A Shaman at the BlackShed
Chris Milton’s Show Reviewed by Gareth Stevens
Chris Milton approaches painting and drawing with a stoic resolve. He is the real deal, no word of a lie. His mission and his working method are complex and defy description. Being familiar with his work already, I was surprised at the extent to which this exhibition surpassed my expectations.
The very fact that Milton perpetually tries to circumvent the conscious verbal mind makes the job of distilling his themes and ideas into 500 words a poisoned chalice. He plate spins many polarities both at a technical and deeply spiritual level. Preoccupied with poetically uniting a whole range of usually divided ideas and experiences, he strives to find the divine in the profane, to bring powerful hidden archetypes and forces from our subconscious into the material world by way of paint and canvas.
Another of his central themes is to explore the connection between the universal and the relative, between that which collectively binds us and the discrete narratives of our own individuated experiences.
At first glance his draughts-manship, which is the foundation of his paintings as well his drawings, seems frenetic, even frenzied, and yet after time its elegance and assuredness shine through. As you look further you will notice that some marks are in the only place they could be and that they tell of Milton’s lifetime’s struggle to observe and capture the human form.
PICTURE: BlackShed Gallery / Chris Milton
The drawings are full of implied movement and yet seem still and noble. They both depict the material world at the same time as taking us way beyond it. There is a series of beatific drawings of women that exalt the feminine as a divine and unifying archetypal force at the same time as inviting an almost fetishistic gaze. These works’ disquiet lays in the way Milton examines territory between the objectifying and libidinous intent of the id and a more spiritual and pure idolatry.
A wider lexicon of different signs and symbols are more fully expressed in Milton’s paintings. They are more concerned with animals and objects rather than the human figure. His use of colour, like his drawing, combines freshness with an absence of forethought. This, however, belies the deep understanding Milton has of how colour is a conduit for emotion and how different cultures, religions and times have used it symbolically. Put simply, it takes time to realise just what an accomplished colourist Milton is.
Milton’s artistic journey is one of self discovery, meditation and ultimately redemption. Lucky for us his process incidentally throws up paintings and drawings of great calibre. His work is the forensic evidence of his attempts to free associate ideas and feelings that straddle both the everyday and the transcendental; the individual subjective world of memories and the collective unconscious.
This is a rare opportunity to enjoy the work of an artist at the top of his game. I highly recommend that you visit the show of this man’s humble yet ardently produced work.
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