( this is from the original on my website and is part of my personal philosophy of art- Reality Cubed. It can also be thought of as just musing or drifting from the core or ground. The concept of the uncut block and the light of heaven are from the Chinese theory of canon heard in a lecture and contorted over time in my mind. The uncut block is any form or thought in its most accepted state which may be illuminated in the mind of the artist by the light of heaven to reveal a hidden mystery )
Realism may be seen as the attempt to capture the natural in paint.
The strength of Realism is that both the uncut block taken straight from nature and the style of the painting are true to the natural lexicon. The artist captures the uncut block intact in name, place, and utility in a manner displaying skill. Everyone recognizes the work as artistic and the creator as an artist. The viewer often experiences a moment of heightened appreciation for, say, a human face, silver vessel, or other piece of the everyday now presented in a new way or new medium. The skill may indeed be remarkable and is often remarked upon-once or twice; more if by an acknowledged Master.
Surface Realiasm is the core block of skill in painting because producing surface realism requires mastering the eye and hand of the artist. Developing this skill is the justification for the cold tedium of cast drawing or the illusions learned in the exercise of the still life. The mature artist has faith in his skill and a desire to look further, in some ways he has been illuminated to seek beyond his own surface but perhaps I project here for there are skilled artists who are content and engaged by surface realism. Many paths diverge and converge and I wish them joy of their craft.
When Van Gogh saw a chair, Durer a hare, Rembrandt the carcus of an ox, they saw and accepted the object for what its surface declares but were drawn to find a greater reality in painting this chair, hare, or ox. Surface Reality was but the door opening into the labyrinth for them, they entered seeking more, they went beyond the accepted limit.
These skilled observors, these contemplitives of paint, were called to follow the Light of Heaven beyond the illuminatiojmn of the Uncut Block to journey inward seeking a path to the undiscovered country lying within, not without. This stepping into the maze takes the artist from everything he has been taught to accept and, in a strange way, "reverses time" back toward a fluid Universe and a "fluid personhood". The artist is yet an uncut block of our reality and he ventures knowing there is a toll to be paid for travelling too far into a chair, a hare, or an ox. it is rare to even glimpse the most inner door with its seven seals, a door that opens only once and rarely for the living.
No, a point must be reached where the painting is complete and demands to be accepted for what it must be: a bit of reality to wait on a wall for those awakening before it among the legions passing before it. A painting on the wall seems so inadequate, a mere gesture like pointing a finger toward a star in the night sky. The artist is always doomed to try again.