Interview With Michelle Atzemis

Coming from a background in graphic design and screen printing, artist Michelle Atzemis now produces vibrant and expressive acrylic works on freestanding reclaimed timber. Art Pharmacy writer, Karl Sagraab caught up with Michelle to understand her inspiration, change in career path, and intriguing medium choice.

What was your inspiration for becoming a painter?
My inspiration for becoming a painter began when I let go of the notion that I needed an art degree to produce art. It is only now, in my adult life, that I consider myself an artist, something that I had a very difficult time calling myself in my younger days. I get no greater joy (other than my family!) when starting a new piece and not noticing where the time has gone. It helps me clear my head, let go of any stress and just makes me happy. It is a very meditative process for me.

Artistically speaking, what made you switch paths from your background in graphic design and screen printing?
I chose the path of graphic design because at the time I believed that you could not make a living out of being an artist. Not sure why that is - upbringing maybe or not being surrounded by like minded people or knowing anyone that was successful in that field - so graphic design I felt was the alternative and it allowed me to be creative as well as having a career. I didn’t feel fulfilled though as I didn’t really have the creative freedom that I was craving for and the bottom line is the client often challenges the creative process. So after years of freelancing, family commitments, making and selling at markets, taking different creative courses, searching for answers, reading many books I finally found that what I enjoyed doing the most was painting. So it is now in my adult life that I have decided that being an artist is what I want to be, not for the remuneration but just because it makes me happy and to lead a creative life.

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As you paint on boards, rather than canvas, can you talk about why you chose this medium and perhaps, more generally, a bit about your artistic practice?
I love working on boards as my work is primarily intuitive and my process starts with rough expressive coats, building up the layers and taking them away, so I am continuously reshaping each piece. I use various tools to scrape back and bring out the different textures, markings and hues and I find that the boards allow me to do this. At the moment Wednesday is my creative day that I can focus on my work and have uninterrupted hours, I get to experiment with ideas and techniques. During the week I still manage to fit in a few hours here and there in between family life, however I long for Wednesday to return each week!

Your pieces are very bold and abstract but are also highly evocative of landscape and you seem to use very bold and unusual colours and combinations. Is there a reasoning behind your colour choice?
I guess I am like most artists who involuntarily, mentally and visually record images we see throughout the day. These images are future material for our work, especially the way colours play off one another, reflections, shadow and how certain shapes interact with their environment. I try to do this by layers and textures and by covering the original base layer altogether and then re-introducing it by scraping it back to produce even the smallest hint of its existence.

Do you have any notable influences upon your artistic practice?
There are so many artists that I admire, the list is endless, in today's digital world with Instagram where you are exposed to so many creative and talented people daily. However, my mood plays a major role in my inspiration, as it will dictate the direction I go and most times this is unknown at the start of a project. I paint because it makes me happy, so I hope this is passed on to others through my work.

See all Michelle Atzemis’ works for sale here