Michael Canning was born in Limerick in 1971, he studied there at the School of Art & Design and then in Greece at the School of Fine Arts in Athens. In 1999, he received his Masters Degree in Fine Art from the National College of Art & Design in Dublin. In 2003, Michael was awarded the Royal Academy's prestigious Hennessy Craig Prize. Michael's work has been shown widely across the United Kingdom.
The landscape elements of the paintings, which are often worked on over a period of years, relate to the artist's home in the West of Ireland. These landscapes are not topographically accurate, instead they are more of an evocation of a remembered place. The flora is conversely painted quickly, often in a single sitting, and from life. Michael's studio is strewn with drying flowers and weeds. The species of flora is not particularly important to the meaning of the painting, although many of the plants represented have medicinal or herbal properties and they are invariably wild - sourced from local hedgerows and pastures. The contrived compositions - the plants are rooted to a black base rather than in a natural setting - relate to old master compositions where flowers are displayed on a window sill overlooking an idealised landscape.
Although the compositions and subject matter relate to earlier periods in art history, the meaning of the paintings is rooted in more contemporary concerns. Michael is interested in philosophical questions regarding the nature of painting and representation, and subverting the concept of the painting as a window onto the natural world.