Photorealism versus Paintrealism?

Karen Sylvester’s paintings…Photorealism versus Paintrealism?

In Trinidad and Tobago the art of choice, the art that people like best, can’t get enough of, whether we like it or not, is photorealism. There are a few practitioners of note here: Peter shim, Neil Massy, Karen Sylvester, to name three of the best. They are financially successful, to the chagrin of many other serious artists who think they are more serious than that. It’s not their fault they are successful, if fault, indeed, it is. If the type of art they have chosen – or has chosen them, depends how you look at it – is what people want – not necessarily discerning collectors, but buyers, cooperate and not, who can afford the prices these fellows ask, and get – then what’s the beef with them. Not even artists can live on empty belly, it takes money to buy food, and I glad their belly full, and their wife’s’ and children’s’, too.

Except that: You really can get this type of thing anywhere, just that the scenery changes. And: what is the purpose of copying a photograph, when the photograph does it very well all on its own? And: so you can do it, just like a photograph, you have the skill, but what’s next, where. to from here? And: what about a change of subject matter, applying equal skills?

And: a little emotion: rage, despair, grief, ecstasy, joy, mirth – all those over-the-top kind of things. And: a little character, a little more …. depth. And: is it always best to give the people what they want, even for all the money (food) in the world?
After all, fulfill the potential implied in the skill and intelligence you very obviously possess – or you wouldn’t ever have achieved what you’ve already achieved. And we’re waiting for the move forward and outwards towards something more meaningful, even if it is as unsettling, as accidental as Larry Mosca’s more and more peculiar renderings of the landscapes supporting the wildlife in his pictures – interesting despite himself.

You have to eat, its true. We all do, even prostitutes, who also protest they love their work, and are providing an important and necessary service, at least to clients, and, of course, they are exploited and degraded for it. Exploitation degrades us all, and to facilitate it is to degrade yourself, your talent, your potential, your art. And there is the very real risk of getting stuck, mired in the gimmick, the technique, the virtuosity-for-virtuosity-sake effect, and the perfection of perfection, without a single sign of struggle, even a mistake here and there, surely the road to heartless, bloodless boredom, for both artist and audience alike.


The most important Art work of Carlise Chang’s and Trinidad and Tobago. Mural Nobility of Man once on the facade of the old airport. The work was distroyed dispite the outcry to save it during the airport’s renovations Moralized by Norton


Eric Williams with John Lennon where the grain of the digital print is degraded.. appalling for a photographic retrospective

As artists, we have each been given an instrument to play. There’s nothing wrong with staying in the middle of the range, but there is all that other stuff out there, at the top and bottom, bass and treble, and it seems to me a shame not to go there every now and then, if only, ultimately, to learn a little more about ourselves. For surely that is the largest and most beneficent aspect of this priceless gift (and burden) that has been given to us. – Stuart

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