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Sunday 19 October 2008

You might have missed...

...being a few snippets that have caught my eye in the newspapers this week - there seem to have been more than ususual

Rothko: The Times reprinted a few paragraphs from 1961, headed "Wall of light"

Mark Rothko may well be accounted one of the most remarkable of living painters by virtue of the canvases, simplified to the nth degree and aptly described as "walls of light", into which he is uncannily able to infuse life and significance...
"To achieve clarity," the artist says, "is inevitably to be understood." But how, it may be asked, does one understand a "wall of light"?... There is either a philosophy in it or a strong inducement to attach one. It is the nature of Rothko's paintings not to elude criticism, but to lead to thought.

from Times 2 (15.10.08)

The first solo show in London for six years by Sarah Lucas opened at Sadie Coles HQ last night with plaster casts of her boyfriend's penis. It's a logical evolution from Lucas's previous work that includes a wire penis, another in papie maché and the unforgettable "Penis Nailed to Board".

from Times 2 (15.10.08)

The Frieze Art Fair is back in Regent's Park. Dan Colen is a 29-year-old New York artist said to have "a unique talent for combining grime with the sublime" His oil on wood called "Holy Shit 2006, (The words Holy Shit roughly painted upside down.) costs $80,000 (£45,000).

from The Guardian Weekend (11.10.08) - an interview with Jake Chapman:

asked what was his most embarrassin moment
...losing The Turner Prize to a grown man dressed as a small girl

and asked when he was happiest
...Until Bambi's mother was shot dead in front of me in glorious technicolour. After that, everything seemed to go downhill.

from The Independent (17.10.08): by Tracy Chevalier, author:

Years ago I vowed to see every one of Vermeer's 35 paintings in the flesh, and did. Recently, I was thrilled to see the exhibition of work by the Danish painter Vilhelm Hammershoi at The Royal Academy in London. I've found my new passion.

and The Ballad of Dorothy Wordsworth by Frances Wilson was a wonderful biography, focussing on the strange, passionate years when she lived with her brother and kept her journals. Wilson writes elegantly and with insight.

from The Independent (17.10.08):

Every couple of years the world takes some famous person we love and digs away at the scabs of their life until the pus runs. Two years ago it was Gunter Grass. This year it's Milan Kundera (who allegedly once betrayed a spy to secret police). kundera denies these reports. And we all know how reliable old Soviet documents are... (www.bookninja.com)

and: One of the terrors of dating is Milan Kundera, and specifically, "The Unbearable Lightness of Being", the sexually transmitted book that this author has inflicted on a generation of American youth. I recognise the important role of the dating book, that is, the carefully selected work you lend to a prospective lover... the problem is that "The Unbearable Lightness of Being" is a really bad book.


Rachel Fox said...

There was a good interview with Lucas in last weekend's Independent. Well, I thought it was interesting. I didn't know much about her but was more interested in her work by the end of the interview even if I can't say I'm desperate to see the penis casts... that's all a matter of taste I suppose! There's a market/audience for everything somewhere...

I have never read the Unbearable what's it of what's it. Have you?

Art Durkee said...

I've been seeing a lot of reassessment of Rothko lately, and a lot of it has been along the lines of stating that his work now looks gimmicky, and doesn't endure.

Of course, some of those who have been sniping at Rothko from the sidelines have never actually been a roomful of his paintings for more than a minute, if at all. One guttersnipe insisted that he could make his judgments just from looking at online images of Rothko paintings, and didn't need to sit in front of one of them for awhile and actually look at it.

What stupidity.

In the meantime, Rothko's children were finally able to publish some of his notebook writings that have been around for awhile, but could not be published till now. They're interesting reading.

I certainly think reassessing an artist's impact and life work periodically is a good thing. But Rothko is one of those artists who work you CANNOT take in quickly, or superficially, or in haste. It just doesn't work. People who don't spend time with the actual paintings are always going to completely miss the point.

Of course, this is true for other artists, too. But Rothko I think is an extreme example of the issue.

Sarah Laurence said...

David, what a good blog theme of art, literature and poetry. Rothko is one of my favorite artists. His room at Tate Modern does feel very spiritual. I agree with Art Durkee that Rothko’s work is best experienced in person. There is a very human scale of his proportions, and his paintings feel more like landscapes. They are so evocative.

