Thursday, September 30, 2010

Landscape behind a petrol station, Santa Monica; music in public places

Landscape behind a petrol station, Santa Monica, oil on card, 13.1 x 10 cm

Another beautifully sunny day.


Today I became annoyed about music in a shop: I love music and the stuff they play in shops and restaurants is rubbish. In bars they often play it at such a loud volume that is it difficult to converse without shouting: I don't understand what's wrong with silence.

Moveover, I like to be able to choose when I hear music. There is a campaign against this aural pollution in the UK, but I don't know if there is one here in Brazil.

I often ask for music/muzak to be turned off. There are several usual responses-

1. Patronising, pseudo-concerned: "don't you like this music?" The best response here is, "No. Please turn it off". Usually when you get the pseudo-concern it's a technique to fence you off.

2. "Sorry this is our policy". No further discussion: muzak stays on.

3. "It isn't up to us-it's a head office policy"- muzak stays on. Ask to see the manager and are briskly told the same thing, and given a whole load of bollocks about some survey they did.

4. They turn it down, but not much. So you ask again. If they think you're going to be bolshy, or leave, or you are certain to spend a good sum of money or are the only client you've a good chance of getting the music off alteogether for the period you are there.

5. They turn it down for about two minutes, then turn it back up- as if you won't notice! In this case you ask again. And again, until they realise not to take the piss.

6. They turn it off altogether. This happens occasionally.

7 "But the customers/clients prefer it": an amusing thing to do on getting this line is to ask one of the other customers near, "do you mind if this muzak is turned off". They invariably say "I don't mind if they turn it off, no problem", and continue with whatever they are doing.

As with all complaints, the thing is to be cheerful and polite. This is often difficult as the muzak itself is such an irritant. I often don't enter places with muzak but sometimes they are impossible to avoid.

Wednesday, September 29, 2010

The Dunes, again

The Dunes II, oil on card, 13.1 x 10 cm

I walked from Avenida das Rendeiras to Joaquina Beach today across the dunes- it's only tricky near Joaquina where there are some pools to circumnavigate.

The landscape has a definate lunar quality, with craters, strange succulants and bright purple flowers. Above: lapwings, shrikes and a kestrel.

Monday, September 27, 2010

The Magic Mountain

The Magic Mountain, oil on card, 8.8 x 12.6 cm

Painted in UDSC: one of the amazing hills surrounding Florianopolis, its charms still unspolied by construction.

I feel that I have made some technical breakthroughs recently in my understanding of how to use oil paint. The smallness and rapidity of these little pictures allows me to feel able to experiment.


This picture is the part of a series of mountains: I am considering re-organising the Postcards from Florianopolis set - perhaps by breaking it into themes: highway, sea, houses- as it will shortly become too large and unwieldy.

Saturday, September 25, 2010

The Dunes

The Dunes, oil on card, 13.2 x 10.1 cm

I'm not sure if I've entirely captured the strange beauty of the dunes: I'm going to come back here for sure: they are behind Avenida Rendeiras, in Lagoa.

The sand is incredibly white, and then the sun beats on it and it makes your eyes sore to see it. The vegetation here is peculiar, sparse, like the nair on a balding man, and the land rises and falls in irregular clumps, with some swampy areas. Birds, often lapwings, fly about cawing.

The Infidel (2010): review- 2/10

A Muslim London Taxi driver discovers that his birth parents are Jewish: meanwhile his son intends to marry the daughter of an extremist Islamic cleric.

There is enough material here for a very fast, funny short film, but instead we get a lengthy one in which cultural cliche after cultural cliche is labouriously worked through.

This is simply too narrow, and unsurprising a basis for comedy, which should at some point has to touch more closely on observed experience.

Omid Djalili does his best but even his energetic performances cannot save the film from tedium.

Adventureland (2009): review- 7/10

A young man plans to spend his summer travelling in Europe before going to graduate school but, because of his father's demotion works in an Adventure Fairground to save money.

There, he meets two amorous girls and a married philanderer, among others.

This is a elegant coming of age film with fine acting and wit but few real surprises.

He's Just Not That Into You (2009): review- 6/10

A girl negociates dating: her barman friend advises.

Another anti-rom-com rom-com.

I wasn't bored, the central idea is diverting enough, and the girls are pretty, though I can never really recognise the people in these films, who are lacking in some core fundamentals of personality, as if they were designed by advertising agents for Cosmopoitan magazine readers.

