Hyperrealism and Socio-Political Issues

Hyperrealism in painting owes its striking nature to the lenses of emotional, social, cultural, and political focus through which it forces observers to view themselves and the world around them.

This powerful appeal to the deepest thoughts and feelings of the viewer has largely caused the spike in popularity the genre has seen since its appearance on the late 1960s art scene.
It comes as little surprise then that hyperrealists increasingly choose to use their art to express, ‘their feelings about political or social matters, such as totalitarian regimes, racial or religious intolerance, persecution and discrimination, society’s disregard for the vulnerable and disadvantaged, or the human condition’ (Hodge). 

Why Hyperrealism?

The purpose of choosing Hyperrealism over traditional Realism or the Symbolism we see in many monuments is simple – maximum shock factor. Every day we are exposed to horrible photographic images of wars and the disparaging effects of extreme poverty, and every day we pass by monuments to fallen soldiers and national tragedies. Consequently, reality sometimes is not ‘real’ enough to have an impact. The characteristic exaggeration of tiny details in Hyperrealism, however, can be all it takes to push us out of our comfort zones and into a brutal close-up of our shortcomings (O’Donoghue).

We as humans arguably derive the most basic level of comfort from how we view ourselves as individuals. It satisfies many of us to look in the mirror and see a happy, healthy, strong individual staring back. So logic suggests any threat to seeing ourselves as whole, powerful beings would make us uneasy. However, not many people are too disturbed by textbooks containing graphic dissections of our anatomy or descriptions of the most gruesome workings and shortcomings of our physiology.  

Text by Sydney Amoakoh