A name that you may not of heard of, oh but wait for this New Year as he is being introduced to Soapbox Press as a writer and artist! You are all in for a treat. Before we do introduce Mark I thought I’d get to know him a little better by featuring him within the interview section of our website. So here he is, let’s take it away…
Nicola Manuel: Welcome to Soapbox Press Mark, it’s lovely to have you on board as a writer and image-maker. Please can you tell us a little about yourself, your practician and background?
Mark Michael: Well Nicola for as long as I can remember I have always wanted to be an artist. I studied Sculpture at Winchester School of Art, but I have always loved to paint. Thanks to my three years at WSA there is a strong structural element within much of my artwork. My work has a satirical edge, using humour as a balancing point within my paintings and prints. I feel this enables me to explore both the dark and light aspects of life, creating a mixture of emotions and visual triggers. I paint using acrylic on canvas, but I also enjoy utilising Giclée printing methods to produce limited edition prints. As an artist once the painting is finished and hung on a wall, it is for the viewer to engage and explore the work. I love to observe how people interpret my art and how they translate the imagery and text within my work. This is a very rewarding aspect of being an artist.
NM: What is it for you that really motivates your artwork?
MM: As an artist anything that I could possibly say about my motivations would sound rather like a tired cliché. All that I can say is that I love making art and experiencing the wonderful uncertainty that the creative process brings forth. It excites me to wonder where the next idea will take me and I love to keep pushing ideas until they break.
NM: What has been the most significant moment within your artistry career?
MM: I remember it well the 15th March 2012. I was fortunate enough to have been invited to attend the private view of a very talented artist Jakob Belbin, an Urban Expressionist Painter. It was on this evening that I walked into the Art Café Jewry Street, Winchester for the first time. The café is run by passionate individuals who inject a palpable enthusiasm, establishing a perfect venue for creativity. I met John Hayes the Curator of the gallery and I gave him my business card. I was thrilled as any artist would be to be offered the next show at The Jewry Street Gallery. For John Hayes and the Art Café to embrace my work meant a lot to me. The ‘How Should I feel’ exhibition at the Art Café will always remain special.
NM: Is there a certain someone or something that inspires your work and has helped it shape to what we see today?
MM: There are special people in my life. They know who they are and they know how much their love and support means to me. I find general inspiration from many different sources, trying not to restrict my observations only to painting and sculpture. I enjoy listening to music whilst I work and I am an avid fan of comedy.
There was a rare moment in my life where a single pure piece of artistic inspiration took my breath away. ‘Wheat Field With Crows’ by Vincent Van Goth, a painting that most definitely pulls at my heart and head simultaneously. I find this painting to be a pure expression of frustration, excitement and trepidation. Van Goth passing away at the age of 37, after such an artistic breakthrough makes the mind boggle as to what he could have achieved with another three decades of painting. I want to stand in front of that painting one-day and just wander through the composition.
NM: “I enjoy holding up a mirror to society, tilting it ever so slightly, watching as the reflection distorts to show ugliness and often moments of strange beauty.” This is quite a striking quote taken from your feature as part of the Art Café. What is it about society that you find most intriguing?
MM: Society is a wonderful paradox, which I find intriguing as it displays both fragility and strength. As an artist I have to observe this rich unpredictable world that turns from sweet to sour so fast. We are all privy to the veneers of life and the ugly beauties that they hide; I like to expose the façade. Society intrigues me for so many reasons as it moves so fast through technology, social media and the cold alienation, which this can inflict. Through my artwork I enjoy depicting the intricate and blatant aspects of our ever-changing society.
NM: How important are words within your work and why do you choose to work so poignantly with them?
MM: I love writing and the titles of my artwork are just as important to me as any of my brush strokes, you can add a twist and a turn with a few words. Of course every piece of art is different, but most of the time titles become clearer as my work progresses. In 2011, I wrote a volume of short sharp phrases and observations called ‘Cold in the Sun’. To date it is possibly the most unconscious incident that I have produced. The writing of this volume seemed, at the time, nothing more than an indulgent cathartic burst, but it bridged a gap between my writing and painting. I then began incorporating text within my artwork. I would say that the volume of text, which just fell out of me in 2011 laid the foundation for the way, I am working today.
NM: What are your greatest achievements to date?
MM: My solo exhibition ‘How should I feel’ at the Jewry Street Gallery, Winchester has obviously been a highlight. I do often wonder how the top to toe logistics of that show came together in just one month. I am very fortunate to be able to work at something that I love. Attending Fareham College and experiencing their brilliant open artistic programme and then progressing to receive a degree in Fine Art/Sculpture from Winchester School of Art has steered me to where I am today. My love of both writing and art are very close to my heart and ‘Cold in the Sun’ was a great bridge between my art and my love of writing.
NM: The year of 2012 has been a rollercoaster for everyone, from graduating to taking new turns within his or her educational or working career. What has been the most elaborate moment for you during the year? Does 2013 hold many exciting happenings?
MM: The year of 2012 has been about momentum, pushing forward with new artwork and finding exhibition opportunities. I would have to say that the most rewarding moment of the year was my first solo show at the Art Café in Winchester and working alongside John Hayes the Curator of The Jewry Street Gallery. It was also exciting that a representative from an art investment website visited my Jewry Street exhibition and that he has now included me within a stable of artists.
In 2013 I have several exhibitions in London. A group show at The Strand Gallery and a solo show at Aura, Mayfair. Feel free to visit my website www.markmichaelart.com for information regarding these and other upcoming exhibitions this year. So thankfully 2013 looks to be very busy!
You are now finished with those wordy questions and it comes to a nice close with the quick round questions… If I were to say these words to you, you would say which word in response?
Having read this interview I hope that you can also see what I see in Mark Michael. From his beautiful imagery, to the deep meanings behind them it really goes to show the link between creative aspects. As we enter the year of 2013, I very much look forward to including Mark within Soapbox Press, not only as a writer but also as a key artist. Do have a look through at Mark’s work both online, and in person if you are ever around the Winchester area. This name has only just appeared and will certainly be featuring again very soon.
Featured Image: Until the shine wears off.