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