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Michael Challenger: Original Works on Paper

22 February - 7 April 2023

Alon Zakaim Fine Art are proud to present a selection of original works on paper by the abstract artist Michael Challenger. In an exclusive online exhibition, fourteen new original works on paper, all signed and dated by the artist, are presented for the first time. With prices starting at £360 + VAT these are an excellent addition to a budding collection of Modern British art.


Challenger’s work is rooted in the Gestalt of his visual enigmas, which he skillfully evokes by combining colours, shapes, and geometric forms. His works feel in some way as if they were living, breathing entities, kept alive by their ever-changing nature. Challenger’s work is infused with a strong interest and background in classical music, and connections and analogies are easily made between the sphere of sound and that of his visual output. Even the creative act of producing non-existent visual compositions parallel that of a musician composing an original piece of music. Challenger once described his works as “visual sound” with which the viewer, willingly or not, will inevitably engage mentally through the mere act of looking. The viewer’s eyes dance between movement and stillness, working to make sense of Challenger’s forms which seem to constantly protract and recess, never standing still.


When speaking of his early years as an artist, Challenger highlights the influence of Surrealism, which he says, “began to influence how I was perceiving and looking at different things.” Through one of his instructors at the Slade School and textbooks found in the institution’s library, Challenger came in contact with the metaphysical artwork of Giorgio de Chirico. The alienating enigmas in de Chirico’s work impressed him greatly, and Challenger eventually gained access to the only de Chirico collection in Britain in the private collection of Surrealist painter and renowned collector Roland Penrose.


Challenger cites 1966 as the beginning of his artistic exploration into spatial illusion, while working on a sculpture of a swimmer in the act of doing a crawl. The area representing water was deliberately left empty, leaving the task of identifying and filling the unseen space to the viewer’s brain and perception. Challenger explains, “This was a start in the sense of geometry, but the illusion was weakened by the fact that it was not a real person, but a fiberglass replica.” Around this same time, Challenger taught printmaking at the Chesterfield College of Art and Design, and it was here that he studied the technique of screen-printing in all its variations. Challenger found this to be a remarkably efficient technique for creating geometric shapes and flat areas of colour. While many artists come to printmaking later in their careers, for Challenger it was printmaking that led him towards painting. Challenger notes that printmaking was a key influence and shaper of his later artistic output; he continued, “Once I started to use silkscreen, it did all the things I was wanting the other media to do, but much, much better.” The technical and formal qualities of the works he created with screen-printing opened the door to Challenger’s unique analysis of geometric forms that transcended the medium itself. During this same period, Challenger created sculptures in the form of cubes and pyramids, first building them himself from plywood and then having them made from sheet metal by a company that specialised in three-dimensional metal signs.


Having won the award of the Sainsbury Prize for Sculpture in 1966, in the early 1970s Challenger started a three-year collaboration with The London Arts Gallery on New Bond Street, and his astonishing geometric prints began to circulate globally. Following that collaboration, Challenger moved to Verona, where he held a studio and worked profusely on screen-prints. Challenger has exhibited his work in Verona, Rome, Detroit, New York, London, Rotterdam and at the historic Galleria del Cavallino in Venice. Today Challenger lives and continues to work from his three-story art studio in South London’s Borough Market.

Michael Challenger: Original Works on Paper