Monday, January 31, 2011

A view of the centre of the city

A view of the centre, oil on card, 12.2 x 12.2 cm

Another square format picture.

Suddenly, Last Summer (1959): review: 3/10

A doctor is sent to meet an excentric rich widower, whose son recently was killed in Italy, in the hope that she endow a hospital with much needed funds. She wishes, however, that the doctor urgently perform a lobotomy on her niece, whom she argues is insane. It transpires that the niece knows a good deal about the events of her son's death than her aunt desires.

Playing the role of docotor-psychologist-detective, the surgeon investigates.

The film dates very badly in all respects: the psychological "theories" underpinning the work, the melodrama, and the florid speeches are all uncomfortable and often boring.

The actors all seem to have adopted different styles, from a sort of camp melodrama on the part of Hepburn, to Clift's much more naturalistic approach. The theatrical staging, including the denouement, is laughably corney, and it's unclear what the film is really for.

Elizabeth Taylor's waist is extraordinarily thin. For this, 3 points.

Sunday, January 30, 2011

Beiramar Avenue from the mall; square format paintings, a series

Beiramar Avenue from the mall, oil on card, 10.5 x 10.5 cm

This is the first of a series of seven square paintings.

The square format is one which was extensively explored by Klimt, often using- to my mind, somewhat mannered art noveau compositions. There are also a good clutch of very nearly square pictures by Hammershoi, the Danish genius.

The square format is symmetrical across 4 axes, and consequently a very stable form (I might speculate that Hammershoi did not use the perfect square because he was interested in maintaining a definate visual instability in his work).

It invites a sense of flotation, of hovering: I am not clear why. Could it be because, while a rectangular format invites a horizontal .linear reading, when confronted with a square, thes eye tends to meander and circle more within much more narrow bounds inside the frame?

Lars and the Real Girl (2007): review: 9.5/10

In a small town in Ontario, a socialy reclusive man develops a relationship with a plastic doll.

The comical elements, which fold around how the community of the Lutheran town collude with his fantasy, lead to psychological insights.

The film is elegant and moving, with excellent performances throughout.

Was the author influenced by Kafka's short stories, perhaps?

Blue Valentine (2010): review: 7.5/10

The charmed early romantic meeting of a removal man and a student are contrasted with torrid scenes depicting the decline of the relationship.

The film does not describe why their relationship could not be sustained.

 The acting in the film is very alive. The girl is the courted- passive, later judgmental, he is the suitor, becoming angry when she rejects him.

The film is overlong and less purposeful than it needs to be, lacking a central message.

Wristcutters: A Love Story (2006): review: 4/10

A road movie in which three characters wander through a Post-suicidal purgorory which is a joyless post-industrial landscape.

The film is on the edge of being very good, but there is something not quite right about it.

This is connected to the lack of depth of the acting, and a certain drowsyness to it all.The drowsyness comes from the film not exploring the central and obvious question of why they committed suicide and  from the fact that the central imaginative premise of a post-suicidal world which so utterly resembles the real world is hard to acccept.

 Tom Waits appears, but his acting is stilted and his fuction unclear., The film contains an absurdist element, but it doesn't carry forward because there is such lack of compulsion to the character's car trip.

Saturday, January 29, 2011

From Beiramar Shopping mall

From Beiramar Shopping mall, oil on card, 13.7 x 9.9 cm

This is a great place to work with views of the sea on one side, and various roads and houses on others.

Friday, January 28, 2011

A yellow boat

A yellow boat, oil on card,  15.2 x 10.2 cm  SOLD
As I was painting I kept thinking of van Gogh's famous fishing boats on the beach, then of Puvis de Chavanne's "Poor Fisherman" picture. I looked these up and they are not really similar to mine, nor is Redon's "Yellow Boat".

I carry memories of pictures, and they serve as inspiration, but when I look them up after having painted I find my memories to be totally erroneous.

Thursday, January 27, 2011

V for Vendetta (2006): review: 4/10

In London, in the future, a dictatorship with a censored tv service and police curfews is challenged by a masked rebel: he forms a relationship with beautiful Evey whom he has rescued from the brutal police...

Though it's always a pleasure watching Portman, this film is little more than a reshuffling of dystopian cliches.

Nocturne- a garage

Nocturne- a garage, oil on card, 13.4 x 9.9 cm

Another in the nocturne series. I'm becoming more confident with these.

