Into the belly of the whale | 27 April - 21 May 2011

Bartley Company Art is very pleased to present Judy Millar's exhibition Into the belly of the whale. While painting these works, Millar was reading Herman Melville's classic American novel Moby Dick and the exhibition can be seen as her tribute to the writer. As Melville immerses readers in the world of whaling and the sea, so too Millar's richly layered gestural paintings immerse viewers in painting's possibilities.

I am receiving the sensation of content without the narrative devices that usually deliver it.

Curator Justin Paton said this in conversation with Judy Millar prior to her participation in the 2009 Venice Biennale and the observation seems particularly pertinent to this new body of work. Millar rarely titles her paintings but all the works on paper in this exhibition have titles that reference the novel and Captain Ahab's pursuit of the great white sperm whale, Moby Dick. They also make explicit the engagement of her painting with the world. Millar's painting may be perceived as abstract but she has long been interested in the depiction of three-dimensional space. Her distinctive large brush strokes are here overlaid with a complex myriad of fine slashing jagged lines and smaller sweeps of paint that flow and halt and turn in all directions to create richly suggestive forms.

The painted surfaces of the works, which are mostly on paper, have a rich luminosity, which is not captured in the photographs. They catch the light and glow. Also present is an intriguing tension between modesty and monumentality - the scale here is small for Millar but the grandeur of her vision and project is still present in every work.

Judy Millar is one of New Zealand's most highly regarded and internationally successful artists. She is the only New Zealand artist to participate two successive Venice Biennales, the global art world's most prestigious event. In 2009 she represented New Zealand, along with Frances Upritchard, and she has been invited back this year to participate in a collateral event. The exhibition Personal Structures, < http://www.venice-exhibitions.org/ > positions Millar in an impressive line up of artists. She will continue her exploration of painting's relationship to architectural space and is producing a large scale three-dimensional work for the exhibition in the Palazzo Bembo on the Grand Canal. Millar is currently in Europe where she is preparing for Venice and another exhibition in Berlin which also opens in June.

My reason for being involved in art is to see where things go. I think that's how you should live your life as well. It's not about deciding where things should go but staying open to possibilities.
Judy Millar 2009.

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year: 2011