A Portfolio: Michael Kirkham

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As we gather our notes from last week’s art fairs in Los Angeles, we loved what we saw from Michael Kirkham’s work at Felix Art Fair with Harkawik gallery. So, without further ado, the Blackpool-born, Berlin-based painter is today’s A Portfolio.

Michael Kirkham shows us a tightly modulated urban environment, in which moments of solitude, transaction, and casual encounter are evacuated of the hope and harmony that might otherwise redeem them. Erotic embrace, furtive glance, domestic habitation, holiday repose, motherly love and even traditional still life embody all the wonder and joy of a figure in an abandoned wax museum covered in dust. The power in his work is derived both from a lifelong fixation with sex, power, death and vice, and a careful consonance between his choice of subject and peculiar process, which leaves his canvases thick, textured, full of another kind of despair entirely. For the past 5 years, Kirkham has been focused on a body of work he calls “Negatives,” in which certain aspects of underpainting are exploited to produce pictures whose color palette approximates—but doesn’t quite capture—film negatives. His work is an insistent reminder of the torment that often lurks beneath a sunny disposition.

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