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Chuck Close Exhibition, MCA Sydney

by Christina Sunario

I recently spent a relaxing Sunday at the Museum of Contemporary Art in Sydney, enjoying the much discussed Chuck Close exhibition.

For a bit of background- Chuck Close is an artist from the states, he grew up in Seattle and he is now based in New York. He is well known for the portraits he produces, as well as his signature, unconventional and intricate technique. His portraits are of his family and friends (predominantly artists). As I strolled around the exhibit I couldn’t help but agree with common opinion, that his works are fascinating, that he is indeed a genius!

I was also amazed to discover that he actually suffered from Prosopagnosia, a condition where you are not able to memorise facial distinction and therefore find it difficult to remember people’s faces (also known as face blindness).

One aspect of Chuck’s works that differ from the common portrait artwork is that he uses a logical approach, mathematical, while at the same time using imagination in his tone and colour.


Chuck has been developing different techniques throughout his career. In some of his coloured portraits, he prints the portrait photo (passport size). He then draws grids on the photo and on a big format of media to help him enlarge the portrait. The grids are left visible on the final products for people to see the process of his works. I found that this actually enhances our appreciation by granting viewers a greater understanding of his process.

Chuck marks each square or circle in the grid with colour codes, to differentiate colours or shades. He uses different combinations of colours to create varying depths, which amazingly form exactly the same portrait as the passport size photo. He masters the colour formula- and has used more than 100 colours in 1 picture.


Up close, some of his portraits looked like groups of circles or squares with different colours and shades. Moving backwards, you begin recognise a face- it is all about object perception, collage, juxtaposition, and imagination.DSC07129



It was so interesting to see the different forms of media he has used: finger prints, stencil printing, plate etching, tapestry, ukiyo-e (Japanese form of woodblock), pulp paper and mezzotint. Some of these explorations were the result of collaborations with other creative people.

Here are my three favourites from the exhibit //


Phil Spitbite 1995


This portrait had been produced using varying techniques. My favourite is this woven version, which was done in China. This was inspired by a Chinese hand-woven gift given to him by his colleague.

Self Portrait 2014


My favourite portrait of himself- this one is stunning! Full of colours, contrast and complex shades.

Self Portrait 1977 (etching & aquatint)


With this portrait, I was amazed with the very intricate detail. He worked on copper plate background and worked, again, in grids. He scratched each cell with diagonal lines. The more lines are etched, the deeper the shade would be.

Hope you’ve enjoyed my little wander of the exhibit! If you live in Sydney make sure you visit before it ends in March. You can purchase tickets here.




All photos by Christiana Sunario




Christina Sunario works at an architectural studio in Sydney. She loves to spend her spare time decorating and styling as well as diving into her latest crafty project (her favourite materials include timber and leather). She shares her works on Instagram  and her blog.


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