August 1 - September 1, 2006
London, England / Online

Adonis Art
By Mike Stead

by Mike Stead

Preview Tuesday August 1, 6.30 - 8.30 PM

On-Line Gallery Available

Mike Stead is an artist living and working in London. He spent his childhood in various places like Germany, Hong Kong and Thailand. This upbringing has given him unique vision of the world which infuses into his work. His artwork has compositional simplicity with a complicated sentimental narrative. He invites the viewer on a journey to catharsis. The main element of auto-biography gives the audience a voyeuristic participation. He illustrates his psyche and emotions onto the canvas with most of his characters being nude to amplify the intimacy he wants with his audience. The images are natural and naive but always passionate and beautiful.

His entire body of work is earnest, raw and revealing – a view of the world coloured by experiences and daring the viewer to relish the pain and the ecstasy, the challenges and the daily triumphs. Mike is constantly working on his portfolio as well as private commissions, including many portraits.

An exhibition of your work is taking place at Adonis Art in August. What can we expect?

The bastard child of Tom of Finland and Roy Lichtenstein is the only way to describe the experience.

Your work has a wonderful bold simplicity that reminds me of Julian Opie. How would you describe your style?

Julian Opie has been a big influence on my work His “blur” album cover is iconic. My style is bold, unapologetic, and simplistic with a sprinkle of campness.

Your figures all have perfect, muscular bodies that have an almost cartoon like existence. Is the pull between fantasy and reality of particular interest?

I’m trying to illustrate the pressure that gay men are under to look perfect. There’s darkness to the work. They may be beautiful but seldom do they look happy. It’s the contrast between fantasy and reality is fascinating to me.

Your work has a string auto biographical element to it. Are you re-creating specific situations and people in your life?

All my work is self referential. I think it’s important for an artist to lay bare their life experiences and be as honest as possible with their audience. If I can’t see a part of myself in the work then I don’t feel it’s a worth while piece and it will probably be discarded or painted over. If I’m upset by someone then that situation will be painted as with my “oppression” and “lies” pieces. It’s a more productive way of expressing anger than shouting. The same can be said if I’m happy. My work can either be very cutting or a great compliment to the people in my life.

You’ve said before that your work gives its audience a voyeuristic participation and the paintings have a very sellable, glossy and air brushed look about them that are very seductive. Are you asking the viewer to get emotionally and sexually involved?

I’m inviting the viewers to see me at my beast and worst. I also want them to see themselves in the work. I want to induce emotions that they may not like. I also like the feeling of arousing my audience not only intellectually but also sexually.

The paintings are highly erotic, so what sort of guys do you prefer to paint?

I prefer to paint well defined unattainable men. I tend to paint men that I wouldn’t dare approach in a sexual context. By painting them I become intimate with them without the fear of rejection.

And in real life, what kind of guys do you go for?

Aesthetically I have to say I love Latin men…..It’s the lips I think…..beautiful, like you could kiss them forever. As for the personality they have to be honest, reliable, and tender and most of all they have to see my worth beyond what I look like.

So, how do you find your models?

Models seem to find me mostly. But if I need to go looking for inspiration the internet is a good place to start, Gaydar is a goldmine of beautiful men and a resource I pillage weekly. If I see a beautiful photograph in a book or magazine I will store it and use it a later date. They usually only inspire a pose or mood but they are a priceless starting point.

What is it about the naked male body rather than a clothed one that you find so attractive to paint?

I paint most of my characters nude because I like the vulnerability. I want the work to be completely about the subject and not confused by clothing. Most of the work is about emotions and inner conflict. I want my audience to be intimate with my subjects. I want no barriers between the viewer and my message.

How does your sexuality influence your work?

I paint from my perspective and I think that my sexuality plays an undeniable role in my work. I paint what I desire and find aesthetically pleasing.

Do you think it’s important for the gay community to see itself represented in art?

I think all communities should be represented in art. I think it’s the “art world’s” responsibility to accept that our community have the right to paint our world without it being demeaned as trivial pornography. I think it’s important for our community to be represented so our lifestyle can be finally recognised as valid in the art world and not sniggered at. Art is about life and the gay community is a large part of that.

What’s the biggest cliché about gay art?

That it has no substance and all “gay” art is about sex. This can be said of all “gay” preconceptions. It’s hard for the straight world to see that our community cares passionately about the same things they do. We want love, we want to be accepted and we play a priceless role in society.

Okay, so where do you stand on the whole ‘gay art’ label. Is it a necessary genre of art or redundant ghettoising of painting in general?

I think that society needs to label everything in order to understand it. Sometimes I think that label can be detrimental as it can restrict your audience and pigeon hole you. Who says a heterosexual woman/man can’t enjoy a painting of two men embracing? Its offensive, not only to me but to art itself, to think that a label can reduce the importance and audience of the work! My work is about life, it just happens to be from a gay perspective.

You've been creating pictures for quite a while now. How has gay art changed during this time?

It amazes me when I look back at older work; I wonder how I made the journey. The work has evolved from being relatively heavy and clumsy. Initially I used heavy brush strokes to demonstrate emotions. Now I rely more on colour and line to express what I have to say. It’s become simple yet more powerful. My Granny used to say “less is more.” Which is true of so many things.

And finally, what are your plans for the future?

Planning for the future is difficult for me. I don’t know where I’ll be from one week to the next. All I know is that I will be painting. It’s a compulsion and addiction with me. I would like for my work to be recognised as a valuable dialogue on life. I want to be recognised as an artist who has important views and brings a fresh perspective to my genre.

Adonis Art
1b Coleherne Road, London SW10 9BS UK
Phone (from US): 011 44 20 7460 3888
Phone (from UK): 020 7460 3888
Monday - Friday 10:30
AM - 6:30 PM
Saturday 10:30
AM - 5:00 PM

Adonis Art Website

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