June 22, 2016

New Jersey-based Artist Michael De Brito Creates Lifelike Art

New Jersey-based artist Michael De Brito answers our questions on his artwork, methods, and inspiration.

by New York Spaces

Michael De Brito
"Kitchen Table" 2012. Oil on canvas, 74" x 96"
Michael De Brito
"Astrid" 2016. Oil on canvas, 20" x 14"

NYS: Why and when did you decide to pursue art as a career?

Michael De Brito: Art was always something I was extremely passionate about. I wanted to draw and paint all the time, and at a young age, I decided art was the only career I wanted to pursue.

NYS: How would you describe your work? What are your go-to mediums?

Michael De Brito: My work can be described as representational art with a reference to historical traditional painting methods and the interpretation of a contemporary reality. I strive to modernize classical painting methods to accurately capture everyday life.

My go-to mediums of choice are oils, pastels, charcoal and pencil.

NYS: How has your work changed over the years?

Michael De Brito: The more I experience the more it reflects in my work. I have grown to understand that painting was always about capturing the feeling I had in that moment more so than what it actually looked like. Even my technique of working alla prima directly stems from the need of capturing the immediacy of a moment, expression or feeling and quickly putting it down on canvas.

NYS: Is there an art period you most identify with? If so, how does it show through your work?

Michael de Brito
"Lunch" 2015. Oil on canvas, 5" x 7"

Michael De Brito: Right now, I am very focused on 19th-century art. I reference the paintings of Édouard Manet, John Singer Sargent, and Joaquin Sorolla quite often. The draw and intrigue of these paintings are the questions we are left with, once we have spent time observing them. There is also a remarkable amount of consideration that goes into the composition, color and symbolism of these pieces and they continuously inspire me.

I try to approach my work with sensitivity and consideration to these same principles.

NYS: How long does it take you to finish a piece? Let's say something along the lines of your artwork, Lunch?

Michael De Brito: Lunch took about a week to paint, it is about 5x7 inches. When I work on a small piece, such as Lunch, I approach it as I would a large painting with fluid brushwork and spontaneity. These little paintings can sometimes be more challenging then the larger pieces because of the limited space and smaller brushes.

Some of my larger paintings such as Kitchen Table (74 x 96 in) can take about 2 months. Most of that time is spent making preparatory drawings and compositional studies that need to be addressed before I begin a larger piece.

Michael de brito
"Woman with Chouricos III" 2012. Oil on canvas, 81" x 61"

NYS: How do you create such realistic paintings? Many of them could easily be confused for photographs!

Michael De Brito: Yes, from a distance that might seem so, but up close my work is very loosely painted. I enjoy paint and how it feels on the surface of the canvas. My method of working is direct painting—a technique referred to as alla prima. I work on a painting in sections and complete each section within one working session. I rarely rework back into a painting, so once the piece feels completed to me, it's time to move on.

NYS: What draws you to establishing a narrative in your work?

Michael De Brito: The narrative comes out of a human emotion or experience I want to capture. However, as I start the piece, I let my emotions and memory of an experience dictate my direction and when the painting is complete—the direction of the painting speaks for itself. I am intrigued by the fact the no one will experience a moment in the same way, and it is that uniqueness that I try to capture by leaving my paintings always open to the viewer's interpretation and letting their own life experience play a role in completing the narrative. It is that intangible connection, which the viewer and me share that lies beyond a defined narrative for me.

NYS: Do you paint commissioned portraits or scenes?

Michael De Brito: Yes, if the subject matter or person intrigues me, I will take on a commissioned piece.

NYS: What fascinates you and troubles you about the art world?

Michael De Brito: I'm fascinated that the art world today has embraced representational art in an unprecedented way. Conceptual art has allowed people to view art in a more subjective, non-literal way. Now that representational art is more widespread, audiences are realizing that representational art, such as figurative art, can be just as emotionally layered and open to interpretation as conceptual art.

What I find troubling about the art world, is how much we are inundated with imagery on social media. I find art, in its original form, can sometimes be less appreciated.

NYS: What are you working on now?

Michael de brito
Michael De Brito at the Galeria Graca Brandao.

Michael De Brito: Right now I'm working on a group of paintings of women that combine traditional pictorial composition and their expressive values with a contemporary reality. I'm exploring contemporary subjects using a variety of techniques originating from Dutch, Spanish and English art. I want the format of these paintings to take on more historical shapes such as ovals and circles and also large full-length portraits.

NYS: Where would you most like to show your artwork?

Michael De Brito: I would like to see my work in an NYC or LA gallery that puts figurative artwork on a contemporary platform in the same way that The New Museum has remained committed to their ongoing vocation to presenting living contemporary artists within a traditional museum setting and in an alternative space.

NYS: Whose work would you most like to own and vice versa?

Michael De Brito: After going to see Luc Tuymans' recent show, I would very much enjoy owning one of his pieces. With the same esteem, I would welcome the chance to be part of his personal collection.

NYS: Where can we find you?

Michael De Brito: Right now, I am in a show called "Affectionate Constellations" at the Galeria Graça Brandao in Lisbon, Portugal, www.galeriagracabrandao.com, the Nevada Museum of Art, John and Mary Lou Paxton Collection, and online at www.michaeldebrito.com.

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