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Behind Oresegun Olumide’s Hyperrealistic Portraits

Nigerian artist Oresegun Olumide goes beyond realism with his meticulously detailed oil paintings that could easily be mistaken for photographs. Notoriously difficult to capture in fine art, water plays a central role in his portraits: each figure is unclothed, allowing Olumide to explore the distinct texture and aesthetic quality of water-on-skin.

Nigerian artist Oresegun Olumide goes beyond realism with his meticulously detailed oil paintings that could easily be mistaken for photographs. Notoriously difficult to capture in fine art, water plays a central role in his portraits: each figure is unclothed, allowing Olumide to explore the distinct texture and aesthetic quality of water-on-skin.

Olumide’s intention is to communicate the centrality of water in everyday terms: “Many do not think of appreciating water. Every day, everybody touches water but nobody thinks of creating something about [it]. That was the challenge I took and decided to do series of water-on-body art works.” His ability to capture the shine, translucence, and motion of water speaks to his incredible ability to work with light. Each figure shimmers and takes on a sacred serenity, as if rendered divine by the liquid, calling to mind artists like Linnea Strid, formerly featured on Hi-Fructose.

Ultimately, he is inspired by lived experience in his home: “Things and activities I see regularly in my environment [inspire] my painting. I admire the way Nigerians, especially the ones that are not financially fine, strive to live. They are contented and happy with the little they have, all these inspire my work.” Depending on the level of detail, each painstakingly precise painting takes Olumide anywhere from two weeks to months. He harbors a sense of transcendence, aiming to go beyond what is actual: “[My genre] is called realism, but I will call my paintings ‘hyper realism’ because I always love my work to surpass what is seen as realistic.”

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