•  Installation Shots From: Pangaea: New Art From Africa And Latin America
    Pangaea: New Art From Africa And Latin America
  •  Installation Shots From: Pangaea: New Art From Africa And Latin America
    Pangaea: New Art From Africa And Latin America
  •  Installation Shots From: Pangaea: New Art From Africa And Latin America
    Pangaea: New Art From Africa And Latin America
  •  Installation Shots From: Pangaea: New Art From Africa And Latin America
    Pangaea: New Art From Africa And Latin America
  •  Installation Shots From: Pangaea: New Art From Africa And Latin America
    Pangaea: New Art From Africa And Latin America
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SELECTED WORKS BY Alan Michael

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Alan Michael
Apologia Pro Vita Positivia

2005

oil on canvas

101.5 x 76 x 1.8cm
Alan Michael’s paintings explore the dynamic of cultural image transaction and artistic lineage. Borrowing his subject matter from both art historical and media sources, Michael’s large-scale canvases magnify their appropriated imagery; rendered with a cold, almost mechanical aesthetic, his paintings resonate with a sense of the uncanny, making the familiar seem alien and inured. Through his interwoven referencing, Michael adapts the ideologies associated with various art historical movements to highlight his subjects as hierarchical emblems, situated within, and co-opted by, often conflicting power structures. Untitled (Shoes), for example, is formatted in repetitive panels, reminiscent of Warhol’s pop. Retaining faithfulness to the original photographic sources with a limited grey-scale palette, Michael’s footwear both allures with the glamour of early 20th c. advertising and the style of Russian agitprop. Similar strategies are found throughout Michael’s paintings, which readily mingle 80s fashion, Soviet propaganda, minimalism, and pop. In this careful layering of signifiers, Michael develops his own lexicon which both decodes and furnishes cultural anxiety. Through their sterile aesthetic, Michael’s paintings isolate symbolic fragments of contemporary experience, rendering their meaning as bereft, corrupted, and infinitely seductive.
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Alan Michael
Untitled (faces)

2005

oil on canvas

86 x 50.5cm
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Alan Michael
Untitled (shoes)

2005

oil on canvas

164 x 113cm
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Alan Michael
Apologia

2005

pencil on paper on canvas

205 x 154cm

ARTICLES

Alan Michael: Year Zero from the Northern gallery of Contemporary Art

‘Homage’; ‘influence’; ‘synthesis’; ‘appropriation’; ‘adaptation’; ‘quotation’; ‘pastiche’; ‘plagiarism’. The very fact that we possess such a bewildering vocabulary with which to articulate the relation of one artist to another is symptomatic of an intractable problem. Alan Michael’s work, overloaded with references, visual quotations, borrowings – call them what you will – seems to expand the problem exponentially. What, we might ask encountering Michael’s work, might be said to be the author’s own; our own; or begged, borrowed and stolen? Who is indebted to whom?

The literary critic Harold Bloom coined the phrase “the anxiety of influence” in the 1970s to describe the problem of how to describe artists’ relationships to their sources and predecessors. If anything the problem has become ever more entangled as the weight of images in the world has grown. The artists labelled ‘postmodern’ in the eighties, such as David Salle, approached the problem by throwing every style or type of image into a mixing pot, as if it were possible to level out every hierarchy, or revise every existing form of classification. Michael, like Salle, has drawn upon a panoramic range of source material, and both have reworked images by Lucian Freud (amongst others) in the past. However, unlike artists from the older generation, Michael doesn’t entertain mere pastiche or travesty of works from ‘the canon’; indeed he avoids anything which might be thought obvious, or readily explicable within a linear logic.

Michael seems to foreclose the possibility of us adequately defining his relationship to the artists whose styles and subjects he borrows (recreates, adapts, reworks). Nor does it seem possible to properly characterise his non-art range of sources without being left in contradictions. The artist pre-empts any logical connection between his constellation of competing, rather than connected references. Each painting creates such an impossibly circuitous ‘narrative drive’ that we are only left circling around ideas rather than gaining any point of entry or closure.
The artist, recognising that all artistic endeavour is a question of interdependence rather than sovereign autonomy, also recognises that we inescapably search for fixity of meaning for and for tidy solutions to the issue of causation. What, he asks, if we were to remember that the Latin word ‘textum’ simply means ‘web’? Rather than establishing a mere ‘dialogue’ with his material or insisting on the past as irretrievably lost, Michael takes a different tack. His personal investment in the (ostensible) subject matter becomes impossible to discern. In fact, it becomes impossible to tell if he even has any. (In the past he has written, “Someone once said to me ‘Why would you put something you’re interested in into your work?’, and I kind of agree.”) As Tom Morton has recently written about the artist, “his real concern is the moment when the source material he references fades into a new fiction... If referencing is a social contract, it often seems like Michael has torn it up to create a near impermeable private language.” This hermetic language throws us back onto our own resources, independent of the artist’s direction. Whilst frequently referencing cinematic imagery, Michael expresses an ambivalent relation to the idea of the artist-as-auteur. Our only points of certainty are that the artist keeps us engaged with a delightfully light touch and splinters of humour.

Read the entire article here
Source: ngca.co.uk