“Icons and other recreations” express Michael Bastow’s fascination for female bodies; these women he creates with oil pastel on raw paper that appears hot and crumpled, just like sheets after lovemaking.
In 2001 he began the restoration and decoration of the St Alexis chapel in Malaucene. This decoration finally took the shape of an ephemeral fresco, a superposition of drawings on transparent and coloured sheets of paper flowing over the walls of the chapel. The iconic research undertaken for the seven ages of woman which he had taken as a theme, led the artist to devour and ruminate on the images of woman bequeathed by art history, from Byantine icons to African fetishes.
"Icons and other re-creations" continues these ruminations. Using collages of paper and other materials, and "cannibalising" and "absorbing" his own pastels, he succeeds in creating portraits more powerful and "charged" symbolically than the originals.
After the original execution which is generally fast and intense, comes an unlimited period of maturation during which the drawing is pinned to the wall:
“One day one of them will catch my eye, or I may see it in a new light in relation to a work in progress. I will then go back to this drawing and rework it, or I will take a part of it, a face , a torso or even just a breast, and collage it to another drawing.”
This process of reworking and collage permits Bastow a certain audacity : he intentionally muddles the signification of these re-creations: the collage of a sacrilegious hand on the breast of a contemplative young woman, the sanctification of sensuality by the use of golden backgrounds, a certain fetishisation by the addition of feathers, sticks and lead, melancholy….
However, one must not take Michael Bastow’s work as impertinent. Women recognise an essential part of themselves, albeit a bit iconoclast, in these broken representations. With varying degrees of modesty, these holy temptresses pose and expose themselves to the dense pastel strokes of Bastow; the magic works, the colour of their skins vibrates in the light of the studio.
One must not take Michael Bastow’s work as impertinent. Women recognize an essential part of themselves, albeit a bit iconoclast, in these broken representations. Being more or less demure, these holy temptresses and these crying fairies pose and expose themselves to the dense pencil strokes of Bastow; magic emanates from the vibrating, color-contrasted skin in the light of the atelier.