Wednesday, 8 January 2020

Grace Pailthorpe and Reuben Mednikoff 'A tale of Mother's Bones.'

Grace Pailthorpe and Reuben Mednikoff 'A tale of Mother's Bones.'

at Newlyn Gallery and The Exchange, Penzance October 19, 2019 - January 4, 2020.

This show toured from Camden Arts Centre and De La Warr Pavilion, Bexhill-on-Sea.

The Exchange part of this show had a recording of Pailthorpe explaining in detail one of Mednikoff's paintings using Freudian and Kleinian ideas of everything relating to his experience as a baby, his earliest supposed feelings about his mother, his faeces etc.

Mednikoff 'Anatomy of Space'

She speaks with remarkable certainty about the meaning of each element of the picture - I suppose based on prolonged therapeutic discussions with the artist, 23 years younger, with whom she shared her life.

Pailthorpe and Mednikoff had a long relationship and were unusual people and artists, seeking to understand themselves and the havoc of World War Two and fascism and to use art to help people in general.

Both artists' works have similarities and use figurative surreal imagery, sometimes black and white lino cuts,

Joint work

otherwise rather delicately detailed paintings in which breasts and phallic symbols, mountains and animals make a whole narrative world on which they made detailed notes from their psychological perspective.


They had the large ambition to understand the roots of fascism, seeing it as stemming from an immature inability to share the good things in life, like an incoherent unconscious infantile jealousy and fear of the baby losing its food. I know from reading Alice Miller that child rearing pratices in the early twentieth century were often harsh and threatening - depriving children of warmth and affection. It is thought that Hitler was subjected to cruelty which resulted in him developing a self protecting armour and unleashing his early repressed rage with terrible consequences.
Grace Pailthorpe also suffered a lot as a child in a bleak Plymouth Brethren household.

Mednikoff 'Bengal Colonel' 1945-7

I enjoyed the show's two parts much more than I thought I would and was told many visitors said that. There was quite a bit to read but the liveliness and colour of the paintings and the attractive way they were displayed in blocks, sometimes on different strongly coloured wall areas, made the experience enjoyable. It made me want to share a meal and talk with these two people.
The catalogue looked fascinating and had sold out.

There had been some contact with the French surrealists and on a Canadian radio broadcast, which visitors could listen to in the gallery, Pailthorpe was described as the most important English Surrealist - but in reference books on surrealism Pailthorpe is rarely mentioned. The pair used surrealist methods such as spontaneous working to reach the unconscious.

Pailthorpe 1967 - 70

At Newlyn the visitor was invited to try a two minute doodle with materials provided or to add to a book of drawings with three interchangeable parts - one of the surrealists' games.

This show made me regard the two artists with respect, reconsider the benefits of surreal experimentation, remember the power of art therapy and enjoy interacting with these works.

( Mary Fletcher worked for a time as an art therapist with adults with mental health difficulties)

Wednesday, 1 January 2020

Guys and Dolls..again.

Guys and Dolls'. 1955. - directed by Joseph L Mankiewicz.

This musical is on tv 65 years after it was made. I'm older than that.
After 2hours 25 minutes of it I feel like I'm 18.

I've become Jean Simmons, I'm eager to fall into the arms of the youthful Marlon Brando.

I've never taken to Frank Sinatra but I have to admit he can sing.

Somehow I overlook that Marlon's character Sky whirls the Sally Army girl round and kisses her and she cornily struggles, relaxes and afterwards slaps him. I think it's very
clear she likes him despite her straight-laced self protection, but it could be seen as an assault.

Later in Cuba, the struggle for the revolution having started 1953 but not won until 1959, Sky spikes her milk with Bacardi which she laps up as she becomes passionate and even violent in fending off a Cuban lady who catches his eye.

The thing is Sky does not take advantage of the lady throwing herself at him but takes her safely back to America and falls in love with her. He's a rich gangster with a beautiful suit and handsome with those eyes and voice and intensity and a challenge for a missionary who needs the traditionally bad boy to sweep her off her feet.

The contraceptive pill wasn't brought out until 1960, not available to unmarried women until 1967 in UK , 1972 in USA , arguably changing sexual behaviour so that this plot would no longer be credible.

Meanwhile Frank Sinatra is stuck in a fifties convention that women seek to trap unwilling men into marriage, but in the end seems to be pleased to take part in the double wedding that ends the film so absurdly abruptly but satisfyingly.

Crime, gambling and threats of murder are taken as seriously as in an episode of the cartoon 'Top Cat.'

Women are either 'dolls', dancers with feathers, or red uniformed buttoned up Christian street preachers.

The song and dance routines are remarkably slick, there are two great songs 'Luck be my lady tonight' and 'A woman in love'.

It was in colour but I have trouble remembering this as it has the allure and charm of black and white.

Well there it is - still being scheduled and still a treat.

