Michael Whelan’s practice engages with some of the most pressing issues of our time. His work investigates behavioral experiences and engages the observer in a dialogue on the impact that the innovations of modernity are having on our planet and the individuals within it. Blurring the boundaries of art and science, his multi media installations composed of photography, sculpture, text and sound help us to engage with questions that can only be asked within the language of art. Communicating with a diverse audience, his work goes beyond traditional exhibition spaces and into public locations, underused sites, socially responsible projects and educational platforms.
Whelan’s methodology is forged on the connections between topical subjects and an exploration of scale, topographical perspectives and human interaction. He is known for the way he engages with a subject, with an aesthetic that can been described as having a poetic and gently observed tranquility. Born in 1977, he grew up surrounded by wild open landscapes in Scotland and his initial training as a cartographer shaped his awareness of composition, space and scale.These experiences continue to inform the ongoing development of his work, anchoring the audience to a sense of connectedness and belonging.
He studied Photography and Fine Art at UEL and in 2005 set up his studio in London. He has been the recipient of several internationally recognized awards, including winning the 2017 Photo Masters Award, Fine Art Single category at the NYPH awards, the International Photography Awards, screened work at Cannes Lions, selected for several PX3 Prix de la Photographie awards and the RA Summer show. His work has been exhibited internationally at The Photographers Gallery London, New York Photo Awards, Singapore International Photo Festival, the Magenta Foundation in Toronto, the National Museum of Scotland, Houses of Parliament and St Pauls Cathedral.
In addition, he has delivered lectures at various Universities in the UK and Norway and has directed several Arts Council England and Heritage Lottery Fund projects. In 2016 he set up the If Not Now project producing a mixed media piece of portraits and sound from across the UK of elderly members living in social isolation. The work has been attributed to broader understanding and increased political awareness in protecting and supporting people living in isolation.
In 2017, Whelan started a co-operative project called New Defence, working with a team of artists, designers and curators on a regeneration project to stimulate positive social impact through the arts at an underused coastal defence site on the Thames Estuary.
Whelan lives and works in London.
[Text by Alexandra Rosca]