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Hyper realism in painting and sculpture is back


Mast II - by Ron Mueck (self portrait)
Mast II - by Ron Mueck

Even if, some aspiring artists end up practicing the skill of replicating a real mango on paper ditto as they see it, for year after year, the world of art had moved away from such notion of realism more than a century ago.  Of course, even today, painters of photorealistic images earn their bread by producing identical copy of a photograph. Some even enjoy a little bit of fame. The question remains why the buyers did not use a photocopier but went to the studio of the so-called painter!


The aforesaid arguments may not be entirely true in recent days. Some artists, like Duane Hanson or Carole Feuerman or Ron Mueck who were contemporaries of the abstract expressionists or conceptual masters, had serious challenges in the 60’s and 70’s in simply finding a gallery to display their works. Their replicas of real-life objects or people did not qualify for art.

What they did was a step ahead of photorealism. Their paintings or sculptures were hard to distinguish from the original. No brushstroke, no unwarranted blob of paint, no natural roughness of stone. And such paintings or sculptures  were larger than the real objects or persons they replicated. Usually, the human forms came with intense expression. It was hard to overlook the pieces.


The denial by the world of art slowly dissolved and their works began to attract attention. In today’s context, when such hyper realistic works are displayed in galleries or museums, the authorities remain on the edge to ensure that the security arrangement is strong enough. Visitors come in such large numbers that ensuring the safety of the works becomes a nightmare. People tend to get very close to the paintings or sculptures wanting to get a feel by touching them.

If not photorealism but Hyper Realism is here now. The question remains, are these works of art?

We don’t know. Of course, such creations serve a purpose in today’s world of Artificial Intelligence. AI generated images appear so realistic that we often do not believe in their digital pedigree. We believe those are photos of real people or things. It has the potential to create havoc in this world. But after visiting a gallery displaying hyper realistic works, one realizes that the copies can appear more original than the original itself! At least the innocence can not be misused after that.

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