In his third solo show for .M Contemporary, Michael Taylor continues to explore personal and cultural mythologies and social theatrics, specifically engaging themes of social awkwardness and disillusionment, societal habits, solitude and longing. The collection of 15 ‘character portraits’ (as opposed to traditional portraiture of distinct individuals) offers playful, satirical sketches of attitudes, temperaments, atmospheres and, in particular, social dynamics.
Imagined scenarios are populated by fictional characters dancing and stumbling towards interaction, in varying degrees preoccupied with seeing and being seen. Astute gestural marks, telling colour and flattened, cramped perspectives stage stories about spaces: around and between people, within interior and exterior worlds, all set against a familiar backdrop of baffling, coded social cues.
Lone figures describe differing experiences of isolation: A colourful recluse is happily disconnected even from technology, while a social media butterfly sits disillusioned, despairing at the revelation of her rather monotone performance. Group portraits are similarly diverse in mood, revealing intriguing hierarchies, suffocating attachments and unlikely alliances. Pre-covid scenes of blissfully ignorant proximity offer some nostalgic solace to our present-day distance – and, simultaneously, ironic relief at the freedom from such social obligations.
It’s a display of humanity in all its endearing awkwardness, the performative compositions and visual puns highlighting our ridiculous pretences and (badly) disguised postures.
The word ‘awkward’ serves as a delightfully apt euphemism – a catch-all adjective that politely masks the absurd variety of human interactions, of highs and humiliations, affinities and misfires. The portraits exude a strong reflective sensibility – we cannot help but consider our own perspectives on sociability, with a longing, a cringe, and a grin of self-recognition.