Judy Millar

McCahon 100

Judy Millar writes about a single panting by New Zealand artist Colin McCahon to celebrate his 100th birthdate.

http://www.mccahon100.org.nz

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Review – Gallerytalk

The Future and the Past Perfect – Review

11 March 2019

 

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Review: by Hamish Coney

Most encounters with Millar’s paintings over the last decade have asked the viewer to step back a few paces to comprehend dramatic gesture at much larger than life size. These small studies invite a completely different mode of observation: up close and personal.

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Catalogue – Studies in Place

40 page catalogue published to coincide with the exhibition Studies in Place: Works on Paper 1989 & 2017  Gow Langsford Gallery ISBN: 978-0-9941276-2-4

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About: Judy Millar

Her work looks outwards rather than in, participating in a global conversation about the relationship that painting has with the real world.

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Review: by Andrew Paul Wood

If Millar ever ventures into a palette of silver, grey and faded rose, it would not shock me in the least.

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Review: My Body Pressed

By Tracey Clement for Art Guide.

Essay by Jodie Dalgleish.

Her work not only activates space but also allows the kind of ‘space creation’ current in philosophy, cultural geography and advanced architectural research.

Read more

Call Me Snake

Reverse Cinema Interview

Falling in love – an intellectual experiment.

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McCahon 100

JUDY MILLAR

Muriwai: Necessary Protection is a small painting. By McCahon’s standards, a very small painting. But when I stood in front of it for the first time I knew I was standing before a panorama, before an epic landscape. Every time I think of this painting it grows in scale. The achievement of the epic in this small work makes it a triumph of painting.

Rocks formed as black blocks, waves as black squiggles, birds black flicks. Right here McCahon gives us the magic of painting. Brush-mark as description, description as brush-mark, our imagination and reality colliding.

We can marvel at the ease with which McCahon shows us the difference between the movement of a wave and the movement of a bird by the simple movement of his brush. Marvel at the ease with which he forms space between the two skewed black rectangles – rectangles that are neither rock nor geometry but both at the same time.

And then the luminosity. Painted in black and white this is a painting filled with light and colour. How can one suggest colour when painting with black and white. This is one of the mysteries of McCahon’s work. In black and white he goes full spectrum. It is as if the rainbow is in there, squeezed between the presence and absence of light.

In this small painting McCahon gives the West Coast of Aotearoa to us anew. Gives us its essence in the solidity of rock and the more temporal life of wind-driven wave and bird. In this work we are able to see the forces at play and the feelings those forces can evoke. The space between the rocks is threatening, foreboding and yet it pulls us in. Those who are drawn to our island’s western shores know these contradictory emotions well.

Having lived myself on Auckland’s west coast for the last 35 years I understand these contradictory moods. As a painter who lives and works high on a cliff overlooking the Tasman Sea I am confronted every day with the wilds of the coast. Here the world folds and unfolds in a constant if inconsistent rhythm.

In my daily painting practice I rely on the particularity of this place – the constantly shifting light and the movements of wind and sea – to drive me forward. A painter cannot stay still in her work. Chance and necessity plays out in a constantly shifting thought process, and so the work and the surroundings come to reflect and echo one another.

Blazing sunset colours, wind tortured forms and writhing seas were not intentionally put into my work but have entered into it because they cannot be avoided. Scale shifts and an open pictorial space have come about in my work as I too search for the meeting point of our imagination and our seen ‘reality’.

McCahon took the majesty of Aotearoa and used it to infuse his work with grandeur. During the last few years I have travelled frequently to exhibit my work in Europe. When I return, the landscape appears ever more epic. To find ways to synthesise the energy of this remarkable place into a painted image is a task worth doing.

Review – Gallerytalk

The Future and the Past Perfect

Judy Millar im Kunstmuseum St Gallen

 

REVIEW

  1. März 2019 • Text von Benita Böhm

Judy Millar arbeitet sich an der Malerei ab, zerlegt die Geschichte und die Techniken des Mediums. Damit wurde sie zur wohl bekanntesten Künstlerin Neuseelands. Das Kunstmuseum St. Gallen widmet ihr nun die erste große Einzelausstellung außerhalb ihres Heimatlandes.

Judy Millar, Don’t Call Me Baby, Baby, 2002, Foto: Sebastian Stadler

Nach eigener Aussage geht es Judy Millar darum, ihren Platz in einem Genre zu finden, das für sie in ihrer persönlichen und künstlerischen Entwicklung keine Vorbilder bereithielt. Der Blick zurück in die Kunstgeschichte der Malerei war für sie primär europäisch und männlich geprägt. Als neuseeländische weibliche Künstlerin hinterfragt sie diesen Kanon distanziert, dekonstruiert ihn bis ins Detail und entwickelt dadurch einen eigenen unverwechselbaren Stil.

