Words by Patrick Kirk-Smith. Images – Michael Lacey
Michael Lacey’s success at the Liverpool Open Arts Exhibition this year (held at Editions Ltd) was no fluke. This is an artist who has thrown himself back into Liverpool and been welcomed back with pleasure. He is clearly unafraid of trying new things, as an artist working in oils, collage, illustration, as well as his latest venture, a book called YOU ARE DEAD, experimenting with interactive narratives.
His current exhibition at Editions ends on 14 November 2015, but we’re not worried as there’s clearly more to come. We caught up with him and found out what was next on his agenda.
Your current show at Editions, New Mythologies, is an extensive display of your collage work. Is there any one theme that ties it all together?
They’re all about real situations or anxieties in my life, just presented in a really oblique way. Building weird little fictions or visual metaphors around things that have happened to me is something I find useful and I hope that there’s some value to presenting them in this way. I try not to think toooo much about the themes of the work but I did put a lot of effort into tying them all together visually with a very strict aesthetic. I wanted them to feel like a really consistent, unified body of work, something like Max Ernst’s “Une Semaine De Bonte” or Magrittes later paintings.
I’ve read you describing the work at Editions as “loosely autobiographical” (I’d love to read your autobiography!), but I for one found some very familiar sights and themes in there.
Yeah, I’d say that the experiences I’m interested in are probably the most universal, and part of the motivation for using collage was to try and create a space that had some inherent familiarity for the viewer. I feel like that sense of vague recognition, of seeing something like a familiar building in a different context, is a good way of holding people’s attention. There’s visual references in the works to artists like Arnold Bocklin, Heironymous Bosch, Segantini, di Chirico etc. that relate to the sort of narrative painting I’m very influenced by.
Looking at the work in detail, there are recurring visuals of Liverpool’s architecture, something that’s clearly had an impact, but what was it that convinced you to come 220 miles back down the M6?
I think it was a mixture of homesickness and curiosity, as the period when I lived in Glasgow (2004-2011) was one of really concentrated change in Liverpool. Glasgow’s great though and I still visit fairly regularly. There’s a lot of energy and interest in the arts in Liverpool at the moment but it’s been really bad to see Mello Mello, the Kazimier and other independent venues that were a big part of the attraction in moving back having to close their doors.
You seem to be a man of many hats, not least your involvement in ILLEGAL RAILWAY. What effect has that project had on your work so far, and what can we expect for this collaborative effort in the future?
The incredibly time-consuming and laborious nature of making these collages over a 2/3 year period, and the fact that it was often fairly frustrating, is sort of what led to the creation of Illegal Railway. I wanted to investigate the potential of using collaborative approaches to help artists realise more ambitious projects than they would normally have the time or resources for, without watering down or otherwise subverting the initial concept, and also to experiment with curation, which is a growing interest for me. We’ve got a book and another off-site exhibition planned for early 2016 and are hoping then to turn our attention to locating a permanent physical space for exhibitions and events.
So having had a pretty busy year, winning the Liverpool Open off the back of several successful exhibitions, you’re still keeping quite busy. What can we hope for from the book, and the future?
The book is called YOU ARE DEAD and it is something I’ve been working on for ages with my good pal William Daw (www.willdaw.com), it’s a heavily illustrated choose-your-own-adventure book about reincarnation with a lot of jokes and logic puzzles in it. Aside from that I’m not sure, there’s so many ideas flying around after an exhibition that it’s hard to say which ones are going to prove to be worth pursuing. I’m sure that collage will remain an important part of my practice but at the moment I’m very much enjoying painting with oils again after a long break.
Also read the review of the exhibition at Editions Ltd Gallery HERE.