Right now the hottest artist in town is Antony Micallef. He shares a dealer with Banksy and his new show, "It's A Wonderful World", at Lazinc in Soho was a sell-out before it even opened. The buzz at the preview was that Damien Hirst and Robbie Williams had bought the lot that afternoon.
From what I can tell everybody likes to say that Hirst has bought from them as he still retains his bad boy edge whilst obviously conveying a certain amount of mainstream credibility. That said I wonder what the fact that Williams has bought is supposed to tell us or the mention on the bio-sheet that one of the Strokes and Michael Stipe own a Micallef. It's like when you see Jude Law or Angelina Jolie at a show. They have money. They can afford a ¬£50,000 painting but what do they actually know about art? Or, more to the point, what does telling us that they have bought a certain artist's painting tell us about the artist? Nothing useful.
Micallef is at his strongest with portraiture, he has a dynamic touch and his small Head Study quartet buzz with spooky energy. This energetic mark making is often likened to Francis Bacon drawing Disney and its no coincidence that there is a link back to another great figurative artist in that Micallef's drawing tutor was a student of Frank Auerbach. In fact, the artist's faces are so well executed that they save a lot of the larger, weaker works.
There are recurring themes in Micallef's work: angels and devils, weaponry, anthropomorphic animals, corporate logos and brands. The logos still trouble me; it seems to me that that the likes of McDonalds/ Burger King/ Gucci logos are lazy signifiers that are redundant in 2006. The works do not question consumerism in the way that say Sylvie Fleury's work does but the playing with brands somehow ground it, creating an fog of Agit-prop nostalgia that harks back to a less media aware age.
This seemed like a transitional show. Good but not great. Micallef is hampered by some compositional problems and an over reliance on banal logos. But his portraiture and figurative work is as good as anything happening now and has the potential to develop into something truly astounding. But what do I know? I'm not a Hollywood a-lister.
The show runs until November 4th. More info here http://www.lazinc.com/