Bridgeman Copyright artist Antony Micallef is a British artist known for his ‘critical pop’ pieces, and more recently his exploratory work in portraiture. He was taught by renowned landscape painter John Virtue, who was in turn taught by the last of the post war painters, Frank Auerbach.
Frank Auerbach is often cited as an influence on Micallef’s recent work, along with figurative painter Francis Bacon. These pieces are large scale and thick with layers of impasto brush strokes. They are figurative pieces, begun with the image of the artist himself reflected in the mirror, but are not strictly self-portraits. Micallef states, ‘I don’t always see the portraits as me. I’m the vehicle for whatever seems to happen. In many ways, these are paintings that explore the capabilities of paint as a medium, testing and stretching the method of physically applying paint to a surface.
Micallef’s studio is famously coated in the fleshy tones of his works; in interviews he has joked about working in an ‘abattoir’. The floor and walls bear the consequences of the physicality of Micallef’s paint application. He stands back from the piece, and coats his canvas with large, heavy brushes; his painting method as energetic as his final products appear. He describes his process as one of excavation, saying, ‘for every painting I do, I never know what I’m going to unearth. I feel like my eyes are closed and I’m excavating, trying to bring this thing to the surface.’ Such an analogy is interesting when the physical depth of his paintings is considered. The contours of Micallef’s figures are almost as much the product of their 3-D structure as they are colours and brush strokes; sometimes raised a few inches from the canvas. They appear to have been built rather than excavated. Perhaps they are instead dug up from his imagination; carved from the air before him. Micallef continues; ‘The whole experience moves like a jigsaw puzzle that’s simultaneously melting.’ There is an intensity and an extremity, a vigour, in his handling of paint that sets him apart from his contemporaries.
Micallef also recently produced a series of pieces entitled Trump’s Fags; a collection as politically charged as some of his earlier pieces, such as those exhibited in the Banksy-crated Santa’s Ghetto, in Bethlehem in 2007. Donald Trump’s grimacing face is painted onto packets of Marlboro cigarettes so that their slogans (‘kills’ and ‘seriously harms you and others around you’) loudly warn of his danger.
It is this pushing of boundaries, this exploration of the capabilities of his mediums, which grants Micallef status as one of the finest painters in contemporary art today.
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Antony Micallef joins a distinguished list of artists and artists’ estates to have appointed the Bridgeman Artists’ Copyright Service including Lucian Freud and Stanley Spencer.
Even if the image is not held by Bridgeman, copyright can still be cleared.
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