Guggenheim Fellow Shows "Repainted Photos"

9/14/2004

Artist Harry Bartnick sees similarities and differences in the media of painting and photography, yet he sees both as effective vehicles of expression when at the service of the image.

Bartnick applies his lifelong experience as a realist painter to the digitized photographs in the exhibit “Italian Journal” at the New England School of Art and Design at Suffolk University’s Gallery 28 through September 29. Bartnick, working with photographs taken in Italy over the past decade, uses the computer to, in essence, “repaint the photograph.”

“Several years ago, I made the difficult leap to computer literacy and became aware of the possibilities of altering my photographs using one of the photo-editing programs,” said Bartnick, a 2001 Guggenheim Fellow who has taught at The New England School of Art and Design since 1979. Since his first visit to Italy in 1971, Bartnick had accumulated hundreds of slides, intended for friends’ and students’ viewing.

With this wealth of imagery sitting in storage, Bartnick, who had been working in oils, decided to try digitized images.

“Seeing changes to the images happen instantly on the computer monitor was thrilling and had much to recommend itself over the inherent difficulties of dealing with painted imagery,” he said. “Also, because I have the ability to produce multiple prints of each image, I can reach a much larger audience. It helped me to understand the liberating feeling that image-makers in the 19th century felt as the new medium of photography was being developed.

“However, I realize that digital imagery has its own limitations and is not a substitute for painting. One misses the tactile, physical quality of paint. Once I’ve scanned and printed a selection of my existing slides, I will slow down the digital production and return to painting, finishing several works-in-progress.

When Bartnick began his work with digitized photographs, he became absorbed in radical, abstract color and tonal changes but, ever the realist, he moved on to refining and adjusting images that were potentially good but, for one reason or another, not quite right.

“I will, if it feels right, substitute colors, move objects and reinvent lighting, but still within a realist context,” said Bartnick. “As in my paintings, whatever the alterations to the subject matter, I always want the viewer to feel that what he is looking at could actually have existed in the ‘real’ world. It’s the resonation between reality and image that, within the context of the gripping power and sensuality of the Italian visual environment, inspires my to do this work.”

Italian Journal
Digitized photographs by NESADSU Associate Professor Harry Bartnick
August 25 - September 29
Gallery 28
75 Arlington Street

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