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What is Surrealism?

What is Surrealism?
See some examples of Surrealist work 
‘Surrealism is destructive, but it destroys only what it considers to be shackles limiting our vision.’ – Salvador Dali.
Surrealism began in the 1920s. Many of the Surrealist artists began working in the Dada movement, an avant-garde European art movement of the early twentieth century which prized nonsense and rejected reason. The term Surrealist was first used in 1917 before the proper artistic movement had started. It was used by Guillaume Appollinaire in the preface to his play ‘Les Mamelles de Tiresias’.
Surrealism wasn’t used as a name for the movement until 1924 when Andre Breton published the Surrealist Manifesto, also published under the title ‘Soluble Fish’. The manifesto acknowledged the influence of Dadaism and stated that the Surrealists were non-conformists. Breton was a poet, and the movement began as a literary one. It came to be a release from all previous restraints for writers and artists, the aim being for all parts of the movement to explore the world of psychic experience and denounce rationalism.
Sigmund Freud had recently revealed his psycho-analytic research and this greatly influenced the Surrealists. One of their aims was to preproduce the mechanisms of dreams. In doing this they would bring dream and reality together to create an absolute reality – a ‘sur-reality’ which has greater significance than realiy itself, rather than being a mere copy of what we see.
Surrealist art can be seen as a return to representational art, depicting ordinary objects although often stripping them of their normal significance. It disorientates the viewer and disrupts their sense of reality, creating a dream-like narrative sometimes bordering on nightmarish. Surrealism was set apart from other Realist movements by the desire to let the deepest thoughts in the recessses of our mind take over. The inner more ‘primitive’ self and the real functioning of thought would be revealed. Automatic writing (writing that is not done on a conscious level, and therefore can reveal the innermost thoughts of the writer) was a technique used by Freud as it allowed images from the subconscious to come to the surface, and this idea of the ‘automatic’ became very influential in Surrealism. Freud was later to criticise the movement, however, saying that the works were not manifestations of the subconscious, as they were highly shaped and processed by the Ego of the artist, and therefore the conscious mind.
The Bureau of Surrealist Research (Centrale Surréaliste), Paris, became the meeting place for Surrealist writers and artists to hold discussions, and conduct interviews. The first group exhibition was held in Paris in 1925.
Surrealism continued to develop and became more visible to the public at large throughout the 1930s. A Surrealist group developed in Britain and, according to Breton, the1936 London International Surrealist Exhibition held by these artists was a high water mark of the period and became the model for further international exhibitions.
Major artists of the Surrealism movement include;
Giorgio De Chirico
Unanimously acknowledged as the founder of the surrealist aesthetic. His painting ‘The Red Tower‘ 1913, shows the illustrative style and striking colour contrasts which came to be adopted by other Surrealist artists.
Max Ernst
Used frottage (taking a rubbing from a surface using a pencil or other drawing tool) as an automatic method of creative production. He also used collage to create unexpected juxtapositions, taking cuttings from magazines and then manipulating their arrangement.
Dorothea Tanning
Tanning joined the Surrealist group after visiting the New York Dada and Surrealist exhibition of 1936-7. Her paintings depict nightmares and surreal, erotic dreams. One of her most famous examples of this is ‘Eine Kleine Nachtmusik‘ (1943) which depicts young girls encountering supernatural events. The girl in the foreground seems to be drawn towards the sunflower by the approaching vines while the girl wearing torn garments in the background holds one of the petals from the flower, suggesting an encounter has already taken place.
Man Ray.
His rayographs (objects placed on photographic material in a darkend room, and then exposed to light to create the images of the objects) created the stark and unexpected effects of negative imaging, and unusual juxtapositions of identifiable objects.
Rayograph 1924
Joan Miro
In his Surrealist period Miro developed ideas by letting his mind wander. This was seen to free the mind, revealing the real process of thought in the same way as automatic writing. ‘ The Tilled Field‘ 1923-4 is seen as his first Surrealist masterpiece. A complex arrangement of figures and objects with the dualities and contradictions inherent in his work of this period.
Some of the most recognisable works of the artistic Surrealist movement were created by Salvador Dali and Rene Magritte.
Salvador Dali
Dalí joined the group in 1929, and participated in the rapid establishment of its visual style between 1930 and 1935.
He would mix everday objects painted in meticulous detail with a context that is wholly unfamiliar to that object, creating a surprising or seemingly incoherent composition. ‘The Persistence of Memory’ 1931, is an example of this, and one of the most widely recognised Surrealist paintings. Here Dali introduces the idea of the soft melting pocket watch which was perceived to have been inspired by the Theory of Relativity. The relaitivity of space and time and the collapse of our notions of a fixed cosmic order. Dali maintained, however, that the watches were inspired, not by The Theory of Relativity, but by the Surrealist perception of a Camembert cheese melting in the sun. The central figure, of ambiguous shape, can be perceived to be a ‘fading’ creature – one which often appears in dreams where the dreamer cannot pinpoint the creature’s exact form and composition.
Rene Magritte
Magriite’s work is tightly finished and artificially created using realistic objects but in a fantastical setting. It was more representational than ‘automatic’. His use of ordinary objects in unfamiliar surroundings plays with reality. This juxtaposition was, he said ‘a union that suggests the essential mystery of the world. Art for me is not an end in itself, but a means of evoking that mystery.’ His images, often beautiful, can also provoke unsettling thoughts.
It has been said that Surrealism as an organised movement effectively disbanded after WWII. It can be argued, however, that it continued until the death of Andre Breton in 1966, or even that of Salvador Dali in 1989. What is clear is that the symbolism, techniques, and disdain for convention central to Surrealism certainly lived on and profoundly inspired American art of the latter 20th century. The practice of automatism, for example, was part of the basis for the Abstract Expessionist movement. It influenced the work of artists such as Jackson Pollock. Pollock is quoted as saying that he was ‘in’ his drip paintings as he worked on them, unaware of what he was doing until he stepped back from them afterwards.
View Surrealist artwork on this site here.
Surrealism- Related Links:
The Metropolitan Museum of Art
Cover Image: Lost Illusion by Svetoslav Stoyanov
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Submission Advice

