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I excitedly showed a collector a new work of Gary McMillan’s last week – an exquisite small painting Untitled #20, acrylic on Bristol board. They approached it from a distance assuming it was a photograph, confusing its all-over dot matrix for agitated pixels.

In the past you could have been forgiven for thinking McMillan’s hyper-realist works were photographs. The images were drawn from photographs and they carried multiple cinematic signals. Soft re-workings of filmic shots, storyboard stills that reveal his deep interest in the collusion of image with drama.

That imposed narrative has been relinquished in recent work, and in its wake is a fresh approach to painting that relies on material magic, great patience and finesse to build an image, dot by dot. This accumulation reaches a kind of molecular density where form, light and shadow conspire to make a new object, one that declares its status more as a painting than as a picture.

The thinking that infuses all of Gary’s work is now riding shotgun with intuition and feel. This balancing act goes to the heart of good painting, from Cezanne to Richter and back to Giotto, where we can’t help but wish to know how this magic occurred. It’s not a sleight of hand trickery, rather it’s how the considered construction of a surface, using unlikely materials and repetitive touch, can materialize objects that enliven our awareness and recalibrate our vision. It is this heightening of our sensitivities and receptiveness that is just one of paintings’ remuneration for the attention we give it.

The same urban vistas still attract McMillan’s gaze but now they function more as compositional markers rather than as quasi-filmic sites. This loss of imposed narrative is more than compensated for by the release of obligation his painting had to description. Now we can enter his curious locations, not as extras but as protagonists. Having done so what we find is that rare opportunity that the best painting allows…to be inside the skin of vision, to feel its heat and moisture, its elasticity and vulnerability.

Fox/Jensen are thrilled to announce that Gary McMillan will be represented by the galleries in Sydney and Auckland. New works will be presented at Sydney Contemporary in September and his first solo presentations in both galleries will be announced in the New Year.