Michael Kennedy’s paintings provide a prism through which to view a world that is ugly and absurd, a world in which we unwittingly find ourselves a part. His paintings are constructed as if he were decorating a cake. Acrylic paints in an array of lurid colours are one at a time slapped on thickly and unsparingly. The edges of the works even have the texture of buttercream icing. On top of this confection, the artist has carefully traced logo texts, cartoon characters and icons—some immediately recognisable, others less so. Logo texts include band names (From First to Last, Cradle of Filth, My Chemical Romance), basic descriptors of the work like “acrylic on canvas”, simple qualitative remarks such as “good painting”, or the generously spirited, “enjoy this painting”. Principally the works are decorated with text variants of the artist’s own name, writ large and repeated over and over ad nauseam: Michael, Michael, MICHAEL, michael, Michael. At first inspection these paintings may appear simply ironic, but his use of imagery from mass culture, most often from youth culture but also art history, help to describe his experiences of growing up in small-town rural Victoria as a person of colour (his mother is Indian-Fijian and his father was Anglo-Celtic Australian) who was stigmatised and subjected to microaggression and racism. He found a sense of identity with the misfits, the queer kids and the goth kids—communities that are represented in his paintings through his use of band logos, metal fonts and cartoon characters. And so these works, though light-hearted and humorous, are also deeply personal.
Michael Kennedy (b. 1990, Myrtleford, Australia) lives and works in Melbourne, Australia. He graduated from the Victorian College of the Arts in 2018 where he was the recipient of the Ursula Hoff Institute Inc Drawing and Painting Award. Since then he has undergone an artist in residence program at DÔ-SÔ AIR in Japan. His work has been shown in Australia and Japan. In addition to painting, he is a trained musician whose practice encompasses performance, video and sound.