Michael Skeen (He/They)
My work explores the relationship between painting and photography. Alongside practicing both disciplines independently I am interested in investigating the materiality of the photographic object and deconstructing conventions of chemical photography.
Formally I am concerned with line, form and composition, often also working with colour and light. My practice is multi-layered and involves working in a variety of locations and mediums, I work intuitively with different tempos, energies and time scales depending on the media I’m working with. I place an emphasis on exploration and discovery, the destination is not pre-determined.
I engage in a dialogue with the materials I am using and try to strike a balance between intentionally making decisions and being open to chance happenings and reacting accordingly, deciding to keep or to discard discoveries as they occur. The process is as important as the end result and holds a lot of the pull for me to continue making, the creative act feels cathartic and transformative for me.
This series is a collection of found situations. I try to approach making photos in the same way I would approach painting or drawing; the only difference is with photography I am using lines and forms I stumble on rather than those I make with intent.
I am interested in the role the subconscious plays in creative contexts. I believe that when taking photos i am not operating on a thinking level, but rather an instinctual one that is somehow directed by a part of me that i don’t know how to consciously access. I find myself drawn to recurring forms and scenes that are reminiscent of themes and ideas that feature in my other work.
Much of the creative urge and act remains mysterious to me and I am not sure I want to unpick it to try to understand it, I often feel like a conduit for an energy that seems to originate somewhere outside of me. As such I feel there is a spiritual component to my work, albeit a subtle and underlying one. Making allows me to access a state of mind and a tranquility that can’t be accessed through other means.
Prior to studying at GSA my practice mainly revolved around painting murals on public walls, as such it has heavily informed and shaped my current practice and remains an important and central part of my making.
Painting shared walls means that the pieces will eventually be painted over by other people and the works will only live on as photographs, the physical paintings are ephemeral. I feel that this frees me up to take risks and experiment in ways i would be hesitant to in the studio, the temporal nature of the works informs the speed and energy with which I make them.
In contrast my studio works are made over much longer periods of time and involve a lot of addition and subtraction until I am satisfied with them. The pace with which i work with them is slower and allows me more opportunities for reflection and revision.
I am interested In dismantling the mechanics of chemical photography to investigate what a photograph can be, whilst searching for the line that separates painting and photography. Formally, Pyres utilises the visual language that I have been developing over a long time, and is influenced by calligraphy, hard edge painting and architecture.
By misappropriating and manipulating traditional photographic materials to make drawings and paintings I aim to interrogate material limits and explore what silver gelatin paper is capable of when the rules and regulations of the darkroom are bent and broken. The process Is highly experimental and intuitive and as much as I can control certain aspects there is always a lot that is subject to chance. These circumstances force me to embrace imperfection and unintentional outcomes as integral and valuable parts of the works.