Michael Carson creates paintings focused on the figure and deeply rooted and constructed around his design background. Even though his design training could lend itself to an architectural empiricism, he still allows for the paint and his brushstrokes to speak for themselves.
The figure is an important subject matter in his work. He renders them in different interiors, both intimate and somewhat public ones alike. In most of his work the sitter gazes directly at the viewer, engaging them in a conceptualized conversation; or places them in a slightly uncomfortable setting like a restroom of bedroom, supplying and innate intimacy between the viewer, the subject and the painting.
His design background shows vibrantly in his work in the patterning and drapery emphasized by fully saturated color, while the figures themselves fade into the background. By evaporating the form of the figures, or bleeding the background into the flesh of the subject, he makes the figure a part of the surroundings, amplifying the material—both paint and pattern.
The figures are also generally always clothed—even if only scantily— this being a compositional choice attributed to his design training which amplifies his love and appreciation for drapery and pattern; this would otherwise be lost on a nude figure. His hazy paintings are discreetly glamorous, characterized by themes of fashion and luxe. The clothing in the paintings are worthy of a ready to wear collection, as showcased by his subjects who wear them in seemingly daily activities, offsetting luxe circumstance with a more routine undertone.
The muted tones worthy of an Instagram filter, affect the painting with a vintage aura while the simplicity of the backgrounds allow an intimate focus on his subject, while still effectively setting a scene.
From his interview with Flavorwire.com:
“I just prefer to have a realistic version of people. Look around in public. People usually look a bit bored or tired or sad. It’s whats going on in their heads that I am attracted to, and that can be anything.”
I love fashion. I wish I could design clothes, but never really saw that as a possibility for whatever reason. Even though I am using references, I always end up changing the outfit to suit me and my needs for the painting. So I guess I do design clothing in a manner.”
Carson treats each facet of his work with the same amount of care and energy, and then lays a glaze over the flesh in order to create a shift in intensity and importance from the person to the pattern.
Carson employs an awareness of the paint and its ability to embody an entire form in one pass of the brush against the surface of the canvas. There is also a staged quality to his paintings, which is intellectually juxtapose to the very casual nature of the postures of the people he paints. The modern quality of his work speaks to the idolization as well as the art historical relevance of fashion and the female form, while still maintaining and magnifying the casual beauty found in the every day.