Reminiscent of the bizarre anthropomorphic portraits of 16th century painter Giuseppe Arcimboldo, Michael Bauer’s work creates figurative composites from abstraction and design. In Pol 1 (Smart Estrus), a male profile appears as a grotesque and distorted conglomeration of doodled elements. Grey and muddy forms entangle as abject viscera: lumpy scar tissue, withering penises, and slithery dead matter converge as psychological landscape, and forlorn memento mori. Framed by a decorative vignette, Bauer balances the obscene with the precious, creating a fragile seduction within his barbarous image. Subtitled Smart Estrus, Bauer’s painting suggests lurid plots of patriarchal power and noble lineage.
Michael Bauer offers deformity as a platform for unequivocal beauty. In Pol 4 (Senor Mousse), Bauer uses the qualities of abstract painting as a deviation of representational portraiture, allowing the media to replicate the characteristics of physical matter. Traces of recognisable features, such as eyes and hands give uneasy relation to celiac smears, scabby encrustations, and fluid brush marks, each rendered with a pristine delicacy. Offset by harlequin ornamentation and elegant touches of primavera colour, Bauer’s reductive palette creates an antiquarian reverence, setting his absurd conception as an icon of protracted contemplation.
Michael Bauer’s paintings appear as both intuitively spontaneous and carefully contrived. Set as neutral grounds, Bauer’s canvases are poetically quite zones where haphazard forms emerge with playful sophistication, balancing between organic aberration and whimsical design. In Untitled, Bauer uses attenuate mark making as a departure point for invention: shapes suggest themselves through impulsive drips and washes, becoming further refined with illustrative adornment. Dainty lines and swatches of bright colour take both geometric and bodily form, creating a biological architecture suggesting species that are exquisitely exotic.