Growing up in Winnipeg, where his father was an architect and his mother a music teacher, Funk was a die-hard skateboarder as a teen, but at 21 he turned to painting at the University of Manitoba. In New York he earned an M.F.A. at Columbia University, attracting notice straight out of grad school with his critically lauded first solo show, in 2004 at 303 Gallery. So assured was his style, The New York Times critic Roberta Smith wrote at the time, that “it does make you wonder what is left for him to do.”
What he’s done lately is paint women for the first time. He’d stayed away from female subjects, he explains, not wanting to introduce the idea of an emotional or a sexual dynamic between artist and model. But as a result, he says, he had come to be seen as a male painter who paints only men, which introduced another unintended narrative into his work. Painting both genders “makes me a painter who is just looking at people.” He has also moved further into abstraction. One painting shows only a jacket, another a hood. You can still discern the figure beneath them, though just barely. “It feels like you’re looking down on a relief map,” says the artist.
Funk photographs his models in poses against white backgrounds, and later refers to the digital images on his computer screen while he paints, inventing as he goes until, in the home stretch, he ignores the photographs entirely. “At a certain point you have to make it into a painting,” Funk says, “so that it’s speaking by itself.” The works on the pages that follow do just that.