Lisa Milroy invites us into her East London studio and talks about her long-standing love affair with paint. Milroy first gained recognition in the 1980s for her stylised paintings of inanimate objects, such as shoes, doorhandles, and lightbulbs, though her subject matter and style has varied widely since.
The relation between making the painting and looking at the painting over the years has become really fascinating to me. Within this how you are physically engaging with the paint it allows you to tap into different, I guess, parts of yourself. The paint lands on the canvas in a very gestural way, so there's drag and friction and texture, and you're also then getting the paint to do a different kind of job where it is working with an image that you're holding in your head.
It's incredibly exciting because you're keeping so many things up in the air at the same time. It's like an enormous drinks trolley. I need a really flexible situation, so the palette can be moved anywhere around the studios. When you put down the brush and step back to how they look you immediately leave that movement of making the painting. Your sense of looking happens I feel in quite a different way because the looking is no longer connected directly to the making and so there's a stillness that enters me.
There's a painting that I did, in fact it's in the Tate called Finsbury Square. There's all the business too with the façade of what you can and can't see because the windows are offering the opportunity to look into something but the reflection is prohibiting that. So your eye is constantly on the surface. But rather than going into the building as it were you're actually going out to the space that lies in front of the painting. As your eye scans upward on this painting the windows are beginning to reflect the sky at the higher level. So it was as if I was isolating the movement of the clouds itself going across the sky.
The monotype that's in the show at the Tate and looking at the view is connected to that body of work. Painting is also to do about where you are in your mind and where you are in your body. The way that I prefer to paint the landscapes mostly in the portrait size is to do with the way that you move your head looking from the ground upwards. And so there's something going from again the ground under your feet, the pull of gravity, the weight of the land. As you move upwards you lose that and you become free of that, something which feels very body-oriented to something which is more of the mind and of a different material order if you like.