“MY WORKS ARE A VISUAL EXPRESSION OF THE GRUESOME AND INTENSE QUALITIES I BELIEVE ARE INHERENT IN HUMANITY”, TORONTO BASED PAINTER MIKE RACHLIS DESCRIBES HIS WORK. A RECENT GRADUATE FROM OCAD UNIVERSITY, RACHLIS’ WORK IS INTENSE IN NATURE, WITH DARK HUMOUR AS HE EXPLORES SOME OF THE MOST INTRIGUING THEMES SUCH AS DEATH, SHAME, HUMANITY AND HYPOCRISY. A TRADITIONALIST AT HEART IN HIS CRAFT, BUT STILL INCORPORATING MODERNITY INTO HIS WORK, RACHLIS CREATES WORKS OF ART THAT MAKE YOU REFLECT ON HUMANITY ITSELF
WORDS BY MICHAEL RACHLIS
“ I wasn’t a kid who drew or loved art. Everything really started when I was 13/14. I was hanging around with the older skateboarders at my middle school and one of them pulled out a can of spraypaint and wrote his name on the wall near where we hanging out. I painted a name on a wall and then spent the next ten years doing repetitive graffiti and getting arrested before I turned my focus to my art and got accepted to OCAD University. In my second year of university, I missed the registration date and had to take all the classes that no one wanted to take (Observational painting, and portraiture) and was hooked. I purposely try to make my art hard to describe. I find it so boring when within five minutes of seeing a painting you know exactly what the motivation behind its creation was. My art is rooted in traditional painting and portraiture but is very contemporary with a heavy focus on paint application. I love painting the figure and the face. There is just endless possibilities in terms of creativity, exploration of material and improving technical painting skills.
In terms of why I paint almost exclusively men; men have been representing women in art for hundreds of years and I do not want to be a part of that lineage.
Portraiture is so much about identity and I am not comfortable representing or commenting on an identity I have no legitimate understanding of. My art was also often motivated by themes of masculinity or male identity. I’m really in love with painting, the act of putting oil paint onto canvas. As I said, earlier painting is not a skill you can master or learn everything about and if you think you have then you’re not pushing yourself hard enough. This is the only thing that makes sense for me to do everyday. I’m inspired by the luminous qualities of oil paint, subtle greys, thick impasto simplifications of the face, representing complex areas of flesh in a single brush stroke, painterly things. I’m influenced by a huge pool of artists and music is such a huge part of my daily life that it ends up affecting my studio practice. In terms of artists that I admire, Elly Smallwood, Ben Quilty, Lucian Freud, Cy Twombly, Jacques-Louis David, Benjamin Björklund, Jean Michel Basquiat, Robert Rauschenberg, Gordan Matta-Clark are a few that have been most influential. I don’t read as much as I wish I did so there isn’t much of a literary influence on my work. Some of my paintings have titles or themes from books I’ve enjoyed but I would be misrepresenting myself if I said that there was a significant literary influence on my work at the moment. I’m all over the place with music, the largest genre of my music library is punk/ska from 1980 – 1999 but I really love everything. I’m a huge Beatles fan, I love bebop jazz, I really enjoy Philadelphia Soul, I enjoy early hip-hop and I am beginning to like some country music. As with my favourite painters, I like musicians and bands who possess complete self-assurance and some aspect of rebelliousness. Starting in 2016, I started publishing a weekly playlist of music that I paint to. Keep an eye on my Instagram or website for updates as they come. ”