Like A Bridge Over Ponded Waters, I Will Lily You Down


Claude Monet is the original artist of the great masterpiece painting Bridge Over a Pond of Water Lillies (1899) oil on canvas 90 cm x 100 cm (Musee Marmottan Monet, Paris)

Born Oscar-Claude Monet in France, on 14 November 1840, Monet was a founder of the French Impressionist school of painting.

  • After moving to the French provincial town of Giverney in 1883, Monet began painting his famous water lilies.
  • It was here that the white water lilies local to France were planted along with imported cultivars from South America and Egypt, resulting in a range of colours including yellow, blue and white lilies that turned pink with age.
  • By 1899 his artwork showcased his new style, depicting vertical views with a Japanese Bridge in the background, as a central feature in each canvas.

As a consequence, Monet’s lily ponds and bridge at his Giverney home, have become an iconic impressionistic artwork which other students, artists and copyists wish to perfect. Images include:

  • Two art study works submitted by secondary college students from an unnamed secondary college as part of their annual fair.

And two parodies:

  • The first being from Sally Swain’s “Great Housewives of Art” (1987 exhibition), with her interpretation entitled:  “Mrs Monet cleans the pool“. (Swain was born in Sydney in 1958. After a BA in psychology from Sydney University, she travelled Europe and has subsequently worked as a freelance illustrator).
  • The other is entitled Show Me the Monet (2005) by street artist Banksy. Here Banksy refigures Monet’s original painting using the same materials as well as adding two discarded shopping carts/trolleys and a traffic cone to the pond; representing consumerism; hence his title: Show Me the Monet (money).

Regardless of copies, parodies or originals it is evident that when it comes to Giverney’s waterlilies, there are Monet Bridges to Cross.

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I Can’t Quite Get the Hang of It

[Elizabeth Newman: Untitled (2013) cotton thread on canvas]

Elizabeth Newman was born in Melbourne, Australia in 1962 and studied at the Victorian College of the Arts in the 1980s. She has participated in numerous group exhibitions and more than twenty solo exhibitions within Australia and overseas.

Using simple everyday materials, Newman’s abstractions employ pre-conscious and primal gestures to encourage subjective responses. With the simple act of a cut, Untitled (featured above) creates optical effects by juxtaposing the wave of the three-colour pattern of the fabric with its reverse. In this way, the work references the formal techniques of the Op Art movement.

  • Newman’s work addresses questions of representation and subjectivity and engages with a formalist-conceptualist discourse.

Over the years, Newman has expanded her practice to include painting, found objects, collages, text-based works, photography, sculpture and writing. She says she tries to avoid the trap of technical proficiency by shifting mediums and modes to evade any mastery that develops in practice.

Newman appreciates the spirit of spontaneity, naivety and uncertainty which she continues to pursue in her art-making process. Her innovative and experimental approach to art has been a significant influence upon her contemporaries as well as a younger generation of artist.

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The Brother Hoods of Fiona Foley

[Badtjala people, Wondunna clan, Maryborough Queensland synthetic inks on textile-  7 robes with hoods]

Fiona Foley (born 1964) is a contemporary Indigenous Australian artist from Badtjala, Fraser Island, Queensland. She studied at the Sydney College of the Arts, and as an artist has travelled internationally and ventured into remote communities in the Northern Territory.

  • Foley’s work refers to her history growing up in regional Queensland in a community with a living memory of their colonisation by the English.
  • Her featured work is based on the American concept of the Ku Klux Klan (KKK) – being  an African-American slang term for the white man. In Australia this term is also known as a ‘honky’ or ‘white honky’. therefore the black caps on this installation have the initials HHH (a local translation of KKK, with similar meaning).

For Foley, the political and the personal are not separate entities. Her lifestyle and art both reflect a commitment to her Indigenous identity and challenge to Australian culture to reread history; and to reveal moments of strength and empowerment.

In 2000, Foley’s work was among that of eight individual and collaborative groups of Indigenous Australian artists shown in the prestigious Nicholas Hall at the Hermitage Museum in Russia. Her works are held in the collections of the Queensland Art Gallery,  University Art Museum at the University of Queensland, and the National Gallery of Australia.

