In The End
4 September - 16 October 2021
WHATIFTHEWORLD is pleased to present In The End, Michael Taylor’s new solo exhibition with the gallery.
Handel darts off just as the man with the face like a puppy approaches. You’re disappointed to see how easily he is willing to abandon your conversation about cultural appropriation at parties, where to draw the line etc. You value Handel’s insights, generally. This feeling is soon replaced with a different kind of disappointment as the man with the face like a puppy begins to tell you about the feature film he hopes to make this year, how he has come to know the Bransons and that he has no regrets about spending his youth seeing the world instead of revising in windowless halls. Thomas (Tommy), who swears you’ve met before, understands better than most that there’s no better teacher and no better tonic than the unknown, but he does sometimes wonder whether his career might have taken a different turn had he accepted the Fulbright all those years ago, whether this may have made it easier for him to find a producer for his film etc. Handel had obviously been subject to this or some related monologue before. Still, as you glance over to where he is now, huddled in a corner with a groaning, be-sequined mass, you wonder whether he is any better off. Tommy pinches your arm, says he has to speak to a man about a horse, and leaves you, alone. You cast around for a drink and are relieved to see a hand appear with something cool and cloudy. Wade, who you know only by name, says nothing but moves to stand alongside you, looking out across the room. Camilla (small, angular, shy-by-day) is trying to get onto the shoulders of a taller, tented figure you don’t recognise. She scampers from chair to bookcase and finally, screaming, finds her post. The tented figure is unruffled and continues her conversation with the barman throughout. The barman (Ray, ancient) is tired and bored. The be-sequined mass into which Handel has been absorbed, is now pitching out of the corner and into the centre of the room to writhe with other, miscellaneous bodies. You picture yourself in the glider, above the sea, and suddenly can’t remember if it was you in the glider or someone else, who then described the experience to you.
Text by Chloë Reid
Michael Taylor mimics the immediate and expansive nature of the drawing process in order to develop scenes and characters in his painted work. Removed from its purely observational qualities, drawing becomes a projection of the artist’s intuition, imagination and memory. Representational and figurative elements in Taylor’s paintings create narrative frameworks that are unravelled to varying degrees through abstract marking. These baggy storylines are then fastened to titles that suggest postures, mannerisms and social codes. The titles spark moments of recognition in chronicles of masculinity, camp theatricality, personal and cultural mythology, and humanity in all its pomp and ineptitude.
In The End assembles new figurative and landscape paintings that consider nostalgia, escapism and the anxiety that underlines these impulses. Figures are notably absent from the landscapes, which appear more like sets or images from travel brochures and postcards than representations of existing places. In other works, and characteristic of the artist’s practice, figures commandeer the picture plane, their extended limbs and poses merging into one amalgamated movement, awkwardly synchronised. Three works interrupt these tendencies but summon their own variations on melodrama. Early Riser sets herself apart, an idealist. Clerk and Last One Standing could both be read as vestiges, one an abstraction, and the other a character we know and may have even been.
In The End looks at mingling bodies and solitude, pointing to the pleasure and disquiet that each anticipates and produces.
Michael Taylor (b. 1979) lives and works in Cape Town. He graduated with a Master of Fine Arts from Stellenbosch University and has since exhibited in solo and group shows in South Africa, Australia, The Netherlands, UK and USA. He was shortlisted in the Thames & Hudson’s 100 Young Painters of Tomorrow in 2013 and his work is held in numerous private collections globally, including the Woodner Collection (USA).