The one thing I like about Michael Leigh's work is the sense of fun he invests in it. Sometimes absurd but always with a touch of humour. I was proud as punch when he, having asked him if he would, created the artwork for one of my Fekenham book covers. It had that self same feel of not taking itself seriously even if what he does he is serious about.
Michael was born in London in 1947. He is part of that whole baby boomer. hippie scene that flourished around the late sixties into the early seventies. This doesn't imply his work is dated or of another era. It isn't. It manages to sweep up with its hungry brush all that was, and still is, exciting about the Victorian period right through to today. It has, as I said before, a keen eye for spotting the odd, absurd things of life and juxtaposing them into one frame, one incredible artwork. Images from bygone decades merged with more contemporary ones.
He studied painting and print making at Southend, not far from where I live now, then at Manchester and Chelsea schools of art. He got his masters degree in fine art in 1971 and then started buying records from Brick Lane in London. But that is another story altogether.
Like a great many artists Michael, from a working class background, is both artist and artisan. He had to be to eat, to pay his bills, to survive. To this end he painted for a living supported by temporary and part time jobs. Then, In 1980, he discovered the mail art network at the Greenwich Theatre Gallery, London.
It was after coming across a a rubber stamp bearing the name of a defunct company at a flea market that he founded the A.1. Waste Paper Company. It is a name that for me will always remind me of Michael for it too has that faintly funny name, as if nothing in life is all that serious and even if it is then a laugh cannot be far away.
In the mid 1980′s he started making small photo-copied publications that he traded through the post. Victorians called such things Chapbooks and the first of these was Curios Thing. He continued this until 2000, with other publications like Curios Nahpro, Curios Snail, and Curios Radio – some of them together with collaborators.
Michael curated many mail art projects including “Peace In The World Or The World In Pieces” in 1984, that was shown at the Whitechapel Open in London. He exchanged postcard and cassettes in projects such as “Handy Postcard Exchange” and “Peace Postcard Exchange”. He has even very kindly sent me the odd postcard of his art
And of course he still creates his wonderful collages, snipping bits of this and that with a keen eye as anyone who frequents facebook or his blogs will know. and speaking of blogs - Car Boot Sales is among my favourites.
Here are some of his creations....
all words and art are copyright © of Russell 'C.J' Duffy.