Rucker’s Musical Ruckus

[Two-manual harpsichord by Andreas Ruckers, Antwerp (ca 1628) inscribed Joannes Ruckers]

The Ruckers family were harpsichord and virginal makers from Antwerp in the 16th and 17th Centuries. Their influence stretched well into the 18th C and to the harpsichord revival of the 20th C. The Ruckers family contributed immeasurably to the harpsichord’s technical development, pioneering the addition of a second manual. The quality of their instruments is such that the Ruckers name is as important to early keyboard instruments as that of ‘Stradivarius’, to the violin family.

Head of the family, Hans Ruckers (1540s–1598) was born in Mechelen. Hans Ruckers became a member of the Guild of St Luke in 1579, and a citizen of Antwerp in 1594. He signed his instruments by working his initials into the rose. Two of his 11 children (Johannes and Andreas) became harpsichord makers and his daughter Catharina married into the instrument-making Couchet family, ensuring a strong continuation of both dynasties where her son Joannes continued in the family craft.

  • Existing examples of Hans’ instruments include virginals from the 1580s and 1590s now in Berlin, Bruges, New York, Paris and Yale University. He was also an organ builder and was known to have worked on the organs of Jacobskerk and Antwerp Cathedral.

Joannes Ruckers (15 January 1578 – 29 September 1642) was the first son of Hans to become a harpsichord and organ maker. He lived his life in Antwerp where he and his brother Andreas (30 August 1579 – after 1645) became partners in the business upon their father’s death.

In 1608 after Andreas sold his share of the family business, brother Joannes became the sole owner. Johannes joined the Guild of St Luke in 1611. He engraved ‘IR’ into the rose of his instruments, rather than his father’s ‘HR’. His nephew Joannes Couchet joined his workshop around 1627, taking it over after Johannes Ruckers death in 1642.

  • Around 35 examples of Joannes’ instruments are in existence today.
  • Likewise, Andreas surviving instruments are dated from 1607 to 1644 and are in collections all over the world.

Decoration of an instrument was as careful and elaborate as its construction. The rose in the soundboard is surrounded by a painted wreath of flowers and other flora and fauna in tempera. The roses used by all members of the Ruckers family show an angel playing a harp, with the initials of the builder on each side of it. The date was found either on the soundboard or the wrest plank.

  •  And if I played it now, what a ruckus it would make!

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Michael’s KmitMent To Neo-Byzantine Art

[Edda by Michael Kmit (1966) oil on hardboard 72 x 48]

Ukrainian/Australian artist Michael Kmit was born in Stryi, Lviv on 25 July 1910. He studied at the Academy of Fine Arts, Kraków, but due to the conflict in WW2, he was forced to leave his homeland and as a displaced person moved to Innsbruck, Austria where he met Dorothea (Edda) in 1945. They married in Landeck and later moved to Bregenz where their two daughters, Xenia & Tania (Tatiana) were born. While in post-war Europe Kmit studied under cubist artist Fernand Léger in Paris, and futurist Carlo Carrà in Italy. He then emigrated to Australia in 1949, where he initially worked at a cement factory in Villawood, New South Wales.

Kmit met artists such as James Gleeson Donald Friend and Russell Drysdale, who were impressed with his work. They helped him find lodgings at Merioola and work nearer to the artist community in Sydney. Working by day as a railway porter and cleaner and artist by night, he established himself “as one of Australia’s best artists” of the time. He and his family moved to the United States in 1958, setting up residence in the San Francisco Bay area.

  • Kmit’s art was inspired by the Byzantine era of religious icon painting which earned him the label of a Neo-Byzantine artist, as his paintings integrated stylized portraiture with geometric cubist and constructivist forms, patterns and vivid colour inspired from his teachers Léger and Carrà.
  • In 1969 James Gleeson described Kmit as “one of the most sumptuous colourists of our time”.

Kmit’s American period did not result in a lot of success and he suffered from depression due to the end of his marriage. He returned to Australia in 1965 and remarried.

Until his death in Sydney on 22 May 1981, Kmit had exhibited in numerous group shows throughout Australia and won a number of major Australian art prizes including the Blake Prize (1952) and the Sulman Prize (in both 1957 and 1970).

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Her Cross | Lawson Wood

[ “Her Cross” from Lady Pictorial magazine November 20, 1915, Pictorial Review Supplement 1916]

English painter, illustrator and designer Lawson Wood, was born Clarence Lawson Wood, on 23 August 1878 in Highgate, London. He was the son of landscape artist Pinhorn Wood and the grandson of architectural artist L. J. Wood. He studied at the Slade School of Fine Art, Heatherley’s School of Fine Art and Frank Calderon’s School of Animal Painting.

