Art that makes you stop and look again. That’s a good description of the striking genre of painting known as hyperrealism. A simple glance may make you think it’s merely a photograph. But let the eye linger a moment longer and you will sense something’s up. This is photographic reality, yes. But it’s something more.
Hyperrealism is distinguished from photorealism because it uses the photographic image as a departure point. While strict photorealists strive to imitate the photographic image1, hyperrealists build on it, creating a more sharply defined, meticulously detailed image, a version of reality that goes beyond the photographic.2
The hyperrealist paintings of Harry Sudman, like most other paintings in the genre, honor the philosophic thinking of Jean Baudrillard in striving to achieve “the simulation of something which never existed.” 3 His oversized panels blow up the original photographic source material ten to twenty times. His lighting and shading effects lend a tangible solidity and a striking presence to the subject matter. His use of fragmentation – breaking up the images into separate panels punctuated by squares of color – creates a pulsating affect, as if bursts of color and image have been stitched into the wall. Like most hyperrealist paintings, Harry Sudman’s paintings confront the viewer with a new sense of reality.
Confrontation is part of the thematic underpinnings of hyperrealism. Because photorealism grew out of the Pop Art movement of the 50’s and 60’s, those paintings tend to be acutely mechanical with an emphasis on the commonplace. 4
Hyperrealist paintings, by contrast, use the amplification of reality to provoke. Hyperrealist painters like Denis Peterson and Latif Maulan have tackled subject matter as harrowing as poverty and genocide. 5│6 Harry Sudman’s work gets at the idealization or eroticism, using the confrontational nature of hyperrealism – its heightened color and sharp definition – to peer through the soft focus of conventional eroticism to the stark, often disturbing reality beneath.
It’s art that makes you stop and look twice. It confronts and heightens. It takes traditional photography and uses it as a springboard to something more. Hyperrealism is a genre for our time, a way of reaching beyond the merely mechanical to a world of intriguing, arresting and sometimes frightening possibilities. ♦
Author and Client: This article was written by Malcolm Logan for Sudman Art.com
1 Chase, Linda, Photorealism at the Millennium, The Not-So-Innocent Eye: Photorealism in Context. Harry N. Abrams, Inc. New York, 2002. pp 14-15.
2 Meisel, Louis K. Photorealism. Harry N. Abrams, Inc., Publishers, New York. 1980. p. 12.
3 Jean Baudrillard, “Simulacra and Simulation”, Ann Arbor Mich.: University of Michigan Press, 1981
4 New Britain Museum of American Art – Educational Resources
5 Robert Ayers, Art Critic, “Art Without Edges: Images of Genocide in Lower Manhattan”, Art Info June 2, 2006
6 Daniel Boorstin, The Image: A Guide to Pseudo-Events in America (1992). ISBN 978-0-679-74180-0