Untitled #21


Karel Funk ( Canadian, 1971 )

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General Description

Karel Funk’s meticulously painted portraits both embrace and defy notions of portraiture. Traditionally, a portrait articulates the visual facts that define a specific individual. In Funk’s hands, this model is inverted, and the “portrait” becomes a vehicle for questioning the specificity of identity. His paintings omit the face of his subject, turning the lack of individuality into the focus of his painting.

The subjects of Funk’s hyper-real portraits are most typically male, usually acquaintances or friends. The artist selects his models, purchases their outerwear, and poses them in his studio, where they are digitally photographed against uniformly white backdrops. Then, working from a high-resolution computer screen displaying the digital image, he constructs his painting over a period of weeks or months, carefully building layer upon layer of acrylic glazes. The acrylic paint is treated like egg tempera; this painstaking attention to detail and precise brushwork are elements that root his paintings firmly in the history of portraiture, connecting his work technically with the process of Renaissance masters such as Hans Holbein and Agnolo Bronzino.

Excerpt from

Jeffrey Grove, DMA Label copy, Variations on Theme: Contemporary Art 1950s - Present, 2012.

Web Resources

  • W Magazine
    Read more about artist Karel Funk.

  • YouTube
    Watch a short documentary following the completion of one Funk painting from start to finish