Mikey’s world, (his beau monde).



As far as I can tell, it began in an almost scholarly fashion. A blob of paint, instinctively smudged by the artist’s hand: a consciously arbitrary starting point. (As perhaps, in this modern world, which mocks those who try to make sense of it, the only place that an artist can start, is arbitrary.) John Cage might have approved of the blob, for it was as near to random and empty as you could get—without dumping painting altogether. Mikey observed the blob’s surface, listened to its silence, and hand painted the random gesture to various scales. He sculpted it, traced its outline, and mirrored its characteristics in abstract photographs. This ‘process orientated’ practice was as up to date as you get; firmly located in a contemporary context through its responsiveness to the dazzling surfaces that surround us in a consumer society. He started to play with consigning out the industrial manufacture of his ‘blob’…


Indeed, words like ‘playful’ and ‘light’, are about all Mikey does to direct your interpretation of his work. He seems to be saying, ‘don’t try to read too much into it, don’t go and intellectualise it, just enjoy it, like I do.’ And you can’t help enjoying it-fuck, I’d even enjoy my own art, if it looked half as good as M’s. Anyway, it has been an intelligent, scholarly and investigative play. Extensive travel overseas has meant that M’s practice is highly informed about historical and contemporary trends in visual art, and his practice is underpinned by thorough research. At the level of process, it has been purposeful about exhausting the possibilities of new materials, freeing painting from the boundaries of the picture frame, and inventive with technology. What we’ve seen is the prettiest, most radiant tip of an iceberg. It rises gracefully from a solid foundation of practise that is immersed in the often-freezing water of contemporary art and culture (sic).


Yet, research and process cannot account for what it has come to today. It seemed like, one perfectly ordinary day, the shapes just woke up and started to chatter. Mikey’s motif became Mikey’s pets. Affectionate little things, they played at the birds and the bees. He told me that he made ten of the little sculptures one night, and the next morning there was eleven. Not quite in jest, he said that they seemed to be multiplying.


It seems so natural for the blob to have started to breathe, wobble, bend and squeak. But I want to stress that this sudden liveliness is not merely a logical extension of process-orientated work or a reflection of a fashionable cutesy aesthetic. It is not the 3D animation software that has fertilized, Frankenstein like, inert matter to create life. Nor is the cartoony style of the wall paintings just a natural characteristic of laser cut vinyl. I think it is fair to say that previously the blob was a contingent form on which to hang experimental processes and techniques that reflected aesthetic experiences of contemporary life. Yet now we see that all of this time, Mikey has been nurturing a wonderfully eccentric personality within his blob. In this show, where that personality is fully hatched for the first time, we no longer locate the work against our experience in the ‘real’ world, but let ourselves be charmed by the personalities of Mikey’s world. It’s so nice in Mikey’ world, all those pretty colours and peculiar things.


Television space is fishbowl space. There’s a world going on in there’ (Vito Acconci). One of the things about the plasma screen is that it is not a box, like televisions are. Not an aquarium that we look into. Nor is the plasma screen anything like the experience of projection, where, in the dark room, we become totally immersed in, and enter into, the world that is projected. Instead, when the plasma screen gets turned on, it brings things, hologram-like, into our world. Similarly, when we turn the stereo on, we almost feel like whoever sings or whatever makes the sound is in the room with us. Sculptures, of course, always share the space of a room with us. M’s Vinyls crawl around the gallery, celebrating its walls, rather than themselves as ‘paintings’. The work in this exhibition has this presence. The characters from Mikey’s world have joined us in ours’.



Strickland, James. mikey’s world, (his beau monde), stanley, beatrice and friends, Greenaway Art Gallery, 2003