Interview: Michael Greaves about carving his own path to success and things he's learned along the way

When was the first time that you realized you were an artist?

My earliest memories of enjoying the process of making art was in primary school, and in the drawing of a shoe. From then I always had an interest in art, which became mainly in painting during my teens. I was introduced to a well- known NZ landscape painter at this time. He had a large studio in High Street and he gave me time and attention, shared his interests and ideas. It was then that I realised that this could be something that was possible to do, or to make your life around. He introduced me to most of what became the foundations of my thinking around painting.

And how did you get from there to become an art lecturer?

After I finished my undergraduate in painting, I studied a two year degree at the University of Otago in teaching. I had a couple of years teaching art, and as a relief teacher at Dunedin’s Kings and Logan Park High School’s. These were exciting and interesting experiences and formative in my interest in education. I then returned to University to study Art History and Theory. It was when I finished this degree that I had an opportunity as an sessional teacher at the Dunedin School of Art, teaching the year one students in painting and drawing. When the then head of painting became ill I was asked to teach some more in the school and then to interview for the job, I have been lecturing at the Dunedin School of Art since.

What does success in art mean to you? And what do you think it means to the young generation of artists you teach?

I was recently asked this by a New Zealand Arts Magazine, and I think that the idea of success means to me that you stop worrying about what everyone thinks about the work that you are making, and more about the work you are making, how it fulfils your response and relationship to your intentions, if this makes sense. Artists that I like and respect do this, and their work is always so much more engaging. For those that I teach I feel the same, when they stop thinking about grades and think more about the way that they are making is opening up dialogue and a proposal of the way that they see and interact with the world, this for me is success, and it is sustaining.

How do you feel about the artwork you used to make in your 20's? What would your advice be to the 20-year old yourself?

In my 20’s I was selling a lot of work, and I kind of became overwhelmed with the loss of seeing that work and responding to it, working it out, as it would leave the studio so quickly, so I stopped making it. If I could talk to myself now I would give myself my last answer, as I feel that I have come full circle in the way that I was making, from then to now, in terms of intensity and honesty. I feel that I am kind of getting my second 20’s to be honest.

One of our objectives is to empower young art buyers to engage with the art community and to start their own collections. What would your advice be to somebody who loves exploring art but is a bit anxious about purchasing/collecting it?

I would say to them that you begin by buying what triggers your imagination and what you would like to look at and to wonder about. It is not primarily about investment in terms of dollars and appreciation of value, but an investment in a conversation and an appreciation of the value of how to encounter the world outside, through new eyes.

You've made a collection of 'works on paper' for Artq. How did this come about? Works on paper have been at the centre of my process for the last 15 yrs. They are not, for me, sketches of things to inform larger or more engaged paintings, but paintings in their own right. I also feel that paper has an inherent quality about it that relates to a transportability and to an exchange, that is why I made these works for the platform.

Tuesday Directions. Acrylic and Inkjet on Pescia Nat While Vellum 100% Cotton. 2019

What role do social media platforms play in your work?

Social media is a double-edged sword in my mind. It gives the opportunity for people to encounter your work outside of the normal sites, but it also somehow distracts form the material quality of painting. It is all pervasive in today’s society, but I would like people to experience the work in the flesh, so to speak, as the quality of painting that I enjoy does not easily translate to the screen beyond the initial image.

Sullivans promise. Acrylic and inkjet on Epson Hot Press. 2019

How do we make sure that our activity on social media helps create a culture that values original art, how do we compete against consumerism in the online social media space?

This is a very difficult question to answer, but I believe that it is through building enduring relationships with those who visit your site, the second and third time buyer. I feel this is key to building strong and long term collecting relationships. These kinds of connections, interviews and stories, are also key as they allow the potential collector to begin a dialogue with the maker, to understand them in a way outside of the art object.