Exhibit preview: Painter Michael Bush presents four exhibits connected through community

Staff Writer
Columbus Alive

To celebrate his upcoming 40th birthday, artist Michael Bush decided to put on four gallery exhibits in April. Even though this is a special occasion in Bush’s life, he’s taken this moment to recognize the friends, mentors and fellow creators who have influenced him over the years.

Each of the four exhibitions (at Stone Village Church, Gallery Denmark, Hot Head Salon and The Vanderelli Room) has its own distinctive series of work. But all come with a reference to the Columbus arts community because Bush said the group has supported and inspired him throughout his career.

The concepts for this four-exhibit showcase were borne out of Bush’s connection to local artists. Ten years ago Doug Fordyce, a friend of Bush’s, held an exhibit for his 40th birthday around the same time Bush was starting his career as a self-taught artist. Fordyce created 40 pieces for that exhibit, which Bush kept coming back to while planning this project.

“The one Doug did 10 years ago really spoke to me — him putting out so much work and showing himself at that time. I was new to the art scene at that time, just started painting myself, so it was an inspiration to see that. Now I’m turning 40 and thought, ‘What’s going to happen? What am I going to do?’ As I was thinking about that, Doug’s show kept popping up in my head. I wanted to do something similar without doing the 40 for 40 thing,” Bush said during an interview at his 400 West Rich studio.

While the project, which Bush started in Jan. 2014, shocases a style he’s mastered over the years, it also pushes him in exciting new directions. Bush’s abstract paintings experiment with different materials manipulated with unconventional objects — no brushes — on canvas. Bush often lays the canvas flat and adds paint, water and other materials, letting the fluids swirl into organic configurations that ask the viewer to find their own interpretations.

“My intent is to leave the viewer wondering,” Bush said. “I always joke that I was a psych major in college and the Rorschach helped me get to where I’m at as an artist. I started painting based on an art therapy course.”

The transformation Bush has taken with his most recent works augments his swirling abstractions with either minimalist backgrounds or an “editing” process that produces a figure out of the abstractions.

The exhibit “The Positives of Negatives” at Gallery Denmark is characterized by Bush using white (negative) space. This technique — done by either leaving a portion of the canvas untouched (as seen in “When Your Soul Has Wings”) or “editing” with white paint over the abstract image — is a stimulating example of restraint. The pieces are immediately eye-catching, despite the modicum color palette.

Bush took this approach and further expounded it by using a mixture of colors (mainly pastels and soft hues) to “edit” abstract works into figurative works like “I Ain’t No Perfect Man,” which will be on view in “Head Games” at Stone Village Church in April.

“I’d always been scared of negative space. As an abstract artist, you always want to cover the entire canvas. But for these [new paintings] I wanted to focus the viewer’s perception of the piece, instead of giving them the chance to decipher what it is for themselves. I took the abstractions and started carving out the images that I saw,” Bush said. “

The other two exhibits couldn’t be more different. At Hot Head Salon, Bush will showcase a handful of smaller paintings (“Small Wonders”) while “The Road Won’t Love You” atThe Vanderelli Room is the pièce de résistance.

Bush will show his largest collection — at least 40 paintings, including a few works that represent the techniques used in each of the other three exhibits — and the collaborative pieces he created with a host of other artists, including, among others, Stephanie Rond, David Gentilini Alicia Vanderelli and Ralph Walters. For those Bush would start the piece and hand it off to the other artist and they would either work around the abstraction or create a new scene all together. Some were passed back and forth multiple times.

“Sometimes you never realize how much you’re inspired by other artists and things like that until you send work to other people … That gets me going as well, just to be able to look at [art] with somebody who understands why it’s important, and why I Iove it. It warms the heart,” Bush said.

Photos by Meghan Ralston

"Head Games"

Stone Village Church

April 4-30

Opening reception: 5:30-8:30 p.m. Saturday, April 4

139 E. Second Ave., Italian Village


"The Positives of Negatives"

Gallery Denmark

April 4-30

Opening reception: 8:30 p.m. Saturday, April 4

463 N. High St., Short North


"The Road Won't Love You"

The Vanderelli Room

April 10-25

Opening reception: 7 p.m. Friday, April 10

218 McDowell St., Franklinton


"Small Wonders"

Hot Head Salon

Through April 20

122 Graceland Blvd., Worthington