Michael Rollins has recently completed his MFA at California State University, Long Beach, CA, USA. His curious and intuitive abstract paintings strike the viewers with their bold visual abundance and generate pleasure with their abrupt shiftiness. A detailed description and insight into his work finds elaboration in our interview with him with a selection of his work as under:
How did you get into art and how do you see your evolution as an artist?
Art has been around me since I was a child. My maternal grandparents were artists, and some of my earliest memories include creating things. Throughout childhood and adolescence, my commitment to art waxed and waned. Though once it was time to figure out what to do with my life, making art seemed like the only possible route for me.
As an artist, I am always trying to grow and evolve. It started out as an early fascination with drawing, and my practice is still fueled by my interests in two-dimensional media.
The work is meant to slip away from any solid description. It’s a space where different sensibilities can collide and coexist. The goal is to make something that can hold its own in our overstimulated world, while it connects to something larger such as the history of painting.
In my practice, something always leads back to visual pleasure and disruption. I am interested in making something that can suggest many different things. For me, that loosely translates into making moves and then asking questions. My practice is based primarily on making things, and then I force myself to think about what those creations can evoke. The back and forth between thought and action accumulates, and becomes an independent composition. The paintings look the way they do because of the way I think. In the studio, the paintings shift and show me things on multiple levels. I hope that some of that shiftiness translates to the viewer.
Each painting is a unique experiment, especially in regards to the balance between visual pleasure and disruption. I start each piece at zero. I know that sensibilities and preferences will always seep into the work, but I do not have any expectations or goals before I begin a painting.
My current body of work deals with a painting language that I have developed over time. I want the work to appear specific in some way, while still remaining in ambiguity. “Candy-coated entrails” is a phrase that I’ve heard and I appreciate. It is a catchy way of identifying the relationships within the work. To me, a response like that is calling out both the attractive and repulsive elements in the work.
My approach to creating art hinges on momentum in the studio. So I do my best to get to the studio almost every day even if I don’t feel inspired or energized. Even if I sit and stare at the work the whole time, I am in the position to make something happen. Also, I think balance is important for the sake of myself and for the work. I keep this balance by having different projects going that fulfill my creative appetite.
I use somewhat traditional materials to make my paintings like brushes, palette knives, and rubber spatulas. I am intrigued by the idea of making something with archaic materials that may look visually fresh.
It is hard to gauge exactly how long it takes to finish an individual piece. It’s important for me to have multiple pieces going in the studio. I do this to prevent myself from putting too much attention onto one individual piece. Typically something will marinate in my studio for at least a month or two before I can declare it viewable.
As an emerging artist, I am currently focused on continuing to produce work that is exciting for me to make in the studio. I am always looking for new possibilities in regards to sharing my work with others. I don’t have any exhibitions lined up at the moment, but I am actively seeking new venues to show my work.
I think a very helpful thing for artists to do is to work for that breakthrough moment, rather than wait for it. So just keep making things, and reflect on what you learn as you go through it. It goes back to the idea of keeping a momentum in the studio. An artist must always be ready to take chances, and I think being risky gets easier with experience.