Friday, 6 December 2019

Going to a Political Rally, Jeremy Corbyn, Falmouth, 27.11.2019

Going to a political rally - Jeremy Corbyn Labour rally, Falmouth, Cornwall 27.11.2019

I thought of writing about this as a cultural event but as a convinced leftwing socialist, the happiest I've ever been with our Labour party now Jeremy Corbyn is our leader, and desperately hoping for a Labour government and to Remain in the European Union, I am hardly a dispassionate observer.

It's a bit like a rock concert - tickets are free and sell out online in an hour. We have to queue to get in and our bags are searched. Red paper bands are put around our wrists. Some turn up without tickets and some manage to blag their way in whilst others remain in the building unable to enter or hear what's happening. There's rock music before and at some other points. There are only a few seats - people are standing, some with drinks from the bar- some with tiny children on their shoulders, many holding up mobile phones to take photos and video and probably post to social media.
I run into friends and one takes a selfie of us on which I notice I look really happy.

There's a build up, the local candidates speak first - Jenni Forbes very bright and heart warming, Paul Farmer fervent and amusing by turns and looking attractive in a three piece suit and Cornish tartan tie. He speaks some Cornish as he begins. He recalls our famous inventor Trevithick who designed the first steam engine. He looks forward to future inventors who will save us from climate change disasters.

Then it's Angela Rayner, 

Glamourous with golden red long hair and a bright green jacket, waving her arms about - shadow education minister - full of beans, smiling. At times there's a pantomime atmosphere with the crowd responding, singing the well known refrain 'Oh Jeremy Corbyn' with love and hope in their hearts or shouting that our National Health Service is 'Not for sale' ie not to the US President Trump.

You can speak to anyone. There are hundreds of Labour people, the atmosphere is electric and warm. One dissenting male grumbler is heard briefly, swamped by the general wild enthusiasm. Many of us are activists, people who tramp round leafleting and canvassing, workers - and it's so nice to be in celebratory mood as if we really will win the election, transform our country for the better, save the world from climate change. We deserve this break from toil to be recharged.

Then it's the star of the show, 

Jeremy Corbyn - surprisingly as fresh as a daisy, humorous, honest and true, hopeful and engaging, 70 years old but fuelled with his ardour for the cause, for making life better for the many not the few. He speaks very well, at ease, fluent, energetic and inspiring.

Labour flags are waving, people are signed up for helping. Surprisingly no fund raising buckets are rattled.

Then it's over, we're out into the rain, finding our comradely lifts home, pleased we came, glowing with hope. It feels like midnight but it's only just after eight. A memorable evening, something that we'll always remember, making sense and meaning of our lives whether we win or lose - trying , co-operating together for the future. Not alienated, passive and despondent but united in a glorious vision of what could be. 

'Protected by Alarms' St.Ives exhibition in an old house by Anima Mundi Gallery.

'Protected by Alarms'. Anima Mundi at the buildings opposite their gallery in Street an Pol
Oct - mid November, Tues to Sat , 11-4 daily, free admission.

Lesley Hale, who is involved with the project to invest in community housing in the building that is being used for this show had the very bright idea of suggesting it to Joseph Clatke of Anima Mundi and he has taken the opportunity to show 19 of his stable of artists in this very alternative place, a delapidated building.
Lesley has largely been left with the unpaid invigilation in the hopes of raising interest and funds for the housing project.

I went up to the top of the house first. There was a black and white film showing by Mark Jenkin called 'Bronco's House'. Unfortunately the duration was not printed on the catalogue list, which was hard to read in dim lighting in its pale grey tiny font. Other visitors told me the film had the same style as Jenkin's recently acclaimed 'Bait'. It was rather slow moving and brooding with no smiles but had a compelling atmosphere of probable tragedy as a pregnant woman and her partner sought to reclaim a stone built house somewhere near Newlyn. However, not knowing how long I was in for I left before the end, later finding out its 44 minutes.

There was a hole in the shutters through which I saw the surprising view of Smeaton's Pier, surprising because, disorientated by my walk up the staircases, I had not expected to see this. I thought it was a pity this experience was not consciously incorporated into the show but maybe most people saw it. It made me think of how lovely it might be to live in the building once it is renovated and available as affordable housing.

The nineteen artists had not in fact responded to the space or to the housing issue but the curator had chosen to exhibit works that fitted some possibly political or social agenda to some extent.

The most starkly current was a large painting by Paul Benney 'Grenfel Tower (the sleep of reason)' which was said to encorporate ash from the tragic fire that destroyed the block of flats due to it being clad with highly flammable material. This painting was lit from the floor and looked dramatic and moving.

Equally dramatic was Tim Shaw's 'Parliament' which was a room full of ragged threatening looking rooks, plumage fluttering in the breeze from an open window, with a chattering soundtrack. An obvious satirical swipe.

