Theatrical Surfaces, Hidden Depths

Painted in oil on industrial canvas tarps, the art of San Francisco artist Charles Bierwirth revels in odd juxtapositions and poetically compelling details.

Artist Statement:

Over 40 years of painting on industrial canvas tarpaulins, I’ve seen the passage of time and what happens to these pairings of images in oil onto such rough but theatrical surfaces. A large part of what I do as an artist involves finding and utilizing materials that are close at hand to compose a painting. This ad hoc attitude lay behind my finding a large green army surplus tarpaulin back in 1978 to paint on, resolving the lengthy process of constructing a stretcher bar. I’ve been painting on them ever since. Almost immediately, I discovered there was more to these tarps than a way out of sawing wood and stretching canvas. They were sculptural and theatrical — a perfect arena upon which to compose pictures in paint. I have executed several series of works on tarpaulin, painting images relative to the tarps’ characteristics. Common in each is the use of found and/or altered photographs I take and enlarge into paint on the tarp. Because I enjoy mural and trompe l’oeil painting, this process comes natural to me, and with it, a dry wit sensibility.

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Charles Bierwirth

Charles Bierwirth

San Francisco has been Charles Bierwirth’s home since 1978. Born in Flint, Michigan, Charles studied art at the Flint Institute of Arts, and received his BFA in painting at Eastern Michigan University in 1978. He moved to San Francisco to obtain his MFA in Painting from the San Francisco Art Institute in 1980. After a brief stint teaching art, his interest turned to mural painting. In the past few years, Charles has spent his energy primarily on fine art.

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