The CARP project exists to support all artists in their creative practice, including visual artists like Michael Steer who was backed by CARP in 2019.
Michael is Barnsley born and, after a short spell in Stoke-on-Trent, came back to his hometown in 2008 to study Interdisciplinary Art and Design at University Campus Barnsley. Since graduating, he has continued to work towards becoming a professional artist, and the funding he received through CARP allowed him to take another step towards that ambition.
Why CARP? well he elaborates: “I have always had a strong relationship with The Civic and it felt like the natural fit you know, it’s the Gallery in my hometown.” The funding he received from us enabled him to attempt to execute larger work which he was keen to do as an abstract painter, as he explains “so much about abstract work is about creating an aura or feeling”; a larger canvas enables the artist to do this on a grander scale, with the viewer completely absorbed by the piece.
The funding he secured via CARP led him to create his first solo exhibition I WAS HERE, which was shown on our Panorama space. Unfortunately, due to Covid-19, the exhibition was cut short, but it was a significant marker for Michael, as he says: “it was the first time I got to think about creating a cohesive narrative with my work.” This process can be a journey. Much of the joy he gets from creating comes from the experimentation itself, starting a piece and not quite knowing where it is going to go.
I WAS HERE was a selection that was inspired by words or as our official copy said, “the ambiguity and connotations of language”. Michael has a fascination with how words and phrases can be easily twisted and explains the brilliance of including them in his work is that “the viewer provides the context”, they bring something to each piece that means something personal to them. Michael took over our Instagram account before Christmas where he discussed his piece No Place Like Home, a painting that took inspiration from the infamous Wizard of Oz quote, and was then on sale as part of an art auction to benefit the Barnsley Rough Sleeper Project. You can catch up with this takeover by following us @civicbarnsley.
Much of his inspiration also comes from poetry, not simply the prose of Keats or Wordsworth, but the poetic nature of objects, “the peculiar beauty that some things have that is difficult to articulate.” Places also stimulate him, which is why Covid-19 has in some ways stifled his creative process, the fact he cannot go out and explore has had an impact. He humorously adds “I’d quite like to go to Center Parcs this year”, where he says there is just “something in the air” that is inspirational; his trip continues to go through that familiar, Covid-19 cycle of delay.
Despite this, he is still absolutely brimming with ideas, all of which are being added to an 8-year-old note on his phone which contains all his creative visions. He is recent ambition is to create a full-size exhibition with work expanding away from paint, including sculpture and a lot of new techniques that he must learn how to master. But with his creative strive and everything he has achieved so far, we know he will get there.