Presenteert: Is there a work of literature or text that has had an influence on your work or practice as a painter?
Michael: Naming just one book that is essential to my work or identity is very difficult, but there are areas and genres that have left an impression on me and have effected my work. Some sit on the periphery of my practice, and others figure in more centrally to what I make.
The works of American writer Flannery O’ Connor harbor a disturbing darkness that is still beautiful and sometimes humorous. That tension of something about to happen has left a mark on me that sometimes manifests in how much of my work sits on the edge of various narratives or abstraction. Some curators have pointed this out in the past – that it hard to discern whether the images in my work are pre-apocalypse, during the moment, or post-apocalyptic. I relate more to the Greek sense of apokálypsis: “lifting of the veil” or “revelation”. O’ Connor is always doing that – lifting the veil on reality and the assumptions made. Dostoevsky also played an early formative roll, as well many other Russian writers. I’m often attracted to literature that has existential components. I like works that are sober, dense, and rich in story, metaphor, and symbolism. I always liked the flirting with the supernatural that would dwell in so much of the work. I enjoy writings where other facets of reality – such as metaphysics, myth, legend, or science fiction – are present. Recently, I have been enjoying William S. Burroughs writing, so rich and twisted… written to be wonderfully descriptive in a visual sense. Kurt Vonnegut comes to mind, as well as a steady diet of various mythological, epic, creation or apocalyptic texts. Dense, layered visions of life and death reside in all of the above. I have little patience for surface irony and trendiness that seems to pervade snarky writing. I like ironies that double back on themselves.
As I write this I am thinking of a variety of landscapes, dark ravines, and deep forests, the silent woods after a family is killed in “A Good Man is Hard to Find”. Death and nature seem to walk hand in hand in much of my own work. Similar to the atmosphere of Hans Baldung Grien’s paintings, the soberness of O’Connor’s strange worlds have a darkness that remains just below the surface. You really start to feel transported somehow rather than to be given a one-liner.
And as with many painters that I appreciate, I have an interest in texts that reach into nuanced areas which are open and poetic, often raising the level of what to strive for in my work. In the authors I read, there exists something similar to the painterly gaze. There is always something new to be found.
It is not so different than walking into a museum or gallery. We will gravitate to works that speak to us or our work in one way or another. They are fellow travelers who are searching for something similar, or commenting on life in a way that resonates within our work. A writer’s ideas and voice can resonate with our own projects, resulting in epiphanies.
PRESENTeert is a mimeograph printed (in Dutch: gestencild) platfom for painting. The goal is to present painters ideas and visions, apart from their visual works… perhaps related to painting.