The artist on using an ancient medium in modern times and why he only occasionally indulges in sneakers.
Gabriel Mills is always synthesizing. From looking through the history of art to modern digital culture, Mills finds inspiration just about everywhere. The artist spoke with Platform about the malleable meaning of words and how great aesthetic experiences can alter our perceptions.
In reading about you, I learned that you have a deep interest in the examination of time in your work. What does it mean to you to work in such a tactile, old medium in such a slick and digital world?
Painting has been practiced by humans for around forty thousand years. At the very minimum, profoundly so, it would mean painting is somehow vital to humanity. What makes painting today any different from then is what one is responding to and by what means. The digital world is without a doubt in that family of creativity too. Those two seemingly distant worlds learn from one another for sure.
In another interview, you said that seeing new visual languages can shift your own understanding of what's 'ideal'. What's one example that sticks out for you where that happened after encountering something new?
When the word 'ideal' is suspended from one's viewing experience, you take things as they are. I’ve found that measuring ideals should be bracketed to the language the artist is working in. On occasions where the artist is forcing unlikely relationships, or inventing their own methods, that’s an expansive moment. Jacopo Bassano’s The Baptism of Christ exemplifies an unlikely method to a conventional problem. For me, this painting did a whole lot.
You've expressed love for lots of past art movements. Do you think art movements can still exist in the same way today as, say, Surrealism did during the early 20th century?
That admiration is given to the ambition that challenges the ways we are considering art objects and the consequences that has on our perception outside of art. That happens in many instances throughout the art historical record. Artists are working and the art world is always playing catch up. Artists deal with unique circumstances each generation. Sometimes residue of previous generations, which may generate them to work one way or another. I’d say that is still true today.
Whether intentional or not, is there anything that you've found yourself collecting over the years?
It’s as simple as being empowered to purchase what you love. For me, that once included sneakers, comic books and model cars. The direction the sneaker culture went in became unbearable to keep dealing with. However, occasionally I’ll acquire a pair.
I'm that with such broad interests you're always coming across new information. What's something you've just learned recently?
“Awful” sounds like it should mean a good thing. Full of awe. I find that hundreds of years ago, it did mean something like that. There’s no new discovery here in saying meaning varies with context. The process is antagonizing assumptions I’ve made or come across elsewhere. Placing opposites together and building a constellation from that is an exercise I do, and has been exciting and unpredictable. I also just learned as of today that James Harden has been traded to the 76ers.