A Brush with the Real: Figurative Painting Today


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Why painting today? In the digital age, with its powers of instant recall and infinite reproduction, why are we witnessing an unprecedented revival of figurative painting?

A Brush with the Real presents a survey of key contemporary artists who have each embraced painting and are working within a realist tradition. Through individual interviews the book peers into the life and work of each of these artists, discussing their methods, motives and sources, from art history to the internet and the language of film. The book celebrates the work of 51 artists who are each taking the medium in a new direction: from those who work with appropriation and found images, to those trying to get as close as possible to contemporary reality and first-hand experience, to artists who are simply using painting as a door to parallel or imaginary worlds.

The book makes the argument that, since perhaps the early Renaissance, the role fulfilled by painting has never been so vital or timely: in our image-saturated culture, digital technology has given painting and its slow, full-resolution images a new lease of life.


About the Author

Marc Valli is the founder of the retail and book-selling company Magma as well as the magazines Graphic and Elephant. His books include RGB: Reviewing Graphics in Britain, Walk the Line and Microworlds (also with Margherita Dessanay).

Margherita Dessanay graduated from the University of Cagliari with a degree in the History of Art before studying for an MA in Contemporary Art Theory at Goldsmith’s, University of London. She writes regularly for Elephant magazine and has co-written a number of books, including It’s A Stick Up! and Stencil Republic.


Publication Details

  • Hardback
  • 320 colour illustrations
  • 320 pages
  • 280 x 216 mm
  • ISBN 9781780672830
  • Published March 2014