Technique and painting, hyperrealism and communication
When it comes to painting, since ancient times, it goes round and round often we end up debating on this age-old topic: must the painter be able to remake reality exactly as it appears and how everyone sees it?
In ancient Greece it was up to Parrasio and Zeusis to deceive flies and people with grapes and tents. Michelangelo praised himself by hammering his Moses for lack of speech and so on.
In summary, the ability to perfectly imitate reality is deserving and a sign of talent and technical skills.
Today, thanks also to robust technical aids such as Photoshop, tablets, enlargers, photography etc., making a painting perfectly similar to reality is within the reach of almost everyone. Time, application (the famous 10,000 hour rule, with the necessary premises) and a minimum of capacity ensure the result.
There are more and more frequent, in social networks and in the news, images that look like very detailed photographs and that, instead, are "handmade" (or almost) by "hyper-realist" painters.
Hyper-realism was born in the 1970s as a reaction to the world of media under the name "photorealism"; then the gallery owner Louis K. Meisel will invent the name “hyper-realism”.
As is well known, the human eye is unable to grasp the details and details of reality. The process of vision is like a gigantic mental "puzzle" solved in fractions of a second by our mind, combining the images that the eyes collect by jumping quickly from one point of reality to another.
In these paintings or prints, however, the details are sharp and precise in every part of the image and therefore the vision is superior to reality itself.
The pioneers of this discipline were Paul Cadden nicknamed "the photographer in pencil" who by copying photographs, especially of wrinkled faces that facilitate the "Wow!" Effect, exposes his talent.
Richard Estes specializes in chrome phone booths and color metropolitan views.
Our local Luciano Ventrone, protege of the late art critic Federico Zeri, prefers baskets of fruit and split watermelons.
Gregory Thielker delights in making paintings as if they were covered by a wet glass full of droplets.
All virtuous of a technique that on the one hand amazes and amazes like a sleight of hand, but which in its maximum expression results in “being like a photograph”.
It reminds me of a joke that actor Laurence Olivier addressed to Dustin Hoffman during the filming of "Marathon Runner".
Sometimes shooting was delayed because Dustin Hoffman wanted to run for miles to "get into character", to be "true".
At which Olivier said to him: “Dustin, it would be enough to recite”.
The link with the discourse on hyper-realism is: where does this way of painting lead?
Having mastery of the technical means is essential to be able to express oneself, but if virtuosity is an end in itself what is the meaning?
Take for example Vincent Van Gogh's "Sunflowers": would painting them by detailing them down to the most intimate color of the pistil would have added or removed expressiveness to the image?
And what does the photographic copy of the watermelon seeds in a painting by Ventrone tell us?
I want to close by telling a personal episode that took place in the second half of the last century.
At that time I was attending the Brera art high school because after winning the parish drawing competition for two years and having collected the traditional "... but did you do it?" from relatives to whom I showed my drawings, my vocation was clear.
In the classroom there was me and a friend of mine Bruno, he the son and grandson of cartoonist illustrators, whom we knew how to "copy" from life.
In the "ornate" hours (as the hours devoted to free drawing without models were called), after the compulsory "tables" of the program, everyone could choose how to perfect themselves and Bruno and I decided to continue "copying" images, taking photographs suggestive and painting them in tempera or pastels according to the subject, but strictly identical to the original.
The teacher, a very young set designer and still in profession in theaters all over the world, who had not interfered with our choices, one day passing to check the work told us: "When you stop being parrots and start singing your song will be a good day. "
It was clear from the word "parrots" that it was a criticism, but honestly the exhortation was not very clear to me.
I went to ask justifying myself: "But teacher, I'm training to paint well"
Answer "And what do you want to tell me different from what that photo tells me?"
Did he want to put me in crisis? He succeeded in full.
It was easy to get to class during the "ornate" hours and to copy photographs, which modestly came very well. I didn't even need to think. It was like drawing a "mandala" or filling those sketchbooks with numbers.
But if I had to tell something, I had no escape: I had to connect the brain.
And, what is even more challenging, to have something to tell.
That day my career as a copier ended and I began that of a student of painting and art.
I have no truth about my palette, but that day I was given an extra criterion to understand the art of painting.