Facade Project
Project info

When I was in London, I had a chance to walk by St Paul’s Cathedral, which was under renovation at that moment. The scaffolding with a life-size painting, an exact replica, of the cathedral covered the entire building. The trompe l’oeil of cathedral looked so real and it seemed as if the separation between reality and simulation collapsed before my naked eyes. Depending on where I stood, as my perspective shifted, the building was travelling between the realm of realism and that of simulation that brought me a surreal sensation. This strange relationship between the real object and its hyper-real mask lingered in my head, and thus, I decided to undertake my ‘Facade’ project. Looking back, my promenade to St Paul’s Cathedral was worth a lot.

There were two streams of thought in art history. One seeked to imitate the real world and the other attempted to reach the ideal. These two streams were always at odds with each other. The history of art was in dialogue between realism and idealism. As the science was advanced, it enabled artists to represent a prespetcive during the Renaissance. It offered a way to capture three dimensional reality on two dimensional plane. However, the birth of photography in 1839 usurped this proud invention of the Renaissance masters. It marked a new chapter to the history of art as an object looked so real as to appear life-like.

The photography medium made possible to convert a three-dimensional object into the fixed two-dimentional silver plate. However, if a photograph represents a two-dimensional perspective painting, does it show a three-dimensional reality or offer its mirror image? Then, what does such a photography imply? The real or the ideal? The body of work that I produced after carefully observing the St Paul’s Cathedral examines photography’s ambivalent role in representation.

From the late nineteenth century to the early twentieth century, there was a controversy between style imitating the salon-like pictorial atmosphere and that of pictorial photography. In the post-war era, new ideas such as hyper-realism and photo realism emerged. In the digital era, the boundary between painting and photography was blurred, which resulted in hybridising forms. These two genres became indistingusihable.

If the photographic technique produces a visual image to the exact size and shape of object it represents, would it be a photograph or a painting? What happens if an artist manipulated digitalised photographic image by using computer technique to enhance it much better than the previous representation?In addtion, if an artist literally photographed a photo-realist painting, is the resulting image a photograph or a painting?

I did not attemp to answer these questions through ‘Facade’ project. Rather, I explored the fluidity between the real and the ideal. My photographs portrays numerous trompe l’oeil paintings decorated on the scaffolding, the covering, and the wall. In my opinion, they are simply there to fulfill the human desire to experience the ideal in this real world. It is the desire instable in the urban spaces in our contemporary era.

March 2009
Han Sungpil