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Thursday, 5 January 2017

Why Photography is Better than Painting

A Painting of 3 Farmers = Far inferior to the photograph

Painting is an incredible invention. Combining the technology of animal hair with the science of paper and the ingenuity of pigments and all kinds of chemicals, painting provides an insight into the minds of artists from time immemorial.

But let's be clear on one thing. Though paintings can be great, they can also be monumentally stupid when they are framed and put on show as though the self-indulgent and loose-leafed mimicry of the artist is something we should treasure and value.

Why show paintings on the wall when they belong on the easel or in the studio where they belong. Why divorce them from the sense of place from which they came, a sense of place which combines with that sense of being and self which created them. Paintings have a place and that is where they belong.

I know this isn't a popular thing to say, and it is with great trepidation that I say it. The public do like their paintings so and can often be seen to be enjoying them. Above is a painting that I recently saw on show. I walked around the exhibtion and the audience were enthralled by it, taking in the colours and the tones and the shapes for a long, long time. This was something I simply couldn't do.

A Photograph of 3 Farmers = Far Superior to the Painting

But when I look at this painting and see it framed on the wall, I can't help but compare it to the great photographs of our time, photographs it tries but fails miserably to emulate. Where is that sensitivity of character compared to the August Sander photograph it so shamelessly attempts to copy. What depth of sorrow and loss has been lost in these few daubs of paint that the Sander captures so brilliantly through his use of photographic optics with photographic paintings? Throughout history, painters have attempted to emulate this mastery of the photographic art by using the tools of photography but to what end. The efforts of Canaletto, Vermeer, Velazquez, Da Vinci, Degas, Hockney are pitiful in comparison.

A Famous Work of Art by Velazquez

Similarly, the embarrassing daubs of paint on canvas are just blotches compared to the timeworn expression caught in Lewis Hine's photograph, made properly using a camera, film, chemicals and paper. These images have depth and soul, they have performance, participation, deceit and determination at their heart, a social complexity that goes beyond the surface smudges of these sad simulacra of creative experience that these paintings represent. These are photographs that changed the world, that made it a better place. What painting can claim that?

Painting = Shite

Photograph = Great!

It is therefore absurd to pretend that painting can in any way, shape or form can be comparable to the miracles of light and lens that have produced the great photographs of our time. And if you disagree, why not try this experiment. Look at the door on your fridge, the walls of your house and see if any of the paintings on display there have the energy, vitality or grace of the photographs on show at any number of famous galleries around the world.

Acknowledgements are due to Mr J.Jones for the inspiration.

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