An extinction event in Siberia Lane

An extinction event in Siberia Lane
Rhonda Dredge

As artists struggle to deal with pandemic red tape, at least some have been clever enough to find ways of delivering their work to a public desperate for a sliver of imagination.

Mike Makatron was permitted to paint a mural in a Kensington back lane during the lockdown because it was part of a construction site.

His cave is a surprising addition to the typical urban aesthetic of the former sale yards estate.

The image is based on Mike’s memory of caves on the Yucatan Peninsula, sketched first then augmented at his desk where he works on concept design.

“They have beautiful, clear, fresh water. A lot are hidden,” he said of the limestone caves, but he also pointed out that “this is where the asteroid fell that made the dinosaurs extinct.”

Such momentous events, while not actually depicted in the peaceful water-filled cave now visible on Siberia Lane, have undeniably played a part in Mike’s career.

He was studying fine art and working as a bicycle courier in New York during the 9/11 attack and watched the second tower collapse, but said it was a long bow to say that the disaster influenced his art.

Mike saw the flames out of his East End apartment window then watched with horror as people jumped off the burning building.  He helped by making stretchers for carting the wounded.

As the pandemic closes in on Victoria, Mike resists obvious connections between these events and his work.

“A lot of work I make has something unusual about it. I try to present a certain amount of stepping out,” he said.

“I have more of an alliance to the psychedelic world and small colourful questions about human connection to nature and how we are animals.”

He likes an element of fantasy in his work, which he can bring out more on canvas than murals.

“A project like this can’t be too weird. People have to like it. Canvasses are easier than walls.”

He said to be an artist in lockdown “you totally have to find your own world.” So much is frustrating, he said, particularly “feeling the anxiety of the country.”

In the cave mural he likes the more textured, looser sections that “look for a happy medium of imperfection” and avoid repetition and straight lines.

These are the fill-in, narrative elements that are neither pool, in its hyper-real aqua, nor roots, fronds, leaves or vines.

Most viewers respond to the figurative elements with the cave evoking a feeling of seclusion so you can almost smell the moisture.

But often artists are more attuned to the spaces in between. These are the places where imagination has a chance to prosper in a time of uncertainty.

Twenty years on from 9/11 Mike’s small mural on a garage in Siberia Lane is still commemorating an extinction event 65 million years ago •

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