Hyperrealism: Reality beyond Reality

What is hyper realism? For my first project in Photo Imaging I am required to create a hyperrealistic composition. But first I wanted to find out what that even means.

Now after looking at many sources I have come to understand that there are apparently different kinds of hyperrealism. The first kind is painting or drawing, the second is life-scale or larger sculptures, and the third kind is the digital imaging kind  (which is more recent).  What they all have in common is that they are all very photo realistic and yet have an edge that makes it stand apart from just being representational. Up until now I of course have come upon exceptional realistic art,  but did not know that there is a special quality and category that is defined as hyperrealism. Below is what I have found.

According to Wikipidia (which is about the only place online where I could find any real information regarding this topic) hyperrealism is a super realistic representatioal art that is so realistic it brings in details that photographics may not even contain, or conversly, omits  details that are there. Either way, the ultra attention to detail  separates it ever so slightly from reality. That is, it has become “hyper”, going beyond real to super real.  They contain details that the regular eye alone  would not pick up or may not even be aware of.  Hyperrealism can even contain distortion of a lens and flare as an actual photograph would. In so doing, it’s playing with perception, becoming aware of it’s own realistic representation.

Starting with the 2-d drawing examples, we can see artists whose skill could fool even those taking a good look. One of the most recently featured is Samuel Silva whose jaw-dropping technical skill uses bic pens  to recreate photographs, along with it’s foreground/background effect. He has been featured on various blogs and websites like  Huffington Post. Unlike other artists though Silva is a full-time attorney who considers his abilities a mere hobby. (If only we could all have such devotion to our hobbies.) However, even Silva’s skill isn’t quite on par with the legendary Paul Cadden, whose black and white pieces are beyond astonishing to dumbfounding.  According to Cadden,  his subtle focus on his subjects intensify the normality, making the “virtual image become the living image”.


Samuel Silva                                                                                                     Paul Cadden

Moving on to paintings, we come to another long list of talented men and women who can, with their brush,  bring back to canvas what photography once threatened to take away. In this ironic twist of the painters’ existential crisis, these artists can capture the magic that film permits.   The two I have chosen to feature below are Pedro Campos and Jason de Graaf, two well known artists. Their acrylic and oil paintings are so photo realistic you can almost hear the crinkle of the plastic bag, and the splash of water which will come any second. According to Graaf, his paintings seek ” to create the illusion of depth and a sense of presence not found in photographs”.


Pedro Campos                                                                    Jason de Graaf


And then we move off the flat surface of canvas to move into the physical space of actual sculptures. Here artists have used the freedom to move their subjects through space to strategically place their creations amongst us. Once there, we may ignore them until we become aware of their artifice, and then become hyper aware of their existence.

One such work includes the damsel beauty in “Woman Eating” by Duane Hanson, which I unknowingly had the fortune of seeing in person this past summer in Washington, DC. (It pays to travel!)


Duane Hanson

Walking towards this woman from behind, one is perplexed whether they are walking towards a person in a performance piece, or if there is actually a stranger awkwardly eating at a lone table in a museum. Even her flesh looks real. It’s observing this almost flesh woman  that is pleasant though because you get to audaciously stare at a person as you might never do with real people.

However it’s at sculptures where I am able to  finally pinpoint where hyperrealism deviates from reality. Exploding and shrinking the subjects up and down is where I can see hyperrealism transform reality into a flexible dimension.

In Ron Meuck’s sculptures, women can become giants lost in thought and boys become elephants that self-consciously squat in middle of rooms.  Meuck’s work is an intense magnification of everyday life.


Ron Meuk

And with the breaking of size barrier, there can then be a dismissal of depicting only what truly exists. Instead, we can dissolve reality into fragments, or bring fiction into reality. That is how I see it when I look at the faces of Jamie Salmon. And when I see  The Young Family by Patricia Piccinini, I see science fiction’s ungodly monstrosities of bioengineering come true.


Jamie Salmon                                                                       Patricia Piccinini

And now is where Photoshop comes in…
With the access of Photoshop to any consumer, the art world now has a new medium to explore hyperrealism. One of the most well known persons to treat this digital software as any regular artist would  is Bert Monroy. He has been on the forefront of Photoshop realistic imaging for 2 decades and was  inducted into the Photoshop Hall of Fame in 2004. His files are hundreds of layers thick and several gigabytes large. Monroy’s work is a testament to the growing capabilities of our computer software and processing.


Bert Monroy

And that is now what we students in digital arts classes are expected to experiment with. We are the generation which will be pushing the boundaries with our new digital tools.  Below are some pictures I was able to find of  Photoshop compositions. I was not able find a lot, but I think these examples are good beginnings for art students to experiment in creating realistic compositions. They may not be the exact hyperrealism of Monroy, but they do provide chances to flex visual skill.


Laurent Chehere



Photoshop tutorials

But Why?

One may wonder what the point of  all this hyperrealism is, especially with the exactness of photography, but after looking over what I’ve researched, I’m beginning to see that it’s not just the passion for technical skill that is driving the artist, but rather the experience of enhancing the mundane and painstakingly capturing by hand what the camera’s mechanical functions do not.  It is the intense focus and attention to every detail which is normally ignored which becomes the object of it all. In the cases of fictional hyperrealism, I especially see that it is chance to explore what our minds may vividly see and give it life. For those viewing it for the first time, it could also be a run-in, or confrontation with the passing instances of our world, and which I guess is a chance to study our world’s material make up, and moments.

I believe this project should  be fun and challenging and I look forward to putting my pieces together.


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