  • In 1902, Wood married Charlotte Forge. From the age of 24 he pursued a successful freelance career and was published in The Graphic, The Strand Magazine, Punch, The Illustrated London News, and Boys Own Paper.
  • Wood was a member of the London Sketch Club. He was also elected a member of the Royal Institute of Painters in Watercolours and exhibited with Walker’s Galleries, Brook Street Art Gallery and the Royal Academy.

Wood is known for his humorous depictions of cavemen and dinosaurs, policemen, and animals, especially a chimpanzee called Gran’pop, whose annuals circulated around the world. His books include The Bow-Wow Book (1912), Rummy Tales (1920), The Noo-Zoo Tales (1922), Jolly Rhymes (1926), Fun Fair (1931), The Old Nursery Rhymes (1933), The Bedtime Picture Book (1943), Meddlesome Monkeys (1946), Mischief Makers (1946), and others. His bird and animal designs were reproduced as wooden toys known as “The Lawson Woodies”.

  • During WWI, Wood served as an officer in the Kite Balloon Wing of the Royal Flying Corps and was responsible for spotting planes from a hot-air balloon. In recognition he was decorated by the French for his gallantry at Vimy Ridge.

Lawson Wood was deeply concerned with animal welfare and was awarded membership to the Royal Zoological Society in 1934. He also established a sanctuary for aged creatures. In his later years, he was a recluse and dwelt in a 15th-century medieval manor house which he moved brick by brick from Sussex to the Kent border. He died in Devon on 26 October 1957 at the age of 79.

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The Spring Cycle

[Above: Spring Cycle by Wen Jun (mixed media) 2013].

This colourful artwork is in the form of a pedicab, which was once commonly used as transport in Chinese cities. Painted in the traditional Spring Festival style, the eight paintings on it include traditional symbols based on ancient Chinese concepts of a happy, healthy and wealthy life.

The artwork was developed in collaboration with RMIT University researchers: Asiam Akram, Paul Kwek and Geoff Hogg.

  • Spring Cycle belongs to the Museum of Chinese Australian History at 22 Cohen Place, in the heart of Melbourne’s thriving Chinatown. Established in 1985, the museum occupies 5 floors of an old warehouse and contains artifacts relating to Chinese Australian history, the Victorian gold rush, a Dragon Gallery and other special exhibitions.

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The Family of Charles Hill

South Australian engraver, painter and arts educator Charles Hill was born in Coventry, England, in 1824. His father was an officer who served under Lord Wellington and was later the reforming Governor of Leicester County Prison.  Charles was more interested in art than a military career and served an apprenticeship as line engraver to Mark Lambert in Newcastle upon Tyne. In 1840 he enrolled in the Newcastle Fine Arts Academy and took lessons at the Government School of Design. He was one of those responsible for the famous engraving which depicted the opening on The Crystal Palace in 1851.

Hill emigrated to South Australia on the recommendation of Archdeacon Farr (1819–1904), in the hope that a change of climate would be good for his health, arriving on the Historia in 1854. He found employment as art teacher at St. Peter’s College, the Adelaide Educational Institution (AEI), Mrs. Woodcocks Christ Church school room; Miss Roland’s school on Tavistock Street, and later Mrs. Bell’s school. He opened his own School of Art in his home in Pulteney Street in 1856.

Hill and fellow drawing master W.W. Whitridge formed the South Australian Society of Arts. He then founded the South Australian School of Design in 1861, and Hill was chosen as its first Master; a role he maintained through several changes of name and focus, until he retired around 1886. He was also a member of Adelaide’s Bohemian Club. Charles Hill died on  16 September 1915.

Notable paintings include:

  • Wreck of the Admella donated to the Art Gallery’s historic collection by the artist’s grandson H. L. Hill in 1944
  • The Artist and His Family
  • The Back Garden (ca.1870) held by the National Gallery of Australia

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Thank Heaven for 7 Eleven

Japanese contemporary artist Mr (born in 1969 in Cupa, Japan) is based in the Saitama Prefecture near Tokyo. As a young child he had a love for drawing and received many awards and accolades. By high school he was painting with oils. This encouraged Mr to study art for eight years before graduating from Sokei Art School in 1996.

A former protégé of Takashi Murakami, Mr works in a wide range of media, including painting, sculpture and video, He takes his inspiration from TV, though his works are all closely related in aesthetics, style, and theme.

