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Chuck Close at The White Cube Gallery, Bermondsey.

April 17, 2013 2 comments

f30db5c84f4655c65333cef7c8cec5af_0Last weekend we met Wong at the rather fine and spacious White Cube Gallery in Bermondsey to see the Chuck Close exhibition of Prints & Portraits.

To say it’s the best art exhibition I’ve seen in ages would be an understatement. I’ve written about Chuck before here, about how he started out as a hyper realist portrait painter in the 1960’s, until a collapsed spinal artery in the late 1980’s severely restricted his movement and left him wheelchair bound, after which he had to reassess how he could continue and modified his techniques to suit his new condition.

The man is without doubt an inspiration and his work is truly stunning. Large in scale and varied in media, it focuses solely on the human face, how it’s made up, how it can be divided up and yet still retain its identity. Close is a master of colour, understanding how different, and often surprising combinations can create tones that we can easily recognise and organise in our minds as a face.

That this whole exhibition of over 150 works is comprised of maybe less than 10 different faces, is I would suggest to miss the point of what Chuck Close does. The image of Close himself in a rather fetching yellow anorak above, is offered as a photograph, a tapestry, and two or three other different styles of painting, and they all offer a unique visual experience, as in this close up of the dot version of the painting…

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The tapestries especially are unbelievably lovely. There is a black and white image of a crazy haired and bearded man (Lucas) that once transformed into a tapestry, becomes a riotous celebration of colour, as can seen on the images below, the second of which is a close up of his beard believe it or not…

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The things that Chuck does with paper mulch are also very impressive, creating layers of tone and depth that defy description. And as for the carved timber panels created to get the colour separation for the screen prints of the baby’s face, mesmerising (apparently it took a Japanese woodblock carving master the best part of three years to complete)..

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As a big fan of the craft in art, I really enjoyed seeing all these constituent parts to the works, such as wire frames, square grids and hand drawn divided sheets marked up to show tones of grey. It’s always good to see a bit of process, as personally I think this gives the work more weight.

And whilst it could never be argued that Close makes all his own stuff (he’s wheelchair bound for a start don’t forget) it certainly comes across that his involvement at all stages of the work is intrinsic to its finished state. Unlike say the Hirst’s, Koon’s and Quinn’s of this world, who you get the impression just think of something sitting at their desk, commission someone else to make it and then sign it when it’s delivered to their studio.

Sadly the exhibition finishes this weekend, but if you can make it along, I would urge you in the strongest terms to do so, it’s a revelation and you will not be disappointed…

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Possessed…

April 17, 2013 1 comment

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A number of my friends seem to be doing cool art stuff at the moment.

Take Sarah Faraday for example. A photographer by trade, Sarah is working on a project based up in Liverpool called Possessed, in which she is considering issues around the value and status of a photograph of a thing, compared to the actual thing itself, and asks the question, which of your own possessions could you give up in exchange for a photograph of it…

Good question eh?

There are obviously different levels on which this can be considered. At one end is the ridiculous. Giving up a body part (although I see someone has offered their wisdom teeth.. ouch) or a million dollars or your flat/ house in exchange for a photo of it, would I suggest be a step too far.

At the other end of the spectrum is the very easy thing to swap. Sarah can have as many of my old Weekend Guardians, Kit Kat wrappers or as much household dust as she likes in exchange for one of her lovely photos…

In between these two extremes however, are some real conundrums… A love letter for example. As long as you could still read it, do you really need the actual paper with the words on? Or a present from someone who is no longer around. If it’s just sitting on a shelf, or even worse, shut away in a box in the spare room, wouldn’t it be better (or at least as good) to have a picture of it in a little frame on the wall?

I’ve thought about this for a while now and have decided to send in some of my favorite stamps…

They were issued in 1957 and celebrate the World Scout Jubilee Jamboree. Whilst they may not look much to you, I’ve had these for many years as they were given to me by my parents when I was an, erm,  Boy Scout.

There seem to be a number of  levels at which this issue operates, and the image below is an attempt to represent some of them. Firstly there’s me holding the actual, real set of stamps I’m proposing to send in, then a (not very good) photo I’ve just taken as a record of my stamps before I send them off. Then there is a stolen digital internet picture of the high value stamp which is far better than my effort, and shows the finer details of the design. And finally another internet picture this time of a first day cover, which in terms of value alone, could be argued would be a far nicer thing to own…

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So four versions of the same thing. The ones I’m holding I’ve owned for at least 35 years and although it will be a wrench to give them up, I know I can easily get some more, and to all intents and purposes no one (except me) would ever know the difference, certainly not my parents (unless they read this of course) and anyway, whose to say that’s not what I’ve done already…

In the end, it all comes down to the attachment generated by sentiment, how much emotion we have committed to the object in the first place before we are asked to give it up, although monetary value I suspect will usually have a part to play.

All in all I think it’s an excellent idea, one with huge scope for argument and discussion about the value we put on things.  This post for example is now record of this process, and having spent a couple of hours putting it together, it has already accrued some value that may help soften the blow of losing my stamps….

One final thing, I’m a big fan of the ambigramic project logo, very clever…

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