  • You can submit as many pieces of artwork as you like,with up to 4 images for each piece. The first being the main image, and up to 3 further thumbnail images to show detail etc. We find that paintings which have additional side views, details and, where possible, ‘in situ’ images have a considerably increased chance of selling.
  • Under the heading ‘Price & Details’ there is also an Attributes tab, allowing you to add media, surface, and style to each piece of artwork.
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What is Impressionism?


 The term ‘Impressionist’ was first used in response to the artwork ‘Impression, Sunrise‘ by Monet, exhibited in 1874. Art critic Louis Leroy coined the term and used it to describe the works in the exhibition put together by the Société Anonyme des Peintres, Sculpteurs et Graveurs (Anonymous Society of Painters, Sculptors and Engravers). Monet’s piece was an impression of the atmospheric effects of the morning sea Le Havre Harbour. The term was originally intended to be derogatory as works were deemed ‘unfinished’. Leroy wrote in his review ‘a preliminary drawing for a wallpaper pattern is more finished than this seascape’. The artists, however, came to think of Impressionism as a good name for their work although they never actually used it for their exhibitions. Originally the Impressionists did not intend for their work to be a reaction against the academic art of The Salon* but rather they mounted the exhibition in order to sell their work.

 Since all the artists painted different subject maters, an exact definition of Impressionism can be difficult. As a group they believed that the personality of the artist should be visible in their brushstrokes and technique. They painted real life, trying to be truthful and paint subjects relevant to their time. They aimed to create fleeting impressions of scenes in order to capture the sensation of that particular moment.

The main artists of the Impressionism movement were Claude Monet, Pierre-Auguste Renoir and Edgar Degas.

Monet kept true to his intentions all the way through his life and didn’t change direction unlike many other Impressionist artists. For him Impressionism was a way of capturing the atmosphere and feel of a moment, for instance the effects of light, water and vapour.

