Magazin' Art, April 2004

Ce n'est pas une fleur By Richard Waugh

“Sensuality is our birthright. My aim is to build a rich legacy of paintings that sustain and celebrate this romantic spirit. A tacit poetry. A balm to soothe the soul. A reminder of the sweet passions bound up in creations forms.” – Artist’s Statement

Canadian artist Michael Savage spent his early years in the small seaside community of Beach Grove, 35 km south of Vancouver, B.C. He was immersed in the quiet rural countryside - surrounded by farmland and bordered by the ocean and the Fraser river.
Savage recalls that he filled his school notebooks with drawings of birds, animals and landscapes. “My earliest influences were my very creative parents and siblings. The first artist that seized my imagination was Canadian bird illustrator, Fenwick Lansdowne,” he explains, “Fen’s incredible paintings prompted me to do drawing after drawing of local birds and give them to my elementary school teachers and friends.” When he was 11, his parents enrolled him in art classes taught by Ladner painter, Michael Duncan. At 14. his Father introduced him to Robert Genn, the renowned west coast landscape artist, who became a lifelong friend and mentor.
In 1981, Savage’s passion for art led to enrollment at the Emily Carr College of Art and Design. “I was excited by the creative spirit of the place.” After a couple of years, he left to paint, travel, and work. He completed the Fine Arts program at the University of British Columbia where he received his BFA in 1990. Robert Young and Jeff Wall were his senior advisors. “The results of my art education have been a more complete visual literacy and an understanding of art history.”
“Image making is an expression of our shared desire to understand the meaning of existence,” he says. There is an iconographic quality to his work. His paintings have been described as eclectic and thoughtful, with a minimalist style that reflects his interest in nature, philosophy, and spirituality. He has always been intrigued by ideas of randomness and happenstance and there are threads of both in the way he portrays his evocative imagery.
Savage’s studio overlooks his spectacular garden. Day lilies, tulips, and magnolia blossoms abundantly provide inspiration. “Flowers embody powerful symbolism spanning global cultures. Innocence, sincerity, and passion come to mind. Most people have an immediate aesthetic response to them,” he explains. To Savage, flowers represent both the sensual and the mysterious. “They delightfully reward curiosity and encourage a more focused examination.”
Savage has an overarching desire to illuminate the power of an image, to create art that is at once beautiful to the eye and engaging to the mind. Part of the fascination for him is working up a large painting from a thumbnail sketch. The image changes rapidly – fundamentally and emotionally – as the scale changes. His challenge is to allow for the potential that the viewer will see the images not as flowers, but as suggestions of something more.
“When I am considering the tactile beauty of a blossom, and then attempt to distill its qualities towards a minimalistic portrayal, I am struck that these are no longer illustrations of flowers. They are transfigured and become a visual invitation for us to enter a dialogue with own perceptions of nature. See how a lily emerges, spiraling out from the bud, and the wonderfully evocative forms displayed by magnolia petals.”
Savage currently works in acrylics on canvas with a moody, subdued palette applied in a variety of glazing techniques. While his mode might be described as representational or figurative, his method is highly intuitive. His paintings skillfully demonstrate the use of subtle nuances and variations in both colour and the suggestion of texture. “I derive enormous pleasure from the exploration of colour, pattern, and design. This allows plenty of room for happenstance,” he explains. However, his approach is also built upon the appeal of the mysterious. “For me, part of the joy of creating paintings is occupying the fulcrum between the unknown and the moment of knowing. A wonderfully intense place to be.”