  • He is a self-proclaimed otaku (people who love animation, games and manga) with a ‘Lolita-complex’ as many of  his pieces depict young boys and girls in an anime/manga style. While quite cute and innocent on the surface, many of his works are also quite sexualised, tying into the anime phenomenon of sābisu katto (aka fan service).

He has since worked as an assistant to Murakami, and member of Murakami’s Kaikai Kiki art production studio which has also supported Mr in his solo career. His participation in Murakami’s 2000 exhibition Super Flat played a crucial role in earning him international attention and recognition.

  • Mr’s work debuted in both solo and group exhibitions in 1996, and he has exhibited in museums and galleries from Tokyo, Osaka and Nagoya, through to Paris, New York, Minneapolis, Chicago, Miami, Los Angeles, Jerusalem, and London.
  • Mr exhibited in a group show at the Grimaldi Forum, in Monaco, entitled ‘Exhibition Kyoto-Tokyo: From Samurais to Mangas’ and had a solo exhibition at Leeahn Gallery in Seoul, South Korea.
  • In 2014 he had a solo exhibition at the Seattle Art Museum.

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By Hook or By Crooke | These are Worth a Good Look

Australian artist Ray Austin Crooke was born in Auburn, Victoria on 12 July 1922. He is known for serene views of Islander people and ocean landscapes, many of which are based on the art of Gauguin. He spent time in Townsville, Cape York and other parts of northern Australia during the WW2. After the War he enrolled in Art School at Swinburne University of Technology and later travelled to New Guinea, Tahiti and Fiji.

  • He won the Archibald Prize in 1969 with a portrait of George Johnston.
  • Many of his works are in Australian galleries and his painting The Offering (1971) is in the Vatican Museum collection.

Crooke was responsible for the dust-jacket for Poor Fellow My Country by Xavier Herbert. He has received an Order of Australia medal (OAM) Australia in the 1993 Australia Day Honours, “in recognition of service to the arts, particularly as a landscape artist” He died on 5 December, 2015 at the age of 93.

  • North of Capricorn” was an Australian touring retrospective exhibition in 1997 organised by the Perc Tucker Regional Gallery (Townsville, Queensland, Australia) initiated and curated by Grafico Topico’s writer and curator Sue Smith.
  • Information about the exhibition and tour can be found at Grafico Topico

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Is this Prop Art?

Above: There is no authority but yourself (Enamel paint on steel and composition board).

  • Did someone get distracted and forget to hang this up?

Melbourne artist and experimental musician Marco Fusinato was born in 1964. His interests include political and artistic radicalism.

  • Much of his work adopts a punk approach or anti-art sensibility as seen in this group of monochromes which were first exhibited in 1996 at Melbourne’s 200 Gertrude Street (now Gertrude Contemporary). Painted quickly, using cheap everyday materials found readily in his studio, these paintings reveal Fusinato’s interest in speed and seriality and in challenging preconceived ideas about art; while his use of red alludes to a career-long investigation into the history of far-left politics in Italy.

As a teenager Fusinato was influenced by the punk movement. After the punk movement dissolved, he became more interested in experimental music, primarily the free-improvised noise side of it. This leads to what still influences and inspires him today – radical politics. The works Fusinato makes usually come from material he has been collecting and archiving for long periods of time.

  • His recent exhibitions have drawn on his personal archive of radical political pamphlets (Noise and Capitalism 2010); avant–garde music scores (Mass Black Implosion 2008); and grainy newspaper photographs of political protesters (Double Infinitive 2009).

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Soup de Jour? | Can Do

Warhol proved you can make Souper-Art – but why Broth-er?

Pop art is the art movement that emerged in the mid-1950s in Britain and in the late 1950s in the United States. Pop art presented a challenge to traditions of fine art by including imagery from popular culture such as advertising, news, etc. Pop art employs aspects of mass culture, such as advertising, comic books and mundane cultural objects. Product labeling and logos figure prominently in the imagery chosen by pop artists, like in the Campbell’s Soup Cans labels, by Andy Warhol. Even the labeling on the shipping box containing retail items has been used as subject matter in pop art, for example in Warhol’s Campbell’s Tomato Juice Box 1964, or his Brillo Soap Box sculptures.

Andy Warhol (1928-1987) was born in Pittsburgh, the son of Czech immigrants. He moved to New York where he became a successful artist in 1949. He had started his artistic career as a graphic artist whose illustrations appeared in glossy fashion magazines and like any savvy advertising executive, Warhol learned how to create a demand for his product. Warhol regarded his paintings as merchandise, not much different from a can of soup. And like a major manufacturer, he produced not one, but many copies and versions of his “products”. He called his studio “The Factory” and he took up silk-screening because he could put his assistants and interns to work on an assembly line, churning out art, the same way Ford turned out automobiles.

