Friday, 17 November 2017

PLANT FORMS

My work draws on nature but somehow, during the process of putting pen to paper, shapes and forms change

It's part of the excitement I guess!

Mike Healey

I live close to a florist's and this drawing is partly based on one of the plants I noticed in their window last week

I drew it from memory a few days later but allowed myself to change and invent during that process in the studio

The result is - I hope you agree - a charming image of a plant that you may - or may not - encounter some time in your travels!

MIKE HEALEY
SEASCAPE

Seascape - Mike Healey

I painted this little seascape last week

I had started to paint something completely different but that went wrong and this is what I ended up with!

I used black and white emulsion paint on canvas - the sort you paint house interiors with but it worked. The blue tints were gouache, added later

I think that this is the first seascape I have ever painted. Strange but it is something I might try again sometime soon

MIKE HEALEY
AVOID DARK FORESTS!


I finished this charcoal drawing a few days ago

Not the best photograph as it was shot through glass but I hope it gives you an idea of what to watch out for in dark woods - where ever you live!

You have been warned!

MIKE

Thursday, 16 November 2017

SOLD


This painting by Leonardo da Vinci sold in New York for $450,312,500

It is an obscene amount of money but for a painting that was once bought for a mere $45 that is quite a profit!

Let's hope that it remains in the public domain for us all to admire and does not end up in some secret vault

MIKE HEALEY
Happy Memories


This watercolour costume design is by a British artist who has lived and worked for decades in Venice.
His name is Geoffrey Humphries

I first met him in Venice in 1972 when I was teaching drama there on a six-week, residential course for British students

My students performed my version of Shakespeare's The Tempest and Geoffrey was kind enough to design the costumes for this production


I have spent the larger part of my life travelling 

Twenty years ago I gave this lovely drawing to my sister for safe keeping and a few months ago she kindly gave it back!

It now hangs in my apartment in Kendal

MIKE

Footnote


My adaptation of The Tempest - first devised and written in Venice all those years ago - is now available on Amazon

MIKE'S AMAZON

Saturday, 11 November 2017

Coming soon to this blog....


This iconic statue is by Degas and is one of the most celebrated works of that great 19th Century artist

While we are probably familiar with his paintings of dancers at the Paris Opera, behind the making of this wax figure lies a much darker tale - of sexual exploitation, grinding poverty and failure

Come back soon to find out the true story of this young dancer and her creator

MIKE HEALEY

Saturday, 4 November 2017

NEW WORK


I have just finished this new painting:

Agoraphobia - Mike Healey

It depicts a man suffering from Agoraphobia or fear of open spaces

Detail

I do not suffer from this debilitating condition myself but there are a surprisingly large number on this planet who do

Detail 
Acrylic paint and gold emulsion on canvas 80 x 100 cm

This picture is dedicated to them!

MIKE HEALEY

FOOTNOTE

For those of you interested in such matters, I should add that this canvas weighs a ton - not least because it has on its surface no less than five other (failed) paintings!

One plus in using a much overpainted canvas is that the surface becomes very rough, thereby giving the walls in the painting above a wonderful 'rough plaster' effect!

Wednesday, 1 November 2017

Work in Progress

Early next year I have an exhibition at the Brewery Arts Centre, Kendal - here in the UK.
It is called 'Pagan Spring'

Below is one of the large paintings that I am currently working on for that exhibition. It shows Hades, King of the Underworld

Hades - Mike Healey
Acrylic on canvas 80 x 100 cm.

Our notions of  Greek mythology are largely based on late Greek or Renaissance images. They show 'classical' figures in white marble

Hades

The fact that the ancient Greeks painted their statues in lurid colours, augmented with gold leaf, is often forgotten

Before and after!

What I am trying to do is change our preconceptions from urbane, 'Western' representations of these gods to something stranger, more exotic and rooted - not in mainland Greece - but North Africa, including Egypt

 Hence my Taureg-inspired King of the Underworld

Hades - detail

Over the next few weeks I will show you two other paintings related to this one that I am also working on - Persephone and Dionysus

MIKE HEALEY

Monday, 30 October 2017

Fuseli

Henry Fuseli's Macbeth

I began my professional career in the theatre as a Director, ending up Associate Director at the Oxford Playhouse.

