April 5, 2013
No, that’s not a photograph that you see. It’s a painting by Chuck Close, an American artist famed for his photo-realist paintings from the 1960s and 70s.
It’s hard to believe isn’t it?
I have been captivated by Close’s portraits since studying his work in A-Level art at school, and his paintings heavily influenced my own work, igniting a love for portraiture that’s stuck ever since. What intrigued me was the deceptively simple composition of his head-on portraits of some of his closest friends and family, often painted with an apparent emotional detachment, presenting their faces as neutral. His subjects look out to the viewer, locking eye contact and lulling you into their mesmerising gaze, proving that it’s a whole lot more than just a simple picture of a face.
Throughout Close’s career he has constantly been searching for new and interesting ways to paint his subjects, starting with black and white photo-realisms capturing every single hair follicle, wrinkle and eyelash with frightening precision (below is ‘Mark’ one of his colour portraits). He then began creating portraits through a grid structure in which each individual square had a unique ‘blob’ of paint, it’s shape, colour and tone gelling with surrounding squares to build up the image of the face. When looking at the whole painting, it creates a face more realistic than you can fathom (see ‘Lucas’ below). His vast array of work experiments with many other techniques such as etching, pulp paper, and even fingerprints.
It was one of my life missions to see at least one of his works, the majority of which are in America. Luckily for me when I visited the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York I got to see two. Seeing them in the flesh was even more overwhelming than I had expected, with almost 6 square meters of face staring right at you. Dumbfounded by the hard-to-believe detail that is captured you can get lost in the canvas, finding yourself wanting to look at and appreciate every square inch before your satisfied.
For me, there’s nothing more interesting in our world than the people that inhabit it, and Close’s portraits transform the everyday into something magical.
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