Zodiac (2007): review - 8/10

A newspaper cartoonist becomes obsessed with finding a serial killer in the Bay area.

The film largely, and interestingly, deals with relations between the press, the police and the public at large.

Briskly filmed and excellently acted, and sometimes moving.

Up in the Air (2009): review- 6.5/10

An executive, played by George Clooney, flies from US city to city sacking people. He is joined, and appalled, by a recent graduate who proposes using computer screens to rationalise the process. Along the way he meets a beautiful woman.

A strange, mainly enjoyable film about rootlessness and corporatism which is not without humour.

But Clooney's character is too crypic to offer any real insights into how to cope with life's exigiencies and the others tend towards caricature, so the film leaves one as much puzzled as satisfied.

Friday, September 24, 2010

The Sea, Praia Mole

The Sea, Praia Mole, oil on card, 12.6 x 10.3 cm

Here, the best beaches for painting, I think, are those that face the Atlantic Ocean, not the continent, because the waves are more impressive.

It's very relaxing watching the sea, trying to follow the rythm of the waves. I would reccomend it to anyone who's feeling anxious.

I shall visit the sea more, perhaps later in the evening when the light goes down, and do a small series this week- depending on how the weather holds.

Wednesday, September 22, 2010

The Bad Lieutenant: Port of Call New Orleans (2009): review- 7.5/10

Three african drug dealers are murdered in New Orleans.

Assigned to the case is the bad lieutenant who steals and takes drugs with his astonishingly pretty prostitute girlfriend.

Enjoyable, if formulaic, cop film, mainly memorable for Cage's craggy countanance.

Tuesday, September 21, 2010

A Single Man (2009): review- 7.5/10

A bereaved British homosexual lecturer in California meets a Spaniard and a charming student: both help cheer him up: his neighbour is less successful.

The film is occasionally moving: the art direction seems to be the main thing, however, with elegant architecture, clothes, accessories and people.

Monday, September 20, 2010

Avatar (2009): review- 4.5/10

The cartoon-colonisation of a panet.

Enjoyable primarly for the special effects, which are marvellous. The story itself is moralising puff, tracing cliched romantic notions about the meeting with the primitive.

The Men Who Stare at Goats (2009): review- 5.5/10

The relentlessly whimsical tone of the film is less amusing than it's makers' perhaps imagine. Essentially the same joke is repeated throughout: notably, the silliness of New Age belief practises as revealed in a combat context.

The Illusionist (2006): review - 8/10

A magician stages tricks in late Austro-Hungarian Empire, where he comes to the attention of the police.

Beautifully shot: the film seems primarily to be about totalitarianism.

Dogfight (1991): review- 2/10

Marines on leave in San Francisco, prior to leaving for Vietnam, invite girls they find unattrarctive to a party for an "ugliness contest".

The main protagonist, however, decides that he actually likes the girl he invited.

The protagonist is callow and his change in attitude to his invitee is not really explained, and the film seems mostly to be a justification of nastiness.

Out of the Blue (1980): review- 9/10

Portrait of an adolescent girl whose father has recently returned from prison.

The film describes, with beauty, the girl's relationships with her mother, her father and peers, all of whom are variously selfish, immature or imbalanced.

She attempts to find release in punk and by wandering in the city.

Strong performances in a film which manages seriousness while avoiding portentousness.

Man on Wire (2008): review- 9/10

Documentary about a high wire walker and how, with the help of his team, he crosses the gap between the twin towers, New York.

A wonderful film about enthusiasm and triumph.

Hot Tub Time Machine (2010): review- 2/10

Four friends mysteriously return to the 80s when they go back to a winter holiday resort and a festival they attended as teens.

The film raises, and fails to resolve, various issues about the dissapointments of life, instead seeking to divert through rapid pacing and gross humour.

Sunday, September 19, 2010

A modern building; absence of gardens in Santa Catarina

A modern building, oil on card, 13 x 9.8 cm

One of the UFSC research centres in Itacorubi.

Like many I don't much like modernist architecture, beacuse it seems rarely to integrate happily with nature- always giving that landed spaceship effect

This is one of the things I miss most about the UK: the gentle integration of architecture with the landscape, and the excellent quality of much architectural design, and the beautiful orchestrations of gardens and parks.

