Posts Tagged ‘Zurbaran’

Blackpaint 394 – Lizards and Fossils and Christopher in Cordoba

May 16, 2013

Ellen Gallagher at  Tate Modern

This got a rather sniffy review from Laura Cumming in the Observer; she found Gallagher’s frequent use of cut outs of thick African lips and “googly” eyes repetitive.  Not like loads of other artists then, who rarely repeat a trick.  There’s a lot of social and political content to her work, as you may guess from the foregoing, but I was most impressed not by the meaning but by the look of it.

She has several works made up of the lips and eyes on a parchment-like support, thick lined paper I think, and from a slight distance they look like walls of tiny bricks – reminded me of Rachel Whiteread drawings.

Others, huge canvases or linens, looked like Victor Pasmores – one plain canvas with a lizard shape writhing on it; another, with several black or inky blocks off-centre.

There were the series of yellow “wigs” on magazine ads, the faces with eyes cut out and the huge black paintings, coated with rubber.  The last room had the delicate “botanical” drawings and the embossed “fossils”, made, presumably, by pressing the image and sometimes shaving tiny leaves of the paper up with a sharp blade.  The best ones were the “Pasmores” – I ignored the deeper meanings and looked at them as if they were abstracts.  Go see it and read the booklet for the politics.

gallagher

Saloua Raouda Choucair at Tate Modern

Lebanese woman, now in her 90s, went to Paris and studied with Leger.  First thing is that the paintings are very small, maybe 18″*24″, that sort of order.  They are very colourful, semi-or completely abstract, many consisting of interlocking, or overlapping, or fitting geometric shapes.  One beautiful, singing, blue one looks very much like a Helion – th influence of Leger and of Picasso is evident in the figures.

The sculptures are mainly interlocking ceramic or polished wood structures; again, quite small; I think some are maquettes.  There are several structures made from thin wires on frames that are just like pieces by Moholy-Nagy and Gabo – since neither of these artists are mentioned anywhere in the written material on the exhibition, I have to assume that she arrived at them independently.

So – a great double at the TM; the Gallagher has much more content but the Choucair makes fewer demands on the intellect.  mind you, you could do what I did and just wander round looking; then read up later.

choucair

Seville and Cordoba

Just back after four days in blinding sunlight and 30 Cent heat – well, hot for us English.  Went to see the Zurbarans in Seville and I was surprised that they were rather mundane compared to the ones in the British Museum.  the art that impressed me most was a fabulous Madonna and child (or rather,  little man) in the Alcazar there.  I don’t think it was Spanish however – looked early Italian to me.

In the cathedral at Cordoba – the one with the hundreds of receding Islamic arches in red and white – there was a huge, dark Saint Christopher painting, half-concealed by a column, that could have been Gulliver, or maybe that picture on the cover of the Pelican edition of Hobbes’ Leviathan.  Plus the usual super realist crucifixions, still rendered in wood for modern catholic churches, I was surprised (a bit) to find.

At one point, I surveyed the cathedral from a central point and I’m convinced that the entire tourist population, apart from me, was taking one photograph after another, to be looked at later.  One old man in the museum just trudged from one painting to the next, snapping it and then getting a shot of the label.  he never looked at anything except through the camera.

In the Mood for Love

Wong Kar Wei.  saw this on TV the other night, and I loved it, without knowing quite why – maybe that violin theme, the rain, the scabby walls, the tension of unexpressed yearning, the stylish smoking – but no, it had to be the dresses and the coiffure.  she just spent the whole film swaying up and down narrow stairs, streets and corridors in those tight, high collared dresses.  Very watchable, considering no sex – overt, anyway.

??????????

Threshold

Blackpaint

16.5.13

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Blackpaint 299

October 17, 2011

Vertov, Man with a Movie Camera

Made in 1929 in Odessa, it contains all the fetishes of modernism – machines, steam, trains, trams, open saloon cars, fire engines – and a sort of tour of daily life; sport and leisure (high jumpers, hurdlers, swimmers, organised exercise,vodka and beer bars, cinema, circus), work (happy workers on assembly lines, packaging cigarettes at high speed), birth and death (what must be the first live birth – you actually see the baby emerging from a shot directly pointed at the mother’s vagina and at the same level), accidents, street life….

But the machines – sliding metal, spraying oil, shafting, rolling, clanking (I assume; silent film) punching, squirting steam.

Placards and statues of Lenin and Marx pop up, but none of Stalin – 1929 too early.  One or two happy tramps and bench sleepers, but mostly well-fed, well-dressed, happy workers, full shops, teeming streets, smiles, laughter….   The technical tricks – slomo, speedup, Dutch leans, split-screen, tracking shots; Vertov’s group were anti – fiction in film, pro-documentary.  The credits announce a film without narrative, but of course, the modernist bent creates its own narrative within the big one of birth, life, death Soviet – style.