Renoir was largely a figurative painter. He felt that his Impressionist art lacked a sense of something more permanent and began to draw on classical tradition and the work of the old masters to improve this aspect of his work.

Degas was a painter of people, fascinated by movement but mostly interested in painting gaslit interiors, going against the ‘en plein air’ painting favoured by other artists. He had a classical training and brought more figure painters to the Impressionist group.

Another feature of Impressionism was that female artists began to participate. Berthe Morisot , Mary Cassatt, Eva Gonzalès, and Marie Bracquemond were all members of the Impressionist group.  These four women lived in Paris and exhibited work that was as innovative as those of their male counterparts. It was a time when a strict code of social rules was in operation for women. Each overcame daunting obstacles to contribute to the development of Impressionism. Morisot, Cassatt, Gonzalès, and Bracquemond negotiated not only personal challenges but also those posed by the conventional ideas of acceptable behaviour for women of their period.

 The contrast between the ideas of The Salon and the new Impressionist ideas can be seen clearly in ‘Les Parapluies‘ by Renoir. Part of the painting has the looser brushstrokes of Impressionism and the rest shows the influences of true Classical Tradition which interested Renoir in his later work as a way of creating something more solid. ‘The Beach at Trouville’ (1870) by Monet uses loose white brushstrokes to suggest the presence of bright sunlight.

Bathers at La Grenouille’ (1869), shows the early stages of Impressionist artists using dashes of paint to create light effects. Degas too used loose brushstrokes and visible strokes of pastel in his later works such as his series of portrayals of bathers in the 1880s, although not necessarily to indicate a strong light source since throughout his life he had preferred to paint indoors.

Another feature of Impressionism (although they were not the first to use it) was the concept of ‘en plein air’ painting. This was particularly favoured by Monet and Renoir. It was made possible in the practical sense by the invention of the paint tube and ready-made canvas in the nineteenth century. Monet’s ‘Ladies in the Garden’ and ‘The Beach at trouville’ 1870 were painted outside, and both have a feeling of bright sunlight about them. The ‘en plein air’ technique helped Monet to more effectively capture the sensations of light by which he was fascinated.

This interest in light effects also led to the use of a light gound on which to begin painting. The light ground enabled colours to appear brighter and almost luminous. Areas of the canvas could also be left unpainted so that the light ground colour was visible beneath the paint to create a greater feeling of light.

Bright colours were used in Impressionism as another way of expressing emotions or capturing the particular sensation of a moment. Impressionists tended to favour lively and often unrealistic colours for these reasons. An expressive use of bright and not necessarily local colours is visible in Monet’s ‘Bathers at La Grenouille’ (see above) where red has been used as a way of capturing light on a dress. A popular technique featured in Impressionism was that of of putting complementary colours beside one other in order to to reinforce and identify the colours. This is shown in ‘Boating on The Seine‘ by Renior in which the reddy-brown of the boats and the blue of the water sit next to each other, enhancing the colours.

 Impressionism also began to make use of new influences such as Japanese art and photography. The influence of Japanese prints is another Impressionist feature visible in ‘The beach at Trouville’ by Monet. Japanese prints were linear, not using modelling, depth or perspective, and expressed a love of nature which appealed to the Impressionists, and they found the art to be very truthful. The influence of photography can be seen in ‘Garden of the Princess‘ by Monet. The painting shows a view of the garden from an unusual angle which has quite a casual effect on the painting, as if it was a photograph capturing a moment of moving people and carriages. This topographical subject matter shows developments taking place in Paris at the time, and although views of Paris were not innovative subject matter, it was a casual view of day to day life without aiming to show either the seedy or glamourous side of the city.

