John Mills Open Studio – More is More or Less
John Mills’ paintings employ a minimum of tools to great effect. Looking at them is like listening to the quiet man at a party – at first through the crush of boldly-dressed characters and the hollow din of voices and music you might catch a glimpse (as of spare marks against white) and you hear a phrase or two, in a quiet voice (perhaps an erudite reference to Minoan culture, and a quote from philosophical literature) and these draw you in. You find yourself in his audience, perhaps an audience of one; you are kind of captivated, and definitely engaged. Soon, your mind is racing to make connections among his ideas, and you begin to share your own thoughts, and the questioning expands outward. In a room full of these paintings, the visual conversation and the internal dialogue about ideas is magical.
In one painting I see a golden-ochre wing, as from a Classical statue, and a funny leg, one that I (in my child’s clumsy hand) might have drawn. Finding these shapes, I do not think I have to read them, instead I feel able to accept from them a possibility of meaning, of meanings. Other marks on the canvas, which feel just as purposeful as these, but less recognizable, reinforce my thought that linear understanding isn’t Mills’ point, but that associative wandering might be. In his paintings, John Mills does me the favor of inviting me on a journey the outcome of which neither one of us knows, and that both of us will learn from and enjoy.
In a large painting, I notice darkness behind the white background. I recognize that the artist has painted out some history in these darker places, and that marks similar to the ones I see on the surface are now a visible past. More, I notice that Mills’ brushstrokes become marks, too, and that these have their own shadows that confuse my eye between past and present, between presence and shadow. Now I move around the room, looking at the brushstrokes and taking huge pleasure in the way Mills gives his brushstrokes equal footing to the shapes, the signs on his paintings. In the expansive backgrounds the oil paint strokes work as signs in the absence of color, and of figuration; in the signs themselves, Mills paints in a less-than-precise way, his application of paint is scumbly – the colors he uses clot in some places and become thin in others. He mentioned an interest in “the original paintings, not paintings on walls or pots, but the first time paintings stood for themselves, autonomously” and that in these ancient paintings some chance of media and of mixing has left the paint thick in places and washy in others; this is the effect he wishes to achieve. I think for a moment that a way of painting, a manner of application can also be a possible place to find meaning.
John Mills’ open studio event, More is More or Less is open today, Saturday, from 2:00 PM to 6:00 PM, at Weekend, 4634 Hollywood Blvd., 90027
If you’re on Facebook, you can check the event here. https://www.facebook.com/events/181486152005684/?ref=notif¬if_t=plan_edited