/ARCHIVE — 2013
/gary mcmillan – fun and games
/In FUN AND GAMES, I arrange selections of images and visual ideas in order to set up playful conflicts. My interest in contradictory impulses makes the tension between what seems to be serious and what seems to be foolish a critical factor in my work. Depicting a series of benignly threatening situations, my paintings collectively act as a fun-filled meditation on risk. In this way, I pose the question of what is sensible, both in terms of what is understandable and how it is acceptable according to convention.
/GARY MCMILLAN melds traditional painting practice with a mischievous inquiry into artifice and nature. He received a Diploma with Distinction in 1991 from the Alberta College of Art and has exhibited in Calgary, Edmonton and Vancouver. Gary lives and works in Calgary, Alberta.
GARY MCMILLAN: FUN AND GAMES
Stop Making Sense
Gary McMillan sets out in this series of paintings to “stop making sense.” He sets up compositions and situations with twists and turns, where logic is abandoned and the pure energy of “play” is celebrated. This is a series of paintings where McMillian meanders in a follow-your-nose-fashion, through figurative, landscape, abstraction and still life, exploring the dichotomy of complex compositions and facility, with underlying frivolity.
The road to the “unexpected” begins at the drawing table with 8.5 x 11 inch sheets of printer paper and a Bic pen. The drawing serves as an action and a starting point to the painting. The action of drawing is the initial focus, creating shapes and forms with no real outcome in mind. The intention is not to document or render but to “clear the clutter”. The goal is to generate images that are free of outside influences. Over the course of this process, shapes, forms and gestures emerge to become possibilities. A sweeping line becomes an archer’s bow and a circular form turns into a swinging chandelier. Much like “automatic drawing,” the composition, elements and setting are not influenced by any preconceived notions. This activity takes on many forms as some elements leave one painting and appear in another painting and some images fade away while others become unexpected focal points. The focus is to create the environment for possibilities to take place.
The next round of drawings begin to explore the “what if” and “why not”. The drawing shapes could be a reclining figure, lines could become animals, shadows may become buildings. The drawing points to a possibility and sets the course of action. Gary describes sourcing images much like a science experiment, where the actions and reactions of two elements are introduced to each other in an experiment. The “what if” comes from looking at possibilities and allowing the drawing to point the direction to potential source images. Much like play, the outcome is irrelevant. It is the sense of exploration in the moment that is important, asking, “what happens if I do this?”
Hunting and Gathering
The hunting and gathering of source images is much like a puzzle game. The drawing points the direction and the hunt is on. Stuffies, inflatable boxing gloves, nuclear explosions cut out of paper, model airplanes, flower-patterned wallpaper are all fair game. In some instances, the perfect image is found online—like a sun tanning walrus, or a soft husky dog in the bottom of a toy box. In other cases, family members pose in giant inflatable boxing gloves or dance with a toy parrot. These images take on an entirely new meaning when brought into the painting. The ordinary becomes extraordinary when the picture plane fills with these rich and unexpected visual relationships.
Paint What You Know
The Mark Twain quote, “write what you know” comes to mind when considering this series of painting. The intended meaning of the quote is not to literally produce autobiographical stories, but to look for emotions in personal experiences and use the energy in the writing. The sense of wonder and discovery resonate from the gleeful face of the boy in Pinata. In an instant, the release of the bat seconds before making contact with a fragile glass chandelier. The moment depicted is the unbridled energy of adolescents and the preoccupation of generating force and challenging boundaries. The energy of the gesture is, perhaps, conjured up by the artist as he thinks back to a childhood moment when actions were sometimes difficult to harness.
According to McMillan, the Fun and Games series is an elliptical inquiry into the duality of artifice and truth as it extends into the real world; how things can be both seen and imagined. He utilizes a vast painting vocabulary to visually depict this exploration, like darting back and forth between two lovers he employs loose gestural brushwork creating dream-like segments that elegantly butt up against finely painted people and objects in a more controlled style of realism.
In this series, Gary has given himself permission to reach beyond rendering in paint and, at the same time, to explore a true and honest source of inspiration. McMillan gives weight to the notion that if it is possible to paint anything, then why not paint anything? Why not truly enjoy the creative process and create an approach to painting that allows for boundless possibilities; one that begets a discipline of entertaining the psyche’s penchant to wander deep into the forest of free association.
/BART HABERMILLER graduated from ACAD and went on to complete an MFA in sculpture at the Art Institute of Chicago with a full merit scholarship. Habermiller has participated in projects with the New York Historical Museum, City of Richmond, Nickle Arts Museum, Glenbow Museum and the City of Calgary.
/Listen to GARY MCMILLAN's artist talk from October 19, 2013: