‘Kiwakawii’ by Gary McMillan
Artist: Gary McMillan
Medium: Acrylic on Masonite hardboard
Dimensions: 20″ x 16″
Year of Creation: 2021
About the Artwork:
“There are arguably two ways one can experience a world which is unfamiliar; either travel to a strange place or travel to a strange time. Of course, there is also the possibility to do both. It is fun and even enlightening to imagine a plunge into an imaginary universe, to be set down in an alien world which seems to have only a tenuous familiarity. As an artist, I am always looking for new speculative places to observe in order to think about how my own real world may transform itself. I like to think of the viewer looking at my work in the same way, willing to venture into these places of mine, where there are natural forms and situations that are unfamiliar. In my paintings, the color of everything is strange but beautiful, and the way the presented natural forms fit into the local ecology is a mystery. The places are also safe so that even as the viewer is a little uncertain, they are wonderstruck and are eager to probe deeper into unknown territory.
Humanoids play a large role in my invented worlds, yet they seem to lack any kind of technology or physical culture. In my paintings, I suppose I am imagining technology which has transformed itself out of existence, which has become embedded into the biology of living things. Perhaps it is a utopia built upon forgotten knowledge. Perhaps it is simply nature asserting its slow change and assimilating all of the past into a seamless organic web. In any case, I hope you enjoy my visions of an alternate world which may be unfolding, or which has already come into being… far, far away.” – Gary McMillan
About the Artist:
“The world is a lot stranger than you think. You can also think of a much stranger world than you can see.” That is what I just told myself as I began to write this. It is also a maxim I have put into practice as an artist since about 2010. But why only since then, you ask? What about all the other fifty or so years before that? Well, the truth is, I am a rather pragmatic fellow, and making a whole lot of large cumbersome paintings of bizarre images that seemed to have little chance of selling anywhere around where I lived seemed crazy. So for years, I enjoyed simply enjoyed painting landscapes and portraits. Then in 2010, I had the thought that it wasn’t crazy at all. In fact, it would be crazy not to paint the most fun, bizarre, engaging and exciting images I could come up with. I had done that during my stint in art school at the Alberta College of Art in 1989 to 1991. I had gone there as a mature student just for the fun of it and made a lot of “out there” stuff. But then I had gone back to being pragmatic when I left. That is, until 2010. That’s when I took the lid off the well to my artist’s imagination.
It is an interesting process to do such a thing. Strange things come out and as soon as they are seen, they get lassoed and put in a corral with all the other varmints. Then they all get a looking at and the best ones get turned into paintings and the rest of them are turned out to pasture. (Please excuse the cowboy metaphor, but I live in Calgary, Canada (home of the big Western rodeo called the Calgary Stampede.) Of course, once I get a painting, I ask myself, “but what does it mean, what’s it about.” That’s when I just make more of them until I have a whole herd of paintings milling about. When I ask the same question then, I get a better answer. A herd of anything has its own meaning because it takes up a lot of space, and can trample you if you get in the way. But mostly, when you have a bunch of paintings that are similar in some way, a conversation of grunts and snorts begins between the herd and the wrangler. As the wrangler, I start thinking about how the images relate to the world in terms of history, culture or the realm of ideas. Connections are made and meaning is formed. That’s when, and more importantly, why I will write about the paintings. It is all about the creation of meaning. Things come first and meaning comes later.
Having grown up in Calgary, Gary McMillan attended the University of Calgary in 1978 to 1980, studying science and fine-art. He exhibited paintings of Alberta landscape throughout the 1980’s, and then attended Alberta College of Art and Design from 1989 to 1991. Holding a double major in painting and printmaking, he received a Diploma with Distinction in 1991. Employing the use of the human figure and landscape, he produces themed series of paintings infused with the absurd. He has exhibited in a number of group and solo shows in Calgary, Edmonton and Vancouver.