Call me Snake
by Judy Millar
Judy Millar's first public art commission created for Christchurch's SCAPE 8 New Intimacies
Judy Millar is one of New Zealand’s foremost painters. Her work has garnered critical acclaim both locally and internationally, and she represented New Zealand at the 2009 Venice Biennale. The central theme of her work is the relationship between the illusory and the physical, between our private inner world and our material existence, and the way the activity of painting can synthesise these contradictory ways of being. Millar is best known for her large-scale digitally printed and painted canvases, which loop and undulate through architectural spaces, exploring ideas of scale, and the compression of time and space. Her work for SCAPE 8 New Intimacies, Call me Snake, pushes these ideas beyond the enclosed architectural spaces she has previously worked with, into the Central Christchurch landscape.
The work is comprised of vibrant graphics of Millar’s looped paintings, which are adhered to five intersecting flat planes, and draws inspiration from the forms found in pop-up books. The colourful piece will add a dramatic and rhythmic counterpoint to the city’s current urban landscape — a mix of flattened sites, construction zones and defiant buildings that have stood through the quakes. The work employs theatricality, playfulness and visual trickery, whereby the viewer is unsure about the work’s flatness or three-dimensionality; and it has been designed to offer a different perspective from each angle. The bright colours interrupt the grey of the work’s surrounds, and as buildings pop up around it, Call me Snake offers an optimistic provocation – ‘imagine what could be here’.
As a child Judy Millar was sure that there must be something hiding behind the image of the world she saw before her eyes — a hidden reality or at least a prop holding up what everyone around her was referring to as “the world”. She never found the secret of what lay behind that image, but her childhood dream turned into a preoccupation with turning things inside out in order to see things better.
In 2009 she represented New Zealand at the Venice Biennale. Here she forced [the] shaped and flowing canvases into jarring juxtapositions with Baroque architecture.
She established a studio in Berlin and began to live between Auckland’s wild West Coast and the deeply historic city of Berlin.
She built ribbons of painting and suspended them in space and into spaces: A Better Life Berlin in 2010; The Path of Luck, Palazzo Bembo, Italy, in 2011; The Rainbow Loop at MgK in Otterndorf, Germany, in 2012; Be Do Be Do Be Do at the IMA in Brisbane (2013); Space Work 7 at the Adam Art Gallery in Wellington (2014) and The Model World, Te Uru Contemporary Gallery (2015).
Her work for SCAPE 2015 is her first public sculpture commission.