Contemporary Scottish artist Michael Corr’s show Creative Freedom, which is currently installed on the gallery walls – read all about it here – is the first new body of work he has released post lockdown. So it felt like a good time to catch up with Michael and discuss his life as an artist, his current work and inspirations and future plans now life is returning to ‘normal’.
We first knew we had to represent you after seeing your paintings Derek and Nikki back in 2016 – feels like a long time ago now. Both works still feel very relevant and representative of you – your signature style if you will. Would you agree?
Yes, there are elements in these paintings I continue to focus on and experiment with – mainly the expressiveness. It’s nice to look back on these pieces and see how my style has evolved.
Our first solo show with you in 2018, titled Faces, featured a series of portraits based on images of Santa Monica convicts alongside a beautiful portrait of Elizabeth Taylor. Needless to say, the show was a complete success. What draws you to your subjects? A face, a story, an ideal…?
I often find inspiration for my subjects in film, short stories and travelling to new places.
On the topic of subjects, you’ve painted many notable figures – Billy Connoly, David Bowie, Liz, Warren Buffet, Frida Kahlo, Nina Simone to name a few. Is there anyone in particular that you would love to paint and why?
There’s so many inspirational faces out there. Andy Warhol would be great or Stanley Kubrick. Both figures have been a huge inspiration to me. A series of notable creative figures sounds interesting…
Your blend of realist portraiture and expressive surrounds appears so effortless – mixing colour, fluid texture and pattern with ease. Would you say your background in Graphic Design has helped you to develop this style?
Thank you and definitely! There’s lots of crossovers between creative disciplines.
Do you plan your colours and background ‘designs’ in advance, or do you work instinctively, allowing your gut and intuition to take over?
Depending on the project/brief I usually plan out the artwork in advance to get an idea of concept, colour and composition and add intuitive elements along the way to keep things fresh and instinctive. Sometimes, I like to mix it up and go with the flow and be free, allowing the work to evolve.
An exciting moment for us was when we collaborated on the project for T-Bar in Ayr, resulting in your first large-scale interior mural. It was so successful and became the first of many mural pieces. Did you enjoy this challenge? Did you have any reservations about scaling up?
For years prior I had been painting large scale pieces on canvas and board, so in a way, this was good training for murals. I was nervous before I got stared on this mural as I had never worked this way before, but once I got started I absolutely loved it!
So many new creative doors have opened thanks to your murals – having painted on location across Scotland and even as far as Palm Springs. Does this feel like a dream situation for you? Do you think this is something you would always have found alongside your canvas painting?
I feel extremely lucky to be working as an artist and am very grateful for the opportunity to do so. I’ve worked hard to get to this position and continue to learn more and more about myself and my artistic practice everyday. Introducing murals to my practice has been challenging but ultimately so rewarding. I’ve started to use some techniques from mural painting within my canvas work. So it’s very interesting to see how things have evolved.
Do you have a preference now between painting on a canvas or scaling up for a mural (interior or exterior)?
I love painting both canvases and murals equally. It’s always nice to chop and change mediums and materials regularly too.
You regularly get asked to do commissions. Do you enjoy this side of your practice? Is it a challenge to capture someone as they desire v’s having complete artistic license?
I love commissions and working with clients. I enjoy the challenge of getting a likeness of a subject and this is important, but I like to inject my own style and expressiveness into the artwork so they are unique.
The past year and a half has affected everyone in so many ways. What, if anything, changed the most about your practice during the pandemic and lockdown life? What did you learn about yourself through isolation? What did you miss the most during lockdown? What aspects, if any, of lockdown did you embrace?
During the pandemic, there’s been a huge shift to online communication and events and I started to get used to this as the norm. This is one of the reasons why it’s so good to have this exhibition running in person at the gallery right now – it’s really nice to have some real life events to look forward to.
Over lockdown, I tried to limit the amount of time I spent on social media and looking at the news. Instead I tried to take some time out every day to do something fun and recreational – I’ve started playing the guitar.
Have you been able to take some time away this year?
I managed to get away in July this year to paint a mural in Gibraltar of John Lennon which was such an amazing experience.
Can you tell us about your new body of work?
Creative Freedom is a collection of new drawings & paintings. I set out to create a series of new works – with the sole objective of total creative freedom; after the long period of restrictions that we were all subject to. It’s been an amazing experience creating these works. The result is a vibrant and eclectic series of portraits, with an emphasis on experimental mixed media painting. Each piece has been created intuitively, using playful processes whilst taking inspiration from all around.
Finally, what do you have planned for the remainder of the year and is there anything exciting lined up for 2022?
I’ve got a few exciting projects lined up which I can’t wait to get started on and share with everyone. One project is to create a large mural in Glasgow inspired by re-wilding in Scotland as part of The Portrayals climate project.
Big thanks to Michael for sharing some insight into his life. You can check out his new show in the gallery and online now. As always, thanks for reading.