Art Chowder September | October 2017, Issue 11 - Page 40

The problem with “REALISM” BY MELVILLE HOLMES “Why didn’t great painters of the past reach the level of realism achieved today by many artists?” S o runs the title to a thread on the sophisticated question-and-answer net- working website Quora. Just below this provocative question is a highly realistic looking head shot of a pretty young woman, eyes closed, mouth open, tongue curling sensuously at the corner of her mouth to taste a viscous, golden liquid dripping down her face. What isn’t noted on the Quora 1 site is that the picture, entitled California Dreamin (2015), is part of the “honey series” of portraits by German hyperrealist artist Mike Dargas (b. 1983), where supermodel Toni Garrn is depicted wearing bright red lipstick, with honey flowing over various facial expressions, and that the actual painting measures 75 x 55”! The Photograph has popularly become the measure of the “realness” of an image: the more a drawing or painting resembles a photograph the more truthful it seems, and the more highly the artist’s skill is often rated. (“Wow! It looks like a photograph!”) An article in GQ magazine 2 covering a 2016 exhibition of the artist’s work in London opens in this way, “Admit it, you thought that was a photo didn’t you?…Pixels? Not quite, that’s all oil paint.” Photo credit: Sean Davis via 40 ART CHOWDER MAGAZINE That is partly true because these imag- es, reminiscent of the much larger face portraits by photorealist Chuck Close in the 1970s, are made of meticulously applied oil color, now using very high resolution digital images instead of film photographs. Neither style is based on classical drawing, of course. Instead, a photographic image is transferred direct- ly onto the canvas with the help of a grid or a projector. Photos of Dargas’ work in progress reveal no grid lines, but finely detailed pencil outlines can be seen in areas not yet painted in, suggesting that