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Giants, clones and fantastic flesh – Hyperreality hits the NGA

Unity Paterson

Have you ever hankered to explore the inside of a giant human skull?

The surreal, lucid, fantastical world of Hyper Realism will give you this opportunity at the NGA’s newest exhibition.

Hyper Real, opening on 20 October and finishing on 18 February, promises to “cause quite a sensation” according to gallery director Gerard Vaughan.

There is only one word to describe this exhibition, and that is entrancing. There is a saying in galleries that “the artist is present,” meaning the artist is physically in the space, ready to answer questions and converse with gallery-goers. In Hyper Real, it feels as if the artworks are present.

In a room of sculptures so vividly and uncomfortably lifelike, immortalised in moments of private reflection, you feel as if you have to strike up a conversation with one, or ask if now is a good time to enter the room. Particularly in the case of the gallery’s own work Pregnant woman by Ron Mueck, an 8-foot ultra-realistic sculpture who is captured in what would normally be an intensely private moment of labour. Artist Mueck details her puffy fingers, clammy red cheeks and varicose veins with painstaking accuracy, presenting contemporary art’s version of the female nude.

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Ron Mueck’s Pregnant Woman. Photograph: Tim Bean Photography

The exhibition’s Senior Curator Jaklyn Babington says the exhibition will play with our perception of “what is real and what is artificial”. The earliest work in the show, Duane Hanson’s 1974 sculpture, Women with a laundry basket, is one of the focal points of the exhibition. Jaklyn says the work is “so lifelike that gallery goers worldwide mistake them for real life human beings”.

According to Dr Vaughan, Australia is leading the world in the Hyper Real genre. Patricia Piccinini, Ron Mueck and Sean Gladwell (to name a few of the eight Australian artists being exhibited) have all crafted groundbreaking pieces. When asked to nominate the artwork that had the greatest impact on him, Dr Vaughan suggested Russian artist collective AES+F’s digital installation piece Inverso mundus, which will also be on show.

The work “bridges [the] traditional division between 2D and 3D, in that the figures become sculptural in a moving image,” he said.

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NGA Director Gerard Vaughan and Senior Curator Jaklyn Babington. Photograph: Tim Bean Photography

Jaklyn hoped that as well as exploring the genre’s roots of photorealism in America during the 1960s and 70s, the exhibition will promote how Hyper Realism delves into the future, morphing sculpture into a fantastical digital sphere. While the exhibition is chronological, it is not a survey of the genre.

Dr Vaughan describes the exhibition is “an exciting international spectrum of hyperreal art—from the colossal scale dwarfing visitors to the minute detail of the replicated human body—the weird, wonderful and uncanny will be on display”.

“Hyper Real presents nearly 50 works from hyperrealism’s inception to the new world already upon us.”

Dr Vaughan noted that as the National Gallery of Australia, there was “a strong focus on the exceptional talents of Australian artists, whose contribution in the field of hyperrealism are of global significance”.

Trail blazers like Mueck, Piccinini and Gladwell have all contributed the Australian perspective to the very flexible, ever evolving genre, and their works sit in conversation with their global contemporaries.

the essential
What: Hyper Real
Where: The National Gallery of Australia
When: 20 October 2017 until 18 February 2018
Tickets: $20-25, available here


Unity Paterson

Unity originally hails from Sydney, making the leap to Australia’s capital to study at The Australian National University in 2014. Finding herself in the midst of an Art History degree, Unity remembered that she also had to pursue some other passions in her spare time, which led her to HerCanberra. She believes that Canberra has a lot to offer, and can’t wait to keep exploring as this cosy city grows each day; her ultimate goal being to finally convince her inter-state friends that Canberra is way more than just Lake Burley Griffin and roundabouts. More about the Author

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