Michelle Mansour

Through the lens of perception, fluctuating between the miniscule and the grandiose, we find fear and wonder of the unknown, the invisible, and the uncontrollable. Based initially on an investigation of the interior world of the body where this wonder and fear, beauty and illness mingle in the same fluids and membranes, my work has become a broader reflection of where science and the metaphysical intersect and overlap. I have developed a language of marks and surfaces, initially referencing documentary images from microscopic photographs and biology texts. These new paintings push an imaginative space that exists beyond the threshold of the eye or lens. Forging a connection between the microcosmic and macrocosmic, the paintings are invitations to contemplate topographical passages through our own internal depths.

The tensions between the scientific and the spiritual, the corporeal and the ethereal are what drive the work. My process includes layering translucent washes of color and building up a system of marks. As amorphous shapes bloom through the application of fluid pigment to wet surfaces, the marked ground references a stained biology slide. I proceed by applying tiny marks and patterns to create an ethereal space where particles gather and disperse in an endless cycle. In some areas these particles accumulate, and in the case of the works on panel, layers of silicone begin to grow, emerge, and cluster on the surface, mimicking how cells coalesce into tissues, cysts, and tumors. The result is the juxtaposition of the beautiful and the grotesque, surfaces that both attract and repulse. While the initial impetus for these compositions is symmetrical, the mutability of the materials often disrupts a perfect equilibrium. Fluctuating between organic fluidity and manipulated surfaces, I use this combination of techniques to speak about the tension between what we can and cannot control in our own physiology. While the subject matter suggests the seemingly inevitable possibility of illness and disease, the paintings serve as meditations on the exquisite and delicate balance of the natural world. 

My interest in this work stems from growing up in a family of science and health practitioners, and my focus intensified when my mother was diagnosed with – and ultimately was lost to – cancer. The process of repeating layer upon layer, mark upon mark, becomes a devotional practice in contemplating the relationship between spirit and matter. Strands of cells appear as tissue-like prayer beads – a tactile element for counting countless meditations.


For more information about the artist, please visit her website.