Hi Michael, thank you for speaking with us. We are very excited to be holding your exhibition Ephemerality. What does the title mean to you?
"The ephemeral nature of life has often nuanced a lot of my work in some sense over the years. With this particular collection of paintings, I wanted to highlight even more the transient nature of life. We are all here for a relatively short period of time and I guess we're all well aware of that fact, especially now. Despite these trying times beauty is still out there to be found but it's a fragile commodity that is getting scarcer by the minute or so it seems. So, I think we need to stop and think about what we have and what we stand to lose. Some of these works were produced in, and are a reaction to this post Covid-19 world that we now inhabit which I think emphasises this statement even more."
Blazing Apostles, Michael Hyam 2020
Can you tell us a little about the process of making your paintings?
"I like to get a painting to work in different ways, on different levels and at all times I try to be aware of such elements as shape, form, composition and colour - the abstract elements that are the basis of any work of art. But sometimes it's hard to ignore the content so I look at my work reversed in a mirror, upside down, in a darkened room - anything to see it more as shape and colour. Obviously, that's not my only focus as the figure will command a large presence in the work. So, despite the fact that I work within a representational framework I still like to include an element of abstraction in the finished painting. I find myself including a lot more suggestion in the work which allows the viewer to participate more by maybe trying to decipher some area that is not explicit or have the audience decide what a large part of a painting might allude to."
Michael Hyam, a painting in progress
What would we find in your studio?
"Nothing too surprising really. The usual artist's clutter, only maybe a bit more controlled than some. I don’t like working in too much of a mess and it’s easy for that to get out of hand and before you know it, it all gets a bit squalid and you can’t find anything. When I see the studios kept by people like Mucha, Sorrolla, Zorn and Nicholson for example, I think they had such a wonderful atmosphere of creative elegance about them. So, I try to attain a bit of that sophistication and dare I say - comfort?
Alphonse Mucha's Studio circa 1900
There are a couple of things of note, namely two old 19th Century oak crank-easels that I work on. Both are French I think, and very beautiful. I love them very much and they have some history as both bear marks and paint-spatters from the endeavours of the artists that owned them in the past. I often wonder what type of works were painted on them and who the artists were. They are inspirational to work at and are beautiful objects in their own right. I have also over the years amassed a collection of old palettes, palette knives, even brushes and such like which I use all the time, and as you will see in the photographs there is a massive French Armoire that dominates the room which has a lot of character itself."
Michael Hyam's Studio
What inspires you to paint? Where do you get your ideas from?
"That’s a tricky one.
Firstly, I feel that the more the artist has control over his materials the more he can be controlled by his inspiration. Having said that, I’m not really sure what inspiration is? But I know its elusive, and when you feel its touch you have to act on it. Music can provide it. Sometimes a film, images, something you read, a walk in a city, a walk in nature. Whatever that something is that moves you can give you a flow of ideas and a facility which makes it feel like you're uncovering something that already existed, not inventing it.
Sometimes its hard labour to produce something good and the zephyr of inspiration has moved on to somewhere else. The artist has to be the lightning rod, the conduit - dialled-in at the right moment in order to capture the magic. But hard labour or divine inspiration, if the universe gives you something you should admit it was a gift! I think there’s something they have in Buddhism called ‘Interdependent Arising’ or ‘Mutual Causality’? So maybe the artist created nothing that the Universe had not already created, but the Universe could not have manifested the piece of art without the artist allowing himself to be the vessel to channel it? And in that process the artist has contributed something of his own personal experience."
Cadmium Yellow, Michael Hyam 2020
Finally, if you weren't an artist, what would you be?
"I think I knew at a very early age that this was what I wanted to do. That might sound cliched but I remember that's how I felt growing up. I was always good at drawing as a kid and I drew a lot, portraits of friends, treasure maps, Pirates and ancient Greeks. I think as a kid I felt it was like a language and I understood that language better than words, and the same thing later with music. They both spoke to me on an emotional level and I felt I had to learn them in order to express myself. Music and art had always been very present in my parents’ house. Not art hung on the walls or in books but my dad painted murals on the walls of our flat and he taught me to draw, showed me perspective or ‘foreshortening’ as he called it.
But to answer your question I guess the answer would be a musician, a guitarist. I'm a decent guitar player and I began learning at age fourteen. I'd left school at 16 and was working in a printing factory while playing gigs at night. After eight years of trying to "make it" I got disillusioned with that and I picked up the pencil and brushes again as an escape route from the mundane. I still play guitar in various bands at various levels and it's a great social thing as well as being creative in another form. We had a pretty good band consisting of artists going at one time. Martin Yeoman and Neale Worley were in there, both amazing harmonica and keyboard players respectively."
The eCatalogue for Michael's exhibition Ephemerality can be viewed here.