Winter Winter Spring: Milli Jannides

Grace Ridley-Smith and Moya Lawson write on Winter Winter Spring, an exhibition by Milli Jannides at McLeavey Gallery.

Date 5 July 2021 Words Grace Ridley-Smith and Moya Lawson Photography Russell Kleyn

Milli Jannides, Winter Winter Spring. Installation view, McLeavey Gallery, Te-Whanganui-a-Tara/Wellington, June 2021. 

“It’s a mistake to expect literature to come only from literary sources,” Uruguayan writer Mario Levrero once told an interviewer, “like expecting a cheesemaker to eat nothing but cheese.”

In March 2020, after several years living in the seaside town of Porto, on Portugal’s northern coast, Milli Jannides moved with her young family to her partner’s hometown, Stockholm. With COVID restrictions in place, days were mostly spent indoors enduring the tedium of a never-ending winter—drawing, reading and learning Swedish, punctuated by occasional visits to the local playground and second-hand curiosity shop.

In this newly compacted world and confined to her domestic studio, Jannides experimented with collaging. Interested in the materiality of paper, she cut edges, scratched surfaces and hung pieces over the window to observe changes in light. Sometimes working alongside her young son and involving him in the process, Jannides embraced spontaneity, painting without hesitation.

Many of the works in Winter Winter Spring began as drawings, rendered in pigments ranging from ink to chalk before being translated in oil to a larger scale. The paintings contain lucid currents of energy which eddy and flow under Jannides’s hand. Restless and ambiguous, their images range from still-life structures to climactic weather systems, abstracted in turquoise, black and hot red. Suggestive of settling in and finding new rhythms, the works are characterised by seasonal, environmental and watery references.

Often influenced by literature and what she is reading at the time, Jannides found herself reflecting on Mario Levrero’s 1996 Empty Words. In it, a failed fiction writer tries to better his life by improving his handwriting—an aim soon thwarted by the demands of the outside world. But while the narrator is damning of such intrusions, Jannides welcomed hers, finding solace and inspiration in them.

Milli Jannides, Winter Winter Spring. Installation view, McLeavey Gallery, Te-Whanganui-a-Tara/Wellington, June 2021. 

Milli Jannides, To woo, to woe, 2021, oil on canvas, 1600 x 1200 mm. 

Milli Jannides, To woo, to woe (detail), 2021, oil on canvas, 1600 x 1200 mm. 

Milli Jannides, More or less, 2021, oil on canvas, 720 x 600 mm. 

Milli Jannides, Suspect, 2021, oil on canvas, 200 x 240 mm. 

Milli Jannides, Winter Winter Spring. Installation view, McLeavey Gallery, Te-Whanganui-a-Tara/Wellington, June 2021. 

Milli Jannides, Fluent (detail), 2021, oil on canvas, 720 x 600 mm. 

Milli Jannides, Landscape with sun and pear, 2021, watercolour and pastel on canvas, 220 x 290 mm. 

Milli Jannides, Landscape with sun and pear (detail), 2021, watercolour and pastel on canvas, 220 x 290 mm. 

Milli Jannides, Being fractal, 2021, oil on canvas, 1800 x 1200 mm. 

Milli Jannides, The absolute minimum, 2021, oil on linen, 500 x 450 mm. 

Milli Jannides, The absolute minimum (detail), 2021, oil on linen, 500 x 450 mm. 

Milli Jannides, Winter Winter Spring. Installation view, McLeavey Gallery, Te-Whanganui-a-Tara/Wellington, June 2021. 

Milli Jannides, Mystic ranger, 2021, ink and acrylic on paper mounted on canvas, 240 x 180 mm. 

Milli Jannides, Preceding piece, 2021, oil on canvas, 720 x 600 mm. 

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