Michael Henley

Michael Henley is an artist and illustrator whose beautiful, intricate work can be found at his website here. He generously gave his time to answer my questions as well as sit for a photograph at his recent exhibition at the House of St Barnabus in Soho

What is the earliest piece of art (music/visual art/film - any medium) that you remember having an impact on you and why was it special?

Although not a specific memory of a specific piece, I do remember seeing artwork by my grandfather. He had never seemed to me to be an artist but as it emerges he had always 'dabbled' and now that he was a little older it seemed time for him to really pursue it. It made him happy and so from that I realised that all the drawing and creating i had been doing up to that point had been because it had made me happy: is there a better reason to do anything other  then it makes you happy!? As I got older I realised that things that make you happy can also make you feel awful, the thing that drives you can inhibit you and really it is/becomes a part of your everyday life. I found myself saying that if i don't draw "I feel guilty" which is true, but overall that memory of my grandfather pursuing something that made him happy and creating everyday has always had an impact on me.

If you could invite 4 creatives round for dinner, who would they be and why?

I think this list would keep changing and ideally I would want to talk to those creatives that have nothing to do with my own practice specifically. I think that would be much more interesting. 

What part of the process of the production of a work do you enjoy the most?

There is a moment right at the beginning that i think of as the 'boiling point' where all the research, sketching, reading and generally being frustrated reaches a point where an idea emerges. Sometimes this is a loose concept to build from or a shape that counters the 'organic' element inherent to each drawing. I think it is this moment I enjoy because it reminds me that my brain is still working! Then really from that point the best part of my process is the drawing itself, over the years I've felt a drawing couldn't be a 'finished' piece of artwork (for me anyway) so to just enjoy drawing without thinking 'what if i ruin this in the next step' is very relaxing for me and allows me to enjoy and challenge the other aspects of allowing the drawing to grow naturally stage by stage.

Are there any novels or stories that have had a particularly significant impact on you?

I love to read and try to vary what I'm interested in, but as a general vibe I'm always looking into Sci-Fi, dystopian and classic novels are always at the top of my list. Although anything by William S Burroughs has always had an interesting affect on me, I always get a sense of being blown away by the writing style, it is unlike anything else I have come across, the cut and paste method of story telling really worked for me along and the rawness of the content had an impact on me: To search each section for links, common themes and generally a fragmented way of writing I think it has resonated with me through to now.

Aesthetics or ideas - are they equally important to your work? Do you put beauty before form or vice versa, or do you think about your work in a different way?

I think my ideas are drawn from a blend of both elements during my research: Although my last body of work was much more aesthetically focused I don't think this is by any means my chosen way of working. Rather [it was] something that worked for that time and I'm now moving into more ideas and concepts to drive my future work but incorporating an element of the aesthetics i have already developed.

What would you like the future to hold in store for you in terms of your creative development?

Well overall just to keep making artwork, to find that balance to creating and living really! Right now I'm looking for my next exhibition opportunity, but having the opportunity to consistently create artwork and ideas is really all I can ask for!