For Millie Bartlett, collage is a cathartic experience that filters the “white noise and static” from more substantial, palpable thoughts and feelings. These thoughts are never consumed by one specific topic, but branch out in many directions, from conversation to film, beauty to tragedy. “For the most part I used to sketch and paint, however within eighteen months I have been making at least one collage per day”.
Millie cites multiple sources when it comes to conceptual inspiration. She is profoundly moved by French-American artist Louise Bourgeouis, awestruck by filmmaker/ artist Miranda July, consumed by the poetry Pablo Neruda and Phillip Larkin, but does not directly channel any of these artists when it comes to her own work. “I read a quote recently from Jean-Michel Basquiat that said ‘I don’t think about work when I’m creating. I think about life’, and in a ballpark kind of way, that is how it goes for me. Life, even when it is going disastrously, is a huge inspiration.”
This process of absorption and filtration is not just meditative for Millie, but extends to the physical labour of her collages. Rather than sitting at a cutting matt all day, Millie collects conceptual impressions while performing daily tasks (like taking the kids to school). She always carries two notebooks with her – the first detailing ‘To do’ items for the day and the second to capture ideas as she travels. From these notebooks, Millie further breaks down her written thoughts into other, more specific notebooks (research, reading lists, potential titles etc) and cultivates concepts for her collage works. Millie admits that whilst she looks everywhere for ideas, she is often drawn to topics surrounding popular culture/ ideology and feminism. “I am fascinated by how women are perceived in poplar culture… and yes, I have been trolled on the Internet for debating gender equality with my art. Such is modern life”.
Before physical application of the works, Mille lets ideas settle, “marinade” and collate over a period of time. Her collection of tools and materials include a scalpel, cutting matt, paper, glue, baby wipes (which she uses for everything) and sourced images.
Millie has collaborated with other artists in the past and points out that she was hesitant to do so until she had a better idea of what her personal style was. “Its so easy to be buried under a sea of artistic clichés – especially in collage”.
Looking to Millie’s work, cheeky politicized messages are integrated with bold images and clever text. Women take centre-stage and questions surrounding their “progressive” social standing are brought to light. Millie’s knack for composition makes each work aesthetically striking AND thought-provoking.