Marlene Dumas at Tate Modern

There's not much time left if you want to check out this exhibition. I wasn't planning to go even though a couple of friends had enthused about it. You see, I looked up her work on the internet...and didn't much like what I saw.

Why? Well, because I can't be doing with the depiction of so much figurative stuff, such as babies and toddlers, women revealing their undercarriages, portraits of celebrities like Amy Winehouse, Princess Diana or Naomi Campbell, general nudity and an endless supply of  heads. So I guess it's the subject matter that puts me off; the obsession with Homo Sapiens. Don't misunderstand me here, I'm not shocked by the pornographic element in some of these images... and I don't mind a bit of figuration, but this seemed too much, too repetitive. I'm afraid I just don't find the human form eternally interesting, especially ad infinitum.

So last weekend when we went to the the Sonia Delaunay (15 April - 9 August) exhibition I wanted to pop in and see if I was justified in my opinion. Well, I was right to expect maximum figuration and a myriad of portraits but some of the pornographic-type images I witnessed on the internet were missing (unless I missed them). Maybe the taste police (curators) omitted them. I don't know now if I was relieved about this or disappointed.

I enjoyed the show more that I was expecting though. Much more detail and texture is revealed, especially in the tearing of paper and other collage effects. The work below was a welcome break from all the bodies and heads. Little snippets of letter writing have been taped to the edges of this piece, which has aged quite beautifully. Personal fragments written to the artist are quite humorous in places. Sorry you can't see the detail here...but I guess you'll have to go and see for yourself.

Don't talk to strangers 1977

I also liked the rubbed out quality of the work below. Thinners have been used to partially erase the picture.

Scope Magazine Pin-up 1973

Here's the torn effect I mentioned...

Rejects (detail)

There is more than meets the eye in her work. Politics, art history, popular culture and current affairs are frequently underpinning the figuration along with such themes as sexuality, love and death. It can't be taken at 'face' value and this is one of the reasons why looking at an artists work via Google Images is sometimes a bad idea when you want to asses the full scope of their oeuvre.

On until 10 May.

Richard Diebenkorn: Royal Academy of Arts...(on until 7th June)

A few weekends ago we went to see the Richard Diebenkorn (1922 - 1993) exhibition at the Royal Academy. Now, one of the things that immediately struck me about his work was how he began his career as an abstract artist and then went on to explore figuration. This is quite unusual as most painters start with figuration and representational work and then go on to become more abstract, if they do at all. Not only that but his early abstract work is particularly accomplished, which again is not quite what I would have expected.

Overall I thought his best work was done in the early to mid-fifties. Groups of paintings given collective titles such as Albuquerque and Urbana show a deep understanding of his surrounding environmental landscape and a great sensitivity to light and space through colour. He is exceptional with colour, often using a complex palette but always keeping a level of harmony between colour relationships. Where he is more typical is in the size of the pieces. Earlier drawings and paintings are of a size that relates to our human proportions. Later works are much larger and seemed less personal to me. They may have been intended for civic or public spaces. I've noted this similar development with other painters working around this time; their work becoming larger as they move through the decades into the 60s and 70s. Obviously, viewers have to stand away from large work to appreciate the whole thing, whereas in the earlier work there was more intimacy going on. Some works were very small though; these being executed on cigar box lids. People seemed to enjoy getting close to these small paintings, even though they were still very abstract and there was not much detail in them apart from the original design showing through.

Albuquerque No. 4 (1951) 

Although Diebenkorn was very much part of Abstract Expressionism and knew Mark Rothko, Franz Kline and Clyfford Still he generally resisted categorisation and followed his own artistic inclination. He was strongly influenced by European Modernism and this can be glimpsed in his work in various guises.

Between the mid 50s and 60s he introduced figuration into his work. I was less impressed with these pieces but admired the way he treated the human form in the same way as any other objects in the overall landscape. In a way I think these pieces are still mainly abstract works.

The larger works I referred to earlier were part of his Ocean Park Series (1967-88). These are more geometric, harder edged and often show linear under painting which often does not correspond to the finished patterns. They seem to reveal the thought processes he was going through rather than over painting and correcting.

I really enjoyed this show. I particularly enjoyed his use of colour and the open air quality of the abstract works. His paintings have a light, warm and summery atmosphere to them, the colours often suggesting temperate environments. In that sense it was a bit like going on holiday.

Still on so check it out.

Richard Diebenkorn in his studio at Main Street and Ashland Avenue in Santa Monica, ca. 1970–71. Photo by Richard Grant. 

Hannah Höch Book

I'm enjoying flicking through this wonderful book as a precursor to actually reading it. The book hunter bought it back last week. I guess it was in the back of his mind that we didn't purchase it when we went to the superb Hannah Hoch exhibition last year at Whitechapel Gallery...but he never forgets when it comes to books...NEVER!

Made to accompany the exhibiton, it's full of great collages and some of her diary extracts; one describing life in Berlin's Weimar Republic during the Russian occupation and its effects on the women. These added elements create a greater understanding of what she was living through and how she and other Dada artists were reacting to the nationalism and rationalism that they thought had caused WW1 in the first place.

Love 1931

Her work can be humorous, freaky, beautiful and ugly all at the same time, as you can see in these two examples.

Modenschau 1925-35

In her studio 1976

I've resisted putting a photo of her as a younger woman with her great hair cut and looking very much the avant-garde artist. Instead here she is as a much older woman having survived two world wars and still continuing to make radical and exciting art. It is this that I most admire really...the fact that she never stopped experimenting...right to the very end of her nicey nicey art for her in her old age!

Hannah Höch
1889 - 1978

Collage: Space Place

Jane Pearrett 2015
Space Place
 A3 Collage on paper
Vintage images, ink, graphite and gouache

William S. Burroughs: Nova Express

William Burroughs is getting quite a lot of my attention recently, what with seeing an exhibition of his art work (see this post), reading this book and using him in my last digital art work, Composition No.3

 Excerpt from draft 6 of "Nova Express" a film by Andre Perkowski

To say this novel (written in 1964) is 'out there' sums it up quite simply. It is completely 'other'. Reading it, I try to imagine I can hear his voice. This definitely helps, I'm not quite sure why though, maybe it helps with the rhythm of the work. Burroughs had a distinctive southern drawl and if you've heard any recordings of him it's easy to conjure up his voice because nobody else really sounds like him. The novel was written using what Burroughs called 'the fold-in method', a relative of the cut-up, which he developed with Brion Gysin. This was a technique of merging different texts together, probably achieving a smoother integration than the cut-up method.

It's going to take a while to finish it as I can't read too much at any given time because of its extreme nature. Reading it at night, in bed, I find it difficult to stay awake, although that's not because it's boring. I think it's due to the way the writing is analogous to the fragmented  mini-dreams we sometimes experience in the hypnagogic phase before we fall into deep sleep.

Although the book was written in 1964 it's relevant to today's society since it tackles the abuse of power, violence, materialistic obsession, hero worship and hypocrisy. Set in the future but rooted in the America of the 1960s, we're taken on a interplanetary and hallucinatory cops and robbers journey. The Nova Police and The Nova Mob battle it out in an apocalyptic scenario featuring such characters as Izzy the Push, Hamburger Mary and the Subliminal Kid.

Here's an inspired mix that Robin (Timewriter) put together. Coincidentally, he sometimes goes by the name of El Hombre Invisible and Uranian Willy, who are also a characters from this book.