one to watch
Ready for interpretation: Michelle Wickland’s intuitive compositions
Abstract artist Michelle Wickland always knew she would lead a creative life, from childhood to moving to London to pursue formal art training and spending decades in the film industry. Michelle graduated from Central Saint Martins College of Art and Design with a degree in Textile Design and a specialization in Printmaking. Now she uses her experience with photography and cyanotypes to create improvised compositions that allow the viewer to connect with their emotions and memories. Since 2018 Michelle has participated in several exhibitions in the London area.
Tell us who you are and what you do. what is your background
I’m originally from Derby but moved to London over 30 years ago to study at an art school and never left. Growing up in a non-artistic family environment in the north gave me even more motivation to venture out into the wide world and make my dream come true. Some people would call it an escape. When I was young and asked what I wanted to be, I always said, “I don’t know, but it won’t be boring and it won’t be normal.”
Shortly after leaving college, I began my journey into the wonderful world of costume design, working on television, film and theater projects. I really felt like I belonged to the industry and stayed there for over 20 years. Finally, I gave in to an overwhelming urge to return to my first passion: art. To discover my own creativity and style in my own way.
What do you want your work to say? What are the main themes you pursue in your work? Can you provide an example of work that demonstrates this?
I am a contemporary abstract artist inspired by the colors and shapes of nature and the world around me. My fascination with finding contrasts in my surroundings and how they can evoke emotion when you least expect it results in bold and vibrant abstract pieces. There isn’t really a pressing point in my work, and that’s definitely the point. So many artists tell a great story or express a strong opinion in their work. I’m not that artist. I’m an artist who lets the feel of the process take over. I’m an artist who sees and perceives everyday things that inspire me to just start a project. I see my work as an arrangement of shapes and colors.
I firmly believe that art doesn’t have to have meaning to be good. Yes, meaningful art has its place and is extremely important in the world, but also art that can bring a sense of calm, contentment and happiness just by being. My art is a journey from one point to another, from A to Z with many stages in between. It’s a personal way of thinking, a window into what I’m thinking about while painting and where each marker takes me next. Bob Dylan wrote, “The best art is meaningless.” Love it.
Can you explain to us the process of creating a work from start to finish?
My collections are mostly inspired by a number of my own photographs, starting with those that capture the beauty and simplicity of the world. Not infrequently, these show rough, angular industrial landscapes in contrast to the uncertainty of the constantly changing nature around them. It could be the empty space around a roof or a shadow on a wall. I then distill my compositions to their raw, abstract and appealing interpretation through mixed media, collage, sketching and painting. I move from my initial sketches and collages to a more abstract concept. My thought process becomes a stream of conscious choices that flow from one idea to another, propelling each idea and concept into the next. Without the first grade I would not reach the tenth grade.
I recently photographed London buildings. I then make cyanotypes of it and paint or draw over it. I collaged and layered them to create new beginnings for a new series of paintings. After gathering all my new ideas I will start painting and create a more abstract series of oil and mixed media pieces. However, my vision will always change as the process progresses, so I can never predict what the outcome will be.
Who are your biggest influences and why?
My art teacher at school said to me, “Michelle, can you imagine making art every day?” I said, “No, how is that possible?” She said, “Go to college and study art, and You’ll find a job that allows you to create and do something artistic every day.” I think she knew this wasn’t the world I came from, or that this wasn’t even a concept that I would have thought possible. From that moment I knew what I was going to do. This one teacher had the greatest influence on my artistic career.
My first artistic influence was Andy Goldsworthy for his innovative sculptures in nature. I think he inspired me to open my eyes to my surroundings and the environment. My other inspirations are Anish Kapoor for his moody colors, Maria Bartuszova for bringing her ideas to life over the years, and Andreas Gursky for his ability to see and capture something beautiful in everyday life.
How do you hope viewers will react to your work? What do you want them to feel?
I’d rather listen to them tell me what they’re thinking than tell them what I’ve painted. I suggest it can be anything they see. I get even more excited when the viewer sees something in the painting, how it evokes memories and feelings and what it has evoked in their own creative imagination. I’m happy not to tell the viewer how it started unless they ask.
Do you prefer to work with music or in silence?
i need to hear music Ever since I had a kid I’ve always had a timer, I always have to be somewhere else and I’ve always got so much to do that it’s nice to switch off and block out everything else. I’ve found that once I start a project and start listening to a certain album or playlist, I have to listen to the same songs over and over again. When I change my music I put myself in a completely different headspace and my artwork changes course when I don’t want it to. That’s many months of hearing the same thing. Along with a new set of songs comes a new set of paintings.
If you couldn’t be an artist, what would you do?
If I couldn’t be an artist, I would return to the film industry. I could say that I’ve been fortunate to achieve two things that I love. But if art or film weren’t an option, I would kind of work with kids. Looking back at my choices, I think if I hadn’t had the opportunity to go to art school, I should have gone into the army.
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