Viewing the mixed-media works of Mike Weber, one cannot help but feel immersed in a world long forgotten – now reborn – as the essence of his artwork is centered around heritage, spirituality and the paranormal. Making use of abandoned photographs and portraits from the 19th and 20th centuries, Weber constructs works with various media layered on top of each other so that hints of disparate typography, paint and photographs mesh together into whole and seamless compositions. A heavy sense of transience and melancholy from the figures depicted pierce through Weber’s canvases – moving the viewer and fostering a well of curiosity.
Weber, who is based in California, is now bringing his artwork to Berlin, as he will be a part of a group exhibition “The Cool, the Classy and the Haunted” at Mila Kunstgalerie. a.muse berlin interviewed the artist ahead of the exhibition to learn more about his “haunted” artworks, how he got started working with older photographs, and one of his favorite DIY tips for making use of photographs.
a.muse: A rather general question to begin with – what inspires you?
Mike Weber: I draw inspiration from many personal places. Although I’ve been referenced by the press as being an entirely contemporary Jasper Johns, my work is much less than about the referencing of other artists. There are a lot of artists that are influenced by other artists and it affects the outcome of their work. I create works that combine history and art, which are two very different things. I’m not a formally trained artist. I’m still learning about the many artists and works that roam the earth. Since I was a child, I’ve had a profound interest in the passage of time. This was due to my grandmother’s determination to teach me the names of my past relatives and the stories of our family’s legacy through our old family photographs. To date, I remain inspired by the visual associations I harbor from these photographs.
a.m: Your artworks make use of various mixed media layered on top of each other and yet each piece is neatly composed with a prominent sense of order and precision. Can you describe the interplay between order (or precision) and disorder in your artworks?
MW: The order and disorder are complete opposites within my work, yet when combined I create a combination of things that look perfect and ruined at the same time, juxtaposed to create rhythm, harmony and coherence. The artworks’ subjects are old photographs or altered segments from photographs. Subsequently, my compositions must be preconceived through the use of a scanner and Photoshop. This satisfies my obsessive-compulsive nature.
The intuitive application of colors, enriched materials, surfaces, textures and patterns is where the fun begins. I play with very common everyday materials and push them to see what I can make them do that is natural and uncommon. My work is not about the application of paint, it’s about the removal of these materials and what’s revealed or left behind in the many layers of paint, typography and photographs. The pieces are heavily coated with a glossy layer of resin, giving them a meticulously composed finish.
a.m: Hints of history and legacy appear again and again throughout your work, most apparent through your use of older photographs that portray people from what appears to be the early to mid 1900s. When did you begin using photographs of people in your artwork, where do you find these photographs and what do they mean to you and your work?
MW: About six years ago I discovered how thousands of family photos are thrown away when a bloodline ends and no one purchases the photo albums at the family’s estate sale. It seemed sad that lifetimes of photographs were discarded into the trash, never to be seen again. I’d never want this to happen to our historic photo collection, so I began my quest for meaning and celebration for something so divine – the centuries of experiences, emotions, hardships and generations of ended bloodlines that spoke to my heart and soul. This inspiration allows me to give these forgotten souls new meaning. They’ve become symbols of our past that hold connectivity to a time we’ll never experience.