The discovery of the usefulness of photographs to a special form of realist painting began ten years ago. Richard Artschwager made a series of monochromes in which washes of liquitex, spread across a porous board, built up grainy images of buildings and other subjects, the veracity of which was a cross between newsprint and Daguerre. Malcolm Morley did several naval subjects in a similar monochrome before beginning in 1965 his fully polychromatic paintings of ocean liners, followed by cabin interiors. Artschwager has continued his monochromatic images, staying close to his initial style, but the work in this exhibition is concentrated on the simulation of color photography rather than black-and-white. The choice of work presumes an equivocal correlation between the status of painting and the photographic source, which means that Morley's later works, photographically derived but translated in terms of an unruly dark-keyed painterliness are excluded. What is presented here are the painters of a bright sunlit world or, at least, of bright sunlit photographs.
A few names have been proposed for this kind of painting, none of which questions its status as a form of realism. There is new realism, which overlaps too many old new realisms, to be useful. There is radical realism which has the disadvantage of originating with a dealer, thus mixing the functions of promotion and criticism. The same qualification must be attached to sharp-focus realism, a term which, whatever its origin, has been compromised by dealer use. Or there is photo-realism, adopted for this exhibition, which uses a contraction meaning photographic. I shall spell it out here as photographic realism and mean by it paintings that pertain to photography and are "suggestive of a photograph" (Random House Dictionary, unabridged).
In England the use of photographs by artists is not new: there is Sickert's well-known portrait of King George V and there is the extensive use of momentary poses and blurred forms in Francis Bacon's work.____________________