Michael started painting from an early age. As a child, he was fascinated by the many figurines in beaten brass, usually of fantastic creatures such as elves and unicorns, made by his grandfather, William Baverstock, who was an accomplished amateur sculptor. In the 1950’s, Michael saw many street processions typical of Spain and Italy. He retains vivid memories of the wild mixture of costumes and historical styles in these spectacles, which would later powerfully influence his imagination. For Michael, the carnival paintings of James Ensor are a joyful reminder of those chaotic events: Ensor’s influence can be seen in Michael’s art', sometimes riding on horseback in local equivalents.
Another influence from childhood was film. Michael’s great aunt owned two cinemas and as a consequence, Michael was a constant visitor. Indeed, in other cinemas he did not understand that he was expected to pay to enter! He loved Roman epics and was entranced by science fiction films, watching The Queen of Outer Space, 1958, ten times. Echoes of the images from these films have re-surfaced in his paintings, as has the Technicolor palette.
Michael read Moral Sciences at Cambridge where his tutor, Roger Scruton, ignited in him a keen interest in philosophy. Some favourite philosophers make guest appearances in his work. It was whilst at Cambridge that Michael discovered the works of the Florentine Mannerists, especially Pontormo and Bronzino. A major exhibition in Florence of the works of Bronzino in 1972 still provides images that Michael is drawn to.
Michael’s art has developed in tune with the world around him. Travelling through Central Europe in the mid-1980’s, he was both taken aback and impressed by Communist architecture, symbolism and art, notably the iconic statuary that speckled the towns and cities of the communist world, and the gargantuan Ceaușescu ‘palace’ in Bucharest. He became an avid admirer of the works of Max Beckmann, Philip Guston and particularly late Picasso’s ultra-original forms and colours.
His recent paintings are a summation of his artistic interests and determination, now with a French accent reflecting the location of Michael’s studio in Béarn. They are colourful, intricate, energetic and passionate, demonstrating the influences that have helped shape his work and are, unlike so many contemporary works, very much from Michael’s own imagination.