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Confessions of an English-Opium Eater & Others

Opium usage in art and literature is not as uncommon as you might think. Fascination with narcotics has reigned interest since the late 19th to early 20th Centuries with movies relating to the drug craze, such as: The Derelict (1914), The Dividend  (1916), Broken Blossoms (1919) and Human Wreckage (1924). These focussed on the unsavoury aspects of drug taking and fueled anti-opium crusaders; who spoke of related tales including seduction, white slavery and opium smuggling.

The use of drugs began to feature in new detective novels with writers, artists and photographers capturing the essence of the allure which opium possessed. Much of this is echoed with the images featured above, which tell their own opium story.

  • Dope! Rivers of it, to flood the nation! ‘ Race Williams battles drugs, smugglers and a dame named Flame in Carroll John Daly’s action-filled adventure “Just Another Stiff” (Dime Detective Magazine, April, 1936)
  • Black Opium (Cover for Berkley Books English translation (1958) reprint of Claude Farrere’s Fumee D’Opium). This book was first published in 1904 and consisted of a series of short stories linked thematically by opium. These were drawn on Farrere’s observations and experiences in the French Navy. Within this text, the reader visits opium dens in China, Saigon, Paris and Toulon. The “shocking” cover of the Berkley reprint features a naked woman which incorrectly implies a connection between opium smoking and sexual ecstasy.
  • Fumeur d’opium (Opium Den) postcard from the Territoire de Kouang-Icheou-Wan, Indochina.
  • Photograph of a Caucasian woman dressed in ‘Oriental‘ clothes and posing as an opium smoker; but is actually holding a tobacco pipe. Caucasian women as opium smokers, opium den proprietors or as wives or concubines of Asian opium dealers, added a sensual overtone to the smoking ritual and so; were a favourite topic among writers who frequented or imagined opium dens. However, few women have ever written about their motivation for smoking opium, therefore, their stories and accounts of smoking have been relegated to obscurity.
  • Lastly, La Vice d’Asie L’Opium (The Vice of Asia: Opium) painting by Henri Vallet. This was exhibited at the 1909 Paris Salon depicting an idealized Parisian opium den.

Writers in fiction, poetry and biography have gone to great lengths to describe their experiences with opium. In Theophile Gautier’s book “Mademoiselle de Maupin” he wrote:

Me, I’d be there, immobile, silent, under a magnificent canopy, … and a huge tame lion under my elbow, the naked breast of a young slave girl under my feet like a footstool, and I’d be smoking opium in a massive jade pipe”.

However, the most famous text regarding opium belongs to Thomas de Quincey’sConfessions of an English Opium-Eater” (1822), which is one of the first and most famous literary accounts of opium addiction written from the point of view of an addict and details the pleasures and dangers of the drug.

In this tale, De Quincey wrote about the great English Romantic poet Samuel Taylor Coleridge (1772–1834), whose Kubla Khan was considered to be a poem influenced by opium use. It appears that Coleridge began using opium in 1791 to treat jaundice and rheumatic fever. Later, he became a full addict after a severe attack of the disease in 1801, requiring 80–100 drops of laudanum daily.

  • The images above can be found in Barbara Hodgson’s book Opium: A Portrait of the Heavenly Demon, (1999).

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Vanity vs The Beautiful Lady Without Mercy

[Left: Vanity (1907) oil on panel 57 x 38 cm Diploma work accepted 1936 Royal Academy] [Right: La Belle Dame Sans Merci (AkaThe Beautiful Lady Without Mercy“) (1926) canvas 102 x 97 cm private collection, London]

English painter and portrait  illustrator Frank Cadogan Cowper was born in Wicken, Northamptonshire on 6 October 1877. He was the son of the author and early pioneer of coastal cruising in yachts, Frank Cowper, and grandson of the Rector of Wicken.

  • Cadogan Cowper first studied art at St John’s Wood Art School in 1896 and continued at the Royal Academy Schools from 1897-1902.
  • He is referred to as “The last of the Pre-Raphaelites” as he continued painting Arthurian knights and damsels in distress at the Royal Academy well into the 20th Century.

Cowper first exhibited at the Royal Academy in 1899, and spent six months studying under Edwin Austin Abbey before travelling to Italy.

