Cities in Real Life: Urban Hyperrealism

September 14, 2015
London at Twelve by Kiki Meana
London at Twelve by Kiki Meana

Urban art is a form of street culture and artistic expression that relates to cities and city life. This is a broad definition and led to the one of the most well known evolutions of urban art we see today in street art and graffiti. Like graffiti artists, hyperrealists are often influenced by their urban surroundings and look to evoke feelings of identity and sense of place within their work; though with very different results.


Urban Hyperrealism takes both grand forms of modernity and the more mundane, routine pieces of city life as its subject. Plus One Gallery’s London’s Calling exhibition of international artists from 2012 exemplified the various ways in which hyperrealism has captured the urban world.


Cities as intersections of life and culture



Cynthia Poole’s ‘Destinations’ features one of the most iconic London markers, the red double decker bus. Cities are where people from around the world live and work with one another. The ensuing notions of traffic, human and vehicular, are perfectly captured in this photo.


Poole’s subject of the two buses is both unique and common. With hints of locations such as Baker Street and Oxford Circus in the reflections on the buses, it is so distinctly London based, yet the street level view of traffic is one familiar to urban places in any city.


Other hyperrealism artists in this collection also saw the meeting of people and vehicles as an intriguing and intrinsic part of urban life in the city. Francisco Rangel’s ‘Cyprus’ portrays two taxi cabs meeting in London, one of which has a Cyprus holiday advertisement upon it.


‘International’ by David Finnigan captures the warped image of the landmark London Eye through glass, in a seating area. Empty seats are waiting for their next occupiers while the Eye revolves with people in the background.


Hyperrealism offers breadth beyond sight and photography


In ‘London at Twelve’, Kike Meana shows the breadth of the city, highlighting famous landmarks with a singular vision that transcends sight and photography. Meana, like many visitors to London, is interested in the city landscape and the iconic buildings that form it.


Central to this piece is the Parliament building and the clocktower, yet in order to capture the sense of everything that is happening in London in one moment, viewers are shown the distance of the city and the Thames River with wide ranging scope.


By drawing on real world locations and a sense of varying perspectives, Meana is able to bring a rounded, larger view to his photorealistic oil on canvas creation.


The power of featuring multiple iconic buildings or places within a single painting is similarly seen in Harold Zabady’s ‘The River’.


Though Zabady’s composition also depicts a similar scene that features the Thames alongside edifices, it is an entirely different interpretation not least due to perspective.


Zabady’s Thames-level-viewpoint captures the slow moving river boats and lends them a unique significance: a slow pace offset against the busy city. Meana’s piece on the other hand seems to represent the Thames as an unspoilt, natural space in stark contrast to the manmade architecture.

Urban Hyperrealism takes many forms, even within the single collection of London’s Calling. By drawing not only on the unique perspectives of each artist, but the many large and small elements of a city, urban hyperrealism highlights many different areas of real city life.

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