Close Connection

As a first year art student looking for inspiration, Photo-realism was new and captured my interest. Of the artists pursuing that genre of painting, one stood out. His work certainly did look ‘photo-real’ but as I was to discover, there was much more to the work and the artist than simply what the title suggested. As an impressionable art student I tried to emulate the style on several occasions with a large self-portrait sitting firmly on a grid. The sheer size of the monochromatic portraits planted the seed that ‘big was good’, and as I delved into the way he executed a painting, the more I appreciated what he was doing.

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After some time my direction changed but two things remained – the grid, and Chuck Close.

My admiration for him as an artist is his undying devotion to the depiction of the human image, more precisely, the human head. The point of departure from his subject matter came when the initial selection and gathering of reference material was complete. The execution of the painting was not about getting to know the subject, rather to detach himself emotionally from the sitter. He too became the subject of his work on many occasions. The question arises as to how an artist could maintain an interest for so long on one subject without losing interest. Few artists have achieved that. His single-mindedness is one of the fascinating aspects about him. Giorgio Morandi comes to mind with his still life paintings of bottles.

Chuck Close is an artist who has experimented with many different mediums and has continued to reinvent himself. If one looks at his career and the works he has produced, to the uninitiated it may seem he has not moved that far. Quite the contrary. His initial works were powerful, perhaps because of their scale, but as he grew as an artist so too did his ability to explore the same image that became about many different things. Size was not his preoccupation. His small gridded works were just as powerful as the large works, capturing the essence of the photo reference, but on closer inspection they were carefully executed tonal airbrushed spots of paint.

Chuck Close is one of the major artists of the 20th Century and has successfully transitioned into the 21st Century. His standing and longevity in the art world comes from his artistic devotion to his craft and an unwillingness to compromise. His mission should he accept it, was to devote his life to exploring and discovering just what it was that fascinated him about portraying the human image. For Close, it is warts and all, where contours become valleys, scars become roads, and wrinkles form a surface map that takes the viewer on a wild ride across the facial landscape.

The change in the appearance of his work could have been attributed to his disability, but the resulting work sits well in this artist’s journey of discovery, experimentation and courage. The closeness of the early works has not changed. It is the distance the viewer adopts that brings the intention of his seemingly abstract marks into focus.

Young aspiring artists seek inspiration, and when they find it, it forms a lasting impression. There are so many aspects to Chuck Close’s work that I admire. I now have an undying love for grids and the drive to depict a subject in a way that is fresh, inventive and able to project and translate the artist’s vision, giving the outsider some insight into their world.

Images courtesy the artist, Museum of Contemporary Art Australia, Sydney, Pace Gallery, New York and Utopia Art Sydney.

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  1. By Chuck Close | Prints and Process - Artist Profile on January 16, 2015 at 1:20 pm

    […] Close connection […]

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