I was really only familiar with American Chuck Close's large photorealism airbrushed portraits, such as the famous one titled "Bob" which has been used on the banner to advertise this exhibition (above left). I wasn't expecting to be quite so enthralled and blown away by the genius of this artist's explorations of portraiture.
The exhibition of his large scale photo based portrait paintings is currently being held at the Museum of Contemporary Art in Sydney. It's a great venue for modern art - large rooms, high ceilings - perfect for large paintings and installations. I took my kids along, as I thought that the theme of portraits might be fairly accessible for them, and they actually got a lot out of the exhibition and really enjoyed the "kids corner" activities related to Chuck Close's work. They spent ages in there drawing their own grid style self portraits and adding them to the kid's gallery.
What I learnt was that although the theme of photo based portraits has not changed, Close's exploration of various techniques to produce these portraits has been very innovative and experimental over the years.
Various drawing and painting techniques that he has used over the years to create these portraits have included: ink, graphite, pastel, airbrush, watercolour, conte, finger painting, stamp pad ink, printmaking, etching, lino and woodcuts, silk screen, hand made paper collage, rags, tapestries.. Above left is an example of collage work made from left over rag pulp squeezed into round discs in various shades of grey.
The best part of the exhibition was detailed descriptions and examples of his technique of using gridded photographs and applying shades of colour or greyscale one stroke after another methodically in the grid cell by cell. There was also a lot of technical descriptions and examples of his printmaking process and examples of his portraits in various stages of completion. I found it really fascinating ! Below you can see a close up of each cell of the portrait - just abstract shapes, but from a distance, the whole portrait is recognisable - really genius and amazing !
I thoroughly recommend this exhibition of Chuck Close for people of all ages including kids. I found it fascinating ! 5 stars ! On at the MCA Sydney until March 2015
Sacha Grossel is a practising Visual Artist from Australia.