Anyone should be able to appreciate the work that goes into producing these paintings. While you can of course study them for a long time, there is not necessarily any deep or hidden meaning behind the paintings, as there might be with some forms of abstract painting. It is clear what is being depicted, and therefore clever titles are unnecessary. There is no need to try and find meaning. If you really wanted to, you might like to speculate about how the artist’s choice of subject matter somehow reflects his personality, but this too I think defeats the purpose of the work. If you find meaning in an abstract painting, really it is a personal thing. If it happens to match what the artist intended, you can award yourself points, but really a lot of abstract painting can mean just about anything. If the artist explains his intentions, you might then be able to say “ooh, yes, I see what you mean”, but should you have to have an art work explained to you? With photorealism, there is no need for any of this, there is a complete lack of ambiguity – it does what it says on the tin. If it’s a painting of a tin, you know that’s what it is, in fact, you’ll be absolutely certain that’s what it is, and a damn fine looking tin it will be.
What advocates of photorealism are proposing then is a return to more traditional painting, perhaps getting back to reality. And for many art lovers, it would be a welcome, and overdue return. At the moment, in my opinion, photorealist art is selling for very reasonable prices – Tjalf Sparnaay – who is at the forefront of the movement – sells his work for between £20,000-£40,000. Too expensive perhaps for the average household to have in their living rooms, and I don’t imagine there are many cheap prints doing the rounds at the moment either. But perhaps if photorealism became more popular, this might then mean that more homeowners would be prepared to put more thought into their choices of images for the walls than just mindlessly choose something that looks pretty, and is cheap to buy from Ikea.
For the people that can afford to actually buy original art, I would say that buying photorealism now would be shrewd investing, with a secondary market (ie. the opportunity to make profit) beginning to take off.
Of all the paintings I’ve seen at the Plus One Gallery, I think Pedro Campos’s “Grapes and Apple” is possibly my favourite. It is of course, an extremely traditional choice of subject – a still life of some fruit – but it is clearly a modern painting, because the fruit are contained in a see-through plastic bag, and in fact it is the incredible detail in the bag that I admire the most. However, I still remember when speaking about the painting with one of the curators at Plus One, the difficulty I had in referring to “the bag”. It seemed strange to be describing that I liked the work put into this aspect of the painting, and to refer to it as a “plastic bag”, that most disposable of objects, seemed somehow to belittle the worth of the painting! But this I think also encapsulates the talent of the photorealist – to be able to be so fully engrossed in the painting, so that every small detail is given equally worthy attention.
This article first appeared in Issue 3 of Square magazine
For more info about all of these artists, and their work, visit www.plusonegallery.com, or better still, visit the gallery itself in London. For information about Tjalf Sparnaay, his website is www.tjalfsparnaay.nl or for Pedro Campos, go to pedrocampos.net