Carlos Zapata had a sad tall wooden figure holding a tiny piece of inhabited land in his hand. It was made more effective by being shown in a small dimly lit room, all the more poignant.

Then there was a surprising embroidered banner, gorgeously colourful and crisscrossed with political remarks such as, 'It's been ingrained into my very being that the Tories are the embodiment of pure human evil.' The artist was Henry Hussey, whose solo show at Anima Mundi was about to open.

There was a lot more and prices available at Anima Mundi.

St.Ives is used to good taste and seascapes so this show was a delight.
Anima Mundi is the sort of expensive gallery that can intimidate people who don't feel part of the art world but by crossing the road and being alternative I think Joseph Clarke is to be congratulated on opening up a way in for those who dare to enter for an art adventure that will make them think.

Aaron Broadhurst at Redwing Gallery, Penzance, UK

Aaron Broadhurst - art at Redwing Gallery, Penzance- November 2019

The paintings are boldly outlined pop art style images, easily recognised with flat contrasting colours. They are unusual at the moment especially in Penzance - not evoking the atmospheric landscape, not gestural or abstract, not lusciously painterly.

There's a portrait of his wife Nicole, very like her despite its simplifications - arresting in its impact.

There's a tin of mackerel on a plate, a lifeboat, an upended car and some guns.

On referring to the list of works, priced £900 to £1,400, I find out the mackerel refers humorously to the popular William Scott image in the Tate of mackerel not in a tin. The car refers to the child abuser Jimmy Saville's car, a man said in the provided note to be a spiritual adviser of the Prince of Wales.
The gun refers to one used by a white racist who killed 9 African Americans in Carolina and the gun  is said to have been his birthday present.

So I learn that the artist is politically engaged, that his pictures have meaningful references - but without the notes I wouldn't have got these references. Without the notes these are paintings that might be glamourising the gun, just picturing a car crash, illustrating a tin of fish and portraying a woman's face.

It's a problem - how to make comments on issues through art. It's difficult. This artist paints confidently and makes an impact but the actual images do not convey the ideas that motivate him and which he documents to make the viewer aware of them. Is this ok?

Banksy manages to get the whole message over in the image.
Maybe Aaron doesn't want to do this, wants the first impact and then sometimes a second meaning from reading about it.

Tuesday, 19 November 2019

Two shows about the Penwith Society, St.Ives, Cornwall

'Creative Tensions: The Penwith Society of Artists 1949-1960'
September 14 to November 16, at Penlee House, Penzance, UK

& 'The Penwith - a Society like no other- 1961 onwards' October 5th to November 2nd , Penwith Gallery, St.Ives, UK

At Penlee a very interesting show explains the founding of The Penwith Society and includes documents such as one where Ben Nicholson defends modern art as a new language.
The controversial minutes of a Penwith Society are there, when 3 categories of art were instituted, traditional, abstract and craft.

Centre stage as visitors enter is Marian Hocken's 'The Hollow Men' of 1955, which referred to her personal relationships within the artists' community and cruel remarks about it probably lead to the artist becoming a recluse. There are three 'joannie' wooden figures above a view of St.Ives and the grave of Alfred Wallis and some tarot cards. It's a picture telling a tale that is now obscure but moving towards a simplified use of form.

I gleaned this long lost scandal by infiltrating a talk on the show by Robin Lenman, who was inviting his audience to contribute their responses and brought in remarks from Will Gompertz' 'How to think like an artist'. Having this knowledgeable person to inform and provoke really added to the experience. Attending the talk slowed down the visitors giving time to notice more.

There are other works before abstraction took over, such as a gentle, sweet and thoughtful drawing by Barbara Hepworth of two girls with teacups from 1949, the very year the Penwith Society formed, breaking from The St.Ives Society, which still survives and now shows a wider variety of art than the formerly more adventurous new Penwith, the Penwith being now dominated by its past allegiance to non - figurative art.

The three Bryan Wynter paintings were outstanding, the 1957 'Mineral World' being a complex layered composition of structures and colours, exciting to look at.

There was a Braque influenced Patrick Heron, a jigsaw puzzle of pink, green, blue, yellow, green with white outlines observed - a table in front of a window.
Without Heron's writing and American connections doubtless the fame of these St.Ives artists would not have spread so far.

There was an abstract Terry Frost, but with a title to show us his way of thinking, 'A Walk in the Snow' made during his time teaching in Leeds. In contrast was a powerful Wilhemina Barns-Graham 'Lilac and Amber' gouache from 1960 where she feels no need to hint at narrative.

Tony Shiel's 1963 'Four frightened bathers' shows a more surreal and wild move using human forms as he was said to oppose 'the 'tasteful' stuff that I feel was a helpful calm sanctuary from the horrors of WW2 and a way of recovering balance and sanity.

