It’s 2:09 am on my birthday. I’m typing away at my laptop, hating. The grind doesn’t stop. What is photorealism and why is disparaging it so important to me? Well, to answer this question, I must first ask; what does art mean to you?.
Perhaps, you view it as a means of expression or simply as a thing of beauty; that is all fine. After all, there is no universally accepted definition of art. But one thing most people agree on is that art evokes emotion, it plucks strings deep in our hearts that we didn’t even know existed. With art, we feel something.
Photorealism is a form of art that aims to replicate photographs. Sure, this isn’t the most flattering definition, but it’s hard to present it as anything more. I know what you’re thinking; “But it looks just like a photo, that’s impressive!”. Yes, it is, but do you feel anything on a deeper level? Does it connect you to the artist? Does that work provoke internal discourse? It is by no means an easy feat rendering every detail as it is in reality, but it all comes across as machine-like; it seems like over-labouring for minimal reward.
Art shouldn’t be about how perfectly you can capture a scene; it’s about putting your own spin on things – the creator’s touch or signature. One should be able to see the world through the eyes of the artist and even see into their heads.
A major critique of photorealism is that copying exactly what one sees just lacks substance. The artists are immensely talented, no doubt! Often taking months at a time to finish one piece, but nothing is being communicated to viewers if all they see is all that is already there.
It is said that the less understanding of art history one has, the more one appreciates photorealism. While this may come from an elitist viewpoint, I’m tempted to agree especially seeing as to a layman, the photorealistic works would appear immensely detailed and near perfect. But then, the true strength of an artist is not their technique but their creativity.
“Wait! Surely, this isn’t a drawing” you might say. “To capture a banana so perfectly is a massive display of skill?”. Well… it isn’t a drawing. That is simply a banana duct-taped to a wall. This piece of conceptual art (Yes, art; you read that right) sold for $120,000 in 2019. What then makes this so special? Even your little sister could tape a banana to a wall, but she didn’t. The ridiculousness of it all gives this meaning: Slipping on a banana peel; everyone laughs. Absurd! However, as Canadian philosopher, Marshall McLuhan, once said, “Art is anything you can get away with”. Andy Warhol did famously produce a painting by ejaculating on canvas after all.
Ultimately, art is subjective and maybe you find these abstractions repulsive, and consider photorealism as true art; that is fine. In my short time researching for this article, I’ve even come to detest photorealism less. Well, just a little less. But it is important that we soak it all in. There’s art all around us; take a moment and breathe.
4:09 am. Fin.