Mic Porter is synonymous with graffiti, urban and contemporary art in Melbourne. Having been beautifying Melbourne’s streets since the early 2000’s, Mic has recently returned with a vengeance. Speaking from his new studio in Melbourne’s inner north, we took ten minutes with Mic to discover a little more.
Damo: Could you introduce yourself and tell us a little about your art?
Mic: My name is Mic Porter and I am a painter and sculptor, with a background in a few other mediums as well. I have been practicing for several years and really enjoy what I do. I am based on Melbourne but have travelled quite a bit and manage to experience many cultures. More recently I lived in Auckland for three years.
I don’t exactly know how to classify my style whether or not it is a style or not. I try and jump around a little bit from being like really loose and free with my line work and then make it really tight, either way I tend to be fastidious. I mostly create figurative painting and sculpture but I’ve also done a lot of installation sculpture.
Damo: Like you did the Yarra Sculpture Gallery in your recent residency?
Mic: Yeah that was a sort of installation of sorts. A lot of my practice involves collecting rubbish that’s reusable for art purposes like steel that I can weld together, plastic that I can melt together or timber that I can screw or nail together. If it is painting it has traditionally been buckets of paint that’s recycled from hard rubbish, from the tip or someone’s shed. Recently I have invested in high quality oil paint, boards and canvas as I am preparing for a show at Backwoods Gallery later in the year, which I am really excited about. I am moving towards produce high quality pieces which will stand the test of time, I feel I owe it to my work to think about its continuance.
Damo: One man’s trash is another man’s treasure?
Mic: That’s right I try and be environmentally friendly and repurpose. I haven’t liked buying things from the shops because I feel like it’s out there somewhere waiting for me.
Damo: You’re quite well known for your large, kind of grotesque faces. How did you get into doing that? Because I know you’ve been doing this on the streets since the early 2000s. What’s the story behind them?
Mic: They are sort of self-portrait to some degree. Some sort of emotional feeling or depiction of an expression that I might be feeling. For example happiness with a big smile or sadness with a big evil grin.
I’d like to say that it’s sort of just practice, for me they are all just processes along the way, I enjoy anatomical drawing. So I’m quite interested in how it all works in terms of expression, gesture and even color; what colors to paint where. It’s just a learning process.
Damo: How has Melbourne changed in the time you’ve been gone?
Mic: I think there is a lot of interesting stuff around and it is really exciting. I missed out on a lot. Melbourne is really nice because they don’t buff like they do in Auckland. Melbourne doesn’t have zero tolerance for graffiti, so you can see what people did over the last couple of years. In Auckland, they have zero tolerance to graffiti, so you can’t see other people’s development, you can’t see a tag they did a couple years ago compared to now because it’s not there, it’s non-existent. Melbourne has got a lot of that progress. You can progress through someone’s hand styles or murals and follow that development and change.
Damo: Definitely, do you find the process behind your sculpture work, street work and your painting work is it different in any way or do you go into everything the same way?
Mic: I guess I’m using the same head to produce the same set of ideas.
Damo: but if you’re creating a sculpture do you decide what you want to do first and then find the rubbish to use or do you have the bits and go ‘oh I’m going to make…’?
Mic: For my show at the Yarra Sculpture Gallery I collected things along the way. It was really an intensive sort of collection and things just came together. I’d be walking down the street and there is a pile of shit that would be perfect for a certain project. Then slowly bit by bit several sculptures accumulated in my mind and as I was processing I would be finding bits and pieces. Similarly with my painting I don’t start with a sketch or anything I just paint on the wall and work the shape of the wall into the composition.
Damo: Is there particular medium that you prefer?
Mic: I really like painting on a big scale. I haven’t had a lot of opportunities to do that but the times I have I really loved it and I’d love to do that more often. It’s hard to find the right sort of spot or potential sponsor to paint whatever you want without any restrictions.
I enjoy painting like you said ‘grotesque images’ maybe with penises and vaginas as parts of the face. Sort of surrealist art with an erotic overtone. It’s hard to find someone willing to be happy with whatever. Sometimes people place restrictions: ‘you can do this but don’t do that.’ I’m not interested in that I need the freedom to do whatever you want whenever you want but unfortunately that’s not the real world.
Damo: You mentioned you have a show coming up this year.
Mic: Yes, at Melbourne’s Backwoods Gallery.
Damo: Do you have any idea at the moment what people can expect to see in that show? Have you got in your mind what that show is about?
Mic: I’ve started brainstorming about what things I need to collect to potentially create an installation. I was thinking about building a little house inside the gallery. Something like the a small homeless shelters in Japan. I find it amazing the way they live inside these what would be kind of a cubicle, a small cardboard box with all their beautiful embellishments. I thought I’d love to set up a squat inside the gallery and just use that as part of my process. I don’t know how I come to the idea but just to make my work with authenticity I want to make it how I always make it. I don’t want to make it all in the studio and then just deliver it.
I would like to present it as a residency, even if it’s just a collection of my belongings. I could put my mattress in the space, my buckets and paint and spray cans and some clothes just make a little… ‘this is me and this is my life.’
Damo: Do you want people to take anything from your work when they’re looking at it, or you’re just doing it for you because it’s what you love and if they take something away, cool?
Mic: Yeah I guess I like to incorporate the viewer of it and use them. Often I’m working from my intuition and I don’t really care how good it looks because in the end I’m rarely happy with it anyway. You know it’s ugly shit but I’ve got to do it. The process is you’ve got to make stuff. Often it is really fairly ugly and you know nobody would want it, which to me is good. I like that aspect of it, it just looks like crap, too dirty.
For the show at Backwoods, I’m painting oil on canvas just to bring it up to that level of art gallery rather than just painting some rubbish or doodling on cardboard. Make it into something worth looking at. It’s tricky because it’s on a plinth now, nside a white room and if it’s painted on rubbish, that’s likely what it will look like!!
Damo: Since you returned to Melbourne I’ve noticed you’ve been painting a lot with Bailer, and getting involved on a few big productions. Why is collaboration important to you?
Mic: I think as a solo artist I’m a bit narrow, I feel a bit narrow-minded and I think working with other people is fantastic because you can bounce off them and it’s really important. Any support is great and it’s always great to be able to learn of your fellow artists.
Damo: You were saying when we met the first time you recently had a child. Has that changed the way you look at things at all. Have you noticed that change in your art or…?
Mic: Not heaps but I feel like I’ve got a bit of a kick in the bum and now I’ve got to pull my socks up and do some serious work and focus on my future rather than just being a loiterer. It’s definitely got me thinking that being an artist is what I’ve got to push for, it’s what I’m passionate about so I should really continue with it rather than just loitering around rubbish bins!!
Damo: (Laughing) I always finish on this question. What do you want to be known for?
Mic: Nothing… I don’t want to be remembered or known for anything silly. When somebody says “you’re like this” I immediately try and switch it up, swap it and do the opposite. I was doing really loose, but hard sort of line drawing and somebody said “I really like that.” I said to myself ‘okay I’m going to just do pointillism and dot painting.’ To me this is the opposite of the sort of brutal lines and hard edge kind of drawing styles, so yeah, now I’m doing a bit of that now.
This Thursday 1 June 2017 Mic releases his new project ‘Discarded’ – 480 drawings on found objects, each only AU$25 including shipping. For more details hit @micporterart.