In two of the paintings on show at Vincent Michea’s first UK exhibition the artist is present, front and centre but obscured. His back is to the audience and he is primarily made up of dots, painted into being point by point. In Before The Big Spalsh this invisible visible self is looking over and out onto a busy swimming pool. Then in Ma Pincée de Tuiles from somewhere up on high it is taking in the scope of Dakar’s urbanism.
In all 6 of Michea's works on show at the Jack Bell Gallery his enthusiasm for Senegal's capital is strong, he uses blocks of bold colour to imbue ordinary subjects with extraordinary energy. A swimming pool blue, that is warm but not calming is most ubiquitous but there is also a cartoonishly bright red, a fake forest green and a plantain yellow. Strong colours are often associated with Africa, but in Michea's painting they represent more than a shorthand cultural connection, they are the colours of fond memories, their brightness conveys a hyper real delight.
Michea lived in the 'Paris of Africa' from 1991-1995 and now commutes to there from his home in actual Paris, France. He paints the city alive, makes it look really unreally real, much like a film set. In Dakar Punto Final the
city is perfectly staid, stuck in its own odd beauty, too manufactured to not exist. It looks like Los Angles for those who have never visited, perpetually peppy, its lights always on, existing only through the brightness of imagination.
The people in Michea's paintings are less fixed than their surroundings. Recalling the work of Roy Lichtenstein they come into being through an informal pointillism, which makes them seem melancholy. Reminds you that we are all made up of little bits of things not joined up. That people are difficult to grasp as a whole and that for better or worse to be alive is to show and hide. In Dakar – Beach Zone a couple dressed for the beach sits close, engaged in private conversation, they are a painting in a frame sitting on the steps of a house, by a stack of other paintings. This couple is excerpted in Vamos a la Playa, here Michea zooms in on them and so they seem real. You can get closer, are tempted to lean in to work out what they are saying. You peer at them through their dots trying to discern something, they are front and centre, present but obscured.
Before The Bigger Splash runs at the Jack Bell Gallery until 28 July 2012. Check out their website for more details.