Tuesday, December 8, 2015

It Looks Just Like A Photograph!

Recently I showed some images of my paintings to an acquaintance on my Iphone. Thinking he was giving me the ultimate compliment he uttered that dreaded phrase, "it looks just like a photograph!" I shriveled.

The trend in realism, has been, I guess, for the past few decades is to pretend one is a camera. There is not one tear duct that is unimportant. Much of the "painting" looks like medical school textbook illustrations. There is a reason for that. After World War Two, classical training was thrown out the window with the model stands and the plaster busts. Students were left to explore for themselves. My instructors at the Boston Museum School would let us explore for a whole semester and show up only at the crits. I went to the movies instead and was asked kindly  to leave. I was a bewildered seventeen when I started and had no clue as to what art school was supposed to be like. I thought- silly moi- that it consisted of lessons with a teacher- at Chaffee-Loomis I had Sanford Lowe who taught us how to draw from the figure. He was one of the early directors of The New Britain Museum of American Art. I disd not know how lucky I was.  Therefore, many nascent, sans training, "realists" found that they could enlarge and trace photographs, transfer them to canvas and fill in the colors. Viewers were wowed as they had no idea just how easy it was to do- it is not beyond the level of a reasonably attentive 15 year old high school student. Much contemporary portraiture is done that way- legions of elected twits staring dully from government buildings and CEO suites . The so called "fine arts" is similarly infected. William Estes is an example- color challenged, his pictures are dull and flat but he is a persnickety tracer, Ill give him that. Will Cottons "Katy Perry is a photoshopped piece of crap now on display at The National Portrait Gallery. Jeff Koons who never wastes his time actually painting has legions of starving art students doing his tedious scut work.

Most of the winners of contest like the BP Portrait awards and the Art Renewal Annual Salon are just that. I cannot imagine for the life of me rendering one of those giant heads without ending up in the local loony bin.

Turner, if the movie Mr Turner has any veracity, understood the power of photography vis-a-vis the future of art. While he was having a daguerreotype taken of him he asked the photographer if color was possible- he said not as yet,  but he got a magnificent picture of Niagara Falls and a rainbow. Turner allegedly said- "I am therefore undone". However if one has actually seen a Turner, you realize that they go far beyond what one realizes from a photograph. Turner has a relationship with his landscapes- they are layered and misted and scumbled with feeling, something no camera can do. There is an intelligence at one with every brushstroke. His paintings quiver and pulsate with life. They never get old or dated.  You must see Turners in person, no print can do them justice, It is criminal that the Turner Prize is named after him. Robert Hughes the critic, when asked to judge one, famously said- "I would rather fuck a newt underwater".

I have been collecting images of photography, that I think, are exquisite and go beyond these putative contemporary "realists". Many of them are far more sophisticated in content and quality than our current crop of photocopyists. There is no reason, nor has there been to try and compete with a photograph. These photographers are so much better. The Asians-images, nos.3,4,6,7,9,10,13 are lyrical and inventive images.I have included three paintings- see if you can figure out which ones they they are.

Some of these images are by Chinese photographer Tian Taiquan. For more:http://www.soemo-fine-arts.com/artist?id=831http://www.soemo-fine-arts.com/artist?id=831

and Ma Liang Meleo http://www.slideshare.net/guimera/maleonn-ma-liang-photographer-digital-surrealism

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