Antony Micallef, who won second prize in the BP/Amoco Portrait of the Year award in 2000, is recognised for the way his work comments on contemporary aspects of culture and how we experience it, often illustrating a darker side to our consumer society. His new exhibition at the Lazarides Rathbone Gallery in London explores his own character. The black and white paintings “Embrace” are recognisable, but the self- portraits present something deeper. Energetically-painted thick layers of different coloured paint vibrantly cover the canvas; at times it is uncertain whether the portrait represents an alien form taking over or a face where the skin has been pulled apart so that we are looking inside a troubled soul reacting to the contradictions of modern life.
“Antony Micallef’s ultimate self-portrait, Self, subverts the selfie paradox and presents a wiser artist in deep reflection.” (Lazarides Rathbone)
The work has stylistic echos of Francis Bacon and Frank Auerbach and, in a strange way to the late 15th century painting The Flaying of Sisamnes by Gerard David, where the skin is removed so that we see the body inside.
“When I begin painting a face it feels like I’m facing for marks randomly, trying to catch an expression of a character, an identity” (Antony Micallef)
Micallef lives in London in a restrained living space which is a marked contrast to his studio and his work. He described it to the Daily Telegraph as follows:
“I live in Notting Hill, west London, in a building that dates from the early 1900s. This used to be my studio, and I lived across the street; I decided to swap them, as the other space has better light. My studio is cluttered with my things – I like it, it’s like creating a “hug” for yourself, being surrounded by things that make you “you” – but I’ve kept my living space simple and serene. I don’t have a television in here; I watch the world go by from the balcony instead. When I’m working, I have to remind myself to go out in the real world and see people. I live by Portobello Road, so I wander down to pick up art supplies, and I end up finding lots of interesting things”.