Here I worked with Judi Dench, Ian Mckellan, Ian McShane ('Lovejoy'), Leo McKern ('Rumpole of the Bailey), Leonard Rossiter ('Rising Damp') and many more wonderful actors.

During my period at The Oxford Playhouse I directed a wide range of plays, including several  by Shakespeare - but never Macbeth.

Which brings me to my featured artist - Henry Fuseli (1741-1825).


Henry Fuseli was a Swiss artist who first came to London in 1761 where Joshua Reynolds encourage him to become a professional painter.

After studying in Italy, Fuseli came back to England where, many years later, he became Professor of Painting at the Royal Academy.


Fuseli's interest in Shakespeare's Macbeth dates back to 1760 when he saw David Garrick in the part of Macbeth.

It must have made a deep impression on him because he did not get round to painting his memory of that production until fifty years later!


What distinguishes Fuseli's work from other representations of this play is his remarkable sense of drama and his use of what is best described as 'stage lighting' to give emphasis to each character against a pitch-black 'backdrop' 

 Zoffany - MacBeth 

If you compare his work with, for example,  Johann Zoffany's efforts (see above) then one can see at once the superior quality of Fuseli's treatment of this subject

This is the same production, starring Hannah Pritchard and David Garrick, that Fuseli first saw
in 1760 but how different Fuseli's treatment is from Zoffany's!


Sarah Siddens  - 1814

Even as great an actress as Sarah Siddens is shown in a pose that is, frankly, somewhat ridiculous and entirely without drama. This particular representation (above) is by George Henry Harlow

Compare that with Fuseli's 'portrait' of Lady Macbeth in full flight!


Occasionally other artists start to get closer to the action. Take, for example, Rossetti's study for Lady Macbeth in her madness:

Dante Gabriel Rossetti - Lady Macbeth (1875)

There are elements of drama here but it is still rather static and very two-dimensional.

Indeed, in the history of this particular genre, few artists have captured those elements that make stage productions so exciting - a sense of movement, dramatic lighting and raw emotion. 

Henry Fuseli captures all that, even in small character drawings - as in his celebrated study for the three witches of 1783:


When he pulls out all the guns, well, the result is hugely effective:


 One gets a real sense of what the stage production itself must have felt like for an engrossed audience drawn into the horror and excitement that is Shakespeare's Macbeth

Mike Healey

If you would like to see other work by Henry Fuseli, then click on the link below:
HENRY FUSELI 

If you would like to see how artists have treated other plays by Shakespeare, then click on the link below:

SHAKESPEARE IN ART

Friday, 27 October 2017

Igor Morski

Igor Morski

My featured artist this month is  Polish graphic designer, illustrator and set-designer, Igor Morski whose distinctive graphic style is now widely recognized as unique - a thoughtful, provocative and witty artist in the best tradition of Magritte




 Morski was born in Poland in 1960 and graduated with honors from the Interior Architecture and Industrial Design Faculty at the State Higher School of Fine Art in Poznań (now the University of Arts). I have myself visited this wonderful art academy but sadly well after Igor graduated




Morski's work is digital and involves the creative manipulation of photographic source material. While these techniques have produce hundreds of new 'Surrealists', few have quite matched Morski's creativity and imagination

The graphic juxtaposition of images - invented by the Surrealists - is relatively easy and can easily lapse therefore into  mere illustration or worse, visual sentimentality.

Morski is not immune from this:


Often, however, he gives his images an 'edge' that challenges our views or perceptions, producing work that is thought provoking:


Morski began his professional career in commercial art. In the late 80’s and early 90’s, for example, he worked for Polish Television, subsequently creating set designs for TV, theatre and other public outlets.

What I particularly like about his work is that it probes the human condition, seeking hidden emotions and the 'face behind the face' - if such exists!



