Gary McMillan

Gary McMillan

Calgary, AB, Canada

About Gary McMillan

I create paintings in series, with each body of work exploring a particular set of themes. It may take a couple of years or as little as a few weeks before I am ready to move on to a different constellation of ideas. A major set of work usually provides the stimulus for the next body of paintings. Occasionally, I may follow a whim and produce a group of paintings that seem to bear no immediate relation to preceding work. Yet my preoccupations with the human form, history and landscape link all of my work together into a recognizable if varied oeuvre.

I love the look of old masters paintings, and yet they aren’t often about anything interesting to me. How they ‘look’ is usually the content that appeals to me. I try to make my own paintings visually exciting to look at and so I don’t hesitate to dip into all styles and genres, but to keep my interest, a good painting needs to go beyond just pleasing the eye. Lots of images can be attractive and interesting, but it is worthwhile to only explore those which arise from that deep well of the unconscious imagination. In that way, the unfamiliar is strangely recognizable and engenders a spirit of uneasy but beautiful surprise .

Visually, I’m drawn to color and contrast. I often imagine images with shimmering jewel tones interspersed with patches of inky black, grey and snowy white. Thematically, I’m inspired by the figure and by ideas of play and mischief. The contrast between the nice and the not so nice informs much of my work, but rather than presenting a harsh vision of the world, I prefer nuanced misdirection and humor when dealing with unpleasantness. My choice of what I wish to show and how explicitly I show it constitute, in the end, seemingly benign settings of bright tonality and reassuring levity in which ideas can take shape.


1978-1980 – University of Calgary, studying geology and fine arts

1988-1991 – Fine Arts Diploma with Distinction, Alberta College of Art, major painting, minor printmaking