Thursday, September 28, 2006

Recent Times

Time for an update, I thought. I really must get into some kind of a routine doing this thing...

Seem to have been to a ridiculous number of gigs in the last few weeks... Patti Smith's paean to Robert Mapplethorpe 'The Coral Sea' was pretty amazing. She did it as part of Meltdown last year and we saw almost everything she did for that except The Coral Sea, so we were pleased to have another chance.

Saw The Fall in the sweatbox that is 93 Feet East. Mark E. Smith seems suited to long small dark rooms rather than huge echoic chambers. Also saw The Cult for the first time at Brixton. One of those bands I grew up with but by the time I was old enough to get to gigs on my own they had turned into Guns and Roses... but no matter. They played 'Spiritwalker' which made me VERY happy... and Love Removal Machine which practically had Crazy G playing air guitar. For the encore, Ian Astbury shouted 'She Sells Sanctuary' rather than sang it... it seemed a shame to throw away such a classic but he's probably sick to death of it. I prayed for a Southern Death Cult tune but no joy. That would have made my YEAR... Once a Goth, always a Goth I guess...

Have also been enjoying Club Lippy, hosted by DJ Lush and Kirsten Glass at the Vauxhall, which is becoming firmly established on Friday nights. The numbers are climbing and they've been having some brilliant bands on like Motormark and Kings Have Long Arms. Last week Samuel Beckett's 'Not I' flickered from the stage while Lush played one of the best sets ever. The turn was Pam Hogg who I'd only ever seen singing once before at Marvellous when the sound let her down a bit but she was great at Lippy. She played a couple of her videos (one had Siouxsie in) before she took to the stage... all gold sequins, big shades and tequila. She only forgot the words once (blaming the tequila)... but hey, she's a diva! Who cares! She looked and sounded great.

Artwise we just saw 'How to Improve the World' at the Hayward, a celebration of sixty years of the Arts Council Collection. Over 130 artists, big names and small names, pulled out from dusty racks and provincial museums. It's a broad survey... one of those 'licquorice allsorts' shows. Something for everyone!

There's a magestic Leon Kossoff (up there with the gods in my humble opinion), a Lucien Freud, a Bacon pope AND David Hockney's 'We Two Boys Together Clinging', which sorts of smells of unrequited love in college art rooms. Talking of smelling of oil paint there's also a rare chance to see Bruce Bernard's photographs of Leigh Bowery modelling for Freud, that seem to take on Freudian colouring.

Also enjoyed Frank Auerbach, Patrick Caulfield, and the Sarah Lucas photo self-portraits which have a tremendous strength hung en-masse.

I LOVED Gilbert & George's early films 'Portrait of Two Young Men', which features George smoking stylishly while Gilbert looks perplexed and 'Gordons Makes Us Drunk'. The Gordons film is 20 minutes of G&G getting slowing pissed on gin in their front room in Fournier Street (before they bought the whole house) in 1972, with something like 'Land of Hope and Glory' (but not) blaring out while somebody, probably George, gloomily dones...Gordon's makes us drunk.... Gordon's makes us drunk... Gordon's makes us drunk... over and over. I found it uplifting, and actually quietly hilarious. Also loved their photo-piece 'Smashed' from the Dirty Words series of 1977, and, speaking of G&G, there's a David Robilliard in the show.

David Robilliard was an artist and poet, who is scarcely remembered now but shared a studio with Andrew Heard in Brick Lane in the 80's and was a young protege of G&G. They helped by publishing his poetry in beaufiful limited edition books called things like 'Inevitable' and 'Swallowing Helmets' (ahem). He wrote bullet-like snippets on love and romance and the detritus of daily life (or should that be residue?)... Sometimes sexual, mostly scowling. My favourite poem of his I know off by heart... It's called 'Dear John' :- 'I'm sick of love behind the scenes / They all come and go / Forgotten names and faded jeans / John, now that we have left our teens / I think it's time to tell you / You're the man of my dreams/ It's up to you, John / Know what I mean?' I love that... (I can do some of his and about six of Ezra Pound's). In my opinion his most powerful line is 'My private hell is hiding my happiness', which is sad when you know that he died of AIDS in 1988 aged 36. I was so excited I could have burst when I saw his picture on show; and moved when I read that it was bought in the year of his death.

