Sunday, 22 October 2017


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!


Thursday, 19 October 2017


I have been working on a series of paintings connected with Greek mythology for an exhibition at the Brewery Arts, Kendal (UK) early next year

I am trying to move away from western notions of 'classical' Greek art to a more primitive, unsettling representation of these pagan entities

This is my version of Dionysus

He/she was a 'late', foreign import into the ancient Greek pantheon - a strange figure that probably had its origins in Persia

Much later, the Romans knew him/her as Bacchus and associated this figure with wine and excessive drinking

What is interesting is that the early spread of the cult of Dionysus followed the development of viniculture in ancient Greece - hence his/her association with wine


My Dionysus has a (disproportionate) male head and a female body. The ornamentation is clearly eastern and exotic

In its earliest manifestations, Dionysus and his/her cult was associated not only with sexual hysteria and violence but death itself

I hope I have caught some of that dangerous ambiguity in this large, acrylic painting


Monday, 9 October 2017


 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

Wednesday, 4 October 2017

Jiri Anderle

My featured artist this month is 
Jiri Anderle

I first discovered the remarkable work of this Czech artist in Prague about fifteen years ago. I have been a fan ever since!

Many artists from what was formerly Iron Curtain countries show remarkable skills in draughtsmanship, not least because of the importance art schools there have long attached to drawing

Jiri is a perfect example of that skill - as in the classically inspired (Durer, I think) portrait above

You can see his skill in this study for an old woman. Its unfinished state adds poignancy to this sympathetic yet realistic portrayal of old age

There is also an abstract quality in his work - in both his oil paintings and his engravings, as in this exquisite engraving of a young girl above whose body merges into the background in a beautifully subtle manner

The above engraving is, in my view, equal to anything by Ingres, Degas or Picasso and yet remains unique in its apparent simplicity and selection of detail within an otherwise 'unfinished' portrait

There is also a dark side to Jiri's work - as in this 'uneasy' portrait of a young girl who is suckling an older man.

It reveals a sexual relationship that is both disturbing while at the same time being some kind of allegory on old age and youth

I find a similarly disturbing element in his 1980's series of portraits based on family photographs

In the above example you can see the actual photograph that inspired it to the left of frame

In the original photo this married couple are fully clothed. Their nakedness in the engraving renders them both vulnerable and somewhat comical. Note the medals pinned to the man's naked chest!

For me the most powerful image of this series is this couple with a baby. The smear of 'blood' is both an image of childbirth and some kind of premonition of death

This wedding couple, fully clothed in the original photo (shown bottom left) is both sexually explicit (despite the bride's strategically place bouquet) and moving in its vulnerability

In this short selection of Jiri Anderle's engravings I have only shown a fraction of his extraordinary and inspiring work

Please visit this site again soon to learn more about this major contemporary artist from the Czech republic

Mike Healey

The above illustrations are taken from Anderle 1954-1995 published by Nakladatelstvi Slovart, Prague, 1995

Thursday, 28 September 2017


Kurt Schwitters - 1887-1948

For a few years Kurt Schwitters lived here in the lake District (Cumbria, UK)
He occupied this barn on the outskirts of the village of Elterwater, in the Langdale Valley 

Mertz Barn, Elterwater  - Winter 2015

The art works that once decorated this humble home have long since gone, including one that covered an end wall - now housed in the Hatton Gallery, Newcastle

The Mertz Barn at Elterwater is the last of several that Schwitters decorated - none have survived nor was the barn in Cumbria ever finished

Schwitters and Hilda Goldstein at the barn in 1946

 Schwitters died in 1948 but earlier this week Green Door organised a small exhibition to celebrate his memory

My contribution to this exhibition was a diorama and this collage:

Schwitter's Garden - Dreamscape

The face is that of Schwitters himself:

My other contribution was a three-dimensional, boxed diorama in which I explored Schwitter's celebrated contention that perspective is a 'swindle'

Perspective is a swindle

Here I have reversed perspective so that the closer an image to the viewer, the smaller it becomes - the opposite of traditional notions of Renaissance perspective

I hope Kurt approves of my treatment!


The Mertz Barn exhibition runs until 12th October

For more details and examples of other artists contributing to this exhibition, go to the Green Door website via the link below:


An exciting new animated film based on the paintings and portraits of Vincent van Gogh

Cut and paste the web address below for direct access to the trailer:

Friday, 22 September 2017

Figurative Art


Going by the increasing number of figurative artists that are now on the contemporary art scene, it might be fair to say that figurative painting is making something of a comeback.

