“Floating World: The Light the Bird Sees” at Heather Gaudio Fine Art
February 24 @ 10:00 am - April 6 @ 5:30 pm
Millner’s work investigates the relationship between art and nature, the natural and the man-made. Based in St. Louis, MO, the artist has executed different bodies of work over his decades-long career. He began by using traditional pigmented materials on canvas to convey the complexity of lines and contours seen in organic forms, such as flowers, leaves, or trees. As his graphic explorations developed, Millner began to ponder: how to depict an entire tree through representation? How can one draw all its components and convey all the individual parts simultaneously on a single picture plane? He found the use of traditional pencils, paint, paper, and canvas to be limiting in terms of surface and scale. At a time when everything from music to movies to books were becoming digitized, Millner took to hand-drawing with a stylus and used the computer as a repository for the drawings. These line drawings existed with no scale or color and only later would he shift their size, thickness, and assign color values.
Millner’s first digital tree was drawn literally “en plein air” using a tablet, capturing simple branch and leaf contours. By reducing them to an outline, Millner synthesized its complex visual language, each element drawn individually and set floating in space, free from background and each other. These he could later assemble together to reconstitute the entire tree. The computer allowed Millner to zoom in and out and draw at different scales simultaneously, facilitating details on the tiniest of branches and leaves. The artist could then play with layers, obscuring some and allowing others to emerge, their spatial relationships rendered through size and detail of the objects. Millner then printed these digital images as archival inkjet prints, bringing to question if his works can be categorized as drawings, prints or camera-less photographs.
For this exhibition, Millner has created a new body of work that brings these investigations to the fore. These works present multiple layers of luscious vegetation, fauna, garden imagery and ornate fountains embedded with shapes simulating petalled birds and oversized feathers. These motifs are flattened on the picture plane, with outlined forms floating on the ground, their implied perspective reminiscent of Japanese Ukiyo-e prints. It is no coincidence the artist chooses to print his imagery on Japanese mulberry paper which he then mounts on canvas. The palette and associated gradients are inherent to natural botany with pinks, blues, greens, yellows, and browns surrounding and filling in the forms. Rainbow patterns are interspersed and insert themselves in certain spaces, conjuring the notion that colors in the light spectrum are omni-present, even when not fully visible. Some of the delineated shapes depicting figures, heads, fountains, and birds are intentionally left blank or can appear to have features filled in with pencil, their phantasmagoric silhouettes immersed in the impenetrable organic patterns. These works are so intricate and densely occupied with line and color and ambiguous figure- ground relationships, much like Pointillistic works, they require the viewer to step back to take in the overall composition. The works require time and attention and there is discovery along the way.
Millner’s distinct visual language reflects the natural and human-made worlds, where narratives are not linear, with objects and space occupying and containing different histories over time. The artist skillfully toggles between the natural and digital, to present dreamlike scenes within a tangible world. By evoking a sense of nostalgia, Millner reminds us that the natural and the man-made are transient, maintaining but a moment in the overall course of Time.