Artist with a fascination for light

Gary McMillan's new paintings shift from the depiction of scenes with a hyper-realism to a more abstracted approach.
Gary McMillan, Scene 37

Gary McMillan, Phase IV
Fox Jensen McCrory Gallery

In his latest exhibition of paintings Gary McMillan has shifted his focus from the depiction of scenes with a hyper-realism to a more abstracted approach, which sees him focusing on light, which has been a major interest of his for some time.

This fascination with light is explored in its many forms – sunlight at dawn and dusk, reflected light, motorway lamps, industrial lights and car headlamps.

His earlier work also showed an interest in film, notably science fiction, horror and film noir. This meant that often his works had a slightly surreal feel, a displacement from reality. This interest in film is also shown in the title of the works in this exhibition, which all have the word “scene” plus a number.

While many of his previous works had a dramatic narrative to them, these latest works are imbued with a slightly disquieting or oppressive sense, of being lost in an enigmatic or mystifying environment.

His paintings are also concerned with the way in which we perceive objects. Again, his previous work was concerned with the replication of the photograph and he used that realism to create heightened narratives. In these works, he investigates the way in which paint creates the illusion of the photographic pixel as well as the painterly impressionist dot.

While at a distance his works look like photographs close up in works such as Scene 30 ($3500), they are closer to the view one would have in an encounter with the pointillism of Seurat or the pixelation of low-resolution photographs.

In Scene 31 ($3500), two large industrial tanks are depicted low on the horizon, with the sun blazing between the two shapes in what could be a homage to JMW Turner. 

Scene 38 ($7000) provides a suburban scene as if seen through a car window, a group of out-of-focus houses and a string of lights. The work also includes a blob of blue, an abstract shape inserted into the landscape.

Scene 35 ($7000) is almost an abstract work, with two lights that dazzle the viewer, eliminating any other discernible shapes,

The views in all the paintings have an out-of-focus, foggy quality, like unintentional, random photographs taken with the cellphone.

In Scene 37 ($5500), the viewer sees a line of tall metal power pylons, some low buildings and two car headlights. It is the sort of image we have of the pylons as we drive along Auckland's Southern Motorway in the rain. The image is both mundane and mysterious. The only part of the painting in focus is the beads of water on the window pane. This is the artist demonstrating not only his technical skill but also his challenging the viewer on notions of perception and reality.

This is supplied content and not commissioned or paid for by NBR.