Monday, April 27, 2020

Max Klinger: A Glove

A Glove, or Paraphrase on the Finding of a Glove, is a series of ten etchings produced by the German artist Max Klinger in 1881, when he was twenty-one. The sequential series tells the story of the artist himself finding the glove of a young woman at a Berlin ice rink. The seeming normality of the narrative soon descends into nightmare and obsession as the artist imagines losing the glove at sea, retrieving it again, only for it to be stolen by a winged beast.

The ten etchings, titled Place, Action, Yearnings, Rescue (pictured, top), Triumph, Homage, Anxieties, Repose, Abduction (above) and Cupid, have a dream-like logic and display a mastery of the techniques of engraving, etching and aquatint, especially for one so young. They were an immediate success when first exhibited, and Klinger would go on to produce further narrative cycles of etchings, but none matched the darkness and desire of A Glove.

The etchings, created towards the end of the 19th century, seem to prefigure numerous 20th century concerns, such as surrealist (see Max Ernst and Dali) and metaphysical (see Giorgio de Chirico) art, fetishism, materialism, Freud's Interpretation of Dreams and the graphic novel.

See them all here.

Wednesday, April 22, 2020

Notes on Ilse Breit

Not much is known about the Austrian artist Ilse Breit (1908-1992) except that she painted lovely pictures of girls being attacked by cheeky farmyard animals. This one, a lithograph called Goose Girl or Girl Beset by Geese, was painted when Breit was a young teenager. She was taught, along with many other children, by Frank Cizek in Vienna. A portrait and landscape painter, Cizek was also a pioneer in art education. In 1897 he established art classes for children, called Jugendkunstklasse, at the School for Arts and Crafts in Vienna.

Dr Mary V Gutteridge, a contemporary teacher, describes walking into one of Cizek's classrooms in 1929 thus: "...most striking was the riot of colour springing from every wall, desk, and easel, and even from the floor. Against the drabness of the walls, the wet and smeary windows and murky November light, there seemed to be living color and form in paintings and art objects."

And: "No restrictions, no orders, and, it appeared, no instruction was given. The children, painting as they felt and as they wished, looked as if they had entered heaven."

Cizek's teaching methods would still be considered controversial today, let alone over a hundred years ago. He advocated minimal teaching for children, encouraging them to foster their own imagination and express themselves freely. His classes became famous the world over, with exhibitions of his students' art shown at home and abroad in England, America and Australia. Poster reproductions of the students' paintings were popular in nurseries, schools and peoples' homes.

Yet there's something slightly sad about all the wonderful illustrations and paintings that came out of Cizek's classes: there's no biographical information about any of the artists (though there's plenty about Cizek). Ilse Breit and her sister Herta, Berta Zuckermann, Gretl Hanus, Steffi Krauss, Grete Blatney, Hansi Bauer and many others (mostly girls) were all accomplished artists by their early teens. Many of their works are now owned by the V&A Collections. But what became of the young artists? Presumably none went on to become prominent artists, otherwise there would be information about them.

Nevertheless, Cizek and his ideas were influential on many educators and theorists, and his teachings left a legacy for the child art movement and art therapy.

Tuesday, April 21, 2020

Shakespeare in the time of coronavirus, a top ten

"Now is the spring of our discontent"
– Richard III, Act I, Sc I

"We have seen better days"
– Timon of Athens Act 4, Sc 2

‘A hearse! a hearse! my kingdom for a hearse!"
– Richard III Act 5, Sc 4

1. A Detergent of Venice
2. ASDA You Like It
3. The Taming of the Barbeque
4. Bronchitis Andronicus
5. Two Gentlemen of Corona
6. A Tragedy of Carers
7. Henry IV, Part Achoo
8. Leisure for Leisure
9. Not Too Much About Nothing
10. Coronalanus

Thanks to Ray and Nind!

Previously on Barnflakes
Kill Bill(ions)
It's a Shame about Ray – the book
50 Shades of Ray / Catching some Rays
Top ten Prince food songs
Lionel Richie tea

Monday, April 20, 2020

Notes on cyanotypes

A cyanotype is a cameraless photography process that originated in 1842, not long after the birth of photography. It involves coating paper (or any other material) with a mixture of two chemicals – ferric ammonium citrate and potassium ferricyanide – and exposing it to sunlight or UV light. When the paper is rinsed in water it oxidises to create beautiful Prussian blue (not exactly cyan) images.

By placing interesting objects (leaves and feathers are always a winner but any object with a distinctive shape will do, making it the perfect lockdown project – there's no need to leave the house) on the paper in the sun, the paper exposed to the light will go blue, leaving a white silhouette of the placed object.

