Exhibiting Art in Cyberspace

by John Karl

Rooftop Garden, 18 x 24, Oil on Canvas, 1990. by John Karl
Using reproductions, such as 35mm color slides, to assess oil paintings immediately deprives us of some of their important qualities; texture, scale, and the dichromatism of oil paintings are gone.

But viewing fine oil paintings on a computer monitor even does them a greater injustice -- so much so, that I really equivocate about having a web page at all. The color scheme of all computer monitors, using three broad-band phosphors (whether CRT, active or passive LCD), simply cannot come close to duplicating the rich tones in many oil paintings. This may seem strange for 16-bit color monitors that have 65536 different color combinations. But in many cases, none of these 65536 colors are the right ones. At first, that may seem hard to believe, but imagine trying to paint a fine tonal painting with just three pigments. You could if the pigments were infinitely narrow banded -- but they are not. Neither are the receptors in the scanners that are used to produce these images. Also complete standardization among different types and makes of color scanners and monitors is yet to be fully achieved. Consequently, many of the images in my cyber gallery are not a fair representation of the original oil painting.

For example, After Dinner, when viewed in the natural light of my studio, glows with rich tones, dramatically showcasing the white sweater and blouse of the dinner guest against the darker hues of the background. But on my laptopís LCD display, After Dinner is way too dark and cannot be corrected with any amount of digital compensation. I have no way of knowing how it might appear on your monitor. Rooftop Garden seems to have the correct contrast on my computer display, but the color tones are all wrong. I could not correct them for my monitor; they are probably untrue on yours also.

As an artist, I take some satisfaction (with irony) that these paintings cannot be satisfactorily reproduced mechanically or electronically. If they could, one of the most valuable and enjoyable characteristics of fine painting -- their rich tonality -- would be cheapened by mass production and reproduction. In spite of these severe limitations, I offer my art for your viewing, and hopefully for your enjoyment, so that artists, dealers, collectors, and art aficionados might have one more avenue of interaction.

Rooftop Garden, 18 x 24, Oil on Canvas, 1990. by John Karl
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