Surrealist painter Leonora Carrington, new book


This video says about itself:

7 May 2012

Leonora Carrington (born April 6, 1917 in Clayton Green, South Lancaster, Lancashire, England) is a British-born artist, a surrealist painter and while living in Mexico, a novelist.

Her father was a wealthy industrialist, her mother was Irish. She also had an Irish nanny, Mary Cavanaugh, who told her Gaelic tales. Leonora had three brothers. Places she lived as a child included a house called Crooksey Hall.

Educated by governesses, tutors and nuns, she was expelled from many schools for her rebellious behavior until her family sent her to Florence where she attended Mrs. Penrose’s Academy of Art. Her father was opposed to an artist’s career for her, but her mother encouraged her.

By Paul Simon in Britain:

Gripping tale of woman artist’s fights and flights

Thursday 19th March 2015

Leonora by Elena Poniatowska (Serpent’s Tail, £12.99)

RENOWNED Mexican novelist Elena Poniatowska has crafted a mightily expansive and breathlessly fictionalised biography — a “free approximation” as she terms it — of Surrealist painter Leonora Carrington, whose story is one of a constant but very individualised fight and flight rebellions against the expectations of her upper-class family.

Carrington died in 2011 and in this work, translated by Amanda Hopkinson, Poniatowska has ensured that the woman behind the paintings can be fully appreciated and understood.

The daughter of the owner of Imperial Chemical, Carrington was expelled from an endless number of educational institutions for insubordination but was still on the conveyor belt of presentation at court and a soulless marriage before fleeing to Paris and freedom.

There she took up with Max Ernst, Andre Breton, Peggy Guggenheim and others who made up the artistically fissiparous but financially astute Surrealists.

The book pivots around her love affair with the intoxicating, disloyal and rather weak Ernst as they escaped Paris for the south, before he was arrested as an alien in the weeks before France fell to the nazis.

There is a vivid description of the distraught and raging Carrington being smuggled out of the country and into Francoist Spain, where she suffered a breakdown and subsequent imprisonment and medical torture in a Santander asylum.

Well-connected friends helped her resume her life and painting, but without Ernst.

He’d been released and found a new love, firstly in New York and then in Mexico where Carrington spent the rest of her life, and where the author built up a long-term and observant friendship with her.

So this is first and foremost a book about one woman’s constant need for flight and exile in the face of circumstances beyond her control.

It is also a testament to her resistance to, and curious intoxication with, the controlling presence of men — her father, Ernst and her posh-boy patron Edward James included. Carrington emerges as a fragile but determined survivor, eclectically alighting on new ideas — everything from Jung to the Kabbalah but without really engaging in the material realities around her.

She was certainly vehemently anti-nazi when directly threatened but, as with most of the bitchy Surrealists, she failed to recognise the broader class struggles taking place whether in Spain in the 1930s or later in Mexico as the government brutally attacked protesters in the run-up to the 1968 Olympics.

Yet her utter need for freedom, gloriously expressed in her paintings, makes her a vital and influential artistic figure.

War and art 2014-now, exhibition in England


This video says about itself:

Pictures and video showing the horrors of the first World War. Music is Green Fields of France by the Dropkick Murphys.

By Margot Miller in Britain:

The horrors of war depicted

Images of War—Sensory War 1914-2014: An exhibition at Manchester City Art Gallery

6 March 2015

Around 1,500 people passed daily through the doors of Manchester City Art Gallery in the last few months to visit its powerful Sensory War 1914-2014 exhibition.

Held to mark the centenary of World War I, the gallery assembled both contemporary and historical art, adding to its already substantial collection of WWI art exhibits from the following countries: Germany, France, Italy, the Netherlands, the US, Canada, Japan, Vietnam, Algeria, Ireland, Iran, Israel and Palestine. The exhibition is part of the WWI programme coordinated by the Imperial War Museum, London, in galleries and museums across the country. It was presented in partnership with the city’s Whitworth Art Gallery and the Centre for the Cultural History of War at the University of Manchester.

Visitors were able to view the works of artists as divergent as British artists CRW Nevinson and Paul Nash and German artists Otto Dix and Heinrich Hoerle, both of whose works were banned by the Nazis as decadent. Six heart-rending woodcuts by Kathe Kollwitz are on display beside the fragile depictions from Japan by the Hibakusha (the survivors of the Hiroshima and Nagasaki atomic bombs). The latter have never previously been seen in the UK.

