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The Family at Sea

Michael Gute


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The Family at Sea

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This piece is executed with an expressive and abstracted approach to the figure. Shape builds a sense of place. The horizon in this piece pushes forward a family feasting on simple fish and fruit. Broad shape encompassing the head of the figure on the right to imply a sweeping motion of their arm. The other figures are built more statically for contrast. “The Family at Sea” was completed in 2020 as part of a series focused around family portraits.

36"H × 36"W × 1.5"D
oil on canvas


My work is generally about two things, (a) making pictures that move back and forth between reality and the past, and (b) mark-making as evidence of the body. I approach painting with a theatrical and expressive perspective, drawing from sources in art history, theatre and photojournalism. Different scenes dissolve into one another. For example, an image of a café owner closing his dinning room will bleed into a grove of mossy oak trees. Repetition of the figure is used to evoke authority and hierarchy in much of my recent work. I’m also interested in the themes of observance and powerlessness. I use painting, drawing and scratching veiled over one another to build an accumulation of experience and memory. I’m aware of my intuition and appreciate how the body and mind work in a choreography to mark the surface. Paintings validate the artist’s body. They are products of our performance as well as reinforcements of hope and faith. Hope stays the artist through the working of a painting and faith tells them it’s finished.

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