As an artist, he worked in both watercolours and oils; and as an illustrator; provided the illustrations for Sir Sidney Lee’s The Imperial Shakespeare. He contributed to a mural in the Houses of Parliament in 1910 along with Byam Shaw, Ernest Board and Henry Arthur Payne. He died on 17 November 1958.

  • The record price for a Cowper painting at sale is £469,250 for “Our Lady of the Fruits of the Earth” (1917) at Christie‘s in London on 17 December 2011.

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Take Potluck or be Thunderstruck

[Above: Two issues of Pluck and Luck: Complete Stories of Adventure]

  • Left: Issue No. 76  November 15, 1899. “The Rocket or Adventures in the Air” by Allyn Draper. Frustrated pursuers stand agape as their quarry lifts off for a trip to the moon in a whirligig rocket. “The rocket mounted up in the air, and soared away. “Good-by” cried Harry.  Tell the justice I’ll report next year for sentence. I live in the Moon.” The three men were dumbfounded.”
  • Right: Issue No.231 November 5, 1902. (Price: 5 cents). “Jack Wright and His Electric Air Schooner or The Mystery of a Magic Mine” by “Noname”. This is looking more seaworthy than airworthy. Jack Wright’s electric schooner saves two adventurers from agitated savages. “The crater dwellers  who had pursued them down the rocks, were guided to their location by their shouts and while the Sky Rocket was rushing through the air to their rescue the savages were climbing up the rocks from the plateau below, with the intention of attacking them.”

Pluck and Luck was an American magazine and the longest-running dime novel first published by Frank Tousey. The principal series character was Jack Wright. It primarily featured stories of adventure covering subjects including fire fighters, railroads, the American Revolution, the American Civil War, frontier life, finance and success, temperance, circus, science fiction and travel and exploration. All the stories were reprints from Tousey story papers Boys of New York, Golden Weekly, Happy Days and Young Men of America.

  • Authors included Cecil Burleigh, Augustus Comstock, Francis W. Doughty, Thomas W. Hanshaw, Walter Fenton Mott, Dennis O’Sullivan, Luis Senarens, Harvey K. Shackleford, Cornelius Shea, George G. Small, William Howard Van Orden and others writing under house names, like ‘NoName‘.
  • Pluck and Luck numbered 1605 issues from January 12, 1898 to March 5, 1929. The 32-page magazine was semi-monthly for the first 22 issues and then became weekly. Its size was 8 x 11 inches (through No. 1144) and 6 x 9 inches thereafter, featuring  colour covers. Issues No. 1002-1464 were published by Harry Wolff and the rest by Westbury.

Don’t be a sitting duck | Go read Pluck & Luck

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Tax on Delivery

Cuneiform Tablet[Cuneiform Tablet: Southern Mesopotamia c. 2050 BC.]

Cuneiform writing was developed by the ancient culture of Sumer (which is now in the region of modern-day Iraq) and was one of the first scripts used to record information.

It was written on dampened hand-shaped clay tablets, using a wedged stick (cunea being Latin for wedge), which were then sun-dried or fired. The earliest tablets, from around the end of the 4th millennium, record the transactions of tax collectors and merchants. They later began to record laws and texts on astronomy, literature, medicine and mathematics.

  • The tablet (featured above) records the delivery of taxes, paid in sheep and goats in the 10th month of the 46th year of Shulgi, (Second King of the Third Dynasty of Ur).

Proof to the age old saying “There are two certainties in life – Death and Taxes” (attributed to Benjamin Franklin)

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Gerard of the Night (Painter By Day)

[The Happy Musician (De Vrolijke Speelman) 108 x 89 cm Rijksmuseum, Amsterdam]

Dutch Golden Age artist, “Gerard of the Night” (Gerard van Honthorst, Gerrit van Honthorst) was born on 4th November 1592 in Utrecht. Early in his career he visited Rome, where he began to paint in a style which was influenced by Caravaggio. He stayed in Italy for 10 years before returning home. Following his return to the Netherlands, he became a leading portrait painter.

  • He is noted for his depiction of artificially lit scenes, eventually receiving the Italian nickname Gherardo delle Notti (“Gerard of the Night”).

With his portraits of ordinary folk such as the Happy Musician, he gained great fame in the Netherlands and Berlin where he was a court painter and influenced for a long time the stream of painting which has become known as the Utrecht School.

