World Cup Teacup Ballet by Robert Knapman

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I’ve jst been working on a mini project that was launched in the Gay Themed Art and Writing group. Members were invited into the World Cup challenge. I played with several ideas and this was one of them.

This is a tribute to Olive Cotton. An early pioneer of Australian photography (and modernist photograph) at a time when it was dominted by men.

I used Teacup Ballet as inspiration to re-story the image. Here there is colour (Cotton’s was B&W), here there is an odd cup out (in fact its pink and very frilly – bit hard to see though), at the front and ahead of the rest, facing an opposite direction and casting a new and different pattern (diverse sexuality and in contrast to dominant heterosexism).

Apart from that I love the idea of teacups dancing :) Camp aint it?

Cotton was a pioneering woman in a world of men, and modernism in visual arts was largely rejected. Here I’ve drawn parallels with sexual minorities globally as pioneers in a life and death game of survival – where to act on a different sexuality / to be different can be a death sentence. Largely the west celebrates difference…largely.

Cotton’s key works, mostly between 1935 and 1939, range from the modernist Teacup Ballet (1935) showing her mastery of light and form, to the highly sexual portrait of her first husband, Max Dupain, Max After Surfing. Cotton died in Cowra (NSW) IN 2003 at 92. She was one of Australia’s leading 20th-century photographers and a pioneer of Australian modernist photography (she and Dupain were at the forefront).

Teapot Ballet is one of Cotton’s finest and most memorable photographic works and is characteristic of her approach – a style that dominated Australian photography and typified by soft-focus and atmospheric effect. Modernist photography included dramatic lighting, play of shadows and asymmetrical composition. The image reflects international trends as an experimental art form after the war. Teacup Ballet references the relationships between artistic photography and advertising art. Museums and critics opposed modernism in the visual arts but advertisers saw the ‘shock value’ of it which included collage, montage, double exposure, radical cropping, extreme close-ups, and dramatic lighting and shadows.

Greeting Cards & Postcards

tea, shadow, ballet, coffee, dance, cup, teacup, teacup_ballet

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tea, shadow, ballet, coffee, dance, cup, teacup, teacup_ballet


  • alneaimi
    alneaimiover 6 years ago

    beautiful work Robert.

  • Thanks Al .)

    – Robert Knapman

  • bodymechanic
    bodymechanicover 6 years ago

    luv it robert, very clever adaptation!

  • Thanks mate. I really loved making this one.

    – Robert Knapman

  • butchart
    butchartover 6 years ago

    i love the spatial relationships robbie.. well placed for the wonderful shadows…. and the pink frilly shadow is by far the best…but they always are…ha… a lot of thought went into this… with a great result… and thank you for the art history lesson……………. b

  • Hiya Butchie. Thanks mate…shadows and frills? Does it every time ;)

    – Robert Knapman

  • Cvail73
    Cvail73over 6 years ago

    Indeed, excellent! :)

  • purelydecorative
    purelydecorativeover 6 years ago

    I ADORE Olive’s original shot and I love how you’ve played with it here… a nice tribute Robert.

  • Cheers purelydecorative. I recently came across her and had to do this tribute :)

    – Robert Knapman

  • Jeff Stroud
    Jeff Stroudover 6 years ago

    Thank you for the Photography history lesson and the insights behind your work and the work of Cotton, whom I had never heard of or seen her work…

    I love this piece from you, it is imaginative, creative and thoughtful… and it a baller of light and shadow… Great job!

  • Thanks Jeff. I love that you get so into my work

    – Robert Knapman

  • hanARGH
    hanARGHover 6 years ago

    This is very lovely, great take on olive cotton’s work.

  • Jeffrey Hamilton
    Jeffrey Hamiltonover 6 years ago

    You are so very thoughtful, deep, in your work. It struck me the first time that I saw your photography at Gallery 26. Am enjoying the World Cup series very much. cheers.

  • Maria  Moro
    Maria Moroalmost 6 years ago

    please consider one of your artworks for challenge Triangular Shapes

  • SlayerX
    SlayerXover 5 years ago


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