The precursors to these digital images were made in 2016, starting firstly with Mondrianopolos, then with Hugo at The Cabaret Voltaire*. The majority of the works were made in June and August 2017.
The premise for the show initially was to take Hugo Ball on a journey through art history. He would be the common denominator in all the images. This context considered references from the Lascaux Caves rock paintings, through Giotto, Fra Angelico, Cranach The Elder, all the way to the 20th Century - with the likes of Norman Lindsay and Jeffrey Smart holding up the Australian end.
Yet having finished a convincing rendition of Cranach’s Adam and Eve, replacing Adam with Hugo Ball, and the animals with Australian animals, I realized that, apart from showing what could be done in a digital homage, I wasn’t bringing anything ‘new to the table’
‘Everyone’ had heard of Adam and Eve, and many people would have been exposed to Cranach’s image or similar. I felt like I was acting out Marcel Duchamp’s ready made Mona Lisa - without the moustache. It was possibly humorous but without substance.
One of the other premises for the exhibition was to achieve ‘more public exposure for ‘little’ known but significant artists.’ So the next step was to look at artists who had once been famous but had fallen from grace in recent times.
William-Adolphe Bouguereau for example, was very popular in his lifetime. He was a traditional academic Salon painter, one of the painters ‘reviled’ by the Impressionists. After his death he quickly fell out of favour, not being rediscovered till the 1980’s.
James Ensor is another case in point. Rightly famous in his own country, and a significant influence on painters such as Klee, Nolde, Grosz and other expressionists and surrealists, he is little seen outside of Belgium.
In this exhibition, Bouguereau’s referenced work Dante and Virgil (detail above) emphasizes an uncomfortable subject set in Hell - two brutal, naked, desperate men fighting to the death.
Bouguereau set the theme for many of these works. Realizing that confronting images had more impact than traditional Romantic works, I started working with a third premise - that (some) ‘good art should be disturbing’
As Banksy reportedly said: “Art should comfort the disturbed and disturb the comfortable.” Of course this is a narrow viewpoint. But so is the assumption that art is about aesthetics and higher feelings. In reality, the worst kind of art is the piece that you walk past without a second glance.
Bouguereau led to Goya. Many of Goya’s images are purposely disturbing, yet more importantly, they reflect on human behavior. Goya himself led off in all directions - Ensor, Bellmer, Balthus, Paula Rego amongst them.
All in all I have chosen more than 20 artists.
Some of the works paraphrase more than one artist - a reference to Norman Lindsay’s Enigma lies within Ball in Mr. Bellmer’s Mannequin Studio. Death Leading the Blindmen references both a Holbein woodcut and Breughel’s The Blind Leading the Blind.
Self referentially, in the homage to Velázquez’s painting Las Meninas, the paintings on the back wall are replaced by others from this exhibition.