There were 8 exhibitions by the Impressionist group between 1874-86. Monet only exhibited until about 1880, after this newer artists such as Georges Seurat and Camille Pissarro were called the Neo-Impressionists. Seurat’s masterpiece, ‘A Sunday Afternoon on the Island of La Grande Jatte‘ (1884) marked the beginning of the Neo- Impressionism movement when it first made its appearance at an exhibition of the Société des Artistes Indépendants in Paris. Seurat and his followers strived to refine the impulsive and intuitive artistic mannerisms of the Impressionists. A disciplined network of dots was used in their desire to instil a sense of organisation and permanence in their work. Following the development of colour theory by Michel Eugène Chevreul and others by the late 19th century, the influence of optic and colour perceptions also became apparent as the movement was further refined.


* The Paris Salon (Salon de Paris), began in 1725 and was the official art exhibition of the Académie des Beaux-Arts in Paris, France. Between 1748–1890 it was the greatest annual or biannual art event in the Western world. Conservative, academic juries of awarded artists would make decisions about the art that was to be put on show.

Related Links – Impressionism:

Musée des Impressionnismes Giverny

Cover Image: Beach Walk at Old Hunstanton by Mary Kemp

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What is Cubism?

 See examples of Cubist work 
 Cubism was invented and pioneered by Pablo Picasso and Georges Braque. Its most innovative period was from 1908 until 1914 and the outbreak of World War I. It influenced both painting and sculpture and stemmed from the work of Cezanne and his analysis of form. The 1907 retrospective of Cezanne’s work at The Salon D’Automne in Paris created a huge amount of interest in his paintings which simplified forms and reduced them to planes and facets. They displayed his interest in finding the underlying geometric shapes in objects. Picasso said Cezanne ‘was like the father of us all.’
It was an important 20th century movement because for the first time the motif was no longer the most important aspect of the artwork. It seeked to create autonomous works that did not necessarily seek to represent anything. Cubism was not about creating forms with solidity, but rather planes and lines which seem to slide over one another. Objects were broken down and them reassembled, often being shown from more than one viewpoint.
It was Picasso’s painting ‘Les Demoiselles D’Avignon‘ (1907) which influenced Braque and pushed him towards the formulation of a movement with Picasso. It was angular and aggressive and considered to be shocking. In the early stages of their work, both artists began to gradually reduce figures or landscapes into geometric shapes. This is visible in ‘Houses and Trees’ by Braque, and ‘Three Women’ by Picasso. They were joined in the movement most notably by Jean Metzinger, Robert Delaunay, Sonia Delaunay, and Raymond Duchamp-Villon who exhibited together and became known as the ‘Salon’ Cubists.
There were two main phases of Cubism, Analytical Cubism and Synthetic Cubism. In Analytical Cubism, forms are further reduced, and are not necessarily in their correct positions, often distorted. This can be seen in Picasso’s ‘Female Nude’ (1910), and in the sculpture ‘Head of a Woman‘ (1909).
Picasso and Braque’s worries that in Analytical Cubism they had strayed too far from the motif led to the more representational Synthetic Cubism. In this phase images, such as ‘The Harlequin’ (1915) by Picasso, have been synthesised. They are formed by objects, painted planes, colours and shapes which themselves have no reference to the subject matter but which together create a representational image.
Cubism spread throughout Europe in the 1910s, and attracted artists such as Fernand Leger who adapted Cubism in a personal way, characterised by tubular, fractured forms and bright colours. Cubism also influenced artists to form the new movement ‘Orphic Cubism’ which focused on pure abstraction and was concerned with the expression and significance of sensation. Artists such as Robert Delaunay continued to use the fragmentation of Cubism, but added colours based on the composition of light. See ‘Windows Opening Simultaneously‘. He had been partially responsible, along with Frantisek Kupka and Sonia Delaunay, of reintroducing colour into Cubism during its monochromatic phase.
Cubism influenced Futurism with its use of planes and lines and gradual move away from the motif. Techniques inherited from Cubism became vital to the Futurist artists as ways of suggesting the dyanism of life. In particular the Cubist tendency to show multiple views of the same object, suggesting that the object is being seen at two different points in time.
Cubism was an important stage in the development towards abstract art, and the use of geometric shapes and interlocking planes was particularly influential to Piet Mondrian‘s personal progression to complete abstraction. These became crucial in his journey towards the entirely non-representational style for which he is now most famous, Neo-Plasticism.
Related Links – Cubism:
Metropolitan Museum of Art
Cover Image: Pablo Serrano “Entertainment with Picasso the Guitar and the Cubism 17 Bronze Sculpture 1984” by Aleseide Gallery
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What is Abstract Art?

