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The Remarkable Painting Technique of Harry Sudman, Artist
The painting technique of Harry Sudman is a paradox. It is at once traditional and contemporary, spontaneous and exacting. It owes a debt to the unconstrained nature of Ala Prima painting, yet draws on the meticulous blending and layering of the old masters. The result is an image with the immediacy of a photograph, but which harbors within it great subtlety and depth.
Like many realist painters, Sudman has been asked why he doesn’t just make a photograph of the image? Why indeed does he spend so much time building an image in paint that ultimately looks like the approximation of a photograph?
The answer is two-fold. First, the image is not merely the approximation of a photograph. In keeping with the tenets of hyperrealism, Sudman’s work uses the photographic image as a starting point and subtly amplifies and distorts, creating an image that is more real than real.
Second, the act of painting – the craftsmanship devoted to the effort – makes a personal connection between the artist and the creation. The process becomes a crucial part of the expression. The essence of the artist, his skill and talent, is infused by way of the process. So technique is a key component in defining the unique character of the artist and his work.
Sudman’s technique starts by working out the sketch on paper. He has in the past used a projector, but he is not dependent on it, as many realist painters are, and prefers to work from a sketch. In the same way, Sudman has, on occasion, relied on grid lines to render larger images, but prefers a more traditional approach to preparing the underpainting.
Having said that, Sudman doesn’t rely too heavily on the underpainting. Unlike more traditional artists, his underpainting provides mere contours without imparting too many details. Like an Ala Prima painter, Sudman fills in the details by working directly on the canvas, a more intuitive approach, less reliant on method.
Yet the physical application of the paint hearkens back to the old masters, a deeply meticulous and traditional approach that sees Sudman blending and layering to achieve a representational image, one far removed from the optical effects of globs of paint directly applied, as is the case with Ala Prima painters.
Nevertheless, Sudman paints more quickly than the old masters he emulates by employing a modern, fast drying medium. It permits him to achieve the layering of transparent colors without a long drying time. In this he has more in common with other contemporary artists.
In the final analysis, Harry Sudman’s technique is a unique balance of the contemporary and traditional, an approach that is reflected in the work itself. The art that Sudman creates is strikingly contemporary. But it is brought into being by a more traditional approach than that which is employed by other realist painters.
Sudman’s technique is spontaneous yet exacting, meticulous yet unconstrained, cerebral yet intuitive.
It is uniquely Harry Sudman.
Eroticism in the Art of Harry Sudman
The objectification of women – the reduction of their humanity to the status of an object – is a common complaint lodged against erotic art. As Lynn Hunt contends in Eroticism and the Body Politic, women become little more than a projection of the desires of the male, so that women are “still more often the object of the artist's or writer's gaze than… the subjects of their own representing processes” .
Back in the 1970’s this was one of the main objections of radical feminists to magazines like Playboy and Penthouse. They decried images that were exaggerated and distorted to excite male sexual arousal. They claimed that the women in these images were being taken advantage of, exploited.
Yet to the extent that any image has been manipulated to elicit a reaction, it can be argued that the viewer is as much exploited as the subject. Indeed, with eroticism, a tacit agreement seems frequently to exist between the subject and the viewer: the female agrees to distort herself to manipulate, the male agrees to be manipulated.
Nevertheless, it is argued that this complicity requires a self-objectification of the female. As Emily Apter puts it “'some profound, masochistic will to self-objectification (evident, at a superficial level, in a woman's desire to make herself into a sex object)...doll-like affectations, narcissistic displays of isolated parts of the body, and the faked orgasm are just so many modalities of this essentially artificial sexuality'.
Yet if the female employs a mode of artificiality to induce a reaction in the male it does not always have to be of the simpering, coy, kittenish kind. In the art of Harry Sudman the females are strong, their latex, piercings and tattoos speak of a gritty toughness, their postures defiant. At a visceral level they simultaneously intimidate and attract.
Sudman’s hyperrealistic technique heightens this dichotomy, underlining the sexual tension in the work. His depiction of sex is suggestive, tinged with an element of danger. For a male viewer this kind of eroticism hints at power, and yet almost all this power resides in the figure of the female; and this approach, administered through his hyperrealistic technique, makes the subject appear stark, commanding, more real than real, giving her a dominant role and turning the old argument against eroticism on its head. Who is being exploited here? Who being taken advantage of?
Indeed, if someone is being reduced to a subservient role, if someone is being objectified, these paintings speak clearly to the assertion that it is not the woman.
Sudman’s paintings challenge traditional concepts of eroticism. While his images are undoubtedly alluring, they are at the same time uncompromising. This is no soft focus, come-hither pose. This is something dangerous and exciting.
Ultimately, at the heart of Harry Sudman’s work lies a compelling paradox, Sudman’s paintings employ hyperrealism to express an enigma, the vague and shifting definitions of the erotic, and, more deeply, the disparate and varied nature of human sexual attraction.
 Lynn Hunt ed., Eroticism and the Body Politic (London 1991) p. 13
 Emily Apter, in Hunt ed., Eroticism p. 170
Hyperrealism and the Philosophy of Jean Baudrillard
In a short story by Jorge Luis Borges a country creates an extremely detailed map that has a scale of one mile to the mile. In short, the map is the same size as the country with all the detail of the country. The map expands or retracts as the empire gains or loses territory.
But then one day the country collapses suddenly with such rapidity that all that remains is the map. Yet this is not as tragic as it at first appears, for the map suffices in the absence of the country. The simulation is as good as the reality.
Although the story doesn’t go so far, the philosopher Jean Baudrillard imagines what could happen next. The actual country is forgotten, but the map carries on. The simulation now represents nothing. It is its own reality, and can be manipulated or changed at will. It can be amplified or muted. 
