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. His more recent paintings show 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.
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.