Hyperrealism: HD Paintings Leave You Questioning What's Real
It's been nearly 80 years since the critic and philosopher Walter Benjamin wrote "The Work of Art in the Age of Digital Reproduction," in which he explored the void left by our ability to create photographic representations of images, which he felt lacked the aura or originality of the artist's hand. In the years since then, high-definition photography has made it ever easier to produce realistic images (and, somewhat regrettably, photo-editing filters have allowed us to mimic "vintage" effects to with the click of a button).
Meanwhile, painting persists. In what's sometimes called hyperrealism, a group of emerging and established artists create paintings and sculptures that approximate the appearance of high definition photography. The results are sometimes jarringly lifelike; other times, the artist focuses on the inherent flaws of digital photography—like compression errors or over-exposures—revealing something deeply human in the process.
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Alexa Meade's works appear to be simple acrylic paintings, but in the place of a canvas, she paints directly onto real people—this is a photograph of a woman whose entire body has been painted—taking a traditionally two-dimensional medium into the real world, as the next slide makes clear.
"I paint representational portraits directly on top of the people I am representing," Meade told My Modern Met. "The models are transformed into embodiments of the artist's interpretation of their essence. When captured on film, the living, breathing people underneath the paint disappear, overshadowed by the masks of themselves."