Moorish ceiling tiles

I think Picasso would have been impressed  if he had looked up to the ceiling and seen these painted tiles, especially the painting of the bull. It looks as if its eyes are painting on another plane and defy conventional representation. They are on show in the ceramic Museum in Valencia.

Bull ceiling tile

These are drawings by Picasso.

Pablo Picasso. Bull's Head, Turned to the Left (Tête de taureau, tournée à gauche). (November 1948)


Hollywood Costume (not fashion)

Notes from a tour around Hollywood Costume at the V&A, London.

I went to the V and A exhibiton Hollywood Costume and was lucky to be taken on a tour by Professors Deborah Nadoolman Landis and  Christopher Frayling the curators.

Here are my notes.

Costume is not fashion. It is created for one moment on a screen, a 2-dimensional moving picture. It serves the function of making us believe and connect with the character. The colour, silhouettes, moods and details are all important. Like everything in a film, nothing is arbitary. Everypart of the image, words and sounds are carefully thought through. It is all for emotional impact.

All the jewelry worn by the large blue CGI creatures in Avatar was made first in the real world. It was impossible, said James Cameron a video in the exhibition, to create convincing tribal jewelery in 3-d. It had to be designed and the physical object stood as an  example for the 3-d animators to replicate, to look right and hang right. It was largely beaded, woven, and coloured with every detail.

I was keen to see Harrison’s fords Indiana Jones (whose slacks were based on trousers worn by CHIPS!) and Han Solo. Indiana Jones reduced brimmed hat to see eyes for the camera.Darth Vader wasn’t as frighenting as I had antcipated and even less so with a plastic box on his front. The acting, breathing and presence was lost here. Keanu Reeves Matrix coat was surprisingly effective and recognisable. A red dress from The Bride Wore Red was the reddest dress I have ever seen.

Meryl Streep says the costume fitting is with her and the designer and they wait for a third person to enter the room.

Everything has meaning. A polyester shirt or a denim shirt with vintage buttons in brokeback mountain. Or the plainest blue tshirt of FightClub next to a leather jacket died the colour of dried blood. The show of courtly dresses made the impression that must have been made to a court visitor. Power, clout, splendor, scale.

Its not fashion, its like drawing. Every element thought through for emotional impact of that one moment at that one time on screen in those lighting conditions and with that movement.

Hitchcock didn’t like bright colours in costume unless it had a significance in the story.

Costume, as the curators pointed out, is hard to display because it is without the moment and the person, the actor and the character,  inside. I think the costumes have more meaning if we can put them on and wear the dress that X wore. (In fact, some on display were hireable until a couple of months ago)

I was looking for the aura imbuded in the costume, the aura from the character or from the actor. Audrey Hepburn’s Tiffany’s dress, Dorothy’s Wizard outfit, Marilyn’s white vent frock, Chaplins tramp’s suit. Could these pieces of cloth act like  a Saint’s relic does, imbued with the power of the star?



An afternoon at RCA 2012 show

This is what caught my eye at the RCA Fine Art show.


A pile of sherbet or similar sulphur coloured yellow powder.

A pile of gold leaf, which seemed alive as it fluttered continuously.


Pasticene lumps of meat, packaged in polystyrene and cellophane.


One of a few references to analogue technology, a tank full of clocks, film, old packaging and cameras. There was also a record player and a projected 16 ml film.


A sci fi spacecraft tunnel, like a 2001 space oddessy film set, put together with bull dog clips and polystyrene. The last clever and aesthetic placing of polystyrene I saw was at the Barbican in an installation by Chinese artist, Song Dong



A pile of burnt bread loaves (not a pile of bricks).


A tactile, heavy lump of black material, like a geological formation but with finger impressions and the mark of clay.

Here is a link to all the artists on the RCA website >>  



Film by Tacita Dean in the Turbine Hall at Tate Modern.

