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Art & Life with Michael Elliott

Today we’d like to introduce you to Michael Elliott.

Michael, please kick things off for us by telling us about yourself and your journey so far.
I became acquainted with the creative process around the age of eight, at first creating art on paper in simple mediums what I observed around me. I grew up in rural Jamaica in the 1980’s where I knew from early on that I had an interest in visual arts.

Later on, in the 90’s I attended the Edna Manley College of the Visual and Performing Arts in Kingston, Jamaica where I studied painting and also photography. I fine-tuned my craft and developed a passion for photo realism painting after trying many techniques and genres in the art making process. Simultaneously I have developed my photography over the years alongside my painting which would be a critical aid and work tool to my paintings where getting reference content is concerned, although I produce my stand-alone photography concept pieces also, which are closely related to some of my paintings.

After leaving art school I gradually veered towards social commentary in my work, representing socio-political pieces about Jamaican life and culture as well as cultures further afield.

Some of my popular works to date are, “Storm in A Teacup”, “Donopoly”, “National Dish”, “The Flesh Ledgers” and “The June Fellowship”.

I have exhibited widely, mostly in Jamaica but also overseas in Europe, namely Germany and Italy. I had also been selected as The July 2018 artist in residence organized by DVCAI (Diaspora Vibe Cultural Arts Incubator) in Miami, where I spent a month creating works and sharing with the art community.

Can you give our readers some background on your art?
My pieces can be described as photorealism in most circles, but not limited to this technique. My process usually involves the camera first for the purpose of developing references for my content, I take as many photos based on the symbolism I want to depict, mostly for still life compositions or still life elements that I juxtapose with landscape imagery. I work primarily on canvas, drawing the image in pencil and shading most areas especially vital points with texture and light and shadow changes. Some of my work stays at photography itself with a mixture of photoshop play whenever a collage elements from different photos together. Much of the photography side as a medium is closely related in content to what I would normally do in paintings.

The paintings I do are conceptual in nature, often reflecting political and social issues past and current. I delve into these themes due to my interest in History and the sociology of human beings. I often think about what devices in my work I can use to represent these ideas and what I have found is that the more I read or watch whether it be news, articles or documentaries, the more it informs my palette of ideas. A recent idea I can pull from here is my “Empire Windrush” series where I used china ware tea cups and tea bags as my core symbolism to represent the British ideal of friendship, family and ‘The invitation’ which was granted to the many black British West Indians immigrating to London for the purpose of providing a labor force aiding in the rebuilding process after world war 2. The symbolism of the tea bag in this case is one of ‘being used and thrown away’.

My painting imagery can be inviting or even fun at face value, exhibiting vivid color at times, but there is always a corrupted twist to the tale that drags the viewer in even deeper. some images could be decoded right away and others will take more inspection.

I normally see myself as an artist who presents social issues through art, but I wouldn’t think of myself as trying to change the viewer’s opinion. Opening up the conversation is the objective and I recognize how a vivid image can leave an imprint on someone’s mind. I am even fascinated when viewers can divulge a slightly different narrative from my work than what I intended, it keeps the dialogue going.

At the end of the day I’m not just looking to wow viewers but also to give them a sense of reflection on the deeper issues that lie beneath the canvas.

In your view, what is the biggest issue artists have to deal with?
I think the biggest challenge facing artists is the navigation of the art world itself. As an artist who has traveled to different countries and witnessed art fairs and exhibitions and even spoken with artists, I realize that there is a complex culture with many layers such as class, race and what is considered Avant Garde. The sliding scale keeps changing rapidly and the relevance of artists in significant art circles can change in a short space of time. It speaks to the volume or saturation of the market where everyone is competing for space, which can keep artists on their toes. This can push an artist to significant lengths to keep up his quality and knowledge of what is happening in the art world.

What’s the best way for someone to check out your work and provide support?


* ‘Living Sculpture 3’. Diaspora Vibe Cultural Arts Incubator affiliated exhibition.

* The Cage Gallery, Edna Manley College of the Visual and Performing Arts, (April 2018)

* ‘Double Xposure’ Exhibition of Photography, Gallery Décor VIII, Jamaica (November 2017)

* ‘Jamaica Biennial 2017’. National Gallery of Jamaica (February 2017)

* ‘Jamaica Biennial 2014’. National Gallery of Jamaica (December 2014)

* Sala Ostrichina Piazza Gioachino. Bacoli, Naples Italy (September 2012)

* ‘Hidden Sense’. Gallery of Art, Administrative Court, Stuttgart Germany (March 2012)

* ‘Jamaica Biennial 2012’. National Gallery of Jamaica (December 2012)

* ‘Jamaica Biennial 2010’. National Gallery of Jamaica (December 2010)

* ‘Young Talent V’. National Gallery of Jamaica (June 2010)

* ‘Jamaica Biennial 2008’. National Gallery of Jamaica (December 2008)

* ‘Michael Elliott Solo’. Cage Gallery, Edna Manley College, Kingston (October 2008)

* ’Kingston on the Edge Art Festival’. Grosvenor Gallery, Kingston Jamaica (July 2008)

* ‘JCDC Art Exhibition’. National Gallery of Jamaica (July 2008)

* ‘Kingston on the Edge Art Festival’. 128 Gallery, Kingston Jamaica (July 2007)

* ‘Jamaica Biennial 2006’. National Gallery of Jamaica (December 2006)

* ‘Under 40 Artist of the Year Competition’. Mutual Gallery, Jamaica (Apr 2004)

* ‘Jamaica Biennial 2002’. National Gallery of Jamaica (December 2002)

* ‘Young Generation 2002’. Mutual Gallery, Jamaica (July 2002)

* ‘Final Year Show 2002’. Edna Manley College of the Visual Arts (June 2002)

Persons can view my work on my at website

Contact Info:

  • Phone: 876-534-4011
  • Email:
  • Instagram: @studio_michaelelliott
  • Twitter: @studio_m_e

Image Credit:

Loi Laing (artist at work image)

Getting in touch: VoyageMIA is built on recommendations from the community; it’s how we uncover hidden gems, so if you know someone who deserves recognition please let us know here.

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