Arcos Information. 15th January 2016. local paper for the town of Arcos de la Frontera, cadiz.
Mike England... Painter.
Interview by Pedro Sevilla.
Translation by Jazmin Cuenya.
Short Video of Exhibition“
One thing is Art, another is the World of Art”
As he doesn't speak Spanish and i don't speak English, there was a misunderstanding about our meeting. I waited for him at Jose Durans studio(at the edge of the cliff in Arcos). we had apperently arranged to meet at Mayorazgo(a bar in the Palace), but because it wasn't understood, I spent a nice time waiting, watching Jose working on some prints. I enjoy witnessing the creative process, while it's happening. I felt very comfortable among half finished paintings, prints and objects of all sorts, I was happy to wait. there was a smell of paint and turpentine that took me back to fond memories in childhood.
But well.... the interview had to be made, so I went to Mayorazgo.Mike England, The Painter Mike England came accompanied with Jazmin Cuenya, a young, dreamy eyed Argentinian woman, whos eyes were gently attentive during the interview.Jazmin was going to be our translator, she was to be a bridge between our two languages.
Here is what was said.
.P.S. (Pedro Seville). “can you give me your opinion about Painting in England today?”
M.E. (Mike England). In painting there are no Frontiers/Boundries, Painting is global.
I distinguish between two different things, one thing is Art and the Other is the World of Art
.P.S. “ What is the difference”?
M.E. The Art world is motivated by money, Art is not.That is the difference.Art is motivated by Life, and the pursuit of trying to understand the sense of life,
P.S. “would you recognise there are different schools of painting, i.e. Venetian, spanish, etc.... is there an English School of painting”?M.E. Of course. There is a way to be English, and therefore a way to Paint,All cultures have an influence on the people within them. “ environment” and “history” have an infulence and therefore an influence on different styles, different schools of painting.
P.S. “How do you define your paintings”?
“Have you been painting for a long time”?
M.E. Since I was 16 I knew clearly that poetry(he was meant to write painting, I'm sure) was to be my life. Before that age I already had a feeling but I wasn't conscious of it, I was only a child, but from the age of 16 I knew painting would be my path.
P.S. “Alright... How would you describe your painting”?
M.E. At first sight/ impression, from the outside, it could be catogrised as Abstract, but seen from the inside, from my perspective, I think it is very clear and literal.But if it needs to be catogorised , then we can say it is Abstract. The more i paint, the more I find it is difficult to categorise...Anyway, i guess it's like trying to define what love is.... “what is love”?
P.S. “But before painting Abstract, Did you paint a lot”?.. “Is there a long path before reaching Abstraction”?
M.E. Yes,.... There is a long way before reaching Abstraction...(Here Mike laughs openly... jazmin explains to Pedro that Mike is not used to such rigid/direct questions... then Mike continues speaking)… My work is about duality, between the mind and spirit.
P.S. “But painting is flesh/texture.... No”?M.E. Painting is an Expression, If I was a musician, I would express with music, probably the same ideas as i try to express with painting.I paint to find A truth, like you Pedro when you write(apart from being a writer for a newspaper, he is also a writer/poet of his own ideas, he is a published writer), I try to express A Truth, not The Truth...P.S. On the 8th - 23rd April this year, you have an exhibition in Arcos, in Misiricordia..... what do you expect?
M.E. Nothing... “No Expectations = No Disapointments”(now it's Pedro that Laughs openly, he is shocked by such a clear but profound answer as he explains)
P.S. “But i supose every Artist would like to know what people think of their work?”
M.E. I have a website, mikeengland.co.uk where people if they are interested can get an idea about the nature of my work.“It is not my buisness to know what other people think”.The Art of painting is ancient, and every generation recreates Art, reflecting themselves in the time they are living.... Basically... every generation re-invents the wheel.
P.S. “Does painting have a Magic, Tribal, Religious componant?”
M.E. Yes...Also eveything has an influence, everything has an effect on who we are.The knowledge of history has an influence and effect.Our work/life is a constant descision about what to absorb and what to reject, but in order to know what to reject, you have to know how to absorb. You have to learn the rule book before you can throw it away
.P.S. “Are you a painter of the surface or of the inside?, do you paint what you see or do you paint from an idea?”
M.E. Both, even the superficial has a depth, you can't seperate these two things, they both have an influence, This global reality can't be seperated.You can't seperate the Body and the mind.Reality is both surface and depth.A coin has two sides, it needs two sides to be a coin.But human beings love to categorise, and will choose one over other, and will usually only see one side.That is the real War.
P.S. “What do you think of the painting in Arcos?”
M.E. I don't know many painters here, but i think Jose Duran is unique, his work is special because his spirit is curious.Arcos is a traditional place, a beautiful place, it has attracted and attracts many painters.But Duran is something different than the traditional.Of course, I don't mean to critizise.In painting there is nothing correct or incorrect, everything has its place
.P.S. “Is there good painting and Bad painting”?
M.E. Yes, of course... as there is good and bad with everything.
P.S. “I understand you are going to make a series of prints for the exhibition, Is this right?”
