Open Letter to Jonathan Jones, Art Critic for the Guardian
by Ivan Riascos
Jonathan Jones of the Guardian recently wrote an article on how photography in art galleries are flat, soulless and stupid, pointing out that photography tries to mimic painting, but is no comparison to that art form, and further more states photography is better viewed in a book or on the screen of a computer. Here is the link incase you are interested in reading the article.
Ever since reading this article I have tried to rationalize or even understand Mr. Jones why he stated this. He has the experience and knowledge to back up his statement. He is an art critic for the Guardian since 1999 and a judge for the prestigious Turner Award, but his love for painting is blinding him from seeing the beauty and validity that photography has on gallery walls. I agree with Mr. Jones opinion on how much work a painter’s hand is evident in the artwork, and how photography since its creation has been accused of trying to emulate a painting. Mr. Jones gives the example of the current Taylor Wessing Photographic Portrait Prize winner whose photo heavily references the painter Caravaggio.
Since the invention of the camera it was stated “Painting is dead,” and photography has been seen as way of replacing or competing with the medium of painting. Each medium has it weakness and strengths, over the year’s artists have reinvented and used each medium to address modern world issues maintaining their strength in the art world. Yes photographers emulate paintings, but how many painters reference a photograph or emulate it in their paintings Mr. Jones?
You cannot just assign it a viewing mode, i.e. a book, or computer monitor. The digital generation view the majority of artworks on some type of screen, before that it was books, until you view the artwork in person you do not get the full spectrum and understanding of that particular piece of art. Viewing an Andreas Gursky, Jeff Wall, or Edward Burtynsky the size, beauty, and object confronts you. If you ever looked at an Irving Penn photograph you see the beauty, quality, and the artist’s hand Mr. Jones describes when viewing a painting. It is not just a piece of paper with an image printed on it, and even if it is, does that mean printmaking and etchings should also be labeled as flat, soulless, and stupid on a gallery wall? This piece of paper with in image is a sixteenth of an inch thick or less, but it carries so much meaning, reality, truth, lies, documentation, storytelling, memory, time, beauty, ugliness, horror and enjoyment.
Mr. Jones it is a waste of time pitting two art mediums against each other, you have a right to your opinion, but simplifying how to attain a photograph does not justify your opinion. If Damien Hirst directs his assistants to paint several of the colorful circle paintings and in the end just signs his name, while a photographer creates the image from beginning to end with no aid of assistants is the hard work noticeable on the final product? Do not selectively grab on topic about painting and photography and expect it to equal it themselves out, its like comparing apples to oranges and this is not fair to the readers whose forte is not art history and able understand your attempt of simplification of two beautiful art mediums who deserve to equally be viewed in a white cube just so you can attempt to cause some buzz in the art world.
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