Michael Markowitz puts the world of representation and the world of abstraction into every work. His focus is always on capturing the energy of a gesture that is the momentary and immediate expression of someone’s life force. In his private drawing studio, one of the longest-standing in San Francisco, he teaches this: not just technique, but this way of seeing past the extraneous to the ‘mark’ that captures a moment.
He is a self-taught artist with a literature degree from UC Santa Barbara. His drawings are a collaboration with what is being seen (generally another human) and also with the process of drawing itself. The drawings thus represent a philosophy, what Markowitz speaks of as “the effort to live in a way that is not circumscribed by the desensitizing effects of habit, formula, assumption, and ridigity,” and as an “exploration of a deeper level of connection and intimacy that seems to elude us in many other aspects of living.”
He exhibits only in his studio and with the Paul Mahder Gallery.
I am originally from New York City, and essentially self-taught as an artist. (I have a degree in literature from the University of California Santa Barbara.) For the past 17 years I have made my living as an artist and art teacher. I run one of the largest private drawing studios in the Bay Area, where I conduct groups both with and without instruction.
The essence of what I teach, and the context out of which my work is created is focused on process versus product, specifically, the process of perception and the process of drawing as a physical reaction to visual experience. The work is not concerned with representing much else in the sense of being symbolic or conceptual in a way that might purport to represent an ideology or philosophy (political or otherwise).
Rather, it is about the struggle to engage experience (here the experience of both vision and mark making/image building,) in as pure and intense way as possible; freed of preconception, formula, habit and intention. I don’t know what form these drawings will take till they are done. They are not the product of a technique that is a pre-set pattern of response consciously put into play. They are essentially anti-technique in nature. They are about extending the range of sensitivity, response and expression so that experience is allowed to manifest through the broadest range of one’s individual sensibilities and capabilities. They are about reaction rather than calculation; response rather than intention. They are in every sense a collaboration with what is being seen (generally another human) and also a collaboration with the process of drawing itself; the possibilities and limitations of the medium, and interacting with the evolving image which is allowed to develop in a way that is , hopefully, neither formulaic nor predictable.
To this degree I guess the drawings do represent a philosophy. This might be expressed as the effort to live in a way that is not circumscribed by the desensitizing effects of habit, formula, assumption, and rigidity. (The things that reduce experience to something predictable, safe and controllable – that mute existence, numb distance and us from our own lives.) For me drawing is about a place where I can explore a deeper level of connection and intimacy with experience in a way that sadly seems to elude us in so many other aspects of our living.