Allow Michael Taylor to open your mind
August 18, 2009 Cape Times
Exhibition: MICHAEL TAYLOR at Worldart, Church Street, until Saturday. MELVYN MINNAAR reviews.
WE DEPEND on artists to take us to places that we can't imagine on our own, and the point of that trip is to extend the geography of our minds, hopefully with a dash of passion added to the excursion and with a pleasurable conclusion.
In Michael Taylor's case, viewer emotional engagement is triggered by offbeat wit, and the visual journey successfully concluded with sly painterly manoeuvre.
In fact, these gouache paintings - to which the title, The Plot Thickens, is a key pointer (and a clever bit of word play) - trace delightful games of the mind that negotiate the inventive space between text and image, as the gallery's media information rightly has it.
It's a happy space to be, one which, in authentic art fashion, gets the viewer to perform an important, cerebral role in pulling it all together.
Taylor is a visual thinker. Illustration, in the proactive manner, is his thing.
The pictures, of which each in this small show seem to work extremely hard to rejuvenate the very act of painting, are no wall-flowers, decorative (which they mostly are as well) and fleeting.
They demand attention with their swirls of outrageous gestures and optical secrets.
But to his schooled graphic mind, words are important for the "illustration" to work.
Hence the importance of titles.
Yes, the pictures come across playfully enough, but add Taylor's slinky labels, and the game is on.
"I regard this as entry-point into the work of art, from where the viewer proceeds to create meaning. However, for me the image-making process precedes naming or labelling of the image.
"In most cases I deliberately choose titles which evoke something entirely different from what the image represents."
Evoke they do.
Look at picture like Toiling with Change in which the rather forlorn schoolmarm-ish figure is certainly very visibly in-betwixt and between.
Somewhat cartoonish, it nevertheless buzzes with a kind of depressed anxiety.
Taylor can be naughty - referencing widely the existing art world and its history - and also challengingly ambiguous.
The tension between what he says in text and what he says on canvas, and whether we believe him - or can decipher the puzzle meaningfully - is what makes him such a viewer's artist.
No wonder he is such a favourite among the contemporary crowd.
He has shown himself a very skilled graphic inventor and printmaker, one which seldom loses the mystery of the image, no matter the media.
There's something truly fresh, even naively so, about Taylor's way with visuals and words.
Crisply imaginative, his paintings instantly hitch you along for that ride, opening your own mind.
It's a pretty jolly trip.
Call the Worldart gallery at 021 423 3075.