Following her graduation from Goldsmiths in 1982, Lisa Milroy achieved early success with her paintings of still life objects (shoes, light bulbs, melons,…) the motifs painted in sensual bravura strokes on plain, neutral backgrounds.
Lisa Milroy, Shoes, 1985 (Collection: Tate Gallery)
Lisa Milroy, Light Bulbs, 1988 (Collection: Tate Gallery)
For this exhibition, In the Black, Lisa Milroy has selected fifteen paintings from 1984 to 2009 to present the use of black in her work. In a text written for the show, Milroy describes the role played by shadows in her still life paintings:
The darkest area in my painting is the point at which the object and ground meet in shadow. ‘Darkest’ does not always mean black, although this dark can feel like black. The black of a painted shoe has a different material quality than the black in a painted shadow. Both allude to different realities, the shoe tangible, factual, ordinary, the shadow suggested, felt, mysterious.
She describes, in detail, making, and applying, black:
I make my own black paint by mixing ultramarine blue and burnt umber. I only use black straight out of the tin for painting a ground or as a glaze, or for drawing on the canvas when I need a line both fluid and pigment-rich. Emotionally, it feels quite different to use readymade black as opposed to black I make myself. My own black feels more intimate, a part of me, like my own shadow. Readymade black is more a tool, functional. Independent from me, readymade black paint is less emotionally charged.
A shadow in my painting binds an object to the ground. My shadows are made from ultramarine blue, burnt umber and titanium white which produces a soft gray. For a hot or warm shadow, I add a touch of yellow ochre or alizarin crimson to the mix and for a cooler shadow, I add more ultramarine blue. To paint a shadow, I start by brushing my own black paint to the right of the object. Then I paint the gray component next to it. To finish, I blend the black at the edge of the object into the gray area and the gray area into the off-white ground that surrounds the object.
The following items are available in Pittville Learning Centre:
Bradley, Fiona (2001) Lisa Milroy, London: Tate Gallery
Chisenhale Gallery (1995) Lisa Milroy: Travel Paintings, London: Chisenhale Gallery
Lisa Milroy (2003) [video], London: Illuminations (theEYE series)
Waddington Galleries (1998) Lisa Milroy, London: Waddington Galleries
Watkins, Jonathan et al (2007), Lisa Milroy: Making Sense, Birmingham: Ikon Gallery