The Oil Paintings of Michael Fantuz

All of the artwork featured in volume 9 is the work of Canadian oil painter Michael Fantuz.

Fantuz is a self-taught artist who uses palette knives, primarily those inherited from his fraternal grandfather, Gastone Fantuz. He stretches his own canvases using Canadian kiln dried wood from renewable forests, archival and environmentally friendly hemp canvas, and professional archival grade pigments from Winsor and Newton Artist Paints.  For more information, visit his website.

From Given to Chosen (36 x 48)
Longing for Place (30×40)
Through Another Door
No Basis for Growth
Harmonies of the Tide

Interview with Michael Fantuz

Border Crossing: We are so honored to be able to share these breathtaking paintings with our readers. There is such a range of vibrant color in some paintings, and then stark black and white intensity in others. Could you talk to us about why you choose to do some pieces in grayscale or black and white and others in full color?

Michael Fantuz: The choice to depict some of my paintings in grayscale versus full color is a reflection of my observance of life cycles.  Many of the paintings I’ve depicted in grayscale focus on a dilapidated building, the final stages of its life as its returning to the earth.  It’s a profound experience to witness a building in this state, and a stark reminder of my own impermanence.  The full color is reflective of the vibrancy of life, the energy that a community exudes being similar to a living organism.

BC: Throughout your work, we notice a frequent juxtaposition of images of natural beauty with manmade imagery. Could you talk to us about your choice of subject?

MF: It’s really exciting to be asked questions that are so observant of my work, thank you!  The juxtaposition of subject matter is a direct reflection of my interest in the philosophical problem of change, the inherent nature of impermanent life and how the cycles are not constant for all things on earth.  The ebbs and flows of the ocean, the shifting of tectonic plates, ideas, structures in a town… the impermanence of life is a cycle that seems to affect everything, and my work is a method for learning to accept that.  I feel like the landscapes I paint reflect the many varieties of these cycles.

BC: In “From Given to Chosen,” we really enjoy the fractured reflections in the water. Although the boats and rock face are majestic, the viewer’s eye is drawn toward the reflections of the boats and the shadow in the water. Was that an intentional choice?  

MF: Thank you! The fragmented reflections are absolutely intentional; they are a mechanism for representing memory. I am especially fascinated with our perceptions of the past, more specifically our tendency to recall events differently than they occurred.  The fragmented reflections in this painting retain elements of what is on the shore, but they don’t tell the full story, the gaps are the places where subjective information is filled.

BC: Your website mentions that you are self-taught, and that your primary tools are palette knives you inherited from your grandfather, Gastone Fantuz. Could you talk about what your technique means to you?

MF: I didn’t have the opportunity to meet my grandfather, Gastone Fantuz, who passed away before I was born, but there were many fragmented reflections of him in my upbringing: we had his paintings in our house, some of his tools, stories from family, and I filled in much of the subjective gaps myself.  When I was 25, one of my uncles gave me a set of my grandfather’s palette knives, knowing that I enjoyed painting, and that the knives were not being used.  I will never forget the sensation of holding the same tools that my grandfather used for creating, and I felt the incredible urge to learn to express myself with the same tools.  I am a very emotional person, but also very rational, that juxtaposition in my personality has connected perfectly to palette knife painting where I can quickly mix and apply paint in thin layers or big fat gobs depending on my feelings, and then clean up quickly and easily–they’re perfect!  The technique has also brought me together with my wife, who is also a palette knife painter, Emilie Fantuz; we met through a hashtag on Instagram! So this technique is obviously the greatest gift in my life for many many reasons.