Project Space

Project Space: Full Catastrophe Painting



The Freeland’s Studio Fellowship is a unique opportunity to gain teaching experience at one of six partner universities, alongside the dedicated time to develop individual creative practices. By investing in artists within an educational context, Freelands Foundation aim to highlight the importance of art education and its symbiotic relationship to the creative process.

It frequently seems as though we are living through a period of prolonged crisis or sequential crises, therefore how does one make art either in response to or under the weight of impending catastrophe? The burden of such thoughts can feel overpowering and easily cloud our awareness of the present moment – a challenge for artists where the present moment is the only important one. Borrowing the title from the 1990 Jon Kabat-Zinn book on mindfulness-based stress reduction, Full Catastrophe Painting, presents a series of works made in response to this very question.

The works in the exhibition were made by Michael throughout the last year in his role as Painting Fellow at the University of Brighton and highlight the artists desire to interrogate subject matter and material. Experimentation, investigation and testing of new ideas were paramount to the founding principles of the fellowship programme. Made in his studio located within the School of Art and Media at University of Brighton, Michael was able to explore what impact living and working near the sea had on his practice.

Relatively early on in the fellowship, rather than thinking about finished paintings, I knew it was more important for me to produce a series of starting points, works that opened the door to new ways of thinking and making within the studio going forward. Due to a series of unfortunate and unexpected personal setbacks however, the landscape of my fellowship experience changed, and with that I had to adapt, finding ways to make in times of crisis.”


Artist Statement
Using colour as a key means of expression, Michael Clarence creates playful, yet contemplative paintings that explore notions of identity and experience of place; his fluid compositions encompass fields of pure pigment, dynamic mark-making and motifs that verge on the legible. Paintings are firmly rooted in figuration as he draws from a broad range of subject matter including the domestic, religion, kitsch 1980’s television and history painting. Employing an experimental and reductive process however, he renders individual identities hidden, as they frequently dissolve into ambiguous abstract worlds. Mysterious spaces often contain only suggestions of architecture, resist conventional perspective, and continually return the viewers’ attention to the flatness of the medium. Traces of underpainting, adjustments and negative space are instrumental in creating works that chart their own visual history, together with a sense of nostalgic atmosphere.

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