Chuck Close and perceptual Science

I just discovered the wonderfully perceptive artist Chuck Close did a cover for Science magazine back in 1999.

Close was renowned for doing huge super-realistic paintings of portrait photographs that seem more real than real. When you get up close you notice that he’s painted in insanely small details, like individual hairs that stretch into the background and blur as they become out of focus in the original photograph.

Painting this sort of detail on such a huge scale makes you question how real photographs really are, as it gives them an surreal quality despite looking like wonderful likenesses. It’s an uncanny perceptual effect.

In 1988, Close suffered a stroke in his spinal artery, restricting his movement and confining him to a wheelchair.

Close was determined to continue painting and thought about how he could still paint with his inability to do fine detail because of his damaged nervous system.

His later paintings, like the one featured on this cover, break down images almost into perceptual units. As you move away from them, they coalesce into photorealistic images.

His paintings lose a lot when you can’t see them in their original towering sizes, so if you ever get the chance to his work ‘live’, don’t miss it.

He’s a wonderful ‘perceptual explorer’ and a wry commentator on our photo obsessed age.

Link to BBC News article on Chuck Close cover.
Link to search of his pictures (just stunning).

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