Layers of creative imagery and unbridled imagination are merged together by Melbourne artist Michelle Bolitho who uses photography as her foundation and inspiration. Michelle plays with colour, shadow, light and texture to bring to life her feminine ocean artworks that give off a jewel like presence with the ultra gloss glass resin finishing layer.
From the outward gaze of a female child to the inward gaze of a self-aware young woman, Bolitho’s art travels along the lines of innocence, self-consciousness to land finally in a graphically dreamy landscape where the fully-formed female and her empowerment lies. Colour, shadow, light and layers of imagery and imagination merge with the ever-evolving images of Bolitho’s many muses, including her own daughters who have inspired her foray into the role of artistic provocateur. Of the maker of message within visual beauty.
We are excited to be representing Michelle Bolitho and invite you to get to know the artist in our Up Close & Personal Q&A feature below.
Enjoy getting to know Michelle Bolitho
When did you first feel the desire to be artistic and realize you had talent?
I clearly remember my year 8 Art teacher strongly encouraging me NOT to continue with art, so I honestly spent most of my life believing I wasn’t artistic or creative. Because of this self limiting belief, I literally pushed aside any artistic urges or pursuits even though photography was one of my greatest passions.
It’s funny how things work out and maybe age, maturity and a sense of self, gave me the courage and confidence to trust my instinct. I always described myself as a constipated photographer – thousands of ideas but no outlet! I always had a sense that I had ‘a good eye’ and a lot to say but was too scared to try – until now. So this is a new and fabulous feeling for me and something I want to grab with both hands.
Where did you learn your art?
I believe we are always learning and timing is everything!
I am a self taught photographer and was lucky enough to be offered a redundancy from my previous business career in 2019 which allowed me the freedom, time and funds to finally immerse myself in the artistic study I have been craving for years. I enrolled myself in an Advanced Diploma of Photography. Through this period I have been exposed to a network of creatives, photography geeks and artists and became incredibly inspired and motivated to get out of my comfort zone and really push myself creatively.
It was through instagram that I met a fabulous artist who encouraged me to stop seeing myself as ‘Just a photographer’ but rather an artist who uses photography as the medium to express myself creatively. Having a mentor has been so pivotal in this journey – It has helped me gain the confidence to tell my stories and find an aesthetic that I am drawn to and want to extend and share.
I LOVE LEARNING and I am excited that my learning has only just begun – and it should never end. My work is constantly evolving. Sometimes it’s really layered and colourful and busy. Other times it is more graphical, simple and bold in its presentation. I go with my gut which I am learning to trust.
What inspires you most?
People, Emotions, Water, The Ocean, Nature’s Force, Relationships, Movement and Femaleness.
What message are you sending to the viewer of your art?
I am very passionate about bringing a ‘Female Gaze’ to my stories which are very female in their essence. I hope to reveal emotion, complexity, confidence, vulnerability and power through the many layers in the image.
I hope for the viewer to see beyond the beautiful and towards the ordinary and then feel something interesting, memorable and thought provoking.
Describe your studio
It’s a very unglamorous ‘warehouse/shed’ (freezing cold in winter – boiling in summer ) in an industrial area in Mornington. I love it. It’s filled with furniture I picked up from the side of the road, a freezer filled with frozen flowers, high ceilings & lots of space. I can turn the music up really loud, make a mess and work for hours uninterrupted – experimenting, creating, photographing, painting.
However through our extended lockdowns in Victoria – I have been forced to stay home and use my office and our dining room table. This has been quite tricky with everyone at home 24/7 – especially when I am applying resin to my pieces which are generally very large and need 3-5 days to cure. Thankfully my family are very supportive, encouraging and flexible.
They are more than happy to have a few TV dinners whilst the dining room table is repurposed as my art table!
Describe your typical day of creating art
I’m a night owl and always feel more creative and productive once the family have gone to bed, the dogs are snuggled up and there are no distractions. I spend a lot of time throughout the day thinking about what I want to create. I spend a lot of time procrastinating, experimenting, firing off 100 things in 100 different directions. I’ve learnt to embrace my own process and rhythm – I go to bed thinking about ideas, I dream about them. I sit on things for days and then BAM – I feverishly start bringing it to life. The great thing with digital composition is you can literally create 100 versions, get totally confused, off track -and then something eventually lands.
Sometimes I spend months on 1 piece before it even goes to print, while others arrive instinctively and come to life in minutes. I definitely work in cycles and am really starting to get a feel for my flow.
What mediums do you use and why?
The hero of my work is photography and I have learnt to push this further by experimenting with paint and layers to tell my story. Spray paint, stencils, wood, gold, silver leaf, neons. I also love coating my pieces in liquid glass which adds another dimension to the image – water like and layered.
I specifically chose printing on wood to allow the grain and imperfections to show through into the image – giving another layer and texture. Flaws are visible, adding to the complexity and humanness of the females across the series. I had to let go of my own need for perfection with the final outcome and embrace beautiful mistakes along the way.
What are you working on now?
I’m currently working on 3 series in very different visual directions
- 1. Adding to the story from my first exhibition – She Is.. This is forever evolving and has a long way to go to complete the story
- 2. Through the Shadows – a darker, more graphical, evocative body of work
- 3. Floral Pop – playful, colourful, POP ART series – hope to combine neon lights!
What are your recent career achievements you feel proud of?
- 1. Winner Flinder Art Show 2019 – ‘SPLASH’
- 2. People’s Choice Award Mt Eliza Art & Design Show 2019 – ‘SPLASH’
- 3. PSC Covid Gallery Exhibit 2020 – ‘ANGST’
- 4. Debut Exhibition Manyung Gallery May 2021 – ‘SHE IS’
- 5. Selected as Feature Photographic Artist Mt Eliza Art and Design Show 2021
- 6. Moss Foundations – Contributing Artist for Skate Deck Fundraiser
What do you love most about what you do?
Everything! I love the process, the stillness, the manic rush to meet deadlines, the emotional attachment to the final result, the freedom to play and experiment, the joy when someone else likes it so much they choose to hang it on their wall. I love learning. I loathe rules. I’m learning to silence the inner critic. I love trying new things. I want to learn to paint. I love how proud I feel when I look at a piece that is finished. I love the Christmas morning excitement when I see the image printed – ready for play. I love how art connects people.
Where can you see yourself in 10 years time?
Well the initial plan was a Villa in Tuscany creating amazing art! I would LOVE to say I am a full time working artist. I plan on taking photos until I can no longer hold my camera. I would love to be selling my work all across Australia and overseas. I would love to combine my passion for travel with my passion for creating art.