'Michael Andrew Page: Count The Leaves in Vallombrosa' in Kolekto Magazine

'Michael Andrew Page: Count The Leaves in Vallombrosa' by Will Davie

For his first solo exhibition at Edel Assanti Gallery London, Michael Andrew Page's Count The Leaves In Vallombrosa, sees a rebirth of acquired materials and aesthetics from his formative adolescence re-worked into a series of visual codes. These come in two basic formulas, tainted monochromes and photo-realist drawings. These draw upon heavy metal music, biker culture, Romantic prose, and video games where by Page examines how their visual language and cultural content is itself borrowed, reinterpreted and redefined and then furiously re-consumed, leading to the development of cross-cultural narratives.

 

Upon entering the gallery, staring back at the viewer is The Archbishop and the Controller of Fire (2014), two, side-by-side, plum-burgundy veneered maple boards, each one 100 x 70 cm. The boards are slanted against the wall and raised off the ground by Styrofoam strips. Each board is wrapped in a handmade aluminium frame decorated in decals. The surfaces of the boards allow the grain of the wood to permeate just below the surface of the veneer drawing immediate parallels to the now iconic Gibson guitars from the 50's, 60's and 70's. A small red wing-like decal resides upon the face of the left-hand board. Closer towards the viewer on the left hand side wall two more boards, Who is this woman that for some Months has followed me up and down? Her face I cannot see, for she ever keeps behind me (2014), also stand slanted against the wall, creating a triangulation point with the viewer. These boards, however, are finished in a vibrantly sombre blue-yellow- burst veneer. On the left-hand board, on the bottom left is a Smokin' Joe's sticker with yellow text and green outlining. On the right-hand board towards the centre-left of the composition is a cut-out of the carry handle found on the Steve Vai, the legendary guitar virtuoso and one time Frank Zappa and David Lee Roth guitarist, signature guitar.


The decals, the hand-made aluminium frames, the deployment of paint and its pallets, are all elements that have played a part in Page's social and environmental make-up. From watching his father tinkering with his racing bikes, which is one aspect of the decals, to playing drums in a DIY-cum-garage rock band, Page is examining the and reassembling vital autobiographical elements, that when viewed by the audience can potentially trigger a parallel yet similarly autobiographical discourse. Through this Page is encouraging an re-birthing of significant moments from the viewer's lives' that they may have not revisited in a long time, yet share similar aesthetic traits with Page's. Thus the work provides a platform which has the ability to explore that which is deep inside the subconscious if it is there.

 

But for those viewer's where the niche mile markers of Page's life remain unknown, the work takes on a deep elusive presence within the gallery. Untitled (Reluctancy II) (2014) is a pencil and graphite drawing on paper framed in perspex. The image is a blue monochrome of a Thomas De Quincy book cover overlapping a Dario Argento book cover. These added snippets of information provide even more scope to the ever mounting whirlwind of visual information that one believes Page thought significant enough to render as icons. But the connections between the work is subtle and chameleon-esq at times leading the viewer into unknown realms, a consequence Page references as 'a reluctance to give up a method of word association in reference of low culture taking the place of high culture.' Yet when discussing the work with him, an honest and rather humble rebirthing of these icons are revealed. In Untitled (Reluctancy I) (2014) a pencil and graphite rendition of Delacroix's 1840 masterpiece The Entry of the crusaders into Constantanople was appropriated for the album art of British death metal band Bolt Thrower's album, The IVth Crusade. It rests upon a copy of The Journal of Eugène Delacroix. Page explains that he first encountered the painting through the album cover imagery and thus 'its visual language belongs to Bolt Thrower not t0 Dealcroix's The Entry of the crusaders into Constantanople.' It is with this acknowledgement of accepting a recycled piece of visual information over its origin as a root, that Page's work reaches its full momentum - an action that we all have been susceptible to at some point or another. Thus the push and pull of either identifiable and unidentifiable elements and when partnered with the underlying concept of addressing and tracing visual language to its personal and universal roots, creates an imposingly intimate intensity, one rarely captured and maneuvered so poetically, so boldly, by an artist of such a young age. The exhibition leaves the viewer intrigued and parched to see how the works and dynamics from this inaugural exhibition will inhabit those that in his second, third and even fourth exhibitions.

January 29, 2015