Academic 19th Century figuritive painting by Gerome

I know that this is a rather sweeping generalisation and that conceptual art or even good old-fashioned abstract art is still demanding megabucks in the marketplace but on the internet you can find countless young artists who have chosen instead to feature the human figure

Take the work of Aleksander Balos, for example. 
Here is how he describes his own work:

Aleksander Belos 

'In my figurative paintings, drawings and sculpture I explore the depths and subtleties of human experience by creating figurative paintings that reflect the undercurrents of archetypal emotions, ideas and internal struggles, and their effects on us and our environments.'

 'I am particularly interested in portraying the dualities present in all human experience. There are no absolutes in life. Rather, each experience is comprised of conflicting opposites. Each individual additionally has her/his own unique experiences. Therefore my paintings are ambiguous and not necessarily resolvable, offering an opportunity for reflection and interpretation by each viewer.'

'The figurative paintings merely reflect a subjective understanding of the human condition, and my desires to explore that further. I attempt not to impose my own interpretations, but rather share with the viewer what it is that I am currently exploring in my art.'

'I find human figures and therefore figurative paintings to be best suited for the task of portraying and narrating my compositions. The viewer may best relate to the simple human form, and this can ease efforts to understand the depth and complexity of the situation painted, and attempts to interact with it. My hope is that the viewer s own subjective interaction with the painted canvas will bear some meaning in itself.'

You can see more of Aleksander's superb work and that of many other young contemporary Surrealists by clicking on the link below:

I have featured a number of superb figurative artists on this blog before

Jiri Anderle

Go to the Popular Post in the right hand column and select Jiri Anderl or Great Masters of Anantomy for example

Mike Healey

Monday, 18 September 2017

Joanna Chroback

I came across this artist recently and immediately loved her work

Joanna Chroback is Polisih. Born in 1968 in Poznan - a beautiful city that I know well

                                                                                          From joanna chrobak

Friday, 15 September 2017

Magritte and eroticism

Master of Eroticism 
[Warning: this posting contains images of an adult nature]

RenĂ© Magritte (1898–1967) is one of the most revered and popular artists of the 20th century. Not only was he a major member of the Surrealist movement but his work and style have endured, profoundly affecting modern aesthetics and sensibilities. 

The Treachery of Images (1928/29)

Renowned for witty (yet often disturbing) images depicting everyday objects such as apples, bowler hats and pipes in unusual settings - Magritte’s art plays with the idea of reality and illusion. In the above painting it is certainly not a pipe; it is a painting of a pipe. 

It is this questioning of images and the placing of familiar objects in unfamiliar contexts that makes his art so subversive.

  Golconda (1953)

Magritte’s work has had an enduring effect on the art world, inspiring artists ranging from John Baldessari and Ed Ruscha to Jasper Johns and Andy Warhol

His impact has also been felt throughout popular culture. Musicians such as Paul Simon, film directors Jean-Luc Goddard and Terry Gilliam, and many writers and advertisers have all been influenced by Magritte’s famous images.

 Magritte by Duane Michals (1965)

His public image - that of a respectable, bowler-hatted Belgium (more like a bank manager than a Surrealist painter) - is wholly deceptive. He is very subversive and capable of shocking his audience at any time. His 'invisibility' behind his 'respectable' public image is part of the 'trick' and an effective way of keeping us 'off guard' so that the inevitable 'shock' of his art is more profound and even less expected.

The Lovers (1928)

His work is not only intellectually provocative but often sexually explicit, pushing the boundaries with each new painting. The female nude features far more in his work than one might at first suppose. In most cases, it is his wife Georgette who models for him.

Magritte met Georgette (Berger) when they were both teenagers. They were married in 1922 and thereafter - during a long an successful marriage - she remained his muse and principal model.


This photograph (above) is a study for a painting (below) in which Magritte finds an original and witty interpretation of the ancient Pygmalion legend of the artist who created a living woman through his art.

 Attempting the Impossible (1928)

However, Magritte's women are often iconic, statuesque and somewhat emotionally remote. They are objects  or  living statues  to be observed from a distance - untouchable, inviolate and emotionally neutral towards us, the observer beyond the frame.

Flowers of Evil (1946)

The figure above is clearly a statue (note the eyes) but the live flower and the way her hand rests on the rock left of frame subverts the notion that she is made of painted stone or plaster. We can see her but she can neither see us nor return our gaze, thereby making her an object of desire.

 Black Magic (1933/34)

This magisterial nude (above) is one of Magritte's masterpieces. The technical skill is extraordinary, not least the beautiful modelling of the head. Here the living, pliant flesh of the contemplative woman is juxtaposed with the immobility and solidness of the rock on which she rests her hand. 

