Michael Gustavius Payne

Michael Gustavius Payne (born 25 June 1969, in Merthyr Tydfil) is a Welsh artist, who uses symbolism derived from western art and mythology together with contemporary signifiers, to make paintings (usually in oil), that often have a surreal quality.

Early life
Payne was raised on the Gurnos estate in Merthyr Tydfil, Wales. During 1991-1993, he attended the Mid Glamorgan Centre of Art & Design Technology, Pontypridd (now part of the University of Glamorgan), where he won the Student of The Year Award at the National Eisteddfod of Wales, prompting the BBC arts programme The Slate to include an article about the artist on their Eisteddfod Special in 1993, shown initially on BBC1 Wales and also, shortly after throughout the UK, on BBC2. During 1993-1996, he studied at the Cheltenham & Gloucester College of Higher Education (now the University of Gloucestershire), where he gained a First Class BA Honors degree in fine art painting.

During his time at Cheltenham, Payne was granted a place on the ERASMUS programme allowing him to visit a number of ancient historical and mythological locations around Greece (including the ancient oracle site at Delphi, the Acropolis in Athens, the Peloponnese, Hydra, Crete, Myconos and other Greek islands) for three months from January until April 1995, as an exchange student at the Athens School of Fine Art. Upon completion of his degree at Cheltenham he won the Cheltenham & Gloucester Building Society’s Art Purchase Prize, 1996, before returning to Wales to live initially in Cardiff, then later in Dowlais from 1999.

Current work
Payne exhibits his work predominantly in Wales in various galleries including The West Wales Arts Centre (Fishguard), The Washington Gallery (Penarth), The Kooywood Gallery (Cardiff) and Museum of Modern Art Wales (Machynlleth).

He describes his technique and inspiration as being “strongly based in the European tradition of painting” (Western painting).

   I strive to make work that is firstly meaningful. Hopefully a degree of innovation will naturally develop from this process. I don’t strive to be different for the sake of difference…My medium of choice is usually oil paint but also other painting and drawing media. The direct nature of making a mark is hugely significant to my work, and my understanding of the artistic process. Both stripping down the act of making to its essentials, with little paraphernalia, being direct and immediate, while also intellectually drawing reference to our first artistic creations, as a species and as individuals. I love the direct, simple approach of mark making and creating something form combining marks. And to do this in a meaningful manner is something that I find hugely compelling, and rewarding.

The theories of academics like Carl Jung and Joseph Campbell feature strongly in Payne’s approach to the meaning in his work.

   The meaning in my work is more about the question rather than the answer. A reflection of the world as I see it. Both universal and intrinsically personal. I often draw reference from mythology (especially Welsh and Greek) and from contemporary culture. My interest in mythology is due to its power as archetypal, often unconscious, symbols of the human predicament.

Selected exhibitions

  • 2008, Galeri, Betws-y-coed (with Meri Wells and Maria Hayes)
  • 2008, A Bloke Called Hero, Dylan Thomas Centre, Swansea
  • 2007, Museum of Modern Art Wales
  • 2006, Stories without Narrative, Rhondda Heritage Centre
  • 2004, Nature or Nurture, West Wales Arts Centre,Fishguard
  • 2002, Contemporary Welsh Art, Beatrice Royal Gallery, Hampshire, England
  • 2001, Dreams, Fairy Tales, Myths & Nightmares, Washington Gallery., Penarth
  • 1997, Princeton International Art Exhibition’, Palmer Square, New Jersey, USA
  • 1996, Crows Having Fun, Raw Gallery, Tower Bridge, London


Other work
Payne has also worked in community arts since 1996, initially as a freelance workshop facilitator, before becoming Arts Development Officer for a youth project in Merthyr Tydfil town centre in 2002, Arts Centre Manager at Canolfan Rhys Arts Centre, Penrhys, Rhondda in 2004 and Arts Development Officer for Merthyr Tydfil County Borough in 2005.

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