You won’t believe these paintings aren’t photographs

When Charles Bierk had his debut solo exhibition in 2014, people couldn’t believe his works weren’t photographs.

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When Charles Bierk had his debut solo exhibition in 2014, people couldn’t believe his works weren’t photographs. The portraitist and OCADU alum had spent months capturing every pore and wrinkle on the faces of his subjects—friends, musicians and artists—in massive oil paintings. This week, Bierk returns to Nicholas Metivier Gallery to display a new batch of eerily life-like pieces in a show called As You Are, We Are, on display until April 29. We asked him to tell us how he does it.

You’ve been doing photorealistic portraiture for your whole career. What got you interested in the genre?
This form of painting seems most natural to me. A big—and obvious—inspiration of mine is Chuck Close. My dad was an artist, and he used to drag my brothers and me to shows. He took us to a Chuck Close exhibit in New York in ’97, and I just remember the moment it clicked for me: these were all paintings, not photographs. That moment became something I wanted to create. I really like watching people look at the work and react with surprise when a brushstroke or a strand of hair tells them it’s not a photograph.

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