Happy shopper

Remember Banksy’s new shop? It’s closed now, though it was never really open. But now it is open. Er.

Gross Domestic Product
The homewares brand from Banksy™

It does look odd, seeing that little ™ symbol after his name everywhere. But before we get distracted about why he’s seeking to protect trademarks rather than copyright, let’s get shopping!

banksy opens online store selling limited edition pieces and items starting at £10
a few weeks after setting up a showroom ‘for display purposes only’ in south london, banksy has now officially launched his own online store. titled ‘gross domestic product’, or ‘GDP’, the shop counts the stab vest worn by stormzy at glastonbury festival and branded T-shirts tagged by the artist among its products. other items include a clutch bag, made from a ‘genuine real life house brick’, and a rug painted to resemble the ‘diabetes riddled corpse of tony the tiger’.

Everything’s bound to be sold out by now, right? Not necessarily.

Banksy opens online store to sell iconic items from just £10
To deal with demand outstripping supply and to give everyone a fair chance, potential buyers are asked to register their details and “prove you are not a robot” by answering the question “Why does art matter?” Their response will then be judged by comedian Adam Bloom, who is urging customers to make their answer as “amusing, informative or enlightening as possible”.

Hoping this measure will help restrict sales to genuine art fans, Banksy adds: “We can’t ever weed out all the people who just want to flip for profit, but we can weed out the unfunny ones.”

Worth a punt?

A new Picasso?

It’s not unknown for artists to change their mind and paint over part of their work as their ideas develop. Earlier, I came across an article about a long-lost Vermeer cupid that conservationists had restored. He wasn’t the only one with mysteries to uncover.

Blue on Blue: Picasso blockbuster comes to Toronto in 2020
The show came together after the AGO, with the assistance of other institutions, including the National Gallery of Art, Northwestern University and the Art Institute of Chicago, used cutting-edge technology to scan several Blue Period paintings in its collection to reveal lost works underneath, namely La Soupe (1902) and La Miséreuse accroupie (also 1902).

More on that.

New research reveals secrets beneath the surface of Picasso paintings
Secrets beneath the surface of two Pablo Picasso paintings in the collection of the Art Gallery of Ontario (AGO) in Toronto have been unearthed through an in-depth research project, which combined technical analysis and art historical digging to determine probable influences for the pieces and changes made by the artist.

But x-ray and infrared analyses can only go so far. What if we roped in some neural networks to help bring these restored images to life?

This Picasso painting had never been seen before. Until a neural network painted it.
But from an aesthetic point of view, what the researchers managed to retrieve is disappointing. Infrared and x-ray images show only the faintest outlines, and while they can be used to infer the amount of paint the artist used, they do not show color or style. So a way to reconstruct the lost painting more realistically would be of huge interest …

This is where Bourached and Cann come in. They have taken a manually edited version of the x-ray images of the ghostly woman beneath The Old Guitarist and passed it through a neural style transfer network. This network was trained to convert images into the style of another artwork from Picasso’s Blue Period.

The result is a full-color version of the painting in exactly the style Picasso was exploring when he painted it. “We present a novel method of reconstructing lost artwork, by applying neural style transfer to x-radiographs of artwork with secondary interior artwork beneath a primary exterior, so as to reconstruct lost artwork,” they say.

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Rothko on the cheap

I’ve mentioned Sedition here before, turning screens into art™. I quite like the way it allows me to feel like an art snob for a while, building up my own art collection albeit very slowly we’re not made of money what with university fees and mortgages and Brexit and all that goodness me.

Here’s one alternative, though, if Rothko‘s mid-century abstract expressionism is your thing and the prices at Christie’s or even John Lewis are a little out of your range.

One Rothko per hour

The title says it all, really. You could always have a go yourself, of course.

Mark Rothko’s genius imitated on an iPhone by Derek Brahney
Why has he created them? Presumably to demonstrate the fast-decreasing level of skill required to create visual material in the digital age (depressing), or perhaps his motivations are less sinister. Either way we’re enjoying them very much.

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Generating art

Some more generative art. First, here’s Thomas Lin Pedersen, a “former bioinformatician / computational biologist turned data scientist turned software engineer”. Quite a mouthful.

Generative art by Thomas Lin Pedersen
I’m a generative artist focusing mainly on exploring the beauty of dynamic systems. For me, the sweet spot of generative art lies in creating a system that you know well enough to set it up for success, but is so complex that you still get surprised when you see the result. The more I become familiar with a system I’ve developed, the more it feels like a (slightly unpredictable) brush to paint with.

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I can’t begin to understand how he’s using R, software normally used for data analysis and statistics, to create such images.

