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'Flaunt' Q&A with SVA Alumnus Wyatt Mills

From Flaunt: “Phantasmagoria. A flickering sequence of images as seen in a dream. A subtle attack on the senses, bound in the blur of passing a stranger and trying to remember what they look like. Dalí lived it, Freud favored it, Monet tapped into it, and Kahlo flirted with it. An efficacious foray into a state of discomfort, that fails to speak a thousand words—but slowly shrieks each and every one.

For Artist Wyatt Mills, phantasmagoria lies in the glorification of the darker side of the human psyche. His emotionally charged, multilayered oeuvre embellishes a radical turn inward to discomfort that situates Mills amongst his early predecessors—the likes of Francis Bacon, Natalie Frank, Daniel Richter, and Adrian Ghenie. Mills coalesces ambiguity with a sense of trauma and disillusion, fusing together incongruous feelings of attraction and repulsion. Playing on this push and pull conversation consolidated in the space of the canvas, each painting is an invitation into an alien world of radical exploration and raw emotion characteristic to the idiosyncratic artist. His contorted portraiture demonstrates a subtle fusion of abstract and classical style as dramatic colors bleed into distorted faces seemingly tormented by existential realities of the twenty-first century. A huge fan of post war German art, Mills talks to us from his Berlin studio—which also happens to be a former Stasi prison camp—about his visceral oeuvre, grotesque use of classical and abstract, and his serendipitous creative process.

You have lived and worked in both New York and Los Angeles, but you recently made the move to Berlin. How has that informed the nature of your art? What brought on this big move?

I am a firm believer that change forces growth and I think that the act of taking risks whether in life or making art is kind of like a muscle in your brain that you need to exercise. I think I came to Berlin in search of discomfort and I wanted to interrupt the routine I was in. You’re in this space where you’re nobody and you have to prove to yourself who you are again, it kind of reinforces what you’re doing in the first place.

Your paintings are often reflective of self-doubt, internal dramas, and modern day anxieties. Where did your interest in the human psyche begin?

I think the darker side of the psyche needs to be glorified more so people don’t think it’s some like foreign weird thing, that they don’t feel bad for having it. I wanted to paint the side that celebrates it as something we all go through and it’s something we need to go through in order to evolve—if you don’t have criticism, you can’t evolve and you just end up in this sad state of delusion…” (For the full interview and a slideshow of images, click here)

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