Navigator - Spring / Summer 2018 - Northrop & Johnson

1 0 4 N A V I G A T O R C U L T U R E S P Y I’m staring intently at a graphite pencil portrait of an elderly woman by artist Paul Cadden. My eyes trace the curve of her lip, her deep-seated wrinkles and glinting moisture on her teeth. I am keenly aware that it’s not a photo, but my brain is trying to persuade me otherwise. The clarity of detail and tonal contrast is mesmerizing, addictive even. I lean closer, searching for proof of my mistake, and feel as though I’m falling down Lewis Carroll’s rabbit hole. Paul Cadden is a leading light within the artistic genre of hyperrealism. Born out of photorealism— a U.S. movement, which sought to convey a real life “American dream” with minute finesse —hyperrealism has carved its own individuality in both style and substance. Using photographs primarily as reference — and undeniably mind-blowing in its “photo-like” portrayal —hyperrealism is mainly applied to the independent art style that developed in the early 2000s depicting realistic, contemporary subject matters. “Hyperreal paintings and sculptures are not strict interpretations of photographs, nor are they literal illustrations of a particular scene or subject,” explains Cadden. “Instead, they utilize additional, often subtle, pictorial elements to create the illusion of a reality, which in fact either does not exist or cannot be seen by the human eye.” C U LT U R E S PY H Y P E R R E A L I S M W O R D S J U L I A Z A L T Z M A N Represented by three distinct genres — landscape/urban landscape, portraiture/ human figure, and still life —hyperrealists are appreciated for the narrative elements that they weave into their works, incorporating “emotional, social, cultural and political thematic elements as an extension of the painted visual illusion,” says Cadden. But an additional important differentiating factor is how contemporary the subjects are, explains Maggie Bollaert of London’s Plus One Gallery. “An old-fashioned still life is not what hyperrealism is about, that would be copy-ism; the subject matter and themes need to be modern,” she says. 01 The colorful, pop art-like work of still life artists Pedro Campos and Javier Banegas beautifully illustrate the contemporary element that Bollaert refers to. Campos’ jars of brightly colored jelly beans have an alluring yet mundane appeal, while his large-scale depictions of Coca Cola and Campbell’s Soup cans bear a likeness to the iconic work of Andy Warhol. Similarly, Banegas’ close-up still life depictions of pencil shavings or paint pots left without lids have an element of inertia about them, and yet give the impression of human interaction; used objects that denote a passing of time. 02