Antony Micallef for the Secret Auction

We are delighted to have Antony Micallef as one of our Secret Auction artists for Art on A Postcard.

He describes himself as a ‘modern expressionist’, with his work examining the complex relationship between the individual and consumerism. He was trained by the notoriously austere landscape painter John Virtue and graduated from The University of Plymouth and has gone on to achieve great success with recent exhibitions in the Tate Britain and Royal Academy.

Micallef’s paintings, while being physically impressive, exist within a liminal space between commonly accepted poles of definition. They are at once portraits that exist within a deliberate history of art that critiques social media and popular culture, whilst simultaneously they break free from that history of portraiture into a new form of expression; one that is completely involved in that popular culture of which it critiques. This lucid undecidability is a key part of his body of work that is representative of the zeitgeist of our time. Such is the paradoxical fusion of past and present that defines Micallef’s work, a distinctive body which contrasts an extreme immersion in the traditional medium of paint, and yet provides a context for concerns that are entirely contemporary. The usage of paint itself is meaty, flurried, tactile and imposing, and yet it is (in his latest exhibition Raw Intent) commonly set against a more serene background that becomes paradoxically foreboding due to its combination with the figure that rises off the canvas.   

 He says that “more than ever we view our surroundings at a remove, through screens of literal representation that filter out deeper personal engagement.” Indeed this heavy usage of paint counteracts this as these portraits are as much sculptural as they are painterly with some works that rise over two inches off the canvas, literally spilling out, exploding and arresting your attention, making a bodily engagement with the work unavoidable – a rarity in our desensitised culture of social media.

The figures themselves can be made out as human portraits only because of a loose outline of a head and shoulders. Within this blurred bodily frame, which the paint seems at times to disregard is a dynamic, pulp-like melding of fleshy colours in a whirlpool of structured chaos - perhaps a good phrase for portrayal of the interior consciousness of our ever-more solipsistic lives. These paintings seize the fluid essence of inner madness that exists within the post-modern man in a frantic world, a fact that we aim to simplify, gloss over and ignore. 

The physicality of Micallef’s painting technique captures this rupture between who we express ourselves to be and who we really our underneath our social front; “I suppose what I have against selfies is that they are just so fabricated and happy. Everyone is happy in them. They project how they want to be perceived, and after a while you think this is all just faff.” These portraits are his way of stripping back the thin veneer of happiness that social media celebrates, revealing the “warts and all” make-up of the existential human experience.

Micallef’s views on popular culture and current affairs also take on a satirical element, and his portraits of Donald Trump on a cigarette boxes have become a social phenomenon; appearing on signposts at protests, concerts and on-t-shirts as buyable merchandise. Again detailing his ability to be at once immersed within, and yet removed from, popular culture, giving a perfect vantage point from which to comment upon. And furthermore, his use of witty humour fits right into a meme-orientated, social media-driven world that demands snappy images with fact punchlines.

Antony Micallef is an artist who physically grapples with the paint, creating imposing and dynamic work that leaves an indelible mark on the history of art, and moreover portraiture, through a representation of the body’s ability to grasp the gestalt of what is going on, or failing to - and it is in this mixed-up confusion in which we should embrace.

We are delighted to have Anthony on board for Art and a Postcard, can you spot which postcard is his?

About the writer
Daniel is a 22 y/o and has recently graduated with an English Literature and Philosophy degree from University College Dublin. A keen writer and set designer, Daniel wishes to follow up his degree with a Masters in Phenomenology in the not-so distant future.

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