Wandering out of the Hayward, my head swirling with sixties painters and Brick Lane poets, I got 'doorstepped' (is that the word?) by a nice young man from The Times 'Information' section. One of those 'what did you think' things. I was quite happy to rabbit on for five minutes and then I had my picture taken ('Would you like the Raybans on or off?'). I don't think G got asked because he was wearing grey marl.

Also enjoyed Hans Bellmer at the Whitechapel last week. It amused me that a woman with a loud posh voice and two seven year olds in tow was asking at reception 'Excuse me,,, is the Bellmer suitable for young children?' and was told 'Well, it depends how broadminded you are...' I'll say! Don't go if dark images of sexual obsession turn your tum... For the uninitiated Bellmer fled the rise of Hitler in 30's Germany finding solace in the surrealists of Paris who welcomed with open arms his creepy obsession with photographing sinister plaster dolls abandoning themselves to snuff scenes and sexual onslaught. He was not widely known in his lifetime, simply because his work was so damm shocking, but I've noticed in recent years various books and shows cropping up from time to time, and this must be one of the only chances to see so many Bellmer photographs, drawings, books and sculptures all in one place.

But it's not for the fainthearted... This show is jam-packed to bursting with strange dolls tied to trees in dark woods, twisted sexualities, fantastical gang rapes, multi-limbed predators and all-in three-into-one sexual violence. All manner of orifices, thrusting organs and faceless rapes... His work IS monstrous, and very quickly upsetting, but Bellmer is admired today for having smashed through traditional notions of sexuality like a bull in a china shop. Even if you hate the subject matter, and many do, go for the drawings. There are a small number of drawn traditional views and they're among the best drawings I've seen. Bellmer's draughtmanship was of course eclipsed by the bigger darker picture. He's probably a bit of an artist's artist really. It's sort of surrealism crossed with sexual violence. Your mum probably wouldn't like it but it's a strong show and makes even the most shocking contemporary artists look as dangerous as humpty dumpty.

Thursday, September 14, 2006

"A Year in Yorkshire"

To Annely Juda for the pre-private-view private view of DH's new show 'A Year in Yorkshire'. 25 stunningly spatial views of Bridlington and surrounds in highly charged colour.

The gallery was a third full if that, just friends and models, some collectors. Lashings of very fine champagne and platters of beautiful sushi, most of which Gerald ate, and posh things on chicory and/or banana leaves floating past continually. Having spoken to the great man himself who called earlier in the day and was 'dreading it, love', we were thrilled for him and for us that they'd put on this special night and kept the numbers manageable. He's very deaf and just can't hear at all in crowded rooms. A good many artist friends rocked up (proper senior ones... no messing about) and friends from Kensington and Los Angeles. David's sister margaret who I hadn't seen for five or six years got the train down from Bridlington.

Importantly, because it was reasonably quiet, you could actually see the work. I'd been sent a catalogue, which was breathtakingly beautiful in itself, but the real work brought me up short, as it always does. Some of the paintings are sunny and light, nanny England fried in death valley heat, some are wintery and cold. But even the cold ones are full of terrifically loud colour. Some colours don't appear to make sense from three feet away but step back further and they pull together. Pinks become misty dewy mornings, purples become shadowy country lanes. In the Summer pictures the cornfields roast in the sun and the yellows blaze so intensely that they light up the room. And the skies are among the best I've seen him do.

Even the looser paintings have a deftness of touch and it's just very good quality work. Expertly made, pleasing and joyful... The critics will hate it but that hardly matters.

These paintings make me want to expand my 'childhood explorations' by setting up an easel in a Shropshire field or returning to Cornish resorts to paint memory charged locations. Can I show trad 'oils on canvas' alongside 'difficult' projected dvd's of emotional reminisances and conceptual looking collages?... Yes of course I bloody can !!!!

The 'opening' itself is tonight, but without the artist. It really was a private view, in the true sense of the word. Not a piss up where you can't see the work. Absolute quality.

David Hockney 'A Year in Yorkshire'
Annely Juda Gallery:
Until 18th October 2006