Mike Bayne received an MFA from Concordia University and a BAH and BFA from Queen’s University. He is represented by Mulherin Toronto (since 2004) and Louis K. Meisel Gallery in New York (since 2018). As well, he has participated in a number of group exhibitions in Los Angeles, Chicago, New York, Vancouver, and Toronto. His work is in the collection of the Art Gallery of Ontario, The Nerman Museum, The Jordan Schnitzer Museum of Art, the Wieland Collection and numerous prestigious private collections around the world. Mike was the recipient of the Kingston Prize for Portraiture in 2011, and had his work in a solo presentation at The Armory Show, 2012 in New York.
Courtesy of Katharine Mulherin, curator, 'Pictures,' Garrison Art Center, Garrison, NY, September 9 to October 1, 2017
As a curator, I would have to say that I have a special relationship with the Canadian artist Mike Bayne. We are both drawn to the everyday, the overlooked, and the little details of the unimportant.
I, of course just look, and occasionally take pictures with my phone. Mike, on the other hand, painstakingly processes this banal information into the most stunning and precisely executed paintings. What I, or you, see in a passing glance and give little or no thought to, Mike spends months rendering into beautiful images. He is a master of color, of tone, of minimalism. Maybe even abstraction.
I started working with Mike Bayne in 2003, when he was 26 years old. We put up a show of small 7 x 5 inch paintings of two rooms, one was his girlfriend’s kitchen and the other his studio. They had the warm, sepia tones of Dutch paintings and there was an absence of the figure. It was that very absence that gave them their potency. The show brought up feelings of sadness, coldness and loneliness. And it was mesmerizing.
That someone would take the time to create in almost miniaturist detail the browning of bananas on the counter, the bathroom sink, or the laundry room indicated a degree of patience and calm that was difficult to understand, especially coming from a young man who could obviously paint anything that he wanted to. But this is how Mike wanted to paint. He admired painters like Richard Estes and Robert Bechtle, and saw himself bringing northern Canadian subjects to the dedication of precise rendering.
The little paintings in 2003 had a photorealist quality, but nothing like the works that Mike has produced since 2004. In 2004 he brought a painting into the gallery for a group show and I promptly asked “why the photograph?”
Mike would go on to argue that the point of his work is much less about being photorealistic, and more about being a social construction of his own experience. What he chooses to notice….to photograph…..to paint. He sees the scope of the term photorealism as too narrow. Yes, he uses photographic techniques to produce an image and then goes on to make an oil painting, but so have artists for the last 500 years.
Since 2003, Mike has painted images of cars in alleys, highway road signs, post second world war suburban sprawl (think of the sides of big box stores and parking lots), old dying businesses, motels, bungalows, vernacular architecture, portraits of his son, grandmother, neighbor, niece and wife Crista. There are many paintings of Crista. They are all very real. Also real are the interiors…. bedrooms, hospital rooms and waiting rooms that provide a narrative to the sometimes trying aspects of life like childbirth, illness, and death.
So, over the past 14 years, I feel like I’ve had the opportunity to stand by and watch one artist chronicle a lifetime; perhaps because of his appreciation for the fleeting lifespan of the things in our lives, whether they be industry, architecture, business or people. His paintings are populated with the landscape that tells us that old things will soon be gone, newer things will soon be gone, architecture that might not hold up will soon be gone, and our lives are passing....so we should pay attention.
I chose to title the exhibition “Pictures” based on a question that I was once asked when we were showing work to a broader public. “Are these pictures or paintings?” (I think in this case the viewer meant to ask if they are photographs or paintings, but using the colloquial “pictures” rather than “photographs”.) If you ask me whether they are pictures or paintings, well I have to say that they are both. They are paintings of photographs. As photographs they say a lot. As paintings, they say even more. As paintings, they are reminding us to pay attention.