The exhibits were organised non-chronologically, in themes that relate to the sensory impact of war on the artist—hence the somewhat puzzling title of the exhibition. For example, the themes were titled Pain and Succour, Rupture and Rehabilitation, and Shocking the Senses. This is a weakness in the exhibition, because it detracts from a historical understanding of the economic and political conditions that produced two world wars separated by a mere 21 years, and the succession of regional wars in Vietnam, El Salvador, Yugoslavia, Africa and the Middle East.

The viewer is invited to regard war-torn scenes ripped from their historical context, from the standpoint of the individual and how it makes him or her feel, with the reality ultimately too horrible to comprehend. The words “imperialism” and “capitalism” are absent from the captions accompanying the artworks. Despite the significant gap, the exhibition is memorable and moving.

In the first section of the exhibition, the text explains the global nature of WWI, with 4 million soldiers enlisted from the colonies. The war was fought, not just in Europe, but wherever the imperialist powers had colonies in the Middle East and Africa. Ten million soldiers and 7 million civilians died.

In another section, the text emphasises the scale of the slaughter in World War II, which amounted to the death of 2.5 percent of the world’s population. A total of 24 million military personal and 55 million civilians died from the war, disease and famine, including 6 million Jews killed in the Holocaust. The exhibits are testimony to this devastation.

In Futurist style, official British war artist CRW Nevinson engraved Returning to the Trenches (1916), a small print showing a column of French soldiers returning to the front. Expressing the dehumanising effect of war in which men are just cogs in the war machine, clamouring billie cans, rifles and legs become a blur as the men march in lock-step back to battle.

CRW Nevinson: The Harvest of Battle (1918) (Art.IWM ART 1921)

By 1919, Nevinson had adopted a more realistic style to paint The Harvest of Battle. This is a painting of epic proportions in colours of mud brown and khaki, reminiscent of the dreaded mustard gas employed by both sides. Nevinson had joined the Friends Ambulance Unit and later worked for the British Red Cross at Dunkirk. He travelled to Ypres, Belgium, the site of the Christmas Truce between German and British soldiers in 1914, and was there at the beginning of the battle known as Passchendaele, one of the most intense and sustained battles on the Western Front. The barren landscape is dark, dismal and muddied, covered with stagnant pools under menacing skies. Weary stretcher-bearers tramp through the mud carrying the wounded. There is a corpse in the foreground, its mouth agape as if screaming, one arm raised in rigor mortis.

Writing to his wife from Ypres in 1917, British surrealist painter and war artist Paul Nash commented, “I am no longer an artist interested and curious, I am a messenger who will bring back word from the men who are fighting to those who want the war to go on for ever. Feeble, inarticulate, will be my message, but it will have a bitter truth, and may it burn their lousy souls.”

Paul Nash: The Landscape: Hill 60 (exh.1918 Pen and black ink, watercolour and coloured chalks on grey paper: Manchester City Galleries

No life exists in fields of mud and shell holes. The sun fails in the grey, mud-coloured sky. A ruddy pool in the centre of the picture suggests death.

In another Nash painting, Wounded Passchendaele, he departs from his usual depiction of war-ravaged landscapes without figures. The colours evoke the horrors of gangrene and mustard gas.

The large painting L’Enfer (Hell) (1921) by French artist George Leroux depicts the slaughter at Verdun in northeast France, where the French army lost a half-million men fighting the German army in 1916. One peers as if through fire and smoke and finally discerns the dead, who have become the colour of mud, in the mud.

Particularly emotive are six black-and-white woodcuts in a series entitled The War, by German artist Kathe Kollwitz, which evokes the grief and anguish of civilians in WWI. A testimonial to her son Peter who fell in the war, this series was first exhibited in 1924 at the newly founded International Anti-war Museum in Berlin. Kollwitz was already established as an artist who portrayed the poverty of the working class and peasantry in Germany. In The War: The Parents, the grieving parents are “entwined in mutual loss.”

Also exhibited are works by two other significant German artists, Otto Dix and Heinrich Hoerle. There are four black-and-white etchings from Der Krieg (The War) series by Otto Dix. These took inspiration from Goya’s The Disasters of War, which recorded the horrors of the Napoleonic invasion of Spain and the Spanish Wars of Independence in 1808-1814. In Seen on the Escarpment at Cléry-sur-Somme, painted in 1924, a soldier slumps, dead so long that a bird has made a nest in his gaping skull. His comrade with his lower jaw blown off appears to be laughing. In the picture The Mad Woman of Sainte-Marie-a-Py, a mother driven mad by grief amid the ruins of her house bares her breast as if to feed her dead baby.

