From August 11 to September 1, Gallery BK Hannam will hold Trompe l’Oeil – Crisscross into Reality, a rare exhibition where Korea’s foremost hyperrealist painters are brought together in one gathering.
Trompe l’oeil, a word mentioned in the exhibition title, originates from the French phrase that literally means “deception of the eye,” and in English, it indicates the name of a painting genre in which the painter aims to trick the viewer into mistaking his paintings as actual objects or scenes. Hyperrealism, also called superrealism or photorealism, was a painting movement characterized by incredibly realistic reproductions. Its works often took a fleeting, casual moment from an everyday scene and reproduced it in excruciating detail to bolster the momentariness within it. Rigorously eradicating all traces of subjective judgments and adapting the realistic formal composition of photography’s grammar, the genre aimed to achieve realism beyond realism.
Active from the late 1960s to the early 70s, mainly in the US and Europe, the school found its roots in a philosophical concept put forth by the French philosopher and sociologist Jean Baudrillard (1929–2007). Baudrillard saw that, in the modern era, an object’s “essential identity” was not in its usage or purpose but in what it signified and believed that objects had become signs that could be falsified. He developed this concept into the systemic theory of simulacra and simulation. Simulacres is a French noun meaning copy or imitation, but Baudrillard took one of its other meanings, simulation, and used it to explain that the modern world had reached a stage where “the copy is more real than the original.” On the other hand, hyperrealism had also inherited the spirit of pop art — another modern painting movement founded in the US — and, thus, its artists often painted everyday life objects and scenes on their canvases. Using meticulous details and impersonal, restrained techniques, the hyperrealists painted scenes more real than reality and objects more authentic than actual objects to reinterpret and maximize the humble, fleeting moments in our daily life and aspired to show viewers every minute aspect of reality and incidents that they could not have noticed otherwise.
The six artists featured in this show use their simultaneously painterly and emotional brushmarks to unveil the particular areas of the human psyche they wish to stimulate. Flowers blooming in such vivid colors that they seem to be exhausting every ounce of the life they have to shine in their one last moment; the gaze of a goldfish swimming relaxedly in a small glass bowl; the subdued, aesthetic sentiments delivered by the bojagi made in the five cardinal colors; a reproduction of the senses using the materiality and non-materiality of sweet things; images of dices that expand in forms which contemplate, tolerate, and express the duality of life through their formal attributes: the paintings electrify viewers with speechless thrill, steal from them the ability to distinguish the imaginary from the real, and bestow fantasy and illusion to the scenes presented in the paintings. Returning to Baudrillard, these works are prime demonstrations of his theory, “the copy is more real than the original.”
The Belgian master surrealist René Magritte (1898–1967) has said, “People do not believe the reality they see. People see the reality they want to believe. What the eyes see is never the full story.” The belated maestro wanted his paintings to be more than seen images and wanted them to force viewers into thinking. Keeping Magritte’s wishes in mind, are the paintings in this show merely tricks-of-the-eye, or are they the immense artistic thrills that could make one briefly forget the orders of the real world? The exhibition will challenge viewers with at least one such perplexing moment.
A man’s reasonings and sentiments are established by the sum of things and phenomena he had sensed up to the present moment. The works presented in Trompe l’Oeil – Crisscross into Reality are much more than hyperreal renderings of still images. They are devices designed to force viewers to doubt their intellect, memory, and sight and cause a general confusion in their senses of space and time. Please join us in our true-to-life journey, where each artist presents an exquisite archive that tells the story of his descriptive and extrinsic narrative.
Min Choi, Director, Gallery BK