Judy Millar’s paintings engage in a dialogue with architecture. Abstract lines of colour snake around the exhibition on sculptural strips of paper, with the exhibition architecture itself decisively influencing how her work is presented. By using such large-format paper bands of colour, Millar is breaking with accepted painting conventions and crossing the border to sculpture. Her works elude the beholder’s grasp as a totality, since they do not have a classical pictorial structure, set no pre-given point of perspective, and have neither a start nor a finish. Their plasticity is endowed with a status equal to the visual content. The dynamic of these works is also evident in her current small-format works. Sombre, monochrome sepia traces of areas scratched free expand in their gestural abstraction from the roughly applied black ground, forming abstract shapes and, in their delicacy, contrasting sharply with the pictorial background.
In recent years Judy Millar has used mechanically generated enlargements of handmade painterly gestures to challenge our expectations of the expressive gesture and to test the efficacy of painting as a contemporary means of communication.
In these works Millar has both distilled and amplified the act of painting. The initial act of immediacy of the artist in the studio is simultaneously condensed by its translation into a digital image and exaggerated as the painterly marks become over-sized and threaten engulf the viewer. In her newest work she manipulates the painting’s support structure itself, twisting and lifting the painting in physical space. In doing this she dismantles the hierarchy of the image and its armature as she compresses and mediates the viewing experience of painting. The works present us with a compression of action which packs the same punch and sense of urgency that we find in the advertisements that surround us. There is a clear desire to grant painting the same power as all the other images that press upon us daily.
For Rohkunstbau, Judy Millar has created a massive sculpture snaking in huge waves from the window to the door where it ends as a flat canvas. The abstract traces of colour take up and underline the dynamics of the shape, which reflects the room’s architecture and limits. The work not only fills space – it dissolves it at the same time, awakening associations with recent natural catastrophes. Here, the power of nature, retracting what humanity has wrested from it over the centuries, is manifest in an abstract loop of colour sweeping through the room like a monumental wave seemingly set to explode the borders of the space. The sculpture is complemented by an abstract painting in the neighbouring room.
Selected Solo Exhibitions
2011 Lucifer: Bring the Light!, Gow Langsford Gallery, Auckland, New Zealand
2010 A Better Life, Hamish Morrison Gallery, Berlin, Germany
2009 Giraffe-Bottle-Gun, New Zealand Pavilion, 3rd Venice Biennal, Italy
2005 I Will, Should, Can, Must May Would Like to Express, Auckland Art Gallery, Auckland, New Zealand
Selected Group Exhibitions
2011 Personal Structures: Time-Space-Existence, 54th Venice Biennal, Italy
2008 Under the Sky: International Positions in Contemporary Art, White Space Beijing, Beijing, China
2004 IS/NZ, Kunstverein Kreis Ludwigsburg, Ludwigsburg, Germany
2002 Fragmente des Paradieses, Kunsthalle Palazzo, Liestal, Switzerland