Thursday, September 27, 2007


Because I am now a member of the Tate - at great expense- I can attend private views. Actually you do not get much for your money, no drinks, no particular benefits. Maybe just a few less people walking round, but it is still crowded.
The Millais is another huge autumn blockbuster exhibition, and extremely exhausting to walk round - there is just so much stuff.
I will write more, it is just too tiring to even think about doing it now!


This exhibition is over the river from the Royal Academy, where I went in the morning. It is near Southwark tube.
Such a big change from the Baselitz show. A real jump down.
These drawings seemed more like rough illustrations or ideas for advertisements. Of course it is a mixed show, not all the work is 2-D or on paper. Nevertheless, there seems to be little linked to the great drawing achievements of the past, no passing nod to the drawings of Van Gogh, or Rembrandt or seven Ardizzoni.
Of course I am biased because this is the second year my entry for the Jerwood has been rejected!
However, if drawing is to be considered seriously, I feel that the judges will have to get away from their preoccupation with the art-school student, graphic design doodle that most of these drawings bring to mind.


BASELITZ - a lot has been written about him recently. Did you see any of the reviews? I liked the article in the Financial Times on Saturday (22 September 2007)
I went to see the exhibition at the Royal Academy the previous Wednesday. First is a huge circular gallery, which prepares you for the size of his painting - they are usually huge. In the centre is a well-known wooden scupture with a raised right arm, much like a fascist salute. The canvasses have rough textures where the material is not covered, and I noted that the overall colours are reds, ochres, umbers and blacks. The Shepherd, painted in 1965, seems to have tits!
Later paintings to look out include Homage to Vrubel, because of the luscious pink and yellow paint, the figure squashed to the right of the canvas - a big brown space.
Ten paintings of feet, such large pink shapes, almost ultra realistic, suggested to me that Jenny Saville has had a good look at these works. These are the right way up. In fact I felt that although many of the paintings are upside down, this was not disturbing or even very incongruous. What was more disturbing was the way the heads on the male figures are painted very small, and seemingly feminine.
The woodcuts are something that I was very interested to see, being generally interested in printmaking.
These are described as continuing the German tradition, but actually they are chiefly of interest for their straightforwardness, colour and composition - filling the small rectangles completely in a satisfactory completeness.
The four pink heads called Oberon are a disturbing nightmare, the light coming from underneath the heads, illuminating the looming figures of terror as if lit by a nightlight.
Some pain tings are not in fact canvasses, but wood In Gallery 6 are works with a date of 1989. There are 20 paintings with inverted child-like heads ( I mean the heads look as if painted by a child). They have a strange self-importance, the heads are so 'all the same' yet different. I wonder if he worked on them all at the same time? He could only have done this if he had a huge studio. The project of these works is described as taking place on the 45th anniversary of the end of the Second World War. The wood is slashed and gouged out all over the surfaces, as if they have been attacked with a machete.
Baselitz lived near Dresden as a child. This must have been terrifying, when the fire storm raged. Many thousands of children in German and England must have been similarly terrified by the bombs and fires raging round their homes. I consider that maybe the label of a traumatised victim of the war, which seems to have been attached to Bazelitz, might just be a convenient one that journalists have hit upon.
By the time you get to Galley 7, the works have become enormous, strange and repellent, in particular I noticed the inverted figures in Supper at Dresden, (a link to an alterpiece maybe?) There are the de Brucke artists and Munch without heads, in colours of red, blue, black and pink.
The whole exhibition must give Baselitz a great feeling of achievement, Here is a major collection of consistent work, and by no means all his output is here. He has continued to produce strong, assertive work throughout these years, and without doubt has seen and considered the influence of the art being done in America, and to a lesser extent in Britain, but here there are no hints of Pop Art, Abstract Expressionism, Minimalism and all the other isms we have been battered with.
I admire these paintings and found the exhibition itself disturbing and thought-provoking. I shall certainly come back to have a second look.

Tuesday, September 18, 2007

Georg Baselitz and Portraits

When I was at the RA today, 18 Sept, I noticed it was the Press day for the Baselitz exhibition. I had a good look through the doors but the attendent would not let me sneak in. What I saw was pretty arresting, very large stuff that hits you in the eye. Outside there are piles of books about the artist, the exhibition and also a big collection of postcards, birthday cards and T shirts with little bits of Baselitz. Wonder what it is like to be a serious artist and see your work cut up into little snippets to appear on greetings cards?

I want to go to one or two of the evening lectures but they are expensive. Cannnot do the ones on Mondays but there are three on Fridays.
On 2 November there is a lecture by Proff Richard Shiff from Austin, who 'presents Beselitz'v view of mdoern German history as a kind of dark comedy'. Also one on 26 October about 1920s cinematic German Expressionist movement and Baselitz.
When I was in Berlin last autumn I tried to see some German Expressionist works but there was little to see in the major galleries. It is strong meaty stuff and I wonder if it is dispersed all round the world like confetti or if there is a stash of it somewhere.

The main man himself is talking on 12 October. All of these talks cost £10 each and they actually throw in a drink of wine or such - since the wine in the Friend's room costs abougt £3.75 I suppost the talk is a bit of a bargain, on scond thoughts (or you could just bring a hip flask).

There are portraits of Royal Academicians too, in some beautifully restored room at the front of the building. I was interested to see one of Laura Knight when she was a mere slip of a girl, painted by the man who she later married. One other self-portrait by a women, but the rest are rather boring men. Not really worth going to see.

Impressionist by the Sea - RA Sept 2007

This small exhibition was worth the effort to go and see. Interesting that the earlier paintings by the French artists plus Whistler, showed the seaside developmement such as hotels, along the Normandy coast. Then they seemed to change their focus, and painted more romantic pictures of rocks, clouds, the light on the water. I prefer to see the modern world in all its grimness, colour and absurdity.
There is a pretty Renoir of some children on the beach in Guernsey, with small dancing figures of other children in the waves behind the girls, lightly sketched in. I hope all the RAs who paint seaside figures have a good look.


Trying to catch up with the London art scene, I decided to make a trip to the Impressionists by the Sea exhibition at the RA, and the Mary Feddon new works.
Mary Feddon was born during the first World War. Her latest stuff is in the Friends Room. There you can see her small paintings, each one with its accompanying red dot, all round the room which was full of visitors chatting, drinking and eating the excessively expensive drink and food, and not taking any notice of the works on the wall.
These are all still lives, various objects reoccurring, such as the same striped feather which I saw about four times. I wonder what the reason is for producing such similar works, within a short space of time. (it is called New Paintings). The images seemed repetitive and unchallenging, almost without excitement or delight.
The prices, however, must be exciting and delightful for those on the receiving end. There are 20 works, only one NFS, cheapest £2500 and most expensive £9000.