John Millei - From the Same Hill
TI-155 Gallery, San Francisco
May 7 - June 26 2017
One hundred 10 x 8 Inch paintings by the highly accomplished American painter John Millei have been on display for the past month at the recently opened TI-155 Gallery, San Francisco’s new and exciting contemporary art gallery and public programs space on Treasure Island. The exhibition was curated by George Lawson and the exhibition catalog was created in collaboration with George Lawson Gallery.
TI-155’s gallery space is situated within the left wing of the Treasure Island Museum building that marks the first point of call when arriving at Treasure Island. The soft San Francisco sun reflecting off the bay casts clear and even light throughout all four of TI-55’s network of refreshingly unpolished white cubes. TI-55’s walls, having been used in their previous life by the design studio, Jones and Becker, still bare thousands of pin holes from the ever changing display of designs pinned up to them. Alix Becker, Founder and Director of TI-155, is eager to make TI-155 a place where art, design and socially engaged conversation can intersect. Her Great Grandfather was the chief architect of Treasure Island's ‘World Fair’. Becker’s strong connection to the history of the location as well as a keen awareness of what it’s future developments may mean for it’s residence and arts community align to ensure TI-155 will have an integral future.
The transformative energy that can be felt at the heart of TI-155 suits perfectly the one hundred 10 x 8 inch paintings that wind their way through the gallery space; each painting containing a world encountering it’s own unique state of flux, each harboring it’s own energy for the viewer to be drawn into and decode yet together make up a network of information like a string of DNA.
As I walk through the exhibition I write down these notes: snippit, snapshot, slips of the tongue, fragments overheard - not quite understood, a scene played out off stage, shimmers of lights, shadows, spaces between movement, peek, peep, squint, skim through, speculation, blink, get wind of, eavesdrop, wiretap, spy, listen in, vanishing. It dawns on me that they are paintings that seem to comment on how we live in the world, less about microscopic observation and more about life’s perpetual motion, it’s change and temporality.
The paintings that make up this body of work are all titled ‘From The Same Hill”, all made between January to April 2017 at Millei’s country studio within a state of anxiety brought on by the appointment of Donald Trump as President. They resonate deeply with the ever changing nature of all things, whether it be the natural, urban or political landscape, the body, relationship and means of communication.
Millei explores this theme it seems by focusing on the ephemerality of communication, depicting the in-betweens, the incomplete story, the scene observed if only for a glance. Millei’s paintings display an understanding that the way that we navigate the world is not through complete pictures and finite truths but through a series of fleeting moments, where not everything is understood and our eyes and imagination are working hard together to make sense and meaning of it all.
Recurring motifs like two stick trees taken from the landscape at his country studio, womens’ long hair made with the single brush stroke of a 6 inch hog hair paintbrush, graphic arrows leading the eye around the rectangle canvas, a body at side profile as if walking away - a cliche of love at first sight, speech bubbles connoting the way so much of our community and conversation happens using technology across time and space, and cartoon eye brows as if plucked off the face and perpetually surprised as the daily world news unfolds within a social media echo chamber. Millei witnesses flux in objects, nature, landscape, relationship, facial expression, communication and body language, succinctly depicting these moments with a playfulness and economy using oil on canvas and his familiar painterly language that seamlessly fuses figuration and abstraction.
Writer: Harriet Poznansky
Poznansky is a British artist and writer currently based in Oakland CA. She studied at the Slade School of Fine Art London and School of the Art Institute Chicago. She currently works from her studio in Oakland’s Fruitvale district, making paintings, music, and writing short stories. www.harrietpoznansky.com