Cape Town-based artist Michaela Younge does some magical things with felt. Many of us have dabbled with the medium as a youngster in school and the likelihood is that you remember felt as a nightmare to work with. It fell apart with just a few touches, wouldn’t stick down properly, and gave off a general itty bitty sensation that never went down well in the end. But in Michaela’s crafty hands, felt becomes a medium to encompass new illustrative possibilities; albeit very time consuming ones.
We first featured the artist back in 2017 when she talked us through her “tapestry-type work”, and her ambition to coax out new possibilities within the medium. Since then, she’s been picked by the artist’s representation Smith, gone onto have her first solo show in May of this year and will be taking part in London’s 1-54 African Art Fair in October.
In the last two years, Michaela’s technique has become more refined with time. “The details are smaller and the works seem slightly more focused,” she tells It’s Nice That. “I think the spaces that I create are more real, or more relatable at least.” While there’s a touch of “fantasy” in Michaela’s earlier works, lately, the artist has been honing in on more domestic scenes with human emotion at the centre.
Walking into the space of Michaela’s first solo show Nothing Bad, the viewer was presented with numerous references to nursery rhymes. Baked goods, candles, butcher’s hooks and so on feature in the artist’s titles, but as a pointed contrast to these childlike references, the subject of Michaela’s compositions, are anything but. Violence and death are a common sighting in her detailed felt works and various predatory animals have often torn their prey to bloody shreds.
She starts her heavily layered works from an idea or a character, then builds the rest of the scene around it. There’s a lot going on every single image, most notably in one of the artist’s favourite works The vinyl might be sloppily done, but the room always smells pine fresh. In the work, “a man is sitting on the toilet reading a newspapers while the sink next to him overflows,” explains Michaela. “It’s domestic but bad, I think something may have just happened.”
A yellow duck in the bath (that may be real or rubber) sits quietly on the water and a hand-mirror lies cracked in the corner. And, even more mysteriously, there’s a pair of high-heeled legs lying crooked on the floor. Taking care to leave little mysteries behind in the form of delicately felted illustrations, Michaela’s intriguing works weave complex narratives with beautifully crafted compositions. She’s even started to incorporate elements of embroidery and found objects in her felt tapestries, and this will, undoubtedly, provoke some compelling results to come.
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