Artist Michael Connell: Through the Lens

| June 26, 2013
Duane Mercier

Social Commentator and Photographer Duane Mercier

I met Michael Connell, a talented artist originally from the Caribbean island of Barbados, on the 8th of June on the opening day of his ‘Povera’ exhibition held just outside the large gates of the Lewisham police station.

Michael contacted me to photograph the event, which involved the public being invited to help paint one of his pieces.

On display were three large pieces with the tallest, aptly named ‘Jenny from the Block’, towering at 8ft in height.

The two pieces on the extremities were already painted and the one in the middle was completely white and void of any paint.

Michael Connell

Michael’s charitable piece, set to be painted by the public.

The exhibition began with Michael’s sponsor Sue Kreitzman, former popular food writer and now heavyweight in local and foreign art and curating circles, being present to apply the first set of paint to the exhibit.

After doing this she was invited to sign the guest book and leave comments about the event.

Sue Kreitzman

Event sponsor Sue Kreitzman getting ready to apply the first touches to the exhibit

Sue Kreitzman

Sue Kreitzman just after she added her design

Shortly after this, members of the public immediately began joining in. Adults, children, couples, families and even the elderly, of all races, wandered up to the piece and picked up the paint and brushes provided and proceeded to leave their mark on the exhibit.

It was amazing the see the level of community spirit engendered by this relatively simple concept provided by Michael on a pavement in Lewisham.

On seeing this I thought to myself that the community spirit is indeed alive and well in London, however we certainly need more people like Michael who have the vision to help harness it.

Michael Connell

Members of the community join in on the act

Michael Connell

One member of the community having a ball

Michael Connell

Parent with child adding leaving their mark on the exhibit

Michael Connell

An elderly member of the community adding to the creation

Michael Connell

Young members of the community making their contribution

Michael Connell

The local police officer joining in

Michael Connell

A gentleman signs the guest book after adding to the exhibit

Michael Connell

A cross section of public attendance

Michael Connell

Michael greets a member of the community

Michael is a builder by trade and normally has access to various building sites around the country.

The pieces on display in Povera were all built using only material salvaged from the skips on these building sites.

Michael describes it as saving the environment using art. The main body of the pieces are predominantly made of polystyrene with additional attached materials to craft the design.

The texture is soft and pliable and the finish is colourful and absolutely beautiful.

Michael Connell

Close up rendition of Michael’s creation called ‘Jenny from the Block’

Michael Connell

Another close up of Michael’s exhibit

Michael Connell

Close up of an artistic contribution by a member of the public

As the day proceeded, I asked Michael to outline his history to me and the events that led him to this point as an artist.

He described to me that his journey began in his twenties where he would just find himself wanting to spend every moment of his existence drawing, painting or sculpting anything he could get his hands on.

He said that he realised very early in life that the only way that he could communicate fully with the world and express himself with the utmost clarity was if he found a way to bring the ideas and visions in his head into reality. The way he has done this is through art.

Michael Connell

Cross section of the paints and brushes used by the public.

At the end of the day I went to Michael’s home to give him the photographs I had taken of his event during the day. He was kind enough to invite me into the space where he works and brings his creations to life.

As we stepped into Michael’s rather large shed, I thought I was suddenly sucked into the vortex of some artistic version of the twilight zone.

There were paintings, models and full size pieces, new and old, charting a history of his life’s designs hung on every available space on the wall and ceiling.

The entire floor space was also covered with his creative works. Michael then informed me that this was all but a small portion of his collection and the rest of it was currently being held in storage awaiting his next exhibition.

Honestly, I am no art connoisseur, but I have been to various museums here in the UK and on the continent and I can unreservedly say that some of Michael’s best work deserves to be placed in this nation’s major art galleries.

I have seen less worthy pieces on display at the Tate Modern. This is a man who still spends every available spare moment of his life, designing, painting and bringing his creations to life.

Michael Connell

If you wish to view some of his work he has an exhibition coming up next month (July) and you can find the details of this when confirmed on his website

The piece painted by the public is set to be auctioned and the proceeds will go to Cancer Research.

All photographs taken by Duane Mercier CaribDirect’s official photographer. See here for news on CaribDirect’s upcoming West Indies Cricket Seminar

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Category: Culture & Society, Inspiration

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