The lights are out in the Turbine Hall at the Tate and its as if a giant piece of film is propped up and backlit. In fact it is a projected looping film shot on 35ml with panoramic cinemascope lens turned on its side and the effects were created physically, not digitally. It is a moving collage; artist cut up images from her large postcard collection or used footage of waterfalls and a snail, like stock footage. She has hand coloured black and white film, exposed it many times through the camera and masked it to create the collage. The film is treated as a very physical material and Tacita Dean says she has been lead by the ‘magic’ of the medium and likes the unpredictable results. Though loved, analogue is being forced out and it is digital switch over everywhere, and the film labs are closing one by one. So this is her response, a homage to film.

Rockwell’s methods

Normal Rockwell painted over 300 covers for the Saturday Evening Post. I didn’t think  I would be interested in Normal Rockwell’s paintings (on display in Dulwich Picture Gallery), but I was.

The pictures often show cute and sentimental  caricatures. There are puppies, children, clowns, grandfathers, turned up toes of shoes, santas; these magazine covers are like greeting cards. They are controlled, realist in some ways, detailed, technically very well painted and the figures are very well observed.

Rockwell’s ability is to tell a whole story in one picture. He has the actor’s skill of working with poses and expressions and screenwriter’s skill of working with actions – people doing things – conveying all that is happening visually, rather than in words. On the magazine covers, the people are in action, playing, sitting, standing, playing music, mixing medicine, head scratching,  Their gestures and faces show us their emotions. Frowning, pointing, crying, eating, pouting, there are some raised eyebrows.  Sometimes we can tell what has just happened (the beginning) and sometimes what is about to happen (the end).

There are words painted on the canvas (most works are oil on canvas), like pop art. Unlike pop art the words are there for a functional reason – it may be the name of the magazine. Pop art inverted, in a way. Sometimes the backgrounds are plain, painted white in oil. He used cameras to compose some of his paintings, which you can see from some of the unusual angles such as the over head shot of the bridge game.

Rockwell went out and about looking for subjects. He looked around at ‘small town America’. He is said to have invented a way of looking at and thinking about America. He also found locations. For example, the armour room at a Massachucetts museum.


David Hockney’s hedgerows

Looking at pictures of  trees and foliage, I was reminded of the documentary David Hockney: A Bigger Picture . In the film, we see Hockney, having left life in Los Angeles, standing on the grass verges of Yorkshire country lanes with canvas and easel, painting the landscape in all weathers.

Here he has chosen a common sight of the English countryside, the hedgerow. I am interested in it because it is not a conventionally picturesque rural scene and could be unremarkable. He has included the road and a grass verge. It reminds me of a photograph and you get the sense that you are standing in the location. In fact, anyone could park at this spot and take a look. It has an unconventional composition and we look dead on at the elderflower which takes over the middle area. The simple house is tucked to the side.

Any hedgerow is incredibly complex. This painting makes me think of  the physical energy of the artist, (some of the paintings were done at great speed) and very intense study and ‘looking’ to make sense of the foliage and light on that particular day. There is also a great feeling of pleasure at that July day.

Elderflower Blossom, Kilham, July


>>LALouver gallery

Trees by Paul Cezanne

How to paint trees?

I have been looking at this painting by Cézanne to understand how to give trees their three dimensional form.

The large area of shadow works in two ways. It pushes the tree in the foreground towards us and sends the smaller  tree across the fields into the distance. This is with very simple means, may be two or three tones of leaf green. Light falls in a column on the large left hand tree, on its leaves and on the trunk, with a shadowy gap which sets the leaves still further towards us.

It is a very unsentimental and it makes you  feels as if you are standing there in the countryside.

The Avenue at the Jas de Bouffan. Paul Cézanne  1868-70. Tate/National Gallery.

Rock Dispenser

The New Decor exhibition is on at the Hayward Gallery. In the show, sculptures and installations ‘take interior design as a point of departure’.  German artist Nicola Werners has made a perspex bench which encases a row of boulders, each a different rock. She has also made an edition of ‘Rock Dispensers’.

A dispenser is rather mundane. I imagine a metal serviette dispenser. The pebbles are multi-coloured and created from unimaginable geological processes. The joke is that the rocks hardly need stacking and dispensing.