Saturday, to Paris and the Olympia for a date with a legend. I came here in 2014 to see Joan Baez in concert and she's come round again. This tour is billed as her farewell tour, these Paris concerts some of her last. I never really got the earlier Joan of soaring soprano, I didn't really discover her until 1992 with her 'Play Me Backwards' album, 'Stones in the Road', a Mary Chapin Carpenter number, brilliant, and now she is singing Tom Waits, can it get any better. The Paris crowd adored her, House of the Rising Sun, Me and Bobby McGee, Gracias a la Vida, The Deportee, Diamonds and Rust...................,
we stamped, roared and sang along. At the close of the final encore, a card from the back of the theatre persistently called out 'We shall overcome' and with a great smile she thanked the inspired heckler and led us all in that great protest song, the rafters shook. An unforgettable night of passion and protest, for fifty years she has stood against injustice and been a voice for the oppressed. At 77 she is still beautiful and her voice is strong and probably more compelling than ever, it's too soon to go.
Sunday in the city and I was hoping to see Rothko, but the show which was in a commercial gallery is closed, so it's off to the Pompidou.
It never disappoints. Jitish Kailat is an Indian artist living and working in Mumbai. He is a multi media artist, sculpture, photography, installation and stunning paintings. He is an artist for our times. Much of his work is political and highlights the world of poor migrant workers and lowly paid menial labourers. This painting in the Pompidou is a challenging complex work in composition, content and construction, it's a knockout.
Around the corner is another wonderful encounter, Joan Mitchell is waiting for me. Joan Mitchell is known as a second generation American abstract expressionist painter. Mostly I hate them, daubers all, intellectually feeble, they all rushed through the door opened by Pollock, tosspot Twombly and the boys and couldn't believe their luck. Whatever, she was one of the few women painters around to gain critical and public acclaim, she had her first solo show in New York in 1952 and regularly showed with Pollock and de Kooning. In 1959 she moved to Paris, a studio in the 15th, later returning to New York, she died in 1992. I cannot recommend that you waste your time looking at her work but I have to say this one in Paris is an uncharacteristic cracker.
Down the hallway and around the corner and there is a piece of work to confirm you in the power and potential of painting, Maria Lassnig was the real deal, her work can disturb, amuse, confuse and inform. She paints herself, she paints herself endlessly and in many guises, baby, monster, mother, lover, saucepan, gunfighter, the images are often bizarre sometimes comic but always compelling.
Maria Lessnig was Austrian, she lived and taught in Vienna until her death in 2014, aged 94. Her early work in Vienna clearly shows it's Austrian pedigree, Kokoschka is all over it. In the fifties she was in Paris dabbling with abstraction, then an Austrian return, Paris again in the sixties and New York in the seventies. Her mature style was emerging, the obsessive self imagery, but New York was totally underwhelmed. The critics found it too strange, too morbid, no real surprise there then. She views Americans as simpleminded.
She returned to Vienna to take up a chair at the School of Art, their first female professor. Her star began to rise and in 1980 she represented Austria at the Venice Biennale. Her art was often uncomfortable and confrontational, her subject matter often challenging. She sought to express the plight of women, their role in society through the unflinching examination of self. '' The truth resides in the emotions produced within the physical self'' and it was this internal world she was desperate to express, and only painting could do this. Lessing believed that photography's inability to delve beneath the surface meant as an art form it offered nothing more than a persuasive lie and she even attacked Bacon for his reliance on photographs, bless her. Without any doubt she is one of the most important women painters of the twentieth century, don't miss this one.
AGED AND AWKWARD