If this sounds technical or complicated, it's not, for I accomplished it with ease. Look online for packs of cyanotype or sun sensitive paper. On a sunny day, place the paper either outside in the sun or on a sunlit windowsill inside. Put the objects on the paper for 10-30 minutes, depending how sunny the day (if using flat, light objects like leaves or feathers, it's a good idea flattening them with a piece of glass against the paper; the images will turn out sharper and they won't blur the picture by moving). Rinse the print in cold water for a minute, then leave in a shallow tray of water for five. If you're into photography and will probably never have a darkroom, watching the image magically appearing as you rinse it is probably the nearest you'll get to the darkroom experience.

It's much easier buying pre-coated paper in packs, but if game why not try buying the two chemicals and coating your own paper or other material (I've seen examples online printed on shells).

Cyanotypes were invented by Sir John Herschel. He thought they had no artistic merit, and indeed the process was used by engineers up to fairly recently to produce architectural blueprints. Photographer and botanist Anna Atkins used the process to illustrate her herbarium. Although the intention was largely scientific, the results were beautiful, and her 1843 book, Photographs of British Algae: Cyanotype Impressions, is said to be the world's first photographically illustrated book.

On Flickr
A cyanoytpe I did years ago of water pistols turned out pretty cool, like an X-ray.

Sunday, April 19, 2020

Recent random cinematic top tens

For your lockdown viewing pleasure.

1. Rosemary’s Baby (Polanski, 1968)
2. Kill List (Wheatley, 2011)
3. The Wicker Man (Hardy, 1973)
4. Race with the Devil (Starrett, 1975)
5. Martha Marcy May Marlene (Durkin, 2011)
6. Midsommar (Aster, 2019)
7. Mandy (Cosmatos, 2018)
8. The Endless (Benson & Moorhead, 2017)
9. Children of the Corn (Kiersch, 1984)
10. Holy Smoke! (Campion, 1999)

(NB: Quentin Tarantino chose to rewrite the history of the Manson Family in last year's Once Upon A Time... in Hollywood.)

It doesn’t have to be low-budget, weird, sleazy and violent, but it helps.

1. Eraserhead (Lynch, 1977)
2. Carnival of Souls (Harvey, 1962)
3. Freaks (Browning, 1932)
4. Un Chien Andalou (Bunuel, 1929)
5. The Honeymoon Killers (Kastle, 1970)
6. Night of the Hunter (Laughton, 1955)
7. Onibaba (Shindo, 1964)
8. Night of the Living Dead (Romero, 1968)
9. Faster Pussycat Kill! Kill! (Meyer, 1965)
10. Killer of Sheep (Burnett, 1978)

1. Watership Down (Rosen, 1978)
2. Harvey (Koster, 1950)
3. Donnie Darko (Kelly, 2001)
4. Fatal Attraction (Lyne, 1987)
5. Alice (Švankmajer, 1988)
6. The Curse of the Were-Rabbit (Box & Park, 2005)
7. Us (Peele, 2019)
8. Who Framed Roger Rabbit (Zemeckis, 1988)
9. Inland Empire (Lynch, 2006)
10. Night of the Lepus (Claxton, 1972)

1. Pickpocket (Bresson, 1959)
2. Le Boucher (Chabrol. 1970)
3. Les Diaboliques (Cluzot, 1955)
4. Le Samouraï (Melville, 1967)
5. L'Appartement (Mimouni, 1996)
6. The Beat That My Heart Skipped (Audiard, 2005)
7. Tell No One (Canet, 2006)
8. A Prophet (Audiard, 2009)
9. Cache (Haneke, 2005)
10. La Haine (Kassovitz, 1995) 

A little while ago, it felt like every other film we watched started with a deer hunt, usually as an ironic metaphor for the movie to come: the hunter will soon become the hunted.

1. Bambi (Hand, 1942)
2. The Deer Hunter (Cimino, 1978)
3. The Hunt (Vinterberg, 2012)
4. Hanna (Wright, 2011)
5. Captain Fantastic (Ross, 2016)
6. The Hunger Games (Ross, 2012)
7. Prisoners (Villeneuve, 2013)
8. Straw Dogs (Lurie, 2011)
9. Last of the Mohicans (Mann, 1992)
10. Big Game (Helander, 2015)

(NB: Yorgos Lanthimos' excellent Killing of a Sacred Deer does not feature any deer at all; come to think of it, his 2015 film The Lobster contains no lobsters.)

