Artist Profile: - Michael Drysdale
What is an artist? One may as well ask, what is art? Depending on who you are speaking to, you could get a million different answers. Do you imagine some crazy guy in a white lab coat, spattered with a hundred different colours? Or do you see a guy with 20 palettes slung around his neck, looking like an overeager tourist? It’s neither of the aforementioned, just an inconspicuous normal looking guy, quietly going about his daily routines but with an eye to either create or capture moments of emotion and turn them into visual works which will excite the emotions or curiosity of the viewer.
Fine art is very subjective, I know that some people will love my work, and others will hate it, all I am doing as an artist is creating or capturing an image and presenting my vision to the world, and I hope with each, that the viewer will be emotionally affected by my work, and I pray that the viewer will put his own interpretation into the piece, which may or may not be my own. That is fine, as art is a very personal and even spiritual medium and its merits or for that matter, de-merits cannot be dictated by anyone. My hope is that with each art work that I create will reach every viewer and impact on them in some way and excite them emotionally so that they each carry away a different experience of my work, whether it be to hate it or to love it. If I have raised a reaction with the viewer then I have succeeded.
I'm a bit of a maverick, I truly believe that nothing is impossible, I know that everything has a solution, so I will go out to find the solution, and make things work. I have always been a creative. As a child my grandmother encouraged me to use my hands and create things….anything. I grew up at her feet, and perhaps it was her way to get me out from under them, that I started using my hands to make things. It got me out from under her feet which I think was her goal in the first place!
From tinkering away in the garage and the backyard with bits of wood, and drawing and painting on anything in sight, for which I must add I regularly got my rear end paddled, I progressed to more structured art in primary school, with fine artist Nelby Byrne. I started my creative career at the age of thirteen, making those awful macramé' which are now again coming back into vogue; progressing through my teens into the field of sculpture, and then eventually pursuing a career in fashion. I then went into photographic art which is to this day my favourite outlet to create something special. I progressed at the same time into ceramics and crossed pollinated that art with sculpture, after a 35 year hiatus. It has always been about creating or capturing an image in a fashion that it is interesting to the observer, that it causes even a moment’s pause and reflection. That’s what it all about!
I grew up with horses and having a “difficult” childhood, horses were my constant friends and companions. They listened to me I believed, and I think they understood me. Upon completing my schooling, I was drafted into the military to do my two years compulsory military service, at the end of which I signed up for permanent force. I was posted to the SADF Equestrian Centre, where I completed the “M-course” and became an instructor. I also undertook the very difficult and technical task of training and performing in the SADF Equestrian Display Team; teaching and performing the voltige (gymnastics on horseback). I consider this time in my life to have been one of the most rewarding and thrilling. On exiting the military, I joined Brian’s Circus for a spell where I did trick riding, and then went on to manage a thoroughbred stud farm.
At 22 I packed up everything and went to Europe to “see the world”. I travelled extensively visiting museums, galleries, libraries, castles, palaces, and art studios, soaking up everything like a new sponge. Eventually circumstance was such that I ended up in Iceland (why not Malta I ask in retrospect?) where I started my career in Fashion. In 1988 I had the privilege, being a young man from Klerksdorp, of creating the dress for the then reigning Miss World Linda Petursdottir. That was a very special time.
I returned to South Africa and continued to work as a fashion designer but eventually gave it up to make a difference in the lives of the poverty stricken.
I believe that I am a born social worker and have been a philanthropist all my life. I spent 15 years running poverty alleviation projects on a full-time basis, with everything else taking second place. Even though it was hard to find time to be a creative artist, I did manage to juggle it rather successfully with my community work. I found that no matter how busy I was with the social work and commitments, that I always did find time to create something artistic.
In the 1990’s I worked the streets of Hillbrow for an organisation called AIDSLINK, where I walked the streets visiting people dying from AIDS, while also teaching dressmaking and design to those who were more able. I then went to work the informal settlements around Roodepoort, where my main focus became getting the children off of the streets and into a home. I built a crèche for the children which I am very proud of as it is still operational.