In the early 90’s he pursued a career in press illustration, working for leading Polish titles including Wprost, Newsweek, Businesweek, Businesman Magazine, Manager Magazine, Charaktery, Psychologia dziś and recently Focus



His work also regularly appears in international magazines (American Deloitte Review, Australian Prevention, Money, ITB andMen’s Health, Womans Health, George)



He is a winner of many prestigious awards including Communication Arts Excellence Award (2008, 2010) and Applied Arts Award (2010)



Igor Morski is co-owner of a graphic design studio - Morski Studio Graficzne - in his hometown. His advertising art has been commissioned by Saatchi & Saatchi in Singapore and Sydney, Australia and Abelson Taylor among others




Morski is interested in natural sciences in a broad sense, genetics, cosmology and theoretical physics - subjects that recur frequently in his illustrations



Occasionally it produces images that although relatively simple are, by nature, 'philosophical', thereby challenging  our understanding of the human condition and the inward, hugely subjective ways in which we perceive ourselves:



For more examples of this artist's work, visit my Pinterest site or go direct to his website by clicking on the link below:

IGOR MORSKI

MIKE HEALEY

Jean-Louis Barrault

Some reflections on the theater and the art of the actor in the work of
JEAN-LOUIS BARRAULT

Although I consider myself primarily a painter, I actually began my professional career in the theater - as a director. I was reminded recently of those early days at the Oxford Playhouse when I watched - yet again - Marcel Carne's wonderful film Les Enfants du Paradis (1945) starring Jean-Louis Barrault.


Les Enfants du Paradis tells the story of a beautiful Courtesan (Arletty) and the four men who love her - including Baptiste Debureau, a mime artist played by Barrault. 

In an early scene, Barrault as a mute mime, re-enacts the theft of a watch. It is one of the most brilliantly acted scenes in the history of the cinema and had a profound effect on me as a young man, at that time particularly  interested in mime.


The action takes place in the theatrical world of Paris between 1830 and  the revolution of 1848. This is popular theater and the Funambules theater where Baptiste works is for working-class audiences - rough, noisy and hugely partisan. The theater itself is on the "Boulevard du Crime".


The film was made in Vichy France ( in Paris and Nice) during the German occupation in World War II. The story goes that the actors in the crowd were starving and frequently stole food from banquet scenes before they could be filmed. Alexandre Trauner, who designed the sets, and Joseph Kosma, who composed the music, were both Jewish and had to work in complete secrecy throughout the production.


Jean-Louis Barrault has always been for me the quintessential actor. He was born in 1910 and died in Paris in 1994. He studied with actor/manager Charles Dullin in the years immediately before the war. He later joined the Comedie-Francaise where he became a director. His production of Jean Racine's Phedre made his reputation. He went on to become the most famous French actor of his generation.


In Les Enfants du Paradis Barrault explores the full emotional range of his role with consummate skill - from the poignant scenes in which he plays the mute, love-lorn Pierrot, to his passionate (spoken) feelings for the beautiful courtesan Garance.

Although I was interested in mime as a student and even took a mime show to the Edinburgh Festival one year, I never became an actor. For me, direction was my chosen career path, ending up Associate Director at the Oxford Playhouse. Here I worked with Judi Dench, Ian McKellan, Ian McShane, Leonard Rossiter, Leo McKern and many other fine, British actors.


My interest in the theater began very early - when I was six or seven. My grandfather would take me to the pier in Weymouth, a seaside town on the south coast of England. There, in the penny arcades, was a glass case containing a tiny bedroom with an old man asleep in bed. When you put in a penny, the whole scene would come to life. Little wooden ghosts would emerge from cupboards or from behind doors, causing the old man to sit up in bed in horror.

I was hooked and even at the tender age of seven I resolved there and then to work in a world that allowed such things to happen.

I did not at that time associate this little mechanical scene with theater per se but it was the start of a life-long association with the magical world of fantasy and performance - for which Les Enfants du Paradis is perhaps a perfect example.


I am an Existentialist. That means I do not believe in God nor, indeed, in any belief-system based on so-called 'revelation' by some  imagined deity. These are wholly human constructs and to me both absurd and meaningless. They are also profoundly divisive.

Since we are born (unwittingly) into a world that is essentially meaning-less, it is necessary either to commit suicide or find some meaning for oneself by way of justification or motivation for existence.

