Artist profile - Gregory Macmillan, Christleton
PUBLISHED: 00:00 15 August 2016
Christleton-based artist Gregory Macmillan travelled, chameleon-like, through multiple genres until he, at last, discovered his visual voice, writes Kate Houghton
It’s been a long and often exciting journey for Gregory, who began his career as a muralist, creating dramatic works for both domestic and commercial clients.
‘I have done easel work,’ he says, ‘and had gallery exhibitions, but was always drawn back to large scale environments and shaping how people felt in those environments. With a mural one can shape the experience through geometric perspective and emotional perspective, using subject matter and, of course, colour.
‘Architecture shapes our experience and within that the interior architecture of any built space will shape it further: proportions and shaping influence our response to that space. I worked in this field for some time, creating interiors in respect of walls and ceilings, leaving the soft furnishing element to interior designers. One of my most exciting commissions was a ceiling for Boodle & Dunthorne on Regent Street, where I worked in the grand style of Tiepolo, creating a story of modern Londoners, rather than the angels and cherubs for which Tiepolo is well known. I was also commissioned to create the murals around the walls of the Grosvenor Museum Roman rooms.
‘I have always sought to create an emotional response in my work, using colours and shapes rather than being in any way didactic, and this led me to investigating the opportunities presented by the digital revolution. I went to work as a writer for CGI magazine in London and there got drawn into photography, CGI and animation. I actually ended up working as VJ with Big Beat Records at Home nightclub on Leicester Square; we had a huge screen outside, where my work would play, 120 feet tall. I travelled all over the country to music events; the DJs provided the musical energy and I provided the light and colour energy. Oh, those were high times!’
Like many youth trends however, the rave scene had it’s time in the sun and then faded away, leaving Gregory seeking his next path.
‘I was commissioned to do some designs for a pharmaceutical start-up. I learned a great deal about molecules and how they spin and link to other molecules. I started being drawn to create work that reflected this and the absolute majesty of life.’
Gregory, aged 58, who was born in Northern Ireland, now works using wholly digital methods to create art that he hopes triggers a response in people that feeds from their reaction to the colours and the shapes, not from any pre-conceived ideas on what constitutes ‘art.’
‘Every individual has their own perspective on what constitutes beauty and it’s my quest to discover if it’s possible to reach behind the conscious mind of taste and prejudice and find things which ‘everyone’ might find beautiful. Beauty uplifts, creates a positive emotional response, but what you or I might consider beautiful will have no effect on the next man – it’s how to trigger that response using my work that I am seeking to discover.
‘It’s well known that colours affect mood. Colours also each have their own wavelength and these have a physical effect on our brain. I am trying to understand how combining colours might create a resonance that triggers a positive energy, that uplifts.
‘Music, singing – we can all relate to how harmony uplifts us. I am seeking to do the same using colour and light. It’s the most exciting thing I’ve ever done; the intensity of the colour – it’s painting with light, the purest form of painting there is.’
Physics as an art form, in fact. He watches carefully as I browse through his portfolio and is clearly, visibly, delighted when I comment on each in terms of how I feel when I see it, the emotion triggered within, rather than what I might think it means. After all, this art is not meant to ‘mean’ anything, it’s all about that unquantifiable, indescribable, individual emotional jerk we get when we see something that delights or disturbs. My personal favourite, one I turn back to repeatedly and find my eyes drifting to as we talk, is a symphony in evening sunshine tones; cadmium, ochre, gold, sienna and all shades between, with a twisting votex at the forefront. No idea why, but I do love it.
It is Gregory’s belief that art can create positive energy in its beholder that has led him to discussions with a number of healthcare organisations, both locally and further afield.
‘So often hospital-commissioned art is restricted to the front of house. In those areas where the action actually happens, wards and corridors, art is non-existent, or odds and ends of cheap prints of a very generic style. If we can develop art that energises and lifts everybody who sees it, that can only help people. I call it Vital Harmonics.’
Of course, every man needs to make a living and Gregory has been working on commercial applications for his art with a number of interiors businesses, including a manufacturer of glass splashbacks and a company who creates huge printed on wallpaper or wallstickers that can be printed to order, to any size or shape. He also accepts direct commissions from interior designers and individual homeowners.
‘We sit down and discuss what it is the homeowner wants to feel when they see their artwork, the response they want to trigger, soothed perhaps, or energised. I can then evolve a piece that suits exactly their expectations. My work, because of how it’s created, can be applied to various delivery systems – from glass to canvas – and in any size.
‘For an artist to create something rooted in a feeling he has and then for another person to see it and access that same feeling – that’s the circle complete. That’s what we all aim for.’