Saturday, October 24, 2009

The Rembrandt Code

first published in News & Buzz at

One of the world’s great paintings, Rembrandt van Rijn’s The Night Watch, has become the star of avant-gard film maker, Peter Greenaway’s latest movie, Rembrandt's J'accuse.

Greenaway is most widely known for his films, The Draughtsman's Contract, a 17th Century murder mystery, The Cook the Thief His Wife & Her Lover, described as a corrosive allegory of life in contemporary England and his interpretation of Shakespeare's The Tempest, Prospero's Books. He trained as a painter but moved over to film making with the making of his first film ‘The Train’ in 1966. With his interest in Renaissance painting in general and the Flemish painters in particular, an influence that is a hallmark of many of his films, it is little wonder he should turn his attention to the 17th Century masterpiece.

The Company of Frans Banning Cocq and Willem van Ruytenburch, more commonly known as ‘The Night Watch’ is renown for its size (11ft 10in x 14ft 4in), the effective use of chiaroscuro and the sense of movement in an otherwise traditionally static scene. It is on permanent display at Amsterdam’s Rijksmuseum and is considered to be the museum’s most famous painting.

In ‘Rembrandt's J'accuse’, Greenaway presents the debatable conspiracy theory that Rembrandt, through subtle hints in the painting, puts all the characters involved in a complex and devious conspiracy to murder. The ‘evidence’ offered by Greenaway are the numerous details in the painting that were never noticed before or that were simply not correctly interpreted. He also implies that Rembrandt’s social and financial ruin that followed the completion of the work was an act of revenge by the paintings cast.

More information about Rembrandt and his work can be found here and about Peter Greenaway and his work, here.

Monday, October 19, 2009

Dream Factory with Photoshop

First published in News & Buzz at

Photoshop, the photographic post production tool of the new century, is either loved or despised by photographers, depending upon their aesthetic vision for the medium. But in Harry Brant Chandler’s exhibition “Dreamers in Dream City” it along with other computer processes comes into its own.

Chandler had only 15 minutes to get a snapshot of the Walt Disney Concert Hall architect Frank Gehry. From the architect’s conference room portrait of his interpretation of Rodin's Balzac, Chandler super-imposed the snapshot upon the Los Angeles’ landmark he created. And so it is with the other 54 portraits in the exhibition.

From aviator Amelia Earhart to the Watts Towers creator Simon Rodia, from musician Jim Morrison to author Raymond Chandler, all are placed within the context of the dreams they realized. "I wanted to place the subjects in the context of their specific environments that showed what their dreams were about," Chandler says.

Renown as the city of dreams, Los Angeles attracts hopefuls from around the world, particularly to the Hollywood studios. But this exhibition goes beyond tinsel town and celebrates the builders, the inventors, the artists, the folk heroes, the activists, the entrepreneurs, the discoverers as well as the entertainers.

As the executive director of the Museum of the American West at the Autry National Center, Jonathan Spaulding, says "What Harry has done is create something which is authentic to his interpretation of these particular people and the story of Los Angeles."

Chandler’s manipulated photographs are on display at the Autry National Center until January 3, more information and a selection of images from the exhibition can be seen here.

Saturday, October 17, 2009

When is a Warhol Not a Warhol?

First published in news & Buzz at

Pop artist Andy Warhol was nothing if not prolific working as a painter, printmaker and filmmaker. The job of authenticating his work falls on the shoulders of the Andy Warhol Art Authentication Board, Inc. which is a committee of the Andy Warhol Foundation.

Should a work fail the Board’s authentication, the word "DENIED" is stamped on the reverse making the work unsalable even if the decision should be reversed. When a work is submitted to the board its owner must sign a document stating they will not challenge the board’s verdict in a court of law before the board will look at it. And the Board is not required to divulge the reasons for its decision even in the case when it reverses a previous decision.

But this cloak of secrecy, which has annoyed more than one Warhol collector, is set to change. In a class action lawsuit brought by film producer Joe Simon-Whelan and other yet-to-be-named plaintiffs the judge, Laura Taylor Swain, gave the plaintiffs the right of "discovery" when dismissing The Foundation’s motion to dismiss the case.

Soon not only will the muddied waters that surround the authentication or otherwise of this 1965 "Red Self Portraits," silk screen print become a little clearer but any accusations about the Board’s competency and integrity will also be laid to rest.

A full discussion about this case can be seen here.

Thursday, October 15, 2009

Still Life


Still Life with Hose (2009)
Archival inkjet print of digitally manipulated photograph
16" x 12"
First published in News & Buzz at

Scientific evidence suggests that a 13 x 9in (33 x 24cm) portrait, in chalk, pen and ink on vellum, mounted on an oak board, which was sold at Christie’s New York in the late 1990s for $19,000 is a work by Leonardo Da Vinci.

Examination of the work by a “multispectral” camera, a process that reveals each successive layer of colour, and enables the pigments and pigment mixtures of each pixel to be identified without taking physical samples has found a finger print on the work that is “highly comparable” to one on a Leonardo work in the Vatican. This has seen Martin Kemp, Emeritus Professor of History of Art at Oxford University claim the work to be by Da Vinci. Although skeptical at first, this and his other research has confirmed the works authorship. “All the bits fell into place like a well-made piece of furniture. All the drawers slotted in,” he is reported to have said.

Now valued at over $160 million and titled “La Bellathe portrait is expected to go on display next March in the exhibition And There Was Light: The Masters of the Renaissance Seen in a New Light at Eriksbergshallen, Gothenburg, Sweden. The exhibitions artistic director, Professor Alessandro Vezzosi, is amongst the growing number of art historians who believe the portrait to be work of the Renaissance master.

Included in that number is Professor Carlo Pedretti, head of the Fondazione Pedretti for Leonardo studies who has said “this could be the most important discovery since the early 19th century re-establishment of the Lady with the Ermine as a genuine Leonardo”.