PORTRAITS & SUCH 2: Recent Work by Mike Pavol

The exhibition PORTRAITS & SUCH 2: Recent Work by Mike Pavol, opened at the Da Vinci Art Alliance on Wednesday June 1st, 2016. The exhibition is comprised of paintings and drawings, some of which were commissioned. The work is based both on empirical observation as well as photographic observation, which captures the artist’s concern with representational art and the symbiotic relationship between art and artist.

Mike Pavol came to Philadelphia from Phoenix, Arizona in 1988 with a BA in architecture from Virginia Tech University. He took art classes at Fleischer Memorial and PAFA where he worked under the tutelage of Christine Lafuente and her enthusiastic pursuit of observation through paint.  Mike took to the work immediately, enjoying the challenge and direction, though unsure where it might take him. 

In 2002, a show of Edwin Dickinson’s work gave Mike the confidence he needed to include all of his concerns and ideas as a painter, designer, and person into his work.  Deviating from his former ideal, he became less concerned with representational art which channeled unedited visual information. This thinking freed him to become less concerned with displaying a cohesive artistic philosophy or consistency and allowed him to address the internal logic of creating each individual painting and drawing.

"Light Circle" by Mike Pavol

"Light Circle" by Mike Pavol

I had the pleasure of talking to Mike at his studio in the Bella Vista neighborhood where he lives and works and want to thank him for showing me his work and for talking to me a bit about his work and his process ahead of his one-man show at the Da Vinci Art Alliance which opened this past Wednesday, June 1st, 2016.

I wanted to speak with you of influences in your work since so much of our artistic careers often start with imitation, and through that, we arrive at our own unique style. You mention Christine Lafuente and Edwin Dickinson as influences. What about their work appealed to you at each particular stage of your development and why? 

With Christine, it was how she worked, alla prima, and who she was, as well as what she produced. Her enthusiasm allowed me to start to let go of what I thought painting should be, and to what painting could be. Her practice showed me a freedom through using one’s own experience to create. Dickinson was a more literal influence, as his tonality in a lot of his work I directly copied but the personal/surreal content also gave me a lot to chew on. At least that’s how I remember it.

Your work uses various methods; direct observation and photographs among others, what is your process? 

For my non-observational work I have roughly two approaches. For portraits, I take a lot of photos of the subject(s) with some vague idea of the direction it may go. I then fashion several “sketches” from these photos, “frankensteining” different heads, arms and parts into reasonably cohesive new compositions, often having nothing to do with my original intent. After the client okays one of these sketches, I transfer the sketch to the desired surface, and voila, the painting fun begins. The second approach for my work outside portraiture, I start out with a photographic sketch and build on it from there, editing, adding, expanding, and rearranging. Sometimes I will use detritus from these photographic collages and exploit them as compositional elements. I will also find or introduce new themes or directions, like symmetry or image reproduction, as I move through the painting.

How has your practice changed over time?

Yes, it has. For many years I was a strict observational painter refusing to work from photographs. As I began to do more portraits I began to see photography as another tool to be used instead of some evil infection to be stomped out. These days I tend to be more selective and cautious with my dogmas.

We encourage you to check out the show! PORTRAITS AND SUCH 2 will run from now until June 29th, 2016. Gallery hours are Wednesday 6-8p and Saturday & Sunday 1-5p. Check out the calendar for additional programming including an artist talk with Mike Pavol himself!

Mike Pavol with his art

Mike Pavol with his art

For more information on artist Mike Pavol please visit his website.


Written by David Acosta, Vice-President Da Vinci Art Alliance