Anachronistic worlds painted by Mike Worrall are charming enough to convert the ardent historian into a romantic dreamer. Dressed in a severe Rococo-style, a woman holds a dial telephone and with a stiff neck, gazes purposefully at a pug sharing the cobblestone pathway. In the background, a peculiar golden glow emanates from behind a tree. Titled It’s a Lovely Day Tomorrow, the painting prompts the viewer to believe this curious character traveled forward in time. Other works in the UK-born artist’s oeuvre are more explicit in their treatment of the surreal. In The Portal of Intoxication, Worrall borrows the visual vocabulary of René Magritte by using the painted image of a picture frame within the pictorial frame to create and complicate layers of universes within a single composition.
This motif is not the only homage to Magritte, however. The artist’s iconic 1946 The Son of Man and 1955 The Mysteries of the Horizon are explicitly included as canvases, carried by women living decades before Magritte’s time in Worrall’s work. In the background of The Whopping Lie, one sees the sign for a gallery. The woman in the foreground looks directly at the viewer with an indiscernible expression. Perhaps she is aware of being caught in an impossible action of taking possession of a painting by an artist not yet born. Beyond Magritte, Worrall appropriates other art historical blue chip characters. The Sweet Assassin is simple, cheeky fun with its depiction of the bewildering Infanta Margarita inside an empty subway car as she steals away the famed Mona Lisa. These and other works merge the visual lexicon of surrealism with thematic ideas of possession to comment on the absurd nature of today’s art market, which increasingly clashes with scholarship and non-profit sectors of the art world.