early works: 1968-1974

In the more confident, colourful England that followed the pallor of the post-war years, Michael Gorman studied Fine Art at the University of Newcastle from 1965 to 1969. Under the leadership of Pop Art pioneer, Richard Hamilton, Newcastle provided a stimulating studio environment for the Fine Art student body.

Of particular interest to Michael Gorman were the technological advancements in printing techniques – the dots per inch techniques which facilitated a proliferation of magazine supplements in saturated colour – and Photorealist painting. The emerging British art scene had recently produced some remarkable figurative painters including David Hockney who visited the department whilst Gorman studied there.

Professional success came quickly as, in 1972, Michael Gorman was invited to exhibit a concurrent solo show at The Serpentine Gallery, London. In Art International‘s review, Gorman’s work was cited as an example of painting reinventing itself in the light of photography. Two years later Michael Gorman was invited to show in the Rothman’s touring exhibition of Canada: Aspects of Reality, International Survey of Current Realism, and was selected for the prestigious John Moores, Liverpool (1974).

The influence of photographic techniques is clear as Gorman produced supersized close-ups zooming in at giant scale, or unfamiliar, depersonalising crops. Rowney used leading artists’ work in its promotional campaign for the Cryla acrylic paint range. The print promotion featured Gorman’s ‘Head of the Church‘ – an example of a scaled-up photorealistic painting produced with the company’s cutting edge painting materials.

Rowney’s Cryla campaign selected young artists to promote its versatility

Already, in these early paintings, themes emerge which the artist has returned to over the subsequent decades: objects of desire; the female form; working at scale; demographic shifts in society; the juxtaposition of the old with the new. Years later (early 1990s), before the term ‘multiculturalism’ had been coined, Gorman was looking at the shifts in society in the industrial north of England and produced several paintings reflecting on ‘new’ faces in ‘old’ places.

The work would often combine traditional European iconography or historical settings and models from immigrant communities, ‘Bradford Gothic‘ (below) is part of this intriguing strand in Michael Gorman’s work. See also the earlier ‘Notes from a Multi-racial Society‘ on the Photorealism section of this website.

Bradford Gothic, 1992  Acrylic on canvas