Judy Millar: For this
exhibition, I’ve been given a small room with two beautiful windows, which open
out onto a canal. I’m making a two-sided painting that forms a big springy
strip. The room is about 6m long but the painting is 20m long. Since the
painting is too big for the space, there’ll be a tussle. The painting will be forced
to lift itself up into the air, go out of the window, and come back in. It’ll
double back on itself and loop around. It’ll be delicate but cumbersome, a
physical gesture in real space but also a bearer of illusionistic painterly
Leonard: You’ve been blowing up “the brushstroke” for a while now.
JM: It started with
Giraffe-Bottle-Gun, my 2009 Venice Biennale show. I made small paintings, then
enlarged the imagery to ten times the size. I used a billboard printer—an
advertising tool—to do it. I wanted the work to advertise itself. I wanted to
RL: But the new work is painted, right?
JM: The orange bits are painted but
the black bits are printed. Both have been up-scaled, but to different degrees
and in different ways. I’ve been developing big brushes with multiple heads so
that I can make giant gestures. I’m trying to find a bigger dimension for
With the up-scaling and the use of printing, are you trying to denature or
dehumanise the brushstroke?
JM: I’m not trying to dehumanise it, if anything I’m trying to rehumanise
it. I’m trying to give it more authority. Despite the absurd scale, you still
read the work through your body.
In this work, your painterly marks piggyback on a support that is itself akin
to a painterly mark–a flourish.
JM: Exactly, it’s gesture in real
space that carries other gestures on its surface. The illusionistic surface
distorts your sense of the real physical form, and vice versa. By manipulating
the support structure itself, I’m dismantling the usual image/support
RL: I’m reminded of the plastic toy-car
track that I had as a child. I would bend it into curves and loops and send my
cars careering down it. Your support will operate as a track for vision.
JM: The eye is forced to follow the track. I can control the eye; slow
it down on the curves and speed it up on the flat. Space will turn into time,
and time into space. What was behind will suddenly be in front, edges will
become lines and lines will become edges—everything will be turned inside-out.
Because they are so antithetical, I was reminded of Lynda Benglis’s paint pours
from the late 1960s. She let paint fall from the can onto the floor, whereas
your piece is perky, springy, alert. It isn’t paint-doing-what-comes-naturally.
JM: I’ve never been one of those
materialists who think paint is more interesting in the can. For me, painting
is not about paint, or even about paint on a support. For me, it is about
structures: illusionistic structures, logical structures, worldly structures,
all sorts of structures. I’m not interested in paint simply as a material.
RL: So why paint?
JM: I stay interested in painting: it’s a way of collapsing the
separation of the mental and the bodily that I experience in so many other
parts of life.
RL: So, you’re affirming rather than
JM: I’m questioning and hopeful. I’m asking what can
painting still say, and hopeful that it can still say something.