Antony Micallef is a London-based, internationally-acclaimed post-modernist artist, known for his beautiful yet disturbing works (think Disney meets Nightmare on Elm Street). After sell-out exhibitions in both London and Los Angeles, Micallef has finally entered the fashion world through his collaboration with hat designer, Victoria Grant. Unveiled at The Outsiders London gallery, the capsule collection is inspired by Micallef’s colourfully haunting exhibition, Happy Deep Inside My Heart. From original hand-painted one-off hats to limited editions, prices range from $640 to over $4800. We caught up with him to talk about difficulties playing creative tennis, working with Grant, and what the future brings.
How did the collaboration come about?
Victoria has been a friend for a long time. I’ve been a huge fan of her work for years and have purchased a few pieces that I just have on show as sculptural pieces, as I think they are works of art in their own right. We were down at the pub one evening when she said she was thinking of working with an artist to collaborate on a new collection. The rest was history.
What made you say yes?
Working with another artist can be very tricky. I’ve never collaborated with anyone before because I don’t think I’m very good at sharing. Also to trust someone’s judgement, when they mess with your artwork, can be a very difficult thing to do. I’ve never collaborated in the past simply because I don’t trust anyone handling my work. Working with Victoria was different. I think because I respect her completely as an artist and have loved nearly everything she has ever done, it was an easy decision to come to. Also, the fact that it was directly removed from my normal parameters as a painter gave it some distance for me that gave it an element of added fun.
What’s the idea behind them? I heard it’s based on your Happy Deep Inside My Heart exhibition?
The collection is based mostly on the painting “Sweet Paris” and “I Shit Diamonds.” These two paintings were exhibited in my last solo show. The idea for the collection just organically grew itself and over a period of time took its own direction, which is always a pleasure to see unfold. We were naturally attracted to the same things and our ideas cross-pollinated in such a natural way that it made the natural progression of actually making the work very easy.
How have you translated your art and concept into hat form? Must be quite tricky?
It was actually a lot easier than I anticipated. We started by choosing three paintings we both really liked from my last show. The forms and colors were important, as we wanted to translate this feel into the hats in some way. Victoria really liked the twisted candy colors and naïve forms from my last show (Happy Deep Inside My Heart) so we wanted to play with that and manifest it into something else. I started by printing three paintings onto large pieces of silk and then handed it over to Victoria. I knew from day one that the collection was going to go well, as Victoria picked out all the areas I was really excited about and would twist them around shapes to suggest ideas for hats. She picked out the candy colored cigarette boxes and the subversive collage lipsticks. That’s when I knew I wouldn’t have any problem working with her at all—her judgement was completely in tune with mine. We both came up with individual ideas, which we then played back and forth constantly. It was like creative tennis without any egos at all. Also, I think we were just completely honest with each other, which was so refreshing.
Any favorites in particular?
There are many and it’s very difficult to choose from. I have to say “Sun Smoker,” “Burnt Out” and “Envy Me” are particular favorites—just because of the audacity and the color. “Soft Whipped” is my other favorite—a real pleasure to make, a one-off original and the most delicate piece of all. The ice cream is completely sculpted with the finest oil paint with real sprinkles, hundreds and thousands playfully garnished on French linen, carefully folded to look like ice cream cones.
Do you have any other collaborations in the pipeline, or any you fancy doing now you’ve got involved in fashion?
I think collaborating with another artist is a great thing, if it works. For me personally, it’s not something you can predict. I think a number of factors have to come together in order to get the magic or to extract the honey from the fruit. It was a great project to work on but only because Victoria and me had a very similar vision. I really just want to concentrate on my own work for a while but I would do it again, but only if it felt completely right.
Do you have any exhibitions for 2013?
I’m taking part in a new art fair in London called Art 13, launching in Spring 2013. The hats will possibly be in a touring exhibition in Paris and Tokyo, but we are still finalizing the details.