There was a Hepworth curved form in bronze with strings connecting parts that was hard to resist touching or attempting to play like a remade ancient musical instrument which embodied the new spirit of absorption in form.

Most unfortunately it seems no book about the show and it's important documentation of one of the major transformations in art history in the twentieth century is to be made but I hope enough documentation is kept for future use.

Penwith Gallery  October 5th -November 2nd, 2019

The back gallery at the Penwith has an informative exhibition about the formation of the Penwith Society and is showing a variety of works.
I was struck by an all male photo of members who were painted by one of them.
Now there would be a more equal mix of male and female artists than there were when the society formed.

My favourite items were the Wilhemina Barns Graham compositions playing with red squares on a red ground and the gentle sensitive portrait by Alethea Garstin.

Unusual in a members show are the embroidery by Alice Moore, 'Winter morning activity in St.Ives harbour' 1942-4, usually on show in the town library.
There are two figurative drawings by Elena Gaputyte who had held early exhibitions of modern art at the Sail Loft, and a large Ken Symonds naturalistic nude woman.
There are heavy looking sculptures, one entitled 'perpetual motion' by Paul Mount.

There's a work on metal sheet by Roy Walker, who had been a car worker in London.

There are lovely small pots by David Leach.

Thus the three categories of craft, figurative and abstract are shown together.

It's enjoyable.

However, when I go towards the entrance I encounter the present members' show. What strikes me is that although there is maybe more vibrant colour in this there is in fact even more emphasis on abstraction, often related to landscape very loosely, and even fewer figurative pictures. The present members work in what is now a well worn tradition stemming from their more famous forbears. No surprises.
The Penwith Society gives its members a lovely gallery in which to exhibit their works but no incentive to develop anything new. Since these members choose any new members to continue the traditions of what was once ground breaking they take no risks and only select people who rock no boats. The associate members, of whom I am one, submit works for some shows, and are aware that nothing out of the comfortable groove will be chosen. There are some attractive and interesting works selected but rarely anything unusual. It's a time warp.

The associates' membership fees help keep the place going but they have absolutely no say in how things are run. A few years ago some of us formed a committee after a stormy meeting, a rare agm at the time, and tried to make contact with the members to make a few waves and open things up but it came to nothing. The status quo of two tier membership lumbers on.
Maybe the only way is, as the Penwith Society did, to break away and form another art society with more scope and more present liveliness. However it hasn't happened yet. There's no energy or gallery space for it in St.Ives.

Friday, 15 November 2019

SPIRAL - french cop series.

SPIRAL Series created by Alexandra Clert and Guy-Patrick Sainderichin
Written by Guy-Patrick Sainderichin (series 1), Virginie Brac (series 2), Anne Landois (series 3 and 4), Eric de Barahir (series 2 to 4)
Directed by Philippe Triboit (1x01 to 1x04, 2x07 and 2x08), Pascal Chaumeil (1x05 to 1x08), Gilles Bannier (2x01 to 2x04), Philippe Venault (2x05 and 2x06), Manuel Boursinhac (3x01 to 3x06) and Jean-Marc Brondolo (3x07 to 3x12)
Produced by Alain Clert and Charline de L├ępine.

Why do I love this French serial cop show?
The title music is a gentle series of metallic sounds that make a tune as letters detach and move on a grey metallic background. It fits the title very well as a spiralling theme like the twofold unfolding plot. It immediately sets the scene of depressing menace and hopelessness.
The scenes are almost entirely grey, brown, grey, ochre and black apart from the female lawyer who ran down her rapist. She has vibrant long red hair.
Everyone dresses rather drably and hardly smiles. The judge is very grey, old and troubled. The two main cops are sometimes sexually entangled in a rather desperate sad way. The woman is unable to bond with the baby she had and left to the care of others. She looks fairly miserable but dedicated to finding the criminals. The male cop who fancies her is also repelled by her heartlessness to her child. He is prone to illegal methods, to violent interrogations, very unshaven and rough looking, overweight and yet compels sympathy. Surprisingly a very attractive young woman with those very French looking full lips is attracted to him but he gallantly does not succumb to her seductiveness.
The plot is fashionably hard to follow but fairly understandable. Different branches of the police are at odds with one another. There is money laundering via a network of Chinese businesses.
There's little overt violence, a lot of scenes of surveillance from a van or tailing cars through traffic at night.
It's a grim, grimy urban scene in which the cops attempt to track down bad people and aim at justice.
As in most cop shows the cops are the focus of interest, their flawed actions and personalities.
It occurs to me it would be interesting to show equally the criminals, how they are also a mixture of traits and foibles, prone to mistakes and different relationships.
Two one hour episodes back to back each Saturday night to which I look forward, doing my best not to fall asleep.
Being in French with subtitles means it's essential to watch all the time.
Maybe it's this concentration that makes it flash by so enjoyably.