Tuesday, January 25, 2011

Places to visit: list

Here's a list of places I want to go:

Bulgaria (specifically Plovdiv)
Wells Cathedral

Northern California
Washington State
Salvador, Bahia

Here's some I want to go to again:

New York
West Coast of Scotland and the Western Isles
London, specifically Bayswater, Highbury and those bits of south and north London which seem mysterious to me, such as Holloway, Camberwell, East Dulwich, Forest Oak, Sydenham and Herne Hill
Rio de Janeiro

Monday, January 24, 2011

I Love You, Man (2009): review: 7/10

Recently engaged in LA, our hero lacks a best friend to be his best man: he meets several contenders and forges an unlikely but strong bond with Sydney Fife.

The film is a celebration of male friendship, male companionship, of drinking, Rush and hanging out. These elements of the film, driven by strong acting, are its best parts.

However, it starts badly, trying too hard to be funny with the "gross out" comedy that has become such a staple of Hollywood films. Then it settles into making some cringworthy points about the insincerities demanded of masculine friendship code. Fifteeen minutes later the script calms down a bit, but desperate comedic effort continue to belabour the film.

It is as if the film-makers are ashamed of being sincere- ironically, given that much of the film is about sincerity in the first place, so a film that could happily rival Sideways*, fails to.

Nonetheless, it is hard not to enjoy it.

*There is indeed a similar big man - small man friendship

Sunday, January 23, 2011

The swamp viewed from Iguatemi shopping centre; Rio

The swamp viewed from Igautemi shopping centre, oil on card, 12.2 x 8.2 cm  SOLD

This was painted from the car park above the shopping centre. Sadly, they mainly used a sort of frosted glass or perspex to enclose the parking space, so there are few place from which to get views. I could paint from the restaurant area, or near the lavatories but it is annoying being approached all the time. 

You can see, in the distance, the same promentery that features in the landscape painted from the technological park.


I think I will go painting in Rio later this year- it may be a mess of a place, but it is oh so beautifully sited.

Saturday, January 22, 2011

Everyone Says I Love You (1996): review: 8/10

The romantic tribulations of a wealthy New York family, including scenes in Venice and Paris.

The film is excellently narrated by Natasha Lyone- indeed all the acting is supurb- and includes various songs from classic musicals: the knitting together of the many characters is elegant, and the whole has a delightful energy.

Mayor of the Sunset Strip (2003): review: 4/10

Rodney Bingenheimer is a "sort of somebody" in LA, known to many stars, including David Bowie, Cher and Courtney Love.

The films interviews these people, Mr Bingenheimer's family, and Mr Bingenheimer himself, whose principle accomplishments seems to be playing records, running a bar, collecting autographs and meeting these celebrities.

He is a diminutive fellow, melancholy and tired- the films traces his interest in celebrities to his childhood abandonment by his mother.

The film suceeds in describing an LA of mindless celebrity idolatory and sad superficial relationships.

The film is overlong by half an hour. I suspect Bingenheimer seemed to offer more potential interest when the filmemakers were researching the film than transpired during its filming.

Warships and containers, Itajai

Warships, Itajai, oil on card, 12.3 x 9.5 cm

I spent yesterday in Itajai, wandering about.

Containers, Itajai, oil on card, 6.7 x 8.8 cm

Itajai a container port to the north of Florianopolis, somewhat nondescript, and like many container ports large areas are hidden by giant walls. It has, however, got a spendid river- giant container vessels float unhurriedly down it, mountain of coloured containers line the shores. I took the one real ferry to the far bank and painted these warship: I saw three docked here.

It drizzled and rained much of the day. Actually, it has been raining incredibly hard down here, the water coming down so fast you'd get soaked in seconds. I predict flooding down here in Santa Catarina.

Thursday, January 20, 2011

Beautiful Girls (1996): review: 6.5/10

A pianist returns to his home town for a school reunion in wintry Minnesota where he meets his old friends and finds a sort of romantic connexion with a young girl.

The film is solidly made and well acted, but suffers from an excess of sincerity, therefore making unsurprising points about growing older and settling down.

Entrance to an apartment block; the Speyside Way

Entrance to an apartment block, oil on card, 12.3 x 8.7cm

When I paint thick, boring paintings like this I always think of Luc Tuymans, a great Belgian artist.


I'll be walking the Speyside Way in mid July, painting along the way.

