Nostalgia Kills: An Interview with Michael Page

March 10, 2017

Featuring fourteen new paintings, Michael Page’s latest body of work exhibited at Corey Helford Gallery is entitled “Nostalgia Kills.” Each of these paintings expresses itself with childlike freedom. He finds himself peering into his own childhood and basing his work on its relation to his children’s imaginative world.

Painting with acrylic and oil, Page creates dreamlike realms that lead the eye through an ephemeral landscape of exploding color and form. Using free association as a technique, Page glazes each canvas with multiple layers of color to create a dream-state in which he says nostalgia resides and is ready to be expressed into form. The resulting liveliness of his work enables the viewer’s suspension of disbelief when contemplating the fantastical realities of the imagination.

Of his new collection, Page says: “Now that I am a father and get to play with my kids everyday, I get to see the world and all its wonders through their eyes. As I look back over the years watching my children grow, play, and learn, it’s fascinating and heartbreaking to feel the lightning speed of time. I find myself frantically seeking to witness all my children’s little steps and moments. It’s hard to sit back and think about all of the things you should have done, or want to do for your own children.”

Each of these paintings express pivotal moments throughout Page’s family life. From playing pirates and taking bike rides, to showing his children how to brush their hair and teeth, each painting displays these cherished moments in illusory detail. Page adds, “I find it amusing that these particular moments stick out more than others. Much of what I fondly remember can be categorized as basic daily routine; which if you have children you know can be a lot like fighting a war as you try to implement habits. While nostalgia is mostly positive, it can create a sickening feeling if you sit with it too long. I try and remind myself that the past cannot be changed, and to always move forward and help create a true and magical future for my children.”

Michael Page Fishermans Ride acrylic and oil on canvas 72 x 72 inches

Lauren YS: You use really saturated, almost psychedelic color schemes. What informs your color choices and are they meant to signify anything specific?
Michael Page: The colors I use have brightened over the past few years possibly due to a change in environment. While living in San Francisco, the foggy cold climate provoked a darker sentiment in color; whereas now living in southern California’s perpetual sunny condition has eased me into more brighter and vibrant expectations. I live right near the ocean, and all the colors of life seem to pop a lot more here. Outside, flowers drape the cliffs and ocean color tones scintillate, making my surroundings quite beautiful. I’ve also noticed my color choices have been influenced by the surf/skate culture that is so prevalent in my area. I think it would be difficult to exclude all of these influences with my work. 

When you look at color it affects your psyche, influencing all different ranges of emotions. With this in mind, I want to look at my art and have a warm feeling of joy and personal understanding with it. I play with as many color combinations as I can while painting in thin layers of acrylic or oil. I find I need to work with the hues and values until I find the right combination that works...seemingly I’m always searching for different and new color mixes that make sense. While painting, I search for a spark of interest or thought that will influence the tonal ranges and help me paint with a little more pop and soul. I want my art to really draw attention in with color, which I believe is the most important part of the work.

Your paintings feature images of kids and visions from childhood, yet there is a sort of apocalyptic or frightening sense of chaos as well. Why this dynamic?
There are a few reasons for the children with these current paintings. When I started these new paintings, I was searching through the memories of my childhood and thinking about the shit I used to get into. I remember skating and fighting and also playing with my brothers. I sit there and think about the mess we’d create and the games we would play. It’s a dream of flashing images of chaos and emotions, both rad and sad at the same time. 

Now that I am a Father, I bring my own children’s lives into play; with all the shit they get into and chaos that can ensue at times, has really inspired me to capture and re-create these magic moments. The never-ending range of emotions my kids feel in a single minute is fascinating. I have to take a moment, sit back, and calmly watch and see life from a different perspective. We all start off as these little tornados of mayhem, joy, love, and confusion mixed together into this Being, and are expected to grow and evolve into something different, but it seem’s all we end up being is a grown-up version of that tornado. We have these grey areas of emotions and I’m trying to play with that idea and maybe along the way figure out my own and try to understand my kids.

How does this body of work differ from previous ones? 
These current paintings are reflections of my everyday life and in my previous work they were projections of the future from thoughts or ideas I was working with. These new paintings are incredibly personal- I’m bringing my kids into the work, and the little moments we share together is out in the open. In the past I felt I was searching for answers to ideas that led to the same place. Like most people who have walked this Earth, I kept wondering what came after life and what is my personal meaning to it. Books I was reading at the time reinforced these thoughts and ideas and I thought it would be fun to paint and explore that. These days I try not to take myself there...I prefer to focus on the chaos of kids, and wonder what is going to happen in the next hour or long-term future for my children. 

Michael Page in process shot of Fishermans Ride 2

Do you have any recurring dreams or irrational fears? What are they?
There is a dream I have had since I was 10 or so and continue to have it every few years. It start’s with me in the backyard of the house I grew up in. It’s dusk, with an uneasy, eerie feeling to it all. I’m running down the yard on my hands and feet super slow, with something chasing me, as if it’s just barely grabbing my hair. As I’m running I end up inside this random house and I’m running down these dark halls on deep viridian shag carpet and I’m forced through a small door that turns into my backyard again, this time filled with the most horrifically scariest creatures a 10 year old could imagine. It’s super weird and I have no clue what it means!

Who are some artists you draw inspiration from lately?
I have always drawn inspiration from artist friends around me- Sri Whipple, Jason Wheatly and James Charles to name a few. When I was living in San Francisco, I always loved when I was able to see Mars 1 and Damon Soule’s work. Rosson Crow, with her beautiful chaotic paintings and Holton Rower, Kerstin Bratsch, with their insane color combinations and compositions. There are so many good artists out there.

What are you children's reactions to your work? Do you involve them in the process at all?
Their reactions vary from being happy when they see themselves in the work, to kind of scared with the subject matter or aspects of the painting that are somewhat intense. It’s funny having them around and hearing them critique the paintings. They are very honest and not shy to let me know if something is slightly askew, or not right in their eyes. It’s great! 

They always want to paint with dad, so we have four big canvases that we collaborate on at any given time. I’ll let them hit some of the paintings I’m working on, either in the beginning when I know I can go over it if I need too, or sometimes in the final stages. At times I’ll leave their marks and doodles. Children really create the best paintings, they paint from such an innocent understanding of art and world view, it’s all straight from the heart. I could learn a lot from their attitude of “letting go”, and not worry about life’s baggage when completing a body of work. 

If you had any advice for younger artists starting out, what would it be?
I’m not good at advice, but I would say enjoy every step and process along the way. Love the creative flow and turmoil that is inevitable with art and not worry what people think; just create, and that’s all that matters.