Dadiani Fine Art in London presents “IT, IT, IT, IT.”, an exhibition of new paintings by the celebrated
British painter, sculptor and printmaker, Keith Milow.
From the late 1960s through the 1970s, alongside contemporaries such as Richard Long, Gilbert & George, Michael Craig-Martin, Barry Flanagan, David Tremlett, Art & Language and Derek Jarman, Keith Milow helped to shape a critical point of British art history, and this exhibition is a rare and long overdue opportunity to see the works of a central member of Britain’s artistic avant-garde.
The works in IT, IT, IT, IT., all executed over the last three years, are a striking continuation of Milow’s fascination with architecture and the illusory effect of artistic materials (in the 1970s, among other innovations, he established the technique of combing paint onto paper and canvas). These themes and approaches—including the abstract, monumental, and post-minimalist manners for which he is recognised—have inspired and informed his work throughout his career. In both two-dimensional and three-dimensional works, often employing symbols such as crosses and cenotaphs, he has concerned himself with the subject’s purity of shape, the space it anchors, and the materials, textures and colours that transform it from literal symbol into an abstract construct.
This new suite of paintings continues the mathematical precision, which also alludes to his great influence the Dutch painter, Piet Mondrian, almost giving them the appearance of being computer generated, but very much celebrating the man-made which has also been a primary source of inspiration throughout his career. Indeed he is recognised as, ‘a Romanticist of the Man-Made’.
In her introduction to the exhibition’s catalogue, Jo Melvin, Reader in Archives and Special Collections at Chelsea College of Arts and Senior Research Fellow at the Henry Moore Institute, explores these themes in response to the titular painting, IT, IT, IT, IT. (2016): ‘Milow constructs a multi-layered system of representation by combining patterns of geometric and mathematical sequences with formal mark making, gesture and controlled chance. In IT, IT, IT, IT., the systematic gradations of grey in repeated triangular shapes creates an optical effect – like cladding on a high modernist building. Organic forms echo those found in Henry Moore, Jean Arp and Francis Picabia. Two series of dots, one blue, the other luminous yellow punctate the surface. These emphasise the painting’s post-modernist position, painting in inverted commas. Milow describes the tiny circles as speech marks that, rather like punctuation, repeat across his recent paintings.’
The title of the painting, IT, IT, IT, IT., in turn takes its name from a phrase in Philip Glass and Robert Wilson’s abstract opera, Einstein on the Beach (1976). The opera replaces traditional narrative in favour of a formalist approach based on structured spaces which ties in very well to Milow’s exploration in how space anchors his subjects. The titles of many of Milow’s works respond to existing works from other disciplines, including opera, poetry, architecture, in addition to paintings and sculptures by other artists. This adds yet another fascinating layer to his approach.
With his painting, IPATIEV (2016), there is an extra layer that Milow was not initially aware of, in that he painted the work in response to the Gury Nikitin’s frescoes in the Ipatiev Monastery in Kostroma, Russia, which was where the first Romanov Tsar, Mikhail, was declared in 1613. A few days after titling the work, he discovered that Ipatiev House, in Yekaterinburg, Russia, was where the last Romanov Tsar, Nicholas II, and his family were executed in 1918. ‘I have often favoured titles that are ambiguous or have a double meaning,’ Milow says, ‘but this title has its own kind of double meaning and coincidence woven into it.’