In the Studio with Mike Filan

August 2nd, 2023

Painter Mike Filan virtually sat down with us to discuss his new body of work, “The Freedom Series.” Michael Filan’s painting process has become brushless. The gestures, drips and splashes that unite his work have become increasingly more intricate over time and address viewers in a language that is private, intense and consistently self-referential. Within the context of abstraction, Filan is constantly inventing a new vocabulary that employs gesture, form and notation. The intensity of color is used as a mystical guide that leads him through the creation process. Spacial planes are created on the painting’s surface that offer resting points for viewers to pause before further embarking on a journey of exploration.

What is your work/ this new body about?

The paintings in ”The Freedom Series” express his euphoric sense of freedom that he feels when creating artwork. I put pieces together, reliving memories and  inventing new alphabets to create compositions that have a frenetic, phonetic, energetic, and  sympathetic inclusionary invitation to viewers. The series explores my sense of freedom, joy, and pleasure mixed together with a childhood and adult understanding of some of  life’s mysteries — combined with many surprises.

Describe the concepts/motivations behind your work/creative process

An untold story gets told. My work continues to unfold, using a stark simplicity with color, shape and form. On one hand, the series  expresses the confusion, anger, and rage in contemporary society, but a spirit of optimism is injected that suggests eventually things will improve; the orange translucent swipe that peaks through each canvas says it all. The series also addresses independence and the need for each of us to use our voice —  and shed layers of the past while keeping what is best moving into the future with energy and excitement.

How is this new body of work different from past collections?

The gestures, drips, and splashes that unite my work have become increasingly more intricate, addressing viewers in a language that is private, intense and consistently self-referential. My painting process has become brushless.

How is this work made? What materials did you use and why?

After I purchase canvases, I go to Home Depot and begin choosing large gallon-size house paint and spray paint. The selection of color seems random but I let the spirit move me; usually a theme of colors begins to emerge. I lay six large canvases on a covered floor and begin the process of pouring the paint onto the canvas. I move around from canvas to canvas, and each canvas informs me of the next step. I  then lean the canvases against the wall and a more selective pouring and dripping of color begins.

What’s your background? Did you always want to be an artist?

I always wanted to be an artist. I like to tell the story about my two grandfathers who were artists in their own right and who were very nurturing figures in my early years. Both of them were my inspiration to become an artist. Grandpa Julius made women’s clothes. I marveled at his artistry with scissors. Grandpa Joe was a cartoonist who was hired by Walt Disney. I used to spend my Sundays doing art with these two men. Somehow I always knew I would make art my whole life. It was an early inner knowing.

What excites you to make your work? Why do you make art?

I love taking the trip that each painting gives me; a chance to go inside, communicate, and make decisions that have nothing to do with earthly matters. When I look at the finished work, I am amazed with the sense of surprise that I receive from my compositions.

Michael Filan
Sliced Grey
Michael Filan
Hard Mango
Michael Filan
Michael Filan, "Quiet Elegance," enamel on canvas
Quiet Elegance
Mike Filan
Delta Yellow Red and Green
Mike Filan
Blue Ruby
Mike Filan