Gallery Artist Michael Bartmann is an oil painter exploring the complex histories of industrial spaces. Bartmann has recently completed a series of grandiose paintings of abandoned infrastructures as a part of our current exhibition “De/Reconstruct.”
Bartmann grew up in Reading, Pennsylvania, where his fascination with abandoned structures began. This interest lead to Bartmann’s first career as a landscape architect, which eventually inspired him to investigate his artistic pursuits both academically and professionally. He studied painting at the Pennsylvania Academy of Fine Art and has exhibited in several galleries across Pennsylvania and New Jersey.
Bartmann is the recipient of the William Emlen Cresson Memorial Travel Scholarship from the Pennsylvania Academy of Fine Art. His work is also featured in the collections of the Pennsylvania Convention Center, Aphton Cooperation, The University of Pennsylvania’s Wharton School of Business, and Physicians Care Surgery Hospital in Royersford, Pennsylvania.
Bartmann's creative process begins when he is struck with curiosity by an abandoned space. He investigates the history of industrialization within the area he is working, the past functions of the building, the demographics of the populations who have lived and/or worked there, etc. Shortly after, he visits the space. Once there, Bartmann analyzes the lingering energy within the building and takes photographs that will later act as references for his painting.
The phases of Bartmann's process are as constructive and deconstructive as the evolution of his subject matter. The journey continues with traditional painting methods, where he creates a precise sketch of his subject and creates a clean, opaque underpainting. As time progresses, Bartmann introduces palette knives and sandpaper to "layer chaos" in his painting; aiming to represent both the trauma and joy that the building has endured.
Reflecting on the role of the palette knife in his work, Bartmann states “I will use it to pick paint up and move it around. I’m looking for something.”
Bartmann's unique process that combines research and exploration of forgotten spaces with building up and sanding down his canvas has yielded a brand new series of works for the gallery this winter. While his methodology may seem tumultuous, one needs to only see his studio to understand the precision and thoughtfulness with which he works.
Take a peek inside, below!
Michael Bartmann's studio in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania.
The artist allocates "space" as the primary subject matter of his work. He acknowledges how the energy created within a space has great power over one's psyche; how specific physical circumstances can either make or break your everyday experiences. Bartmann aims to honor the range of positive and negative experiences felt within a space through the complex layering of colors and textures in his work.
Michael Bartmann, Transition III 2022. Oil on board, 36 x 72 x 2 inches.
In addition to space, Michael Bartmann's industrial works also capture the air and atmosphere that exist between walls. He associates the density of the air and the visibility of the architecture as symbols of the passage of time. Bartmann shared, “in the interior, when I set up columns, they’re like a marking of time."
These elements also embody the lasting ghostly entities of individuals who have walked the building's halls.
"All the ghosts are in there..." - Michael Bartmann