Thursday, July 04, 2013

lotta bottle




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So, Morandi ... a mixture, in fact. The negative, first: another example of poor gallery decision-making in hanging a series of works against black backgrounds which kill any sense of the works' colour. And, Morandi's later flower and shell period leaves me cold (there's one especially dreadful example which would not look out of place in a local Sunday painters' exhibition). However, the positive: a ravishing early still life that is (apparently) rarely exhibited; a superb pencil sketch; and the main room with a series of paintings that take your breath away. 

It's this room that really matters & that you need to return to again & again. If ever there was a painter who does not transfer to reproduction it's Morandi. The catalogue images are dull substitutes and I'd imagine a digital camera image would distort in the other direction - too bright. As it is these images conjure light from the dusty air that surrounds the bottles and other objects. Seeing the paintings arranged along the wall the set of variations becomes clear - think Goldberg or the Art of Fugue & fugacity. A. & I talk about the conditions in which he painted - the ascetic Chess Grandmaster level of concentration & intensity; the deliberate restriction of objects & means to open up such immense possibilities; the attention to light knowing how the tiniest of fluctuations would threaten the entire arrangement. As I'm looking I'm also thinking of Ben Nicholson, Sean Scully - use of negative space (the former), formal variation (the latter). Thinking, too, of the defiance (& courage?) to turn your back on the window and concentrate on a load of old bottles day after day. (Unlike models, though, they don't need to be paid, don't need breaks ... ). So much he excludes - but that's the bargain you strike. 

Nosing around the internet afterwards I happen upon a very good video interview with Wayne Thiebaud (http://vimeo.com/20806297). Thiebaud's modesty, flawless speech & precision of analysis are exemplary. 


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