Monday, 7 March 2011

Photorealism, Projecting from a Photograph

PAINTING 2: Exploring Concepts
Part 1 – Painting in Detail

Project: Photorealism and Hyper-realism

Exercise . Photorealism – Projecting from a Photo


Ralph Rugoff, the Hayward’s director presented an Exhibition  “The Painting of Modern Life 1960s to now”.  He asserts that abstraction equates to the new academicism.   Artists such as Gerhard Richter, Richard Artschwager, Vija Celmins, Malcolm Morley and Andy Warhol, choose for their subject matter images culled from newspapers, film, and the media in general.  By producing paintings from these images a new slant of the subject matter is produced, often expanding the original idea, sometimes distancing the viewer from the reality, whereas Celmins brings an emotive quality to her work.  Rugoff, whilst being impressed with the exhibits feels that Photorealism is a dead end.  Dead End or not, there are a lot of artists out there pursuing this style of painting, maybe because it is not as demanding as elemental creativity. 

The image I chose to work with for this project was a photograph taken from the BBC Television programme Human Planet.  A young girl living in the desert was trained by her grandmother to find water.  There was only one watering hole and the desert was vast with seemingly no landmarks except to the trained eye.  Although only 12 years of age the girl leads her tribe to the spot where a single tree indicated the existence of water.  She had achieved this difficult task.  One of the images of her on her camel made me think of the mother earth figure that is exemplified in many cultures throughout the ages, including the Madonna image which for me, is one of them.  The redoubtable figures which carry their traditions, cultures and families into the present day.

I enhanced the photograph to make it more grainy and wanted to achieve the graininess of Richard Hamilton’s, Swingeing London, 67.  I found this difficult to achieve despite having found it quite easy when performing house decoration with a roller and emulsion paint, the same effect couldn’t be replicated with oil paint and I spent more time on this than on the actual portrait.

The revised image is pastel on black paper and turns the Desert Girl into a Madonna, and for fun I did a semi Cubist style pastel.


Check and Log

  • The image was perfect for what I had in mind but I did decide to create a halo effect with the enhanced graining from the photo.
  • For me the image was iconic and I was very happy with that.
  • The portrait of the girl herself was, I felt sufficiently subtle and interesting but as mentioned above, the graining which I had hoped to render did not work as well.
  • I think this method of scaling up is not as detailed as grid lines and allowed for more interpretation, but I may well use it again.

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