Imagine a city that grows so fast it completely eradicates the natural world. As Joni Mitchell puts it, “They have paved paradise and put up a parking lot.” Then one day the people of the city look around and decide that what’s needed are a few trees, some grass, maybe some flowers and shrubs. So they bring them in, dig holes in the pavement for them, grow them and nurture them.
Soon the people of the city begin to shape the shrubs and graft the plants. They are building their own reality, one that mimics the natural world, amplifies it, changes it. Their simulation of reality is more real than the nature it mimics. The actual natural world is long gone, buried under the pavement of the city, but the simulated world is vibrant and growing, and eventually loses its reference to the actual world it replaced.
This view is at the heart of the philosophy of Jean Baudrillard who asserts that in the post-modern world there is no such thing as reality, only the simulation of reality. In such a world objects have no actual meaning, since they have lost their original referent. Consequently, meaning is created through difference – through what something is not (so "bird" means "bird" because it does not mean -"frog “, not-"cow", not-"stone", etc.). The object becomes situated in a web of meaning. It is only understood in reference to other objects within the same web, and this complicates things. 
As man searches for meaning he becomes lost, confused, groping through a vast array of reflective referents. Eventually he becomes seduced, chasing one set of interpretations to the very pinnacle of its implications, which is itself a simulated version of reality. This intense focus on a single set of interpretations, a restricted yet overemphasized interpretation of meaning is what Baudrillard terms hyper-reality. 
In the paintings of Harry Sudman the philosophy of Baudrillard resonates. As with other hyper-realist artists, Sudman’s subjects appear so intensely real, so even beyond reality, that the viewer’s first reaction may be to take a step back with a feeling that they’ve been provoked. In a sense they have. The confrontational nature of hyper-realism is owing to the heightened concentration on a single version of the truth, a version we may not be entirely comfortable with, even though we are fascinated by it, seduced by it.
Baudrillard’s post-modernist world view is exemplified throughout modern culture. Wherever a restricted yet overemphasized interpretation of meaning is clustered around a subject that is vague or nebulous we are seeing it. From processed foods to overproduced music. From mega-churches to the news media. We are seeing a set of interpretations intensely and insistently applied – put forward as “the truth”- to a subject whose original referent is vague or elusive.
Baudrillard would say that, to their adherents, these versions of reality are real, more real in fact, than what they are trying to interpret.
Like the map that has come to stand in for the country, they are all that we have. Yet they are subject to manipulation and prone to distortion, and if we are not totally bought into their version of reality, they may cause us to take a step back for a moment, before we become seduced.
1 Jean Baudrillard. Simulacra and Simulations. The Precession of Simulacra. European Graduate School.
2 see here Baudrillard's final major publication in English, The Intelligence of Evil, where he discussed the political fallout of what he calls "Integral Reality"
3 Wikipedia contributors, “Jean Baudrillard.”Wikipedia, The Free Encyclopedia, http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Jean_Baudrillard Retrieved 2010-02-27
Jean Baudrillard, European Graduate School; Jesus and the Devil, Sudman Art
Hyperrealism: A Version of Reality Beyond the Photographic
Art that makes you stop and look again. That’s a good description of the striking genre of painting known as hyperrealism. A simple glance may make you think it’s merely a photograph. But let the eye linger a moment longer and you will sense something’s up. This is photographic reality, yes. But it’s something more. Hyperrealism is distinguished from photorealism because it uses the photographic image as a departure point. While strict photorealists strive to imitate the photographic image1, hyperrealists build on it, creating a more sharply defined, meticulously detailed image, a version of reality that goes beyond the photographic. 2
The hyperrealist paintings of Harry Sudman, like most other paintings in the genre, honor the philosophic thinking of Jean Baudrillard in striving to achieve “the simulation of something which never existed.” 3 His oversized panels blow up the original photographic source material ten to twenty times. His lighting and shading effects lend a tangible solidity and a striking presence to the subject matter. His use of fragmentation – breaking up the images into separate panels punctuated by squares of color – creates a pulsating affect, as if bursts of color and image have been stitched into the wall. Like most hyperrealist paintings, Harry Sudman’s paintings confront the viewer with a new sense of reality.
Confrontation is part of the thematic underpinnings of hyperrealism. Because photorealism grew out of the Pop Art movement of the 50’s and 60’s, those paintings tend to be acutely mechanical with an emphasis on the commonplace. 4
Hyperrealist paintings, by contrast, use the amplification of reality to provoke. Hyperrealist painters like Denis Peterson and Latif Maulan have tackled subject matter as harrowing as poverty and genocide. 5│6 Harry Sudman’s work gets at the idealization or eroticism, using the confrontational nature of hyperrealism – its heightened color and sharp definition – to peer through the soft focus of conventional eroticism to the stark reality beneath.
It’s art that makes you stop and look twice. It confronts and heightens. It takes traditional photography and uses it as a springboard to something more. Hyperrealism is a genre for our time, a way of reaching beyond the merely mechanical to a world of intriguing possibilities.
1 Chase, Linda, Photorealism at the Millennium, The Not-So-Innocent Eye: Photorealism in Context. Harry N. Abrams, Inc. New York, 2002. pp 14-15.
2 Meisel, Louis K. Photorealism. Harry N. Abrams, Inc., Publishers, New York. 1980. p. 12.
3 Jean Baudrillard, "Simulacra and Simulation", Ann Arbor Mich.: University of Michigan Press, 1981
4 New Britain Museum of American Art - Educational Resources
5 Robert Ayers, Art Critic, “Art Without Edges: Images of Genocide in Lower Manhattan”, Art Info June 2, 2006
6 Daniel Boorstin, The Image: A Guide to Pseudo-Events in America (1992). ISBN 978-0-679-74180-0