It is ironical that a country like Scotland, with its short growing season season, and difficult climate should boast so many beautiful gardens, and Brasil, which offers such abundant possibilities, should have so few. I suspect this is a miserable legacy of Italian- Portuguese colonisation.

Saturday, September 18, 2010

House, Randolph Crescent, Maida Vale, London, oil on canvas, 50 x 60 cm

Probably painted ten years ago. There is a heaviness to the painting which I am not sure if I really like, as if I was unable to say anything without over-stating it.

At the time I was interested in getting commissions for "house portraits": and I think I felt the product had very much to show evidence of "work".

The idea of doing house portraits was a nice one: I love architecture, and I love painting.

But it took me years to recognise fully that I loved painting because it offered a chance to record spontaneous subjective impressions and therefore that the whole idea of being an artist who accepts commissions could never suit me (why this wasn't blinding obvious to me is a mystery, though there was a masochistic element: I felt that being an artist was airy fairy and justifying things on purely subjective terms somehow invalid).

I did pick up ne or two commissions but was never happy either with the results or comfortable with the process.

Friday, September 17, 2010

Friday, September 10, 2010

Doux Pays- Homage to Puvis de Chavannes

Doux Pays- homage to Puvis de Chavannes, oil on card, 10.8 x 7.7cm

At times, on days like today, this place really seems utterly idyllic.

Planes, Trains and Automobiles (1987): 7/10

A businessman tries to get from New York to Chicago for Thanksgiving, but suffers many setbacks. Along the way, he meets a salesman.

A good-natured film folding round the contrast between two personality types- the anxious and striving A-type, and the laid back b-type- with strong central performances and an honest take on modern travel.

Half Nelson (2006): review- 2/10; Misery porn

The film portrays the relationship between a school history teacher with a drug problem and a pupil at the black school where he works.

The self destructive teacher, who regards himself as a great philospher, is generally unlikable; his charges are not especially interesting either. There isn't much of a plot.

Moreover, everyone dresses badly and speaks a debased form of English. The teacher's apartment and lifestyle are squalid. We aren't offered any explanation for this, so it's hard to forgive.

The film is pretentious, and aims at profundity by intersplicing images of footage from the Civil Rights movement, but really it is nothing more than "misery porn".

"Misery porn" is largely a wickedness of the British, who took great delight in filming scenes of proletarian nastiness in their Kitchen Sink dramas of the 50s and 60s. More recently, Mike Leigh has attempted, dismally, to add a comic twist to these; Ken Loach has added extra "authenticity" by filming ordinary people in roles instead of trained actors.

Recently, Americans have managed to master the genre, most entertainingly in Precious (2009) in which an mountainous black girl steals chicken McNuggets and is raped by her father. She turns out to have a sepcial gift for Maths: highly reccomended.

The Searchers (1956): review- 7/10

Settlers, led by John Wayne, seek to rescue two girls from the dreaded Comanche.

The film focusses largely, and uncomfortably, on racial attitudes towards American Indians, largely through the relationship between Wayne, who has little charm, and his nephew, who is part Comanche.

Indeed, there is an unappealing smugness throughout- this especially apparant in the domestic scenes.

However, the film is well paced and shot.

Thursday, September 9, 2010

Back yard; bicycles

Back yard, oil on card, 10 x 9.7 cm

One of the views from my apartment.

They transport the most incredible things by bicycle here: this fellow loaded a fridge onto his little cart.

Elmer Gantry (1960): review- 10/10

A salesman of domestic appliances, down on his luck, is enchanted by a female evangelist: he uses his sales skills to join her religious movement, to promote the Gospel and to get closer to her.

An extraordinary film: it is impossible not to delight in theatrical trickster Gantry, who is played with great suppleness by Burt Lancaster. And each scene is shot through with an ambiguity, wit and irony that allows the film to breathe.

Postcards from the Edge (1990): review - 2/10

A cocaine-snorting actress is given a role on a film on condition that she lives with her alchoholic and domineering mother, who is also given to melodrama and self-pity.

There are far too few good jokes and cameo performances in this film to relieve the irritatingness of the main charaters- who are extremely shallow- and it drags on and on, rudderless, displaying that self-indulgence that often afflicts films about actors or film-making.

