British artist Claire Milner’s visual vocabulary draws widely from many areas, yet her image making is genre-defying. Her approach to content originates from personal experiences, memory and lifelong values, many of which now also encompass subjects of universal interest or concern. These include environmental references such as climate change and mass extinction, politics and science as well as motifs alluding to art history, literature and fashion. She creates art collections which explore the role of the artist as a witness to her own time in history and which simultaneously evoke art historical precedents. Inspired by her love of Africa and recalling her time spent living and travelling there and throughout South America, Milner’s primary focus relates to nature, our place within it and encroachment upon it. Her paintings emphasize the uneasy juxtaposition of abundance and loss, constantly considering the connection and current disconnect between humankind and the natural world. They evaluate consumption and authenticity and contrast commercial values with those of environmental ideals as determinants of worth. The impact of humanity is always implicit within her artworks, even when the human figure is absent or plays a minor role in the composition. Milner’s portrayal of animals interchanges between the metaphoric and the literal and follows a long history of animal images in art for as long as humans have existed, from the first cave art, in historical mosaics and in countless paintings. Additional signature themes include analysis of the inequitable position of female artists in the canon of art history, often invoking references to the Greco-Roman world and mythology whilst simultaneously subverting the meaning and focusing on the ‘female gaze’. The women who populate these works confidently turn their gaze back on the viewer, both holding a mirror up to, and challenging the subjectivity of the depictions of women in art history. Evoking her own values, beliefs, hopes and concerns, Milner does not create abstraction or reality, but a fusion of densely layered compositions signifying both chaos and order to elicit an initial emotional connection, with many levels of meanings and discoveries to be made on closer inspection and subsequent viewings.
Milner’s process begins with extensive and often difficult research into her subject matter. She engages in hours of study, compiling statistics, viewing painful imagery and concluding with extensive analysis. These references are interwoven with allusions to historical art and literature in the final composition where realistic and abstract elements coexist. Her diverse methods include mixed media, paint, collage, and typography, as well as the incorporation of rigorous mosaic methodologies rooted in the skills of an ancient art form and originating as a reference to the artist's familial ties to Italy. These historic skills are translated into uniquely individual contemporary artworks in a medium synonymous with high fashion and sustainable luxury. Milner uses these mediums as a means of configuring compositions and relating them to painting formalities and language. The organic progression from her early artworks in handmade paper collage, to mosaic, and then to crystal mosaic all represent construction and deconstruction to thematically and technically demonstrate appearance and disappearance. Creatures created from thousands of individual elements which appear as abstract images on close scrutiny, represent the last of their species as the big picture emerges into focus on viewing from a distance. The precious crystal mosaics are undercut by painted backgrounds and graffiti in the ‘dead’ language of Latin. These distinctions of luxury and minimalism are utilized as a metaphor for extravagance and extinction. The mixed media images are a combination of many techniques and also incorporate text, commentary and hidden messages. The artist amalgamates the ancient traditions of painting and mosaic techniques and out of these historical artforms emerges something innovative and contemporary, giving the work a unique and vibrant symbiosis of the past and present. Starting from a collaboration with the material, and moving towards a conversation with the world, her continuously evolving collections of works have a multi-layered tactile aesthetic, presenting a surface optimism with a depth that concurrently speaks to much darker issues.
After graduating with a B.A. in Graphic Design and Typography Claire Milner worked as an illustrator in London, where she was commissioned by many large corporations and publishing companies. She illustrated portraits of British Chancellors Gordon Brown and Nigel Lawson for major publications, leading to further portrait commissions of politicians, Central European Bankers and company CEOs such as Sir Terry Leahy, Sir Martin Sorrell and Lord Browne. The artist has taken extensive research trips to Africa, South America, Asia and Australia for commissioned and personal bodies of work which continue to inform her current collections. An African trip inspired the painting ‘Mother and Child’, a mixed media work which was exhibited in Cambridge and acquired by CamFed who subsequently commissioned five similar artworks for the organization which helps fight poverty in Africa by educating and empowering girls. After a visit to the Italian city of Ravenna, famous for its early Byzantine and Christian monuments decorated with stunning mosaics, Milner enrolled in a mosaic school with the eminent contemporary mosaicist Elaine M. Goodwin, founder of Tessellated Expression for the 21st Century (TE-21). This was to welcome a new departure for her work, whilst at the same time representing an organic evolution of her early paper collage illustrations.
Today, Claire Milner's artworks are held in private collections around the world. Her large scale crystal mosaic portrait of Marilyn in 65,000 Swarovski Elements was commissioned for Rihanna and is in the singer’s private art collection. The portrait has been widely featured by the global media, has appeared on The Official Website of The Estate of Marilyn Monroe, been showcased by Swarovski and included in a special edition of Vogue Paris; this was guest edited by Rihanna who featured the work in a profile of her favourite things. Milner's portrait of Amy Winehouse appeared in an exhibition curated by the Amy Winehouse Foundation to mark what would have been the late singer's 30th birthday. The artist’s semi abstract artwork representing under sea volcanoes and life in the ocean depths entitled ‘Hydrothermal Vents’ is in the collection of Professor Iain Stewart, BBC Broadcaster and head of Department of Earth Sciences at Plymouth University. Milner's 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 and many others and described as "metaphors of our time" in examining the effects of humans on each other and on other species.
The artist’s distinctive aesthetic uses the international language of art as a means of reaching a wide audience with accessible yet critical messages resulting from deep research and knowledge of her subject matter. Her values, analyses and techniques coalesce with the utilization of her creative platform to create ‘Artivism’ in order to affect a positive social and ecological impact. Passionate about the environment and the threats facing endangered species, Milner’s work has raised thousands of pounds for conservation. In 2015 'Burning Bright' created with 32,000 Swarovski crystals representing ten times the number of tigers left in the wild, was exhibited at Hotel Café Royal, auctioned at The Savoy Hotel, London, and sold to an art collector in Germany via Paddle8 in aid of Save Wild Tigers, The Born Free Foundation and The Environmental Investigation Agency. In 2016 Milner's crystal mosaic portrait of an elephant-poaching victim was sold to a collector in New York in aid of the David Sheldrick Wildlife Trust in Nairobi. In November 2017 the artist's mixed media painting entitled 'The Unknown' commissioned by actress and animal activist Virginia McKenna was auctioned in aid of the Born Free Foundation and sold to actress and activist Joanna Lumley. In December 2017, Milner's painting entitled ‘Ocean Rainforest’ featuring coral reefs and sea turtles won the Oceanic Global x Alpha'a Artivism Challenge, following which it was exhibited during Art Basel Miami. The competition utilised the visual arts to raise awareness about six critical issues impacting our ocean. The judges included Susan Rockefeller, Dustin Yellin, Aaron Levi Garvey, Doumi Busturia, Alexandre Arrechea and Zaria Forman. Milner's painting entitled 'Symbiosis', a companion piece to 'Ocean Rainforest' went on to be a 2018 1ST ARTSLANT Prize Showcase Winner. The artist lives and works in North Yorkshire, U.K.
"Art doesn’t exist in a vacuum. Artists throughout history have chronicled the important issues of their time. 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, 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."