Spotlight: Canadian artist Michael Batty uses color theory to create “sound poems” on canvas

Every month hundreds of galleries add newly available works by thousands of artists to the Artnet gallery network – and every week we shine the spotlight on an artist you should know. See what we have in store and inquire for more with just a click.

About the artist: Throughout his 30-year career, contemporary Canadian artist Michael Batty has consistently sought out the expressive potential of color. The artist studied at the Emily Carr College of Art and Design in Vancouver and participated in several prestigious Emma Lake artist studios, where he studied with Anthony Caro, Dorothy Knowles and William Perehudoff, among others. The artist’s first solo exhibition with Gallery Jones in Vancouver brings together several bodies of work the artist has developed over the past four years, which experiment with all hues within seemingly strict parameters.

Why we love it: This vibrantly colored show, entitled “Same Difference”, brings together three recent series. A number of works from Batty’s ongoing “Tone Poems” are on display, which explore the relationship between color, pattern, music and language. Just as poems conjure up a vision with a limited number of words, these paintings aim to elicit complex emotional responses from color block arrangements. Batty calls these works “visual haikus”. After many years of Batty’s study of color theory, these works, based on intuition, are the equivalent of improvisational music. Also on display are works from the artist’s most recent series, “Ladder”, in which Batty attempts to convey messages or meanings to the viewer through patterns and rhythms of color. These works integrate the wall on which they are hung as part of the artist’s ongoing exploration of sculptural and pictorial concerns. Finally, the show features “Standard: Scored,” a series of monochromatic laser etchings made by burning light onto thick paper, which in many ways are the basic compositional elements of the other series.

According to the Gallery: “By working with defined variables such as pattern and geometric constrictions, Batty discovers limitless possibilities in variations of color and composition. In an interview leading up to this exhibition, Batty admitted that it took all his life so far to learn how to take things away; removing elements has been liberating. The accumulation of experience that led to these paintings can be seen as an equation between equality and difference,” wrote Gallery Jones in a press release.

See images from “Same Difference” below.

Michael Batty, Scales—Scale (2021). Courtesy of Jones Gallery.

Michael Batty, Tone Poem 10 (2022).  Courtesy of Jones Gallery.

Michael Batty, Symphonic Poem 10 (2022). Courtesy of Jones Gallery.

Michael Batty, Tone Poem 8 (2022).  Courtesy of Jones Gallery.

Michael Batty, Symphonic Poem 8 (2022). Courtesy of Jones Gallery.

Michael Batty, Of Ups and Downs (2019).  Courtesy of Jones Gallery.

Michael Batty, Highs and lows (2019). Courtesy of Jones Gallery.

Works by Matthew Batty "Standard: Noted" series.  Courtesy of Jones Gallery.

Works from the “Standard: Scored” series by Matthew Batty. Courtesy of Jones Gallery.

Michael Batty: same differenceis on view at Gallery Jones until April 20, 2022.

To follow Artnet News on Facebook:


Want to stay one step ahead of the art world? Subscribe to our newsletter to receive breaking news, revealing interviews and incisive reviews that move the conversation forward.

Sharon D. Cole