A century ago the bicycle was the symbol of modern freedom and independence and it was also represented in the visual arts. Catalan artist Ramon Casas in 1897 painted a portrait of himself and fellow artist Pere Romeu on a tandem bicycle. In 1913 Umberto Boccioni painted ‘Dynamism of a Cyclist’ and Marcel Duchamp created his first readymade with a bicycle wheel mounted upside down on a stool.
A hundred years later, for environmental and economic reasons, there is resurgence in the popularity of the bicycle. For over a year I have been looking for contemporary art about bicycles but I haven’t seen much until today (I did hear about the Bicycle Film Festival in Melbourne in 2007). Today I wandered into 1000 Pound Bend to see the visual arts program of Melbourne Bike Fest.
Part of Melbourne Bike Fest’s visual arts program was a small exhibition of prints, drawings and paintings on one wall. Amongst the works was a woodblock print by Tom Civil of figures riding bicycles, a smaller version of the stencil backdrop to the stage. I noticed that there were works by other street artists, like SnotRag who did three portraits of bicycle related injuries. In another corner there was a confessional style booth for telling and listening to “Bike Story”. But I was most interested in the Circular Bike and Matt Benn’s “Improbable Bikes” as these were such fun as sculptures. These bicycles as sculptures suggest way of life – imagine riding one of them.
I ride a bicycle so I am biased in my interest in bicycles in art. For more on bicycle art see Bikejuju section on bike art.