16 Annee, No 4, 2004. Courtesy of the publisher. (Edited)

The NOW - April 16, 2003

Chasing Fleeting Spring By Tom Zytaruk

For probably as long as mankind has been around, artists have tried to capture the miraculous inherent in Spring on canvas, in music, literature, stone and other mediums. It’s heady stuff, when creation attempts to emulate the work of the creator. Perhaps the ultimate attraction for the artist is the chase, as the beauty of nature can only be approximated at best. For those who beg to differ, just try picturing a new primary colour. Plato, Goethe and other great thinkers have played with the concept of an open secret – that is, everything is there, waiting to be known. Each of us sees a segment of this pie of knowledge, if you can call it that, and through sharing our thoughts and experiences we help each other see more of it.
An exhibition entitled “Sounds of Spring” will open Friday, April 25 at the NAS Gallery, at 15185 Russell Ave. in White Rock at 7 p.m. “It’s ambitious. This is big for the gallery.” Says Ann Raeburn, who co-owns the gallery with Robert Barret. “It is destined to be a big event, with more than 1,000 invitations already sent out.”
Ocean Park artist Michael Savage, who has to date had his work displayed in 14 exhibitions and whose work has drawn him several awards will have 26 pieces on display. Most are floral related. Viewers will see budding flowers, mostly native to British Columbia, with names such as Gallica, Folia, Semper Florens and Lux.
“It’s a mysterious pursuit,” Savage said of his work. “I look at it as a compulsion. It’s about occupying the fulcrum between what’s known and what’s unknown. It’s about flow, temporality, cognition, and all the emotions…”

Courtesy of the publisher.

The Langley Times - April 23, 2003

The Sounds of Spring By Brenda Anderson

Whether it’s the trickle of running water, the twitter of birds or the rustle of the wind through newly opened leaves, the sounds that signal spring are as evident as the warmth of sunshine on an upturned face or the sight of new life springing from the earth.
Perhaps the sound of spring is silence. “What is the sound of a flower opening?” Savage wonders aloud. Where birds -specifically crows- once drove much of the artist’s creative energy, his focus of late has been on vibrant blossoms - painted on a grand scale - and the tangles of winding greenery that surround them. “I have romantic ideas of what my paintings can be.” says Savage. “It means being a part of the process of articulating my notions of what beauty is. And, for me, that’s nature.”

Courtesy of the publisher. (Edited)

Peace Arch News - April 26, 2003

Louder than Words By Alex Browne

Canvases one can listen to? Don’t expect the upcoming show at the NAS Gallery in White Rock to be tricked up with speakers providing a soundtrack to each piece. But painter Michael Savage believes that colours - particularly spring colours – can speak louder than words. “Calling this show Sounds of Spring is like naming a musical piece Pictures at an exhibition,” Savage says, referring to Mussorgsky’s celebrated music. Of note is Savage’s series of close - up floral “landscapes” grouped together with paintings depicting calligraphic symbols for the season from the Japanese, Chinese and Arabic script traditions. The composition requires the individual paintings to work together in creating the whole piece. “I’m very much concerned with the balance between the spaces and the tensions,” he continues, “There is an energy around things, a movement within the quiet spaces…”

Courtesy of the publisher. (Edited)

The NOW - May 2, 2000

Savage Beauty By Tom Zytaruk

When you look at Michael Savage’s painting, The Messenger, you feel like grabbing hold of something so as not to fall into his sea of wild grass. A crow hangs frozen in awkward flight, captured on canvas as though the painter were a sharp - eyed photographer using high – speed film. Behind the grass are ancient trees and the old Kirkland house on Arthur Drive in Ladner, before it was restored. Savage spent four 15 - hour days, painting those thousands of blades of wild grass. When you view his paintings, you don’t merely look at them, but into them.
Not all his paintings are stark. You wouldn’t think that a guy who has painted such touching pictures of songbirds would have a last name like Savage, but such is life. He’s got a special affinity for birds that’s clearly evident in his work. “I think maybe it’s because birds can fly, and there’s something special about that.” He explains. “There’s something about the spirit of birds that’s beyond analysis. I’m interested in the character of birds. I love that, and that inspires me to paint.”
“There are moments that are impressed upon my mind. Some of my paintings have a strong allegorical content and you are hit by the emotion of the moment as you experience it. I try and create art that conveys emotion. If it works for me, all I can do is hope that it works for others as well.”
The 37 - year old Ocean Park artist grew up in Beach Grove in South Delta and received formal art training at Emily Carr College on Granville Island before completing a Bachelor of Fine Arts degree at the University of British Columbia. He’s had more than a dozen exhibitions in Greater Vancouver and has won a handful of awards of excellence for his art. Still, he’s a relative newcomer to the peninsula, having recently moved from Kitsilano. Some of his work is now on display at the Rendez – vous Gallery at 671 Howe Street, but he’s hoping to hook into the local art scene here. “It’s pretty tough competition, but I’ll get there.” he smiles.

Courtesy of the publisher. (Edited)