The Speyside Way is a walk running from Spey Bay, on the North-East coast of Scotland and Aviemore at the Grampian mountains, roughly following the Spey Valley.  It breaks into sections of between 10 and 15 miles a day for six days, which means about 2 hours walking in the mornings, two in the afternoons with about three intervals for food and painting and rest. This will make a fine contrast to the week I'll have spent in London just before.

Everybody's Fine (2009): review: 3/10; table manners in American films

A retired widower attempts to visit his grown children, travelling across the USA, to discover that he has been given a false immpression of their lives.

The films contains elements of the road movie, and is a sort of right of passage film, showing shifts in attitude and expectation  taken by different generations.  The film is also, I suspect, about American decline and disappointment, as Americans learn to live with diminished world status and reduced  individual chances of achieving the American Dream.

The film offers glimpses of these themes, but does little to grapple with them, instead washing us over with sentimentality, providing lazy solutions to the various relationship crises described. All this is underscored by syrupy music.


As so often in American films, the characters have terrible table manners, speaking with their mouths full and biting food off the prongs of their forks with their moths open, leaning over their plates or slouching with their elbows on the table (Julia Robets is particularly guilty of these offences). In "Everybody's Fine" the dismal manners of a brattish child become a focus for one of the conflicts in the film.

These atrocious table manners can be seen in films showing Americans of all social classes, but seem most striking among their middle classes. It's a form of arrogance: they think that because they are wealthy they are above regarding the feelings of others and has a sartorial equivelent in the way they inisistantly dress casually even in formal situations. However, they haven't yet started, I think, to swear as is now common among the British upper middle classes (see the Guardian Newspaper)- or maybe they have, but it is censored from films.

Wednesday, January 19, 2011

The Big Heat (1953): review: 5/10

A police detective investigates the unlikely suicide of a colleague, to find himself under atack from a consortium of well-placed ne'r-do-wells.

The film lacks the sense of delight needed to animate it's darkness. The women aren't alluring poison flowers, the hero is one-dimensional, and the photography lacks the adventurousness of Lang's other films. The sets look cheap too.

Nor has it that necessary sense of threat, of pressure: everything shunts along rather formulaically (if one can ignore the many odd decisons taken by the hero, such as his decision to leave bis wife and child at home immediately after recieving a threatening phone call there) and though the film is certainly watchable, it isn't one of the great noirs.

Nocturne- shop window

Nocturne- shop window, oil on card, 9.6 x 7.1 cm

Painted on Madre Benevenuta, part of both the nascent "shop windows" series and the "nocturnes". 

I often find myself unconsciously connecting with Atget's work- he did a whole run of shop window displays- realising after producing a picture that he was there before me: he was there at the start of the modern age ready to record urban architectural archetypes, and he had an eye for subtle strangnessess that makes him more than a documentarist.

Monday, January 17, 2011

A pink flower

Pink Flower, oil on card, 11.6 x 16.7 cm

Another floral still life: these still lives are bit bigger than recent paintings.

Tomorrow I shall probably return to the egg, a favourite subject.

The Pope of Greenwich Village (1984): review: unfinished film

Length of film: 121 minutes

Length tolerated before switch off: 54 minutes

Percentage suffered: 44.62%

Narcissistic Italian-American scoundrels in New York, more used to stealing from their catering employers, plan a robbery. They have various romantic complexities too.

This is a very sub-Scorcese picture with a lot of method style mannerisms, and observations of proletarian New Yorkers eating, drinking, walking about and being rude to each other.

Reason for switch off: the film dawdles hopelessly, unsympathetic characters, facing challenges of no consequence.

The acting is all good, but it is insufficent to hold against the films aimlessness. In addition, the characters are nearly all unplleasant, but none in a way that could generate any passion: they are mediocrities of vice- low scum. Their interior lives are flat and consequently their relationships are without richness. The challenges they are set are uninteresting, and it's impossible to give a hoot about whether they succeed or not.

Saturday, January 15, 2011

A tree like a windmill

A tree like a windmill, oil on card, 14.2 x 11 cm

One of those creeper-clad  trees that makes me think of Gaudi.

It is so hot here that going outside between 11am and 4 pm is quite uncomfortable. I would try to paint still lives, but I hate being stuck indoors all day. Probabaly the best thing is to sleep in the afternoon and go out at night to paint more nocturnes.

Austin Powers: International Man of Mystery (1997): review: 9/10

As a British special agent, Austin Powers is unfrozen from the 60s to tackle Dr Evil, also unfrozen from that time. Dr Evil is trying to blackmail the UN.

