Antony Micallef’s ‘bubblegum pop’ paintings combine skilled brushwork with references to old masters and graphic design. Dealing with the subject of portraiture in a dark and slightly twisted, Bacon-esque way, human forms are placed in artificial, unnatural environments that are influenced by popular culture in the forms of fashion, music and design. By shaping an artificial ‘stage’ for his ‘characters’ to inhabit, Micallef attempts to capture and reveal their personality. He states, “When I begin painting a face it feels like I’m facing for marks randomly, trying to catch an expression of a character, an identity”. Japan became a major influence in Micallef’s work after a visit to Tokyo in 1999, where he developed a fascination with cultural icons and motifs and their relation to society and the individual. The artist states: “The culture there is completely twisted. You have that real sugar side, but there’s always a dark side underneath. I’m trying to look at that in-between space in pop”. This marked a new development in Micallef’s work and it was the body of work that followed that contributed hugely into making him into a cultural icon as an artist.