What is Abstract Art?
Abstract art indicates a departure from reality in the depiction of imagery in art. Abstraction relies on the presence of the viewer to bring possibilites of meaning to its presentations of forms, colours, patterns, forms, shapes and textures. Abstract art demands the effort of imagination, a creative response. The departure from accurate representation can be only slight, partial, or it can be complete.

Abstract Art 2 The Bridge‘Abstract 2 The Bridge’ by Jan Rippingham

Western art, from the Renaissance until the middle of the 19th century, had been underpinned by the logic of perspective and an attempt to reproduce an illusion of visible reality. From the early years of the twentieth century, painters and sculptors in the European traditions of art consciously sought radically new ways to represent their experience of the world. They set out to create an art that would reveal aspects of reality that seemed inaccessible to the techniques and conventions of figurative art, which was seen by many artists as a limitation on their capacity to represent the actualities of experience. New realities discovered by science, the new politics of social democracy, industrial technology, and advances in photography and film, all entailed rejection of those old forms of art which sought to imitate the appearance of things and invention of new forms that would reveal hidden revelations. The words ‘new’ and ‘modern’ were to become keywords. The Modernist The poet Ezra Pound’s 1934 injunction was “Make it new!.
There was no ‘abstract art movement’ as such, but many manifestations of a powerful trend in modern art away from the representation of recogniseable objects in pictoral space.
Expressionist painters explored the use of distortions, exaggerations, and intense colour, producing emotionally charged paintings that were reactions to contemporary experience, and included reactions to Impressionism and other more conservative directions of late 19th century painting. Expressionists sought to change the emphasis from subject matter to the portrayal of psychological states of being.
In the 20th century, it was Cubism, along with Fauvism, that directly opened the door to abstract art. Cubism had not set out to abolish representation, but was intent on reforming it. Pablo Picasso’s first Cubist paintings were based on Cézanne’s idea that all depictions of nature can be reduced to three solid forms: cube, sphere and cone.
The first major exhibition to survey the various international tendencies towards abstract art and the trend for abandoning traditional representation was put on at MOMA NY April 1936. The title given by the catalogue was ‘Cubist and Abstract Art’ with the description;
‘The pictoral conquest of the external visual world had been completed and refined many times and in different ways during the previous half millenium. The more adventurous and original artists had grown bored with the painting of facts’.
The selector and author of the catalogue was Alfred H Barr. Barr acknowledged that the term ‘abstract’ was inexact but possible alternatives were rejected. ‘Non-objective’ and ‘non-figurative’ were considered unacceptable on the grounds that the image of a square can be as much of an ‘object’ or ‘figure’ as the image of a face landscape. The work within the exhibition was not purely ‘abstract art’ but the intention was to demonstrate the various paths taken by painting towards abstraction.
The trends have continued, artistic movements ever since have experimented with the limits of pure representation, and the freedom of expression provided by abstract art is something that many artists have responded to. Arbitrary colour, vehement brushwork and exaggerated textures, collage and other disruptions of the surface, distortions of the figure and other forms are among the diverse devices adopted. In many cases, what would once have been regarded as preliminary techniques, or rough workings, has come to be regarded as artwork in its own right.
Ultimately it can be argued that abstraction has not superseded representational art but has taken its place alongside it, discovering new possibilites of vision.

