During the 1970s, artists rebelled against painting and the prevailing formalism, embracing aspects like the theatrical dimension of artworks and the relationship between the public and the object: installations instead of paintings, sites instead of sculptures, performance pieces instead of images. Paradoxically, while reducing painting to its formal specificity ended up eradicating it, the application of the same principles to film endowed it with truly revolutionary potential. In their search for the characteristics intrinsic to the medium, artists like Malcolm Le Grice (Plymouth, 1940) rid themselves of the narrative and causality of traditional film to investigate the specific possibilities of the moving image.
In the hands of contemporary artists, authenticity in photographic or video images has been demoted. No longer a mark of reality, it has become a symbol and a representation system that is as flawed, subjective and distorted as a painting. This is seen clearly in Immergence (2004) by Ailbhe Ni Bhriain (Galway, 1978) and Seeing Is Believing (2001) by Ellen Harvey (Farnborough, 1967), which contrast two spaces of representation (painting/photography) which are ultimately equivalent.
Contemporary artists certainly owe a great debt to established artistic trends and movements, from surrealism to conceptual art. But what is most interesting is that they have created their own mock version of art history with video and photography, taking this concept far beyond a specular game as in Rembrandt Fecit 1669 (1977) by Jos Stelling (Utrecht, 1945), a film that surprises the viewer, filming reality as if it were a painting by Rembrandt.
The collapse of the monolithic concept of history has also given way to personal histories and the subjective reinterpretation of events, places and historical moments, as seen in the work by Jean-Marie Straub (Metz, 1933) and Danièle Huillet (Paris, 1936 - Cholet, 2006), Une visite au Louvre (2004), and Jean-Luc Godard (Paris, 1930) in Liberté et Patrie (2002), which takes the viewer through his favourite paintings, landscapes, sounds and places.
Takehito Koganezawa (Tokyo, 1974) films the neon lights of Tokyo as if they were paintings, Magdalena Fernández (Caracas, 1964) draws ‘with film’, animating geometric figures and lines and Joan Wallace (New York, 1959) creates an abstract painting by exploding a red velvet cake before our eyes. This group of cinematic ‘paintings’ invites viewers to investigate the relationship between the canvas and the screen just a little bit more closely.