Hyperrealism: realism as a reflection of society

The decade of 1960 saw the birth of Hyperrealism, a new artistic movement that focused on the realistic representation of everyday life. The first generations of painters, such as Richard Estes, Chuck Close or Tom Blackwell began portraying everyday American life, through common scenes and objects that normally were not destined to be captured in oil on canvas.

Now, 50 years later, a third generation of painters continue pushing the boundaries of representation, working to capture reality down to its slightest detail. In the age of digital photography and Instagram, capturing life without filters or modifications may not seem to have much interest. But what truly makes hyperrealistic paintings unique is the ability to elevate the mundane to the truly fantastical.

Through the artistic expertise of these extraordinary artists, the attention to detail formed by the interplay between textures and colours creates objects with true weight and presence that seem to come to life like never before. A jar full of sweets portrayed in a large scale canvas seems to be much more real than its physical counterpart. Its larger than life aspect, the intricate details, the colours, highlights and shadows, all come together to create an extremely real manifestation of this simple and not at all artistic object.

Another important aspect of hyperrealism is the social critique, from investigations about aspect of capitalistic consumption to mass production. Even a cluttered kitchen sink can reflect the postmodern world and the society we have created. Sweet pastries, crowded street corners and vending machines, all conform the aesthetics of contemporary culture. 

Photo: Robert Bernardi