This Is What Famous Paintings Look Like as Raw Data

Illustration for article titled This Is What Famous Paintings Look Like as Raw Data

These days, you're more likely to see the works of great artists on a screen rather than in person. And that raises an interesting question: what are you really looking at?


That's exactly what artist Yousuke Ozawa wondered, and it forms the basis for his new series Data Visualization. He explains:

Art is now seen through google images or wallpapers. However, we are actually looking at a series of numbers and letters instead of actual paint. Through a generator I retrieved the codes of each paintings I found on google images and printed them out, framed and showcased them at a galleries in Tokyo.

These images—as well as far more over on the Data Visualization website—are the result. They're an interesting prompt to make us thing about how we understand and appreciate art in the modern day. And, perhaps, a cue to get along to a gallery a little more often. [Data Visualization via Neatorama]

Illustration for article titled This Is What Famous Paintings Look Like as Raw Data



Seeing as reality only exists in our mind, this draws an artificial distinction between what Ozawa-san considers viewing the original work in person, and their digital representation.

We never experience anything directly. All perception is filtered through our senses and cognitive machinery.

At one level, what we consider to be genuine (largely thanks to a shared agreement) could itself be unreal. For example, it's impossible to prove that we are not living in a computer simulation. In which case, the "genuine" work of art could be digital too.

At another level, is seeing the whole painting in our human macroscopic scale what we are "really looking at" anyway? To an ant walking across its surface, the reality of the painting would be quite different from that of the gallery visitor (a monochrome landscape of hills and valleys, with various smells, I guess).

A chemist could say that we are looking at a collection of dyes, or pigments. A physicist could talk about electrons being excited in to higher energy levels. A neuro-scientist could talk about the computation that occurs in the eye and early visual cortex.

In other words, the genuine painting isn't actually a painting either. If we accept its physical existence for a moment, it is really a spatial arrangement of molecules absorbing certain wavelengths of light, while reflecting others. Is that more "real" than a sequence of numbers? (Physical is not the same as real.)

We could go on to talk about the aging of the paints, and the effect that different color temperature lighting has, or the effect of colored objects (like other people) reflecting back on to the painting; and go on to say, with some validity, that if you are not viewing it in the artist's studio where he or she painted it, then you are not viewing the genuine painting.

Reality is not what we think it is. So creating an exhibition based around the premise that one version of what a viewer perceives as reality is less valid than another perceived reality is completely misunderstanding the nature of reality in the first place.