Brent Millar is an artist with an innate desire to paint, to express thought and emotion through the medium of paint, through a delight in the sheer physical act of painting on canvas. In his paintings we recognise his pleasure in making these extraordinary images, through the sensuous application of colour and expressive drawing. The paintings celebrate life and love and, eschewing any attempt to mirror nature, endeavour to recreate thoughts and feelings through the act of painting. The St Ives artist, Peter Lanyon believed that “paint represents experience and makes it actual.”
Brent too recognises the power of the medium, giving paint the freedom to be itself, to be colour. He has that rare ability to suggest shape and form with a few simple brushstrokes, knowing that less is more. Artists such as Joseph Beuys and Robert Rauschenberg have had an influence on Brent’s work although the roots of his art are firmly in the Scottish tradition of ‘belle peinture’ as exemplified by painters of the Edinburgh School.
Brent tends to work quickly and intuitively, assembling the images in magpie-like fashion. Moving with effortless grace, his hand swoops over the canvas to create a bright burst of colour. As often as not, it will be altered by the deft swipe of a rag in the quest for just the right mark or colour. He might then enclose an area of singing colour with the crumbly fat line of a pastel or it may be that a photograph, chosen for its specific qualities or meaning, is screen printed onto the canvas. The mechanical image will act as a counterpoint to the autographic qualities of the painted areas.
His fascination with colour and the material of paint, not forgetting his superb drawing skills, were noted and fostered by his tutors at Edinburgh College of Art, most notably Robin Philipson and Elizabeth Blackadder. Resisting the temptation to fit easily into a niche, Brent has followed his own path.
His paintings are not run of the mill studio productions but are thought provoking and highly individual, making him one of the most intriguing and interesting artists working in Scotland today.
It is significant that Brent remains fascinated by the work of that visionary dreamer, Odilon Redon. Brent’s work too can conjure up half-remembered dreams or that mystical state of mind between sleep and awakening. With their mysterious juxtapositions of veiled imagery and spatial ambiguity, Brent’s paintings have a poetry born of a contrast between clearly defined imagery and areas of brushed on saturated colour. Abstraction and figuration meet.
In writing about these paintings, I hope I have alluded to a deeper meaning that lies below the surface, a meaning beyond mere appearances. I believe that is what Brent Millar truly wants to convey to us. His is a poetic and spiritual vision, a vision of hope for our troubled times. He has realised, as Cezanne did, that colour is “a place where our spirits and the universe meet”.