This shows Honda formula one engines being machined at the Mugen factory in Japan. It features a trio of Makino CNC Machining Centres linked by a common palette loader which were producing Formula 1 engines and cylinder heads. The title of the painting – expensive tools – comes from a reference in the original magazine article.
This painting is visually exciting but it is also a conceptual photorealist work of art. Bert Ernie has chosen to use the CNC machine as a metaphor for the process of painting photorealism. Accuracy being the key to verisimilitude is represented by a metaphor in a painting of a machine that is accurate down to 1/1000th of a millimetre! The technique of photorealism only works when the painter reproduces every little detail down to the nth degree at the same time is mindful of recreating the abstract qualities of every form that comprises the source image.
This particular painting marks the first appearance of CNC machines in the oeuvre of photorealist painter Bert Ernie. With these paintings he has created a stunning work of ‘conceptual photorealism’ that merges the art of an important idea with a beautiful depiction of ‘the surface of things’. For some people this term ‘conceptual photorealism’ is better expressed with the tag of hyperrealism.
Inspired by the work of Charles Sheeler the painting is a continuation of the depiction of industrial objects by realist painters. Particularly influential is the painting ‘Suspended power’. The similarities are that both images depict large industrial machinery which is juxtaposed with (relatively minor in scale) human beings. The metaphors are obvious – sometimes mankind’s industrial creations dwarf the creators both in physical scale and importance (when taken in context of the bigger picture)
Expensive tools is an important work to the artist. It marks the first really serious attempt at painting a serious photorealistic theme – one which has often been completely ignored by art critics – that of realist painting techniques. The probability is that those critics feel that technical skills are largely irrelevant. They are wrong. An artist should always work on his technical abilities; they should also make paintings about those abilities.
Source image: Racecar Engineering Vol.4 No.3
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