Gerhard Hofland proudly presents NEGATIVES, a new exhibition by Michael Kirkham. As the title suggests, the exhibition will contain paintings of negatives, including a series of works on paper.
An important aspect of Kirkham’s work is the use of light, yet the source of it differs in every work. Light is also visible in the negative paintings; where we expect shadow, we are greeted with light and where we expect light, a shadow appears. The source appears to come from inside the painting and for that reason the light seems to have a more powerful and stronger impact than a source from outside the painting would have. The playfulness in which Kirkham uses that to highlight the intimate areas of the body and hides the otherwise obvious areas, makes the negatives really intriguing.
Often highly regarded for their uncompromising nature, Michael Kirkham’s paintings give a delicate insight into the dark corners of human existence. Painted mostly from the mind, mixing fantasy and reality, Kirkham depicts his subjects in uncomfortable or awkward positions, (half) undressed, engaging in acts of sexual nature, being in love, daydreaming, or showing their genitals. While doing so, the characters in Kirkham’s paintings often appear distant, as if disconnected or sunken into the emptiness of their subconsciousness. In addition to the apathetic character of his subjects, most of Kirkham’s paintings appear covered in an apt layer of misery and ambiguity.
As much as these scenes of the despicable bring about a sense of discomfort or voyeurism to the spectator, they are equally intriguing and touching as they display a deep sense of empathy for all aspects of the human condition. This is Kirkham’s power: rather than depicting scenes that exist only in Kirkham’s own artistic universe, his works show those parts of life that, no matter our attempts to disregard or overlook them, are a core part of contemporary life. They show us the alienated or estranged individuals who are no match for the complexities of the world they themselves have helped to build.
It is in this commentary on the contemporary that any sense of melancholy, irony, or even voyeurism so often related to the Kirkham’s paintings disappears. The power and beauty of his work is inseparable from the discomfort it brings about when it confronts the viewer with the bleakness of humanity. Therefore, any form of sadness, irony, voyeurism, or discomfort felt in Kirkham’s paintings can only be a sign of confrontation, recognition or even emotion of the spectator, pointing out to us what essentially makes us human throughout the complexities of today.
Michael Kirkham (Blackpool, UK, 1971) lives and works in Berlin, Germany. He completed his education at the Glasgow School of Art and De Ateliers, Amsterdam. His work has been exhibited, among many other locations, at Gemeentemuseum, The Hague (NL), Centraal Museum, Utrecht (NL), and Kunstpalast, Düsseldorf (DE), and is part of collections such as the Gemeentemuseum, The Hague (NL), Museum Boijmans van Beuningen, Rotterdam (NL), Centraal Museum, Utrecht (NL), Sammlung Ritter Sport, Stuttgart (DE), Collection Olbricht (DE), Collection SØR Rusche, De Nederlandsche Bank, Amsterdam (NL), and of private collections in The Netherlands, Germany and the United States, among others.