Austin powers has a pretty assistant, for whom he feels a strong sexual attraction.

The film is a very funny, good natured on male sexuality, and British sixties films and culture, which it manages both to satirise and celebrate simultaneously.

54 (1998): review: 5.5/10

A pretty young man, of low social origins, from New Jersey, seeks self advancement as a bartender in Studio 54, a fashionable New York discoteque in the late seventies.

The film attempts to combine a themes of juvenile ambition, friendship, and love with a biography of one of the disco's founders, Steve Rubell, and a history of the rise and fall of that disco.

Structurally the film holds: sadly, however, the dialogue and the ideas in the film are hackneyed: none of the characters seem possessed of an interior life of any interest, and their ambitions are banal.

I suspect also that the director lacked a clear moral position on the events depicted- it being quite unclear whether or not he wishes to celebrate hedonism, superficiality, tax evasion, drugtaking and licentious sex.

Panic (2000): review: 7.5/10

A contract killer, married with a child and middle class, who works for his father, enters therapy: the therapist challenges his passive attitude to his domineering father. In the therapist's lobby, the killer also encounters an attractive young woman, with whom he becomes entranced.

This is an effective and elegantly balanced play whose humour is based on role inversions, and is well sustained throughout by all the cast.

Waltz With Bashir (2008): review: 8/10

An animated film focussing on an ex-serviceman of the Israeli Defence Force who is puzzed by his recurring dreams of dogs. Wishing to recall his experiences of the Lebanese Civil War he visits his comrades of the time and events leading to the Sabra and Shatila Massacre

The cartoon style is effective at conveying the sense of dream and memory recall, and the it is moving to see the protagonist study himself: the film explores mainly the memory of war, different attitudes to soldiering, to guilt, to trauma.

As a study of the massacre itself, and of specific historical events, however, it is insufficient: but to say that is perhaps to criticise it on the wrong terms.

The Company of Wolves (1984): review: 8.5/10

"...never trust a man whose eyebrows meet in the middle"

A rebellous adolescent girl locks herself in her room and sleeps. In her dreams, she is in a seventeeth century European village where her grandmother introduces her to wolves, their malign and seductive ways.

This is an amusing and diverting essay in nascent sexuality, seen through female eyes and full of momorable dialogue, but which might disappoint those used to more sophisticated special effects.

Angel Heart: (1987): review: 9.5/10

In the fifties, a private detective, more used to low level investigations, is hired by a mysterious client to pursue a debter, believed to reside in a mental hospital.

In the process of this investigation we are taken to the deep south, specifically Lousiana, to explore its religious subcultures.

The film succeeds in combining elements of Southern Gothic with film noir and is beautifully shot, with exquisite scenography and use of colour. The acting is rivetting: the story is told with just the right balance of melancholy, wit, sensuality and horror.

Thursday, January 13, 2011

A trip to the mountains, part 3; solitude and painting


Chalets and a distant mountain, oil on card, 9.5 x 14 cm

Five Araucaria trees, oil on card, 14 x 9.6 cm

Here is a final selection from my little trip to the interior of Santa Catarina, which I spent largely alone and painiting.

The first is very "picture postcard": beautiful places always carry the risk to landscape artists of bringing a certain kitschy obviousness to the work they do there. I cannot find a way round this: for me part of the pleasure of being a landscapist is the delight of being in a beautiful place: it gives me an excuse to go there (I believe fishermen and birdwatchers say the same thing). The only thing I can do is to try to offer a balance by also painting places which are without immediate beauty, such as industrial and suburban sites.

Landscape painting also lends a focus to solitude. And I confess I have the misanthropic tendencies common to painters and it hardly pains me to escape the herd*. Many people do not like being alone, it makes them anxious. But I think for this very reason, that it's important to be alone at times so as not to become enslaved to a social network.

I also feel, when I am alone in nature, that sense of rhapsody so forcefully conveyed in Knut Hamsun's glorious novels, especially Pan and Mysteries. Alongside rhapsody though, comes melancholy, and yearning: emotions relating somehow to an increased awareness of ones connextion with the life and death cycles of nature.

*I've never had the least sympathy with Christianity's generalised love of humanity: how can one when there there are simply too many people.

Wednesday, January 12, 2011

A trip to the mountains, part 2; large Brazillian cities


View from a valley, oil on card, 14 x 9.6 cm

A community in a mountain valley, oil on card, 9.4 x 6.6 cm

Two more paintings from one of the valleys near  Morro de Campestre. The little houses, which are often wooden and tiled, huddle at the base of  splendid mountains.

