Artist in Focus - Michael Banks
British Photo-Artist Michael Banks, dubbed in contemporary art circles as the “Guru of Abstraction”, is widely credited with creating some of the most exciting and unique art in today’s modern art scene.
He studied Fine Art and Photography in Florence, Italy, and then returned to London to work as a professional photographer, where he enjoyed a very high-profile and celebrated career, and was able to perfect his craft as an artist.
His highly original abstract photo-art has led to artwork projects with Art Consultants, Interior Designers, Architects and Specifiers throughout the world, with his work being frequently exhibited, and his art being specified for prestigious international Hospitality, Corporate and Private interiors. His most recent solo show was at the prestigious Vilacasas Foundation in Barcelona.
His client list is a “who’s who” of publicly quoted corporations and global hotel chains spanning The USA, Europe, The Middle and Far East, as well as a select group of internationally recognised private collectors.
"It was when studying Fine Art in Florence, and absorbing the "Chiaroscuro" technique of the Renaissance painters, that I really "Saw the Light". But rather than Painting, I was captivated by Photography, and immediately set out on a very singular, personal journey, to try and push the boundaries of what is artistically possible with a camera.
Photography in any case is defined as "Drawing with Light", and I always drew, using a camera, in an Abstract style. Photography historically liberated Painting from the Duty of Representation, and in recent years, new technology, in a myriad of forms, has now liberated Photography from its duty to simply record visible reality.
My vision of the world is an Abstract one, and in my images I seek to show the Hidden Beauty that surrounds us, in the forms, shapes, curves, lines, and colours of my abstractions, and to communicate my conviction that the world is full of visual wonders, waiting to be discovered.
For someone discovering your work for the first time, can you paint them a picture of your background and your style?
I spent 15 years in London, working as a Design and Advertising photographer, before deciding to dedicate myself to using my camera solely for Fine Art. In London, in the late 80’s, I was well-known for pioneering a very abstract approach to commercial photography, and I applied an abstract look to corporate brochures and annual reports. I also shot dozens of record covers (vinyl!) and book jackets. There were brilliant Graphic Designers around in those years, and I loved it. It was fabulous training for the eye, and I carried this abstract vibe over to my next life in the art world.
What are the main themes behind your work?
Primarily Abstraction. I was never that interested in my early use of a camera with “recording reality”. The invention of the camera freed painting from a duty of representation, and I felt that in turn things like movie cameras, and then phones, freed cameras from having to record visible life. That’s why I always shot abstract, from the beginning, using the camera in a very “free” way.
What is your creative process - how to you begin a new piece of work?
That depends on my mood. Sometimes I have a very defined idea in mind, and plan structurally and logistically to achieve that end. Sometimes I simply feel the need to create, and go out with my camera in a totally spontaneous manner, with a free mind, and open to anything that I see, or that happens. Both approaches are effective.
Do you listen to anything while you work?
Yes, while I’m working on my computer, downloading a shoot, then editing, and carrying out post-production, I always have a soundtrack in the background, usually 60’s Jazz, or contemporary chill-out. I’ve always loved music, and developed a major passion for it, when I was shooting record sleeves in London, back in the day.
Who have been your biggest influences in your career? Artist or otherwise.
Rather than “who”, I would say “what”. I’ve never been influenced by looking at other artists, in fact I’ve consciously avoided it, in an attempt to develop my own ideas and keep things fresh. The “what” would be the art world in general – I like to be up to date with the cultural zeitgeist, without it contaminating my thoughts too much.
Do you have a favourite piece of your own art?
My “Lucid Wave” series (available at Rosenstiels!) gave me so much pleasure. I wanted to create abstract imagery, using solely the light of the full moon. The resulting graphic white forms on a dense black background are very minimal, and I feel quite spiritual, given the significance of the moon in so many cultures. These images physicalised the actual definition of photography, “painting with light”.
Are there any other artistic mediums you’d love to try?
I’m sure that when I’m older, I will start painting. Abstract of course!