Review :: What’s in a Name?

July 11th 2011


If someone has the same name as you, then are you automatically connected to them? Do you share some sort of intangible connection? I mean, I would have just said no – its only a coincidence. But Jennifer Mills’ newest exhibit at Darren Knight Gallery might change your mind.

Mills has dissected her identity through others, concealing her own, in this huge exhibition. Spanning over two rooms, the exhibit begins with Mills’ traditional style: beautifully intricate drawings of birds and self portraits overlaid with colourful pastels and mixed media. The effect is instantaneous and immediately riveting. Mills’ skill for drawing and watercolour is so refreshing. Just when you start to mourn the loss of praise of skill in art today, Mills shows us the originality possible and the talent behind her artistry. Already the search for identity as a theme of the exhibit is shown, by Mills’ own portrait being scribbled over, re-imagined and examined.

The second room is where Mills takes a leap in a new direction. Covering half of the room are scores of watercolour paintings of different sizes, all of people and their faces jumbled together. The pictures are all obviously painted from photographs, the action appearing quite stagnant in the frames when placed together. Looking at the pictures I couldn’t help but think how much they looked like Facebook display pictures. You might laugh at this, but it turns out I was right!

What Mills has done is obsessively discovered hundreds of different people whose names are also “Jennifer Mills.” Starting with one seemingly random find, Mills has taken this sort of ‘quest’ to a new extreme. In a kind of displacement and aversion of her own identity, Mills has discovered a fantasy replacement identity for herself.

On the opposite wall to the collage of faces is a contrasting photography piece, where photos of the same mundane street vista have been taken over a 24 hour period. What is interesting about this admittedly ordinary piece is the fact that it is by Sandra Bridie, disguised as a “Jennifer Mills,” essentially a ‘googleganger’ (to borrow a phrase) of the artist herself and basically a completely fictional artist!

I honestly enjoyed Jennifer Mills’ exhibit What’s in a name? It is a self-admitted narcissistic exercise that connects social media with traditional mediums and a fresh yet engrossing understanding of personality.

What: What’s in a name?

Where: Darren Knight Gallery, Elizabeth St, Waterloo

When: Until July 16th

How much: Free


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