Anne Neilson Fine Art would like to introduce one of our most distinguished artists, Michael Barringer. A fellow North Carolina native, Michael has been painting full time for as long as twenty-five years. His work provides the viewer with a fresh perspective, often breaking down forms and exploring multiple layers. Interested in the history of the natural, spiritual, and primitive world, Michael’s work questions, “how the world fits together from its many parts, and what drives our need to know and create and seek the spiritual.” He uses charcoal, conte crayon, and washes of acrylic paint to create his image and continues by sanding and carving directly onto the canvas with a razor blade to develop multiple layers within his work. To gain more insight about Michael’s artistic process, read the exclusive interview below!
Michael and his son, Ben hiking at Stone Mountain Park
Name: Michael Barringer
Hometown: Granite Quarry, NC
Currently Living: Lilburn, GA
When did you start your career in art? How long have you known you wanted to be an artist?
I began painting full time in 1992. From early on, I drew constantly. I remember always feeling the magic of being in the ocean or the mountains, and wanting to make my own version of those experiences. My maternal grandfather was a stonecutter in the quarry. My paternal grandfather was a blacksmith for Southern Railroad. I suppose some of their ability for making objects, and crafting out form came down through the gene pool. As well, both were Renaissance men: making their own tools, planting and harvesting many vegetables and fruits, and making wine.
Michael’s maternal grandfather, Arthur Lefler’s handmade hammer, chisel, and cut paving stone from Granite Quarry, NC, circa 1920s – 30s
Describe your aesthetic in three words.
Inevitable, layered, lingering
Close up detail of Michael’s work
Describe your artistic process and preparation.
I paint by natural light during the day, and never work at night. I enjoy taking walks through our woods and meadow, as this exposes me to textures and lights and natural sounds. Lately, I have been using my computer to continually run through images and texts and ideas from all over. This “universal brain” we now have is astounding. I keep regular studio hours, Monday through Friday, generally 6 to 7 hours daily. I need the structure.
Michael’s light-filled studio
Favorite piece you’ve painted to date and why?
I like to think my most recent completed painting is my favorite piece! But then, there is always the restlessness to keep going, and make the next work the one I am most proud of making
Who inspires you personally and/or professionally?
I greatly admire these poets: TS Eliot, Wallace Stevens, Kenneth Rexroth, and Walt Whitman. Eliot’s major work, Four Quartets, has been the main foundation for me for many years, because of his exploration of the spiritual in humankind, from the primitive sense of the Other, on through to highly developed rituals and sacraments. Wallace’s use of colorful language and his supreme imagination have all been intriguing. Rexroth’s concern with integrating many religious belief systems, throughout eras and geographies, has been inspiring. With his exploration of the animal desires in us all, Whitman has always opened my eyes to our place in the natural world.
T.S. Eliot, Four Quartets
What challenges do you think exist in the world of fine art?
There is always the desire to keep the work honest and original and untainted from popular tastes and demands.
How do you approach/overcome them?
I try my best to stay fresh, but I realize that it is an honor to paint for a living, and that compromise is unavoidable at times.
Biggest accomplishment to date (personally or professionally)?
I think striving to meet the challenge of helping to raise my three children with my wife, Mindy, and maintaining an active studio practice as well.
Favorite location to paint/what is your studio like?
My studio is filled with natural light, with several windows and skylights and a large garage door on one end which I can open – so it is an airy, bright space. I enjoy an orderly and clean environment. I work to music of all kinds, but lately, jazz, and the more free form expressions of Eric Dolphy, Dave Holland, Ornette Coleman, McCoy Tyner, and Charles Mingus, to name a few. Acoustic guitarist Michael Hedges, with his primal groove and unbelievable dynamic range, always inspires. PJ Harvey’s raw emotion and artistry are examples of urgency.
Musical artists often played in Michael’s studio and influencing his work
Years of accumulated layers and drips of paint in Michael’s studio
A random fact about you?
Rufus Barringer, a general in the Civil War, and a distant relative, was married to Stonewall Jackson’s daughter.
Rufus Clay Barringer (1821 – 1895)
Favorite place to vacation?
Our honeymoon trip to Alaska was life changing. We flew into Anchorage, rented a car and drove over 2500 miles through awe inspiring terrain: huge expanses of tundra, soaring mountain ranges, rushing snow melt fed rivers, and mammoth slow creeping glaziers. Another adventure up the coast of California to Humboldt State Park and the largest Redwood trees on earth was truly reality altering. The gigantic scale and otherworldly quiet within the groves made for a primal exhilaration. Frequent trips to the southwestern mountains of North Carolina always reacquaint me with the ancient cycles and the frightening indifference of the natural world.
What are you currently reading? The Idea Of The Holy, by Rudolf Otto.
What would you be doing if you were not an artist?
I would enjoy being a chef or landscaper. Chefs are perhaps the truest artists we have, as they create beauty which arouses and satisfies all the senses. Landscaping provides the joy of witnessing first hand, and in focus, the shifting seasons and growth rhythms.
One thing you couldn’t live without?
I would like to think that I could adapt to losing anything.
If you could switch lives with anyone for a day, who would it be?
Your all-time favorite artist and/or your favorite emerging artist?
Brice Marden, James Bishop, Willem deKooning, Paul Klee and Kurt Schwitters are visual artists of great importance for me. I admire Marden for his integrity and purposefulness and ability to evoke deep emotions within a rigorous, minimalist aesthetic. Bishop’s sense of improvisation, and his confident acceptance of the accidental are both powerful strategies I admire. DeKooning’s versatility and sheer energy are almost beyond belief. Plus, his supreme dedication to the craft of painting always amazes. With his ability to create profound visual statements within a small format, Klee demands my continual respect. As well, his highly sophisticated visual language (in the guise of primitive markings) is a wonder. I go to Schwitters for his pursuit of the collage sensibility.
Willem de Kooning, Woman I, 1952
The next one!
What do you want your audience to know about your work?
Each time out, I do my best.
What makes your work unique?
Only one me in the world, so it could not be otherwise.
Name one goal for your career you’d like to achieve in the next 5 years:
Just being able to keep working steadily, and feel that the work is illustrating my vision.
Come check out some of Michael’s works now hanging in the gallery!
Bloomstone (Tabernacle), 48×36
Bloomstone (Chauvet Rain), 44×44
The Rock (Broke Into Bud), 48×36
In Search of Crowns, 22×22