Hyperrealism Painting WICKED by Denis Peterson

    This interview took place during a dinner meeting with a prominent gallerist at Le Bernardin in NYC regarding a solo painting exhibition in LA. Casual conversation led to gallery representation.

    When did you start painting?

    At the age of four, I would sit in my grandfather's studio and he would take a piece of paper; crumple it up and hold it to the light while turning it. He would ask me what I saw as it cast a moving shadow on the drawing paper he had laid out before me. Then he would challenge me to draw and paint what I saw...an imagined face, hand, bird, etc.

    So, you would draw these objects all the time?

    No, each time I saw something different. It helped me develop my imagination and creativity at a very early age...my introduction to hyperrealism before its time!

    Why was he interested in you learning drawing and painting?

    I guess he saw my creative nature and desired to pass on his incredible talent and expertise in art. He restored works by Rembrandt and other renown painters for the Metropolitan Museum, among others. He taught me the art of restoration whereby restoring Renaissance paintings carried me over during and after my post-military college years. He was a known atelier painter in France where many leading painters were his colleagues i.e., Monet. While watching me paint, he would cite stories about them and how they regarded "no rules in art".

    No rules?

    They were true explorers of artistic revolution, always willing to experiment in genre, subject and technique. Therefore, I was always encouraged to find new ways to express myself in art as well as to uncover novel out-of-the-box solutions for problems indigenous in every medium. All the visual restrictions i.e., the rule of thirds, aerial perspective, sources of light, depth of field etc. were worth breaking through as well.

    So that is why you developed hyperrealism and named it a school of art?

    No, it evolved while I was studying the existential works of Jean Baudrillard who popularized the term hyperreal. I was floored the first time I read him. My daughter Nadia had introduced his body of work to me, feeling that I might relate to it. It was if I had been living this approach in my paintings but never had the means to express it anywhere as succinctly as he did. I had grown tired of photorealist work as to its banality and unflinching position against any meaningful narrative in art. As a photorealist, it seemed logical to adapt the ideology to my individual painting style, hence the term hyperrealism painting was born. I began to incorporate both the name hyperrealism and its derivative philosophy into my photorealist paintings. Sadly, Baudrillard died the following year.

    His philosophy of alternate realities and simulated images were in part based upon semiotics, a body of esoteric work compiled by Charles Sanders Pierce and based on his own studies of Kant, another favorite of mine. He wrote about representation versus conscious experience, visual stimulations as signs, and interpretation of signs as icons; all of which I readily identified with.

    You mentioned Baudrillard, how does he factor into this?

    Baudrillard broke hyperreality down into five steps. First, you see an image that you feel (profound reality). Then, you capture that image in a way that represents the truth (the photo). Next, you falsify that truth to create a new reality (alternate reality). Now, you rectify that image so that it is a new truth (simulacrum). Lastly, you transform that new truth into its own simulacrum (the hyperreal). In summary, the painted image is not an imitation of life or reality, but a constructed and non-linear appropriation of a cultural commodifaction perceived on a subconscious level (hyperrealism).

    As a hyperrealist painter, I had already been creating images that appeared real through contemplative reasoning, but which in fact were simulations (simulacra) of altered realities. I intended to appeal to the unconscious thinking of the viewer whereby manipulated simulatory images would be perceived as reality. Depending on the aesthetics and particularly the motif, they were intentionally targeted as compelling illusions of an altered (hyper)reality.

    Is the social dynamic or the aesthetic of more importance?

    They are inseverable. If the piece cannot stand on its own merits as a work of art, if it doesn't lend itself to further art history even in one small step, if it has already been done; then either I don't do it or the doomed underpainting falls onto the growing scrap heap of discarded canvasses in my already cramped studio. All my work imparts sociological implications which I have personally explored and wish to convey unexpurgated to the viewer, regardless of the viewer's preconceptions.

    Would you say then that photorealism and hyperrealism are distinctly different or one and the same?

    They are the same only so far as the obvious. Both utilize, no, depend upon photography. And both see Pop as ingredient to successful social statements. But the similarity ends almost before it begins. Where photorealism tended to utilize subtle abstractions and careful simulations of photography, hyperrealism relies upon substituted optics to accentuate the appearance of agonistic simulations embedded within immutable social and cultural transformations.

    And that labyrinth of mirrors is no small difference.

    (continue to PART 2)