A brief description of what I've been doing with my life...
After leaving St Martins I went to New York for two weeks and ended up staying for a year(1992-93).
I worked as a freelance photo assistant, which was great as it took me to places I may not have seen otherwise.
Las Vegas, The Grand Canyon(on the back of a mule), The Catskill mountains, South Carolina.... and many other locations, Especially all over and around Manhattan and NYC.
When i wasn't being a photo assistant, i would spend my time Painting, life drawing(at the Arts league on 56th street) and taking photographs.
Manhattan was still a little rough around the edges(pre-Giuliani), especially the lower east side.
The Migration to Brooklyn hadn't started.... It was still affordable to live in Manhattan, and still pretty rough. New York was a fantastic experience...
Since leaving Art school I have always tried to do as much life Drawing as possible. I think it's very important to keep Drawing.
as It teaches hand and eye coordination and it's an important discipline. It teaches you to really see what you're looking at..
I think it's important as it helps towards understanding visual language.
I've been fortunate enough to have travelled a bit, to have spent time in some beautiful, Interesting and inspiring places.
I always carry a sketchbook with me(out of habit) as you never know when the moment takes you.
Ideas end up being used in my Paintings at some point, consciously or unconsciously.
I lived in Cyprus(96-97) for a year, in a goat shed, with the sea in front and mountains behind.
It was pretty isolated in the sense that there wasn't much going on, except for the sun coming up and going down and the sound of waves lapping the beach or crashing on rocks.
It was in Cyprus with this slow pace of life and stress-less environment that my Paintings moved away from Figurative to Abstract.
I've had solo shows in Tokyo, London, Spain and joint exhibitions in Switzerland, Cyprus, London and New York. I've participated in Art festivals in Oxford, Italy and France.
I lived and Painted in India for 3 months (1999).
I lived and Painted in the mountains in a remote part of Spain for 3 months(2001).
One of my favorite studios was in Shoreditch(1999-2004).
Where I lived and worked above a 24hr mini cab office(which at times, was very colourful and lively).
Looking back, it was a great time to be living and painting in that area.
Hoxton square was still run down, the white cube wasn't built and Banksy wasn't a household name. People met at the 'Bricklayers Arms'(pub)... where word got around about an opening, gig or party. 'The Barley Mo'(pub) still had lock-ins, the 'Griffin' and the 'Red lion' were still old men pubs.
What I do remember was that there was a real sense of something happening, a creative community with loads of Art Private views, parties and happenings. There were a lot of like minded, skint, ex Art student types and people doing their own thing(Painting, Sculpting, Music, Poetry, making clothes, furniture).. Expressing themselves in their own way.
Being in this area, at this time, you somehow knew you were part of something that was unique and in transition, and that it wouldn't last, but while it did it was great fun. looking back, I feel lucky and privileged to have been witness to it. In 2004 I left London in an old van, wheel arches almost touching the wheels, loaded down with paintings, books, mattress etc and drove to Andalucia, Spain to live and to fix up an old Spanish house to use as a studio.
I became a Dad to a beautiful girl in 2005, since then I moved back to the UK and have had a number of studios, living and painting in west London. Since 2013 I moved to Oxford to be near my daughter as she grows. I live on a boat and have built a painting studio(on stilts) on the land in front where the boat is moored(as its prone to flood in the winter).
Still living like an eternal student...
The usual stuff...It's either feast of famine.
Over the years my Paintings have been bought and collected by a variety of People, both privately and commercially.
it has been an interesting journey so far.
The Art of Painting.
The Art of Painting is a very difficult thing to explain just with words, as it is a visual language and not a language of words.
But I shall try to explain: From my own perspective and with my limited ability with words, From the experience I have gained from giving my life to it. Since I was 16 I have painted and studied painting, and with an acute sense of ‘trying to understand’ the nature of painting, to push it as far as possible with my own painting and to discover meaning. I am now 50).
My life is lived around it, everything I do, feel or think, is related to painting. I shall attempt to explain my understanding of it in simple terms, so all can understand.
