Written by: Maggie Bollaert
Published on: EF Magazine
Published date: November 2023
Hyperrealism is defined as a figurative art form of superlative precision and exceptional clarity. It is the most direct visual expression of art omitting the literal understanding of both abstract and conceptual ideologies, focuses on the outstanding skill of creating such a heightened replication and intense realism which is almost unbelievable. It has proved to be an optimistic art that asserts humanities ability to create beautiful compositions and invent wonderful visions. In short, this is an art form of commitment, passion and self-expression.
The end of the 19th century saw the birth of Photography and the effect it had on the painter, whose skills became redundant in a time when the main purpose of art was to document life, this opened new opportunities for artists as they became free to pursue other possibilities. The initial genre to directly employ the use of photography through commercial advertisements and packaging was Pop Art, followed closely by the Photorealist artists which recreated the photograph in their paintings utilising the photograph as the only reference point and replicated it to the point of an exact rendition of the photo including any photographic effects and defects. The term hyper-realism appeared in the early 1970s to describe a resurgence of particularly high-fidelity realism in painting and in sculptures. It was the natural progression stemming from the likes of Photorealism and Pop Art but without the confines of both movements.
Hyperrealism is a distinctly modern movement with obvious antecedents in Photorealism, along with Pop Art and Precisionism. Photorealism was the total rendition and recreation of its subject, taking realism to its literal conclusion. Hyperrealism, by contrast uses the original photograph as a starting point rather than the end goal. Hyperrealism focuses on the visual reality and beyond, standing as a strong alternative to the conceptual art which has been so dominant within contemporary art practice, it satisfies the visual needs of the viewer. Artists of this genre examine and respond to reality in a very specific way, acknowledging the camera as a tool, and utilising the possibilities it offers to capture a moment in time, and the magic of that instance. The attention to detail, immense precision and amount of skill that goes into these works of art is reflected through the monumentality and diverse subject matter present in the paintings. At times, it can prove almost beyond visual ability. There are no brush marks or textures between the image and the viewer, and a direct and precise image is conveyed without the imposition of the artist’s personality in the form of gestures.
Hyperrealism, coloured by a European sensibility and depth of Art History, has different qualities to much that has been made in America. The scene has become more diverse in both where it is exhibited and in style and its increased visibility within the art market is proving to be influential on younger artists. There is an international dialogue and followers of leading artists, all of which adds to the momentum, and the notion of a movement. The movement attempts a realism beyond that of the source: more vivid, more emotive, sharper, brighter. It is selective when it comes to the characteristics of the source photographs, and more responsive, more personal, more flexible than Photorealism. The artists in this movement are not afraid to portray more picturesque compositions whereas Photorealist’s depict a more unequivocal rendition of the photograph. Although Hyperrealism is clearly aided by the camera, these artists push the boundaries: the camera is just another tool as is a brush or an easel. The development in digital technology allows these artists to not only document minute details but also to manipulate the image using computer programs such as Photoshop creating artworks which appear more real than the real thing once painted on their canvases.
As we live in a world in which everything around us is evolving, we are in a constant state of change and art is no exception. Since the ancient Greeks, intense realism has been an aspiration of Western art and Hyperrealism is a modern response to these figurative traditions. The hyperrealists of today are documenting this almost daily evolution within our society through the artworks they create. One clear example is Tom Martin’s portrayal of the economic breakdown within our modern world as seen in Collateral II. The way we communicate is inextricably linked with the photograph, the reproduced image and the moving picture, and our personal and cultural sensibility is defined by the way we interact with these images. Therefore, it is no surprise that as human beings we can react, assimilate and appreciate Hyperrealist art.
Broadly speaking within the Hyperrealist movement there are three distinct categories that its practitioners work within: Landscape/ Urban Landscape, Still Life and Portrait/ Human Figure. Each artist’s way of arriving at a painting’s starting point is as unique as the painting itself. This disparate group of artists bring diverse and interesting subject matters to the movement, ranging from Francois Chartier’s monumental still lifes such as Who Wants to Live Forever to Paint in my Head, Eloy Morales’ interpretation of modern portraiture. John Salt’s photorealistic depiction of a vintage and decaying American urban landscape shows the viewer the other side of the “American Dream”, as seen in Trailer with Rocking Horse.
If we take the three main areas within the genre it is clear to see that they are all acutely defined by different characteristics. Monumentality plays a significant role in the execution of still life paintings and this is apparent in Pedro Campos’ A Hot Day and Vanitas 15.09.28 History of Music by Paul Beliveau. The artists working within this field often favour a combination of both monumental scale and extreme close-ups which delivers a surrealist feel to the final composition.
A characteristic visible within the Landscape and Urban Landscape paintings is the use of reflection, where we are presented with two images; one real and the other reflected on a variety of surfaces such as water, glass and chrome. Sometimes two or three depictions are presented in just one painting. Both Christian Marsh’s painting Inner-City Tranquility and David T. Kessler’s waterscape Evening Balance portray these qualities.
Portraits have dramatically developed over the years, as the portrait artists of today are using their paintings not only to focus on their subject but depicting social themes as well, Drawing from Detroit by Paul Cadden is a perfect example of this contemporary condition.
A technique which runs through the three categories is that there are no brush marks or textures present within these paintings as the Hyperrealists often see this as a way of covering imperfections. Alexandra Klimas’ Lora the Cow shows us the extremity of this characteristic through her impeccable finish.
Hyperrealism hasn’t had an easy ride within the art world. For many years amongst the art elite, less directly visual art movements such as Conceptualism and Minimalism have been preferred for their theoretical concepts rather than their physical artistry but as everything evolves Hyperrealism has finally earned its place and is now being valued as an established movement. It is appreciated for the way in which it acknowledges the visual world that we live in and celebrates the overlooked and intricate details visible in the everyday, the genre itself has progressed leaps and bounds due to technological advancements and a desire for perfectionism. It is one of the most relevant art movements in Western society as it depicts our everyday lives and touches on subjects we can all relate to. The evolution of Hyperrealism is secured for as long as the human race exists.
Plus One Gallery has been the leading Hyperrealism gallery since it opened its doors in 2001. Based in London, it represents some of the finest British and International hyperrealist artists. It has collaborated with museums such as Museu del Tabac in 2013 and 2018, and with the Centro Cultural Banco do Brasil for their show 50 Years of Realism – Photorealism to Virtual Reality that travelled through Sao Paulo, Brasilia and Rio de Janeiro between 2018 and 2019, attracting over one million visitors. Plus One Gallery also published several books including monographs on John Salt, Ben Schonzeit, Carl Laubin, Pedro Campos and Cytnhia Poole as well as ‘Exactitude, Hyperrealist Art Today’ published by Thames and Hudson in 2009.
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Link of the article: https://www.plusonegallery.com/blog/160/