Monday, February 28, 2011

Paintings from Curitiba, Parana; Curitiba


Three from Curitiba, with wristwatch for scale

 University of Parana, oil on card, 12 x 9.5 cm

 A tower, Curitiba, oil on card, 9.5 x 11 cm

A residential area near the civic centre, Curitiba, oil on card, 10.9 x 9.5 cm

I spent the weekend in Curitiba, that strange capital of Parana, which seems to suggest a North American city I always think when I am there, this is what parts of Chicago or St Paul must be like, because of the city's grid plan, its Central and East European ethnic base and barbecue restaurants and pick up trucks to be seen parked here and there.

The city is mostly well maintained with less of the dilapidation, squalid unplanned housing and grafitti that blights other Brazillian capitals. However, in contrast to the extremely elegant modernism .that dominates the Civic area (including The Neimeyer Art mueum is excellent, with well curated shows, and pleasant Sunday atmosphere) parts of the town do have a definate seediness: especially towards the bus station. Also, there are also lot of people sleeping rough in the parks and squares.
Of the pictures above, the block seems to represent a sort of breakthrough for me, breaching into a speedy strip cartoon style that such buildings merit, I think.


A tall building in central Florianopolis

A tall builiding in central Florianopolis, oil on card, 9. 4 x 12.5 cm

These modern buildings are much more difficult to paint than might appear.

Portrait of Tony Alana

Portrait of Tony Alano, oil on card, 9 x 12.2 cm

A little painting of my friend, Tony Alano, watching telenovelas.

Wednesday, February 23, 2011

Wall of a sports club with water tower and spotlights behind; The School of Paris

Wall of a sports club with water tower and spotlights behind, oil on card, 13 x 9.2 cm

Today's painting tries to do something with dry oil paint for texture: when I see crumbly oil paint I think of Utrillo, that almost forgotten School of Paris painter.
I wonder how the School of Paris painters will be judged in generations to come- my feeling is that they will be judged rather harshly. I suggest this because I fear they will be regarded as mere picture-makers: criticised for not tackling more dramatic subject matter; for a parochialism, indeed.
My feeling is that modern tastes demand the extreme, the perverse, the discomfiting, and that the so-long fruitful dialogue between painting and furnishing- which underpins much School of Paris work, is even despised..


I shall be going to Curitiba this weekend- I hope for good weather. There are often good exhibitions there.

Sunday, February 20, 2011

Pelotas: a celebration in photos

Pelotas is a fine place to spend a few days if you love architecture, specifically of the late nineteenth and early twentieth century. The place is in a reasonable state, with some buildings well resored. There is some of the usual Brazillian grafitti and negligence, but it isn't too bad, and it feels generally safe to wander about. The splendid Guarani Theatre (above) has fine sculptures.

The city is founded round a central square and grids deriving from it, on a sight slope.

The building of most obvious interest to foreigners, because of its unusualness for Brasil is the Anglican Church, (pictured above) one of three I saw in the Pelotas and Rio Grande and just over100 years old, and recently, rather nicely restored.  The custodian is very pleasant about showing one around. 
The central square contains a fountain and a monuments, including this relief celebrating Garribaldi, and an old fellow selling sweets. (below).
There is a rather grand central market featuring this unusual clock tower:

The city contains a large number of residential buildings, some in pretentious- or glorious -19th centrury eclectic styles, others are more modest but similarly containing charming details, art noveau or deco, or various combinations thereof:

Charming old paving tiles on the ground:

I stayed at the abominable Rex Hotel, which is very centrally located, dilapidated, run by sour-faced hags and a fine place for mosquito-hunting, if that is your bag.
Well, that is a selection of pictures for you: there are many other buildings both modest and grand that I haven't shown.

Here I am, an old man...

Here I am, an old man. Mostly bald, cantankerous and slightly weird. Potbellied, I wander mumbling incomprehensible complaints. I dress drably, except for a battered fedora which, erroneously, I imagine to be dashing. Everything I own is worn and has a greasy patina of sadness.

I walk about a neighbourhod which I ended up in through a series of well considered, joyless compromises made many years ago. I prefer architecture to people because it is silent. I live on toast, poached eggs and whisky. I have no friends, my social life long having been reduced to semi-formal exchanges with the postman. Sometimes I try to flrt with waitresses: a pitiful sight. Thus, for company, I aquired a dog which resembles a rat.

I have a long mental list of people and institutions I despise, ranging from the manager of the supermarket to the  US Secretary of State. I try to add to my list of grievances every day. I am considering disliking the postman, though as yet I have no specific reason to. I have no interest in other opinons than my own, unless they concur, or they provide me with fuel for my contempt.

