The term “hyper-realism” emerged in the ’70s as a descriptive for the super-realistic works of art and sculpture that was growing in resurgence. Today, hyper-realistic artists are using their jaw-dropping skills to create works of art that supersede details seen by the naked eye. Frequently, their works are also on a larger-than-life scale.
However, there are a few sculptors that have been pushing the boundaries of what can be achieved, using a variety of materials and a boat-load of patience to execute their ideas flawlessly. Take a look at the must-know contemporary artists that are challenging people’s perception of reality with their exceptional talent.
The Self-Taught Special Effects Expert
Beginning his career in the film special effects industry, Jamie Salmon gained extensive knowledge in manipulating silicone rubber, resin, hair, and fabric to create super-realistic faces and bodies. But he took it to another level: “I want to make something that tells a story or moves people in some sort of way, not something that just looks very real. Of course, I need my works to have a certain degree of reality about them, but it’s more of a heightened reality.”
Exhibited internationally, his pieces offer a variety of themes. He stated, “I like to use the human form as a way of exploring the nature of what we consider to be ‘real’ and how we react when our visual perceptions of this reality are challenged.” He has strong feelings about the role of technology in contemporary society our ability to manipulate our appearance with it in any which way. His work poses the question, “How does this outward change affect us and how are we perceived others?”
Australian Ron Mueck blew up in the art world in the ’90s with his larger-than-life hyperrealistic sculptures. He has stated that his flesh figures draw attention to the unspoken thoughts and feelings people have. They’re usually deeply personal in nature, as proven in works such as self-portrait “Mask II” or “Dead Dad.”
Pictured in his UK studio working on “Couple Under an Umbrella” it can sometimes take him years to finish a single sculpture. He depicts varying stages of life, with each piece encouraging us to refocus our attention to the smaller things in life – in other words, to look inwards more. His flawless execution-only further drives this point home.
Korea’s Surreal Hyperrealist
Korean artist Xooang Choi pushes boundaries with his surreal yet ultra-realistic sculptures. Based near Seoul, he plays with the human form and faces in a way that encourages people to “confront their existence.” Despite the dreamlike quality of his pieces, he sees his body of work as observational to “people living at this time, people living around me.”
In his 2014 sculpture pictured above, titled “The Noise” and painted in oils on resin, he recreated the faces of people he knows or has encountered in real-life. Amidst the “chaos” of this piece, you can find the face of his wife, his father, strangers, as well as himself. Funnily enough, this is one of his less shocking pieces.
Life-Like Reconstructions of Neanderthals
In a narrative that sounds deserving to be a made into a film, two identical twin brothers are arguably one of the best – and most controversial – hyper-realistic sculptors alive today. They are “hominid palaeo-artists,” that reconstruct life-size sculptures of early humans. They often come under fire for the race depictions of their creations, which can deviate from people’s assumptions.
Pictured above is Ötzi the iceman, their reconstruction of a body mummified in ice over 5,000 years ago. Taking the facts extrapolated from scientific testing, they brought to life the priceless history. Adrie explained, “He was 45, which is quite old, and he was very sick when he died, with stomach problems. His skull has an underbite, and his face points downwards: not a pretty face.” This sculpture too attracted criticism for their depiction of the iceman.