A more traditional approach would be through the use of GANs, as we’ve seen before. (Strange to use the word ‘traditional’ with such a new and emerging field.) Here’s something from Joel Simon, who also takes inspiration from the systems of biology computation and creativity.

Artbreeder — create beautiful, wild and weird images
Simply keep selecting the most interesting image to discover totally new images. Infinitely new random ‘children’ are made from each image. Artbreeder turns the simple act of exploration into creativity …

Artbreeder started as an experiment in using breeding and collaboration as methods of exploring high complexity spaces. GAN’s are the engine enabling this. Artbreeder is very similar to, and named after, Picbreeder. It is also inspired by an earlier project of mine Facebook Graffiti which demonstrated the creative capacity of crowds.

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Devolving politicians

Banksy painting of chimps as MPs sells for record £9.9m at Sotheby’s
The timing of the sale was impeccable, coming exactly four weeks before the revised Brexit deadline and a year after Banksy’s Girl with Balloon (2002) was shredded via remote control in the same saleroom. That work sold for £1.04m with fees after it was legally designated a new work by Banksy’s handling service Pest Control and renamed Love is in the Bin a week after the auction in October 2019.

Banksy painting of MPs as chimpanzees sells for record £9.9m
Chimpanzees first appeared in his work in 2002, with his piece Laugh Now. The painting shows a row of apes wearing aprons carrying the inscription “Laugh now, but one day we’ll be in charge”. In 2009, Banksy said of Devolved Parliament: “You paint 100 chimpanzees and they still call you a guerrilla artist.”

The Cockroach by Ian McEwan review – a Brexit farce with legs
But in truth the parallel is misleading. It is not just that in McEwan’s case the metamorphosis is reversed: Sams is not a human transmuted into an insect but a cockroach who has taken over the body of the prime minister of the UK. (The room in which he awakes is in 10 Downing Street.) It is also that this fable is much more Swiftian than Kafkaesque. In The Metamorphosis, the story is really about the strangeness of everyday life and the human capacity to deny it. The world of The Cockroach is more like one of Swift’s parallel universes where political and intellectual idiocies are not so much reduced to absurdity as magnified into towering follies.

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Flying with Dalí and Laurie

More from that Dalí museum in Florida. This time, an interactive 360° video that you can click-and-drag your way around, as you fly through one of his paintings.

Silence your lobster phone and melt into a Dalí-inspired dreamscape
Salvador Dalí’s painting Archeological Reminiscence of Millet’s Angelus (1935) is a surreal reimagining of Jean-François Millet’s painting The Angelus (1859). Dalí’s work recasts the peasant couple of the original as towering stone figures, with the woman looming over the man in a show of female sexual dominance. Created as part of a virtual reality exhibition at the Dalí Museum in St Petersburg in Florida, this video allows viewers to step inside the work’s dreamy, uncanny landscape, as they fly through a tour of a world inspired by the painting – one that’s rife with additional Dalí Easter eggs. Beyond a simply entrancing immersive experience, Dreams of Dalí hints at even more sophisticated VR art experimentation to come in the near future.

Dreams of Dali: 360º Video

Here’s some more artistic VR, this time of a more literary nature.

Laurie Anderson introduces her virtual reality installation that lets you fly magically through stories
The piece allows viewers the opportunity to travel not only into the space of imagination a story creates, but into the very architecture of story itself—to walk, or rather float, through its passageways as words and letters drift by like tufts of dandelion, stars, or, as Anderson puts it, like snow. “They’re there to define the space and to show you a little bit about what it is,” says the artist in the interview above, “But they’re actually fractured languages, so it’s kind of exploded things.” She explains the “chalkroom” concept as resisting the “perfect, slick and shiny” aesthetic that characterizes most computer-generated images. “It has a certain tactility and made-by-hand kind of thing… this is gritty and drippy and filled with dust and dirt.”

Laurie Anderson interview: a virtual reality of stories
In this exclusive video, Laurie Anderson presents her prizewinning virtual reality work from 2017: “I wanted to see what it would be like to travel through stories, to make the viewer feel free,” the legendary multimedia artist says.

Banksy sells out

Remember back in March I linked to an article about Banksy’s legal conundrum? “If Banksy wants to keep enforcing any of his trademarks in courts around the world, and avoid the risk of them being canceled for lack of use, he will need to show judges stronger evidence of his brands being used in the market.

Well, here’s his response.

