Michael Batty’s ‘Building’ will be on display at BAF Gallery, 108 E Broadway, until Saturday, December 15. Join us on Saturday, November 24 at 2pm for a special talk and gallery tour from the artist.
In Conversation: Michael Batty
‘Building’ incorporates both installation and photographic work. To you, how do these two mediums work together in the show?MB
Once the installation works I created in the studio had gained validity for me, the issue became how I would allow them to exist as permanent works of art, when the sculptures themselves are inherently temporal. It made less sense for me to paint or draw them, as a still life, than to photograph them. I think the challenge of photographing them came by way of wanting to create a type of equivalent experience to seeing the real object, rather than viewing the object itself. The work was done; the medium could not loop around to drawing and painting again, or I would loose the actual topic of the work.
What themes and ways of working from your previous practice did the works in this show evolve from?MB
The themes I was exploring, and my ways of working in the studio for the past many years, have been addressing my interests in the equality of positive and negative space: the use of a single subject as a vehicle for expression, colour, balance, and tension of composition. These themes carried forward into the new works of art shown at the Burrard Arts Foundation.
This show represents a growth in your practice towards working in three dimensions. What inspired or prompted this shift?MB
In the paintings I was making leading up to the new works at BAF, I began to see a more literal relationship between figure and ground. The paintings started to suggest to me a breaking from the picture plane of the canvas and a move into the three dimensional realm. I began to install my paintings in the corner of the studio. The intersecting planes of this location brought on a new sensibility in me. I believe this served as the beginning of seeing the paintings as three-dimensional objects.
You are surrounded by art in your other occupation as a fine-art framer. Does that occupation ever inform your work, and if so, how?MB
My other occupation for the last twenty years has been the framing and presentation of artworks, both locally and internationally. I do believe that for me, working with an expanded vocabulary of works at Fine Art Framing & Services Ltd. has definitely shaped my sensibilities over time. I believe that working with all the artists that I have, and helping them to achieve their goals, can’t help but broaden ones perspective.
Can you describe the process and materials that go in making the aluminum panels in your works ‘Scale’ and ‘Prop’?MB
I started by creating tiles of colour that in the beginning, I thought would serve as a way of exploring composition freely and without commitment, not unlike collage. At first, these new creations were a way to explore composition for my paintings. This new language gained momentum in the studio over a two-year period, with the creation of over three hundred panels, which then became the subjects for the works included in the exhibition. I wanted to achieve a type of subject that was somewhat unrecognizable to the viewer; a subject that while physical, would make one think only of colour. In some way I feel it is important to suspend the knowledge of what the panels are actually composed from in order to experience the work fully.
Your work is the first to be exhibited in BAF Gallery’s new, street-facing Garage exhibition space. Did you approach this space differently than the interior gallery, and if so, how? Was this your first time exhibiting work outside of an indoor gallery setting?MB
The BAF show is the first exhibition of this new visual language outside of the studio. The setting directed the works compositionally, because of the expanded or contracted space of both rooms. The needs of the street facing garage space were almost in opposition to the space inside. The street-facing space is compressed and vertical. A composition that overcame the compression of the space, coupled with a viewpoint from the street became necessary, while the expansion of the interior space had a type of breathing room. Again, both spaces provided a type of oppositional challenge, which oddly enough is a strong theme of this current practice, compared to my painterly practice. Occupying both spaces has been a great experience, and allowed a completion of this idea. The exhibition at Burrard Arts Foundation has expanded my work into the site specific, allowing it to grow from a private practice in the studio, into one that reacts with architecture of a given space in a more public way.
The installations in ‘Building’ beg comparisons to some seminal Minimalist sculptural works, particularly those by Carl Andre. Do you find these kind of comparisons useful, and where do you situate these works in an art historical context?MB
he new works have fulfilled my need to find a new location for my painting. Historically, both sculpture and painting have addressed these ideas. When I was creating things in the studio, I began to recall so many great artists, and their contributions to furthering the language of painting and sculpture. I have been thinking lately that sometimes, in order to define what something is, you have to move through what it is not. It strikes me that while my new works conjure up familiar practices in art history, at times, for example, my work doesn’t quite operate within certain constructs. For example, these current works are too lyrical to be associated with ‘concrete art’ and at times are too active to be thought of in terms of minimal sculpture. Many artists’ works are detectible in the current work and these are artists that I have responded to greatly when witnessing them: Andre, Kelly, Flavin and Gonzalez-Torres, and Agnes Martin, to name only a few, come to mind. Maybe if one can occupy many positions and call upon many types of practices and traditions, the work can make a new contribution through all of these languages colliding. My hope is that if these new works can make one think of many different artists’ contributions over time, then perhaps they can be seen as something of a new and different language. In the end, it is a new and different language for me, and I hope that the works operate on a universal level for everyone.