Thursday, November 10, 2011

Raw Naked Soul: Tracing the Artist’s Experience

Is it possible to completely translate one’s life experience onto canvas? How genuine is this translation, if it can be achieved? Many of the works produced in our current show, Raw Naked Soul, address these thoughts, and many more. These ideas, in particular, have resonated among artists from the beginning of the history of art. As a result, many movements and waves in art’s colourful history have attempted to engender these ideas, but have faded with the rise of new waves in their place.

Patrick John Mills, Summer II, Oil on canvas, 2011

The works in Patrick John Mills's current solo exhibition demonstrate a translation of his own life experiences in an abstract way. At times his paintings completely abandon pictorial representation in favour of abstract applications of colour and thick layers of paint on canvas that speak of various truths. A canvas, such as those from Mills's Summer Series, tells a tale that can be interpreted in many different ways. Mills painted this series on an easel in the backyard of his studio at the height of summer. He incorporates the brilliant colours of the season and paints its story with a strict attention to the detail of colour (the most important element of this series of paintings). There is no figure present in these paintings. This feature thereby implicates that the artist's experience becomes indefinite (in the sense of the removal of direct representation) for the sake of cultivating a shared abstract moment with the viewer. 

However, that is not to say that life experience cannot be translated onto canvas. The abstract quality of Mills’s Summer Series indicates that what is translated here is a feeling or a sense, and not a direct pictorial representation of the experience. The viewer cannot exactly consider a specific memory or experience in Mills's life, but is able to share the feelings that result from said memory or event. This abstract interpretation succeeds in presenting a true experience to the viewer because he or she feels the same emotion that has been transferred onto the canvas. In a sense, to feel the same feelings as the artist draws the viewer closer to his world of memories and creates a deeper connection that is captured in the many layers of colour on the canvas. 

Many of the canvases in this series are small and are often juxtaposed next to a monumental canvas. The small canvases essentially provide various “snippets” of experiences – flashes of colour and paint that indicate feelings are experienced by the viewer in the briefest of minutes, while the monumental works in the show engulf the viewer in Mills’s painterly emotions and allow he or she to linger in the moment. This juxtaposition essentially relates to how we remember past experiences: sometimes our memories come to us in small clips, while at other times we are able to remember larger feelings that garner greater emotional impact.

Mills constructs a portrait of himself through these abstract canvases that evoke emotional responses to personal memories. He simultaneously exposes himself; raw, naked, and emotional, while maintaining a hold of private personal memories. We are left feeling a little more connected to the artist as we share in the sense of the memory.