Gross Domestic Product: Banksy opens a dystopian homewares store
Tony the Frosted Flakes tiger sacrificed as a living room rug, wooden dolls handing their babies off to smugglers in freight truck trailers, and welcome mats stitched from life jackets: rather than offering an aspirational lifestyle, one South London storefront window depicts a capitalist dystopia. Created by Banksy and appearing overnight, Gross Domestic Product is the latest installation to critique global society’s major issues of forced human migration, animal exploitation, and the surveillance state.

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In a statement about the project, Banksy explains that the impetus behind Gross Domestic Product is a legal battle between the artist and a greeting card company that is contesting the trademark Banksy holds to his art. Lawyer Mark Stephens, who is advising the artist, explains, “Banksy is in a difficult position because he doesn’t produce his own range of shoddy merchandise and the law is quite clear—if the trademark holder is not using the mark then it can be transferred to someone who will.”

Despite this project’s specific goal of selling work in order to allow Banksy to demonstrate the active use of his trademark, the artist clarifies, “I still encourage anyone to copy, borrow, steal and amend my art for amusement, academic research or activism. I just don’t want them to get sole custody of my name.”

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All sales will be conducted online and, going by the reaction of those that have seen the shop so far, I expect everything will sell out very quickly, unfortunately.

Banksy shop featuring Stormzy stab vest appears in Croydon
A Banksy collector who came to see the display, said: “It’s brilliant. So good that it’s happening. I doubt he (Banksy) will turn up and go ‘hello lads, how are ya?’ But he’s obviously around.”

John, another Banksy enthusiast, who is on holiday in the UK from the United States, said: “It has all the earmarks of Banksy’s work. It’s graphic, it’s cheeky, it’s intelligent.”

Update 11/10/2019

This trademark/copyright issue might not be so straightforward, though, as this analysis from an intellectual property law academic explains. It’s worth a read.

How Banksy’s latest trademark row could backfire
Despite Banksy’s efforts to present himself as a down-to-earth, anti-conformist artist and paint the card company as the “bad guy”, this is more like a David v Goliath story – and Banksy is the giant here. Supported by a raft of experienced corporate lawyers and managers worldwide, his art is an undeniably powerful and commercially valuable industry.

More accidental typography

Some years ago I came across a photographer who had discovered an alphabet written in the skies over her head. Here are a few more examples of letter-forms in unusual places.

Put words into action with ‘Gerry’, a new font created from the silhouettes of gerrymandered electoral districts
The font, created by Ben Doessel and James Lee, is composed of 26 districts whose absurd boundaries resemble alphabet letters much more than they resemble logical, cohesive population groupings. Alabama’s pronged 1st District bears a striking resemblance to the letter K, while New York’s 8th District looks like an M with its tall legs connected by a curved middle.

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And here’s another example.

Stone alphabets
[A]ssembled by Belgian type designer Clotilde Olyff from stones collected at the beach.

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Automated yet playful

Two recent interviews with contemporary generative artists.

The generative portraiture of Espen Kluge
I love Kluge’s description of his organic coding process for creating art. It flies in the face of the popular misconception that programming art is somehow a linear process, when in actuality, it is almost always circuitous.

When I asked Kluge if he is still surprised by the outputs he is getting, he replied:

Oh, yeah, I wouldn’t have the motivation to do this at all if I wasn’t surprised every time. It’s a pleasure every time I get close to something I like. I don’t have a good drawing hand. This is something I use to be my drawing hand. Sometimes the lines and shapes can be really beautiful, and I don’t think I could calculate that. It’s impossible for me to have these things in my head before I start. I would like to think this is true for all generative artists. It is a very playful process.

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LIA, software art pioneer and the fluidity of code
Austrian artist LIA is considered one of the pioneers of digital art and has been producing works since 1995. She is one of the very few women pioneers in software and net art. Her practice spans across video, performance, software, installation, sculpture, projections, and digital applications …

Your work using creative code becomes a generative work in real time, introducing the concept of “fluid” as opposed to the formality of the written code that requires engineered precision? Can you give some examples of this?

I started as an autodidact, so at the beginning, I had no idea about how to write “clean” code. This led to a variety of interesting results that I had not planned upfront. After more than two decades of programming, now I know how to write code properly, but I still like to keep the process of programming open to all sorts of possible errors, being able to go into different directions from any point onwards. That means I am not planning every step ahead, but rather “going with the flow”. The artworks themselves are constantly changing, either because they are of generative nature or because someone might be interacting with them. There is no start and no end, they just evolve over time over and over again.

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Silver ratio
In her practice, LIA translates concepts into formally written structures that, in turn, generate an output through a ‘machine’. The artistic experience contrasts with the formality of the written code. LIA’s work takes up traditions of drawing and painting and connects these with the aesthetics of digital image worlds and the language of algorithms.

