Claire Milner’s visual vocabulary draws widely from classical literature, art history, fashion, science and the natural world. With art historical antecedents, her paintings include allusions to artists such as Bernini, De Lempicka, Longhi, Modigliani, Picasso, Rousseau and Warhol as well as drawing on her experience in the advertising and design industry and study of Roman and Byzantine mosaics. Through her evolving collections, the artist explores the intersections of identity, value systems, memory and mortality, and examines the escalating conflict between civilization and the natural world, our place within it and encroachment upon it.
In part a representation of the artist's psyche, the work is simultaneously outward looking; 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, our impact on the environment, 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 the resolution of these important 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.
ALLEGORIES OF IDENTITY:
This collection of oil paintings are 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 secondary allegorical meanings and wider philosophies relating to politics, displacement, species extinction, climate change and environmental issues; a recurring theme in the oeuvre.
‘Holocene Twilight: An Allegory of Displacement’ is the second series of works from the endangered collection. It concurrently develops the theme of, and contrasts with the colourful crystal mosaic predecessors. 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. '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.
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 representing 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.
REFLECTING THE IMAGE:
The collection of portraits 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 is in the private collection of Rihanna and presents the entwined identities of public and private personas by hiding a secret painted portrait of Norma Jeane facing the wall on the reverse, whilst the crystal mosaic mirror image of Marilyn Monroe, her famous alter ego stares out at the world.