions with Diebenkorn in his figurative period.







Sprout Exhibition  

Haven’t been to any exhibitions for the last two weeks, having been stuck in the Sprout Gallery, trying to lure rare passers-by in to sell them paintings.  Sold three; here are two – can’t find photo of the other.

the young horseman

The Young Horseman



Oxlade Nude

The Family Friend, Sorrentino

This film contains the most disgusting anti-hero in cinema – he’s an old gangster, money lender, hypochondriac, wears an anti-migraine bandage on his head, a dirty old plaster cast on one arm, gobbles chocolates greedily, lives in a dark, stinking flat with his incontinent, invalid mother; he forces himself on a beautiful young bride on her wedding day…. and she (apparently) becomes fixated on him and comes back asking for more…  Like all Sorrentino films, it features old men dancing; this time, country and western dancing, with big stetsons and fringed jackets.  All it lacks is Tony Servillo.


And here’s the latest painting – Blackfriars to Nine Elms