Michael was raised in Italy, Spain, and Belgium, before returning to Canada to study. He studied fine arts at the University of Guelph, OCAD University, and the Academie des Beaux-Arts de Watermael-Boitsfort in Brussels, Belgium, before completing his Bachelor of Fine Arts degree at NSCAD University in Halifax, Nova Scotia. Following art school he made films/videos for several years before returning to painting and drawing. He currently lives, and maintains a studio practice, in Dartmouth, Nova Scotia, Canada.
My oil paintings and charcoal drawings primarily consist of figure compositions that explore personal and social themes through myth, metaphor and symbol, along with a good dose of ambiguity. My use of the figure allows me to be more specific when it comes to addressing themes that are important to me, such as man’s relationship to nature and prevailing stereotypes of manhood, to name just a few.
There are two narratives that inform the artistic choices I make: the technical narrative, or how the painting is made, and the dramatic narrative, the content of the painting. I find these two aspects of my work are interdependent and both have the capacity to elicit emotion in the viewer.
In terms of a dramatic narrative, there are currently two threads I am following – the use of classical, biblical and social myths, and man’s relationship with nature. When it comes to the use of myths I have made a conscious effort to focus not on the big moments for which the mythic figures are known but on quieter moments just before or after the drama that is traditionally seen as most important - the human moments of fear, guilt, insecurity and loneliness. The moments in which the characters are most vulnerable, most human. That way the work becomes more personal and also steers me away from illustrating stories. I am therefore re-purposing the myths for personal use.
One example is my drawing Charon. Charon was the mythical figure that ferried people from the land of the living to the land of the dead. With that line of work, Charon probably wasn’t the guy everyone wanted to hang out with. The drawing is about loneliness, which I experienced profoundly in my teens. My painting Warrior I and drawing Warrior I (study) are part of a larger series concerning the still prevalent social myths that say that a man needs to be strong, combative and a conquering warrior. The series asks – is that myth really still serving man? Throne and In the Rocks are part of my ongoing work about man’s relationship with nature. Sometimes these two threads – use of various myths and man’s relationship with nature - occur in the same work in which the mythical figures find themselves in nature. Charon in the Rocks and Narcissus are good examples.
Bracing, Surrender II and Embrace were all responses to a cancer scare two and a half years ago.
As for the technical narrative, the above content has to be translated into an image on a canvas or a piece of paper and that comes about through a lengthy creative process to provide the image with the maximum amount of specificity and energy. My paintings and drawings are a layering of marks that remain faithful to the photographic source material and marks that seem 'accidental'. The history of the application of the medium - the textures that results from the addition and subtraction of paint or charcoal that are put down in layers and are sometimes partially or wholly covered over - is evident in the final work. This type of mark making reveals both the process used and the time it took to make the work. The figures inhabits that temporal environment. If the figures remain fully formed, and not disintegrated and disfigured as in much contemporary figurative art, it is my way of validating the whole human body and our physical presence on this earth, even if everything else tells us that we are not permanent.
And finally, I hope that my paintings are ambiguous enough that they allow space for the imagination of the viewer, allowing the viewer to make up their own mind as to what the painting is saying to them. The viewer is a witness to the narrative or implied narrative and to the layers that are built up over time. These dramatic and technical narratives are carriers of emotion - mine. Even if my paintings are representational in nature, I prefer to convey emotion over description. If my work resonates emotionally with the viewer for even a little while, much like we feel after watching a good movie, then I have achieved something.
In this world of fast paced images and overstimulation I believe that painting, perhaps more than ever, can provide meaning and significance and allow for moments of quiet contemplation, deeper questioning and wonder. Art can help us elucidate why we are here, where we have been and where we might be going. Painting still offers us an incomparable and honest insight into what it is to be human.