As years pass, one has less to say, but more to share. We come to know things that are important, like a rainstorm, or a baby crying, or a good conversation with old friends. Art is a way to discover what there is to care about. To say that one’s art is about nature, or spirituality or beauty is far too simple. My work is, of course, about all of those things but far more – and far less. Through art I say what can’t be said and I share whatever I am. I don’t need to know anything in order to reveal everything. My tools belong to ancient traditions that are re-invented every time I sit down to paint. My images are like images we’ve all seen before, but always as though for the first time. What a wonderful enigma art is!
Stillness is the starting point. After I’ve reminded myself what quiet is, I’m ready to begin. I generally make my first marks with a heavily loaded brush – ink or soupy acrylic. The marks start deep in my inner consciousness and find their way, through heart and brain and body to the paper or canvas. Then come many layers of color made of acrylic paint or ink, that I sometimes brush, pour or let drip. I let the natural relationship of the paint to water, and air, and heat, and gravity, do most of the work. I intervene to make the paintings easier to understand, clearer and more interesting.
My work began to take shape in its 'mature' form after my third trip to Huang Shan (Yellow Mountain - pictured to the left) in Anhui Province, in China. I owe a debt to generations of landscape painters and calligraphers from China, Korea and Japan who also took their inspiration from the balance of natural forces of which we are all a part. I also think of myself as a part of the 'Northern Romantic Tradition' of Europe and America who sought the dissolution of form into light and water. My artwork links me to contemporary artists around the world who are discovering connections between body, mind and spirit. We are all trying to reflect a new cross-cultural artistic identity and ways to think about art and meaning that really are global.
Realization of the truth in each painting often comes as a surprise – an abrupt thought that jumps into my awareness like an alarm clock and says this painting is about snow, or trees, or rivers, or something more abstract like that line or this splash of ink. Sometimes a single word forms in my mind as I paint. Sometimes I don’t realize the relationship between the painting and the word, but it’s often how I choose names for my paintings. The formation of a title generally signifies the completion of the work. Even if I was not aware of its completion, I've learned that when the title arrives it's probably time to move on to the next artwork. The title of each work is for the viewer – something through which they may infer whatever meaning they themselves are secretly carrying around. For the viewer, my wish is that the meaning in the work appears as an unexpected gift from a stranger. It is the gift rather than the meaning that is most important to me. It is an affirmation of my self and the other.
Michael Grady, 2021