The Role of Hyperrealism in Painted Portraiture –Engaging Culture: Analysis of Portraiture by Eddy Ochieng
Portraiture remains one of the most fascinating genres of Art; it is engaging, intriguing and often, perhaps, a little controversial. Portraiture has been executed through the centuries in a variety of styles and media and for different purposes, from the ancient Egyptian cave paintings, through the medieval civilisations to the renaissance, new world, the great divide, modern era and ultimately to post-modernism pop art portraiture. One question that has always resurfaced in the interrogation of portraiture is what is the role of portraiture. There have also been incessant questions about the effectiveness or even need for some painting styles used in portraiture as well as other genres. Within contemporary Art, one of these styles that have often generated passionate arguments between those who love it and those who do not subscribe to it is hyperrealism. Detractors of hyperrealism, which started in the early 1970s, have consistently argued that by virtue of its reliance upon photography, what it seeks to portray is already achieved through photography and hence it is artistically ‘pointless’ since it serves no further visual purpose. Dwelling specifically on this artistic ‘pointlessness’, they have even questioned whether hyperrealism is Art or just a very refined and admirable show of skill. Proponents of hyperrealism, however, bask in the satisfaction that it retrieves all photographic cues from a digital image or a high-resolution photograph and converts or transforms these into a different realm of artistry and perfection by the placement of even more minute and meticulous details that would otherwise be invisible to the eye. This creativity culminates in an entirely new form, an ‘illusion of reality’ more artistically and visually engaging than the original photograph. The detractors, therefore, state that since hyperrealism is derived from photography as a reference base, then it is redundant as a style. In order to address this query, this paper examines the role of hyperrealism in modern portraiture as it is specifically applied to Kenyan portraiture executed by Eddie Ochieng’, an outstanding Kenyan hyperrealist, in order to determine its own ‘visual efficacy’ as a sub-genre. The portraiture itself, as featured in this paper, focuses on aspects of culture to explore the overall visual impact as a result of the application of hyperrealism.