Saturday, February 7, 2015


A couple of weeks back C and I had an Arty day in Sydney. We were there to see two exhibitions, Pop into Popism and Chuck Close.
We headed to the MCA to see Chuck Close first. I had heard of Chuck before, in various readings of modern art and knew he did portraits.

However, I was completely unprepared for the enormity and magnificence of this exhibition.

For starters, yes he does portraits, but in every shape and form one can make art of portraits. Oh My!!!!
He does large tapestry portraits, swirly painting portraits that up close look like nothing but fabulous abstracts but from a distance you see the portrait, portraits in copper, portraits in paper art, portraits in wood blocks, and the list goes on.
It was one of the best art exhibits I had been to in a very long time. Here is a selection of photos, I took much more, but these show you his range, and only tip the iceberg of what we saw that day.

This is LOU 2012. I cannot begin to tell you how in love I was with this piece. It was the first piece I saw as I entered the exhibit, a tapestry and it was huge, filled the wall. It was so realistic I wanted to wrap my arms around it and just be with him. The austerity and Louness overwhelmed me and brought me to my knees, I kept going back to it and I was sure I'd be kicked out for nutty behaviour!

BOB 1969-70, Chuck's most famous piece and from the National Gallery in Canberra. It began as a photo and was painted over and then cut with razor blades to build up highlights. A striking piece, Bob was a friend of Chuck.

SELF-PORTRAIT 2014, this is created with woodblock and paint. The further away the more it looks like a painting, or photo.

But up close you can see the amazing detail and colour

I loved these two pieces (in two separate rooms), a series of screenprint type portraits being added to, if you look you will see the reflection on the polished floors, I love this at the MCA. I waited for the people to disappear in the second photo (I prefer clean photos) but when the guy - who was explaining the concepts to the lady - started aping about, I couldn't resist!


And then there was ROY 2011. After Lou, this was my favourite, I spent a LOT of time just soaking up the atmosphere of greatness in this tapestry. My first view was the reflection above, what a face, what an interesting portrait, and I was transfixed hypnotically towards the piece, closer and closer. I wanted to stroke this nose as it grew out of the piece (which of course it didn't, it just seemed that way), I kept coming back to it, again and again. It haunted me. It wasn't until I was flicking through the Exhibit booklet in the next room I found out who Roy was! Roy Lichtenstein, how serendipitous to see him when I would see his actual art later on that day. I realised, I never knew what one of my favourite artists looked like, but now I have seen him, I will never forget that magnificent face, full of knowing and intellect!

Part of the KARA 2012 series, Close uses a grid of painted circles to form a pixelated look up close, but from a distance it looks like an old style oil painting.

Another self portrait, another tapestry

Two portraits of his daughter. The first using torn pieces of paper stuck together in hues of grey. The second was hardened pieces of paper of light cardboard (I cannot remember) stuck to form a maze that again turned into his daughter. These were haunting and so very beautiful.

A huge floor tapestry, reminded me of an impressionism painting.

Later that afternoon after walking, shopping, and lunch we headed to the Sydney Art Gallery. How I love this building full of wonder and beauty, basking in the sun, looking splendid and showing off it's banners of colour and froth!
No photos were allowed in Pop into Popism which is a shame as it was full of amazing. I have seen a Pop Art exhibit before and a Warhol one, both years ago and seen a lot of Pop Art in galleries here, and overseas. So I guess I was a bit disappointed in the selection on display here. Only a couple of Warhols, Lichtenstein's etc. But it was good, don't get me wrong. Quite possibly after Chuck which was so unexpectedly good, seeing what you know and expect was a let down.

We meandered through the maze of colour, comic, and loudness that is Pop Art, marveling at the thought process of the pieces, admiring the beauty of others, and wincing at the ridiculous in some.
And then we got to the Australian section, and this was when the exhibition came alive to me. The only artists I really knew was Martin Sharp and Brett Whiteley. But there was some terrific pieces from a whole range of people I had not heard of.
The Whiteley piece was one of his huge murals. It covered three walls and we spent a lot of time contemplating it and it's various components. His mind was such a complex beast and his genius outstanding.
The final section was new Pop Art or the Popism, with some early Jeff Koons, Cindy Sherman and many newer names I've not heard of. This was definitely the more experimental section of the exhibit as you can imagine, but there was much beauty there too. I'm certain that in fifty years time people will be sentimental about these pieces as they are the triptych of the three Elvis's shooting by Warhol early on in the exhibit.
As Bansky would say, we exited through the gift shop and spent time purchasing Pop Art products, Andy would be smiling somewhere.

Both exhibits are on until early March, if you haven't had a chance and you are curious or love art, you must go and visit them both.

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