Expansive, bright, chaotic, and bawdy, Jamian Juliano-Villani’s paintings beckon you in with their recognisable cartoonish punchiness, but beneath them – like much of American popular culture –, humour and eroticism run in parallel to vulnerability and trauma. Composed through a process that Juliano-Villani has described as “a poor man’s Photoshop” with pictures borrowed from movies, memes, stock photography, art history, and collected printed matter, her acrylic airbrushed canvases, while chaotic, serve as meticulously crafted mirrors to the anarchy of everyday life. Juliano-Villani’s new paintings for The Milk of Dreams draw from the artist’s recent interest in cinematography, and particularly the emotionally charged landscapes captured in films like Peter Greenaway’s 1996 erotic drama The Pillow Book and Jonathan Demme’s 1998 adaptation of Toni Morrison’s “Southern Gothic” novel Beloved. Intrigued by the nostalgia with which the images of landscapes are invested – providing their viewer a sense of history and purpose that is, ultimately, fake –, these paintings approach imagery as simultaneously rooted in history and ever-present. For the artist, the malleability of cinematic tropes (the “shadows left over after your eye looks away,” as she describes them) suggests the frustrated temporality of the Covid-19 pandemic, wherein the accessibility of images from across history clashes with the relentless present-ness of the here and now.
Madeline Weisburg & Ian Wallace