M.E. Yes, I am having this exhibition in Misiricordia, a beautiful old chapel. It's pillars made me think of the 'stations of the cross' in churches, and this in turn made me think of making a series of prints.I am going to make 7 Prints as i think 7 is a magic number. The stations of the cross were a way to teach people.Imagry has always been a way to teach people.
P.S. “Is there anything else you would like to say that i haven't asked?”
M.E. Well... in Painting, I think there has to be a relationship between a few important ingredients... Beauty, Authenticity, Aesthetics, Harmony, Balance...just to mention a few....There are infinte other things as well to consider when composing a painting ....It should be universal and all inclusive.Painting should also challenge people to confront themselves(and their opinions), to question their motives.I hope to transmit with my exhibition love and reflection... because that is what the world probably needs.
MIKE ENGLAND - TEN CIRCLES
Working in Cyprus in 1997, Mike while reading about tiny particles of pollen - all perfect circles. He was struck by the universality of the circle in nature, from atoms, to cells, to the planets. This discovery prompted a rejection of figurative subjects in favour of abstraction, resulting in a series of four large, earth-toned paintings with ethereal floating circles which were sold as a set to a corporate buyer. Mike continued to develop the there, in Cyprus and then back in London, producing further canvases which are now in private collections.
After hiring a studio in Hammersmith Mike set himself the task of producing ten canvases of equal size, all featuring a circle. The size of the circle was determined by using his arm as the radius, extending its associations by making it human in scale but as the same time individual.
The colours in this new series are bolder and more strident, reflecting the urban environment. Blue features regularly - a colour that fascinates Mike with its complexity and depth, which he explores to the full. Many of the paintings feature a single block of colour down one side which grounds the circle, stopping it from floating in space, and creating a dynamic tension between circle and stripe, foreground and background. This suggests an interest in a modernist reduction of painting to pure composition - the arrangement of colour and form in a flat surface - and many of the paintings recall the high modernism of Abstract Expressionism.
However, the imposition of a set of rules - ten canvases with ten circles, all the same size - and the exploration of the variations that can take place within these parameters, is more in tune with a post-modernist questioning of absolutes. Such references as the TV set bring us quickly from the timeless world of abstract shapes in the media age. The use of scraping, inspired by Gerhard Richter, is a mechanical technique which questions notions of authorship, originality and the sanctity of the artist’s touch.
The geometry of the basic forms is a counterpoint to various accidents which take place on the canvas and which Mike is keen to preserve, seeing these imperfections as scars, an intrinsic part of a person which makes up their character. He is open to the idea that the canvases can be turned either way horizontally - an exercise that completely transforms them.
The exhibition brings to a close three months of intense activity during which Mike has worked and lived with the canvases, watching them under the changing light from dawn to dusk.
The writer, Philippa Baker, is an art historian, editor, and freelance writer for the Independent on Sunday.
New Paintings - interview by Philippa Baker (Arts journalist)
In two earlier series of paintings, Ten Circles (1998) and the Indian Series (1999), Mike England eliminated all figuration from his work: the Ten Circles series comprised of ten canvases, all the same size and all featuring a circle dictated by the radius of his arm; the Indian series used deep, saturated colours, punctuated by light, bright, sudden vertical lines, and was deeply influenced by the experience of India.
His latest series of paintings continues to explore colour, line and shape, but here more than ever there is a sense of tension between the elements involved and a play between flat canvas and illusional space, progression and recession.Aspects of the earlier series remain - circles appears in all but one of the canvases. But they are now laid down in strident colours - primary yellows, reds and blues, glossy black and touches of purple - that suggest Mike's new urban surroundings.
The scratchy vertical lines which formerly suggested the life and vibrancy of India, become more nervy and anxious in this context. The colours are so bright that they play on the eye, advancing and retreating so that space is skewed and subverted. Mike often adopts the device of cutting through a form with a stripe of colour, itself over painted with a similar colour, making the stripe jump forwards and backwards, in and out of the picture plane. This used to optimum effect in the image where a blue stripe cuts through a brilliant, startling red, disorienting the viewer. Elements are overlapped within the images, creating the suggestion of space behind the picture surface.
In some of the images, shapes pile up and jostle for space, with a collage-like effect. The circles formerly floating ethereally in space and hemmed in by more rectilinear forms suggesting buildings and cityscapes. There is also much use of bright colour dots, applied to the canvas in random groups as a balance to other, larger, elements and then over painted around the edges, suggesting something quickly moving that is briefly glimpsed and then vanishes.
Countering the effect of space and recession, some areas of canvas surface are heavily worked with brush strokes or sometimes words and statements, heavily over painted so that they are illegible as words but visible as calligraphy. The trappings of modern life, which worked in contrast to the more meditative mood of the earlier series, now fit in with the choppy, blocky imagery and appear more frequently - a shape that looks like a light switch appears in many of the pictures, while other images suggest television screens.
Throughout the images the tense balancing of the forms, the strident colour, the jostling overlapping shapes and dislocation of space create something very much darker in mood and more edgy that the earlier series, capturing the energy, tensions and sense of transition in city life.
The writer, Philippa Baker, is an art historian, editor, and freelance writer for the Independent on Sunday.