Gabriel Mills is always synthesizing. From looking through the history of art to modern digital culture, Mills finds inspiration just about everywhere. The artist spoke with Platform about the malleable meaning of words and how great aesthetic experiences can alter our perceptions.
- In reading about you, I learned that you and your work have a deep interest in the examination of time. What does it mean to you to work in such a tactile, ancient medium in an increasingly slick and digital world?
Painting has been practiced by humans for around forty thousand years. At the very minimum, profoundly so, it would mean painting is somehow vital to humanity. What makes painting today any different from then, is what one is responding to and by what means. The digital world is without a doubt in that family of creativity too. Those two seemingly distant worlds for sure learn from one another.
- I read in another interview that seeing new visual languages can shift your own understanding of what's 'ideal'. What's one example that sticks out for you like that where your aesthetic sensibilities and understanding shifted after encountering something new?
When the word ideal is suspended from one's viewing experience, you take things as they are. I’ve found that measuring ideals should be bracketed to the language the artist is working in. On occasions where the artist is forcing unlikely relationships, or inventing their own methods, that’s an expansive moment. Jacopo Bassano’s “Baptism of Christ” exemplifies an unlikely method to a conventional problem. For me, this painting did a whole lot.
- You've expressed a love for many different art movements from the past. Do you think art movements can still exist in the same way today as, say, Surrealism did during the early 20th century?
That admiration is given to the ambition that challenges the ways we are considering art objects, and the consequences that has on our perception outside of art. That happens in many instances throughout the art historical record. Artists are working and the art world is always playing catch up. Artists deal with unique circumstances each generation. Sometimes residue of previous generations, which may generate them to work one way or another. I’d say that is still true today.
- The range of inspirations you look to in visual art is vast, but I'm curious: what other kinds of art, like music, do you find really inspiring? Is there anything you like to listen to or watch as you work?
There are amazing things happening all over the world. I'm open to however and wherever that may be. Occasionally, I’ll have ambient music playing as I work. All that other stuff just brings distractions.
- Outside of your work, what are some of the passions or hobbies you really enjoy diving into?
Breathing. The way you do anything is how you’ll do everything.
- Whether done intentionally or not, is there anything that you've collected over the years?
It’s as simple as being empowered to purchase what you love. For me, that once included sneakers, comic books, and model cars. The direction the sneaker culture went in became unbearable to keep dealing with. However, occasionally I’ll acquire a pair.
- I imagine with interests as broad as yours, you're always coming across new material. What's something you've just learned recently?
“Awful” sounds like it should mean a good thing. Full of awe. I find that hundreds of years ago, it did mean something like that. There’s no new discovery here in saying meaning varies with context. The process is antagonizing assumptions I’ve made or come across elsewhere. Placing opposites together and building a constellation from that is an exercise I do, and has been exciting and unpredictable. I also just learned as of today, James Harden has been traded to the 76ers.
- In or outside of your professional life, is there anything you would say that motivates you above everything else?
Being alive and present is motivation enough. The greatest gift.
- The past couple of years have brought about a lot of reflection for people. Looking back, is there anything you wish you could start over again (could be to revise something or even if it's just for the joy of reliving it)?
No. It may be best to do that as a hypothetical exercise and be imaginative of causations. Reflection should lead to carrying forward a newfound awareness.
- A bit broad, but: Is there anything you wish you were asked more often?
The best I can do is provide work that is a catalyst for more thought. We’d all benefit from more questioning. All is up for questioning.