In November 2000 I worked as a volunteer in the cholera epidemic which swept through Kwa Zulu-Natal for six months, I like to believe that through the efforts of my team and me that we were responsible for saving countless peoples’ lives in some of the remotest villages of Zululand.
I methodically once again picked up photography about 16 years ago, and as I get older I am not only discovering more about myself, but I am starting to push the limits with my own creativity, trying very hard to get right out of the box and do things which most professional photographers would probably shy away from. I have decided that I want to be an art photographer and not a technical photographer, I have undertaken all the courses and training on the technical aspects of photography only to find that I was shooting technically perfect pictures, but they had no artistic value at all! I took the advice of a friend and colleague and went back to capturing the images that I saw.
For me photography is about capturing the essence of my subject, of finding the beauty hidden within. I want to capture an image which anyone would want to display with pride. I try to reach across to my subject with the projection of my lens, if I can touch and capture the moment or the emotion with heart, then I have succeeded. My photography is a part of me that will continue to grow and to evolve as I test the limits of my own creativity with each passing day; perhaps one day I will leave a part of my soul behind, in the heart of my pictures.
People often think that as a photographer I just point my camera and push; if only it were so easy. I always choose my subject, and sometimes I will shoot the same subject a thousand times before I get the shot I want; for example the local 'Karretjies' (horse drawn carts with car tyres, that the local Karoo farming folk use) they are seen in the village on a daily basis, and they come cantering down the streets regularly. I have about hundreds of good pictures of them, but still I haven't been able to capture, the emotion and movement of the subject that satisfies me, to be an art-work. I will get the right image and the shot that I want. I also never shoot staged or posed pictures, as they tend to lack emotion.
Portraits are an absolute favourite of mine, but I am totally turned off when I point my lens at someone, and they go into some sort of pose, which is totally artificial and carries no emotion. I need to capture the raw essence of my subject; to capture the hidden depths of their soul, then I am happy with the photograph. My family hates it when I am around them with my camera in hand, as they say I take the most awful photographs of them; yet they are some of my best, with all the flaws, wrinkles, and raw emotion exposed.
Being a photographic artist means having a captive audience and being responsible. I have been given a voice through my lens and having been a philanthropist most of my life I tend to use that voice to raise awareness of various social issues, and especially now having achieved international recognition with my first exhibition which opened in London at the Riverside Gallery on the 11th of July 2009 and ran until the 5th of September 2009. I’ve never had an exhibition in South Africa, and I’m quite honoured to have been invited to be part of a joint exhibition in the world’s art capital, and even more honoured to have one of my works being used on the posters advertising the exhibition all over London, and one of my works on the “Private Viewing” catalogue.
I have now returned to my roots, back to the earth and to creating visual pieces in clay. Being able to sculpt means that I am able to turn my thoughts and emotions into very visual experiences for the viewer, and yes, every sculpture is an extremely emotional journey for me, it is a combination of my thoughts, my emotions and my vision of the world around me. Some of my sculpture are emotionally draining, and leave me curled up in a sobbing ball of misery at the end of the day, but the viewer has to remember that the sculpture which they are viewing is a visualisation of my personal view of the world.
No artist can please all of the people all of the time let alone himself. As a creative artist who has operated over several tapestries and art forms I know that I cannot excite everyone’s senses on every occasion. Art is a difficult union between the creator, the piece and the beholder; it is just the wonderful pleasure in seeing when the three come together that life is worthwhile. As an artist I will always continue to create, because it is in my nature; it is the only way in which my soul can speak to the world.
Michael Drysdale Photographic Art
Micca-D Expressions (Sculpture, ceramics, photography and writing)
Home Gallery and Ceramic Studio
32 Loop Street
7090 Northern Cape
Michael John Drysdale was born on Friday the 14th of December 1962 and lives in the small Karoo dorp, Richmond, in the Northern Cape
Email Michael for a quote on any of the following prints