Michael Alford is a British figurative artist.
He is known for an expressive painting style that fuses classical technique with a sharp, modern sensibility. He lives and works in London and exhibits extensively in the United Kingdom, the United States and continental Europe.
Michael’s varied body of work reflects an interest in many types of painting. He is well known for powerful cityscapes of contemporary urban centers—especially London—and for landscapes that capture diverse geographies through the eyes of a passionate traveler.
His paintings of figures, clothed and nude, are sought after for their combination of fine draughtsmanship, acute observation and sense of drama. A sensitive portraitist, Michael is frequently commissioned to paint individuals and groups.
Michael’s earliest art training came from his father, a colonel in the Royal Engineers, who taught him to draw in perspective from a young age. After a stint in the Royal Marines, Michael studied Spanish and Arabic at Durham University. He travelled extensively in South America and the Middle East, keeping detailed sketchbooks to record his experiences. He later studied art at the Slade School and the Chelsea School of Art.
Travel remains an important source of inspiration for Michael’s work. Driven by a love for plein air sketching and painting from life, Michael’s recent trips have taken him to India, East Africa, North Africa, the Middle East, Europe, the Caribbean and North America. He has worked as an offical war artist for the British Military on three occasions. In 2011 and 2013 he accompanied troops to Helmand Province, Afghanistan. In 2016, a third military commission took him to Iraq.
Michael has been awarded prizes including the Stanley Grimm Prize 2016 from the Royal Institute of Oil Painters, the Green and Stone Oil Painting Prize, the Agnes Reeve Memorial Prize for best painting of London, and the Prima Luce Mural prize. He is a former council member of the Chelsea Arts Society. In 2017 he participated in SkyArts Landscape Artist of the Year competition.
“Painting for me is recapturing the experience of seeing, without being too literal-minded about what that experience is or means.
My work always starts with direct observation of the visible world. It can be broad and sweeping, as in landscapes or cityscapes, or very close and intimate, as in figures, nudes or interiors. I often go out looking for subjects and return to the studio with sketches or drawings. These I use as a starting point for a process that turns raw observation, impressions, into something more abstract and evocative.
The process often involves cutting out visual distractions and transient effects so that the resulting image has more power. Time acts as an important filter for me and so does physical distance between the initial sketch and the painting. Both help me distil the memory and pick out the essential forms.
My overall aim is to communicate my experience of seeing, to convey—through the use of light and shadow and mood—some of the magic and mystery I feel when I look at the world.”
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