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Success in printmaking nurtured at Concordia: Meet artist Michael Stevenson

‘At the Faculty of Fine Arts, I developed many skills that are fundamental to my practice’
June 8, 2022
By Kristen Paulson-Nguyen

Concordia graduate Michael Stevenson’s 2010 solo exhibition at the Udinotti Museum of Figurative Art, in Paradise Valley, Arizona.

As Michael Stevenson, BFA 90, began 100 Monoprints, a project exploring loss in the aftermath of the COVID-19 pandemic, he thought of Dennis Jones, his Concordia printmaking professor who passed away in 2007.

Jones, an abstract expressionist who taught at Concordia’s Faculty of Fine Arts, inspired Stevenson through his bold use of diverse materials, such as corrugated cardboard and fibrous paper made from mulberry trees. His lessons about process, technique and theory reverberate in Stevenson’s approach to monoprinting (a single, one-of-a-kind print) and relief printing (which produces multiple editions of a print using a raised surface) today.

“Relief printing using corrugated cardboard allows me to create imagery without doing a lot of prep work, to work through my visual ideas quickly and to create shapes that resonate with me,” says Stevenson. “This method has informed my work over my entire career.”

“At the Faculty of Fine Arts, I developed many skills in printmaking that are fundamental to my digital practice,” says Michael Stevenson. | Credit: Allyson Washington

That career has taken Stevenson to Chico, California, where he taught printmaking as a visiting professor at California State University. Art in America and Artweek have reviewed his work — including a travelling solo exhibition called Belle Époque.

Stevenson was awarded a full fellowship at the famed Vermont Studio Center, was an affiliate artist at the Headlands Center for the Arts and is a past recipient of a Pollock-Krasner Foundation grant.

‘A great place to experiment’

After graduating from Concordia, Stevenson earned an MFA in painting and printmaking and an MA in art history from Arizona State University. Jones’s impact on Stevenson’s approach to monoprints, which Stevenson describes as “a bridge between painting and printmaking,” has endured.

Art history has also played an important role for the Concordia graduate. “I’m interested in amalgams and catalysts and the intermixing of cultures,” he remarks.

One amalgam is Très Riches Heures, an array of 81 watercolour, gouache and acrylic works on paper, which explores the relationship between mark-making and script. The project emerged from a scholarship Stevenson received to learn Tatar, a Turkic language spoken in Tatarstan, Russia.

An untitled 22 x 30 monoprint printed on corrugated cardboard, 2009

“I wanted to think about script, as opposed to text, the hand versus the mind,” he says. “I made up what looked like words but were only forms that referenced script. There was no verbal meaning, but a visual one.”

Stevenson started working on 100 Monoprints this past January, after he found himself dwelling on several recent losses. He began exploring themes of transformation and grief, developing ideas and imagery using the technique he learned from Jones. A Kickstarter campaign was launched to finance the series. And while the crowdfunding goal wasn’t reached, Stevenson continues to sketch and make stencils for larger works that will become paintings, prints and potentially videos.

The lessons the artist learned at Concordia continue to drive his experimentation with new media. Stevenson is now creating a series of paintings based in part on his digital practice.

“At the Faculty of Fine Arts, I developed many skills in printmaking that are fundamental to my digital practice. The printmaking studios at the university were a great place to experiment. The interaction between disciplines at Concordia — art history, painting and printmaking — provided the basis for my practice.”

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