Abstract Art Vaslui

‘Vaslui’ by Paul Chambers
Related Abstract Art Links:
MOMA | The Museum of Modern Art
Cover Image: Summer Landscape 3 by Jan Rippingham
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Damien Hirst at Tate Modern 2012

For The Love of Damien Hirst. (Right) 
Damien Hirst at Tate Modern 2012. 4 April – 9 September.
I’m feeling positive. I knew that I would be a fan before I set foot in this major retrospective of Damien Hirst’s work – not because I was as knowledgeable about his work as I would have maybe liked, but because I had seen so much coverage of the the exhibition and I still wanted to go. Even so, there were surprises. There was plenty I had not yet seen and I found his work to be engaging in a way that I had not necessarily expected. It reminded me of visits to The Science Museum where one is involved in activities and encouraged to join in. The crossover with science is something that Damien Hirst very much intends and it is found right across his work. This, however, is art. Art because Damien Hirst has intended it to be so, because vast numbers of people are visiting the Tate gallery every day and the gallery is staying open late just so that we can all see what he has created. One of the main things that I noticed upon visiting the exhibition was the level of noise. Not the quiet, reflective mood so often found in galleries, but the distinct sound of chatter. His work provokes reactions and ones that can’t wait until you are outside the gallery.
The exhibitions begins with Damien Hirst’s earliest work, some of which is familiar, but to see it in real life has the added benefit of revealing the unevenness of some of his pieces. ‘Boxes’ 1986 is an example when viewed closely, as is his first spot painting ‘Spot Painting’ 1986. They help to show the progression from art student and the days of ‘Freeze’ to his status today, and glimpses of some of the themes which recur throughout his career.
The scientific element to his work soon becomes clear. Damien Hirst takes a ‘scientific approach to painting’ in his attempt to control colour.  In his spot paintings, the spots are a uniform size, precisely the same size as the distance between each spot, and arranged within a precise grid structure on the white canvas. The increasingly scientific names reflect the approach – from “Spot Painting’ and ‘Row’ (1988) to later works ‘Anthraquinone – 1 – Diazonium Chloride’ (1994), and ‘Calciferol’ (1996).
‘A Thousand Years’ (1990) is also in an early part of the exhibition. The first piece by Damien Hirst  to be bought by Charles Saatchi, it was also his first major animal installation. The rotting cow’s head, the (unseen) maggots, the flies, the dead flies, all elements that would seem exceptionally unsavoury, and yet inside their vitrine, and under the artist’s label, do not disgust but rather intrigue. I have heard much of the smell, and was only on the receiving end of a small whiff when standing right in front of the vent. I heard many comments from people to this effect, almost disappointed, as if they wanted to smell it. I think we want to know that this is real, to be disgusted by it, otherwise we are admiring something which we would usually consider appalling, and our inability to look away means that modern art has won.
Another thing that struck me in the first 3 rooms is the humour which accompanies some of Damien Hirst’s work, particularly evident in the titles. I had to chuckle at the fish specimens, preserved and mounted on shelves, entitled ‘Isolated Elements Swimming in the Same Direction for the Purpose of Understanding (Left) (1991), and was rather pleased to find that on the other side of the room was ‘Isolated Elements Swimming in the Same Direction for the Purpose of Understanding (Right) (1991). I admit that I didn’t see too many people smiling at this, and found myself wanting to point it out. I also took my time looking at ‘Sausages’ (1993) from Hirst’s own collection. A string of sausages suspended in formaldehyde with a description card which made for entertaining reading ‘Acrylic, silicone, manofilament, stainless steel, sausages, formaldehyde solution’. As one of the lesser known pieces it attracts limited attention, but there’s something about the sausages in formaldehyde not creating as much of a fuss as the dead sheep or cows that’s worth noting. Sausages already hide a multitude of things from us, and here I think they may be shielding us from certain realisations regarding what we are prepared to tell ourselves in order to make things palatable. Sausages don’t provoke a reaction.