See more of LIA’s work on Sedition.

The sea, the sea

UK’s best sea view photography competition 2019
National maritime charity, the Shipwrecked Mariners’ Society, has revealed the eagerly awaited results of its seventh annual photography competition, showcasing images relating to all aspects of the UK’s historic relationship with the sea.

Some stunning photographs here, but I wonder if in the future, given what we were discussing yesterday, we might see fewer images like this…

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… and more like these:

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Almost a Great Wave, that last one.

Art down the pan

What I will always think of as ‘almost Trump’s toilet‘ has made the news again.

Busted flush: Man arrested over theft of solid gold toilet in England
Det Insp Jess Milne said: “The piece of art that has been stolen is a high value toilet made out of gold that was on display at the palace. The artwork has not been recovered at this time, but we are conducting a thorough investigation to find it and bring those responsible to justice.”

That headline-grabbing golden loo was only one of Maurizio Cattelan‘s many not-so-subtle provocations at Blenheim Palace.

Maurizio Cattelan at Blenheim Palace: blisteringly good and as subtle as a solid gold toilet
In his new exhibition featuring a praying Hitler and a felled Pope the artist plays to his strengths: spectacle, scale, shock, subversion.

Hitler in Churchill’s birthplace more shocking than the golden toilet – Maurizio Cattelan review
The Italian art prankster redecorates Churchill’s birthplace with an 18-carat loo, hideous union jacks and Hitler himself. What a fitting show for a country unravelling into madness.

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Update 16/09/2019

The Art Newspaper have updated their report of the story with photos showing the damage caused by the theft.

‘I wish it was a prank’: Maurizio Cattelan on the surreal theft of his golden toilet
The burglars caused “significant damage and flooding” after removing the toilet, which was plumbed in, at around 4.50am this morning. A 66-year-old man has been arrested in connection with the incident. Thames Valley Police say that a group of offenders used two vehicles during the theft. Commentators on social media fear however that the work may be melted down.

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Close encounters with a comet

In keeping with the harsh aesthetic of that Black Rain video from earlier, here’s another look at what’s above us.

The Comet
In 2016 an exciting mission was ended. The Rosetta spacecraft made its final manoeuvre. A controlled hard-landing on the comet Churyumov-Gerasimenko (67p). Before that Rosetta accompanied the Comet for more than 2 years. It researched valuable scientific data, brought a lander on to the comet’s surface and took a vast number of pictures.

2017 Esa released over 400,000 images from Rosetta’s comet mission. Based on these material Motion Designer Christian Stangl and Composer Wolfgang Stangl worked together to create this short film. The sequences are digitally enhanced real-footage from the probe.

Here’s more footage from the same comet.

A stunning animation created from photos of a heavy snowstorm falling on Comet 67P in 2016
“As the spacecraft moves around the comet we see the landscape change, but you can also see stars moving in the background, and flakes of ice and dust much closer to the spacecraft flying around! It’s like something from an old movie, *but it’s real*.”

More musical glass

Not that one, but something much jazzier — men, machines, music, all combined perfectly.

Glas, Bert Haanstra‘s Oscar-winning documentary short film (1959)
A jazzy score, handmade craftsmanship, factories, machines, the 1950s, and glass; director Bert Haanstra‘s 1959 Oscar winning documentary short, Glas, is the perfect combination of so many fascinating subjects. Watch artisans at Royal Leerdam Glass Factory back-to-back with machines used in automated bottle making.

Bert Haanstra – Glas

And if you like that, you must check out his earlier film, the equally meditative though more meandering Spiegel Van Holland, or Mirror of Holland.

A new ‘modern’ art

I’m trying to resist signposting to simply everything on Colossal, as it’s all amazing, but I thought these recent posts work well together — paintings, but not as we know them.

Glitched paintings by Olan Ventura give a contemporary twist to 17th Century still lifes
Philippino artist Olan Ventura creates lavish acrylic paintings in the tradition of 17th century Dutch still lifes. Replicating the smallest details of iconic works such as Jan Davidsz de Heem’s Vase of Flowers (c. 1660), Ventura veers off course with striking glitches and drips that shoot off the canvas edges, seeming to pull grapes, lobsters, and roses from the past into the present.

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Landscapes by Jason Anderson blend precise pixelation and hazy abstraction
U.K.-based artist Jason Anderson creates abstract urban landscapes using pixelated patches of pastel-toned oil paint. Each work on linen has a single focal point of bright yellow usually representing the rising or setting sun, though in the painting above the illumination comes from an approach train. Anderson balances the natural and manmade by primarily featuring infrastructure—ships, marinas, trains, buildings—that appears small and distant within each pastel haze.

