A history of hyperrealism


Whilst art has always been something of a battlefield of competing ideologies, the 21st century art world has been notably in the thrall of an increasingly abstract and conceptual drift. Regardless of the inherent artistic value of the kind of conceptual works that have haiku sized titles and require a full explanation of authorial intent; it’s inarguable that they come at the expense of the more directly visual. Hyperrealism is a repudiation of this trend, a distinctly modern movement with obvious antecedents in Photorealism, along with Pop Art and Precisionism.

Photorealism’s (somewhat monomaniacal) raison d’etre was the total recreation of its subject; taking realism to its literal conclusion. Hyperrealist art, by contrast, uses the original photographic model as a jumping off point rather than the end goal. The reality that Hyperrealist artists strive to create with their work is one that goes beyond the more prosaic goals of the Photorealists. Hyperrealist art is intentionally brighter, more vibrant; like someone has suddenly brought what was already clear into digitally augmented focus.

Unlike many art movements Hyperrealism has no strict ‘manifesto’; the rules are loose enough to house a broad church of artists with a far more extensive range of intents and methods. Adria Pina Alegre’s dynamic and arresting visions of human hands erupting through water can sit happily on a wall next to Antonio Castello’s supercharged, almost psychedelically saturated Still Lifes and though the means could not be more different the artistic connection between the two is clear.

Broadly speaking within Hyperrealism there are three distinct categories that its practitioners work within: Landscape, Still Life and The Human Figure (of course as with any movement there are artists who combine all three or, indeed, defy this categorisation, but they are the broad framework). Whilst the subject matters are familiar Hyperrealism’s inherent vibrancy naturally gives these forms intriguing new twists. For example Paul Cadden’s take on The Human Figure sees him create inhumanly precise pencil sketches of people that he meets on his travels around the world. However via the variety of tools such as computer programs he uses to augment his formidable draughtsmanship, he steps beyond merely recreating the photographs that he works from. His pieces approach portraiture in a holistic, ‘social’ fashion, capturing not just individuals but the culture and feel of their place and time.

Many Hyperrealists operate from an intensely urban perspective (though of course there are exceptions) so Landscape is frequently dominated by the grit of the city and urban living,   but there is substantial scope. For example Christian Marsh doesn’t just focus on cityscapes but also the humanity of the people within them. Hyperrealist Still Life on the other hand frequently deals with commercial products, occasionally evoking Pop Art, yet existing in its own unique space. An example of the kind of unexpected depths of the Hyperrealist still life can be found in seeming simplicity of Paul Beliveau’s titanic paintings of book spines: a simplicity which belies the manner in which Beliveau’s choice of title and imagery create an unexpected narrative and dialogue with the viewer.

There are only three galleries in the world which feature this vital, unique art form and London is lucky to host the Plus One Gallery, which houses some of the most highly regarded artists working within the medium. Hyperrealism is an art form that is impossible to take your eyes off, a blend of crystalline reality with shades of colour only found in dreams. One to watch and watch.

The Plus One Gallery is located in the Piper Building, Peterborough Road SW6 3EF

Website: https://www.plusonegallery.com/

Phone: 020 7730 7656

Open Monday-Friday: 10am-6pm by appointment only

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