Hyperrealism Painting Gloucester Road by Denis Peterson

    By no small difference...?

    Simply put, hyperrealism is a significant deviation from photorealism, not a mere replication of the original image in any sense. That would be best left to the school of photorealism. Back in the 1970's when photorealism was hitting its stride, many known NY painters met weekly downtown and argued vehemently as to who was using projectors, airbrushes, photo-silkscreening, photographic emulsions, etc.

    The whole point was to create an exacting painting as a convincing replication of reality. Hyperrealism, on the other hand, redirects images of alternate visual illusions that, at times, can depict rather complex societal and cultural anomalies (hyperrealities). The saturation of these simulacra as perceived realities in a painting effectively differentiates hyperrealism from photorealism.

    You mentioned Baudrillard, how does he factor into this?

    Baudrillard broke hyperreality down into five steps. 1. First, you see an image that you feel (profound reality). 2. Then, you capture that image in a way that represents he truth (the photo). 3. Next, you falsify that truth to create a new reality (alternate reality). 4. Now, you rectify that image so that it is a new truth (simulacrum). 5. Lastly, you take that 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.

    So, is it fair to call you the father or the pioneer of hyperrealism?

    After coining the term hyperrealism, I began to openly espouse its distinctive differences with photorealism in various writings, talks, discussions with gallerists, other painters, etc. Correspondingly, new streams of thought were created, as they should in any new school of art. All changes are good, and a lot of artists were really taking off with it. Pioneering new schools of art is a short-lived honor. If it is done right, other artists will immediately adapt to the genre (and have worldwide).

    That said, nuances of style and motifs make for a self-perpetuating continuity that is destined to neither be owned nor constrained by any one artist. Unfortunately however, the term hyperrealism is now commonly misappropriated as a broad hyperbole in multifarious and derivative styles of art that are either diluted, diverted or dialectic... I guess "die" is the operative utterance here!

    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.

    How does that relate to The Wall series then?

    In a big way. The Wall series paintings are based on an artificial (hyperreal) illusion of bourgeois city life virtually juxtaposed with an alternate reality: the commodification of poverty. It is the quintessential simulacrum - human suffering misperceived as simulation of alienation caught in a crumbling reality of disuse. When I undertook to paint Dust to Dust, I thought I would try to work directly from a photo by Hugh Hill. Working with a low res version presented a nice challenge.

    I determined to make it appear as if I, along with the viewer, were standing there looking down rather than at the subject. This required making subtle changes in the stone wall, among other major alterations as to perspective and tonal balance. The outcome was intensely profound. When viewed in a gallery, the viewer had to look down at the subject in the same way that one would when thoughtlessly passing him on the street. And ironically, empathizing viewers are subconsciously joined with the subject and his unfortunate state of disenfranchisement. This is the ultimate simulacrum of the hyperreal, or altered reality, hitting home.

    During the process, two things became abundantly clear. First, that I needed to rebalance the photographic image while substituting simulations of reality not manifested in the basic photo. Second, I needed to photograph my own subjects!

    Why so?

    I knew that aside from the story that I needed to tell; the subjects needed to tell their stories as well. This required spending time on the street with the subjects... so I needed to take my own up-close photographs as records of our exchanges. Stephen Farthing ascribed the following observation about Dust to Dust in his book Art: The Whole Story (Thames and Hudson). "In this work, Peterson states that a man of insignificant social status who inhabits the lower strata of society has the same right to be portrayed in a painting as any other famous or important person. Moreover, he has the same right to have his humanity recognized. However, this painting has no intention of arousing sympathy." In a similar fashion, Philip Guston aspired "to paint things as if one had never seen them before, as if one had come from another planet...to paint as a caveman would." New York's a big city for a caveman with a camera!

    So then you really are a social realist?

    In the context that there are cultural anomalies driving our society, yes. And since we are basically a Pop culture, I find these worthwhile painting. As a realist painter, the work, the piece, its compositional balance, tonal perspective and the like all rise to the top as priorities. As do the innumerous social injustices of our time. Deeper social commentary and the like can be left to the writers, the art critics, the commentators who can always express that stuff much more succinctly than can I.

    But there is definitely room for including some humanity in art work, as it has increasingly been devoid of that. Take the recent exhibit downtown of those victims from China whose bodies were dissected, plasticized for the "benefit of society" and rationalized as "art". Certainly disingenuous and morally rancid stuff thought up for one thing only, not for art, not for science, just for profit. Absolutely disgusting really...

    And let's face it, does the art world need more paintings of neon signs or bowls of cherries?

    (return to PART 1)