INTERVIEW BY MADELEINE JENNINGS
Mike Chmil has created a fast-paced cartoon world that seems to both critique and celebrate modern culture. His flat, brightly-colored paintings feature familiar objects like racecars, snakes, and basketballs, with the occasional Matisse-homage lingering in the background. As a sculptor, Mike offers a different means of sharing his youthful vision, enlarging and adding depth to the same motifs seen in his paintings. In addition, Mike is the founder of 7.17 magazine, which works on with artist Katie Morton. His experimentation with mediums (acrylic paint, pencil crayons, and colored paper) intensifies his delightfully hectic scenes. Mike’s work is on display starting Saturday, January 23 at Avenue/A4 in Vancouver.
Where did you grow up?
My childhood was spent travelling between northern Ontario and the Caribbean. My dad has a business there and my mom wanted me to go to school in Canada, so we were always back and forth.
Your work is reminiscent of children’s artwork. How has your early life influenced your artwork?
Growing up I never had any idea what the art world had to offer. I would go to school and they would tell us to draw an apple, whoever made it look the most realistic would get the best grade. It wasn’t till after graduating high school that I started to be exposed to the artists I adore so much today. I suppose I’m just trying to make up for all those lost years of creative freedom.
What is your preferred medium of expression?
Right now I’m using mostly acrylic paint and pencil crayons. I would like to be using industrial materials for sculptural works more often but the space to do so is hard to find.
There’s almost always paintings within your paintings. Like Matisse hanging on the walls of a basketball court. What’s up with that?
Lately I have been working on an ongoing series looking at how people’s material wealth can directly relate to their fame in today’s internet world. A lot of my paintings are home interiors of people who may be famous for not necessarily what they have done, but what they have. Matisse is one artist whose work completely blew me away when I saw it. His paintings symbolize something larger than life, something I could never obtain. So they really fit into the spaces I am trying to create. It is also just me paying homage to one of my favorites.
What is the significance of the racecars and snakes in your pieces?
I paint fast things slowly.
How would you define your style?
I tell my mom’s friends its geometric abstraction with occasional realism but it’s really just childish + ruler.
Are you inspired by any artists in particular?
Way too many amazing artists to name, but Katie Morton, James Ulmer, Jordy Van Den Nieuwendijk and Trevor Wheatley are all really great. It may not be their techniques but the constant creative inspiration I get from other artists to work more on my own practice.
What’s 7.17 Magazine all about? Is it a collaborative project?
7.17 is a collaborative project run by Katie Morton and myself. Art is definitely not cheap to buy so we wanted to create a brand where we could sell print and original products for an affordable price. While in the process learning lots about different types of print and experimenting with different types of papers. We definitely want to expand in the future but we will always keep the same intent. Art is fun, it should be accessible to those who love it most.
Are you working on any other projects at the moment?
A few small projects here and there but the main goal I’m working towards will be another show with Katie Morton in May or June. We are hoping to create a full experience that you walk into with interactive sculptural works padding the gallery.
How has your work progressed since you began making art? How do you expect the art world to evolve over the next few years?
I have gone through so many changes since I started. Even looking back 6 months it’s incredible how much has changed. A lot of the change has revolved around subject matter. Lately I have been finding myself in a place where I am really comfortable and excited with what’s happening so I’m hoping things don’t change too fast! The art world like everything else seems to be taking a very digital turn. I see more and more online galleries popping up daily. Its great in the sense that art is accessible from the comfort of everyone’s smartphone but I really think it can be under-appreciated as a lot of works need to be experienced in person. Then again it’s really helping people become aware of what is happening within their cultural communities and getting younger people involved.
Can you tell us about your upcoming show in Vancouver?
There was no formula when planning a theme for the event, more so just a presentation of where Kate Fobert and myself are at right now. I’m hoping it all comes together really nicely.
Art by Mike Chmil + Kate Fobert.
Avenue/A4. 165 E.Hastings, Vancouver, BC
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