Greatest Artists Ever

So the Guardian announced last week, as the headline to a choice of, not artists but  pictures, selected  by various luminaries; Amanda Levete, an architect, chose a Zurbaran still life. showing lemons, a jug, and a cup and plate, looming out of the darkness.  A surprise to me, after his saints and cowled monks.

Charles Saumarez – Smith and Isaac Julien, while making radically different choices (CSS picked “paintings of the Italian Renaissance”, which is cheating, Julien picked Cindy Sherman), both cited transcendance of time and genre as their main criterion.

And Blackpaint’s choice, the reader asks?  Changes from week to week, of course, but I think de Kooning’s “Palisades” – or maybe Lanyon’s “Headwind”, that I’ve just come across…

Headwind, Peter Lanyon

Yes, I know, Lanyon v. de Kooning.. but it’s magnificent, isn’t it?

Cezanne again

“Cezanne’s aim in segregating the sexes in the Bathers series was to exclude any … element of the transient, sexual or erotic”, says Ulrike Becks-Malorney in the Taschen.  She writes that “his strong feeling of shame, his sexual inhibitions and fears, and his shyness about showing naked men and women together in what he regarded as trivial, sensual poses.”

This is puzzling to me, since in the previous sentence, she refers to the pictures of 1860’s and 70’s in which he “used the confrontation between the sexes in a provocative way.”  Presumably, she is referring to “the Orgy”, 1864 – 8 (or circa 1870, as Catherine Dean has it, in the Phaidon book on Cezanne), “the Temptation of St. Anthony”, 1870 and “A Modern Olympia” 1873 – 75.  Check them out; hard to reconcile with sense of shame or sexual inhibition.

Also, there is this odd sentence, referring to a figure with arms behind his head in a male Bathers of 1900: “It is a gesture of opening oneself up and offering oneself – in this particular case, it is presenting an erection to the seated figure in the bottom left-hand corner”.  And, yes, she’s right, for sure.  what a strange old bugger Cezanne must have been.

Painters who took ages, and did drafts, even though it looks as if they knocked their pictures out in minutes…

Franz Kline.  This sounds critical, but I don’t mean it to be – I find some of his work staggering.  Just found some of his coloured ones, with the reds and greens – fantastic.  Google him and see.

Next time, Richter and Tacita Dean at Tate Modern.

Blackpaint

17.10.11

Blackpaint 34

January 9, 2010

The Sacred and the Real

The show at the National is finishing on the 24th Jan.  It felt a bit like going round the old Chamber of Horrors in Tussauds when I was a kid.  There used to be an exhibit curtained off and labelled “not suitable for children under 13 years”, as I recall.  Behind the curtain, there was a figure hanging a few feet from the ground by a hook through the stomach.  There were also shelf loads of guillotined heads, mouths gaping, blood running down chins.

The lifelike crucifixions, whipped backs, broken and slashed knees, nailed hands and feet, expertly carved in wood but looking like wax, glued -on tears (Loyola) and even a severed head, the Baptist’s, with all the pipes and blood vessels accurate apparently – and the darkness, all recall Tussauds. 

The Magdalene model in her rough, plaited straw mat dress, staring at a crucifix in her hand – that reminded me of Ken Russell’s “The Devils”, the crazed abbess Vanessa Redgrave played, with her crucifix; see it if you haven’t, Redgrave, Oliver Reed and Dudley Sutton and Russell’s restrained and respectful direction – brilliant.

The strangest exhibit to my eyes is the painting of St. Bernard of Clairvaux, kneeling and receiving in his mouth, from a range of about 6 feet, a straight spurt of breast milk from the right(?) breast of a statue of the Virgin Mary; the Miracle of the Lactation, apparently.  It reminded me of the story set in the clinic, the punch line of which is “What? From here?”

There are also the magnificent, brooding, brown paintings of St. Francis in ecstatic trance by Zurbaran and a couple of Velazquezes – is that how you do the plural? – and a lovely painting of St.Luke, the painter’s saint, with his brushes and easel, looking at Christ on the cross.

The Hoerengracht 

Ed Kienholz’ version of Amsterdam’s red light area seems an apt accompaniment; more wax-like models (although less lifelike) more prostitutes, these ones still in business.  They are in characteristic poses in the shop windows, but they have glass boxes like fish tanks on their heads and shiny glue or semen like stuff running down them (I think – maybe they were just badly made).  It seemed to me much tattier than the red light area I remember walking through – with my family – 6 or so years ago.  This seemed tattier, more like a slum street somehow.

After these two shows, we did a quick tour of the early galleries upstairs, and the colours of the Duccio, the Titians, Van Eycks, Holbeins all seemed more vivid and fresh and uplifting after all that dark, exploited and tortured flesh.  Funny really, because these were often beheadings, crucifixions, whippings etc., as well.

Listened to “Tapiola”, Sibelius.

There are no words.

Blackpaint

08.01.10