Pause. Draw a breath. Allow your eyes to wander. Relieve the mind of known thoughts and find yourself caught up in this very moment, connecting to the now. Cast your gaze over the pools of colour before you. It is within these moments that Michael Gromm hopes to cause time to stand still, and for feelings of creativity, reflection and calm to be unlocked. Breaking free of traditional abstract boundaries, and for the most part remaining completely ambiguous, Gromm aims to create works that are devoid of forms that trigger a conscious response. Detached from any formal logic or need to categorise from past, learned experiences, these wells of pink, splashes of blue, streaks of yellow and clusters of candy stripes lead the mind’s eye into an unexplored world akin to a fractured Rorschach ink test.
Somewhat like a computer, the way we respond to the world is managed by the translation of stimuli, resulting in the manufacturing of certain responses. Fight or flight. Mostly, these responses are a combination of bringing together external and internal known truths, allowing us to see and makes sense of what is before us. But what then, if that which lies before us is unknown? One example of this feeling of unfamiliarity, explored deeply by the artist within his last few bodies of work has been our relationship with the natural environment. The way that we interact with our world has been thrown into sharp focus over the last few decades, as we become increasingly aware of the impacts our industries and societies are having on the precious balance that allows earth to be habitable. Gromm says, ‘I am drawn to the complex and multilayered issues of the environment and our relationship with it, as it is only in the unfamiliar abstract grey areas that we may hope to find a more sustainable way forward.’ Gromm creates these grey areas by not only employing abstraction in the rawest sense, but by juxtaposing it with incredibly detailed realist elements.
Jarring our reading of the information before us, hyper-real, graphic images nestle within streams of colour, causing us to consider new narratives that may not have been previously possible. A broken down, crumpled car sits abandoned within a blob of blue, where multi-coloured ribbons spill out from it onto the rest of the canvas. Thoughts of materialisation, over-consumption and the decline of Australia’s automobile industry come to mind. (The artist has spent many years in Geelong, a city that has been greatly affected by manufacturing industries move to off-shore). Or perhaps more acutely is it a sign that the fast paced, high-octane existence we have enjoyed will soon come to a bittersweet end? It is within these abstract spaces that we have an opportunity to consider our relationship with the environment & begin to articulate new answers.
Like the rider being bucked from his bull in Gromm’s ‘I call it the hotel,’ and thrown into a puddle of purple; sliding into a new terrain may be exactly what we need to adapt to the challenges before us.
Essay by Melanie Caple, BArts (FA), MArts, 2017