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Hyperrealism in art and archviz: are they the same?
Hyperrealism in art and archviz: are they the same?
Hyperrealism: the origin

The word “hyperrealism” first appeared in visual art. The concept of “hyperrealism” was originally coined by a Belgian art dealer Isy Brachot as a 1973 Brussels exhibition of mostly American realist artists. Brachot used the word “hyperrealism” to define a new form of realist painting and sculpture that evolved from the earlier photorealist work of the 1960s. 

The difference between the earlier 1960s photorealism and the 1970s hyperrealism was artistic intent. Photorealist artists intended to create precise imitations of photographs. On the other hand, hyperrealists aimed to twist the human perception of reality rather than bridge the gap between photography and painting.


Hyperrealism in art

The term “hyperrealism” derives its meaning from the Greek prefix “hyper” – “high, beyond, excessive, or above normal.” Hyperrealism aims to create an enhanced reality more precise, sharp, and vivid than either captured on camera or seen by the naked eye. Hyperrealism in painting presents a brighter, more seductive and spectacular version of the material world.


Hyperrealism aims to create an enhanced reality more precise, sharp, and vivid than either captured on camera or seen by the naked eye. As a result, hyperrealism in painting presents a brighter, more seductive and spectacular version of the material world.

To achieve that goal, the colors in hyperrealist paintings are more intense, the contrast more dramatic, the details sharper and more precise than in nature or photography. It’s as if every part of the image is seen through a magnifying glass. Air is entirely transparent, so it does not blur the edges of far-away objects. The textures, surfaces, and contrast between light and shade are more defined than the naked eye can perceive. There is no clear hierarchy between the primary and secondary objects.


Even though hyperrealist painting aims to create a more intense version of reality, it does not try to be beautiful. Instead, hyperrealism tries to distance itself from the notions of visual harmony and “good taste” of academic figurative painting. Hyperrealism’s distance from notions of good taste is why such aspects of traditional painting, like image composition and the harmonious interplay of light and color, are often downplayed in hyperrealist art.


Paintings by Roberto Bernardi

Illustration: paintings by Roberto Bernardi are a prime example of hyperrealism in art. The use of mundane objects in hyprrealist still life often feels ironic.

Hyperrealism in archviz

We have established that hyperrealism in painting aims for a brighter and more spectacular version of reality. Does hyperrealism in digital architectural visualization follow this pattern, or is it entirely different? 

To check this hypothesis, we may compare the qualities of hyperrealist painting to the traits of hyperrealism archviz. 

The primary qualities of hyperrealist paintings are intense colors, expressive contrast, exact detailing and textures, disregard of both aerial perspective and staged image composition. Let’s see if they are present in the visualizations that we consider hyperreal.

In the concept work by Arqui9, the color is brighter and more saturated than is customarily found in unretouched photographs. However, this intensity does not surpass what we see in real life. The contrast is also heightened, but only to the level of real-world experience. At the same time, sharp tiny details of the trees and the grass look almost toylike. Expressive image composition is held together by two ladies in dramatic red gowns. It looks almost theatrical, like a scene from a play or a movie.

Illustration: "Above the clouds" by Arqui9 spots an almost symmetric composition of dark triangles, and unnaturally saturated colors.


At iddqd Studio, we often adopt a similar approach to space representation. In our 2019 visualization of a Pacific Gateway hotel , the colors are ‘unnaturally’ intense compared to photographs or most photorealist archviz. This intensity mirrors the real-life sensory and emotional experience of color but does not surpass it. Unlike hyperrealist artists, we also utilize aerial perspective. Air is often thick and foggy, like in the 19th century Romanticism landscape painting. The composition is structured almost like a geometric pattern. It is shaped by the contrast between the soft water and darker stripes of trees and shadows.


Illustration: Pacific Gateway hotel by Iddqd Studio.

Verdict: Hyperrealism in art and archviz is not the same

As we have figured out, hyperrealism in archviz may utilize some methods of hyperrealist painting, but their approaches are different. 

Hyperrealist painting abandons the artistic conventions of landscape and still life representation. Hyperrealism in archviz recognizes its roots in traditional landscape painting and manual visualization. Hyperrealist art is an alternative ‘better than the real world’ reality. Hyperrealism in archviz bridges the gap between the purely visual perception of an image and the complex multisensory experience of the material reality. 

Hyperrealism in visualization is an anticipation of the physical space and a promise of the real world. It means hyperrealism in archviz is a conceptual approach rather than a style or a set of artistic methods. This distinction is why we decided to call this movement in archviz hyperreal rather than hyperrealist.


Header illustration: art by Roberto Bernardi, visualization by Arqui9.