Obviously, Gerard of the Night, didn’t give up his day job!

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Where the Hammock Swung | When the World Was Young

[“In the Hammock“,  (1886) by Hans Thoma]

German artist Hans Thoma, was born on October 2, 1839 in Bernau within the Black Forest region of Germany.  In 1859, at the age of 20, having started life as a painter of clock faces; Thoma entered the Karlsruhe Academy, where he studied under Johann Wilhelm Schirmer and Ludwig des Coudres.

  • His art work is based on early impressions of the simple idyllic life of his native district, where  he displays affinities with the Pre-Raphaelite movement.
  • Thoma continued study and work in Düsseldorf, Paris Frankfurt and in many cities in Italy, prior to a successful exhibition of some thirty paintings in Munich.

He died in Karlsruhe on November 7, 1924 at the age of 85.

Ah, the apple trees
Sunlit memories
Where the hammock swung
On our backs we’d lie
(from When the World Was Young by Bob Dylan)

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Kiss Me Tootsie and Then Do It Over Again

[Untitled (1990) glass sculpture by Toots Zynsky]

Mary Ann ‘Toots’ Zynsky was born in Boston, Massachusetts on 25 March, 1951.  She received her Bachelor of Fine Arts at Rhode Island School of Design (RISD) in Providence (1973). During her studies, Zynsky became one of a group of pioneering artists studying with Dale Chihuly, who made studio glass a worldwide phenomenon.

  • Today, Zynsky’s glass vessels are represented in over 70 international museum collections.

Zynsky developed her distinctive heat-formed filet de verre (glass thread) vessels, using streaks and ribbons of strong contrasting colours and pulling heated rods of glass through a machine developed especially for her studio practice. She then arranged them in rods using a concave mould. As a consequence, her glass-works often evoke the brilliant plumage of exotic birds which reflect the influence of traditional South African and South American textiles.

  • Zynsky once quoted: “When I hear music, it translates into colour“.

Kiss Me Tootsie and Then Do It Over Again” derives from the lyrics of the Al Jolson song “Toot, Toot, Tootsie! Goodbye”

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Feeling a Little Jaded?

In 1968, two complete jade burial suits were discovered in the tomb of Han Prince Liu Sheng and Princess Dou Wan in Mancheng, Hebei, China. They were the first of a number of jade suits that would be found in other Han tombs around China. The Han Dynasty is the only time in Chinese history that they have been utilised in burials.

The Han Dynasty (206 BCE-220 CE) was one of the longest of China’s major dynasties. With only minor interruptions it lasted a span of over four centuries and was considered a golden age in Chinese history especially in arts, politics and technology.

  • Today jade suits seem an implausible extravagance, but in ancient China they were believed to preserve the body.
  • The honour of burial in a jade suit was restricted to the Imperial family and nobles.
  • Even the thread that bound the pieces together (gold, silver, copper or silk) denotes their status.
  • Jade was also treasured for its hardness, durability and subtle beauty.

This suit is on display at 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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Two Huge Fans of Kempinas’ Art

[Double O  by Žilvinas Kempinas (2008) video tape, fans, ed. 6/6; Gift- Loti & Victor Smorgon Fund, National Gallery of Victoria, (NGV).]

Žilvinas Kempinas (born in 1969 in Plungė, Lithuania) is an artist living and working in New York City. He completed an MFA at Hunter College, City University of New York, in 2002, after receiving a BFA from Vilnius Academy of Art, Lithuania, in 1993.

  • Kempinas is best known for kinetic works such as Double O which combine loops of videotape with electric fans, which use the physics of air and motion to create loops of tape which rotate and twist and remain suspended in midair through the force of the fans.
  • In  a constant state of flux, it transforms the physical space and challenges the viewer’s visual and spatial senses. Incorporating readily available, everyday materials, Kempinas harnesses motion in a way that is both beguiling and miraculous.

Kempinas’ first New York shows took place at PS1 Contemporary Art Center in 2003 and Spencer Brownstone Gallery in 2001. He earned international acclaim since then with his entire second show at Spencer Brownstone  (Columns and Bike Messenger) was purchased by The Margulies Collection in 2006 and exhibited during Art Basel Miami Beach that same year.