Constructivist artist Heinrich Hoerle, who was involved in the Dada movement, which believed art should serve the cause of revolution, created The Cripple Portfolio in 1919. This series of 12 lithographs were first published in Cologne, inspired by the 2.7 million disabled war veterans, of whom 67,000 were amputees. Hoerle explored the psychological repercussions of the trauma the veterans suffered in life and even in their dreams. In Das Ehepaar (The Married Couple), painted in 1920, a couple embrace. Their furrowed foreheads are pressed together; she is clutching his prosthetic arm that ends in a hook.

Among the other notable works dealing with WWI are nine charcoal drawings by the lesser-known Italian artist Pietro Morando. A volunteer in the Italian elite troops, he drew on anything he could find. His work has a startling immediacy, such as 1916’s A Remnant of the Last Action, which shows a soldier leaning in death on barbed wire. The artist was captured in 1918 and imprisoned in Nagymegyer, Hungary, where thousands of Italian civilians were interned and died. Morando sketched the torture, starvation, cholera and executions in the prison camp.

Two paintings bear witness to the Holocaust by artists commissioned to record the liberation of Bergen-Belsen.

In Belsen camp: The Compound for Women, painted by Leslie Cole in 1945, the nightmare that greeted the liberators is portrayed—10,000 unburied corpses, emaciated inmates in blue-striped pyjamas wandering forlorn.

In Human Laundry (1945), Doris Zinkeisen shows barely alive female survivors lined up in beds being washed and deloused in the section of the camp known as the Human Laundry. Their skeletal frames contrast pitifully with the rounded figures of the orderlies administering to them.

Introducing the Haunted Memories of the Hibakusha, the exhibition explains that at 08:15 on August 6, 1945 (when the Japanese high command were negotiating surrender, although this is not mentioned), a US bomber dropped an atomic bomb nicknamed Little Boy on the city of Hiroshima. Between 70,000 and 80,000 died from the initial blast and many more died later from their injuries and radiation sickness. On August 9, a second, even more powerful bomb was dropped on Nagasaki.

Gisaku Tanaka (age 72 at the time of drawing) Lights blinking on in the atomic desert (1973-4 Watercolour © Hiroshima Peace Memorial Museum, Japan)

In 1974, a 77-year-old man named Iwachi Kobayashi gave a local TV station a drawing of the scene around the Yorozuya Bridge at about 4 p.m. on August 6, 1945. Inspired by this image, the TV station made an appeal to survivors to submit their memories of the atomic bombing. The response was overwhelming. Shown in this exhibition are 12 delicately constructed pictures portraying the horrific aftermath. Lights Blinking, by Gisaku Tanaka, was the artist’s view from Hijiyama Hill after the blast. The Red Cross hospital was painted by Fumiko Yamaoka, aged 47, in 1973-1974, when he committed his memories to watercolour.

Fumiko Yamaoka (age 47 at the time of drawing) Red Cross Hospital (1973-4 Watercolour © Hiroshima Peace Memorial Museum, Japan)

These pictures deserve a wide circulation, a reminder of the unspeakable horrors of nuclear war at a time when US imperialism seriously contemplates engaging in a new war against China and Russia and is fomenting war on many fronts.

More-contemporary works include three anti-war pieces by Nancy Spero, one of which shows a fleeing woman cradling her child, in the context of the death squads and the “disappeared” of El Salvador in 1986.

The image of a black, hooded figure in Abu Ghraib is an indictment of the torture carried out by the US army and CIA in the Iraq war that began in 2003. Created in 2004 by Richard Serra, there exists a larger print with the words STOP BUSH.

Problematic is the juxtaposition in the Art Gallery of Sleeping Children (2012), by Sam Saimee, with the official UK war artist for the Iraq war John Keane’s Ecstasy of Fumbling (Portrait of the Artist in a Gas Alert) (1991). In just a few hours on March 16, 1988, 5,000 Kurdish civilians were killed by mustard gas, and the nerve agents sarin, tabun and vx, in an attack ordered by then-Iraqi president Saddam Hussein. The dead children lie as if sleeping. This horrific slaughter of civilians took place during the Iran-Iraq war, when the Western powers supported and armed the Iraqi suppression of the Kurdish uprising in the north, which was backed by Iran.

Without explaining this, or the causes of the first Iraq war, placing this painting next to embedded artist John Keane’s work lends justification to the US “Desert Storm” war against Iraq in 1990-1991. The UN investigation into Iraq’s supposed stockpile of weapons of mass destruction, used to justify the invasion of Iraq in 2003, concluded that by 1991 Iraq had destroyed its chemical and biological weapons and had no WMDs.

