Saturday, June 20, 2009

Michael Napper

There is more to where we live than our physical surroundings and the spaces we occupy. Where we live is also a frame of mind: a perception of a time and space in which we feel most alive, where we feel most fulfilled. I live in a specific neighborhood in San Francisco, but I actually "live" in a community of painters, photographers, writers, musicians and poets. It's a community I've helped to create and it's the "community" in which I do my most important and fulfilling work.
The essay Michael submitted to "The Project" asks us to think a little deeper and consider just exactly "where" is it that we do live. That intrigues me. -- David W. Sumner

Michael Napper is a painter and film-based photographer living and working in Los Angeles. For more info go here:

"I am primarily a painter, working in oil paint, of abstract paintings. In the last few years I have also been working with black and white film. In both oil painting and black and white film photography I find a certain alchemy, an imperfect and often-times unpredictable alchemy, that for me mirrors the world. The elements of chance, randomness, fragility, serendipity are what I find most interesting in the process of both painting and shooting/developing film. There are artists and photographers who try to capture a representation of something they've seen...I guess I'm the other sort, the one that relies on a collaboration of the materials and the above mentioned elements to show me something previously unseen."

I've worked in very large studios, small studios, backyards, and hotel's always the same, not too long into the work I find that I've created a small area, a little corner, where things get messy, pile up...and as much as I dislike the mess, it's out of the juxtaposition of this working detritus that a platform emerges for my ideas of what the work will be.

In the last few years, as my life has become less nomadic, more anchored, I find myself wanting see less in the paintings. The work now has more light, more breathing space, there isn't the dark frenzy of blacks and reds that there used to be. I suppose shooting in black and white has also had a simplifying influence on the paintings as well. I go through more Titanium white than any other paint.

I've worked with acrylic paints, and I've shot with digital cameras. They're convenient, fast, cheap. But I love the history that lies behind both oil painting and black and white silver-based photography. Both film and oil paint force one to slow down. I work as a painter in a very archaic, and some may say, hopelessly anachronistic and sentimental medium. I have no defense against such claims, but the nature of time does seem to change when I'm involved in the process of either film or paint.

Although I'm an abstract painter, there is something refreshing to pick up the simplest drawing tool and to draw something more realistic. There is something very meditative about doing a drawing of something that exists out there in the world, and sometimes I envy those artists who are satisfied with re-presenting an image that exists. But in the end I always end up returning to the unknown.

I believe a lot in instinct. One should never dull it by wanting to know everything.
-Josef Sudek