“I HAVE A SPACE WHERE IDEAS PROMPT PAINT AND PAINT PROMPTS IDEAS.”
Interview with Michael Nauert by Maddie Rose Hills for Floorr Magazine
Your headspace while painting sounds specific, you say you 'discern the works passively as deja vu like memories'. Do you require a certain frame of mind to make the work, and how do you get there?
I say that because, to me, it feels like the work already exists in some template form as an idea, but to uncover that form into an actual painting takes work. There’s a communication that happens between the idea and the painting, and therefore it’s like building a relationship within each piece. A connection must form. The connection feels like it’s a state of mind, but that state of mind is tangled with the physical work. To make a frame of mind for painting I need to make a frame of canvas for the painting to sit on. Both frames provide an armature to project my ideas onto. Framing the mind is giving the mind a space to fill, in this case, the space is a blank canvas. The canvas is the purpose to paint made physical. With a physical purpose to paint and a desired purpose to paint, I have now created a space, shared physically and mentally, to pull into this “template.” Once the shared space of the physical and mental form, I have a space where ideas prompt paint and paint prompts ideas. This is where communication happens between my ideas and my paintings, and mediating the two happens intuitively, therefore it happens when I am still and quiet within myself to access a state of sensing.
Could you tell us a bit about yourself and your background? Where did you study?
I received my BFA at The School of the Art Institute of Chicago in 2017. That was school number 6 for me. Growing up I was consumed with playing music (trumpet and piano), so I started out pursuing music. I went to 2 music schools, and ran into a “Whiplash” (movie about a student with an abusive teacher) situation. That went south pretty quick because I lost my passion. I found it again facing my fears through traveling. Part of that was getting to explore jungles, deserts, forests, and other nature. This reconnected me to my interests I developed as a child with my dad and brother. We hiked all over western US (mostly California) to find gemstones and fossils and would collect butterflies and insects as well. I feel this intense scrutinization while exploring a larger nature is what taught me color and shape.
When it comes to finishing a painting, is there a point where balance between forms being unrecognizable, while hinting at shapes we know is just right, or are you relaxed about the literal interpretability? How long might it take to get to this point?
The form prompts me, and then the paint takes over. Unresolved forms exist to feature paint. I notice myself averse to some forms (mostly horizons, figures, and architecture) more than others. In my own work, I’m also averse to the idea of a picture (something totally recognizable) (even though I can see many of my paintings are pictures). When these take shape within my paintings it’s hard for me to let them exist. When I let them exist, it’s either an accident, an experiment, or because I’m pleased with how the paint is operating. Usually I love what the paint does too much to cover it up by finishing a form, so I will stop to let the form exist in limbo. Mystery in the form made directly from process usually happens when I stop closer to when I start a form. Sometimes the form is just one mark or, when it becomes too recognizable, wiping the form away. This all comes together to create a sense of place. If we can locate ourselves in a place then we might assume there are objects and things in that environment. With place comes the disposition to recognize things. When I put paint in a place, there’s this need to define and give function. There’s a sense of discovery because of this new object — paint. One might explore the process if there’s a desire to define this discovery. There’s an importance placed on expanding this world to include and know these paint marks. The amount of time this can take varies. Sometimes I have to sit with the painting in order to grow myself to a place where I can accept it to be able to finish it. I’ve sat with paintings for up to 5 years to be able to finish them. Other times the balance can come out in a few hours.
You use the term mind-space, what does this mean in relation to the work and how you wish them to be viewed?
Rather than being in our brain, I think of our mind as something accessed outside of our body connecting us to everything we have a social and physical bond with. For example our minds stretch to every location, person, language, or culture we’ve ever interacted with. Mind-space then is this morphing field in which the mind operates in. When mind-space overlaps, there lies a shared mind-space. Earlier I mentioned the idea of the template of a painting existing — I like to think that the template is formed as a unique intersection within mind-space. The painting template would be thoughts synthesizing the junction of experiences and ideas. The creation of the painting would be the artist resonating these junctures, fossilizing them through the drying of paint. The artist explores and gives mind-space in creating the painting, which reflects as the viewer receives and explores mind-space in response. The painting holds a world, an anchor from the artist’s mind-space. The viewers then resonate from this anchor point, expanding the world of the painting. They add their own intersections of mind-space to that which the artist sourced to create the work. The painting is the common ground between everyone who interacts with it. A painting becomes a space of overlap, a moment of shared mind-space. It’s like a bridge from a piece of one person’s mind-space to a piece of another’s mind-space. Even if the mindspaces contains different perspectives, the painting becomes the space of connection.