Friday, January 10, 2014

Inland Empire
Ruth Cleland and Gary McMillan

Steph Chalmers, Art Collection Curator, University of Waikato
Extracted from the Inland Empire catalogue essay

Uninhabited spaces, ordinary scenes, overlooked views. Ruth Cleland and Gary McMillan make drawings and paintings of the places we fail to notice, as we are preoccupied with the busyness and activities of daily life. 

It’s not uncommon for new viewers to confuse the works of these two artists. Ruth and Gary share a consistent attention to detail, a similar ‘everyday’ subject matter, and both use photographs as the starting point for their drawings and paintings. But it’s a mistake to assume that the intent of their work is the same. 

Gary describes his work as being “closer to fiction.” He thinks of his paintings as frames from an imaginary film, where each scene has a sense of impending action. With a slight tilt or blur to the image, a movement is caught and there is a feeling that the view itself is about to shift. Like an in-between shot that segues to the next moment of action, his paintings deliberately evoke a feeling of unease.

Ruth’s works are “closer to non-fiction.” There is a sense of social documentary in her scenes of suburbia, empty shopping malls and parking buildings. Not wanting her work to be a direct statement on suburban sprawl, but rather a snapshot in time without overt judgement or commentary, Ruth’s work raises questions of what do we value, where do we spend our time, and what will these places be like in the future? 

The use of the grid has become an integral feature in Ruth’s recent work - bringing the method of image transfer to our attention – a further acknowledgement of the source photograph and a nod to historical art practice. The meticulous enlargement, square by square, from the original photograph is a process both Ruth and Gary employ.

Ruth and Gary’s work and practices are symbiotically interlaced; through each influencing, encouraging, and acting as each other’s sounding board. With the amount of time devoted to creating their artworks, it’s advantageous for them each to have a partner that understands the drive and intent behind the making.

Artists’ biography
Ruth Cleland and Gary McMillan are Auckland based artists, both originally from the Waikato region. They studied at Dunedin School of Art, each gaining a Master of Fine Arts with distinction, Ruth in 2002 followed by Gary in 2003. Ruth and Gary have featured in numerous exhibitions both nationally and internationally, in dealer galleries and public galleries, including the Dunedin Public Art Gallery, Blue Oyster Gallery, Hocken Gallery, Vermont Studio Centre, Gus Fisher Gallery, and the University of Waikato. Among other successes, both artists have been awarded the 1st prize at the National Painting and Printmaking Award (Ruth in 2003 and Gary in 2012). In 2008, Ruth was the recipient of the Wallace Trust Development Award and in 2009, Ruth and Gary completed artist residencies at the Vermont Studio Centre, USA. Ruth and Gary are represented in the collections of The James Wallace Arts Trust, The Hocken Library, Otago Polytechnic and Eastern Southland Gallery. Ruth is also represented in the Chartwell Collection held at the Auckland Art Gallery and the Trust Waikato Collection held at the Waikato Museum. 

Ruth and Gary have had a significant influence on each other, having met at art school and been together for 18 years. Inland Empire is their first joint show and both artists feel it has been a natural progression bringing their work together.

Ruth Cleland is represented by Melanie Roger Gallery and Gary McMillan is represented by FHE Galleries.

Artists talk with Ruth Cleland and Gary McMillan | Thursday 16 January, 4.45pm

Join artists Ruth Cleland and Gary McMillan in a conversation about their joint exhibition, Inland Empire. (Free event)

No comments:

Post a Comment