Firstly I would like to say There is no right or wrong way to paint, just honesty and authenticity, and added to this is motivation... (your reason why you feel the need to paint…) Motive is another subject, that requires a lot of other things to think about...But, I shall just stick to the nature of Painting.
These questions only YOU can answer…
When looking at a painting?.
There is first and foremost a relationship that is made between the painting and the viewer.
This relationship can be powerful or weak, depending on your reaction when first meeting the painting.
If the painting engages you and you find it interesting, you are more likely to spend time looking at it, and doing some research about it... or you may find yourself just glancing at it, registering it but not looking and absorbing it.
so this feeling teaches you about what YOU like and don't like (or don't understand)...
Then you must ask yourself why do i feel this?, and then keep asking why .. so as to get to the bottom of your motivation
There are only relationships and no relationships....
Each relationship has its own presence/power(its own voice, so to speak)There are also relationships between Colour, Form, Ambient and Composition, created by the application of paint and marks, and decisions made during the making of a painting For example... A relationship between colours is just one ingredient that goes into the mix when making decisions, while painting.
Colour relationships are made by colours next to each other, one colour surrounding another, one colour inside another etc... there are no bad colours just bad relationships between colour.. So deciding what you like/want comes from understanding your motivation.
Making Decisions is life.
It is what we do all the time... making choices..
and the choices we make has an effect on how we perceive the world around us. To me, I find painting to be a visual expression of Life.
I find it is about ‘letting go’ .... of fears, pre-conceived ideas, so that decisions are free and are guided by the experience of instincts, heart, logic... so when i am painting, the act of painting is as free as possible... as we are part of nature any expression of it is nature.
Painting allows a freedom of expression that I am interested in. A painting should have both logic and spirit, both loudness and quietness, it should have meaning as well as being attractive... a balance between order and chaos.. the duality that seems to exist in all things... yin yang
How I paint. A basic explanation...(as much as possible)
1] choice of canvas size.
2] composition: how I divide the canvas up.
3] Decisions: re’ Colour, Colour relationships, Tones, Luminosity, forms, surface texture, etc
4] Application: How the paint is applied, applied fast or slow, with intention, accidental, brushed on, washed on, size of brush, scummbled, thrown, dripped splattered, brushed, scraped, is the paint wet on wet, or wet on dry, varnishes, glazes... so on and so forth… (the only limitation is imagination).It is not just about putting on paint, it it also about taking off paint and when to leave the painting alone.
The next stage is to Start.
After an initial idea about the feeling I want the canvas to have, one idea leads to another... quite quickly, and before i know it i am immersed in the process of creating, composing an image that builds and starts to suggest to you what it needs. You(one) are confronted by your own fixed ideas, limitations and attachments...The process of painting really is an experience... both involved(inside) and detached(outside), both mental and emotional at the same time. Anyhow, it is something along these lines, as far as the use of words can explain”
Mike England, first written 11/7/15. Readjusted 2/1/2018.
Thoughts about painting.
Similar idea’s and inspirations behind my paintings have been present in my work for quite a few years.
I try to arrange a painting to find a balance with the elements involved in making paintings. Composition…. Relationship’s between Colours, the way paint is applied to the overall feeling that radiates from a painting…
A feeling of Beauty and Harmony are ingredients that I try to include while I paint. If you look at my paintings not as pictures telling a story but as visual music, you may begin to understand and relate to them.
We are surrounded by abstraction... "Nature is Abstract".
Abstraction is a language…the same as sound is a language. And as with different sounds they can be arranged to create different ambiences.
songs are usually literal….they usually tell a story.
where as Jazz or Classical, Trance, Chill, Ambient, drum and bass, house create a mood, a feeling, an emotional experience.
There are lots of parallels between painting and music. ..e.g. composition, harmony, discord, colours(notes), loud, quiet, provocative, calming,…. I like the idea that my paintings are visual music
The idea’s and inspiration behind my painting has been present in my work for quite a few years.
Painting is like visual philosophy