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Painting Inspiration

WEB-EXCLUSIVE: Newport Beach painter Michaell Magrutsche inspires imagination.


Michaell Magrutsche wants his art to be interactive.

“I want its color and design to grab you, call you and seduce you into getting engaged in its content,” says Magrutsche, an Orange County artist who originates from Vienna, Austria. He moved to Southern California over 30 years ago. Today, he paints from his home studio in Newport Beach, where he tends to hold exhibitions with other painters, musicians and writers.

Magrutsche’s works are currently on display at John Wayne Airport through December 19 as part of the facility’s Community Focus Space Program. The program aims to bring high quality art to the Riley Terminal (for more information on the art program, visit ocair.com/terminal/art).

We sat down with Magrutsche to get some insight on the man behind the brush:

From where do you draw the inspiration for your art?         
Primarily, from my mind and my own imagination. That does not mean that I am one of the cathartic painters who express their emotions on the canvas. I prefer to leave my internal conflicts at the psychiatrist's office in order to purely express my creative expressions. A clear mind allows me to transfer my purest inspirations onto canvas, focusing on the emotional impact of the finished painting. I am inspired when something different draws my attention; not different for different's sake but an original, different creation – a fresh expression. I am creatively fed by other artists like Miles Davis, Ellsworth Kelly and Le Corbusier, whose works speak to me.

Just how much does Orange County inspire your art?
Orange County is a relatively “young” county. I see it artistically like a blank canvas where subcultures have not yet formed a general art consensus. You see, when you talk about New York, it has a specific art feel to it – modern art, Broadway, beautiful architecture, etc. Orange County is still free of such a cohesive expression, but it has very strong subcultures like surfing along the coast, art in Laguna and Costa Mesa, wealth and luxury in Newport Beach and Latin culture in Santa Ana. With all that variety, you can go skiing and surfing on the same day. If I need a setting to be inspired, I literally can decide what I need and be at one of those destinations within an hour.

How and why did you become involved in the Community Focus Space Program at John Wayne Airport?
It’s always a very rewarding experience having people look at your art instead of having it stored away. I am continuously on the lookout for places to expose my work. I remembered art at the airport and contacted Mr. Frisch [Jeffrey Frisch is coordinator of the John Wayne Airport Arts Program], who guided me from the application process to the final exhibition. Most artists follow an established pattern that leads them to an enjoyable experience: conception/inspiration, plan/execution and exposure/appreciation/sale. The Community Focus Space Program allows me to expose my art to many people, to have it appreciated and open the possibility for sales. On the other side, community art programs help showcase a city’s creative capital to visitors and its citizens. If done well, it should give you an experience like seeing a coyote for the first time at dusk by your house: “Oh! I did not know they had this here in Orange County.”

How would you describe your art style to someone who has never seen it before or who doesn't know much about art?
The “best works” can mean nothing to you. A finger painting by your daughter can get your emotional gratification to an all-time high. You don’t need to know about art in order to enjoy it. Art is what inspires. To inspire means to uplift. There are many variations of uplifting and we all have different tastes. If a piece of art speaks to you, you’ve already won. Trying to conceptualize this mystical thing called art will give insights about the creator and the process. Conceptualizing will ultimately fail to expose what the art’s essence, voices and experiences are. In my opinion, one should be touched by art first and then study the why about art and not vice versa.

I would call my art minimal abstract. I use an uplifting color palette and eye-catching designs. The designs are simple, abstract, organic shapes and forms, which should trigger one’s imagination or remind you of something. I try to use a very limited color palette, often only two to four different colors. The colors are primary and opaque. Color variations are strong opposites with a hard edge.

What would you like viewers of your artwork to walk away thinking?
I would like my art to stimulate the viewer in a way that triggers your imagination to want to fill in the blanks, thereby creating an interaction with my works. It should cause a response similar to that of listening to the music of minimalists, such as Miles Davis or Steve Reich, where one’s mind and soul complete the picture, playing with the unfilled spaces in a myriad of possibilities to make it exclusively yours. When they enter a room, I want the viewer to feel my paintings. I love the viewer to get caught up in the inexplicable power of colors and shapes that evoke a range of emotions.

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