“It’s a mistake to expect literature to come only from literary sources,” Uruguayan writer Mario Levrero once told an interviewer, “like expecting a cheesemaker to eat nothing but cheese.”
In March 2020, after several years living in the seaside town of Porto, on Portugal’s northern coast, Milli Jannides moved with her young family to her partner’s hometown, Stockholm. With COVID restrictions in place, days were mostly spent indoors enduring the tedium of a never-ending winter – drawing, reading and learning Swedish, punctuated by occasional visits to the local playground and second-hand curiosity shop.
In this newly compacted world and confined to her domestic studio, Jannides experimented with collaging. Interested in the materiality of paper, she cut edges, scratched surfaces and hung it over the window to observe changes in light. Sometimes working alongside her young son and involving him in the process, Jannides embraced spontaneity, painting without hesitation.
Many of the works in Winter Winter Spring began as drawings, rendered in pigments ranging from ink to chalk before being translated in oil to a larger scale. The paintings contain lucid currents of energy which eddy and flow under Jannides’s hand. Restless and ambiguous, their images range from still-life structures to climactic weather systems, abstracted in turquoise, black and hot red. Suggestive of settling in and finding new rhythms, the works are characterised by seasonal, environmental and watery references.
Often influenced by literature and what she is reading at the time, Jannides found herself reflecting on Mario Levrero’s 1996 ‘Empty Words’. In it, a failed fiction writer tries to better his life by improving his handwriting – an aim soon thwarted by the demands of the outside world. But while the narrator is damning of such intrusions, Jannides welcomed hers, finding solace and inspiration in them.
Milli Jannides (1986, Sydney) graduated from Auckland’s Elam School of Fine Arts in 2009 and in 2013 completed her MFA at the Royal College of Art, London. Since graduating from the Royal College she has based her studio in Europe, and undertaken two residencies in Mexico City in 2014 and 2015.
Recent solo exhibitions include Sympathy Activity, Mossman, Wellington (2020) and Cavewoman, Hopkinson Mossman, Wellington (2018). Group exhibitions include Painting: A Transitive Space, St. Paul St Gallery, AUT, Auckland (2016), Necessary Distraction: A Painting Show, Auckland Art Gallery Toi o Tamaki (2015) and Sound Bow (with Ruth Buchanan), Johan Berggren, Malmö (2014).
Winter Winter Spring is Milli Jannides’ first solo show at McLeavey Gallery.
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