There are queues within the gallery to look at specific pieces – to walk between ‘Mother and Child (Divided) (2007). A queue that everyone seems willing to participate in to glimpse controversy first hand.
The exhibition moves on to focus on the areas of Damien Hirst’s work inspired by the pharmaceutical industry. ‘Lullaby, the Seasons’ (2002) showcases rows of pills on gleaming shelves in Hirst’s recurring museological fashion. The title refers to the association between songs used to lull children to sleep and the often sleep-inducing effects of pharmaceutical pills. The eye is drawn to the bright colours, the shine, the possibility of recognising a drug that we are familiar with. I heard a girl exclaim ‘That looks like a Nurofen!’ as if she had spotted someone famous nearby. Drugs hold a certain power over us, and Hirst forces us to acknowledges this. Arranging them like the jewels that will come later to show how we prize these elements of modern medicine. It is something that we may be lucky enough to have access to and hold in such high esteem, but for all our faith we must recognise that it can only do so much. Damien Hirst says ‘ You can only cure people for so long and then they’re going to die anyway.’ It is worth noting that the pills are facsimile, but striking nonetheless.
The full comment on our worship of the pharmaceutical industry is in the clinical setting of  Damien Hirst’s earlier work ‘Pharmacy’ (1992). It is like a church, presenting us with our self-appointed subject of worship. The four bottles of coloured liquid represent the four elements, reminiscent of those found in old apothecaries. The small stools usually used to reach things from higher shelves are instead topped with bowls of honey. The insects are lured to the pharmacy by the honey and then killed by the insect-o-cutor (reference to A Thousand Years). Hirst says that this symbolises our faith in medication even though we will all die in the end, our futile attempts to stave off death. Hirst draws strong parallels between religion and science as systems of belief, saying in 2005 ‘ There [are] four important things in life: religion, love, art and science. At their best, they’re all just tools to help you find a path through the darkness. None of them really work that well, but they help. Of them all, science seems to be the one right now. Like religion, it provides the glimmer of hope that maybe it will all be all right in the end…’
The ‘iconography of medical science’ continues in Room 10 of the exhibition. In ‘Still’ and “Doubt’ (1994) and ‘Lapdancer’ (2006) Hirst extends his comments on medicine beyond the pharmaceutical and into the realm of surgical instruments and related objects. These are arranged in clinical fashion in stainless steel cabinets. These reminders of the more invasive aspects of medical treatment, and the idea that there isn’t always an easy fix make one feel uneasy. I almost longed to be back in Hirst’s pharmacy, which seems an almost comforting environment by comparison.
Religion and scientific themes are again brought together in ‘The Anatomy of an Angel’ (2008). A white marble sculpture of an angel in a traditional style which appears complete and perfect when viewed from one angle and worthy of the pages of an anatomy book from another. Part of the ‘skin’ is cut away and internal organs revealed in a powerful reflection on the struggle between religion and science.
If I had to pick one piece from the exhibition that I found unpleasant it would undoubtedly be ‘Black Sun” (2004), made the worse by me having gone right up to it before realising what it was. This huge surface is densely covered with dead flies. It provides a striking contrast to some of the earlier butterfly-themed work which carry connotations of life and beauty, and religious associations with resurrection. The association here is with death and decay. Damien Hirst has said that he enjoys dualities ‘Life and Death are the biggest polar opposites there are’.
The following room captures this theme too. On the right hand side is ‘Judgement Day’ (2009), replica jewels line shelves in the manner of ‘Lullaby, the Seasons’ and on the left, cigarette butts are arranged in the same fashion. The pills and dazzling jewels seem to capture priorities often cited, ‘health and wealth’, while the cigarette butts have connotations of disposability and death, the ever-present nemesis.
Damien Hirst has said ‘In an artwork I always try to say something and deny it at the same time.’ Room 14 contains ‘Remembrance (2008). It is the last of Hirst’s spot paintings to be shown in the exhibition, and, as if to perfectly oppose everything that his earlier work in spots told us about his love of colour, the spots here are white.

