Your eyes tell you they’re photographs. That’s exactly what they seem to be: complex, colorful faces with paint on them. Your mind, seeing no reason to think otherwise, accepts the perception as reality. But something about the surface of the art compels you to think again. How can photographs yield such a realistic consistency? It looks and feels as if these photographs have skin–textured skin. Drawn in by the mystery of it all, you look up the artist for more information: Eloy Morales, hyperrealist painter based in Madrid, Spain. Painter you think to yourself. Somehow, they’ve made a mistake and misprinted information. But they haven’t. Your eyes have. Looking again, more closely this time, you realize that the crystal clear photographs creatively staged with bright colored paint are oil painted self portraits.
It seems unreal that this internationally renowned artist started experimenting with paint when he was only 4 years old. But ever since 1995, Morales has catapulted his childhood experiments with paint into an ever growing career. “I try to show my inner world in my work,” he told Daily Mail, the UK online news website. Hence his love for painting faces. For Morales, the face is a public gateway to one’s inner world. The textures present on the faces of his subjects, whether artistic or physical, illustrate an inner world that viewers may not be privy to but are nevertheless intrigued by. Less focused on physical aspects, Morales enjoys capturing the ethereal world through his painting. For example, his painting, “Francisco with Butterflies,” evokes an imaginative, poetic feeling on the face of an older man. From the pale white color used to recreate Francisco’s face to the wrinkles on his forehead to the facial hair to the closed eyes to the blue butterflies, the amount of detail devoted to the piece is incredible.
It’s no wonder Morales’ paintings are completed in tiny pieces at a time. Full of discipline and patience, he fills in one small pigment at a time, blending it if necessary. “It’s all about creating smooth transitional tones,” he states in a video illustrating his process. That’s how he achieves such layered details that resemble photography. Watching him paint almost feels like a time lapse as the image slowly spreads across the canvas, colored oils mixing and blending together to form images that look exactly like their photographic counterparts. With such a meticulous process, it should come as no surprise that it takes Morales a month’s worth of eight hour days to complete one portrait. He also prefers to work alone in his studio intentionally located far from his home. Intentional or not, this solitary work habit has helped launch Morales’ latest series of self portraits.
The conceptual self portraits, as Morales calls them, visually depict the painter’s complex relationship with paint itself. Holding the belief that everything we do is a self portrait, the series reflects Morales’ emotional and creative journey. Photos showcasing a rainbow of paint on his face seem to speak to the vibrant life art breathes into this husband and father. A portrait of coffee brown paint oozing off of his face, however, may speak to the mundane everyday struggles artists sometimes feel. Despite the overwhelming hyperrealism present in his art, Morales prefers not to hold so tightly to labels and tags. Instead, he prefers to think of art as unlimited and uninhibited: free of labels that restrict art to confining descriptions.
Perhaps, the best way to describe Eloy Morales’ art is living and breathing. Despite the pieces merely being oil on canvas, they seem to come alive with one glance. Though silent, they tell stories. Though still, they trigger emotions. Though hyperrealist, they reach beyond a tangible, physical world, tapping into a world that can only be visited through imagination. Though he paints faces, he’s caused faces all around the world to feel something. Known as the world’s greatest hyperrealist painter, Eloy Morales demonstrates the words of Henry David Thoreau: “this world is but a canvas to our imagination.”