Gradual Oppression

painting by Eric Michael

Gradual oppression.jpg

Asymmetric Magazine: Tell us about your work as a modern artist.
Eric Michael: My paintings exhibit a comparison of similarities by gradually altering the values of complementary colors to demonstrate their uniform change in properties. In contrast, I highlight the differences by using two distinct paint applications, as I apply opposing hues, primarily oranges and blues. I build structures through the abstraction of complex architectural forms into core geometric shapes to juxtapose against gestural free forms.

AM: What's the idea behind Gradual Oppression?
EM: Using a geometric sequence, I display the world progressively changing from its natural form into a state of rigidity that leads to its deterioration. The piece is made up of seven separate 20 in. x 20 in. diamond shaped wooden panels. It's a study of nature vs. structure, juxtaposing geometric shapes vs. abstract elements.

Despite their differences, nature and structure must coexist. Nature precedes structure, yet structures impose their existence over nature. Without raw minerals and natural resources, it would be impossible to build any sort of structure. I study color combinations, textures, and gradual change in values that exhibit the relationship between the two forces–calling attention to their inherent dependence and the importance of their mutual respect. 

AM: How did you decide you were going to lay this out among seven panels?
EM: In my front yard, we had seven tiles arranged exactly like this. So, when I was thinking of the concept for the world, I knew I wanted to arrange it like that. It's arranged to represent the earth divided into two hemispheres. The gaps between the panels imply the separation created by the countless borders found between countries that form the world's seven continents. I also wanted to force the viewer to start with the nature portion on the right and follow the painting from right to left, instead of how they would naturally read.

AM: How does Gradual Oppression compare to the rest of your work?
EM: Gradual Oppression is the culmination to the discoveries I made during my work on a Nature vs. Structure series. All of my other pieces have led up to this.



I always try to marry my past with my present in my work and find the harmony between the two.



AM: What's your process for conceptualizing and creating a new piece?
EM: Since nature comes before any structure in the world, I always start with layering paint. I lay out the abstract foundation, and then I lay out a geometric structure over it. I try to emulate nature as it builds in the real world. That's why even on the geometric, flat parts of my pieces, you can always see layers of paint–the nature–coming through the structure.

  A piece from Eric's Nature vs. Structure series

A piece from Eric's Nature vs. Structure series

AM: What's your biggest inspiration?
EM: Life as a whole. I came from very humble beginnings; I'm from South America, and things are very different there than they are here. I always try to marry my past with my present in my work and find the harmony between the two. I use complimentary colors and juxtapose hard and soft elements. My inspiration comes from opposites and looking at where I came from vs. where I am now and how grateful I am to be here.

AM: What role does Los Angeles play in your work?
EM: I love how you can do everything in LA. I'm constantly attracted to the nature side of things and the water, but I love the urban city and architecture, too. This harmony in LA plays a huge role in how I harmonize hard and soft in my work. There's beauty in it all, natural and structural, and I try to capture both in my paintings.

AM: What themes do you typically pursue in your work?
EM: My work is an analysis of the interaction of opposing forces as they coexist in our society. Through an exploration of topics, such as wealth disparity, human oppression, classism and the struggle for power, I attempt to bring awareness to the widening gap amongst the haves and have-nots. Just as opposites are juxtaposed in my paintings, LA is a city where there is [an abundance of] wealth right next to a huge lack of wealth, and no one doing anything about it.

AM: So, how do you think art impacts social change?
EM: I think art brings forth issues without being too aggressive about it. It's politely asking for change. It's a way to get people to see things that they don't want to see. We might be blind to the homeless population because we are used to seeing them, but if an artist depicts them in a beautifully powerful photo or painting, you may look twice and take the time to really think about the issue.

AM: What music is currently inspiring you?
EM: I can't work without music. I have several playlists that I listen to while I paint depending on the mood I'm in. I listen to a wide range of genres and artists, but recently, I've been painting to The Weeknd, Anderson .Paak, Frank Ocean and jazz.

AM: What can we expect to see from you next?
EM: I have some upcoming shows, and I have a new series I'm working on. I'm constantly working in my garage, so I have a lot coming up.

  A look at Eric's upcoming series

A look at Eric's upcoming series

Eric Michael is an LA-based contemporary artist. You can view more of his work at

A note from the artist: "I'd like to thank my daughter, Kayleen, for being my endless source of inspiration and aspiration. Love you, monkey. My mother for being the rock that keeps me grounded. All my family for their endless support and encouragement. My friends for seeing my vision. And last but not least a special thanks to Alex Costa, who does my prints at, and Nick Gurney, who frames my paintings at"

Posted on November 17, 2016 .