At first glance, the oil paintings of Jan Esmann could easily be confused with photographs; seen in heightened resolution and depth of field, the portraits capture the remarkable tangibility of the human face. Also unlike your typical photographic subject, all of the painter’s characters are sleeping, caught wide-mouthed in their own personal dreamscapes, allowing viewers an uncomfortable and enchanting intimacy with the private imaginings of the unconscious mind.
Seen from above and as if lit by candlelight, Esmann’s strange and transfixing portraits evoke narratives like that of the mythological Psyche, who, against her lover Cupid’s warnings and prohibitions, snuck a candle into their bedchamber so that she might glimpse his face. The painted faces seem to stand at the precipice of wakefulness, their folded, glistening eyelids precariously shut. The viewer is allowed to witness the most vulnerable of states, yet (s)he does not escape the unnerving sense that s(he) might be caught, found out.
The consistent open mouths betray sleepy yearnings, unabashed moments of ecstasy in slumber. As if possessed by spiritual or erotic climax, Esmann’s subjects are sensuous and blissful; saliva glitters on canines, and sweat sets the face aglow. Unconfined to a more truthful representation of human perception (either photographic or otherwise), the artist’s hyper-realist style enables her to picture every inch of flesh with the same breathtaking clarity. Viewers may examine every feature, while the objects of our attentions remain frozen in time and space. In this beautifully bizarre series, we are permitted our voyeuristic impulses. (via Lost at E Minor)
The characters in Tip Toland’s hyper realistic sculptures are fragile creatures that find themselves at the end of adulthood or at the beginning of childhood. Those stages in life have a certain vulnerability, isolation and innocence in common. Toland attempts to demonstrate the decline preceding death, and the increased separation from others it brings. Their expressions are unengaged and convey a sense of deep psychological detachment that is sad and enigmatic as well as dignified by the process of natural aging. In his article for, Ceramics: Art and Perception, Glen Brown states, “[The works] weigh upon [the viewer] for the simple reason that they reflect the profound, inevitable solitude that envelops the beginning and the end of life.”
While exploring age and aging, Toland’s work attempts to give voice to inner psychological and spiritual states of being. What is of primary importance to her is that the figures contain particular aspects of humanity, which they mirror back to the viewer. It’s the fragility and transient aspect of mankind that the artist is after. That is one reason for choosing very old or very young subjects; they both portray innocence as well as complexity. While her subjects are sometimes self-portraits, they are meant to convey universal truths about humanity, society and the self.
The hyper realism of Toland’s figures comes from her attention to detail and unique use of materials. Using an encaustic technique, Toland creates a waxy finish for the skin that mimics real flesh. She even goes so far as to incorporate actual human hair into the works. The porcelain eyes create a doll-like realism that is both haunting and entrancing, while carefully defined wrinkles, skin tone, tooth enamel, and bone structure, are remarkably realistic.
Jackie K. Seo’s hyper realistic figurative sculptures are painstakingly created to depict every hair, skin blemish, and spot on the figures bodies. Jackie says about her work, “ In each of my pieces I like to show a moment where we feel the need to repair something in our lives and how we deal with it. I think the style of hyper-realism is a good way of showing the minute subtleties of the challenges of life, in a sculptural form.
I can show things like the wetness of tears in the eyes, the flushing of skin or the story that the fine lines and wrinkles of the face tell. The biggest challenge is balancing the overall feel of the piece without getting lost in the details.”