Monday, January 19, 2009

Mark Rothko

Mural for End Wall (1959)

K and I went to catch the Mark Rothko exhibition at the Tate Modern on Saturday before it closes at the end of the month.

I'd seen Rothkos before of course, but there's nothing like seeing a lot of an artist's work to get a feel for what their art is all about. This collection featured work from 1958 to 1969, mainly series of paintings done for specific locations or commissions.

I have no formal art history training, so have difficulty judging abstract art beyond impressions and feelings. Here's a jumble of them about Rothko:

  • They are generally very 'friendly' works, they don't appear threatening or aggressive in the way that a lot of contemporary Brit Art seems to be.
  • The size of the canvasses is huge. This sort of art needs well lit large public spaces (duh like art galleries duh) for display. Few private homes are large enough to actually contain a Rothko, unless you hung it on the stairs or something.
  • K is trained artist, and she drew my attention to the subtlety of the technique; a mixture of gloss and matt paint, lots of layers, feathered edges. Also the choice of colour is deliberate and precise.
  • As so often with big exhibitions of this type, the crowds got in the way of the experience. This especially applies to Mark Rothko; I love to plonk myself down on a bench opposite one of the giant canvasses and just let the colour wash over me. You couldn't really do that at the Tate Modern on a Saturday afternoon. Some fuckers even had their toddlers with them - why not take the sprogs to see "Battleship Potemkin" afterwards? Poor kids - bored to death with something totally unsuitable for them. Damn the cheap bastard parents who can't be bothered to pay for a babysitter.
  • Fave series of paintings were three or four out of the 'black' series of seven. These really were rather impressive technically, and looked years ahead of their time - painted in the mid 1960s, they would have looked perfect in a 1980s setting (see below).

Number 1 (1964)

You could just imagine that painting in Patrick Bateman's sitting room.

Thanks Mark!


Monday, January 12, 2009

No Country for Old Men

The boys and girls at work have been highly recommending The Strangers as a good film to see, but some exhaustive searching this Saturday uncovered nothing but a single copy in Ipswich, priced at £15.

So instead I returned to Blockbusters and rented No Country for Old Men for £3.50 - a long time recommendation of D's.

What a brilliant film!

It perfectly captures the creepy spendour of Cormac McCarthy's border country of the Southern United States, and it features three intriguing and very real characters.

I suppose we've got two heroes and one super nasty villian, who, as the film progresses, may be the devil himself. The dialogue and acting are brilliant, the photography is beautiful and the whole thing moves along effortlessly...

There was so much to enjoy; from our cautious and rather resourceful hero, who is ultimately doomed, to a superfically competant and experienced sherrif who gradually realises he's outmatched and scared of the villian.

Favourite scene: The sheffif and his rather young and dim deputy have just ridden into the horror of a drug deal gone wrong; at least seven men lie shot dead on the dusty scrubby semi-desert, there's a dead dog, and four or five shot-up pick-up trucks, riddled with bullet holes...

Deputy: Hell of mess ain't it sherrif?

Sherrif: Well it'll do, leastways till the real mess gets here.

McCarthy's arcane dialogue manages to be witty and profound at the same time.

Shame on me for missing this one when it was in the cinema, and I wonder which director will pluck up the courage to film Blood Meridian, the most violent and nasty piece of Literature ever written?