Artist accused of stealing beauty

by Andrew Taylor

STRIKING images borrowed from earlier art works and advertising are a hallmark of Dennis Ropar’s art.

But the Melbourne pop artist, who has engaged in flamboyant stunts such as painting a near-naked woman and illegally parking a truck to promote his work, has been criticised for overstepping the line with one image from his Mexico series of portraits.

Ropar’s Mexico #9 bears a remarkable resemblance to Spring Muertos, a photograph of a make-up artist, Lisa Naeyaert, taken by the American photographer Gayla Partridge in November 2008.

Partridge’s photo is one of four images depicting Naeyaert as part of her Muertos Seasons series. Other portraits in Ropar’s Mexico series appear similar to images of Naeyaert in the Muertos Seasons series.

Partridge discovered Ropar’s work after she was contacted by Jess Pryles, a client and friend who saw the image online.

Ms Pryles also complained to the Jackman Gallery and posted images of both works on Facebook.

”Blatant plagiarism of the original image by Melbourne artist Dennis Ropar, who claims it’s original work,” Ms Pryles wrote underneath Ropar’s art work.

However Partridge, who owns photography business 666photography in Austin, Texas, declined to say whether she believed Ropar had plagiarised her work.

”We have had other artists create homages of our work in the past,” she told The Sun-Herald. ”These artists have contacted us and have requested permission, or at the least provided credit for the inspiration.

”In this case, this did not occur. 666photography encourages people to look at both pieces side by side and form their own opinion.”

Ropar did not respond to The Sun-Herald’s questions on whether he had used Partridge’s art without her permission. ”I’m not going to defend myself,” he said, adding: ”I don’t give a f*** about what you write.”

A spokeswoman for Jackman Gallery, which exhibits Ropar’s art work, also declined to comment.

The gallery website described Ropar as ”an artist who is a master showman, willing to take risks and explore many themes and oeuvres”.

Associate Professor Merilyn Fairskye, of the Sydney College of the Arts, said she was surprised Partridge’s work had been used: ”The original is so cheesy I’m astounded anyone would want to plagiarise it – because this is what this is – a clear case of plagiarism.

”There seems to be no raison d’etre for the borrowing of this image – no irony, no questioning of originality, authenticity or authorship.”

She said using another artist’s work was a recognised artistic method, but it could be highly controversial.

Ropar’s Mexico #9 artwork may also be an infringement of Partridge’s copyright.

The executive director of the Arts Law Centre, Robyn Ayres, said: ”Copyright is infringed if an artist uses the whole or a substantial amount of someone else’s work without their permission.”

However, Ms Ayres said an artist did not generally require permission from someone to reproduce an image of them.


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