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