Quiet Intimacy: A review by Ian Micheal at Mariane Ibrahim
In a prosaic and wistful pendulum of romance, familial affection and friendship, Ian Micheal’s new body of work invites us to consider quiet intimacies that saturate the everyday by suspending mundane moments. Ian Micheal’s “Stills” on Mariane Ibrahim whispers the love between people and countless other instances, things, textures and details that one encounters in daily life. In this, Micheal uses paint, textile collage and linguistic ambiguity (through the use of playful, but obscure, narratives in his titles) to slow down the viewer. The rooms, sounds and experiences often pass by in the haste and expediency that city life demands are allowed to be seen and admired. These figures feel like family members and strangers – both fixed and languid – his figures (and identities) are intimately recognizable and somehow completely unknown.
As aptly described in the exhibition statement, “by capturing fleeting movements that often fail to register, Micheal’s practice asks what it means to live in these affinities in a minor.” “There were two in the bed” (2022) is a diptych showing two masculine-presenting figures under covers; relaxed and loving, they rest in an embrace. Applications of cloth and thin washes of burnt umber represent the figures. This lush brown has an even distribution of pigment that points to the expert application of the medium. Sometimes Micheal’s brushstrokes appear as one contour line that unifies the shape of the body. The uniformity of pigment reveals an ambiguous narrative: it is not a source of light, for example, but it also provides a unique kind of anonymity. Wrapped over these bodies is an appliqué of floral fabric reminiscent of textiles popular in the early 1980s in the Midwest. Its ocher background and bright fuchsia flowers are a warm foreground to the ambiguous scene before us. The position and anonymity of the figures alternate between eroticism and platonic affection. Not given enough information to fully conceptualize a narrative or sense of understanding, the viewer is delegated to work with nuance.
“Everything but the kitchen sink” (2022) is a traditional still life: a fridge with a random arrangement of magnets, a stove with pots resting neatly on the burners. In the foreground is a table top with a bowl of fruit and some cups. The window has bars installed on the outside, and ocher paint and muted gray lighting maintain a specific ethos: tainted by the color of the smell of stale cigarette smoke. “Everything” is a portrait of an apartment, clean and loved, while smelling like the lives of all the other tenants. Without illustrating many specific characteristics, Micheal can stimulate nostalgia for living spaces I’ve inhabited, left, returned to, and loved despite their flaws or terrible landlords.
The last is the gentle application of tender twists of baby blue tissue in “It may like well be summer” (2022) that make up the breezy depths of poolside luxury. In the middle of the late summer heat, Ian Micheal’s work is a welcome respite from busy days and the hustle and bustle of passing. (Megan Bickel)
“Ian Micheal: Stills” is on view at Mariane Ibrahim, 437 North Paulina, through August 13.