Italy based British photo-artist Michael Banks was given a camera while studying fine art in Florence. As he wandered around the Renaissance streets of the old city, he began instinctively taking photographs in an abstract style. Banks sees the world as a series of lines, curves, shadows, reflections, textures, shapes, and forms - all abstract moments waiting to be discovered by his camera. For him, there is hidden beauty everywhere and it is his desire to make that beauty visible.
Here he discusses how being able to live as an artist everyday is his proudest achievement.
Tell us a little bit about yourself and your art.
After finishing my studies, I spent 15 years in London working in the field of Design and Advertising Photography. These years provided fantastic training and a real education for the eyes, as I looked for visually interesting moments out of a lot of potentially uninspiring subject-matter. I applied my abstract approach here too and soon became the “go-to” person for making “something out of nothing”.
But it was always Art that was my passion, so 10 years ago I started working exclusively as a photo-artist. Today, my focus is on artwork for hospitality spaces - you can find my photos adorning the walls of cruise ships, restaurants, offices, and residential interiors.
What is the best advice you would give to new artist just starting out?
Art needs a context to be seen - so I would advise a new artist NOT to be afraid of viewing their art as a product. Of course art is poetic, spiritual and uplifting, but if you want to make a living at it, you have to see it as a business too. Which means that you, as an artist, have to understand the potential markets in which your art could be purchased. I spend a lot of time everyday doing research on new business opportunities and making new contacts. This means reading extensively, keeping abreast of developments in the industry, and finding out who the important players are. Keeping your contacts regularly updated on what you are doing as an artist and how it can enhance their business to purchase your art are vital.
Are there any specific people, places, or things that influences your art?
I don’t spend time looking at what other artist are doing - that can be distracting and debilitating. But I do keep updated with contemporary culture in general - architectures, interior design, product design, fashion, cinema, music, etc. I think that it helps to be aware of the contemporary “zeitgeist”, and then apply that subliminal knowledge, along with your own personal vision, to the world that surrounds us, and make art from that. I think it's important not to have too many influences. That way you are more likely to do something that hasn’t been done before.
How has your work developed over time?
I think that as an artist you tend to mature slowly, as a result of simply living on this planet for a certain number of years, and interacting progressively with different types of people and places. I think my work is now more meditative than it used to be, more considered, more refined, and perhaps can hold a viewer’s attention for a little bit longer - sparking deeper reactions.
What excites you about the digital art world today?
As a photographer I’m really excited about new digital printing technology - there are now so many ways to print my art other than simply on paper, and this means that my art can have many more physical incarnations, and can achieve a more 3-dimensional presence. The art world is also embracing the full potential of the Internet, which facilitates both the possibility of global marketing and online sales.
Are there any trends you’re excited to experiment with?
Recently, I’ve become very interested in finding other physical formats in which to present my art. In fact I’ve just collaborated with a ceramics company in the UK, who are producing a range of porcelain art plates with my photography as the principal design element. I’ve also just done a range of designer rugs for a Portuguese carpet company, creating large rugs in 100% New Zealand wool, which are exact copies of some of my photo-works.
What is your proudest achievement as an artist?
I think that just being able to live as an artist every day counts as my proudest achievement. Every piece of bread, glass of wine, or journey made comes from selling my art, and that is a major satisfaction.