His Campbell’s Soup Cans’ (aka 32 Campbell’s Soup Cans) were first shown on July 9, 1962 in his first one-man gallery exhibition as a fine artist in the Ferus Gallery in Los Angeles, California. It consisted of thirty-two canvases, each measuring 51 cm × 41 cm; and each consisting of a painting of a Campbell’s Soup can—one of each of the canned soup varieties the company offered at the time.

Since Warhol’s death in 1987, his fans have made the pilgrimage to his grave in St. John the Baptist Byzantine Catholic Cemetery outside Pittsburgh Penn. It has become a tradition to leave a can of Campbell’s soup on his gravestone it. Isn’t that just soup-er!

“Waiter, what’s this fly doing in my soup?”
“I think it’s doing the backstroke!”

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Cereal Collectors? – Not as Corny as it Might Seem

Cereal boxes – from 2016 Open House “Cabinets of Wonder” ephemera collection at the Royal Historical Society of Victoria. This collection is entitled ‘Breakfast is Good for You’. The collector is identified as ‘IS’ and their occupation: Cleaner.

IS claims: “I started collecting a lot of things that I found in the kitchen when I was a boy – matchbox covers, footy cards and toys’ and trade cards from breakfast cereals and cards from packets of tea. I have just kept collecting. I spend my weekends trading cards and have become an expert in the area.”

Another collector: ‘ASH’ has entitled his exhibit “When Cereal Companies Cared about Kids”. He is a curator. A popular culture website advises that there was a time when cereal manufacturers wanted to make breakfast fun not healthy. In this golden age almost every box of cereal contained a little plastic game, toy or gadget. The kitchen table became a playground. it was  a weekly variation on the annual coins in the Christmas pudding. Was there more time to linger over breakfast? Did cereal companies really care about kids or did they just want kids to pester for their toys and so their cereal?

The Crater Critters were made in Australia by Rosenhaim and Lippmann. They were distributed worldwide inside Kellogg’s cereal boxes in the late 1960s and early 1970s. There were 8 critters in the full set and were inspired-lunatic artistry.

  • Perhaps these are examples of Snap, Crackle & Pop Art
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A Bit of Hanky Panky

“Coughs and Sneezes Spread Diseases – So Trap Them in Your Handkerchief.”

A handkerchief also called a handkercher or hanky, is a form of a kerchief, typically a hemmed square and made from thin fabric that can be carried in the pocket or purse. It is intended for personal hygiene purposes such as wiping one’s hands or face, or blowing one’s nose. A handkerchief is also sometimes used as a purely decorative accessory in a suit pocket.

  • The material of a handkerchief can be symbolic of the socio-economic class of the user, not only because some materials are more expensive, but because some materials are more absorbent and practical for those who use a handkerchief for more than style.
  • Handkerchiefs can be made of cotton, cotton-synthetic blend, synthetic fabric, silk, or linen.

Handkerchiefs were also used, especially by children, as an impromptu way to carry around small items when a bag or basket was unavailable. They could also serve as a substitute for a bandage over a small injury.

In the United Kingdom, the habit of wearing a handkerchief with tied corners on one’s head at the beach has become a seaside postcard stereotype, referenced by the Gumby characters in Monty Python’s Flying Circus.

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You Must Be An Angel | I Can See It In Your Eyes

Deborah Halpern (born in Melbourne in 1957) is a public art sculptor, mosaicist and ceramic artist. Halpern lectures and conducts workshops in ceramics in Melbourne. Her parents Sylvia and Arthur Halpern, were ceramists and artists and two of the founding members of Potters Cottage in Warrandyte.

Halpern began work in ceramics as an apprentice in 1975. She studied painting, print-making and sculpture at the Caulfield Institute of Technology (now Monash University) in 1979. In 1981 she had her first solo exhibition at the Blackwood Street Gallery and has subsequently shown at the Meat Market Craft Centre; Gryphon Gallery; apart from having her work showcased at numerous other group exhibitions. She has been represented by the Christine Abrahams Gallery in Melbourne and the Arthouse Gallery in Sydney. In 1987-89, Halpern graduated with a Diploma of Visual Art from the Gippsland Institute of Advanced Education (now Monash University). The images depicted include:

Angel – One of Halpern’s most known sculptures which stood in the moat outside the National Gallery of Victoria (NGV) until 2005, when it was relocated close to the Ian Potter Gallery on the banks of Melbourne’s Yarra River, at Birrarung Marr. The 10 meter tall Picasso-influenced Angel resembles a three-legged llama with more than 4000 individually cut and hand-painted ceramic tiles fixed onto its concrete and steel armature.

