Jo Michiels: touch encapsulated

Can we capture the moment one’s skin meets another? What color is that connection? Which shapes does it create? Through energy charged complex compositions, abstract painter Jo Michiels seeks to encapsulate that experience. For inspiration, the Belgian artist turns to erotic photographs from the 60s and 70s. He is particularly attracted by their colours, lines and the movement of the photographed bodies; but above all, he is in search of their nostalgic texture.

Porno Retrò

The artist’s intention is not to narrate a scene or even to represent a story. The photographs are merely references during the creative process. Jo works purely through intuition. Everything that inspires him is directly translated onto canvas or paper. The sinuousness of the photographed bodies become organic lines: the positive and negative spaces are transformed into geometric shapes. The impeccably combined colors create a playful experience full of vitality.


photos by PILOTENKUECHE or supplied by artist


The final work reveals the use of different painting techniques. Jo uses oil paint, acrylics, spray paint, collage and oil stick. His search for the representation of tactility is achieved through the superimposition of several layers in the canvas. The overlapping of several painting techniques creates a slight thickness in the surface, which conveys this particular perception of physicality to the viewer. Jo is satisfied when the viewer is able to perceive this effect, to feel the sense of touch.


The exhibition entitled ‘Tangere‘, held in Ghent in 2017, reveals the special focus on this effect. Tangere, in Latin, means to touch. Thus, the artist, already from the title, wants to express the sense of tactility, the desire for physicality. Also in 2017, a major exhibition was held in Ghent, in which his series called ‘Bodily Drawings’ was exhibited. Here, we can see the use of a new technique. As usual, the starting point was retro photographs, but the referenced bodies were completely deconstructed and reconstructed in a new way. The body parts were clearly recognisable, as they have been directly displayed on the canvas. Thus, the viewer, at the sight of the easily recognizable corporeity, was able to perceive a sense of tactility and physicality. 

Jo’s studio at PILOTENKUECHE has been overflowing. He is the first artist to arrive each morning. And while you may think him isolated in his creative furry, situated directly in front of the door, he is always there to welcome you with a smile. 

written by Alessio Tassi 


Keep up with the latest from Jo on his instagram

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