Judy Millar, Untitled 2005, Foto: Sebastian Stadler

Dies zeigt sich bereits an der für sie typischen und sehr individuellen Arbeitsweise, die durch einen Prozess des Wegnehmens geprägt ist. Damit kehrt sie das grundlegende Prinzip der Malerei um: Aus dem additiven Auftragen von Farbe und Material wird ein nicht minder ausdrucksstarker Vorgang der Substraktion. Auf den ersten Blick erinnert der Duktus der Gemälde an intuitiv und dynamisch aufgetragene Pinselstriche. Tatsächlich trägt die Künstlerin Schichten von Ölfarbe auf die Leinwand auf und nimmt diese mit Stoffbahnen oder mit Sand gefüllten Plastiksäcken wieder von der Oberfläche ab. Dies sei − ganz anders als der erste Eindruck vermuten lässt − ein sehr langsamer und kompositorischer Vorgang körperlicher Anstrengung, erklärt Judy Millar. Und tatsächlich sind die in den Werken manifestierte physische Präsenz und der gestische Ausdruck unmittelbar für den Betrachter spürbar.

Millar pendelt zwischen Auckland und Berlin und identifiziert sich mit der aus der räumlichen und charakterbezogenen Distanz entstehenden Ambivalenz der beiden Orte. Zwischen der großflächigen Landschaft Neuseelands und dem dazu in Kontrast stehenden Leben in der Großstadt bildet sie ihre künstlerische Identität und zieht ihre Inspiration für neue Arbeiten. Die großformatig angelegten, raumgreifenden und extra anlässlich der Ausstellung „The Future and the Past Perfect“ in der Kunsthalle St. Gallen konzipierten Arbeiten „It to Them, to Us to I“ konnten somit nur im Kontext der neuseeländischen Weite entstehen.

Judy Millar, It to Them, to Us to I, 2018, Foto: Sebastian Stadler

Dabei interessiert die Künstlerin auch das Spannungsverhältnis zwischen Malerei und Architektur. Die Werke sind bewusst überdimensional gestaltet und scheinen die mit Stuckelementen und Bordüren geschmückten Räume des Museums regelrecht zu sprengen. Gleichzeitig geht es Judy Millar dabei aber nicht um eine skulpturale Ebene von Malerei. Sie sieht ihre Arbeiten explizit als Gemälde an und will sie nicht als genreübergreifende Objekte verstanden wissen. Die Kunsterfahrung soll sich deshalb auf die frontale Betrachtung der eindimensionalen Leinwände beschränken. Ein allseitiges Begehen des Raumes, um einen Blick auf die Rückseite der Werke zu werfen, ist gerade nicht intendiert.

Bei Judy Millar geht es in vielerlei Hinsicht zunächst um die Herstellung von Referenzen durch Nachahmung, welche durch eine eigenständige Interpretation aufgebrochen werden. Besonders deutlich wird diese Herangehensweise an Millars Auseinandersetzung mit der Kunstgeschichte der Malerei. Es zeigt sich an der Optik perfekt durchgeführter Pinselstriche, die gar keine sind. Vor allem die jüngeren Werkserien scheinen besonders impulsiv kreiert, beruhen jedoch wie alle Arbeiten der Künstlerin auf einer bewussten Farbauswahl und Durchführung der einzelnen Arbeitsschritte. So wird der Betrachter immer wieder dazu veranlasst, seine eigene Wahrnehmung zu hinterfragen und einen neuen Zugang zur Malerei zu finden.

WANN: Die Einzelausstellung der Künstlerin mit dem Titel „The Future and the Past Perfect“ ist noch bis zum 19. Mai zu sehen.
WO: Im Kunstmuseum St. Gallen, Museumstrasse 32 in 9000 St.Gallen.

Diese Review entstand in freundlicher Zusammenarbeit mit dem Kunstmuseum St. Gallen.

Review: by Hamish Coney

Without the shock and awe of leviathan size these works must be on point. And they are.

https://www.newsroom.co.nz/@living-room/2018/08/24/207068/never-neutral-abstraction-in-auckland

Catalogue – Studies in Place

Catalogue published to coincide with the exhibition

Studies in Place: Works on Paper 1989 & 2017

 

 Available from Gow Langsford Gallery, Auckland, New Zealand

“The first ‘coast works’ in their primary saturations have remained unseen by anyone else since the late 1980s. They have been harshly edited over the years with many being burnt. Those remaining seem now to be a nucleus of thoughts and responses that have emerged decades later.”

