Six questions for
Michael Swann

Tique asks six questions to an artist about their work and inspiration.
This week: Michael Swann.

Artist Michael Swann
Lives in Bristol, UK

How do you describe your own art practice?

A photographic exploration of unphotographable things.

Which question or theme is central in your work?

My aim is to visualise the invisible (be it an apparition as in my project ‘Noema, or philosophical ideas around aspects of sexuality, love and devotion as in my current project ‘An Ascension’) and to try to convince the viewer that something exists within the frame that sits outside the visual realm. I always want to use photography as a way of representing something intangible, be that in a symbolic or metaphoric way.

What was your first experience with art?

I can’t remember my exact first experience with art, as I recall always having had a fascination with it as a child. I do, however, remember the first exhibition I fell in love with, which was at the Ikon Gallery in Birmingham (my home city) in 2007 called ‘Never Endings’, showing works by the British artist Cornelia Parker. The themes Parker approaches in her work, and particularly in the pieces shown at this exhibition, have deeply inspired my own practise.

What is your greatest source of inspiration?

Nothing inspires me more than music, and it is something I often rely on when it comes to making work. With every image I make, I consider the way it would be soundtracked if it were a scene in a film, and this often leads me to new ideas to help build on my projects. While making ‘Noema’, I made a playlist of tracks that I felt best represented the atmosphere or feeling I wanted to convey through the imagery; so while I was shooting in Garabandal or Medjugorje, if I ever felt stuck or lacking in inspiration, I could listen to music and inevitably be put back on track.

What do you need in order to create your work?

Noise and a deadline.

What work or artist has most recently surprised you?

Ying Ang’s project/book ‘The Quickening’ recently stunned me, it’s a beautifully shot and presented body of work that fuses visual styles expertly. Earlier this month Arca’s series of albums ‘Kick ii-iiiii’ consumed me, and I’m continually surprised by how many compelling and fresh ideas she has. I also recently saw the Stephen Gill exhibition ‘Coming Up For Air’ at the Arnolfini in Bristol and while I knew a lot of his work already, seeing it in person, masterfully printed and framed, placed it in an entirely new light for me.

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