Yigal Ozeri paints hyperrealistic women 'living in nature without malice'

The reaction to Yigal Ozeri's astonishing paintings, composed of thousands of tiny brushstrokes, has two elements to it. There's an immediate hit of 'holy shit, that's not a photograph' and then a sense of hollowness, of sadness - perhaps even existential unease, as you realise how a combination of paint can look just as alive and present as a real human being.

Ozeri actually started out as an abstract painter with a preference for a figurative style of depiction. About 10 years ago he began his hyperrealistic work, painting portraits with an unbelievable level of verisimilitude which were born out of a sense of duty as an artist.

"I grew up in Israel; at the time, classical portraits weren't taught in schools," he said. "There was no importance or value for figurative work.

"When I was 32 years old I went to the Prado for the first time and I saw the Las Meninas piece, and it was shocking. I was hypnotised.

"I then thought, how could I call myself a painter if I can't paint a portrait? Painting a portrait is a big responsibility. One that I feel took me a long time to do. Since my teachers growing up didn't teach that style I had to teach myself."

Ozeri's portraits take months to finish so he usually works from photographs, and he always chooses female subjects.

"Women have been some of the most prominent subjects in art history," he explained, "from Mona Lisa, to the Girl with the Peal Earring, they possess an undeniable presence.

"My work deals wth beauty. I try and focus on bringing back the intimacy to painting and I enjoy exploring the depth of romanticism. My work portrays women living in nature without malice. That's what's most important to me, and perhaps more radical than the current trend for glamourised violence and destruction."

Ozeri enjoys replicating movement in his work and the range of minimal to incredibly intricate elements the style demands. People nearly always mistake his paintings for photographs, especially as they are nearly always photo-style portraits.

"I think there is something very honest and relatable with portraits," he said. "I think it's easy to connect with the work."

You can see Yigal Ozeri's work at an exhibition in London's Opera Gallery 12 - 25 May, 2017.

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