01 July 2011

Chuck Close

We do love a new discovery, and it doesn't come much bigger than Chuck Close. We discovered him on the BBC's 'Imagine' series on Tuesday evening. If you missed it, you can catch up on the BBC iPlayer, here - it is well worth a watch.

Chuck is a New York based portrait painter, and is one of the worlds most successful artists. Ironically, he has a neurological deficit called 'face blindness', where he cannot retain memory of faces or names. He is also wheelchair bound after suffering a spinal artery collapse, and paints with a brush strapped to his wrist.

Due to his deficit, he approaches his paintings very close-up, in tiny sections - grid-like - building up to a whole. Up close, all you see is a series of tiny, colourful, patterned squares, but when you step back, you see the amazing transformation from blocks of colour, to a portrait with such incredible tone and depth. It is hard to see how it is possible to create such a portrait from his approach.

Chuck only paints portraits of his family and friends, as a way of remembering them, and therefore they are like photographs and stories to him. In this way, he has used his work as a way of dealing with his inability to recognise faces.

None of his images are created digitally or photo-mechanically - it is all by hand from a blank canvas. We think it is absolutely amazing - the work in itself is amazing, but the fact that he has face blindness and a disability that would perhaps usually stop an artist from painting, makes it all the more awe-inspiring.


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