CENTER STAGE interview from "ArtMine - Collectors Corner" - Published on May 31, 2019
Michai Morin’s digital pieces play with the viewer’s perception of reality, offering a door to another dimension of the artist’s creation. Inspired by his study of optics, Morin’s compositions use light, refraction, shape, material, and contrast to transfix the viewer. Morin’s process entails printing Ultra High Definition (UHD) images on acrylic glass panels. He aptly describes his pieces as “digital abstract sculpture” given their supple, three-dimensional appearance.
What is your background?
I grew up with an extreme fascination of the hard sciences and a strong appreciation for beautifully crafted things. I realize that seems diametric but I feel there is a strong connection between beauty and the way the Universe functions as a whole. The first non-fiction books I read in grade school were on quantum mechanics, optics, art history, and artificial intelligence. When I wasn’t reading, I was taking pretty much everything apart to observe how it was constructed. Breaking down objects of function and then rebuilding them provided me with an insight of how the world worked and opened my eyes to a new type of introspection. I also have a deep interest in ancient history and cultural origins (a common thread found throughout my work).
Prior to college, I attended advanced Mathematics and Science programs for gifted students. I drowned myself in the topics of astronomy, physics, and computer engineering. In my early teens, my art was an important outlet and this is when I discovered that I had a gifted eye for the Aesthetic. After High School, I studied astrophysics in college for a short period but that ended abruptly due mostly to my youthful attention span. I subsequently left the US during my first years of college and at the age of 19, traveled Europe and the Middle East. In my travels, I became acquainted with the Art of cooking. This led me to return to the US and after both a Culinary certification and a Business degree, I started a rather successful budding career as an Executive Chef. As a Chef, I worked in cities like Washington DC, Baltimore, Portland, Philadelphia, and Arlington to name a few. I even won a few awards. However, nothing lasts forever and with help from the role of fatherhood I found it more enjoyable to be with my family then have that time spent on the illogically long work weeks often associated with the culinary world
How did you begin your career as an artist?
I chose or didn’t choose depending on perspective, to use digital art as my medium mostly because of my early interest in computers and my inability to maintain fine motor movements necessary for the style of work I’d have been interested in producing. I have been building computers since the early ’90s and that’s when I discovered my creative outlet in digital art. I build my computers that render my art from the ground up, one component at a time. The power and heat generated from rendering my work require me to create custom liquid cooling systems to keep the graphics and computer processing units from overheating. I enjoy employing the math and problem solving needed to construct my computers. That includes airflow physics, computational timing, power supply delivery, and the visual design of the physical computer itself. I consider it the art behind my art. I used to build and sell custom PC’s on the side and noticed that people enjoyed my digital artwork as well. So I started, while half-heartedly, to sell my work online. My career began on a website called DeviantArt. Despite what the name suggests it was actually a very large and pro-social art community where digital art prints could be sold. While its lingering out of fashion now, I attribute a large part of the recent social interest in digital art to be from that very community. The last time I checked my online portfolio on that website I had acquired over a quarter million lifetime views, so it’s importance on my career cannot be understated.
How have you developed your career?
I make sure I always develop and grow my skills as an artist. I’ve paired that with finding my own unique niche in the art world and it’s been a rather successful approach. I have done extensive research and I feel confident in claiming that I am the only person currently producing the style and scale of work I create. I think this has also aided my budding career as people tend to find the unknown interesting.
What does your art aim to say?
This is a really important part of my work. Each piece I create is my best conceptualization of a very specific thought or topic of interest that I am thinking of at that moment. I have a difficult time appreciating art that lacks a message or seems lazily constructed. I feel that creating art offers a powerful tool to observe a topic in a manner that would otherwise be impossible. I include summaries with each one of my pieces that act as primers to understand what is being represented by my abstract interpretations. I am generally more creative when I’m thinking of topics such as ancient cultures, physics, advanced technologies, philosophy, existentialism, and other personal musings.
While science is objective, art is subjective. Yet, the two meet and create a synergy in your work. Have you always been interested in the two or one of them evolved as a consequence of the other?
I have always been interested in the sciences, I am wired to find understandings. After decades of reflection, I have discovered that I use art as a means to decrypt my emotions and share them in an aesthetically pleasing manner. By the end of a piece I generally have thought through a series of emotions while contemplating some mystery that acted as a conduit for my self-reflection. For the success of a piece, those two must be mutually-inclusive, spinning around each other’s gravity while I proceed toward completion.
You describe yourself as a “high functioning father and husband with Asperger Syndrome”. How did this influence your work?
I knew I was different when I was young. I was keenly aware that my mind excelled at some tasks far beyond my peers while at the same time I was dually aware of my inability to solve other problems that those same peers did with ease. During therapy sessions as a teenager, it was often discussed with me that I displayed all the characteristics of high functioning Asperger's. After returning to sessions again as an adult I was diagnosed with ASD, landing quite literally at the most functional side of the spectrum. The term Asperger Syndrome has now been folded into the greater ASD diagnosis, but that’s really moot anyway as it mostly just affects my ability to socialize. I’m certain that the way my mind processes information directly affects the style and subject of my work. How exactly? I’m not certain.
Have you ever thought of teaching arts to children with the same syndrome?
My wife and I have discussed this very thing before. If I had the resources and time, this would be something I would receive a lot of pleasure from doing.
How does your work comment on current social or political issues?
I do not generally bother with artistic statements of a political nature. I find politics rather boring and uninspiring. I’m only slightly more interested in social issues. I’m of the mindset, all should be able to believe what they wish but if it’s based on false logic and adversely affects others then it’s just nonsense. I also think we have accidentally stumbled into a socially fragile culture. Struggles and hardships are extremely important in the development of a contemplative mind and that we do a great disservice to ourselves when we cannot take criticism or accept new factual information.
What are your first memories of interacting with art?
I remember when I was very young drawing and shading three-dimensional shapes, space scenes, and constructing optical illusions that excited my visual perception. I have a vivid memory from 2nd grade when I had my art displayed on the school wall during an annual Art Show. I had made a space scene and seeing my work on display filled me with a sense of pride, and I think that perhaps this is when my artistic future began to take root.
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"The job of the artist is always to deepen the mystery."
- Francis Bacon
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