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Exhibition Review

A Matter of Time: Adia Millett finds beauty in impermanence

Sanghee Kim

Jan 25, 2021

 

Everything and Nothing, 2020 
Acrylic and glitter on wood panel 
152.5 x 152.5 x 4 cm (60 x 60 x 1.6 in.)
Courtesy of the artist and Galerie du Monde, Hong Kong

 

 

From the busy commercial street outside the gallery, I was welcomed by Adia Millett’s bright yet tranquil Projection, Not Reflection, a painting on wood panel in which a geometric combination of mainly primary colours sit between a bright red and gold sky and black ground. Horizontally cut in half, at first the bottom appears to be a mirror-image of the top. But, as the title of the artwork suggests, it is not a reflection, but a projection - by definition “an estimation of a situation.” With closer inspection, the projection is also made up of secondary colours; this intriguing work eases the eyes to travel further into the exhibition.

 

The most powerful impression was left by the work, Everything and Nothing, 2020, which also bridged the strongly coloured works with the more toned-down pieces further into the exhibition. Its blue and green backdrop allowed the illusion that the pink shapes were piercing out of the wood panel, with a sense of urgency flooding out of the frame. Millett often creates illusory effects that test the viewer's perception of a space or situation, which go beyond the aesthetic layer of her works, and are central to her practice in which she constantly challenges social issues such as race, gender, and sexuality. 

 

A Matter of Time also presents a selection of works in which the artist has cut up fabrics and re-configured them into shapes that feel familiar to the viewer, yet it is hard to grasp exactly what the objects are. The recognizability of these shapes and patterns is dependent on the viewer’s knowledge and experience, as the concept of “common ground” differs from person to person. This level of intimacy is noted in other fabric-based works where the materials used are personal to the artist; for example, in Adornment and Grandfather, 2020, Millett used neckties made by her maternal grandmother. Meanwhile, works such as Coming Apart, 2019 and Tent House, 2020 use fabric to highlight the politics of the domestic: referring to the major housing problems in the San Francisco Bay Area and Hong Kong, and delving more widely into the sociopolitical issue of the human right to live in a safe place.

 

The last work displayed is Bird In Flight, 2020, in which a bird shape, made by stitching together cut-up pieces of cotton, silk and wool, leads us out of the exhibition with thoughts of the inevitability of change. As Millett has said, there is a beauty in impermanence, but we can influence how things are transformed by continually reconsidering and reshaping what we know.

 


 

The exhibition is available on view here.

 

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More information about Adia Millett