Large Brazillian cities are extremely ugly, unless they have the fortune to be sited as impressively as Rio. (Florianopolis is not beautiful -though you might hear people say it is- what is attractive about it is the closeness and variety of its natural surroundings).

The Brazillian inability, or refusal, to plan, their lack of understanding of public space and their instinct to merely improvise, or sort something out at the last minute means that anything which needs large scale co-ordination often goes terribly wrong, so that all large Brazillian cites are largely squalid, ugly monstrosities, crime infested, grafitti covered, filthy rat-holes, containing significant areas of extreme poverty and social degradation (usually, for visitiors and the rich there are showcase tourist streets and enclaves for those with private wealth to escape to - shopping malls, restaurants, posh condominiums, fancy gyms etc).

These cultural failings do not affect so negatively smaller places, and I believe there is a cultural element at play too in the Urubici area, which is that the cultures which lent the mountians their native populations are generally central European. They came there with the specific intent of creating a worthwhile life for themselves through their own labours. They do not have the negative attitudes towards work commonly seen in latin or slave populations.

Having had a British education, I aquired this sneaking admiration for people who don't want to work, but the truth is that people who are not industrious are rarely creative either, and all this means that Brazil is less interesting in terms of culture than it might be: certainly, there is not much happening here in Florianopolis.


Tuesday, January 11, 2011

A trip to the mountains, part 1


 Hills, oil on card, 9.7 x 7 cm

Two horses in a field, oil on card, 10.1 x 7 cm

A first selection of paintings from my recent trip to the Catarinense mountains, which is an extremely beautiful place, very clean and unspoilt with smallholdings, orchards, little herds of cattle and chickens. The people I stayed with kept bees too.

I much prefer it there to Florianopolis where I live. The people of the mountains are German and East European in origin and are reflective, industrious and orderly. They people are friendly and courteous without indulging in that excess of hugging that characterises less European parts of Brasil and the coast.

The middle painting here shows something of the influence of William Gillies and Joan Eardley: this is partly in the thick textures and the strong colours but also in the compositional structure, where fairly simple profiles play against flat bands of colour.

Wednesday, January 5, 2011


Clouds, 2011, oil on card, 7 x 9.5 cm

Tomorrow this time I shall be on my way to the mountains. Let's hope it doesn't rain too badly and I can do some good work

Wall Street: Money Never Sleeps (2010): review: 1/10

Notorious financier Gecko is released from prison, writes a book and gives lectures. His dreary daughter is having a relationship with a young broker with an effeminate manner*  and big dark eyes: thanks in part to Gecko this fellow sees the light and rejects the wicked ways of speculative capitalism.

This results in the usual macho posturing in boardrooms as well as supposedly creepy meetings and conversations with his mentor.

This is a long, preachy and joyless film, an utter stinker, which even Douglas cannot save from tedium.

*Don't you think he looks rather like the Marc Almond in his "Tainted Love" days?

Wuthering Heights (1939): review: 7/10

In Yorkshire, a foundling is adopted by a family which has a son and a daughter: the first seeks to oppress him, with the second commences a passionate love.

Solidly made, with some excellent photography, and acting, the film is too bound by British politeness to touch the elements of madness than animate Bronte's book.

Monday, January 3, 2011

The television in room 202 at the Rex Hotel, Pelotas, New Year's Eve, 2010

The television, Rm 202 at the Rex Hotel, Pelotas, New Year's Eve, 2010, oil/ card, 7.4 x 9.5 cm

I do not reccomend this hotel, which is filthy and run by some extremely surly women. They told me that they do not serve breakfast on New Year's  day because it is a holiday. The rooms themselves are pretty awful, shabbily decorated and with work out furnishings. On New Year's Eve I spend a good hour killing mosquitos and trying to ignore the racket coming from downstairs (karaoke) or adjacent rooms.

As for painting: I did little on this trip. It seemed better to spend my time taking photos. I'll probably do more in the country, later this week, because I'll be moving about much less and therefore in a better frame of mind to paint. If my surroundings are too unfamiliar, painting isn't easy; contrawise, if they are too familiar, a sort of visual boredom ensues and it's impossible to feel any inspiration.

Airport, Florianopolis: a short story


Airport, Florianopolis

They wait: they sit and wait to get to another place.

Sometimes they return, sometimes they don't.