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And whilst these images aren’t strictly paintings, they strike me as following that same ‘glitchy-made-real’ feel.

Photographs of animals and architecture are sliced and rearranged into bizarre collages by Lola Dupre
Spain and Scotland-based collage artist Lola Dupre (previously) continues to surprise and delight with her unusual composite images. Rather than incorporating unique individual collage elements that contrast with each other, Dupre works with repetition and duplication to build bizarrely proportioned pets, buildings, and human figures. By layering and off-setting shards of the same photo in a sort of visual syncopation, Dupre stretches and bends otherwise familiar subjects into surreal images.

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Curating at the cliff edge

It could be said that, in taking this project on, Caroline Lucas is taking a break from politics at exactly the wrong moment. But I think this refocussing of priorities, reminding us of what’s at stake, is vital right now.

Too much politics? UK Green party MP and anti-Brexit campaigner Caroline Lucas turns curator
Other paintings selected, by artists such as Victor Pasmore, point to the changes in landscape over the past century. “How can we take all of this for granted?” Lucas says. “What are these familiar scenes going to look like over the next 50 years, a period that will be critical at a time of accelerating climate emergency?”

She also hopes to include an image of Beachy Head chalk headlands in East Sussex by the Turner prizewinning photographer Wolfgang Tillmans. “At this critical moment, being on the edge sums it up. We are at the cliff edge metaphorically, from an environmental point of view and in terms of political change,” Lucas says. A number of contemporary posters from local environmental campaigns reflecting public concern, highlighting the need for action, may also be included.

Book cover comparisons

Further to some previous posts about book cover design, here’s a birds-eye view of a whole load of them.

11 years of top-selling book covers, arranged by visual similarity
An interactive map of over 5,000 book covers, organized by machine learning.

It’s interesting to play around with the filters, to see how samey some of the genres are. It all reminded me of those photomosaic images from the 90s.

Cut-up cameras

They may be on their way out, but film cameras are nevertheless remarkable machines. This project from Fabian Oefner shows them off in a whole new way.

Vintage cameras dissected with a saw and suspended in resin by Fabian Oefner
For his latest series titled “CutUp,” artist Fabian Oefner used a band saw to slice film and still cameras into pieces, revealing their beautiful and complex inner workings. The pieces were rearranged, reassembled, and suspended in resin in interesting configurations. Each new sculpture transforms the tools for making art into new works of art designed to be viewed from multiple angles.

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There are more images of these familiar yet previously unseen objects on his website.

CutUp – Studio Oefner
Oefner deliberately selected still and video cameras to slice apart. This is an allusion to his earlier photographic work, where the image made with the camera is the “art” and the camera itself is merely a tool. For this series, the tool is transformed into a piece of art. It is at the same time a deconstruction of the technology of image capturing, revealing the beauty underneath the surface of these objects.

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And here’s how it’s done.

Fabian Oefner – CutUp
CutUp is a series of technical objects, that are sliced, rearranged and distorted into a new form. The objects are encapsulated in resin, captured in their current state forever.

Reminds me a little of Damien Hirst’s cows.

Beautiful physics

Another great find from Brain Pickings, the French mathematician and journalist Amédée Guillemin and his 1868 physics textbook Les phénomènes de la physique.

How nature works, in stunning psychedelic illustrations of scientific processes and phenomena from a 19th-Century French physics textbook
In consonance with the pioneering 19th-century information designer Emma Willard’s conviction that knowledge is most readily received when “addressed to the eye,” Guillemin understood that the fundamental laws of nature appear too remote and slippery to the human mind. To make them comprehensible, he had to make their elegant abstract mathematics tangible and captivating for the eye.

He had to make physics beautiful.

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I’d say he succeeded, wouldn’t you?

Collapsing time, increasing order

What do you get if you cross the patient fastidiousness of Pelle Cass with the diligent meticulousness of Ursus Wehrli? This guy.

Cy Kuckenbaker’s time collapse videos let you see daily life as you’ve never seen it before
His “time collapse” videos stemmed from a desire to get to know the city in which he lives with the same vigor he brought to bear as a Peace Corps volunteer in his 20s, exploring Iraq, Africa, and Eastern Europe.

This impulse might lead others to join a club, take a class, or check out restaurants in an unfamiliar neighborhood.

For Kuckenbaker, it means setting up his camera for a fixed shot, uncertain if his experiment will even work, then spending hours and hours in the editing room, removing the time between events without altering the speed of his subjects.

Midday Traffic Time Collapsed and Reorganized by Color: San Diego Study #3