In a group of works that include directly painted canvasses, combined paintings and digital prints and oversized silk-screened images, Judy Millar’s exhibition Lucifer: Bring the Light! extends central aspects of her painting practice.
In recent years Millar has used mechanically-generated enlargements of handmade gestures and challenged our expectations of expressive gesture and of the efficacy of painting as a means of communication. In these works Millar both distilled and amplified the act of painting. The works distil the essence of the painterly gesture, exaggerating the dramatic intention and collapsing the activity into a singular moment. The initial act of immediacy of the artist in the studio is simultaneously diluted by its translation into digital image, and exaggerated as gestural marks become oversized and threaten engulf the viewer. They present us with a compression of action that packs the same punch and urgency that we find in the advertisements that surround us. There is a clear desire to grant art the same power as all the other images that press upon us daily.
In Lucifer: Bring the Light! this relationship is compounded further as the highly sophisticated printing technologies works have been replaced by low-fi screen-printing methods. If the origins of some of her gestures was perhaps unclear in earlier works in these works their printed nature is overstated. Millar’s shift from digital to manual printing processes have resulted in cruder printed surfaces which reiterate the translation of the artist’s gestural intervention to a printed, more static image. The outcome leaves the viewer confronted by the question of the authenticity of the final result.
Millar takes up violence as a way to compress time and develop a complex pictoriality. She uses it as an energy source rather than it having any moral implications. Like a fight scene in a comic, pictorial complexity is developed then flattened, presenting all the action on one level in a split second. As Robert Leonhard wrote in 2003, “Millar explores a gamut of possibilities: speed, rhythm and incident; compression and expansion; muscularity and dazzle; not to mention representational associations.” These comments apply more than ever to Millar’s latest body of work.
Judy Millar is one of New Zealand’s most highly regarded and internationally recognised artists. Millar, along with Francis Upritchard represented New Zealand at the 53rd Venice Biennale in 2009 and following the success of her exhibition Giraffe-Bottle-Gun, has been invited to exhibit again at the upcoming Venice Biennale. Millar, approached by Dutch curators Karlyn De Jongh & Sarah Gold will create a new work for the exhibition Personal Structures: Time, Space, Existence, a collateral event of the Biennale. The line up of artists is extraordinary and includes revered American minimalist Carl Andre and 'the mother of performance art' Marina Abramovic.
Personal Structures: Time, Space, Existence will be on show at prestigious Venetian place Palazzo Bembo, located on the Grand Canal by the Rialto Bridge. Each artist has been nominated a room within the palace and will be creating new works for the show. Millar's work will integrate with the architectural elements of the space and her 3m meter tall canvas will literally fold out the palace window where it will be seen from the Grand Canal.
This is the first time a New Zealander has been invited to exhibit in this context and affirms Millar's international reputation which continues to gain momentum. In the lead up to this exhibition Millar will also be exhibiting new work in The Ring at Rohkunstbau, Berlin. The Ring is based on Wagner's The Ring of Nibelung and is particularly interesting for Millar, as a New Zealand artist because of its shared relationship to The Lord of the Rings.
Judy Millar will be in New Zealand until the end of March and is available for studio visits and interviews.