Mychael Barratt is a storyteller. His narrative-led paintings and prints take the viewer on a journey into his unique and imaginative world that merges fact and fiction. Inspired by fairytales, literature and art history, Mychael’s work is versatile in style and subject, ranging from intricate cityscapes and maps to architecture and portraiture. With an eye for colour and detail, Mychael imparts charm and intrigue into his work.
Mychael draws much of his inspiration from the architecture, landscape and his everyday life in London. Prior to the 2012 London Olympics, Mychael was commissioned to create a large-scale mural in Mile End. Today, his work can be seen in some of London’s most prominent institutions, from The British Library and The British Museum to the V&A Museum.
Besides the fantastical and the fictional, Mychael also draws inspiration from famous artists and classic works. For instance, the artist adopted the styles of Antony Gormley and Yayoi Kusama respectively to create humorous images of the artists’ dogs. This witty approach characterises his style and makes for an honest and self-aware approach to creating art.
What’s your creative process?
There is no typical pattern for my creative process and my different genres all have their own unique origins. The maps begin with a concept or a single reference, which persists and grows, often over a period of a year or more. My preliminary work is all about writing down ideas and lists and I only reward myself with the luxury of drawing once I absolutely know where the map is taking me. The works that reference classic paintings typically begin with an epiphany standing in front of a painting, which makes visits to galleries an essential part of my work.
There are many characters in your art from various sources, is there any connection between your work and our socio-political climate?
At the root of all my work is a love of books. Even the art homages began from a love of art books, as they were my first introduction to art. There are occasional references to current society but my work for the most part is not politically driven.
Do you have a process of getting inspired?
I am open to inspiration at all times and gather up ideas like a magpie. I always have enough ideas stretching off into the future to keep me busy for years but new ideas can definitely jump the queue if they’re compelling enough.
What does art mean to you?
After my family, art is the great sustaining passion of my life.
I do make art for a living and the reaction of and communication with an audience is crucial to the work that I create. That being said, art is so important to me that I would still be drawing, painting and printmaking even if no one ever saw or bought another piece.
What's your philosophy in life? What's the philosophy behind your work?
I’m not sure if this qualifies as a philosophy in life but I do try to live by the presumption that the kind option is probably always the best one. My tastes in the art I love are remarkably broad and I am open to anything. My philosophy for making art is quite straightforward. I want to create work to the absolute best of my technical and artistic capabilities and I want the work to reward the viewer’s intelligence, patience and sense of humour. The last of these is quite crucial as I feel that humour in art is underrated and one of the most difficult things to employ and still be taken seriously as an artist.
What's the significance of dogs in your work?
The artists’ homages through portraits of their imagined pets started many years ago with Chagall’s dog in love, which just popped into my head one day. I wanted to do a companion piece based on a different artist so that the concept would make sense. Another idea followed, and then another. Each one is intended as a sincere homage to art that I admire and I’m quite convinced now that I will carry on doing these forever.
What’s the most memorable moment in your career as an artist?
The furthest that my art has taken me was when I was twice flown to China. The first time was to open an exhibition that included my work and the second was to speak at an international conference about an enormous print that was easily the largest work that I’ve ever made, which was commissioned by the Chinese National Academy of Painting.
A memorable moment was when David Hockney saw my homage to him entitled Hockney’s dog at the RA. He smiled and chuckled which I took as a huge compliment.