Remarks by

Michael Lasoff

I was born in Chicago, 1948, from Russian, Polish, French and Greek lineage which has long connected me to European origins. My own way of thinking and being has been formed by Dutch experiences and a mingling of all these various other sensibilities.

I began drawing cartoons at the age of six and by thirteen was already under the spell of Matisse, Picasso and other moderns. I had by then decided to become an artist and had the good luck to allowed into the Minneapolis School of Fine Arts in Minnesota and later Ateliers '63 in Haarlem. Here I met and received lessons by such diverse artists as Christo, George Segal, Roberto Matta, Kurt Sondenborg, Michael O'Neill and Martial Rayesse. Among my teachers in Holland were Edgar Fernhout, Rainier Luccassen and Co Westerik. After receiving an art diploma in America in 1972, I traveled extensively, a period of assimilation in Italy from the early Renaissance painters to Tibetan philosophy in Dharamsala, India. I eventually settled in Holland where I met my wife whom has always been an inspiration to me, even after her early death.

A painting for me begins subconsciously. As gestured or applied paint marks, smudges and lines slowly stimulate my fantasy, more recognizable figures begin to emerge. Using acrylic paint, layer on layer, the surface builds up a vibration or electricity. The underpainting becomes its own inner network connecting points of energy over the canvas. Apart from brushes, the tools of my trade include sponges, putty knives, spray paint cans, or anything that seems to me appropriate to get the surface the way I want it to be.

The legacy of the first generation of modern artists, namely the fusion: form/color, is very important to me. That is to say after Cezanne,"When color approaches it's greatest richness, the form will fill to perfection." I don't feel really bound to a color law or any law for that matter. Yet frequently I set up my own regulations and restrictions before beginning my work. For example, my pallet will only consist of a few pigments or I will only concentrate on one part of a picture leaving the rest as one single flat color. Only within restrictions do I find absolute freedom.

Quite often one or more figures stare at or away from the viewer in what seems to me a meditation. In a manner of speaking , it is a window to my soul. The things it says are to me as much as to the outside world, unexpected, funny, touching or penetrating. I quite often like using opposites. Tensions exist between busy and quiet areas, large pastel areas offset by intense accents of bright colors, painterly sections scribbled over with drawing like lines.

My work as an open story. All the elements of a narrative are present as individual images within the painting. The viewer may arrange them in his own way. That's not to say I have no intentions in my work. I am deeply involved in the "human situation" and in that almost obsolete word, "beauty". However the power of effective visual art is that it speaks through itself and not language. My paintings speak for themselves.

Over the years I have developed a style that has no name nor can be placed within a movement. It is my own style and I think uniquely my own. It makes me happy to paint and even happier when my paintings speak to people in a positive way.

Michael Lasoff



Michael Lasoff sept 2008

It is not often that I write about my art but this year, 2008, marks a dramatic development in my painting which demands some sort of explanation. Why all the changes this year? What happened?

This year, after ongoing shows for exactly twenty years, I decided to retire from the hectic world of exhibitions and to focus solely on my painting without the burdens of organizing, publicity, managing finances, etc. I felt I needed space and time to be myself completely, as a creative artist without any outside disturbances.

The year began with a hammering start; two huge colorful triptychs summing up my gains and losses in life and art. After this, what followed were two more triptychs and additional efforts, this time marked by the absence of much of the color pallet that I am known for. The pallet was restricted to three or four pre-mixed pigments. Restraint of color was desired to distinguish the forms in a clearer way than until now. I hunted after new shapes and compositions. I sought to experience color in a different and astonishing way. Added to my pallet were metallic colors like aluminum, bronze, silver, and even gold. Since being very young I have loved metal. Working in metal shop as a student was one of my favorite apprenticeships. Further the texture or skin of the painting has become an important issue for this new work. The rough ever changing surface is created first with acrylic modeling paste combined sometimes with quartz sand, other times with chalk. These surfaces have opened up so many new possibilities to experiment with light. A number of the paintings are almost sculptural relief. In various canvases I have used inference acrylics. These are pigments that can appear in a different way from diverse viewing points. The spectator who shifts his looking position is revealed novel aspects of the work.

I have always painted nudes within a mental landscape of forms, colors and occasional attributes such as animals, structures, rock formations, half-dream figures, plants. The subject matter has not changed but the facial expressions and the body gestures have. The stories inherent in the subject matter remain open but for me they are more personal than before. Some people might be surprised to see an abstract work. This is a huge four piece multiple using just four basic color squares. Why? Because I just liked it the way it was and did not want to go on to clutter the beautiful surfaces with anything more than what it was, compelling and invocative.

A change in work must indicate a change in character, at least with me it is so. I feel more than ever, confident, happy with maturity, free to be in all ways my own distinctive being. After a one year studio retreat, I am coming back to the art world armed with neither more nor less than work that testifies to my belief in painting and in myself.

Michael Lasoff


New Directions in 2009

Lasoff Feb 2009

After a year of experimenting with monochromatic schemes, of swimming around in grey, silver and bronze, a rainbow of colors has slowly opened up again. Delving deep into darkness has led me curiously enough slowly back into a world of new light. The prism was never broken or lost; it was just waiting to have light redirected through it in a new way. The discipline or working with a limited pallet has taught me many things about composition and structure. Having learned this, having taken this restricted path, my new work has returned to a more familiar ground of color yet with a different emphasis and tonal reach.

My choice to work with granulated textures and surfaces helps highlight the new tones. The refraction of light on a slight three dimensional surface gives the viewer a chance to see the paintings differently from diverse view points. It also makes my work almost impossible to photograph. That said, this website must only serve as a reference point for people's memories. I hope they will be able to see the work as it really exists.

Another new development is the use of handmade paper stretched over the linen. Paper absorbs paint in a completely different way than cloth. In some of the areas I have let the original paper breath through the work, in other areas it is just the structure that works from behind.

Talking shop, chatting about technique is a pleasure that almost every artist will partake in. Discussing the mysterious world of visual content is a world that most artists are allergic to. It is a ground that critics, dealers and museum people feel comfortable in. I'm not sure who knows better. No one can describe a delicious dinner properly, nor a wonderful piece of music. Our senses perceive in very different ways. To tell you why I use a certain image or what it means, I think would only ruin the taste of it, because it is not the real thing, it is not the painting in itself.

Michael Lasoff


Return to Painting 2010

Michael Lasoff Sept 13, 2010

If anyone is surprised at my new work, the one who is most surprised is myself. Following a long departure from the frozen imagery of paintings into the time-oriented mediums of music and film-making, I suddenly was attracted back into my old territory. With more than a year of not painting, I began to expect there would be no return to it. And then miraculously the process began again. This is what happened.

Michael Lasoff


Mission and Commitment 2011

Michael Lasoff Portrait 2011

Recently I have thought abundantly about the personal meaning and motivations of my work. Being engrossed with music and film-making gave so much gratification, that doubts began to arise as to why I was painting at all. There was an overbearing feeling of obligation while the other arts were just pure pleasure. After embarking on painting again, I began to realize that perhaps the reason I am so devoted to my brushes and pigments is that in the end I really do enjoy it. Even with all the pressure of duty, the physical and mental impositions, the fringe concerns of selling, promoting, etc., all sooner or later remain subordinate to my penultimate passion to paint. The only solution for my frustrations is to accept the bad with the good. If I seem overburdened with a feeling of mission, then let that be as it is. I am late in life finally aware of the talents that are within me. These gifts demand to be employed and flourish. So perhaps it is even a marvelous function that my mind won't let me with peace and constantly pushes me further. For now I yield to this commitment.

Michael Lasoff



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