Expensive tools

Expensive tools

A photorealist painting of three Makino 4-axis CNC machines in the Mugen Honda factory

Photorealist painting - Expensive Tools
Click on image to see full size

At first appearance the painting’s subject is the man operating the machine. On one level that is indeed the subject but I actually intended this painting to be a metaphor. That metaphor is about photorealist painting. I wanted to talk about the genre that I ‘belong’ to and the techniques that we employ.

  • This painting is the first one where at the end of its completion I realised it was an absolute masterpiece.
  • Since that time I have failed so many times to get noticed by the ‘art world’ and they have steadfastly refused to engage with me. Only recently I understood why. The vast majority of people who make money (curators, critics etc) are art wankers. Almost all of them are mindless muppets repeating the same old set of ‘statis quo knowledge’.
  • Remember how Vincent van Gogh was ignored? Nothing has changed. And yes I am comparing myself to van Gogh.


Dimensions: 62x82cm.
Painted: 2002.
Materials: Acrylic on MDF board.
Availability: For sale $7500.

The story behind Expensive Tools

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 was 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. I have 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 millimeter! 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 my oeuvre. With these paintings, I have created stunning works 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 apparent – sometimes mankind’s industrial creations dwarf the creators both in physical scale and importance (when taken in the context of the bigger picture).

Expensive tools is an important work for me. 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 mostly 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

Photorealist painting - Expensive Tools - Detail 1
Photorealist painting – Expensive Tools – Detail 1
Photorealist painting - Expensive Tools - Detail 2
Photorealist painting – Expensive Tools – Detail 2
Photorealist painting - Expensive Tools - Detail 3
Photorealist painting – Expensive Tools – Detail 3
Photorealist painting - Expensive Tools - Source image
Photorealist painting – Expensive Tools – Source image
Photorealist painting - Expensive tools - Wall mockup
Photorealist painting – Expensive tools – Wall mockup

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