Claire Milner’s visual vocabulary draws widely from many areas including classical literature, art history, fashion, science and the natural world. Her experience in the advertising and design industry and study of Roman and Byzantine mosaics brings an added dimension towards informing her evolving collections. With art historical references, her paintings simultaneously explore the role of the artist as a witness to her own time in history, focusing on the current escalating conflict between civilization and the natural world, our place within it and encroachment upon it. Milner explains:
"Art doesn't exist in a vacuum, and artists throughout history have chronicled the important issues of the day. The subjects I pursue are extremely personal to my identity and value systems as an environmentalist, yet they are also universal and reaching a critical tipping point for every individual regardless of ethnicity, gender, sexual orientation, class or religion. Climate change, ocean pollution, environmental degradation, habitat loss and the current rapid rate of extinction are all issues that could have devastating implications and they represent some of the biggest challenges we face. Without urgent action on these momentous issues, we may not have the luxury to concern ourselves with others."
Claire Milner’s paintings are collected widely and have been featured internationally in the media including The BBC, BLOUIN ARTINFO, Channel News Asia, Forbes, Huffington Post Arts, Save Virunga, The Telegraph, The Times 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 depicting keystone species, which incorporate crystal mosaics. The process involves traditional painting techniques and rigorous mosaic methodologies, which are simultaneously rooted in the historical skills of an ancient art form, and vibrantly contemporary in a medium synonymous with high fashion and luxury. The work considers the human capacity for greatness and great harm by accentuating thematic and technical juxtapositions: construction and deconstruction, appearance and disappearance, with thousands of individual elements creating singular animals representing the last of the species. Thus isolated in the picture plane, they 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.
'ANTHROPOCENE ❌TINCTION' is the third collection in 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. The works take the paintings of Henri Rousseau, as their starting point in order to draw the parallel that even though the artist's best known paintings depicted jungle scenes, he never saw a jungle or left his home country of France. Similarly many future generations will not have the possibility of seeing these creatures in the wild if urgent action is not taken now, they will be relegated to images and imagination.
‘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 conservationist, 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 the subjectivity of women in the canon of art history. The works also 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.