World Cup Teacup Ballet

Robert Knapman

Adelaide, Australia

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Wall Art


Artist's Description

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.

Artwork Comments

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