"We are not strong enough for the rivers and stars", Melanie Rogers Gallery, AucklandAll rights reserved by Michael Greaves

Object lessons

In his paintings Michael Greaves explores similar ideas in different ways as he thinks out loud on canvas.

For Principal Lecturer Michael Greaves, painting is an expression of his thinking. His Studio painting practice is a process of following his thoughts and expressing the ideas generated in that internal dialogue. All art is autobiographical, an expression of the artist's self, but a finished artwork presents the artist's body of thinking all at once, without a linear progression over time. That progression can perhaps be seen more readily in successive series of artworks produced at different times.

The paintings in Michael's solo show at OLGA in Dunedin in May 2022 explored a trajectory or timeline of life. The influence of his reflections on different things happening is referenced in the exhibition title, The Promise .... and the Fall. Both the title and the paintings are sufficiently ambiguous to provide viewers with an opportunity to consider their own thoughts and interpretations.

In painting, Michael finds a creative tension between portraying recognisable objects that are concrete and understandable, and expressing something that is sensed, making visible what is felt and invisible. His recent work has leaned towards the latter, but still portrays objects that are obscured or hidden, or perhaps memories or feelings about objects rather than the tangible objects themselves. An exhibition of his work at Five Walls in Melbourne in November 2022, Sullivan's Objects, manifested ideas about books in particular, for the fictional persona of Sullivan.

Since producing those artworks, Michael has taken the idea of the book further to consider the vocabulary of painting. This is honed down to colour, shape, moment and erasure, playing with ideas of objects that are there and that are not there. A series of works exhibited at Melanie Roger Gallery in Auckland in February 2023 were inspired by a single line of text: "We are not strong enough for the rivers and stars."

Michael says that in this body of work

“I played out endgames in the painting that I could not make, that might not be seen, that might never exist. I developed projects and ideas totally within the frame of the mind. To paint at all required a collaboration with this new modern fatigue that erased the body, challenged structures and histories, and destabilised hierarchical thought patterns and progression. It was as if the burden of these times had become a physical malady… Seen together, these connected but separate shows move through time, an exploded narrative of the current historical situation of sorts. From an abstract thought to an optical argument, a poetic monument, where the peripheral accessory of painting proposes something else again."

Michael still has plenty of ideas that he looks forward to following through in his painting practice.