UCL News


Spotlight on Lisa Milroy

20 October 2011

This week the spotlight is on Lisa Milroy, Head of Graduate Painting, Slade School of Fine Art, UCL.

Lisa Milroy

What is your role and what does it involve?

I work at the Slade School of Fine Art as Head of Graduate Painting. My immediate
colleagues are artists Jo Volley, Estelle Thompson and Gary Woodley. Weʼre part of the graduate teaching team that includes the subject areas of Sculpture and Fine Art Media.

Iʼm responsible for running the programme in Graduate Painting, which involves studio critiques, critical studies presentations, one-to-one and group tutorials, seminars, group projects, workshops, guest visitors, cross-area and undergraduate exchange, excursions and field trips.

A defining characteristic of the programme is the richly diverse approaches to painting that include paint on panels and stretched canvas, indoor and outdoor murals and installation-based painting in which objects, moving images, photography, printmaking and performative art can play a significant role.

This richness is fed by the cultural diversity brought by an international student cohort, and by the different practices of the four artists who teach on the programme that nevertheless share a deep fascination with material culture and its relation to artistic transformation. This underlines the pedagogic thrust of the programme - the emotional and conceptual content of a studentʼs work is always explored in light of how it has been made.

The Methods Room in Graduate Painting is a permanent site where students and staff
experiment with materials, and display, share and discuss the results of their research. Its development stems from an intense interest in - and need to facilitate - experimentation with the craft of painting in all its traditional and contemporary guises.

Onya McCausland, our Honorary Research Assistant, is at work on a materials research project under the guidance of Jo and Gary that you can view on the Slade Knowledge Base.

How long have you been at UCL and what was your previous role?

This is my third year at the Slade. I also work as an advisor at the Rijksakademie van beeldende kunsten in Amsterdam, since 1995. Iʼve taught regularly in UK art schools as a part-time tutor since graduating from art school in 1982, and regard the experience of teaching as a vital part of my artistic practice.

My professional work as an artist outside the studio involves exhibitions in the UK and abroad, private and public commissions and participation in international residencies and workshops.

What working achievement or initiative are you most proud of?

Still life is at the heart of my painting practice. In the 1980s, my paintings featured ordinary objects - shoes, stamps, hardware and light bulbs - depicted against an off-white ground in a grid or random scatter.

In the early 1990s, my approach to still life painting shifted, leading to depictions of objects within settings. The imagery expanded to include landscape, architecture and people. As the range of imagery grew, my painting style diversified.

By continually experimenting with fast and slow applications of paint, the resulting painterly innovations have allowed me to achieve within my paintings a wide range of moods and atmospheres. My website is www.lisamilroy.net.

Iʼm fascinated by the relation in painting between stillness and movement, the hand and eye, thought and action and between presence and absence; how one looks at painting as a maker and as a viewer; and the wonder of the imaginative transformation of materials into an image or art object that has the potential to touch the viewer.

One key painting for me is Shoes, 1986 - twelve pairs of black court shoes composed in a grid and now in the Tate Collection. The single black shoe has followed me over the years, reappearing in numerous paintings and different contexts.

Another significant painting is Black and White, 2006. This 22m painting exemplifies my interest in large-scale works that explore the relation between painting as a window-on-the-world and painting as an all-encompassing, immersive experience.

Act One, Seen Too, a recent painting installation designed for theatre space, was presented at the Barber Institute of Fine Arts, co-produced by the Ikon Gallery, Birmingham, in September 2011.

Finest achievement? Iʼm completely thrilled whenever I learn that one of my paintings has touched another person. And I value something of this same thrill in teaching when I feel that Iʼve been useful to my students.

What is your life like outside UCL?

...painting, family, friends, travelling, painting, movies, London, city walks, chatting on the phone, painting, dinner parties, the National Gallery, shopping for shoes, painting, DIY, Liverpool, sushi, country walks, drifting, bike rides, painting, window shopping, the Thames, gardens and parks, painting, bathing, washing floors, cleaning surfaces, painting, trees, browsing in book shops, strolling, coffee, car journeys, painting, the British Museum, flowers, conversations, my studio in France, reading, painting, wasting time, Japan, bus rides, Vancouver, painting, daydreaming, the beach, cherry trees, cities, painting....