Hello and welcome to the website of artist and printmaker, Mike Southern. I lived and worked in Portland, Oregon from 1995 until the summer of 2009. Our family then uprooted our rather pleasant little lives and moved to the wilds of the South Pacific, Christchurch, New Zealand. In 2012 we moved back to Portland, Oregon. Then, with the world turning sideways in 2020 we decided it was time to return to New Zealand. We have again settled in Canterbury and this time we plan to stay
The work you will see on this site is the width and breadth of my artistic pursuits during the last two decades. Take a look at the galleries, check my teaching and workshop schedule if you are interested in classes and feel free to send me some feedback. A new addition to the site is the portraits page. I am excited to now offer commissioned portraits. Click on the portraits link for information on pricing and some samples of my portrait work. Most of all, thanks for looking.
Intaglio printmaking is where I received my primary arts training. I made my first etching in 1988 at Amherst College in Massachusetts. I obtained my MFA in printmaking from the University of Georgia in Athens in 1995. The printmaking images are all etchings and this is the only type of printmaking that I do. The process saw its origins in the early Renaissance and has been popular with artists for centuries. The image is incised into a copper plate through a variety of techniques and then ink is rubbed into these marks and ultimately transferred to the paper. Big presses, oily inks and a variety of chemicals are used to generate these images. The whole process is fairly involved but it is all done by me, by hand and with affection.
In the fall of 1998 I began painting small oils on masonite. All of these landscape paintings are imagined, representing no particular area and are created entirely in the studio. Every painting is an amalgam of places seen and experienced and ultimately idealized based on the needs of the picture and my desire to take part in the realization of a “perfect place”.
The introduction of the figures into the landscapes began roughly in 2005 but my overall body of work maintains, at it’s core, an ongoing investigation into finding our place within the natural world. The old mythological and religious paintings of the Renaissance and Baroque are a huge inspiration for my latest figurative work. This historical era in the Western world possesses an optimism about humanity that feels lost in the current day. In addition to the usual suspects of Western mythology and religion, I am referencing the mythology and storytelling of indigenous cultures. So many of these current and past civilizations have the earth and nature itself as the centerpiece of human creation and spiritual rebirth. These new allegorical images are not without an agenda. They are offering a way forward. The characters depicted in this body of work are stage actors in a new mythology.
Over time, this narrative has evolved and is now taking shape as it travels a more specific path. The primacy of the feminine form and feminine power has always been a key element in this work. The Old World is gone and with it the quest for human control, domination and subjugation. Values of inter-dependency with nature, the integration of the spiritual with the corporal, ritual adornment and aesthetics are all themes that have emerged. The image making itself has dictated this narrative. These images begin with an arresting gesture or an evocative landscape. The story is then built around these elements. As the overall narrative becomes deeper and richer, one image informs the next. Research of mythic cultural patterns, ethnological discourse and a host of other aesthetic, spiritual and scientific resources help to inform these constantly evolving narratives. This is a deep well.