Kerry Milligan

Kerry Milligan—ArtAscent Gold Artist of the 2024 Future call for artists.

Collage is the technique of unpredictable, free associations, of speculation without the reins of rationality. Kerry Milligan freely uses it, as one should imagine the future: a space to be collectively designed.

At first glance, Kerry’s digital photo collages appear as surreal environments in which cityscapes, buildings, and people overlap in curious and surprising ways—a jumble of visual inputs that inspires a chaotic energy. However, as often happens when observing this wonderful associative technique, collages are much more than the sum of their tiny parts. Dwelling analytically on the details, one grasps the artist’s wit, juxtaposing seemingly random elements and exploiting forms with a prolific compositional logic. Space observatories, like caskets, hold tangible feminine objects; Las Vegas becomes a futuristic lysergic dream between nature and artificiality; store mannequins begin an uncanny, humanoid conversation.

Kerry’s technique, like her collages, also lies between the real and the imaginative, between the analog and the digital. Her collages are digital reworking of personal photographs or scans of old photo prints. The artist’s creative process involves several executive steps that lead, filter after filter, manipulation after manipulation, to a transformed, imaginative, futuristic rendering of reality—a kind of augmented surreality achieved with different layering levels. The artist’s painting practice, with which she is best known to the public, has the same approach. Spontaneity is at the basis of her natural and floral paintings, between reality and abstraction, as if they came from a dream world.

Kerry’s approach is intuitive and worthy of the Surrealist tradition. The twentieth-century Surrealists loved associating images from different sources with free associations and automatisms. Offspring of recent psychoanalysis, collage represented for them a way of using the most spontaneous, irrational, latent part of their selves, creating playful and free art. Similarly, Kerry’s collages are unpredictable and multiple. Objects from different fields, styles, and eras coexist in the same space, finding connections. Looking at her collages, one thinks about the great masters of Surrealism as Salvador Dali, who, behind every seemingly random juxtaposition, concealed symbolism, or the self-portraits dense with pregnant elements by Frida Kahlo. Kerry’s digital collages are a modern transposition of the Surrealist paintings of the past, sharing the same desire to capture the serendipity of reality, which is increasingly complex and fast-paced.

Whether she paints abstract landscapes dissolving into curvy lines and organic forms or experiments with surreal digital collages, Canadian visual artist Kerry Milligan consistently demonstrates vivid imagination and sensitivity. Her paintings are featured in national and international exhibitions and are also part of public collections. Through her experimental collages, Kerry Milligan fully embodies three magical skills for imagining the future: intuition, organization, and the ability to envision what is not yet there, like in a lucid dream.

Kerry Milligan is the Gold Artist of the ArtAscent Future call for artists. To see the full body of work and profile, get a copy of the ArtAscent Art & Literature Journal Future issue.

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