'Handles', Lisa Milroy, 1989

Painting of various types of handles

Oil on canvas, 190.5 x 221cm

Accession Number WAG10815

'Handles' won first prize in John Moores 16 in 1989. The work is from the period when Milroy engaged with repetitively painting the same object, whether a pair of shoes or a book in various angles and various arrangements on one canvas. Repetition is often the result of Milroy's love for painting and desire to understand and command form. The act of repetition also facilitates her thinking which is filtered through the act of making marks on a canvas.

Milroy's work from that period has a striking resemblance with the taxonomic ordering of objects in traditional museums or the work of scientists in laboratories. However there are no labels or diagrams to direct our vision and our understanding of them. We are invited to observe each one of them but also to view them as a whole. The various shapes and patterns of 'Handles' evoke connotations of musical notes or signs in a coded message.

Milroy commented that:

'Handles' - "can be seen as an abstract painting of lines, dots and circles, of moments of local detail and overall pattern, whose composition depends on notions of display, cataloguing and placing".

So despite the fact that the handles are figurative objects, their arrangement and the way they are painted is abstract.

Lisa Milroy is an artist concerned more with form in her paintings than with content. She chooses to paint everyday objects but paints them isolated from their original context, unravelling new qualities and meanings and more importantly, a new way of looking at inanimate objects. Her work does not aim to imitate reality in a photographic way. This negation of photo-realism can be seen in the way that her objects may have bits missing or their outlines may look unfocused. Above all they demonstrate explicitly that they are painted rather than photographed. Milroy paints them from memory instead of from direct observation. This demonstrates how the process of painting is also a process of thinking and re-engaging with the objects' intrinsic qualities.

An extended study of 'Handles'| is also available online as part of our Artwork of the Month series.