Ophelia (1992) is  located on Southbank. Once known as the face of Melbourne, Ophelia was inspired by the character from Hamlet, full of both love and sadness. Halpern says Ophelia is the cousin of Angel,

Mali: Protector of all Animals.  Mali (2012) is a gift to the children of Melbourne from the Lord Mayor’s Charitable Foundation. Mali marks the celebration of the Melbourne Zoo’s 150th Anniversary and its commitment to the conservation of endangered species.

Big Bunny (2013) ceramic and glass tiles on fiberglass, steel & aluminium 160cm x 78cm x 88cm

“O’ What may man within him hide, though angel on the outward side!” – Shakespeare ‘Measure For Measure (Act III, Scene II)

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Shunga | Spring Pictures

One of the most unabashedly erotic images to ever grace the pages of an art history book came from the woodblock of iconic Japanese artist Katsushika Hokusai. Widely known for his G-rated, Edo-era prints like The Great Wave at Kanagawa, the celebrated ukiyo-e painter and print-maker famously depicted a titillating love scene between a few octupi and a satisfied-looking human being. The masterpiece swiftly and simultaneously brought full frontal nudity, bestiality, and female orgasm to the forefront of fine art. The untitled illustrations are one of many sexualised paintings and tantalizing prints produced during the 17th C. Known as shunga, the genre was comprised of elaborate and highly erotic artworks that were banned from Japanese institutions for a significant portion of the 20th century.

  • Thankfully, an exhibit entitled ‘Shunga: Sex and Pleasure in Japanese Art‘ provided artists of the ukiyo-e genre their well-deserved spotlight. The collection of works by Japanese greats like Hokusai, Kitagawa Utamaro and Utagawa Kunisada celebrated the taboo-breaking side of art history with a survey of over 300 years of traditional Japanese erotica.
  • The allure of Shunga, which translates to “spring pictures,” rests in the images ability to appeal to men and women of various sexual preferences.
  • Often these artworks were light-hearted and comedic, focusing not only on romantic moments but also on the bizarre and awkward contortions that are more laughter-inducing than arousing.

Artworks by Hokusai and others sometimes used sexual talismans, passed from partner to partner, friend to friend, and parent to child to use as both an educational manual and a good luck charm. In this way, shunga acted as the traditional precedent to contemporary anime and manga.


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Art or Rubbish? – It’s all Garbage to me

[Above: Uniformity by Emmerson Daniels –  (2017).  Synthetic polymer paint on plywood. Top VCE Art 2017-2018. ] Daniels was a student at Mount Lillydale Mercy College, Lillydale. Uniformity explores the overall similarity and lack of variation evident in everyday life. Emerson muses that the consistent likeness of each bin is symbolic of the alarming deterioration of original thought and a subconscious adherence to social norms. ‘Every household puts their bin out on a given day every week and repeats this process 52 times a year’. A subtle protest against suppressed individuality. Emmerson is influenced by Geoffrey Smart’s aesthetics in urban landscapes.

All though this work is clearly art, some of the other pieces included here are dubious. Some are located at well known street art locations, some decorated by street artists, some just make you want to laugh or make you wonder why is this here?

More examples are available on my Rubbish Art section. Way too trashy for me!

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None so campy as these vampy scampi

[Image: David Bielander – Scampi 2007] (Collection of the artist)

David Bielander (born 1968) started his career as an apprentice goldsmith in Basel Switzerland working for the industrial designer and jewellery maker Georg Spreng before studying under Professor Otto Künzli at the Academy of Fine Arts, in Munich.

In 2006 Bielander became the Artistic Assistant to Professor Daniel Kruger at the Academy of Fine Arts Burg Giebichenstein, Halle, Germany and by 2011, he became an external consultant to the jewellery department at Gerrit Rietveld Academie in Amsterdam.

  • In his art, Bielander takes the familiarity of everyday objects and combines them with a witty abstraction to create unusual pieces as wearable art. His work has seen him win numerous awards including the Herbert Hoffmann Prize in 2010 and the Francoise van den Bosch Award in 2012.

His work is held in many public collections including the Fond National des Arts Contemporain, France, the CODA Museum, Apeldoorn, the Neue Sammlung, Munich and the National Gallery of Victoria, Australia.

  • Bielander lives and works in Munich where he currently shares a studio with fellow artists including Yutaka Minegishi and Helen Britton.

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