Presenting *meatballs not included: an exhibition by Michael Pybus

The trickster artist recalibrates the meaning of IKEA in our latest London exhibition.

“I’m drawn to images, brands, characters and artists that are widely and globally recognisable to a point where most people have some form of opinion on them, even if it’s a negative one. As an artist I hijack that public consciousness by using these brands and icons in my work, so when people see it they instantly have a relationship with it. Even if they don’t know me, they recognise the imagery, which operates as a generic hook for me then to trojan horse my own ideas, perspectives and narratives.” – Michael Pybus

A Bigger Splash, 2021, acrylic chrome ink glitter and mica flakes on canvas, 100 x 100 cm
A Bigger Splash, 2021, acrylic chrome ink glitter and mica flakes on canvas, 100 x 100 cm

Artvisor is pleased to present *meatballs not included, an exhibition of new paintings by the London-based artist Michael Pybus (b.1982). Long fascinated by capitalism’s subversive methods of indoctrination, the artist employs brands, meme characters and a variety of art historical reference points as part of his painterly practice. His most recent work, shown here, appropriates the IKEA logo and recalibrates its aesthetic and socio-cultural significance. (Re)Interpretations of the iconic brand take over the space, creating a saturated environment where canonical modern and contemporary artists like Roy Lichtenstein, Andy Warhol, Piet Mondrian, Yayoi Kusama, Richard Price, Christopher Wool, and David Hockney, collide with mass-media icons such as Pikachu and Pepe the Frog. The result is a fantastically eclectic environment where pop icons and recognisable patterns disguise a dystopian reality: the one we are living in.

Crying Girl IKEA, 2021, acrylic flashe and iron oxidizing paint on canvas, 75 x 60 cm
Crying Girl IKEA, 2021, acrylic flashe and iron oxidizing paint on canvas, 75 x 60 cm

The interspersement of the IKEA brand throughout the works on display combines approachability with ostentatiousness, all while piquing the viewer’s interest as they ask “Where have I seen that before?”. However, the seemingly jovial pictorial handling of modern art and contemporary advertising do not make up the whole story. IKEA once served as a personal reference point for artistic ingenuity for Pybus, who cites the catalogue’s yearly appearance at his house during childhood as a foundational starting point for his aesthetic development as an artist. The catalogue became a replacement for bastions of high culture like museums and other visual repositories inaccessible to the artist during that period of his life.

Crying Girl IKEA, 2021, acrylic and flashe on canvas, 60 x 60 cm
Crying Girl IKEA, 2021, acrylic and flashe on canvas, 60 x 60 cm

At the same time, IKEA catalogue-browsing can often result in a vacuous desire to consume. This darker side is showcased in the work A painting to go with your sofa, a riff on Christopher Wool’s signature word paintings that verbalises a quote from the book Fight Club by Chuck Palahniuk. Other paintings implement pop artist Roy Lichtenstein’s “Hopeless” to illustrate how the IKEA brand is both fawned over and coveted, yet ultimately a cause for sorrow, not celebration.

Composition with red, yellow and blue IKEA logos, 2021 Acrylic on canvas, 95 x 95 cm
Composition with red, yellow and blue IKEA logos, 2021 Acrylic on canvas, 95 x 95 cm

Michael Pybus lives and works in London, UK. He has exhibited internationally in both solo and group shows, and most recently at Tatjana Pieters, Ghent; Lunley, London; The Cabin, Los Angeles; Carl Kostyal, Stockholm; Theirry Goldberg, New York; and Hero, Amsterdam. His work is included in many collections internationally including, amongst others, the Takashi Murakami, Zabludowicz, Philippos Tsangrides, and Popov collections. He studied at Goldsmiths College (BA Hons Fine Art) and The Royal College of Art (MA Sculpture).

The Ice Storm, 2021 Acrylic and flashe on canvas, 30 x 100 cm
The Ice Storm, 2021 Acrylic and flashe on canvas, 30 x 100 cm

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