News and Trends

Michael Taylor

With this month’s April Art issue hitting the shelves, the HL team has been on the lookout for exciting, local creative talent. We asked Joburg curator Kim Stern for her selection of top up-and-coming South African artists. Here we chat with Michael TaylorWhat art do you produce? I make narrative paintings and drawings. My pictures tell stories of imaginary characters and hypothetical situations, executed in a very spirited style. What and who are your influences? I admire the work of a whole bunch of contemporary painters, but as far as influences go, I would say that it's the work of David Hockney and Edward Gorey – two artists whose different approaches to storytelling, characterisation, and 'staged' episodes – that I enjoy going back to. I have an affinity for artists who exaggerate the idea of personality and complicate stereotypes – especially John Currin, George Condo, Cindy Sherman, Kara Walker, Walton Ford, and Dana Schutz. What is the main thrust/ message behind your art? The intrigue behind personal narratives, and interpreting humanisms – those are things that keep me interested in making art. Knowing that people try and figure out a story in looking at your picture, and in many cases identify with what they see, is just such a pleasure. People love pictures. That’s the reason. What is your biggest challenge as an artist, both in terms of logistics and the message you are trying to convey? I think the challenge of being an artist is fundamentally a personal mission. To be recognised as a painter, it is important to develop a visual style or identity that sets you apart from your contemporaries. And it may take forever for something concrete to take hold, but then that’s exactly the kind of process that keeps things interesting for a painter and keeps them coming back to new, different ways of making images. Of course there are actual obstacles to deal with, but they seem somewhat relative in comparison. Tell us more about your past and upcoming exhibitions? My past exhibitions were all conceptualised around a theme, where I treated the individual images as components of a could-be story – a weird, unlikely collection of characters or spaces, which were interpretative ideas and visual anomalies. In my most recent solo exhibition, however, I worked with a structured narrative and created images for very specific ideas or events. I would like to continue investigating the idea of series or look at exhibitions as a kind of ‘book’ in the future. What do you think of the role of the artist in South Africa today? I think the artist’s role is to make people aware of themselves in the bigger picture – to bring people back to a place where for a short moment they’re reminded of who they are. Finally, if you weren’t an artist what would you be? A movie director. Keep an eye out for the rest of our artist Q+As coming up in April… For more information about Michael Taylor's work visit Interviewed by Kim Grové