What’s Up With Ultra-Realism?

by Diego Gravinese

So, let’s get it out of the way: there is no doubt in my mind that artists who work in a photo-realistic style– that is, in a style that without immense scrutiny is indiscernible from real life or a photograph–have immesne and extraordinary talent, and deserve all due recognition for it. But, other than feathers in the cap for technical skill, I don’t get the point. Technical skill does not itself make art, if it did Flickr’s approximately 18 billion technically flawless macro shots of flowers and elapsed landscape shots of water crashing on rocks would seriously threaten Christie’s business model.

by Juan Francisco Casas

And that’s because—for photography, at least—we’ve accepted that technical merit alone does not equal art. It equals technical merit, while art is retained for something that captures an idea, emotion, or moment. So why is photo-realism in painting, a medium that long ago abandonned capturing life verbatim once the camera tripped onto the scene, so popular right now?

Don’t get me wrong, artists like Diego Gravinese and Juan Francisco Casas (both pictured, linked, and found on Artist A Day) make good images. I’m just saying I’d like them identically as photographs and not just paintings (or ballpoint pen drawings) that look just like photographs. Again, other than the “oh wow” factor, which is transient, I don’t understand what this retrogressive technique adds to the image.

I suspect, whatever the artist’s intentions, the popularity has to do with the notable trend currently of ditrusting anything but the most authentic image, because of a fear of forever being lied to spurred by the digital revolution. It’s popular currently to cling to the insane notion that there’s an ‘honest’ way to create images that doesn’t distort, alter, edit, and lie the moment you frame a slice of infinite, 3 dimensional life elapsing in time into a single, 2 dimensional frame. Which, I also don’t understand. But, I welcome your thoughts and debate on the subject.