Belgian artist Paul Michiels’ work covers various bases, with drawings, paintings, graphic work and installations either large or small, in which childhood, vulnerability and decay take centre stage. Michiels waywardly juggles all these art forms in order to shape his inner world of demons, fantasies and sensations. This is not escapism, but on the contrary a conscious quest for confrontation with anxieties, sexual desires and ethic limits.
The artist assembles objets trouvés, dilapidated toys, old pictures, objects that once possessed an inner symbolism, into unnerving installations. The new contexts he carefully creates are layered. They navigate between innocence and perversion, between a sense of security and an implicit threat. But when taking a closer look the cute dolls and cuddly toys manning Paul Michiels’ fragile compositions are not that endearing. Their heads are shaven, they are missing arms and legs, they are knocked about and weather-beaten. Their grubby little faces and injured bodies, often tied up, maimed or gagged, make the spectator shudder. They pierce the illusion of naive innocence to make room for a rather bleak and desolate reality. Although Michiels’ creations may initially seem chaotic they are anything but. He indeed painstakingly selects a specific spot for each object to make it enter into the best dialogue possible with the other items and with its surroundings.
The artist’s graphic work is a visual stream of consciousness. With great ease and a firm hand he uses the space up to the edge; his fast and furious strokes fill the paper in the way automatic writing would. Michiels nevertheless manages to balance his compositions, and his orgy of flamboyant lines and colours wields its exorcising power over the spectator.
The artist (°1964) lives and works between Antwerp and Brussels (Belgium).