Saturday, February 19, 2011

Two Trees, February

Two Trees, February, oil on card, 12.5 x 9.8 cm

I am quite happy with this one, which is very much in the John Crome mode, that British- Dutch tradition of muddy painting.

Tuesday, February 15, 2011

Frigate: doodle

Frigate: doodle

A drawing of a frigate, done during lessons. Not only has it got a giant cannon but, should that fail to destroy the enemy, it also features a  hefty battering ram, capable of smashing the hull of the most thickly armoured ironclad.

Monday, February 14, 2011

Houses and yards seen through a gap between blocks

Houses and yards seen through a gap between blocks, oil on card, 11.5 x 8.7 cm

One of the views from my bedroom window.

Sunday, February 13, 2011

Wall enclosing a school; Sisley

Wall enclosing a school, oil on card, 11 x 10.5 cm

Painted on a brown base: I am experimenting more with the colour of the priming.

I feel this picture to be in my more Sisley-an mode: this is partly because of the texture, and partly because of the scale of the motive: Sisley often stood a certain distance from his motives when painting. This lends a sence of emotional reserve to his paintings, a quality I find most sympathetic.


It is so hot that it is quite oppressive and I hope it rains. I miss the absence of seasonal variety here: I remember autumn in Italy last year with great fondness, especially the smell of damp leaves.

I hope I can save money to go to Europe in September or October. I wish to revisit Naples.

Saturday, February 12, 2011

The great grey-green sea

The great grey-green sea, oil on card, 9 x 12.7 cm

I steal the title in part from Kipling's wonderful "The Elephant's Child": "Then Kolokolo Bird said, with a mournful cry, 'Go to the banks of the great grey-green, greasy Limpopo River, all set about with fever-trees, and find out."

The King's Speech (2010): review: 7/10

The Duke of York, brother to the heir to the British throne, has a debilitating stammer: his wife, Elizabeth, finds an speech therapist, a lively and perceptive Australian, to help.

The film charts their friendship through the challenges faced by the Duke most notably when, due to the abdication crisis, he unexpectedly becomes King, and when addressing the nation at the onset of the Second World War.

The film has been extravagantly praised. But, as with The Queen (2006), a large part of my time watching this film was passed in embarassment.

In part whis is a specifically British embarassment of seeing a royal figure depicted intimately.

Before, I had seen George VI to be a dignified figure, assured and calm, having seen him elegantly and formally depicted on coins (British coinage is notable for it's excellent portraiture) and oil paintings. Now, I see human failure, an unhappy, sometimes mean-spirited figure, with limited depth or charm, capable of duty, not much more; bossed about by his shrill wife (played almost satirically by Bonham-Carter). His elder brother is worse, of course-  cruel, selfish and silly.

If we are stripped of our illusions are we reft from our ideals, or do we learn compassion? Do you want to feel compassion for kings?

The film is episodical shot, lacking a certain fluency. The scenes of London are interesting, with nicely decorated art deco sets, and there are enjoyable contrasts between the family life of the Australian therapist and that of the Royals.

But the film is less interesting than it might be. It begins to ask questions about the value of duty, of respect for convention and tradition, and how an indvidual should relate to these, but fails to explore them with thoroughness. This is mainly because the hero is lacking in the depth and intelligence required to be a vehicle for such explorations (as the summary description of the British royal family would imply: "German and not too bright").

Happy Tears (2009): review: 8/10

A woman returns from San Francisco to Philadelphia, to her father's house. There she helps her sister take care of their aging, occasionally bilious father.

This is a melancholy film depicting, in an episodic and occasionally surreal style, the world from a female perspective. It deals specifically with the heroine's desire for a commited relationship, her relationship with her sister and absentee lover, and her father and his chequered past.

Both filming and acting are elegant...perhaps even too elegant?

You Might as Well Live (2009): review: 3/10

Dissuaded from suicide, Robert R. Mutt is encouraged by his baseball hero to get money, a special ring, and a girl.

The film fails to create a sypathetic hero, Mutt having really no redeeming qualities other than a desperate persistance. Black comedy as relentless as this becomes is two dimensional, and seems to be driven by a desire to mock unfortunate people.

 However, the film works reasonably as a critique of provincial society (specifically Hamilton, Ontario) with it's low level drug dealers, low culture, lak of ambition, anti-paedophile protests and atmosphere of weariness.

Strictly Sexual (2008): review: 7.5/10

In L.A., a wealthy aspiring screenwriter and her fashion designer friend meet two unemployed builders, whom they install in the pool house for the express purposes of conducting a purely sexual relationship.

Smoothly made, with good acting and often very funny, the film gleefully describes friendship and gender stereotypes.

