Tuesday, April 14, 2015

Hyperrealism and Photorealism: Technique, Not Artistry

Photorealism is a genre of art in which the artist attempts to reproduce a photograph as realistically as possible. The final painting would leave the viewer wondering if it is a painting or a photograph.

Hyperrealism is related to Photorealism. It is a newer genre of painting resembling a high-definition photograph, and is considered an advancement over Photorealism.

To me, if Photorealism is a branch of art, it is an extremely minor one. It is all technique without artistic vision. The skill of reproducing a photograph with paints is remarkable. I daresay not many artists can boast that level of technical virtuosity. But where is the artistic vision? The personal stamp of the artist is well-hidden, if it exists at all somewhere in the painting. Photorealism and Hyperrealism seem a way to substitute technique for a lack of vision, which is apparently a rare commodity.

Do most artists possess a unique vision no one else can claim? Or is the modern artist satisfied with reproducing nature to the extent that any viewer notices the resemblance to the real world yet is still well aware that he is looking at a painting, not a photograph? On the other hand, think of a painting by Picasso or Van Gogh or Renoir. There is a vision behind it.

Should a painting appear as something else, like a photograph? In a museum, the viewer approaches the painting, thinks possibly it's a photograph, and must read the accompanying explanatory card to see that it is in fact oil on canvas, and not a photographic image. Fascinating that anyone could have such a technique.

Maybe I’m too severe a critic and expect too much. Are most painters satisfied to approximate the real world with a superior level of technical expertise and leave it at that? I've become skeptical of art that mimics the world to an extreme, because I'm seeing technique, not vision.

Hyperrealism seems a minor improvement over Photorealism, in that supposedly the artist doesn't slavishly imitate the photograph, but instead incorporates subtle changes, such as more distinct textures, surfaces, and lighting than seen in the original photograph on which the new piece is based. But still, Hyperrealism is dependent on photography. What art there is in reproducing reality to such an exact degree is debatable.

I suppose the next step would be a genre of Hyperrealism in which the painting isn't based on any photograph but nothing more than the painter's imagination. Moving beyond mere technique to a singular vision of the artist seems the logical next step.

Doesn't it make sense to include the original photographs alongside the paintings when they are displayed in museums and such? As a museum patron, I would certainly like to see those photographs. It seems they would be necessary and the two of them shouldn't be separated.

What is the artist trying to say? Isn't that a standard question when admiring a painting? Reproducing a photograph will mean the artist has nothing to say beyond the photograph and his own envious technique, and he perhaps rebels against the idea of “saying something” with his painting. I suspect the goals of the Hyperrealism artists are not congruent with my expectations as an art lover. I anticipate different goods than those they intend to deliver? An artist reimagines the world and presents his unique vision that he and only he possesses, or am I mistaken?

Show me something I can’t see walking down the street or in a forest or at the lake. Or in a photograph. I don’t expect something revolutionary--a new style, like Cubism or Impressionism. But a photograph made with paint? I want something by someone with his own voice. Something more than just brush skills. Show me the world you and you alone see.


Chris121924 said...

I completely see your point, but the reason I love photorealism is that its the ultimate perfection in technique. A really great photorealistic painting I think actually looks better than a photograph. The colour seem to stand out and there is no dots (as in printing) to see no matter how close you look. Analogue compared to digital.

As far as artistic vision I cant see how its different from any still life, portrait or landscape. Except with a perfect technique.

The skill level is just through the roof and I much prefer that to someone cutting a cow in half having some sort of vision.

I do very much look forward to seeing photorealistic techniques moving into imaginary scenarios. I think you are spot on that this should be the natural progression. The results could be really quite fascinating. Imagine a Dali that looks "real".

Great article :)

Elena Malec said...

Totally agree with your point and have to say this. There is no message beyond perfection of execution because there is no artist behind that painting. The artist is the visionary, the human being, the citizen, the challenger, the consciousness, the voice, the dream of humankind. All thst is missing in a consummer society, in a world of fast culture in which individuals stopped thinking for themselves and their only reaction or emotion is a WOW.