Musée talks to Michael Souter

Throughout his painting career, Michael Souter has relocated frequently, with each successive move resulting in another layer of influences. In San Francisco, he explored the use of bold shapes and of introducing texture. In Tokyo, he took up the idea of using large-scale pieces and the suppression of color, which involved layering black and white paint on top of intensely-colored hues. And in New York, he tapped into using motion and a more symbolic language. Souter holds a BFA in painting from Western Michigan University. Souter has also held faculty appointments as a painting instructor at the Ecole International in Geneva and the California College of Arts. His paintings have been exhibited in New York, Detroit, Kalamazoo, Torino Italy, Salt Lake City, Los Angeles, San Francisco, and Geneva.

How is material a component in “Portrait”? How does developing a series on alternative surfaces change the quality of the artwork?

This project explored the destruction of the emotional elements of the psyche, which I then responded to and reinterpreted into the destruction of the actual surface of the various surfaces I worked on. I was attracted to the idea of building up the surfaces with layers of paint, images, and text, which I then sanded down to unearth previous elements.

You say that the series raises questions “concerning manipulation, seduction, ego, and control". What was the inspiration for this project?

This series came out of a natural reaction from personal experience and healing from a narcissist relationship. In addition it was  fueled by Neil LaBute's film "In the Company of Men" and Sam Vaknin book,  Malignant Self Love: Narcissism Revisited. The film and the book helped to reflect how I was feeling and the behavior I was trying to understand. I ended up contacting both Neil and Sam, who then became interested in the project, and we began an emailing relationship.


How does painting and photography relate in “Portrait”?

The combination of painting and image was not necessarily intentional. Everything in this series was purely reactionary, and I opened up my studio to create a “factory” like workspace, which allowed for artist collaboration. Everything was spontaneous and experimental.

How important was the use of nudity in this project?

Nudity in this series was unintentional, and it was a evolution due to the subject matter. I started the series with my subjects clothed, but eventually they took on voyeuristic aspect of doing the shoot nude. The studio atmosphere allowed me to work with a lot of talented individuals who lent themselves to the project and then helped propel the creation of Narcissist Nation.

4804In your work you like to play with the idea of collage and texture. Can you speak more to that?

The use of collage in this series was a natural extension of my previous painting work. I'm a huge fan of the cult publication 'Manipulator Magazine." At party several years back I meet Uta Gruenberger, whom I expressed my love for the publication. The next day I received several issues delivered to my office.  It was from these that I started collaging the images, but I found that they we’re too precious to cut up.  As a result I began to shoot my own subjects. My method is layering images, text and paint, incorporating a sander to revel previous layers.

You speak of the use of ego in this series, how does it relate to your work on Narcissist Nation?

Through the collaboration of various artists and individuals on this series, Narcissist Nation became a natural evolution and extension of the project into the commercial domain. Narcissist Nation speaks to the ego and destruction of narcissism, and the endorsement of the brand mark excuses it. Narcissist Nation can develop creative, ego driven, clever, products and services.


What did you hope to achieve with this project?

After completing the series and starting the brand, the idea just became applicable to so many different avenues.  Fashion, beauty, home, etc., the brand “Narcissist Nation” now serves as a multi-dimensional platform. This project has drawn the curiosity of a variety of extremely talented individuals and brands. Recently it triggered a relationship with the Qatar Luxury Group, which awarded me a luxury fashion brand, soon to be announced.

Where do you see your artwork heading in the future?

I think after creating such a reactionary series, I’ve developed the need to take time to focus on honing my craft and taking it to a higher level. I’m still developing Narcissist Nation, but I will take a new direction in my fine art, still exploring.


Learn more about Michael's art HERE

Learn more about Narcissist Nation HERE


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