Artist Michael Cox tends to habitually focus on areas he lives in or visits for his landscape-focused paintings. First meeting Michael back in 2016 when he was one of our Graduates, the Falmouth grad’s paintings depicted an array of British sights from Aylesbury to Robin Hood Gardens. Whether painting buildings or rural areas, the consistent trait in the artist’s work is his approach, always painting from the point of view of an outsider. Since moving away from London where he settled after graduating, Michael’s recent set of paintings have returned back to being rurally-focused, stepping away from city structures and, instead, painting suburbia.
This new point of focus comes as a result of Michael’s move, “and remembering what it was like to be somewhere else,” he tells It’s Nice That. Using memory as a communicative tool in his paintings these new works focus “more on the suburban landscapes that filter into our subconscious,” he explains. “There’s still the idea of stillness and quietness, which is sometimes comforting and peaceful and at other times disturbing.”
Suburbia has various connotations for different people around the world. Some of us may have grown up on the fringe of a larger city or town, in semi-detached houses on the end of transport lines. Other city-raised kids may only be familiar with suburbia from holidays, on a trip to the country to escape the metropolis, or even just on long drives out of town. Whatever the association, Michael hopes that these paintings will pick up some element of reliability for the viewer as “it’s always this idea of passing through a landscape that interests me,” he points out. This sentiment is also the reason why Michael’s paintings never feature people, explaining how he feels “it’s unnecessary for me to include figures in the paintings because the viewer is acting as the figure in a way; being invited into the frame.”
Michael’s recent collection of paintings have been completed over a long period of time, usually between two to four months and in this sense “they’re slow paintings and slow images, the result being an accumulation of that time spent on it,” he says. Each made by painting onto linen, “which has this very dark grain, much darker than canvas or paper,” Michael tries to incorporate the natural texture of his material into the paintings’ feel, utilising it when depicting a road or house.
Looking towards suburbia as a subject came naturally to Michael considering his move and the flow in which his work is created. “As I work on these paintings one or two at a time, the direction these works move in is difficult to see, but that uncertainty is definitely refreshing and keeps me on my toes!”
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