7 mins
Studio Sessions

Mike Ballard lives and works in London. His art is inspired by the overlooked corners of the city — the unmaintained and uninhabited places, filled with detritus, the residue and accidental layers of signs, and symbols of paint and stickers. His paintings are laced with the formal translation of these processes using photography, photocopy, adhesion, saturation, abrasion and addition. In our latest Studio Visit, Mike showed us around as he prepared for his London show, Shadow Ban.

"I see it as a painting already. As soon as I see the small image like stuck to the street or street furniture, lampposts, in between shops, just anywhere. Whether it's sort of weathered leftovers and bits of glue and stickers. Straight away I see it as a formal composition of painting."

Mike's contemporary paintings, sculptures, and installations draw from archival materials and ephemera, reflecting not only a rich personal history but also the ethos and aesthetics of an unconventional, nonconformist art upbringing.

On the piece Subtle Damage (2024 Acrylic, toner, paper, spray paint on canvas 121x91cm), created for the Shadow Ban show, he shares, “the latest paintings I've made for this show are based on my own photographic archive from growing up in different subcultures and travelling. Pre-digital cameras, pre anyone having cameras on their phones, it was all 35mm... I'm looking back into my archive and my memories.”

In Mike's ongoing sculpture series made from found hoardings, the medium is very much the message. Each piece tells a story, the marks made by life on the street. Every scratch, stain, scuff and imperfection is embraced: Mike makes minimal changes except for removing areas too irreparably damp or insect-infested.

"Because I'm always on the look-out... there's times when I think there's no point in painting because the paintings, they're already made. Like the stuff like this. All these marks, the gestures, it's all already here."

"Some days are different to others, especially where I find something really amazing it's like I don't need to make anything else. The gesture is there in finding it and taking it and representing it in a different context."