the contemporary concept of realistic paintings

The realisation that art is a reflection of reality gives us the whole picture

Since the beginning of the 19th century art world has undergone a succession of changes that redefined the relationship between paintings and the objects to which they refer. The painting is no longer seen as a duplication of the real world. Rather, it is a way of revealing the invisible, of creating ideas as opposed to representing the reality.

This idea dominates the contemporary art world, from the defiant Dadaist artworks to the conceptualists’ ideology of ‘art as ideas’. Painting as a means to photocopy the reality seems banal. Historically, the traditional realistic paintings tended to ‘duplicate’ the reality since the technology of photograph was underdeveloped before the 19th century.

The revolutionary change of the art world raised questions as the development of photography technology freed paintings from the obligation to replicate realities. Do realistic paintings still have a position in contemporary art? how can we see realistic paintings, given that they value no more than a cluster of duplications? In contemporary artists’ eyes, realistic paintings are deprived of ideas and have been completely given away to the objects from which they copy.

The glow of realistic paintings seems faint as the value of replication has been superseded by advanced photography. However, instead of fixing our eyes on the depreciated value of duplication why can not we evaluate realistic paintings through the lens of contemporary concepts?


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By rosalind wang: arts Columnist


Like most of the contemporary artworks do not mean what they present to audiences, realistic paintings contain meanings that go beyond the verisimilitude. They resemble mirrors that reflect the world around us. Lacan believes that before seeing the reflection in the mirror the ‘self’ is fragmented. Without the mirror what we can perceive are mere parts of our bodies. It is the mirror that integrates the ‘body of self’ and enables the person to know his/her ‘self’.

Thanks to the distance that the mirror creates between the person and his/ her reflection, this person beholds his/her self as a whole. Just as the eyes are parts of the body, we are also parts of this world. ‘Being a part of this world’ makes us unable to capture the whole picture of the world. We need a distance to see and know the integrated world. Realistic paintings, in this sense, piece up what comes to be piecemeal together and enable us to perceive the world in the distance.

This is the position that a realistic painting stands, not as a dull duplication of the world but as a reflection that enables a better understanding of the world around us.


MACKAYAN: realistic paintings