Another controversial painting is a large 1994 canvass by Peter Howson called Croatian and Muslim. It portrays the rape of a Muslim woman during the Bosnian war. The Imperial War Museum, which commissioned the work, refused to show it because Keane had learned of the incident from the victim’s accounts—i.e., he wasn’t an eye witness—and it is today owned by the singer David Bowie. The artist came back from Yugoslavia traumatised.

There were atrocities on all sides in the Bosnian civil war between the rival Croat, Bosnian Muslim and Serbian cliques, following the imperialist-backed dissolution of Yugoslavia. The US cynically employed the pretext of humanitarian defence of the Bosnian Muslims to intervene militarily.

The most moving and accessible art works all tell a profound truth—that it is not a “sweet and fitting thing to die for one’s country.” In the words of murdered German revolutionary Karl Liebknecht, who was so lovingly portrayed by Kathe Kollwitz, “Ally yourselves to the international class struggle against the conspiracies of secret diplomacy, against imperialism, against war, for peace within the socialist spirit.” With a call to disarm the war-mongering capitalist class, he said, “The main enemy is at home.”

Van Gogh art for blind people


This 4 March 2015 video is by the Van Gogh museum in Amsterdam.

It shows a special program at the museum for blind and visually impaired people: 3D reproductions of Van Gogh‘s paintings to feel, etc.

Graphic novel on history of protests in English-speaking countries


This music video from the USA says about itself:

Public Enemy – Fight The Power (Full 7 Min. Version)

From 1990 Album: “Fear Of A Black Planet“. Song first appeared on the 1989 Soundtrack: “Do The Right Thing”.

By Michal Boncza in Britain:

Framed for posterity

Tuesday 3rd March 2015

Fight The Power, a history of popular struggle globally, makes highly effective use of the graphic novel format, says MICHAL BONCZA

Fight The Power: A Visual History of Protest Among English-speaking Peoples, by Sean Michael Wilson, Benjamin Dickson, Hunt Emerson, John Spelling and Adam Pasion (New Internationalist, £9.99)

“FIRST they ignore you, then they ridicule you, then they fight you and then you win,” Mahatma Gandhi once remarked about political struggle.

His words come to mind when reading this inspiring book in the graphic novel format, particularly in a period when there’s a dearth of epoch-defining popular struggles in the Anglo-Saxon world. It’s a salutary reminder of what has been achieved so far but which is often and unwisely taken for granted.

Gandhi’s words about the protracted and open-ended nature of struggle are borne out in all the histories recorded here.

As early as 1776 the founding fathers of the US bestowed on its citizenry the largely nominal right to dissent. But it was exercised to spectacular political effect by Rosa Parks in 1955, when she stood up to bus segregation, kick-starting the historic civil rights protests.

In New Lanark in 1817, the socialist Robert Owen propagated a day divided into three eight-hour periods of work, recreation and rest — it would, however, take well over a century for this goal to be achieved.

Other histories include the Peterloo massacre, rebellions in Ireland, the Suffragette movement, the trial of Nelson Mandela and the 1990 poll tax riots.

The concise graphic novel narrative makes each story easy to grasp and as such the book is an ideal teaching aid for the history curriculum in schools or further education colleges.

Graphic novels resemble film shorts where frame management and composition is as important, if not more so, than the words in speech bubbles.

It is the harmonious balance of the two that impacts and Hunt Emerson is in a class of his own in his work on the Luddites, the Swing Riots and Fragging, the practice of enlisted men shooting superior officers which was so prevalent during the Vietnam war.

His attention to detail within the rigorous demands of the larger tableaux, the organisation of movement and a mesmerising ability to render emotions both individual and collective, along with the textures and vigour of line, are outstanding.

In The Battle of Toledo and The Trial of Nelson Mandela, John Spelling’s sparser composition records the action news-camera style, with sudden changes of angles, unexpected “freeze” frames and long-shots that are real page-turners. The sketchbook drawing style aptly mimics the dynamism of those pivotal events.

They’re typical of the stimulating work throughout the book, which is well worth snapping up.

Rembrandt exhibition in Amsterdam, and also online


This Dutch video is about the ‘Late Rembrandt’ exhibition in Amsterdam; also visible on the Internet.

From the Rijksmuseum site in the Netherlands:

A once-in-a lifetime exhibition

Discover ‘Late Rembrandt’ online

The Rijksmuseum is holding a truly impressive retrospective of Rembrandt’s later works until 17 May 2015. Since everyone should have the chance to experience this, KPN, the main sponsor for the Rijksmuseum and this exhibition, is making it possible to discover this spectacular exhibition online – wherever and whenever you want. Join the guided tours given by Dutch celebrities.

Watch the online tours here.