Studio Visit: Michael Marrella

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Michael Marrella is an artist living and working in New Jersey. His work can be seen in PLEAT's April 2018 exhibition as well as michaelmarrella.com.

Please describe your work. 
My process functions off momentary inclinations and spontaneity. I try to approach each session with a clear head, which isn’t always possible, so the act of painting itself helps clear restrictions and old mental materials from my mind. Ideally I start and finish a painting in one session. Conceptually that makes the most sense. But it doesn’t always work out that way so in returning to a piece I often cover up, scrape off, or destroy what was there. This makes room for current ideas to demonstrate themselves and take over the surface. 

What internal and external factors motivate your conceptual choices? 
Most of my decisions are determined by momentary inspirations - relationships between colors and textures; or re-discovering old interactions of materials after pulling, scraping or sanding them from a surface. I collect a lot of studio debris. Paint cans, scrapings, old pallets. Sometimes I recycle these things into my paintings. Even though these materials were man-made, they seem to reflect processes in nature, and that’s also where I draw a lot of inspiration. I like to think the micro-details of my paintings resemble the details, variations and micro-complexities you might see in things in nature.

Who are your artistic influences and what have you learned from them?
Joe Bradley’s oil paintings, Mark Grotjahn’s faces and masks, and Jennifer Guidi. What I’ve learned from them is quality of lines and marks. Repetition and ritual with Jennifer Guidi. Directedness and physicality with Joe Bradley. And intensity in Mark Grotjahn’s abstract portraits. All of their painting develops through persistent work. It is very physical, very raw. It seems very real in the way that it brings hidden feelings and associations to the surface.

How has social media affected your studio practice? 
Social media has made everything very accessible. After graduating college, I felt pretty isolated in terms of my studio practice. Instagram has been integral in allowing me to make my studio and work visible and accessible, where I may not have otherwise had that opportunity. It’s allowed me to connect with a lot of great artists and see their work change and develop over time. Most of my influences now are artists that I’ve found on Instagram, and most of them are not very well known. There are so many great artists out there and Instagram fosters a sense of community.