By MIKE CHAIKEN
With everyone and their mother slinging a smartphone with a decent camera in it, and those same people posting photographs of everything and anything they see on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram, the question is begging to be asked: Is representational visual art on canvas passé and beside the point?
And the answer from the four artists in the “Keepin’ It Real” art show opening Saturday is a resounding “No!” Representational art on canvas still has its place in the creative world.
Paris in Plantsville Gallery and Studio on West Main Street in Plantsville is presenting “Keepin’ It Real,” which puts the spotlight on four artists— Ajay Brainard, Sean Michanczyk, Charles Santarpia, and Eric Stegmaier— who are touted by the gallery as being “on the forefront of the re-emerging representational art scene.”
Press materials from the gallery explain, Brainard “explores the complex cycle of life to death and the balance between hope and despair that exists in nature.” Michanczyk “navigates his thoughts through trompe l’oeils.” Santarpia’s paintings “represent a modern revision of the American Realism of the early 20th Century. “ And Stegmaier “focuses on the essence of single yet profound moment in time.”
“Although digital images produced by a smartphone (or any other camera for that matter) serve their purpose of the documentation of events,” Santarpia said, “representational art is, to me, a human interpretation of reality. Although my work is often considered photorealistic, it in reality serves to highlight classical proportions and the interplay of light and dark in a manner completely dictated by my intent. That is to say, it is reality as I have interpreted it, and not necessarily an exact copy of a scene as a photo would be. I often add or remove elements, change hues, contrast, size and/or placement of elements in a scene to tell the story I want to tell.”
“Although the main focus of representational art is creating a likeness of a particular subject, it is the artists’ own personal creative decision as to what they are going to paint and how an image will be composed,” said Brainard, regarding the validity of the form in the 21st century. “I feel that it is vital that the artist has a passion for what he/ she does. That passion will undoubtedly come through during the creative and technical process.”
“As a representational artist, I am not interested in creating a photographic image that is void of my own unique vision and interpretation,” said Brainard.
Michanczyk said, “Representational art to me is still valid because it is the true basis on what beautiful art was based upon. I firmly believe it is important to know your craft if you want to call yourself an artist. Shape, form, color, value, perspective, composition, are the building blocks to any piece of art to be visually appealing and successful, whether it’s abstract or not, these elements must not be forgotten…and I think representation art is the most challenging to achieve those elements. Some ask what is more important – the idea or the process…representational art is both.”
Stegmaier said, “The act of applying pigment to a support in such a way that it represents a recognizable object is, to me, a form of visual alchemy. The ability to make an object look three dimensional on a two dimensional surface is magic.”
Stegmaier continued, “I don’t think there’s any creativity in simply making a painting look like a photograph, that’s just talent. It’s the life that the artist gives to the piece that makes it creative. It’s also in the subject matter and composition. Representational art will always be a valid act of creativity because it is accessible to everybody. In my painting ‘The Unveiling,’ I could have simply painted the basilica to look like any photograph, but the creativity is in the lighting and the atmosphere- it’s getting the viewer’s eyes to move exactly where you want them to and to get the viewer to experience the grandiosity of the architecture through scale and perspective.”
From a personal point of view, Brainard said representational art holds appeal because it “has always been the challenge of accurately portraying a subject. The intense study of not only the object that I choose to paint, but the technical skills that are required as well. I fully enjoy the countless hours at the easel attempting to mix the right color, placing it in the correct location, representing the right shapes and tones. Each painting generates its own diverse challenges and the desire to resolve those challenges is what continues to motivate me.”
“I love the physicality of the completed painting,” said Santarpia. “The fact that it is a tangible object that I have created, which is a physical representation of the images and thoughts contained in my mind (is appealing). You could stand next to me and look at the same urban scene, you could see the same light hitting the same structures, but you cannot know what I feel looking at that scene unless I create a tangible representation, filtered through my thoughts, for you to view.”
In regards to his personal affinity to representational art, Stegmaier said “That’s a hard question to answer- it’s like trying explain why a particular color is your favorite. It just resonates with me. I’m an analytical person and I find comfort in using recognizable objects as tools to get my point across- whatever it may be.”
Michanczyk said he has always been drawn to representational art because “it’s up front, and does not always have a hidden agenda or meaning. I believe artwork should be enjoyed by any class of people, and anyone who may not ‘understand’ art. To me, if the artwork is beyond someone’s comprehension, it has failed.”
When an artist decides to paint an object, invariably, they choose a point of view and invests it with some sort of emotion they feel toward it. And, in turn, the artist is trying to evoke an emotion in the viewer.
Brainard said, “On a purely visual level, I am attempting to depict the sheer beauty and wonder of an object. I am also attempting to pay homage to these objects that may otherwise be forgotten or overlooked. On a more personal level, I am creating autobiographical narratives. My paintings are evocative representations of myself, my most intimate fears, thoughts, dreams and sorrows are all exposed.”
“I just want the viewer to feel something. Anything. Whether it’s a memory of their past or distant emotions that are not always present, I’ll be satisfied either way,” ” said Michanczyk. “ My paintings are generally made for myself, my emotions and memories, a kind of therapy, so to be able to display that to others is great because I have to chance to now connect with total strangers.”
“A few years ago I was sitting in a room in which the sunlight was pouring through the window, creating a kaleidoscope of light on the floor,” said Stegmaier. “For some reason, the serenity of that scene resonated with me and I realized that it was not due to the light or the floor alone. It was the combination of both those things at that precise moment in time that captivated me. Everyone has, at some point or another, experienced a really profound moment without any idea as to what, exactly, makes that moment so special. I try to dissect moments like that to figure out what the ingredients are. If I can visually depict those ingredients, then I will have successfully preserved that moment forever. “
“Keepin’ It Real” runs from Sept. 7 to 28 at Paris In Plantsville, 15 West Main St., Plantsville, An opening reception will be held Saturday from 6 to 9 p.m, A closing reception will be held on Saturday, Sept. 28 from 6 to 9 p.m.