1. Joan Crawford in Johnny Guitar (Ray, 1954)
2. Julie Christie in McCabe and Mrs Miller (Altman 1971)
3. Millie Perkins in The Shooting (Hellman, 1966)
4. Shirley MacLaine in Two Mules for Sister Sara (Siegel, 1970)
5. Natalie Wood in The Searchers (Ford, 1956)
6. Claudia Cardinale in Once Upon A Time in the West
(Leone, 1968)
7. Jane Russell in The Outlaw (Hughes, 1943)
8. Marlene Dietrich in Destry Rides Again (Marshall, 1939)
9. Jane Fonda in Cat Ballou (Silverstein, 1965)
10. Doris Day in Calamity Jane (Butler, 1953)

Alternative cinematic streams

If, like me, you don’t have or like Netflix, Amazon Prime or Disney+ (though I occasionally watch them), there are still plenty of places online to watch great – or at least interesting – free films.

Danish film director Nicolas Winding Refn scored a hit with Drive, which I always rename Drivel, but then he made Only God Forgives and The Neon Demon, which were even worse. Anyway – Refn is a collector of obscure old black and white exploitation films. He started restoring them, initially as a hobby, but since 2018 Refn has put them online to watch for free, on his website.

It's a lovely website and I applaud the intention and execution: divided into volumes with such titles as Smell of Female and You Ain't No Punk, You Punk, with accompanying essays and photos, it's a lovingly curated project of forgotten cult films. My only problem with it is some of the films themselves. Now, I don't mind low-budgets and amateur acting but some of the films are just plain bad. Nevertheless, the director's favourites are certainly not without merit. The most famous film in the collection is undoubtedly Night Tide, a bona fide cult classic, starring a young Dennis Hopper as a sailor who falls in love with a mermaid.

Spring Night, Summer Night, shot in 1969, feels like a Walker Evans or Robert Frank photo come to life. Set in a small town fallen on hard times in rural Ohio, it tells the scandalous story of a young woman who has an affair with her half brother and becomes pregnant. Lyrical and poignant, the film comes across as a slice of Italian neorealism of a bygone era. There is a great, extended scene early in the film of a Friday night in the crowded local bar that feels like a documentary. Sadly, the film was re-edited soon after its initial release and re-released as an exploitation flick. Refn, and others passionate about the film, lovingly restored the film and it's one of the best on the website.

All you need is a library card to access and watch thousands of free films through Kanopy, a streaming service provided by your public library or university. From foreign arthouse films like L’Avventura and Wadjda, to great documentaries including The Act of Killing, Kanopy has a fine selection of challenging films. The only caveat is that no more than six films a month can be viewed.

Open Culture, ‘the best free cultural & educational media on the web’, is a blog with links to a huge amount of free culture, including free courses and audio books. It also includes 1150 films, from Hitchcock to Vertov. UbuWeb is ‘All avant-garde. All the time.’ It features art, magazines, music, sound, writing and a huge section of film and video, featuring hundreds by and about artists, from Laurie Anderson to Orson Welles. The Internet archive has millions of free books, music and films, including silents, shorts and home movies.

If you haven’t already, now is the perfect time to get free trials. Aside from the obvious big streamers, it’s worth looking at less well known providers. Criterion Collection DVDs have an online channel with over 1,000 classic and contemporary films. Annoyingly, the channel and 14-day free trial seems to be only available in the States. The BFI Player has a library of free regional archive films, a rental section for recent films plus a subscription service for classic films, which is £4.99 a month, with a 14-day free trial (though if you access the BFI Player through their Amazon Prime Channel, you get a free 30-day trial). MUBI has everything from ‘cult classics to modern masterpieces’ and has a 7 days free trial, after which it’s £9.99 a month.

Of course YouTube has billions of free films. Most recently, I’ve enjoyed films from the Cult Classics channel, including Larry Cohen's God Told Me To (starring Tony Lo Bianco, also seen in the classic cult film the Honeymoon Killers), Carnival of Souls and Ride in the Whirlwind, to name just a few from the collection of sci-fi, film noir and westerns.

I forget that most people probably own Smart TVs (I still famously/pretentiously don't own any kind of TV), but if you don't, there's the BBC iPlayer, ITV and Channel 4, including Film4, online too.

Previously on Barnflakes 
Top 30 films on Amazon Prime right now
Lifetime subscription

Friday, April 17, 2020

Kill Bill(ions)

Exciting news that Quentin Quarantino is to remake his classic 2003 movie Kill Bill by giving it a Coronavirus reboot. Tentatively titled Kill Billions, the film is to be shot entirely in Quarantino's bedroom. It will feature a star-studded cast of cardboard cuts outs, including Ben Affliction, Harrison Bored, Bradley Bupa, Nicholas Caged In, Tom Handkerchief, Brad Spit and Goldie Yawn. Not coming to a cinema near you soon...