Friday, 25 November 2016

IN FULL BLOOM: Judy-Ann McMillan’s new solo exhibition highlights 50 years of artistic excellence

MAGIC TOUCH: McMillan's new show reveals her penchant for strong imagery.

There are three self-portraits in Judy-Ann McMillan’s wonderfully curated new exhibition, “Still Painting…After All These Years,” currently on view at the French Embassy in St. Andrew. The first shows a youthful Judy in 1968 (at age 23); the second is from 1985 and captures her classic beauty at age 40; the third, a 2016 stunner (pictured below), depicts the now-71-year-old artist standing by her easel wearing a simple white cotton blouse and a crown of thorns atop her head.

It’s a provocative visual statement from an evolver, who will be the first to tell you that art is a possessive tyrant and taskmaster that has held her captive since the age of four and is still the boss of her. “Art chose me. I never stopped painting, from childhood to the present day,” she tells us in her warm and gentle tone.

How fortunate for the Jamaican art world, including the dozens of collectors based at home and abroad who look forward to her new creations every year. “Still Painting” is a retrospective that spans the last 50 years of Judy’s marvelous career. 

At its best, the show yields a triumphant snapshot of a world-class artist at the height of her creative powers. From landscapes to still lifes to portraits, the work speaks volumes of her exquisite eye, hyperchromatic palette and a sensitive touch to create pieces that dually hold your gaze and excite your mind.

“Caymanas with Country Girl” (from 1978), one of several oils on canvas on view, features a barefooted young girl walking by a lush green field. It’s such a captivating work, you have to pull yourself away. 2016’s “View of Kingston from Jack’s Hill” has a similar effect, but it’s as expansive as it is evocative. There are interpretations of the Port Maria coastline, Mammee Bay, Sugar Pot Beach (above), and her far-from-the-madding-crowd retreat house, Rockfield.

But, places aside, it’s vividly clear that McMillan loves people and a breathtaking view. Witness her Haitian woman, Rastafarians, Jamaican ladies young and old in reflective mode, relatives and strangers caught in everyday situations. She gives us cotton trees, fruits and veggies (right), the lay of the land, and lots of big sky.

Simplistic splendour is McMillan’s signature. Staring back at you from their elegant frames inside the embassy’s chic drawing room and walkways, the exhibition’s winning pieces make for pleasurable, memorable viewing.

> “Still Painting…After All These Years” is on view at the French Embassy, 13 Hillcrest Avenue (St. Andrew), through November 25.

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