  • Kempinas is represented in New York City and Paris by Yvon Lambert Gallery in Vilnius by Vartai Gallery; and in Brazil by Galeria Leme.


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Cake Stool or Fake Stool?

[Above: ‘Cake Stool‘ (2008) by Humberto and Fernando Campana (Designers) and Estudio Campana (Manufacturer) from Sao Paolo, Brazil.  (Made from soft toys, steel, and canvas).]

Brazilian designers, “The Campana Brothers” are Humberto Campana, (b. 1953) and Fernando Campana, (b. 1961).  In 1983, the two teamed up to make furniture made of ordinary materials including scrap and waste products such as cardboard, rope, cloth and wood scraps, plastic tubes and aluminium wire.

They draw inspiration from Brazil’s street life and carnival culture, by combining ‘found’ objects (such as scraps of wood, furry toys and fabric off cuts); with advanced technologies, to create a vibrant energetic and definitively Brazilian approach to design. The brothers refer to this as ‘zest for life’ which celebrates the discarded and mundane.

In 1998 they became the first Brazilian artists to exhibit their work at The Museum of Modern Art (MoMA) in New York, along with work from the German lighting designer Ingo Maurer.

  • The Campana Brothers are currently represented by Friedman Benda in New York, Carpenters Workshop Gallery in London and Paris, as well as Galleria O in Rome.

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Time Fur Breakfast

[Object (or Breakfast) in Fur, (1936) is Méret Oppenheim’s famous cup, saucer and teaspoon covered with Chinese gazelle fur].

German-born, Swiss Surrealist artist and photographer, Méret Elisabeth Oppenheim was born on 6 October 1913 in Berlin. She was raised by her grandparents in Switzerland during WW1. At the age of 18 Oppenheim went to Paris where she enrolled at the Academie de la Grande Chaumiere. She presented her 3D objects to the Surrealist Exhibition (1933) which helped establish her as a leading figure in the Surrealist art movement.

  • On one occasion, Oppenheim staged a banquet in which a nude female formed the centerpiece of the table decoration.
  • In her paintings and sculptures, she often explored female sexuality. This typified much of her later work in which ordinary everyday objects were transformed into articles with fetishistic or sado-masochistic undertones.
  • Oppenheim’s best known piece is [Object or (Breakfast in Fur)] which was purchased by Alfred Barr for the collection of the Museum of Modern Art (MoMA) in New York and included in the museum’s first Surrealist exhibition Fantastic Art: Dada and Surrealism in 1936.

Oppenheim kept careful notes about which patrons and colleagues she liked and where her works ended up. She died in Basel, Switzerland on 15 November 1985 at the age of 72. An archive of most of Oppenheim’s artwork has been entrusted to institutions in Bern, Switzerland, including the Museum of Fine Arts and the National Library.

  • At Oppenheim’s acceptance speech in 1975 upon receiving the City of Basel Art Award, she declared “Freedom is not given to you — you have to take it.”

And I say, “If you do not think that this is your ‘cup of tea’ –  you might need to fake it.”

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There is Nothing Finer Than the Chimes of the Clinaman

[Featured – Clinamen (2013) MDF floor, PVC liner, water pump, heating device, porcelain bowls, water]. Paula Cooper Gallery New York and Galerie Xippas, Paris. This installation is generously supported at the NGV by the Loti and Victor Smorgon Fund.

Céleste Boursier-Mougenot is a French artist born in Nice in 1961. After training as a musician and composer, he formed an art experience that merges both visual and auditory sensors which allows us to experience the intangible and abstract at the same time.

Based on these principles Boursier-Mougenot creates large-scale acoustic installations drawing upon the laws of nature and the rhythms of everyday life; to produce new forms of art and music.

  • Clinamen encourages a form of multi-sensory or ‘synesthetic’ engagement, whilst creating a social space for reflection and contemplation.
  • Its white porcelain bowls float on the surface of an intensely blue pool.
  • Circulating gently and swept along by sub-maritime currents, the floating ‘crockery’ acts as a percussive instrument; creating a resonant, chiming acoustic soundscape providing an unorthodox musical sound.
  • As the floating plates move about the pool, they create a visible score, translating the aural into the pictorial and establishing a visual equivalent to the act of listening.

Hear Clinamen chimes

May the Clinamen Chime-a-momento to your heart

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