Mikael Olson brings a visual dialogue to Vail International Gallery
A self-proclaimed hermit, Mikael Olson will be the first to say that his preferred method of communication is via paintbrush and canvas.
When Vail International Gallery sent him on his first trip to New York City this spring with the hope of producing a fresh body of work to show this summer, the Denver artist walked away with plenty of fodder for the urban-themed pieces — but also a blast of new perspective to provide inspiration for years to come.
“The main thing was for me to diversify and get new energy to my work,” Olson says of his NY trip. “It’s one of the best places to go for that. I was amazed at how much of a melting pot it is, walking around corners and discovering hidden areas. It’s beautiful how there are so many secrets to it. I only scratched the surface.”
Growing up in Evergreen, you’d scarcely ever find Olson without sketchbook in hand. But it wasn’t until attending Rocky Mountain College of Art and Design and taking classes with renowned painter Quang Ho that Olson began seriously delving into the mantra of oil painting.
“That changed everything,” Olson says. “That made painting more about visual dialogue. It wasn’t about the object, but like a philosophy. You can find beauty in everything, anything. You also have to convey that to the viewer, even if it’s not obvious beauty … like a funky alley in the middle of nowhere.”
The objects in Olson’s work — whether a typewriter, a porch scene, a streetscape — are not so important as the composition. The figures in his paintings are generally blurred and faceless, colors blend into one another as in a faded old photograph or as if the scene is disappearing. His dialogue targets the dynamic between color saturation and how the scene appears as a whole. This, he says, is “the visual experience.”
What fascinated him most in New York City, where he took more than 2,000 photographs, was not the density of people and buildings or the relentlessly fast pace. All of these things left an impression, of course, but what struck him most was the light. It’s the light and dark that dictate his NYC-inspired pieces.
“It’s like a dusk all the time, you’re so deep in these concrete valleys. I stopped under some bridges and the light coming through was astonishingly beautiful,” he says. “If you ran by it really quickly and saw it peripherally you wouldn’t see the details and the smaller shapes. In this frame, you see light and dark.”
Mikael Olson’s new body of work premieres at Vail International Gallery with an opening on July 5.