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Why Paint Is Not Photography

It may sound obvious title, but really is not. Can we overlook the widespread belief that to be known what would later photography, painters felt threatened by the presence of the new medium, as well as in the eighties of the last century, swelled the idea and practice of a photo-realistic painting, and it is popular expression that is so well painted that looks like a photograph.

The truth is that the alleged threat Photo was never expressed much less felt because at that time the academic painting, a mixture of historicism, neoclassical and romantic, enjoyed excellent reputation for the quality and strength of the work carried on by the main representatives. If we compare the least skilled of these works with the best daguerreotype we realize that the scope of one and another was very different so that the public at that time would have preferred never to daguerreotype so involved neither then nor later some kind of threat.

The same kind of explanation could do about the other two observations, photo- realism, and that seems painted picture of how good you are. From last say that what looks like a compliment to the picture in the background is rather a recognition of the painting and its mimetic capacity, big is, you can even fool the trained eye posing as other means. The photo-realism, it actually appears as a concept and intent, from time to time throughout the history of painting, however that will be practiced and popular in the early 80s of XX century, is far from wanting to be a photography: first is a consequence of nomadism that begin to have the same producers who make sculpture painting, art object or photograph, the medium depends on the project and what you want to communicate with him, and secondly, what is sought is to paint like detachment or abatement of concepts such as originality, the artist’s hand, the excitement, the personality of the author, and so on., ie what is sought is not the photograph but the photographic appearance, depersonalization of execution as would a machine that records all without judgment or understand what is before them.

If despite the above would still have questions, or better yet, stay the temptation to think that there are paintings that look like photographs, take a case to show that the painting is not photography. To do this we have to enforce the work of Carlos Oviedo. The selection is not vain or random, is motivated because they are paintings of Oviedo as you move these comparisons even if this is not the intention of the authors.

The fabrics that Oviedo executes, in fact, belong to the field of naturalism, that is, with them it alludes to the natural, in this case, to the female body, as it is naturally perceived. The execution of Carlos Oviedo is of such quality that a part of his characters rather than being images are themselves – the characters – as if they were subject, trapped, stuck to the canvas; this is what we call naturalism and it is a desired effect from antiquity although not always achieved. It is, on the other hand and as you already suspect, the one responsible for the so-called photo-realism. In spite of how impressive the images of Oviedo may be (I am thinking of Classical Figure in meditation for example), a second look at them reveals to us that the naturalistic appearance is just that and that their work goes beyond; One might even say that such an appearance is only the vehicle, the means by which the painter is interested in more than reproducing images as if they were photographs. Each of the young women Carlos Oviedo paints, are the synthesis not of other women (how could they be?) But of an idea. The work of this artist is of concepts and when trying to explain them the painter does it through materializing them in painting, materialization that is not other than those delicate and fine bodies partially covered by ethereal fabrics or modest cloths. Nude and gender belong to the field of naturalism but the rest of the composition has its seat in the sensitivity and imagination of the painter. The whole has nothing to do with photography since photography could never produce a similar work. Neither the painted young women, their poses, their skin, hair and attitude, nor the fabrics that accompany them belong to the natural world, their origin and end is the painting and not even any painting, it is only the one that we would say mentally, imaginatively Carlos Oviedo. Painting is not photography, nor can it be, each medium has a different and even opposed origin, while photography depends on the causal, temporal, and physical relationship with the natural, with the real, the painting rests solely and exclusively on the cultural, social, historical, in what distinguishes us as beings different from the rest of the species, in the culture, in the artificial and this term is accurate because the painting and particularly the painting by Carlos Oviedo is an artifice, a set of knowledge that manipulated, as he does, create an appearance, an appearance that invites us to dream, to forget the natural, to embark in search of the mysteries that only the imagination creates and solves, the mysteries of these paintings that some believed They were photographs.


Xavier Moyssén Lechuga
Universidad De Monterrey