Judy Millar’s current exhibition Keeping You, You, Keeping me, Me at Lopdell House Gallery gives us a teaser as to what to expect from her new work due to open at Gow Langsford Gallery on March 6. Her show Butter for the Fish will present work developed during her recent residency at McCahon House.
The title, taken from the German saying ‘Butter bei die Fische’, implies laying your cards on the table or unreservedly declaring your commitment. Millar certainly holds nothing back in this new work. Bringing new tools to her full-scale actions of applying and removing paint she extends her re-working of action painting and the painting of action. In these works we find a more enlivened surface and a new complexity of movement and mark, producing surprisingly entertaining results.
There is, however, always an undertow in Millar’s work. The aggressive removal of paint from the surface results in evacuated, emptied out gestures that subvert the declared presence of expressionist mark-making. The pictorial structures are ragged and appear to be coming undone, constantly shifting on the surface of the canvas with a sense of endless conflict.
The provisional irresolvable aspects of the paintings will be extended in the show with temporary walls being built in the gallery. Building fence-like hoardings into the gallery is a strategy Millar has worked with a number of times since her Auckland Art Gallery project in 2005. This show will mark another step in her investigation into what happens when paintings bring their own walls into the gallery space.
Butter for the Fish will extend Millar’s investigations into the possibilities left in the grand tradition of action painting or in the depiction of action in ways that show a significant move in her thoughts and ambitions.