Born and raised in Rennes, France, Alexis Ralaivao currently lives and works in Berlin, Germany. Ralaivao puts a modern spin on figurative painting traditions. As an autodidact, he draws inspiration mainly from the Dutch Old Masters, who have proven to be his most consistent teachers. Ralaivo’s distinctive style began to take shape as he spent more and more time in front of the canvas. Now the artist is mainly known for his ultra-close-up, immaculately executed and seamlessly blended paintings, punctuated by a fleshy palette of pastel hues with tiny, bodily details like moles and blemishes. While thinly layered brushstrokes lend the works a dream-like, almost airbrushed quality, the body language of their subjects is palpably relaxed and off-guard. “In classical portraiture, there is a distance between the public and the person represented. I want to erase that distance” says the artist. Throughout Ralaivao’s recent work, you get the impression of being inside the painting. One could even describe his oeuvre as borrowing a photographic language: the artist zooms in on his subjects—their face, torso, or back—until flesh overwhelms the frame. Ralaivao is of French and Madagascan descent, and his subjects are reflective of his social circle, which is Black or mixed. Mainly working with three models: his girlfriend, his brother, and his good friend Jordan, the artist states that “I can’t paint people I’m not really intimate with.” In Ralaivao’s oeuvre, the subject is always close enough to smell, certainly too close for social distance, and above all, close enough to touch. When he was finding himself as an artist, Alexis Ralaivao valued visiting museums to “see paintings in the flesh,” as he put it, a thoughtless choice of words that ended up being his absolute main subject.