Street art meets history painting
Michael Mantis breaks artistic convention in visualising the creative urge
Artist/designer Michael Mantis is a man driven to create. Three days into the creation of a wall mural at Department of Coffee and Social Affairs his ambition to paint the sinking tail of Herman Melville’s Moby Dick has extended to include a battle scene as dramatic as Delacroix’s, a pair of zombie-cavaliers, a Warhol-esque sperm whale and a literally jaw-dropping, floor-to-ceiling viking.
Mantis’ mural, paper collages, screen prints and oil paintings form a new body of work that uses symbolism and metaphor to explore the creative urge. “The leviathan acts as a metaphor for creativity”, Mantis says. “The creative drive is a haunting prospect, a need that is embedded deep within; an innate desire to make sense of the world by the act of creation. Like the mythical unattainable beast that always travels just ahead, the fulfilment of creativity can seem perpetually out of reach. This drive has the ability to completely overcome; a dance of beauty and vibrancy, but also a drive that treads a fine line with destruction, always edging you on to pick fights it may not be possible to win.”
Inspired by Herman Melville’s classic novel which follows the tortured fervour of the protagonist, Captain Ahab, whose driving ambition is to conquer his mythical foe Moby Dick, leviathan is the perfect metaphor for the creative urge that seeks to build, make, play, and satisfy this deeply entrenched thirst.
Find out more about experiences of creativity
Read snippets from this interview with American painter Chuck Close and Tolstoy‘s definition of art and the creative act: “Art is a human activity consisting in this, that one man consciously by means of certain external signs, hands on to others feelings he has lived through, and that others are infected by these feelings and also experience them.”