Monday, September 6, 2010

Eureka (1984): review- 1/10

A prospector strikes it rich in Alaska, then builds a mansion in the Carribean where he lives with his unpleasant family, and is approached by speculators wishing to develop his island.

A dogs' breakfast of a film, boring and absurd (it even has a mystical element!), illustrating in its failure the tenet guiding all good pictures: concision and clarity are virtues in art.

Mississippi Burning (1988): review- 8/10

Two FBI cops investigate murders in Mississippi: the superior is ascetic and fully committed to the civil rights project, while his accomplice, played by Hackman, is morally ambiguous and scepetical.

The film works through, with little subtlety, the imposition of Federal Law in a small southern town.

The relationship between Hackman and his accomplice- which could be illuminating about the attitudes of southerners who grudgingly accepted racial segregation- is not as enlightening as it might be. Equally, the black characters operate, as do the KKK policemen who oppress them- as caricatures.

Nonetheless, the film is extremely entertaining.

The French Connection (1971): review- 9/10

"That stuff is in that car"

Two narcotics police persue a French based drug gang in New York and Washington.

The film provides provides a magnificent tour of the seamier neighbourhoods of New York, in beautiful fleeting images.

There are fine performances from Hackman as the downbeaten cop and from those he encounters: the scenes are often shot through with a certain Chandleresque wit.

Valdez is Coming (1971): review- 6/10


An aging sherrif, Valdez, has shot a wrong murder suspect: he approaches an unpleasant landowner for compensation for the suspect's widow.

Though solidly made, the film does not touch as it might because the standoff between Valdez and his landowner counterpart is not perfectly realised.

This might be because the landowner lacks the glamour that wicked characters need, or it could be because they do not mirror each other sufficiently, and the film therefore lacks moral complexity.

Sunday, September 5, 2010

Great Expectations (1998): review- 2/10

2/10 (one star for Gwyneth's bottom)

A Floridan painter, of low social origins, is romantically fixated by a snooty rich girl he met as a child.

He goes to New York to succeed as an artist, and where he tries to get her to have sex with him. Apart from being snooty she has no personality whatsoever but that doesn't bother him because she is good-looking in that insipid way that seems to entrance some people...

A contemporary US take on Dicken's novel, laboured in all scenes.

WARNING: some scenes in this film feature Francisco Clemente's paintings.

Mary Poppins (1964): review- 10/10

Edwardian London: a nanny is hired to look after the two children of a pompous banker and his sufragette wife.

Astonishing and delightful, with scenes that read like acid trips: there are supurb performances throughout.

The Seventh Seal (1957): review- 3/10

A knight, returns to Plague-ridden Sweden with his squire, where he plays chess with Death.

Beautifully filmed but very dull: like walking in quicksand.

The reason it is boring is that the characters are merely symbolic, they seem not to have real relations with each other, so identifying with any of them is well-nigh impossible.

Moreover, the film is structured as a run of very staged theatrical set-pieces, a style of filmaking certain to induce extreme tedium.

Some of these set-pieces are supposedly humourous- but it is the sort of "humour" one gets in the theatre and which never induces any spontaneous laughter.

Taxi Driver (1976): review- 10/10

An insomniac Vietnam vet turned taxi driver takes objection to the moral condition of his New York and, wearing a new "Mohican" hairstyle, shoots several people.

Hauntingly filmed with mesmeric performances.

Saturday, September 4, 2010

Waterfall; Carrier Mk II

Waterfall, oil on card, 8.5 x 11.5 cm


This is a another carrier, with some improvements from yesterday's model. It works reasonably well: the picture needed only a little retouching.

Friday, September 3, 2010

Footbridge near Iguatemi Shopping; paint box and carrying wet pictures


This is a cigar box that I've been using over the last couple of days for carrying materials. I usually use a French Easel, which is an elegant folding easel. However it is rather heavy, and therefore restricts the places I can go to work at to locations within about a mile and a half.

This cigar box is good, but does not function as a little table, so I suffer the difficulty of having to find places with benches or convenient walls.

Above is a little folder I'm trying out use for transporting the pictures. I shall re make it with sturdier cardboard.

These experiments will inform my painting journey in Italy and Malta.


Thursday, September 2, 2010

Wednesday, September 1, 2010

Water Tower

Water tower, Corrego Grande, oil on card, 14 x 9.2 cm

Heavy, troublesome weather today.