‘For The Love of God’ (2007). Down in the Turbine Hall, this work draws the crowds you would expect. The dark surroundings, almost palpable security and small visitor groups, not to mention the dazzling contents, cannot fail to bring the Tower of London to mind. It is dramatic, it is exciting, it is exactly what you expect, but even sparklier. The darkened room and lighting add to the already great allure of 8601 flawless diamonds and the 52 carat ‘Skull Star’. Hirst asked himself what would be the maximum that he could pit against death, and this is his answer. ‘I just want to celebrate life by saying to hell with death’.  It is Damien Hirst’s ultimate memento mori, complete with optimistic twist.
by Lauren Rippingham
Tate Modern – What’s On – Damien Hirst.
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Note to our Artists

If any of our artists would like to write a blog about the processes used in creating their artwork, we would really appreciate it. It would  give our customers an insight as to how different types of artwork are produced, whilst being of interest to other artists and customers alike.
Many Thanks
Jan & David
Thanks to Shaun Hall for a fascinating and informative write up
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Museum of Contemporary Art (MCA) Sydney

The Museum of Contemporary Art Australia reopened to the public on Thursday Mar 29. The new gallery is clean and open and provides the perfect space in which to showcase its vibrant collections. Following two international design competitions, years of planning and months of construction, it has a new building, with extended floorspace to house its collections as well as a rooftop cafe and sculpture terrace.
The terrace features Hany Armanious’ commissioned sculpture ‘Fountain’, an intertwined marble and blown glass creation atop a bronze sculpture ‘table’.
The Museum of Contemporary Art has reopened with 2 major exhibitions, Volume One: MCA Collection and Marking Time.
Volume One: MCA Collection
A retrospective showcase of work by over 170 Australian artists collected by the Museum of Contemporary Art over the last 20 years. Much of the work has been in the Museum’s archive for many years so this is a real chance to reflect on the breadth and diversity of Australian contemporary art. It aims to show the development that has taken place as new media such as film and video have become mainstream as well as the emergence of diverse cultural voices. The new art galleries serve this collection well, and they take full advantage of the new screen space and resource room.
Marking Time
This collection of work explores the way in which artists visualise time and its passing. It features work by eleven Australian and international artists, representing time across diverse media including drawing, watercolour, sculpture and installations.
There is also the opportuntity to view Christian Marclay’s ‘The Clock’, a groundbreaking 24 hour video work which beautifully depicts the passing of time usng thousands of short extracts from cinema history – each corresponding to the actual viewing time of your visit. The scale of this work is truly staggering.
Here are some of my favourites from their collections:
Katie Paterson
100 Billion Suns
confetti cannon 3261, pieces of paper
Museum of Contemporary Art Australia
Contemporary artist Katie Paterson has created this work which focuses on brightest explosions in the universe, called gamma ray bursts- events which took place millions of years ago, and are now only visible from telescopes on Earth.
There have been 3261 gamma ray bursts photographed since their first sighting in the 1960s. The same number of brilliantly coloured discs are ‘exploded’ by MCA staff from a small pop gun, twice daily, to realise Paterson’s work for this exhibition. Despite the number of confetti discs, the explosions themselves are quite small and uneventful. Instead, it is the slow cumulative process that gives the work its life force. Like a growing pile of leaves, the confetti builds up day by day, leaving a colourful mound of paper at the exhibition’s conclusion.
Robert Macpherson January 1982
Museum of Contemporary Art Australia
Contemporary artist Robert Macpherson explains his piece in the following words:
I see a can of paint as a painting unpainted the paint fills/covers the interior surface of the can I see the can of paint is a painting I see the can is filled by a machine operatedby the machine operator who is employed by the paint manufacturer who is the painter the paint the machine the operator the manufacturer or me for seeing this I see the outside surface of the can has a printed design the manufacturer’s brand directions for use maximum coverage etc I see this as a painting I see the can unfilled as a painting who is the artist the paint the machine the operator the designer the manufacturer or me for seeing it
Rebecca Baumann
Automated Colour Field 2011
100 Flip-clocks, paper 
130 x 360 x 9cm 

Duration: 24 hrs
Museum of Contemporary Art Australia
A kinetic sculpture consisting of a vast wall-mounted grid of 100 flip-clocks, each with their numbered panels replaced by paper cards in a variety of colours. The battery-operated clocks keep their own time, turning the paper cards on the minute and the hour, to create a kaleidoscopic field of colour.
The Museum of Contemporary Art Australia is situated in The Rocks, Sydney, NSW.






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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