Gregory Thielker paints amazing photo-realistic depictions of the world as seen through a rain-splattered car window. "These paintings became a way to explore... how the driving experience informs our basic interpretation of environment," he says.

I mean: Wow! It's hard not to be impressed by the sheer technical skill that's required to paint something that looks like, you know, a photo. But there's so much more than that! Do you mind if I nerd out, just for a minute? Because, look, and I know some of you have very little patience for the kinds of questions that could be described, maybe a little uncharitably, as "dorm room philosophy," but: What does it mean, here, that the referent we're talking about is "photograph" and not "reality"? And if we think of "photography" as, uh, more or less interchangeable with reality—and I'm talking just, in daily life, here, not in our Art Theory 401 class—well, what does it mean to be working in a hyper- or photo-realistic tradition in 2010? Or, in other words, if we already have a system of recording reality far more faithful and accurate (pretend I am making scare quotes around all these words with my hands, by the way) than, you know, the artist's brush, or whatever lame phrase you want to use, why bother? I mean, I don't really know the answer! Or, I guess, the answer is, because it allows you (the artist or the viewer, whichever) to explore the complicated relationship between art and reality, the long history of mimesis, the way our experiences are mediated through representation etc. And made all the more complicated by the conscious choice of a pre-modern mode of representation! Right?

And the beauty of what Thielker's doing here is that he's art-ing about mediation by depicting mediation itself—the way the world is mediated through our car windows—and not just, you know, your eye glasses, or whatever, but the very explicitly modern, and industrial, and technological, and generally-agreed-to-be-bad-for-everything automobile. So you've got this pre-modern style depicting a modern phenomenon, which is a dissonant-enough kind of situation to start with. But it's also that the pre-modern style is mimicking a modern mode of mediation in its depiction of another modern mode of mediation. But! And! This is the coolest part! It's not just car windows, right? It's the water on those car windows! Which is not, like, pre- or post- or any kind of modern, really. It's "organic" and "natural" in a way car windows and photographs and even oil paints aren't. And yet it's the most distorting of any of the mediating actors. Right? So look: You've got "the world." Which is being seen through water droplets. Which are seen through a car window. Which is "seen" by a photograph. Which is "seen" by an artist, on his canvas. (Which is "seen," by the way, by another photograph, which is "seen" by a scanner, which is being seen by you on your computer monitor.) But the thing is, the whole process is also, like, photography is being "seen" by oil painting; the naked eye is being "seen" by photography. Or something. (And also, all of this is being "seen" by the watchful eye of history, experience, "art," etc., which is, you know, the "point," I think.)

Well, anyway, sorry. That maybe didn't make sense? Please enjoy the pretty pictures anyway. The pencil and graphite artist Elizabeth Patterson makes very similar drawings, though obviously not in oil paints, and the blog Visual Inventory (run by Jeff Ramirez, himself a photorealistic-type artist) collects some other photorealistic-style artists. [via BuzzFeed]

These Are Not PhotographsS

[Image by Gregory Thielker]

These Are Not PhotographsS

[Image by Gregory Thielker]

These Are Not PhotographsS

[Image by Gregory Thielker]

These Are Not PhotographsS

[Image by Gregory Thielker]

These Are Not PhotographsS

[Image by Gregory Thielker]

These Are Not PhotographsS

[Image by Gregory Thielker]

These Are Not PhotographsS

[Image by Gregory Thielker]

These Are Not PhotographsS

[Image by Gregory Thielker]