Antony Micallef’s ‘bubblegum pop’ paintings combine skilled brushwork with references to old masters and graphic design. Dealing with the subject of portraiture in a dark and slightly twisted, Bacon-esque way, human forms are placed in artificial, unnatural environments that are influenced by popular culture in the forms of fashion, music and design. By shaping an artificial ‘stage’ for his ‘characters’ to inhabit, Micallef attempts to capture and reveal their personality. He states, “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”. Japan became a major influence in Micallef’s work after a visit to Tokyo in 1999, where he developed a fascination with cultural icons and motifs and their relation to society and the individual. The artist states: “The culture there is completely twisted. You have that real sugar side, but there’s always a dark side underneath. I’m trying to look at that in-between space in pop”. This marked a new development in Micallef’s work and it was the body of work that followed that contributed hugely into making him into a cultural icon as an artist.
Micallef’s work has been exhibited widely throughout the world since he won second prize in the BP Portrait awards in 2000 at the age of 24. After being involved in various independent projects which lead to his work being shown in London and Budapest amongst other European cities, in 2005 Eyestorm commissioned a series of 10 prints with the artist. These were the first signed limited edition publications by Micallef, and consisted of eight hand crafted lithographs printed with Curwen Studio in Cambridge, and two giclee prints. The past four years in Micallef’s career have been extremely important. In 2006 he was approached by Lazarides Gallery, who represent Banksy amongst others and soon became part of the cool ‘urban street art’ scene that was sweeping the world at the time. His work was consequently exhibited frequently alongside Banksy, Jamie Hewlett (of Gorillaz & Tank Girl fame) and Stanley Donwood. Micallef’s solo show in downtown Hollywood Boulevard LA in 2007 sold out in less than two hours, with celebrities such as Brad Pitt & Angelina Jolie, Christina Aguilera and The Osbournes all fighting to buy a piece of his work. Other collectors include Damien Hirst, Robin Williams, Jude Law, Michael Stipe from R.E.M, and Nick Velensi from The Strokes. His most recent solo show was at Lazarides gallery, London in September 2009. With his work highly sought after and regularly appearing on the secondary market, Micallef has become one of the most collectable artists living and working in Britain today, and with his career still rising, is set to become even more successful in the years to come.