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The Reflexive Communication of Sensation

Published 9 July 2013 Jonathon McWilliam

Judy Millar’s exhibition at the Institute of Modern Art (IMA), Be Do Be Do Be Do, is physically immediate and accessible to the viewer, who is completely immersed in Millar’s artistic space. Upon entering the gallery, however, the artwork is not immediately cognizant. This is due to Millar expressly and purposefully working against immediate cognition. The focus of this exhibition lays directly with the physical experience, the spatial language, and the communication of sensation.

Millar’s process is to make a small abstract painting which is segregated and extrapolated on a large scale that is then transferred onto various mediums including wood, plastic, and pyrex – this is achieved through the utilisation of half tone billboard printing techniques coupled with the application of paint guided by overhead projections. How one experiences the work, how the work relates to itself and the medium of the work is all metamorphosed in this intoxicating process of extrapolation. The implication is that the small abstract painting is transformed from visually constative to physically and dynamically performative.

The four gallery spaces of the IMA, where the exhibition is featured, are all interconnected by the artwork, through a writhing physicality of gestural brushstrokes, enabling a narrative flow, from an epicenter that the work unpacks itself, within and throughout a personally projected spatial timeline.

Be Do Be Do Be Do is literally defined by the power and thrust of the intercourse and self-reflexivity determined by the physical relationship that builds between the artwork and the viewer within the spatial context of the exhibition. There is a strong tension between the micro and macro elements of the show as each gesture constantly folds back in on itself, only to realise an ongoing radically altered incarnation of self.

Is it one work of art, or is it an organised collective of interrelated pieces made up of brush strokes, gestures, paint blotting, clotting and movement that communicates with other more technical components to reveal the greater collective identity of the exhibition?

This question of metaphysical identity is echoed in the exhibition’s title Be Do Be Do Be Do, an Indian esoteric mantra that looks “at ways to re-focus our attention and energy”. This philosophy views one’s life as a narrative of time and space, in which “we start off, we do things, and we become something else”. This philosophy is reflected in the process of compartmentalisation, extrapolation and the eventual transformation of ‘things’ into a performative non-determinative artwork.

As Millar is quoted in the Sunday Mail June 16 2013, “there’s a lot of freedom in that, rather than thinking that we are fixed as individuals.” This is evidenced in the sequential compartmentalised narrative flow of the exhibition. The unfolding of the artwork is like the non-determinative unfolding of one’s life mirrored through a vortex of sequential uncertainty.

In thinking this, it is all the more poignant that Millar has presented this exhibition in different galleries and different spaces, and each time has remade the artwork to express the identity of the space in which she works, expressing the morphing identity of self.

Header image courtesy Judy Millar, Installation shot, Bedobedobedo, Institute of Modern Art, Brisbane, 2013.