Artwork of the Day – Lisa Milroy


Liverpool artwork of the day – Monday July 23 2007. ‘Handles’ 1988 by Lisa Milroy at The Walker.

‘Handles’ was the work that won Lisa Milroy the first prize in John Moores 16 in 1989. The work is from the period when Milroy engaged with repetitively painting the same object, whether a pair of shoes or a book in various angles and various arrangements on one canvas. Repetition is often the result of Milroy’s love for painting and desire to understand and command form. The act of repetition also facilitates her thinking which is filtered through the act of making marks on a canvas. Milroy’s work from that period has a striking resemblance with the taxonomic ordering of objects in traditional museums or the work of scientists in laboratories.

However there are no labels or diagrams to direct our vision and our understanding of them. We are invited to observe each one of them but also to view them as a whole. The various shapes and patterns of ‘Handles’ evoke connotations of musical notes or signs in a coded message. Milroy commented that ‘Handles’ “can be seen as an abstract painting of lines, dots and circles, of moments of local detail and overall pattern, whose composition depends on notions of display, cataloguing and placing”. So despite the fact that the handles are figurative objects, their arrangement and the way they are painted is abstract.