About: Judy Millar

Judy Millar – One of New Zealand’s most daring and cerebral artists.

By Mary-Louise Browne.

Judy Millar is considered by many to be a formalist in that her work addresses itself to painting, the perceived problems of painting and issues surrounding the history of painting. At the same time, as she talks about the vitality and ‘eye-searing magic’ of painting, she brings to her work a theoretical and practical interest as to where she fits in the male-dominated tradition of painting as a woman artist in the 21st century. As one of New Zealand’s most internationally recognised artists, she makes explicit the engagement of her painting with the rest of the world.

Her work looks outwards rather than in, participating in a global conversation about the relationship that painting has with the real world it both seeks to represent and be a part of.

She works from within a conceptual painting framework, freely referencing painting’s modern developments and relishing in appropriating the expressiveness of gestural painting. Continuing to explore possibilities in the action-painting tradition, she uses gesture not as personal expression but as a basis of social exchange. A sense of performative drama and delight in the act of mark-making is evident in this painting. The physicality of the gesture in Millar’s work is reminiscent of that of Jackson Pollock and she regards the direct relationship of the body to the canvas as extremely important. Also, painting for Millar is fundamentally a process of unpainting; perversely, her artworks are unworked rather than worked up – she takes away as much as she adds. Utilising processes of erasure, wiping or scraping paint off the surface of the work, Millar assumes established sociological and cultural positions only to question and deconstruct their meanings. She challenges the viewer’s expectation of the ‘expressive gesture’ and of the effectiveness of painting as a contemporary means of communication.

The physicality of the gesture in Millar’s work is reminiscent of that of Jackson Pollock and she regards the direct relationship of the body to the canvas as extremely important.

She has said of her practice: “It’s ‘embodied painting’. Without our body we don’t exist, so that seems to me to be our experience of the world. And that is what painting can directly address”¹

Millar’s painting may be perceived as abstract but she has long been interested in the depiction of three-dimensional space and the sense of scale. She is willing to take the abstract out of abstraction and to infuse her paintings with a sense of three-dimensionality. Her distinctive brush strokes are overlaid with sweeps of paint that flow and halt and turn in all directions to create richly suggestive forms. The large, painted surface of this work has a rich luminosity; it catches the light and gleams. Untitled playfully presents itself with the grandeur of her vision: a bold exploration of the colours blue and purple suggesting monumentality and materiality. Millar is acutely aware of this dramatic effect, noting that: “The joy and charm of painting for me is the illusion and virtual space it sets up… a completely dismantled kind of shimmering, hovering one”². Mary-Louise Browne – 2018

¹ Millar is quoted by Virginia Were, Art News, Autumn 2009, prior to her participation in the 2009 Venice Biennale.  ² Millar is quoted by curator Justin Paton in I is she as you to me, 2003.

Review: by Andrew Paul Wood

Three Judy Millar Paintings

Review of Welcome to the Fluorescence
Solo exhibition at Nadene Milne Gallery, Christchurch. 2018.

 

A gesture cannot be regarded as the expression of an individual, as his [sic] creation (because no individual is capable of creating a fully original gesture, belonging to nobody else), nor can it even be regarded as that person’s instrument; on the contrary, it is gestures that use us as their instruments, as their bearers and incarnations.” – Milan Kundera, Immortality (1990)

Gesture’ and ‘gestural’ are vastly overused words in talking about abstract painting but remain unavoidable in talking about Judy Millar’s work. As Kundera intimates above, perhaps gestures perform us, rather than the other way around, memes proliferating like living things. Perhaps art is merely a long war to determine who is in charge. In Millar’s case, the resulting paintings are static and compressed records of the passage of time, modes of movement, the artist’s endurance, her physicality and physical limits—a record of metadata about the artist and the artistic act, its Benjaminian ‘aura of authenticity’. There is something profoundly human and humanist in this haecceity or ‘thisness’ of the artist, particularly the physical reality of the mark making in a world increasingly saturated with digital media.

This is very much evident in her show Welcome to the Fluorescence at Nadene Milne Gallery in Christchurch. There are just three big paintings in the main gallery space—and that is precisely enough in equilibrium with the space. The titles, Energy TrapWaves Without ShapeA World Not of Things, are cautiously non-committal, setting up the audience with ambiguous hints at quantum mechanics and Zen ontology and letting them get on with the business of interacting with the work. The paintings activate each other. A World Not of Things might almost be toying with Chinese scroll painting—the palette and confident, but contained, calligraphic line—or a slightly Rococo interpretation thereof. The human tendency to pareidolia, finding order and shape where there is none, invokes everything from tangled tree branches and roots, to the Vatican’s Laocoön, but really it’s all about mind-mapping emotional and physical energy flows in moments of time.

Energy’ however, sounds like New Age handwavium. There is the physical energy of movement, of course, but might be better to call it thumos (θυμός)—passion, spiritedness, the internal urge for recognition, righteous rage against the injustices of the world, that which motivates human beings to exist. Peter Sloterdijk in his 2006 Rage and Time suggests that a productive, resentment-free form of ‘rage’ (which he, perhaps incorrectly, equates with thumos) is the primary motivating force of human social development, which Christian morality and psychoanalysis have attempted to supress (some might also include the contemporary politics of social discourse). This leads us to Mannerism.

Millar consciously aligns herself with the Mannerists, that oft maligned tendency in art that bridges the High Renaissance and the Baroque. The style is characterised by affected exaggeration and unnatural elegance in pursuit of effect. The standard art-historical view of how Mannerism came about tends to be that the followers of Michelangelo copied his dramatic and individual innovations, and their students copied them, and the resulting transcription errors resulted in flourishing mutations like Parmigianino’scameleopardine Madonna with the Long Neck (1534-40), the porcelain complexions of Bronzino’s Venus, Cupid, Folly and Time (ca.1544-45), and Pontormo’s boneless, gravity-defying Depozisione (1528).

This is, in fact, not a subtle aspect of Millar’s work. The calculatedly optical effects of her palette and what looks like airbrushing declare open allegiance with the taffeta-like gradated colours of Pontormo’s draperies and garments. The open-ended, asymmetrical and complex Hans Hofmann-esque push-pull, and weaving in and out, of the bravura strokes—swept, painted and scraped back with a number of tools, including a plastic bag full of sand—conjure up impressions of the compositions of Parmigiano, Bronzino and El Greco as filtered through a century of transcendental abstraction.

An alternate interpretation of Mannerism, re-assessed against the political, intellectual and social crises of the twentieth century, was put forward by Italian critic and art historian Achille Bonito Oliva in his book The Ideology of the Traitor: Art, Manner and Mannerism, first published in 1979. Oliva reframes Mannerism as a subversive stylistic armour, tinged with hopeless melancholy, against the chaos of war and religious schism when it seemed the ideals of the Renaissance had failed and fallen. The artist, particularly the gay artist without benefit of the social transcendence of classical idealism, was identified as a traitor against their broader community, so why not make something of it? Bonito Olivia has elsewhere drawn parallels with postmodernism, and Susan Sontag intuited as much in her ‘Notes on Camp.’

While I wouldn’t call Millar’s work ‘camp’ per se, she observes that we live in “Mannerist times” (Trump, orange and coiffed, being la Maniera par excellence). The bravura gesture, the outrageous fluorescent palette, the occasional insouciant hand or footprint (Millar works on the ground) cock a snook at a Western civilisation apparently intent on self-immolating itself with as much dignity as it can muster. At the same time Millar very deliberately aligns herself with the grand tradition, albeit on her own terms—as something quite daring when that might be considered a liability in this sensitive age.

The antipole to Millar’s mannerism would be the Rococo—an equally fitting style for the present era, when the 1% squandered their wealth and resources on superficiality and frivolity, a style which also prioritises sinuous line and asymmetry. Even then the artists were getting their own back in silent protest—the wistful melancholy of Watteau, the brittle fragility of Fragonard—and if Millar ever ventures into a palette of silver, grey and faded rose, it would not shock me in the least. – Andrew Paul Wood.

Original article here.

Review: My Body Pressed

Judy Millar: My Body Pressed

Review for Art Guide. April 6th, 2018.

Essay by Tracey Clement.

Painting is indexical; the marks on the canvas bear a direct relationship to the gestures of the artist. This is more overt in Pollock’s flung arcs of paint than in the minute daubings of a photorealist, but all paintings are a record of a body moving through space. The paintings in New Zealander Judy Millar’s solo show, My Body Pressed at Sullivan + Strumpf, have a particularly visceral quality.

In Millar’s new work, dark streaks writhe across washes of bruised blue and mauve.

Resembling tangled twists of muscle and tendons, Millar’s dynamic swathes of black seem to move at speed. “Like dance, painting is a direct record of the energy and feeling of a lived-in body,” says Millar, “and my work accentuates this.” Indeed, looking at her paintings is like witnessing the ghostly trace of the artist’s frenetic performance.

In this way, Millar’s abstract canvases are a kind of self-portraiture, but her work sidesteps objectification of the female body, a perennial trope in the Western canon. “Since the movements and actions of my body are stamped all over the canvas my work can be seen to be a picturing of the female body,” she explains. “But of course I’m not working with the body as an object. Rather I take the body as a process, something that can’t be contained. I want the work to be sexy in a fluid way.”

Millar’s title, My Body Pressed, expresses her concern that we are becoming disconnected from our bodies. “The increasingly mediated world we inhabit seems to be pulling our minds and bodies further apart all the time,” she says.

“I worry that our bodily world is disappearing, our bodily intelligence ignored. The title is a rallying cry to bodily communication: to the wonder of touch and sinew.”

Full article here.

Essay by Jodie Dalgleish.

The Sinew of Space

An essay by Jodie Dalgleish for Contemporary Hum on Judy Millar’s 2017 exhibition “Swallowed in Space” at Galerie Mark Mueller, Zurich.

The Sinew of Space

It’s frustrating to her, Judy Millar tells me from the West Coast of Auckland as we discuss her exhibition in Zurich, Swallowed in Space, that people are so rarely asking ‘what does painting do to us?’. An affective painting, after all, is something we want to go and see, and revisit, and make part of our wider experience. I wholeheartedly agree with her, especially after having just travelled to see her work (from my current home in Luxembourg) and encountering the way it not only activates space but also allows the kind of ‘space creation’ current in philosophy, cultural geography and advanced architectural research.

Engrossed in the exhibition’s spatial effect, I begin to realise that I am naturally embodying the paintings’ own quest for, and questioning of, modes of movement. Each painting is an intense material object based on movement, while it is also a container that circulates and throws me more broadly into an exploration of the space that emanates from it. ‘Space’ here, is a body-dwelt ‘imaginal’ field. It is the field projected from the body into a ‘spacious view’ of the ‘increasing inclusiveness’ of its expanding boundaries, as philosopher Edward Casey writes of place that has become more spacious in Western thought. In this kind of space, Casey writes, ‘expanding envelopments’ are all linked by the organic body and its history in the ‘fuller compass’ of what is happening, and at stake, in and from a particular place.

Essential to my experience, is the fact that each painting’s sinuous forms continue in striated bands that curve, twist, turn and loop seemingly without end. As I follow them, they always release their coiled directions onwards, even if only through a series of drips, a finger drag or the suggestion of an aspirating colour. They are not brushstrokes, but rather a skilfully indeterminate ‘caricature,’ or parody, of such a singular gesture. Their banding is almost collographic in nature: a result of the artist’s characteristic mark making that accumulates the positive and negative impressions of paint in the push and drag of objects across the painting’s surface. ‘I was trying to think of something like a very big fingertip,’ the artist tells me as she describes the way in which she slid differently-sized bags filled with sand through the paint. They allowed complex forms of movement, she explains, ‘and they have this particular feeling.’ For me, their form is fibrous, elemental and constant, like bands of tendon, muscle fibres, the phloem tissue of bark, and the cellulose cordage of plants. They seem to hold painting and movement together. – Excerpt from the article written by Jodie Dalgleish.

View original publication.

Call Me Snake

New Intimacies: Call Me Snake

A sculptural commission for SCAPE 8. Christchurch.

30th October – 15th November 2015

Call Me Snake, a temporary sculpture commissioned as part of Christchurch’s Scape Public Art initiative, SCAPE 8.

Made from steel, plywood and digital print.

Millar is best known for her large-scale digitally printed and painted canvases, which loop and undulate through architectural spaces, exploring ideas of scale, and the compression of time and space. Her work for SCAPE 8 New Intimacies, Call me Snake, pushes these ideas beyond the enclosed architectural spaces she has previously worked with, into the Central Christchurch landscape.

Full article here.

Reverse Cinema Interview

Reverse Cinema

Sullivan + Strumpf, Sydney, Australia.

29 May – 26 June 2015

 

Excerpt from i-D Interview.

In the past decade, acclaimed New Zealand artist Judy Millar‘s varied work has filled a German gallery with Technicolor tidal waves and unspooled wild brushstrokes across the walls of a Renaissance church for the 53rd Venice Biennale. Always a fan of an enveloping spectacle, her latest show Reverse Cinema at Sydney’s Sullivan + Strumpf draws on painting, sculpture, and light projections to create an installation that’s both soulful and cerebral. With the show involving her most audacious work yet, i-D chatted with the artist about her allergy to categories, falling in love as an intellectual experiment, and why she dreads public art.

Read the full article by Neha Kale for i-D. Or download here.

i-D Interview PDF download