Exhibition dates: 1st May - 4th June 2010
“Reality, then, as in concepts such as ‘landscape’ or ‘space’, is not something external or ‘given’ for our apprehension, rather it is constituted, or ‘formed’ through our participation with things: material objects, images, values, cultural codes, places, cognitive schemata, events and maps.” - James Corner, The Agency of Mapping: Speculation, Critique and Invention
Hamish Morrison Galerie is pleased to present an exhibition of new work by Judy Millar. The exhibition, entitled A Better Life, is Millar’s first solo show in Berlin since her major installation in La Maddalena at the 2009 Venice Biennale.
For Millar’s intervention in La Maddalena, giant canvases covered in the artist’s blown-up gestures folded and unfolded through the space, revealing the church to viewers like a piece of living cinema. Now, for this exhibition, she takes on a white cube gallery: a completely different space to a Baroque church, but one just as loaded with painterly history, and just as transformed by her bold installation.
Large lengths of canvas printed with Millar’s painterly marks flow through the confines of the gallery like collapsed billboard advertisements, lying piled up and curling over themselves. Millar’s gestures, amplified to ten times their original size, reveal some of the inner details of her workings, but they also turn into something graphic, cartoon-like, even comic. They become things in their own right, with entirely separate lives from the artist who made them. As Jennifer Gross writes: “real activity as a painter has been distilled and translated through the blowing up and reproducing of the handmade gesture.” Gross goes on to describe the printed canvases as “the large scale after-effects of the studio practice.”
The following quote from Millar herself reveals much about her approach: “Yesterday while travelling through the city by cab I saw an image that corresponds closely to the piece I’ve made for the show. A shampoo advertisement of a many-storied high head had hair falling in curls down a building’s facade and around the building’s corner. The curls gained volume and contour from the building’s form while at the same time deconstructing the building’s outline. In the same way, the ribbon-like lengths in the show carry the exaggerated painterly image, lifting it into and through space while being visually distorted by the surface image itself. Further distortions occur because the viewer is never able to take in the image from a single frontal viewing spot, but must move along the work and reconstruct it as they go.”
It is this interaction between the artist’s own marks, their amplification, and real things in the world – including viewers – that moves Millar’s work beyond a simplistic conversation between painting and installation art. Instead, she collapses the lines between pictorial fiction, pictorial fact and real things in space. In doing so she takes on a fundamental theme that extends back through abstraction all the way to the Renaissance – namely, the paradoxical relationship that painting has with the world it seeks both to represent and be a part of. Millar’s installation, then, is not just an object that we are asked to quietly inspect. Demanding, playful, and sometimes outright confrontational, it pushes and pulls us towards new experiential discoveries. In doing so, it holds the promise of a better life; an optimism about our experience of the world around us, and the vital, human role that art plays within it.
Judy Millar lives and works in Berlin and Auckland. She is currently completing a three-month residency at the ISCP programme in New York. She represented New Zealand at the 2009 Venice Biennale. Other recent solo exhibitions include: Matte Black at Galerie Mark Muller, Zurich; Butter for the Fish at Gow Langsford, Auckland; and The Secret Life of Paint at the Dunedin Public Art Gallery. She was Moet & Chandon Fellow in France in 1994, and in 2002 she won the Wallace Art Award. In 2006, she was the first recipient of the Colin McCahon Residency. She has also had residencies at the Dunedin Public Art Gallery and Goethe Institut, Berlin. A major survey of her work, entitled You You, Me Me, was published by Kerber Verlag in 2009.