For me, the theater is a paradigm for that challenge - a world that we fabricate but which gives color, life and excitement and which, despite its innate artificiality, explores the human condition.



Each day I wake up and determine the shape of my life, my very existence. I plan my day and give it some purpose only by what I do, or make or imagine.

I give it purpose - just as a writer, director, actors and all the others involved in a stage production (or film, come to that) - fabricate a 'construct' that they can share with others.

Theater, therefore, is both a purposeful activity in itself and a metaphor for the existential need we face each day - to make sense of a sense-less existence.


In the performance of a great artist like Jean-Louis Barrault we see the entire range of emotional feelings of which humans are capable - love, anger, disappointment, exultation and some kind of emotional catharsis.

His work - and that of other great artists, including painters, poets and writers  - shows what humans are capable of and what tools we have at our disposal for transcending an otherwise meaningless existence. Great art therefore gives permanence to a world in which we are transient beings.

Last week a swift flew in through one window of my cottage in Corfu and out through another. In Anglo-Saxon mythology, a small bird's passage through the Mead Hall - the epicenter of social existence in that ancient community - was a metaphor for life itself, fleeting, transient..

'We are born astride a grave', says a character in Sam Becket's Waiting for Godot.


However, I do not want to end these reflections on a gloomy note. Life is exciting and rich but it is only what we make of it. To have made such a masterpiece as Les Enfants du Paradis - at a time when Nazi Germany was occupying France and murdering millions in its concentration camps elsewhere - is an extraordinary achievement.

Art can triumph over adversity. 

When Paris was liberated in August, 1944 the actor playing the informer-thief Jerico in the film was sentenced to death by the Resistance for collaborating with the Nazis. He was replaced at very short notice by Pierre Renoir (older brother of French film maker Jean Renoir and son of the famous Impressionist painter) and all of the Jerico scenes re-shot.



Despite long delays in its production (and a fair amount of ill-luck, including the destruction of the main set in Nice by a violent storm) Les Enfants du Paradis had its premiere in a liberated France - on March 9th, 1945.

Footnote
Images for the above article are taken from the remastered DVD of the uncut version of  Les Enfants du Paradis published by Pathe Films

Sunday, 22 October 2017

CHANCE ENCOUNTER

My sister lives in the countryside, a few miles outside Kendal (Cumbria)

One evening, walking back into town down a country lane, I came across an unusual plant in the hedgerow

I had no sketch pad with me but once back in my studio I drew it from memory, later working it up into this large painting

I hope you like it!




MIKE HEALEY

Monday, 9 October 2017

Mythology

 Some Reflections on Mythology

From the creation out of Chaos and the birth of the Olympian gods and goddesses, ancient Greek myths have shaped and informed Western consciousness

Green Man

Through subsequent artistic representations, paintings and sculptures have helped define what we call beauty, setting down a yard-stick against which even modern art is sometimes measured

Shakespearean 'mythology' from The Tempest
3D stage design by Mike Healey

In my work I have tried frequently to reinterpret these classical stories and to find relevance for contemporary audiences


Pagan God by Mike Healey

In some cases I have gone back to times before the classical Greek myths, to an even darker pagan age when fearful creatures inhabited the forests, demanding human sacrifices to appease their anger - as in the picture above

Persephone by Mike Healey

I have also tried to explore the great fertility myth associated with Persephone and her rape and abduction by Hades, King of the Underworld


The above painting shows female followers of Dionysius resting after having torn a man limb from limb for observing one of their secret rites. All that is left of him is one foot (top right)!

Persephone and Demeter - collage by Mike Healey

This great myth - representative of fundamental fertility/creation cycles - is a rich source for artists like me, drawn as we are to natural forms within an ever-changing natural world

Titania by Mike Healey

Sometimes I have reinterpreted quasi-mythological characters from Shakespeare whose imagination was itself steeped in ancient mythology, largely via Ovid

Often, however, it is necessary to go against traditional, 'classical' representations and re-invent mythical figures - as in my recent  painting of Dionysus

It is this constant attempt to reinterpret mythological figures that, for an artist at least, is particularly fulfilling

Coming Soon to this blog

New paintings exploring the dark world of Dionysus

Mike Healey