Her susceptibility is represented, perhaps, by the way her upper torso has responded to the sky before which she stands.

Panel from  The Enchanted Realm (1953)

This iconic figure reappears in one of the large murals Magritte made for the walls of the casino in Knokke-le-Zoute in 1953. This work encompasses many of the major images from Magritte's painting career. What is remarkable is that these diverse images sit so well together. 

Thus far we have seen Magritte's depiction of women as iconic, somewhat statuesque figures that are emotionally remote and untouchable - as in the painting below:

 The Mask of Lightning (1967)

However, in a painting called The Giantess (below) Magritte creates a subtle variation on this idea. Here the statuesque woman is only a 'giantess' because the man is diminished in both size and stature. In relation to the room, the woman has the correct dimensions. This is a painting in which the relative, emotional relationship between the man and the woman is actually an issue.

The Giantess (1929/30)

Occasionally Magritte will adopt the role of emotionally involved voyeur - as opposed to remote observer. This emotional engagement with the subject often takes the form of fetishism, whereby a familiar object, such as a woman's nightdress, reveals what it normally conceals - namely the woman's sexual organs.

Philosophy in the Bedroom (1966)

Here the male viewer (and that now includes us!) is projecting his own desires onto a gown that is in itself 'innocent' of such sexual connotations. We have - whether we like it or not - fetishized the nightgown of the woman we desire.

Homage to Max Sennett (1937)

In the above painting this idea is taken even further. The sexual nature of our 'projection' is now wholly explicit. We - the viewer - are now implicit in a process whereby an object (in this case, our lover's nightdress)  is imbued with our desires. The impersonal nature of this transaction - in which the real, living woman has no obvious part - is what really makes this image so shocking.

Intermission (1927/28)

During the late 1920's and early 1930's a number of major Modernist painters were actively deconstructing human forms. In  Magritte's painting (above) called Intermission the action of the play has abruptly stopped, leaving the performers frozen in partial poses - a metaphorical dismemberment.

At exactly the same time as Magritte's experiments were taking place, Pablo Picasso was disguising his new, sexual relationship with Marie-Therese in a series of biomorphic drawings (Cannes, 1927) in which Marie-Therese's curvacious body is metamorphosed into sinuous, sexually implicit 'shapes':

Picasso - Bather at a Beach Cabana (1927)

Since Picasso's drawings were not published until many years later, it is unlikely that Magritte was directly aware of Picasso's new 'experiments' in the human form. This process of deconstruction also involved the 'departmentalizing' of the (largely) female body - as in Magritte's celebrated series of frames called Eternal Evidence (1930) in which a woman.has been chopped up into constituent parts.

The little sketch (above) is undated but it is clearly an early version of Magritte's most iconic (and shocking) painting - the one called The Rape.

 The Rape (1934)

Critics are divided as to the exact meaning of this infamous painting. Rene Passeron, for example, notes that 'far from being the spiritualization of the corporeal, [it] signifies rather the degradation to an object of sexual desire:blinded, deaf and dumb'.

Throughout his career, Magritte explored notions of painterly 'reality'. In my view, the real 'rape' here is one in which art has entirely subverted habitual or conventionally acceptable notions of the human form. 'Not content with reproducing the world of visible appearances on the canvas, [Magritte] seeks to transform it, to force it open.' (Marcel Paquet).

At an exhibition held at The Tate (Liverpool) a series of pornographic images by Magritte were shown for the first time. The exhibition was called Rene Magritte:The Pleasure Principle. It ran from 24th June to 16th October, 2011 and was the largest collection of Magritte's work shown in Britain for twenty years.

These explicit drawings were done to illustrate a book called Madame Edwarda (1946) by Georges Bataille. Founder of several journals and literary groups, Bataille was the author of a large and diverse body of work:  including three novels of an erotic nature, including Madame Edwarda in which a prostitute calls herself God.

Magritte (1960)

Any great artist seeking new ways to interpret 'reality' and to find original modes of expression within that 'reality' needs to explore human sexuality. It is, after all, at the center of our being.

What Magritte has done is not only create new and provocative ways of seeing but has challenged us, in a series of original and at times erotic images, to address our own notions of seuality, voyeurism and desire.

Mike Healey

Illustrations used above are taken from Magritte by Marcel Paquet, published by Taschen in 2012. The views and interpretations expressed in the above article are my own

For direct access to Marcel Paquet's excellent introduction to the art and life of Rene Magritte, click on the link below: