I’ve just had a discussion with fellow artists about the issue of photorealism in art, and it appears that most of us have similar feelings as we work along our art journeys. It’s only in relatively recent times that we have cameras to capture images, and these days phone cameras can produce excellent quality photographs. Previously, it was the artists who were called upon to create representations of scenes and people. This is still the case, of course, but many artists are finding the attitude of some viewers towards photorealism and other styles of art extremely frustrating. Why?
Well, if we artists devote ourselves to learning to draw well and mix palettes of colour properly, then with photorealism, all we are doing is copying something as accurately as possible. The results can be impressive of course, but often lacking in life and dynamic. Personally, I am in awe of some artists who painstakingly create images that look like photographs, but nevertheless, the results to me can appear flat and rather boring, though you may beg to differ. Photorealism is a representative technique, and good luck to those who wish to make it their art journey, but where does that leave the hearts and souls of artists who want to break out into their own self-expression, and find their own styles?
I think that photorealism is actually easier, it’s a process to practise and follow, with little deviation possible. What is harder is reaching deep inside and creating something that is different, meaningful, stirring, challenging, uplifting and hopefully beautiful. Believe me, it’s a struggle, demanding courage and experimentation, failures and successes, usually with paint, blood, sweat and tears. Imagine how frustrating and disappointing it is to produce something we’re eventually pleased with, only to find that many viewers dismiss it as not ‘real art’. Even though we have to be able to do much of what photorealistic artists do and more, going beyond that flatness and taking us to a multi-dimensional inner richness not yet known.
I’m not saying that all art that is not photorealistic is great, we all have our own tastes, but if we look through those photorealistic lenses, then much that is interesting and delightful can be missed. We could try to be more open to appreciating the marks and brushstrokes, the mixed media, the different techniques, to look at the individuality of a piece, connect with the spirit of the artist and perhaps experience something new, inspiring, even healing. I like painting faces, and I do want them to look realistic, but have a growing need to add to them, mess with them a bit, and am only beginning to find ways to do that, with words, collage, and paint wherever it wants to go!
To sum up, the difference for me is that photorealism shouts “Look at me! Aren’t I amazing! Aren’t you impressed?”, whilst other styles of art whisper, “Come inside, stay a while, explore, wander, discover, dream, find something of yourself in me and buy me, or go on your way, leaving us both enriched.”