Thursday, February 10, 2011

Nocturne: the night sky

Nocturne: the night sky, oil on card, 10 x 14 cm

Painted on Beiramar Avenue, looking out to sea. The avenue has been nicely re-modelled by the city.

Tuesday, February 8, 2011

Symphony in grey: condominium; a new series; Whistler and music

Symphony in grey: condominium, oil on card, 11 x 15.3cm SOLD

This is a more elaborate version of the type, with quite complex poured concrete forms. It is on Madre Benevenuto, in Trindade.  As yet it is unoccupied, but I can't imagine it being more colourful when it is.

This is the first of a Whistlerian series of ten, all standard postcard size.


I found it amusing to read this about Whistler:

"Whistler used musical terms in his paintings' titles: symphonies, arrangements, harmonies, nocturnes. According to his friend and fellow artist Mortimer Menpes, however, Whistler "had no sense of music, absolutely none." Whistler himself stated that "it is an accident that I happened upon terms used in music." He was, though, familiar with philosophical arguments maintaining that music was the highest art form, since it escaped the concrete imagery produced by language. By appropriating music, Whistler suggested that the people, places, and things in his paintings were unimportant accidents. The only part that really mattered was the effectiveness with which he organized color and line into a harmonious and therefore beautiful whole."

This is a quotation from some concert programme notes written by Kenneth Myers, and published on the Smithsonian's website:

The Big Chill (1983): review: 3.5/10

Following the suicide of a friend, a group of seven eartwhile college friends meet in a lovely big house in the country.

Here they dress in horrible 80s styles with "mullet" hairstyles.They are not interesting or mysterious. They take drugs, mainly marijuana, occasionally a strange pill... Do you care? I don't.

They have poor table manners. Many shots feature socks.

The film supposedly examines value changes and disillusiion over the years, but actually characters are merely annoying and narcissistic (they very much enjoy videoing themselves) and have no depth. The film does not give not enough background shading, and their style of conversation is  too superficial. The soundtrack is given too much prominance, as if the makers imagined that having catchy songs playing throughout the film would compensate for plot development or character analysis.

When I was a child I hoped life was not like this, I still hope it isn't: empty pointless people slopping about conducting vacuous affairs and talking rubbish and showing off: no glory or joy, no challenges or real compassion, no love, glory or honour. A pox on these people.

Friday, February 4, 2011

Chelsea on the Rocks (2008): review: unfinished film

Length of film: 88 minutes
Length tolerated before switch off: 23 minutes
Percentage suffered: 20.24%

This is a documentary about the New York's Chelsea Hotel and the people who lived there.

Reason for switch off: Just being famous doesn't make someone interesting. The film offers no insights into the creativity of anyone and, more importantly, fails to tell a story, so the interviews conducted are dislocated and boring.

Thursday, February 3, 2011

The sea from the mall

The sea from the mall, oil on card, 12 12 cm

I feell that I won this picture having had a somewhat unsatisfactory run over the last few days. 

The secret is sometimes to relax and just not to try so hard or care so much.

Wednesday, February 2, 2011

The Great Buck Howard (2008): review: 6/10

Against the wishes of is father, a young mans drops out of law school, seeking to become a writer. To earn some money in the meantime, he takes a job as assistant to "mentalist" showman  Buck Howard, who is attempting to revive his career.

The film parallels the career beginnings of the young man with the older, and the plot is handled deftly. The acting is generally good and the film is never dull.

But there is something unimaginative about the direction, so that the film considerably lacks the atmosphere and passionate engagement that the story and characters deserve.

Tuesday, February 1, 2011

Sliding Doors (1998): review: 3.5/10

In London, a PR officer returns home early having been sacked for stealing vodka: the film then diverges into two parallel tales. In one she returns home to discover her partner, an aspiring writer, in bed with his ex, a bossy American woman; in the second, due to an accident, she comes home minutes later after the American has left, thus living a life of ignorance and misery as her partner continues his affair.

The film loses momentum after the first 30 minutes, becoming doleful, the comparasion of her alternate possible fortunes is less inspring than it might be. In the former, the heroine meets a flirtatious, gummy Scotsman who considers himself a great wit, but who, in truth, is a twerp and an obsequious bore. In the second, she continues to live unhappily with her boyfriend who has an unfortunate haircut.

The villain of the piece, the scribbler boyfriend, whose pusillanimity is the cause of our heroine's misery, is potentially the most amusing character in the film. She is a thick spinless drip who has little really to delight so it is a pity that his wickedness could not be more more exuberant, as this might have animated the film more: bad always so much more cinematic than good.

It's quite pleasurable seeing bits of London, though the film does little truly to exploit location, apart from some bridge and river shots. To me, London is a furtive city of crooked streets and secretive corners and the filmakers surely could have used this far more as metaphor for maritial deceit.