Artist, Michael Walden, conveys a narrative with his two-dimensional painting designs. Early in his career, his artistic style envisioned an approach inspired by European applications. He has been honored with a solo showing at New York City’s Leslie Lohman Museum, has been awarded with numerous artist residencies, and has displayed his work throughout Boston’s finest galleries including, the Bakker Gallery, Sprinkler Factory, Art Stand, Arnheim Gallery, S & G Project Gallery, Gallery at FOUR, and Art Scapes.
He is recognized for working with trace monotypes, the process of pressing ink onto transfer print papers, which was popularized by Paul Gauguin, Paul Klee, and of course, Michael Walden. Walden pushes composition and scale to a fresh level by capturing the subject and details within his artistry. He demonstrates how storytelling is not limited to words due to our conjuring images as we hear or read a narrative.
Question: Each of your paintings explores a visual narrative. What elements of your composition establishes the mood within your image?
Without really focusing on it, my works tend to explore the contrast between light and dark, both visually and emotionally. Recently, while I was organizing thoughts for a show I was having in New York City, I wanted to make connections to past works…. In case I needed to reference them with the new work. It was interesting to me, how many of the works had a strong connection to the way light effects space and subject.
Question: Your work explores the surface and visual narratives of paintings. How does your style in placing figures and spaces develop your setting?
I don’t believe any of it is intentional. I think that a concept comes to me, and I begin to research it visually. I find that often times, the ideas for paintings circle around for along time before I begin the actual process of painting. Looking at art and artists that may have explored similar ideas…. Books, films, poetry all build towards that painting, and once that starts, it has a mind of its own. To be honest, I never really know what a painting will be until it’s completed. And that only happens just before it is to be shown.
Question: Your work opens viewers to understanding the relationship between artistic expression and human emotion. Do you find emotion by projecting the feelings you experience as you paint?
That’s a tricky question. I think my emotions make their way into paintings, but I am not necessarily painting about those emotions…. And often times, if I am in a long period of painting, the emotions run the gambit. My most recent series of paintings, the series of my trainer seated in an aluminum chair, to me was ultimately a very optimistic body of work. It’s original plan was not. I think, when people look at the paintings, they bring their own emotion to it, and therefore it becomes a personal experience.
Question: You encourage viewers to discover a profound aspect within your work. Do you intentionally deliver a public message through your subject matter?
Most of the time, that is my goal. The last years of my career as an elementary school art teacher, it was my goal to instill in my students, the idea that art had the ability to change how people think. To change the world. When I left my position to pursue art making full-time, I promised those kids that I was going to try and do that. My works mostly are meant to get the viewer to think beyond the idea of something being pretty or decorative. That’s not always an easy thing…. So, if you can create something that bridges both ideas, you might be on to something.
Question: You have several series of paintings and, with each series, you achieve different techniques while establishing a state of mind for your subjects. Do you connect with your subjects by recording the models’ feelings during the sitting or do you convey a personal life event?
Hmm. I try and connect with my subjects. I think the work is stronger when I do. When I am able to capture that connection or bond, it brings more life and meaning to the work. Often times when I am negotiating with a potential model (typically already a friend) I often talk about the process being a collaboration of sorts… that their involvement in the process is just as important as mine. That might be a bit of a stretch, but I quickly learn if they are interested in that aspect of the process…. When they are excited about it, so am I.
Michael Walden’s artwork has the ability to change the viewers’ way of thinking. He proves the composition of large scale paintings makes a powerful impression within a developed series. His ability to plan images that culminate into conveying an overall message provides an example of how to establish a foundation for visual storytelling.
Thank you, Michael Walden, for sharing your visual narrative techniques.
To view a selection of his work, please visit, https://michaelwalden.net.