Artist of the Week: Mike Rickett

Terrace, 2013 Acrylic on Canvas

Mike Rickett has been a student of fine art for eight years, first achieving a Foundation Degree in Fine Art, then a BA (Hons) in 2010 when he was awarded the Liverpool Women’s Hospital Purchase prize. Following that he embarked on a two-year post-graduate study for an MA by Creative Practice, all at Liverpool Hope University. He graduated in January of this year. He previously achieved a BA (Hons) in English at the University of Liverpool.

My work in recent years has focused on the urban environment and it has taken three distinct forms. The first – geometric urban painting as defined by the Liverpool School which I co-founded with Paul Doran – is abstract interpretations of city life, the buildings, the rhythms, the movement and the urban dynamic. I achieve this by the use of contrasting colour fields and their interplay with geometric and neo-geometric explorations of space and dimensions in a linear environment, varied with texture to act as a relief and occasionally with montage.

All of my work so far is interpretations of Liverpool scenes, although the abstract paintings do not so much depict or suggest places and situations, as express feelings about urban life and as such they may have a more universal urban language.

Most of my geometric work is on canvas but I have also completed four experimental 3D relief panels in wood and plaster exploring how the extra dimension gives a new dynamic to the relationship between space, volume and structure in which all urban environments must exist.

Wood Street, 2011 Woodcut Print
Wood Street, 2011 Woodcut Print

My other urban-based art takes two distinct forms – woodcuts and two-colour studies. The woodcuts are also based on Liverpool locations and the two shown here – Wood Street, a limited edition print of five (which won an award at a Hope Alumni exhibition and which has also been bought by the Liverpool Women’s Hospital) and the latest, Queen’s Parade, which has not yet been exhibited publicly.

I enjoy the tactile nature of working with wood and find the creation of woodcuts very satisfying as they can produce work that could not really be produced by any other technique.

I have completed seven two-colour studies – five of which have been sold – and illustrate two here – Fleet Street and The Pump House. My original intention, when I painted the first – John Lewis Corner, also bought by the Women’s Hospital – almost four years ago, was to render scenes and images into basic shapes to produce studies consisting of two colours with perhaps a third. The series and the style are still evolving.

My thinking for this series was actually heavily influence by the American artist Edward Hopper whose empty places and solitary figures suggested isolation or even desolation in the face of a growing anonymity of contemporary urban life. This is the reason for the orange figures common to all my paintings in this series. Hopper’s scenes and figures were all painted realistically but they all have a common theme of someone alone, isolated. I have taken this theme further and removed any identification from the figures in my paintings to the point where they are simply silhouettes. The landscapes are all empty and devoid of life and detail too.

The Front, 2013 Acrylic on Canvas
Survivor, 2013 Acrylic on Canvas

Finally, I have completed four World War 1 paintings for an exhibition that is due to tour Merseyside very shortly. I used images from the Somme and Passchendaele as the inspiration for them. I hope I have managed to convey something of the sheer awfulness of the war. I have included pictures of two of them here.

The creation of the Liverpool School is an ambitious project which hopefully will add a new dimension to the artistic life of Merseyside. We welcome new members who think as we do and whose work meets the parameters as set out in the manifesto. I would encourage people to come to the exhibition at the cathedral during the last week of February to have a chat.

As to my future, that could well encompass a PhD later this year. Having just completed my MA I am taking time out to consider it as well as other artistic challenges.

 The Liverpool School Art Movement will be on display at Liverpool Cathedral 21 – 27 February