Jack Mottram, (The List, 20/10/2005)

Alan Michael is, perhaps, best known for making work that is dense, tricksy and, for want of a better word, difficult. He tends to layer and synthesise material drawn form art history and popular culture alike, muddying the waters of reference, quotation and pastiche, leaving an ordered tangle of possible threads for his viewers to unpick. Here Michael has confined himself to a single source image, giving fight to his elliptical inquiries into association, allusion and meta-narratives.

That single image is the distinctive cross and circle logo of the Positiva record lable. Michael begins with ‘Positiva’, in which the logo is rendered thrice over in oils, in full and closely cropped, overlaid and repeated. Next comes a study, in pencil and paper, which twists the logo into the not-quite-anagram ‘pro vita’, setting up the next verbal remix, ‘Apologia’. The final canvas, and the final rendering of the earlier ‘Study’, is ‘Pro Vita’, reworking the suggested phrase into a convoluted iteration of circles, crosses and squares.

Taken together, the four pieces unfold a near-narrative, one that might be, with its pro vitas and apologias, a cynical appraisal of the chemically-infused peaks and troughs of nightclub culture. This new work matches the old in its open approach to the commodification of quotation, and in its guarded refusal to ever fully reveal the intended meaning of those appropriations.