I really liked The Unbearable Lightness of Being (novel and movie), but it was less serious that Kundera’s other work. The Joke was quite interesting but less memorable. English book critics do like being critical. Sometimes they go too far to sound amusing.

Marion McCready said...

Yes, I thought it was sad to see all that palaver about Kundera. I could never get into the The Unbearable Lightness of Being, but I loved The Joke.

The Weaver of Grass said...

I tried to comment on your last post Dave but somehow couldn't get it to work. I liked reading your scrapbook of comments from the Arts pages - I love Rothko's work personally. Re Milan Kundera - I am relieved to find somebody saying it is a rottn book - I found it impossible to read and thought it was me. Rather like the emperor's new clothes methinks.

Pamela Terry and Edward said...

Very interesting, thought-provoking posts! I enjoy my visits here very much. Thank you.

Dave King said...

I agree with you about the intervies - and the penis casts!
Yes, I have read The Unbearable Lightness of Being". It examines the circumstances under which artists live(d) behind the iron curtain (Czechoslovakia, I think, if my memory serves me well) and develops the theme that because we all have only one life to lead, our decisions are trivial and mean very little. That is the lightness we find unbearable. The narrative is told in a post-modern way. I found it quite readable, but not one of his best.

Dave King said...

Art Durkee

You are right about the need to spend time with Rothko's canvases - which is why, not having seen it, I decided not to talk about the Rothko Chapel. Obviously, this applies to all artists, but some more than others and, as you say in your last sentence, Rothko more than any.

I didn't know about the publication of his notebook writings. Thanks for that.

Dave King said...

Sarah Laurence

Thanks for dropping by and for the feedback.
I think your word evocative sums up Rothko's work exactly.

I have not seen the film, but would certainly like to.

Dave King said...


Alas, I have not ead The Joke Sounds like I ought to!

Dave King said...

The Weaver of Grass,
I think you have to be in the right frame of mind to appreciate some of Kundera's works - for me, I think that was a certain period in my life. I found it readable then, but I am not ure how I would react to it now.

Dave King said...

Pamela, Terry and Edward,
Thanks for making the visit and thank for the comment. Good to have you along.

swiss said...

hurrah for hammershoi. and yet another reason why i should've visited london this summer. if i recall correctly i think you can visit his flat in copnhagen(?) and see the interiors as they were/are. spooky!

re rothko. i'm disappointed that some people should see him as gimmicky. i can't see why. i studied rothko once upon a time and much of what i saw was in books or online. i guess it's just a question of focus.

years before i'd badgered a mate of mine, who usually refused to go to any galleries, certainly won't have any discussion of art etc and continues to do so, to come with me to the old tate for a bit of a gander. i been ruined by other galleries by this time so was a bit non-plussed by it and made my way round rather too quickly losing him along the way. i had to double back thinking he'd be off for a smoke or harassing some poor tourist. as it was i found him in with the rothkos, transfixed. so much so he wouldn't leave. so much so he went off on a long discourse about just why they were so fabulous. before or since it's the only time he's done such a thing.

Dave King said...


Thanks for stopping by and for the comments.
I didn't know you can see the Hammershoi flat with the interiors as were. I can quite imagine that it might indeed be spooky.
Also I didn't realise that Rothko was regarded as gimmicky in some quarters. Can't think why that would be. Not a word that springs to mind when I think of Rothko.
Nice story. Says a lot.

Conda Douglas said...

This was a fun post, Dave. I kept returned to click on your links and find out more. I'm not sure if it's Sarah Lucas' plaster casts or Jake Chapman's Bambi story that made me giggle more.

Pamela Terry and Edward said...

Dave, I keep trying to comment and tell you how much I'm enjoying my visits here to your blog...but they keep coming back to me!! I do hope this one gets through!

Dave King said...

Pamela Terry and Edward

Sorry you've been having trouble - I, too have been having difficulties on some blogs (Jim's for one). Must be Gremlins in the system.

Thanks for the compliment, though.

Dave King said...


Pleased you enjoyed it. I giggled more at the plaster casts, for what it's worth. Wasn't sure about the Bambi story. I remeber feeling the same way - but I was only 5.