Encore – 183x152cm
Mixed medium on canvas
stretched, Ready to hang
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Australian Artist, Noosa QLD
After more than two decades of gallery representation as a full-time artist, Michael Whitehead has firmed his place as one of Australia’s most exciting contemporary abstract artists. With representation by leading galleries in major cities around Australia, and consistently sold out exhibitions here and in Asia and Europe, Michael has become the artist he was always bound to be.
Even as a child in a country school in northern Victoria, Michael knew what he wanted to do in life. He was sure about his need to paint and he has been on this journey of discovery, pushing his creativity, for almost 50 years. Today, if you ask him what he does for a living, Michael will say simply that he is a painter and finds no need to correct the record when this conjures up images of ladders, drop cloths and hard to reach ceilings. While he is very comfortable in his artists skin, he has to be coaxed to don the persona. He may own the quintessential artists beret, but you’ll never catch him actually wearing it!
Michael attended the Bendigo Institute of Technology and graduated with a Diploma of Art and Design majoring in Graphic Design in the mid-seventies. He began his first employment as a graphic artist in a South Melbourne design studio run by a Swiss designer. It was a great experience for a twenty-year-old fresh from college to work in a team that was winning design awards not only in Australia but also in the US and Europe.
Trips to the USA and Mexico beginning in the late seventies and continuing into the nineties, as well as time in South East Asia, continually exposed Michael to art in all forms and added to his desire to explore his own creativity. During this time he completed several freelance graphic design works and drawing projects for corporate and private clients. Michael later worked for the Victorian education department teaching art and photography in secondary colleges. In the early nineties he opened a screen-printing studio, which catered to both local and overseas clients. In 1995, Michael and his family relocated to Queensland’s Sunshine Coast.
A trip to Eastern Europe through a freezing winter in the early 2000s provided the spark that led Michael to explore broader boundaries in his work. Standing inside a 900-year-old walled city that has transformed itself into a vibrant capital provided a huge dose of enthusiasm and renewed his creative energy. He has continued his travels, finding inspiration in every journey. From the sights, sounds, textures and smells of India and South East Asia, to his latest journey of rediscovery to Europe in 2015 Michael draws energy and creativity from the simplest of touchstones.
Today, Michael works from his studio in Noosa’s beautiful hinterland, where he explores his creation of large layered abstracts. Contemporary works in which each brush stroke challenges the previous one and oil is pitted against acrylic to create deliberate tension, resistance, and intensity. He uses large blocks of colour layered to capture or reflect light or a moody palette where the under-painting appears to be attempting to break through to provide a fleeting glimpse of a secret world beneath.
“A painting has to be instinctive and have a sense of urgency but yet remain precise”, says Michael. “If paint runs across a canvas it’s because I’m happy for it to go there or I have encouraged it to do so. Every stroke, every line, is intended to leave a record of its journey. I strive to have my works exhibit no fear of exposing their inner selves — the ‘complexity of construction’ if you like — of how they came to be”.
Today, he is an exhibiting artist in leading galleries across Australia’s major cities and his work features in private and corporate collections around the world. Collectors of his work join Michael’s creative journey and the more they live with and experience his art, the more each piece seems to reveal itself to them.
Michael’s sold out exhibition history speaks to the success of his work around Australia and increasingly the world.