To look at oneself in a critical and honest fashion is always hard. To then exhibit the raw result for the world to see must be even harder. But that is exactly what Antony Micallef is doing with his upcoming exhibition SELF at Lazarides gallery. The extremely talented Micallef’s meteoric rise from a working class childhood in Swindon to art world luminary is both interesting and inspiring. Micallef is he youngest son of five children born to two Maltese immigrants, his father worked as a sheet metal worker and his mother was a cleaner. Recognising his talent – he painted from an early age – his parents built him a studio at the bottom of their garden and he was trained at Plymouth University by John Virtue, a notoriously austere landscape painter and former student and assistant of Frank Auerbach. After Plymouth, he taught himself graphic design and moved to Brighton, painting in a rented studio shared between 20 other artists. So far, so not particulary lah-di-dah.
In 2000 he won second prize at the BP Portrait Award, exhibiting at the National Portrait Gallery. Each of his six solo shows has been a sell-out, some before they even opened, with works being snaffled up by Damien Hirst, Jude Law and Angelina Jolie. Being part of a Banksy show in 2006 put him firmly on the map and to his surprise he found that after returning from a solo show in LA in 2007 back to Brighton, virtually destitute, a life altering phone call told him his work had sold for more than three million pounds!
Most mortals would have eased off at this point; however, Micallef used his ascent from penniless in Brighton to living in not just one but two stunning properties in Notting Hill as a reason to return to something more visceral and honest. Feeling he had become part of the problem, he decided to strip away the veneer and show the brutal truth of what lay beneath. He wanted to look at where he came from as a working class artist who found success in a notoriously difficult industry. With his work having been described variously as ‘Bacon in Disneyland’ and ‘Caravaggio meets Manga’ it will be interesting to see where this new direction takes him.
Antony Micallef | SELF
From 13th February – 19th March 2015
11 Rathbone Place
London W1T 1HR
Words by Anna Bang
TagsAngelina Jolie, anna bang, Antony Micallef, Banksy, Damien Hirst, John Virtue, Jude Law, Lazarides,