Darby Milbrath at Projet Pangée

Artist: Darby Milbrath

Exhibition title: Aquarian Music

Venue: Projet Pangée, Montreal, Canada

Date: March 19 – May 7, 2022

Photography: all images copyright and courtesy of the artist and Projet Pangée, Montreal

Set in a universe of exalted, floating but softened gestures, Darby Milbrath’s time-suspended paintings weave together memory and spiritual intuition. The intrinsic connection between mysticism, nature, movement and music resonates through her richly-textured canvases as they invite meditative, sensory viewing.

In this series of works, conceived during a residency in Mallorca (Spain), the artist is guided by the celestial harmonies of minimalist composer Hans Otte. The artist’s sun-kissed palette and the fluidity of her strokes invoke the spirit of Aquarius – the Water Bearer – a symbol of idealism, healing and hope. Milbrath’s works offer viewers a respite, a momentary escape filled with open-ended abundant optimistic energy.

The artist paints with quick immediacy, her spontaneous gestures articulate themselves as choreographed movements across the canvas. Inspired by her background as a dancer and driven by an interest in the body’s relationship to the unconscious mind, Milbrath expresses rhythms, energies and recollections through painterly shape and form. Her process is deeply attuned to the embodiment of psychic energy, images emerging and morphing intuitively with her melodic impulses, as if the genesis of the two – form and content – are inextricably bound.

Bathed in light, her canvases awash with swathes of free-flowing colours: shades of terracotta orange, ocher, tangerine, aureolin, sunset pink and copper converge with deep tones of lavender and green. The warmth of the artist’s dreamlike scenes evokes the intimate encounter of skin and sun or the hopefulness of a lover’s embrace. Figures pour through dense and bewildering vegetation somehow existing between the earthly and astral realms. Mesmerizing leaves and flowers brightly pierce the tableaus, as if light was emanating from their core. An ode to the flora of the artist’s youth in British Columbia, the plants also bring to mind the sublimity and healing properties of nature. The artist’s landscapes become a friendly refuge, a recognition of love’s presence, aids to enlightenment and knowledge.

Text by Marie-Charlotte Carrier.

Darby Milbrath self-taught painter whose practice is imbued by her past as a contemporary dancer and herbalist, lending to her figurative painting and its process a sense of movement, drama, and solemnity. Growing up in the West Coast Gulf Islands, this fertile and sublime landscape manifests in her art as recurring motifs. Thus, her expressionist paintings come from memory and imagination and are informed by nostalgia, visions, and mysticism.

Through non-verbal approaches, both contemporary dance and painting demand the implication of the body, intensity in presence, and an authentic expression of the self to truly transcend the complexities of human life and emotions as experienced. The cyclical nature of ebb and flow, death and rebirth are ongoing themes explored in Darby’s paintings which express empathy, sensuality, sorcery, womanhood, and ceremony. Her paintings are intimate and confessional self-portraits of her life as a young woman.

Darby Milbrath (b.1985, Vancouver Island, Canada) lives and works in Toronto. She holds a Bachelors of Art with honours from the School of Contemporary Dancers in affiliation with the University of Winnipeg. Recent solo exhibitions include Through the Veil (2021), presented at Night Gallery, Los Angeles; Darby Milbrath/08 (2021), at PM/AM, London; and Although the wind… (2020), at Projet Pangée, Montreal. Her work has been exhibited in various group shows such as The Views (2022), curated by Zoe Fisher, at Moskowitz Bayse, Los Angeles; Painters Painting Paintings on Paper (2021), online; Summer Forecast (2019), at Diana Witte, Toronto; Pair A Dice (2019), at Cassandra Cassandra, Toronto; and The Morning Shines With The Lights Of Love (2017), at Clint Roenisch Gallery, Toronto. Her work has also been presented by Projet Pangée at The Armory Show (New York) in 2021, and at Material Art Fair (Mexico) in 2017. She has participated in two residencies in 2021: Casa Balandra Artist Residency, Mallorca (Spain) and Artist in Residence, PM/AM, London (UK). Her work can be found in collections such as the Equitable Bank (Toronto) and the RBC Corporate Collection (Toronto). Her paintings have been featured in numerous magazines and publications such as esse arts + opinions (2021); Minka Magazine (2020); Teen Vogue (2019); Milk (2018); Artspace (2017); and Canadian Art (2017). Milbrath is represented by Projet Pangée (Montreal).

Marie-Charlotte Carrier is a London-Based curator, researcher and writer whose work is concerned with the intersection of materiality, politics and ecologies. She is Assistant Curator at the Hayward Gallery, London.