Friday, 31 March 2017

Mike Healey - Retrospective

The early work of Mike Healey

I would like - with your indulgence - to look back at some paintings, drawings and collages from early in my professional career as a painter

The works I am about to show you have all been sold so my recollections of them are based on a handful of photographs that I have retained - more by chance than design

What is curious is that, until I found these photographs recently, I had little -  if any - recollection of this work!

This is partly a measure of my failing memory but also evidence of the wide range and productivity of my work at the start of my career

Indeed, in the early 1980's - when I began to exhibit my work (usually two one-man shows a year) - I would regularly produce something like sixty pictures  for each exhibition - that's 120 pictures a year. I'm not sure I can produce that many today!

Also, when I think that at that time I was fully employed as a television director/producer and only able to paint in my spare time, my actual productivity is really quite remarkable

What also emerges is the homogeneity of my work - something at this remove that I find somewhat surprising

At the time I felt that each new picture was distinctly different from its predecessor but the works when viewed retrospectively show a continuity that is curiously reassuring - I think!

This is partly due, I suspect,  to a uniformity of technique - wide use of collage embedded in more abstract, largely gouache 'backdrops' - but also the ineluctable emergence of a unique, personal aesthetic

To look back at this is rather satisfying although at the time I was always conscious of my lack of any specific style or direction. This may have been just my normal anxiety but the photographic evidence is that there clearly was a direction to my work - even if I was myself largely unaware of it

I think it probably true that artists are often the last people to understand their work in any real historical sense. That kind of reflection is, I suspect, contrary to the artist's natural way of thinking
What is crucially important, however, is that each artist actively reflects deeply on the work in hand

Picasso is a perfect example of this ability to delve deeply into what is actually on the canvas before him.The originality of his work - like all great artists - is therefore the result of deep and constant reflection, much trial-and-error and experimentation and the courage to scrap something that his instinct tells him is 'not working'

This is a creative process that is continuous and taking place in 'real time' - not something reflected upon at leisure much later

Lesser artist like me do share this quality, albeit in a less exalted way

Our ability to reflect on what we have produced is the key to how, even at our level, we progress as artists

Mike Healey

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