Claire Milner’s visual vocabulary draws widely from many areas including classical literature, art history, fashion, science and the natural world. Working in collections with art historical references, her paintings simultaneously explore the role of the artist as a witness to her own time in history. Her experience in the advertising and design industry and study of Roman and Byzantine mosaics brings an added dimension towards informing her evolving collections, creating allegories of our time in a symbiosis of ancient and contemporary techniques. Prevalent themes focus on topical issues such as socio-political power disparities, migration, identity and the position of female artists in the canon of art history. Her special focus relates to the environment, our place within it and encroachment upon it, often juxtaposing abundance and loss. The effects of humanity are implicit within her paintings, even when the human figure is absent or takes a secondary precedence.
The process involves traditional painting techniques combined with crystal mosaics involving rigorous methodologies rooted in the historical skills of an ancient art form, referencing portraiture and animals in mosaics dating back to the Greek, Roman and Byzantine eras, yet vibrantly contemporary in a medium synonymous with high fashion and sustainable luxury.
Claire Milner's artworks are held in private collections around the world. She has created art for environmentalists, conservation organisations, celebrities, large corporations and advertising agencies. Her work has been displayed in institutional and museum exhibitions in the UK including: Ripon Cathedral, York Minster, Corinium Museum, Canal Museum, Pontefract Museum, Museum in the Park, as well as installations in Harrods and Whiteley's. Her paintings have been featured internationally in the media including The BBC, BLOUIN ARTINFO, Channel News Asia, Elle, Forbes, Huffington Post Arts, Save Virunga, The Telegraph, The Times, Vogue Paris and many others and described as "metaphors of our time" in examining the effects of humans on each other and on other species.
'TRUE VALUE' is a collection of large-scale paintings which feature crystal mosaics depicting keystone species. The process involves traditional painting techniques and rigorous mosaic methodologies. Rooted in the historical skills of an ancient art form renowned for depicting animal scenes, the mosaics are reimagined here in a vibrantly contemporary medium, synonymous with high fashion and luxury. The works accentuate thematic and technical juxtapositions in order to question the human capacity for greatness and great harm: construction and deconstruction, appearance and disappearance, and thousands of individual elements that create singular animals in order to represent the last of the species. Isolated in the picture plane, the creatures are elevated to the importance of human portraits. Precious crystal mosaics are undercut by semi-abstract painted backgrounds and Latin graffiti drawing attention to multiple threats including climate change, poaching and habitat loss. The collection simultaneously confronts minute detail and the big picture in order to scrutinize perceptions and preconceptions and explore the opposing concepts of the superficial and the profound.
The collection entitled 'ANTHROPOCENE ❌TINCTION' is part of an ongoing series pointing to the unnatural pressures inflicted on the natural world by humanity. It links the collections 'HOLOCENE TWILIGHT' where monochromatic paintings serve as a warning of fading memories of creatures under threat, and 'TRUE VALUE' where crystal mosaics focus on the importance of keystone species. ANTHROPOCENE ❌TINCTION brings together many elements of the previous two collections; the monochromatic panels again highlight potential irreversible loss, a message which is given further emphasis in the crystal mosaic cross on the face of the principal animal which at once highlights its preciousness and draws attention to its fate. This collection also focuses on critical habitats and ecosystems such as coral reefs, mangroves and primary rainforests, among the most productive and biologically complex on earth. Their loss could prove catastrophic in terms of climate change due to their importance as carbon storage assets. The ghostly female figures are an allegorical reminder that our future is inherently bound up with our treatment of the earth’s natural resources.
‘HOLOCENE TWILIGHT’ concurrently develops the theme of, and contrasts with the colourful crystal mosaic predecessors belonging to the collection entitled 'True Value'. Here, monochromatic oil paintings represent fading memories and loss. A reimagined version of Pietro Longhi’s ‘Exhibition of a Rhinoceros at Venice’ is a starting point for a series of endangered species within urban settings, metaphors for human and animal displacement. Further paintings in this collection reference Guernica, the most famous war painting in art history, thus representing a call to action for war against poaching and habitat loss and as a wake up call that wildlife populations worldwide have declined by 52% since 1970. 'The Unknown' in the private collection of a British actress and activist, is an allegorical painting about socio-political power disparities. It focuses on the little five: leopard tortoise, elephant shrew, rhino beetle, buffalo weaver and ant lion, as opposed to the usual 'Big Five' who are concealed in the Rousseau inspired background.
'ALLEGORIES OF IDENTITY'
The collection entitled 'ALLEGORIES OF IDENTITY' is influenced by historical paintings and classical sculpture, taking themes from art history and strong female figures in mythology as a starting point and considering contemporary fashion as a means of expression and identity. The female subjects are a combination of statuary and world citizen, free of racially defining features, looking to the future with a mischievous nod to the past in calling attention to gender equality and the subjectivity of women in the canon of art history. The works also point to contemporary gender equality issues and include allegorical meanings and wider philosophies relating to politics, displacement, species extinction, climate change and environmental issues; a recurring theme in the oeuvre.
'REFLECTING THE IMAGE'
The collection of portraits entitled 'REFLECTING THE IMAGE' are influenced by historical portraiture, popular throughout human history, created with a contemporary twist. They partially reflect the viewer, making observer and observed integral to the work, a commentary on celebrity and the culture of the selfie, a message further enhanced by the informality of the close-cropped compositions. The 5ft x 5ft portrait of Marilyn Monroe, created with 65000 Swarovski crystals in the private collection of Rihanna presents the entwined identities of public and private personas by hiding a secret painted portrait of Norma Jeane on the reverse, whilst the crystal mosaic mirror image of Marilyn Monroe, her famous alter ego stares out at the world.