GARY McMILLAN

GARY McMILLAN

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I’m obsessed with light. I’m trying to achieve the effect of blasted-out light that film and photography can capture but the eye alone can’t perceive.

– Gary McMillan

IMAGE BY ARTSDIARY © 2018 SAIT AKKIRMAN
GARY McMILLAN, SCENE 37, 2018, ACRYLIC ON BOARD, 45 x 60 cm. private collection

Georges Seurat said of his work “some say they see poetry in my paintings; I see only science” It could be said of fellow pointillist Gary McMillan…”some may see poetry in my paintings; I see only science…fiction”.

Like Seurat, McMillan atomises the picture plane – atoms of colour are split – a slow ‘fusion’ that sets them free to agitate and ultimately reform in new precarious molecular arrangements.

McMillan has had a long obsession with science fiction and with the symbolism of film noir cinematography. Recently his paintings have shown less of the familiar filmic tropes of dramatic angularity and theatrical lighting yet there is a menacing Day of the Triffids atmosphere that settles over these urban scapes. Glimpsed out the back window of a fleeing El Camino we see abandoned turnpikes, tanks farms and half-finished structures, albeit with flashes of bright (nuclear) light. Not quite Cormac McCarthy apocalyptic these otherwise modest scenes do however carry an unsettling sense of hazard and uncertainty.

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RUTH CLELAND & GARY MCMILLAN at Fox Jensen Mccrory, Auckland, PHOTO BY EMMA FOX

Light becomes the subject of the painting

– Gary McMillan

I believe this visual alarm is at the heart of McMillan’s practice, where the turbulence of the visual world needs to be both acknowledged and managed. Painting’s re-ordering of sight through the manipulations of material allows McMillan to exercise some authority over what he sees, and to supervise this otherwise volatile proposition. Gratefully, he is only partially successful in this, as the uncertainty of vision that is so crucial to our understanding and experience of it, sustains the paintings frisson and buoyancy.

For paintings whose process effectively denies gesture by contracting it to a “dot” these exquisitely made paintings feel and are, determinedly analogue. Their hand-made quality is evident in their patient reassembly of the material of vision. A painting practice as rare as McMillan’s feels hugely important at this moment given the avalanche of digitised imagery and reminds us that vision is sensory and tactile.

– Andrew Jensen

Gary intentionally depicts the mundane or the incidental in order to focus attention on the fundamental act of looking and the process of perception.

– Ruth Cleland 

EXHIBITIONS

Gary McMillan is a New Zealand painter from the Waikato region who received his BFA and MFA from Dunedin School of Art in the late nineties and early noughties. In 2009, he went on Artist residency at Vermont Studio Centre in the US. His works are held in several collections in New Zealand including the James Wallace Arts Trust Collection, The Hocken Library collection at the University of Otago, the Otago polytechnic collection and the Eastern Southland Gallery in Gore.

IMAGE BY ARTSDIARY © 2018 SAIT AKKIRMAN

Gary has a finely tuned way of seeing the world that comes from an awareness of his own discomfort around others. He openly acknowledges that his disquiet leads him to be an observer, able to notice things that most other people overlook.

-Ruth Cleland