Alan Michael: Touch Void
Talbot Rice Gallery, Edinburgh, Sat 19 Jan–Sat 1 Mar
Graduating from Glasgow School of Art’s MFA course in 1998, 40-year-old painter Alan Michael, who remains based in the city, has built a steady reputation, with last year’s solo shows in Los Angeles, Berlin and Cologne representing something of a peak in his career to date.
Described by the artist as ‘like a diagram of the way I’ve been working in the last two years’, this exhibition at Talbot Rice will feature more traditional painted works alongside text-only pieces, of which Michael has been producing more in recent years. ‘The last thing I did in Scotland was ‘The Invention of Birth Control’ (Sorcha Dallas Gallery, 2005), a sequence of text paintings combining visual quotes from a high street record label alongside the syntax of weekend supplements,’ he says. ‘It was about middle class fixations with modernism.’
By merging reference points from ‘high’ and ‘low’ culture, and painting them together in such a way that images of people or logos often repeat themselves or bleed off the side of the canvas, Michael recreates the snapshot effect of 21st century living. Faces and words are only glimpsed in the unceasing bustle of the modern city, and this half-seen, half-remembered burst of information is all many of his paintings offer.
‘Paintings of the angular modernist detailing in a restaurant interior share the space with street views and text paintings announcing fugitive titles and car models,’ he says. ‘As the styles switch from representational to text only you get some sort of subconscious, free-associative impression, so specific interpretation is irrelelevant, really. To get in the mood, I watched a lot of awful Jean-Luc Godard films and some good Jean Eustache ones.’