Art from life

There’s a strand of contemporary art that involves extremely detailed and complex construction, using techniques taken from cinematic special effects and other disciplines to create an effect that goes beyond real, venturing into the realm of the uncanny. The late Duane Hanson was arguably one of the pioneers of this genre; pieces like Flea Market Vendor and Queenie II elevated observational art to a new level, using fiberglass and other model-making materials to create strikingly life-like figures, initially in the throes of action or confrontation but increasingly in repose and at rest towards the end of his career.

The truly radical nature of Duane Hanson’s procedures – by which casts were made directly from the body and head of a particular but anonymous person with exception of Jogger a doctor friend of Duane Hanson who volunteered for the mold-making sessions, and whose body type fit perfectly with his idea. Reassembled into a complete figure, ilusionistically painted for the most convincing skin-tones and finally dressed in actual clothes. Duane Hanson judged the success of his work insofar as it obscured all traces of his subtle interventions so the figure appeared to be nothing more than a three dimensional replica of an actual person.

The genre that Hanson created underpins many contemporary artists, such as the Anne Geddes meets David Cronenburg nightmares of Patricia Piccinini, the distorted figures of Evan Penny, the moody sculptures of Sam Jinks, the more commercially focused work of Adam Beane and even some pieces by Maurizio Cattelan. Perhaps the best-known artist working in this vein is Ron Mueck, whose career has dovetailed with the image-hungry demands of the internet age. Mueck’s games with scale have a transformative effective on the audience, with hyper-realism used to give the viewer a different perspective on an exaggerated reality. Piccinini, on the other hand, uses this visual language to present a very dystopian view. There’s an exhibition of Piccinini’s recent works at London’s Haunch of Venison gallery later this month. The above image is taken from her 2010 show

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