Photographs Evoke Chinese Ink Drawings

Photographs Evoke Chinese Ink Drawings

Mimicking the old with the new

 

Some artists spend years upon years practicing their hand at photorealism. It takes a lot of effort to get a painting or drawing to look exactly like the scene it's recreating, and while most photorealistic renderings don't necessarily add a lot to the art scene, they are impressive for their technical feat alone. But an equally impressive and most curious feat is to do the reverse; to create the illusion of hand-rendering in a photograph. Don Hong-Oai spent his career doing just that.

Hong-Oai's photographs could easily be mistaken for Chinese ink drawings. The black and red lettering along their sides automatically make the viewer think of those delicately drawn landscapes seen in museums of ancient art. But these images are of scenes really captured with a real camera in real time. They're not the result of a series of afternoons spent reflecting on the outdoors, but the result of a button pressed in a single moment (and a fair amount of post-processing). Philosophically, the two artistic processes are worlds apart, and yet the images they reap are nearly interchangeable. 

What does it mean, then, to manipulate the work of an instant to make it seem as though it took hours to create by hand? Perhaps Hong-Oai meant to begin a discourse on time and the evolution of the artistic process. Just because we can recreate scenes instantly doesn't mean we should. Perhaps technology has robbed us of something in exchange for ease of reproduction; maybe that quiet reflection required of tranquil ink drawings is something that we should try to approach again despite the temptations of instant communication.