Michael Restrick is the painter of ‘North Star’, a powerful entry into this year’s Jackson’s Open Painting Prize. The acrylic painting comprises a sophisticated arrangement of shapes: circles, ellipses, triangles and curves intertwine with 2 female heads, one facing upwards the other upside down, meeting at the neck, bringing to mind a Queen in a deck of cards. The aesthetic of the work is reminiscent of the boldness found in Constructivist Propaganda. The faces appear as vacant as mannequins, but from them emanate mysterious colours, shapes and symbols; a hint at a spiritual force radiating outwards from the physical. I wanted to find out more about Michael Restrick’s intriguing art work.
Lisa: What is ‘North Star’ about?
Michael: “North Star” aims to explore human emotion, personality and mood. Symbols recur throughout the series of work. Planetary forms rest upon her shoulders which cast a greater shadow than their physical shape. The north star suggests that she needs direction, trying to find herself. Upturned and downturned arrows simply indicate her positive or negative personality. You will notice that the image works upside-down, when read this way the once negative shapes are positive in relation to the now focal portrait.
Lisa: How would you describe your use of colour? And how do you go about selecting the colours that you work with?
Michael: Colour is integral to my work as it is a strong tool to evoke what essentially cannot be said. Each colour palette is unique to the needs of each piece and depends on the tone/mood being communicated.
Lisa: Your work often combines motifs from the human figure with geometric shapes, and for me personally, the result is that the compositions have a strong formal component – as if you are inviting us to appreciate the curves and shapes of a human face in the same way that we would a circle or a triangle. Are you trying to get closer to emotion or move further away from it in your work?
Michael: The composition and structure of my work allows me to convey a state of mind, the personality of the subject/ myself and symbols provides the viewer with a key to understanding the painting. I want to explore the emotions on display and have a dialogue with the viewer. These geometric shapes are also used to balance out composition and provide structure to my work.
Lisa: How do you develop your compositions? Do you do any preparatory work or dive straight into working on the canvas?
Michael: I rarely start with any preparatory drawings. I allow the painting to evolve through the act. This process allows a freer flowing form of expression.
Lisa: What do you like about working with acrylic paint? Do you have any favourite brands of colour?
Michael: Acrylic paint allows me to work quickly and enables me to enact ideas without hesitation. It also allows me freedom to alter colours easily if required. I don’t use a particular brand but tend to use Acrylics that are soft bodied and opaque.
Lisa: How do you think your art education has informed what and how you paint today?
Michael: Art education can give you a solid foundation from which to grow and I was fortunate to have that opportunity at Winchester School of Art. It was there I first started to explore conceptual ideas, video and found objects as well as develop my understanding of colour theory and composition. Although my actual painting style has evolved organically over time, these methods are still fundamental to my art practice today.
Lisa: Who or what are your biggest inspirations for your work?
Michael: Inspiration for me can come from any source whether it is a drain cover in the street or a Francis Bacon painting.
Lisa: Why do you paint? Do you have any other creative outlets and if so how do they link with your painting practice?
Michael: I have a strong urge to create whether that be painting, sculpting or writing. I believe that everything informs the other, nothing is created in isolation.
Lisa: What are you working on at the moment?
Michael: For the moment, I continue to work on the “Sorrowman” series however I do have a new project in the pipeline which will be called “Quiet Type”.
Lisa: Where online or in the flesh can we view more of your work?