FACE IT

Ger­man artist MIKE DAR­GAS talks truths about the false­ness of his hy­per­real art

#Legend - - ART -

HY­PER­RE­AL­ITY IS A con­di­tion in which fic­tion and re­al­ity are blurred and blended in art and sculp­ture to such an ex­tent that we strug­gle to dis­cern the dif­fer­ence. Al­though the term dates to the 1970s, and the move­ment is seen as the out­growth of pho­to­re­al­ism, its cur­rency is en­tirely con­tem­po­rary. For two generation­s who’ve grown up with the in­ter­net, there may be a small mi­nor­ity more in­volved or in tune with the hy­per­real world and less with the phys­i­cal real world. Hy­per­re­al­ity in art, ul­ti­mately, is a kind of false­ness, a fake art. And in a world cur­rently ob­sessed with no­tions of fake news and de­clen­sions of faux-au­then­tic­ity, the hy­per­re­al­is­tic is art’s hip­ster­ville.

And so to Hong Kong’s Opera Gallery, un­der newly ap­pointed di­rec­tor Shar­lane Foo, comes Cologne-born and some­times Los An­ge­les-based artist Mike Dar­gas, a con­tem­po­rary vis­ual pur­veyor whose style re­flects a fu­sion of clas­si­cal tech­nique with the aes­thet­ics of the dig­i­tal age.

En­tirely self-taught, Dar­gas’ tech­ni­cal and stylis­tic ap­proach to paint­ing de­picts a holis­tic ab­sorp­tion of the va­ri­ety of artis­tic medi­ums and crafts that he has prac­ticed. From com­pos­ing large-scale chalk draw­ings as a child to carpentry and his time as a tat­tooist, Dar­gas’ ac­com­plished work con­tains el­e­ments of each medium.

In­spired by artists such as Dali, Car­avag­gio and con­tem­po­rary hy­per­re­al­ist Got­tfried Hel­nwein, Dar­gas has stud­ied var­i­ous tech­niques and de­vel­oped a pass­sion for re­al­ism, which he nar­rowed down to hy­per­re­al­ism over the years. This ex­tremely pre­cise oil-paint­ing tech­nique gives, like photograph­y, a snapshot of the mo­ment – yet with an even more in­ti­mate level of de­tail. Dar­gas is demo­cratic in his choice of sub­ject mat­ter, paint­ing young and old, beau­ti­ful and dark, frag­ile and ro­bust.

Heal­ing Beauty, the se­ries he’s show­ing now, goes full- on fem­i­nine for its iden­tity. The com­po­si­tion of Dar­gas’ por­trai­ture presents an un­der­ly­ing in­ter­est in the cov­er­ing or coat­ing of the skin or the fig­ure, by liq­uid or ma­te­rial. The life-like el­e­ment can be seen within the pose of the sit­ters, of­ten in move­ment, with drips sus­pended in time. Thus, the paint­ings, re­sem­ble the pho­to­graphic medium cap­tur­ing ephemeral beauty. Or, as the artist puts it: “My paint­ings are try­ing to catch an emo­tional snapshot and are try­ing to evoke a cer­tain feel­ing in the viewer”. #leg­end spoke to Dar­gas on the eve of his show’s open­ing.

You have a hy­per­re­al­is­tic style, com­posed of large-scale oil-on-can­vas por­traits. One of their most vis­i­ble fea­tures is the de­pic­tion of dif­fer­ent liq­uids that evoke the senses, not only vis­ual, but also tac­tile. Is it a way of con­stant and es­sen­tial ex­per­i­men­ta­tion?

Let’s say it’s re­al­ism play­ing with el­e­ments of hy­per­re­al­ism and photograph­y. And yes, I ab­so­lutely en­joy ex­per­i­ment­ing with my mo­tifs and tech­niques, and am con­stantly aim­ing to de­velop both. The whole liq­uid se­ries started in an ex­per­i­men­tal shoot­ing in 2014 with the first honey piece. I was search­ing for a ma­te­rial that could cover a spe­cific ground with­out hid­ing what is un­der­neath. I was fas­ci­nated by honey as a liq­uid ma­te­rial and it be­came the base el­e­ment of this new se­ries.

Which kind of pho­to­graphic char­ac­ter­is­tics do you adopt the most on your paint­ings?

When I started us­ing liq­uids for the first time, it was also a pre­miere to use photo shoot­ing as part of my paint­ing. Adding photograph­y to my work helped me to catch the right mo­ment of model and liq­uid blend­ing into each other. At the end of this first honey shoot, my stu­dio was a mess. This was the foun­da­tion of my Heal­ing Beauty se­ries.

Parts of your work push the bound­aries of sex­ual ex­plic­it­ness. How do you re­spond to this per­cep­tion?

Blame it on the Old Masters! But se­ri­ously, af­ter fo­cus­ing on faces for years, I was cu­ri­ous about the ef­fect of the hu­man body. And sev­eral works are more or less ex­plicit. I guess it is a ques­tion of per­spec­tive.

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