ART REVIEW: Alexander Millar live painting @ Hancock Gallery, Newcastle | NARC. | Reliably Informed | Music and Creative Arts News for Newcastle and the North East

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Alexander Millar: A Retrospective is on display at Hancock Gallery, Newcastle until Sunday 1st December

Self-taught, Scottish born artist Alexander Millar bares all in a series of live painting events at the new Hancock Gallery in Jesmond. The events are a combination of Millar demonstrating his technique as well as an afternoon with a raconteur.

The picture being painted was a variation of a recurring figure in Millar’s work: the ‘Gadgie’. A working-class, coal dust covered man holding the hand of a small child. The Gadgie, according to Millar, is symbolic of fathers. Particularly the nostalgic concept of fathers and the relationship between fathers and their children.

Usually the Gadgie is painted from behind or if he is painted from the front, his face is never properly revealed. The ubiquitous flat cap conceals the visage. The anonymity according to Millar allows for people to impose the details of their own fathers onto the piece making it evocative on an individual level.

Millar also explains his process, impressing the audience by showing how an initially dark blue and gloomy canvas can be brightened with a few sophisticated brush strokes. Whilst painting Millar regales the crowd with his life story and the life of his father and mother as well as his thoughts on life and art. He shocks and amuses the crowd with the tale of how his father accidentally shot his soon-to-be father in law’s leg clean off whilst hunting for rabbits. And how Millar nearly “joined the family tradition” of having a bong eye.

With the humour, there is also pathos and humanity. Millar talks about his past struggles with mental health and how at one point he was forced to live in his car for a time. He explains that all of that allowed him to “let go” and stop trying to control the uncontrollable, really begin to pursue art and begin a career as a successful and internationally recognised artist.

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