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Contemporary Art Online 2012 /13

2012 has been our first full year as a contemporary art online gallery and we have loved every minute of it. We would like to thank all of our customers and artists for making this such a successful year.
We have also enjoyed immersing ourselves in the contemporary art scene. Following the year’s events closely, visiting exhibitions and keeping up to date with what is happening in the art world right now.
We are looking forward to 2013 on a personal level and have also been checking out the up and coming events and exhibitions for the new year.
Always looking to plan ahead, we have researched the some of the year’s offerings and are particularly looking forward to the following so far:


Lichtenstein at the Tate Modern  (February 21 – May 27) 
This retrospective at the Tate Modern is the first full-scale look at Roy Lichtenstein’s work in over twenty years and will feature 125 of his paintings and sculptures.


Lowry and the Painting of Modern Life at the Tate Britain  (June 25 – October 20) 
The first major exhibition of the artist’s work since his death in 1976. His depictions of the daily life of the working class in Salford and its surrounding areas appeal to our inner Northerner, and we look forward to seeing his lesser known landscape works.


Top of the list, and we think worth the wait, will be Paul Klee exhibition at Tate Modern (15 October 2013 – 9 March 2014)
The comprehensive Bauhaus exhibition at The Barbican earlier this year was a real highlight of 2012, and we are excited to see this in depth look at Klee’s work. It follows his career as a teacher and influential voice at the school, as well as his later pointillist work and the colourful, simpler geometric paintings produced later in his life. He is also a personal favourite.


View information about contemporary art online and these forthcoming exhibitions at the Tate.

Roy Lichtenstein

L.S Lowry

Paul Klee

We wish you a Happy New Year!

contemporary art online 2012/13



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What is Pop Art?

What is Pop Art?
Pop Art can best be defined as art based on popular culture and mass media, depicting familiar images from everyday life and using them to hold a mirror up to contemporary society.
‘For the Finest Art Try Pop’. In this 1961 essay, Richard Hamilton claimed that twentieth century artists are both consumers of mass culture and contributors to it. There was a growing awareness that the post-war world was vastly different to anything before, and that movements in art away from the traditions of fine art should reflect this. People’s lives were filled with advertising, media, and consumer goods claiming to make their lives better. Photographic source material was the perfect way to bring art back in touch with what was happening in the real world. Young artists of the time looked to mass entertainment, popular culture, technology and industry. As the movement gathered pace, popular culture seemed to be the overriding characteristic of the new movement.
With much of the source material already in existence, artists at first tended to concentrate on organising images which had been removed from their known context into something meaningful. Collage was used to bring these components into a unified composition with a message incorporated into the artwork.
In 1947, Eduardo Paolozzi exhibited the first work to include the word ‘pop’ as smoke emerging from a gun. ‘I was a Rich Man’s Plaything’ is a collage representing American popular culture through a series of adverts, magazine covers, and mass produced graphics.
The ‘Independent Group’, founded in London in 1952 and consisted of a group of young artists who wanted to challenge modern artistic attitudes. They were the first to coin the term ‘Pop Art’.
‘Just what is it that makes today’s homes so different, so appealing?’ by Richard Hamilton (1956) was originally conceived as a poster and catalogue illustration for the exhibition ‘This Is Tomorrow’ staged at the Whitechapel Art Gallery in London by the Independent Group. The artwork shows the latest technological innovations for the home including televisions and reel-to-reel tape recorders, as well as domestic appliances intended to make life easier and to leave more time for hedonistic pursuits. The couple depicted are also a glamorous incarnation of a suburban couple taking advantage of these new technologies. The message is that a consumer fantasy world is available to home-owners, and that post-war struggles could be overcome for a price. Hamilton was using existing advertsing to suggest that these pieces of popular material had a place in modern culture. His ironic and at the same time deadpan use of these sources is a duality which would find its way into most of the Pop Art movement.
In America, it was not until the 1960s that Pop Art came to full prevalence when a symposium on Pop Art was organised by the Museum of Modern Art in December 1962. At this time, advertising had already begun to infiltrate American art, and artists found themselves having to look deeper for material and inspiration to further distance their work from this, particularly since American artists did not view their own advertising in the same removed and often romantic way as their British counterparts.
Roy Lichtenstein was a central artist in this new establishment of Pop Art. He used images taken from comic strips to document, and at the same time, parody the comics. In his careful reproduction of these images he was merging popular culture with fine art. This idealisation of mass-production was also a defining feature of the work of Andy Warhol which explored the relationship between advertising, celebrity culture and artistic expression. He used a variety of media to achieve this including drawing, photography, printmaking, sculpture, painting and film. Critics would attack his open embrace of mass consumerism and market culture. In 1964 a pivotal exhibtion took place in Paul Bianchini’s New York Gallery. ‘The American Supermarket’ was presented as a typical small supermarket except that everything inside, canned goods, fresh produced, meat etc. had been created by prominent Pop Art artists including Warhol, Robert Watts and Billy Apple. This event was one of the first to bring Pop Art to the attention of the American public and posed the enduring question of what constitutes art.
Pop Art itself was itself to work its way back into popular culture, with Peter Blake designing album covers for The Beatles and Elvis Presley, and Andy Warhol for The Velvet Underground, a band whose music he also produced.
Despite questions over the actual artistic ability and motives of artists such as Warhol, Pop Art continues to be in high demand. Last year Andy Warhol came in as the world’s biggest seller at auction. His work took a total of $380.3 million in 2012 proving that the fascination with the work and lifestye that Pop Art presented us with continues to prevail.
“Once you ‘got’ Pop you could never see a sign in the same way again. And once you thought ‘Pop’ you could never see America in the same way again.” Andy Warhol.
Related Pop Art Links
Lichtenstein: A Retrospective at Tate Modern
Cover Image: Dubble Bubble by Julian St Clair
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From the Tree, by Kenny Behr

From the tree
The search for burls in the high desert of New Mexico entails walking, riding on horseback, and bushwhacking in 4 wheel drive vehicles.
Once they have been found, cut from the dead branch or tree and trimmed with a band saw, or for larger pieces, a chainsaw, to a spherical approximation; they are immersed in 55 gallon vats of water to maintain their moisture content until I am ready to investigate what lies under the bark.
Each piece reveals its inner beauty, first of all as a Rorschach test at the sawn ends. The art is to display nature’s designs in the best form within a simple, yet beautiful shape. The outer layers are removed with gouges, stripping the bark off as the wood spins slowly; and then at the end as I refine the surface, the details of the grain are accentuated.
The tools are hand held rather than rigidly mounted.  The skill is to produce flowing curves by eye and by feel, resulting in something that is both unique and elegant.
All of my shapes resemble ceramic forms since I spent 35 years as a potter, specializing in raku.
The solid rough outer form of up to 50 kg is then reattached to the headstock to allow me to access the inside of the piece. Total concentration and subtle control are obviously necessary, since I cannot see what I am doing at any time, as I hollow the form. A cutting edge, half the width of your little finger nail is attached to a tool 130 cm long, which is the marriage of a crutch to a rifle. (it wraps around my forearm, has a pistol grip, and the barrel of a rifle with the cutting edge at its end.)  The inside usually resembles Pandora’s Box, and my arm feels as though it is attached to a jack hammer and I am pretending to have immaculate control.
At the end of the roughing out, the piece is sealed to slow the drying process, which can take up to a year.  The warped form is now re centred, reattached, reshaped and refined before I remove the rest of the inner wood, which unsurprisingly is also severely distorted.
To achieve the lustrous finish that these pieces display takes patience, time, and a meditative frame of mind.
View Kenny’s work in our Wood Section