Unreal Nature

June 21, 2016

Figure Out How to Do It

Filed under: Uncategorized — unrealnature @ 5:48 am

… The only way you can get it is by divorcing yourself somewhat from the image. You’ve got to sit down and figure out how to do it.

This is from Realists at Work by John Arthur (1983). This is from the studio interview with Chuck Close:

[ … ]

Chuck Close: … One of the problems with criticism of work like mine and the painters with whom I’m often linked is that very few writers have discussed what it is like to stand in front of the paintings. I think the actual experience of an Estes street scene and of a painting by Cottingham is very different.

[line break added] Yet, reproduced on the same page, their work might look quite similar. So I have not focused much on the iconography, but these are images that matter a great deal to me. I would never spend a year to make one of them unless it was an image that was very important to me and hopefully, to the viewer.

The reason I chose the human head was that it is something that everybody knows a lot about and cares about. If I painted a rock and made the texture too rough or the color too green, nobody but a geologist would know or care, but we all know faces, so if the texture of the skin is too rough or the color too green, the viewer instantly recognizes that something strange is going on.

I care a great deal about these images and the people who were kind enough to lend me their images. In contrast to the history of portrait painting, which is a tradition by and large of commissioned portraits, these people were really unselfish, not knowing what I was going to do or how many years I might keep dealing with their images. I mean, poor Phil Glass or Keith Hollingworth.

[line break added] They lent me their images in 1968 or 1969, and I’m still doing pieces based on them. So it’s a long-term commitment. I really want to make it clear how important these images are to me. I would never work with someone else’s photograph. I would never do a commissioned portrait. I would never alter an image to please a sitter. These are very personal experiences.

Another reason I have commented more on technique, process, and limitations is that just because I want something in the image doesn’t mean I’m going to get it. The only way you can get it is by divorcing yourself somewhat from the image. You’ve got to sit down and figure out how to do it.

Chuck Close, Mark, 1979 [image from Wikipedia]

[ … ]

C. C.: … I’m as concerned as the next person with man’s inhumanity to man and hate what’s going on in the world, but it seems to me that those pieces that are often described as humanist with a capital H deal only with extremes of emotion — Francis Bacon’s screaming head or a cardinal or a pope, Leonard Baskin’s blind, bloated, dead bodies. I don’t think that this is the only way to comment on a human being.

People without extremes of expression still have tremendous indications embodies in their faces which tell us a lot about them, neutrally presented with no particular editorializing on my part. I’m not trying to get people to think anything in particular about the subject. I just want to present it flat-footedly, in a deadpan kind of way. Yet people who laugh all the time have laugh lines.

[line break added] If they frown a lot, they have furrows in their brows, so I don’t have to paint them laughing or frowning in order to get that. I want to present them without cranked-up or exaggerated emotion. And I don’t want the viewer to walk away from the painting with only one experience. I think a variety of people looking at an image will often leave with totally different experiences because of that neutrality.




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