There are few areas of the visual arts with which Australian artist John Millington has not been involved, in a career spanning nearly 50 years.
After studying first commercial art (in deference to his parents) and then Fine Arts (for himself) at Sydney’s historic National Art School from 1961 to 1967, he worked briefly in several art studios in packaging design, television graphics and general layout and finished artwork while completing an early animation course at night.
During his time at art school he also spent the lengthy holidays and any spare time working with a master commercial screen-printer, learning the trade.
Quickly tiring of the repetitive nature of the vast bulk of commercial artwork, he utilised his Fine Art training to secure a position as a high school art teacher and remained in the profession for twelve years, rising to Head of Art at Queensland’s prestigious Southport School.
In 1977, his last year of teaching high school art, he was approached by one of Australia’s major provincial newspapers The Gold Coast Bulletin to write art criticism. John continued in this capacity for the next 15 years and later wrote for Brisbane’s Courier- Mail for several years.
He has also produced two books on art, the sell-out Tropical Visions (University of Queensland Press) 1985, and John Rigby, Art and Life (Playwright Press, Sydney) 2003.
In his years as a teacher, John wrote, produced and played in the orchestra of, two rock operas, as well as producing the first production of Jesus Christ Superstar on the Gold Coast in 1976, for which he also designed the sets, as well as many other stage sets for school productions wherever he taught..
For a brief period, in the early 1980s he helped run a commercial art gallery on the Gold Coast, organised several Artist Action Auctions in support of the creation of the Gold Coast Arts Centre, formed the Association Of Fine Artists on the Gold Coast in 1995 and served as its secretary for several years, and also served on the Advisory Committee of the Gold Coast Art Gallery for an extended period.
A winner of some 60 odd art prizes, including the 1992 Tattersall’s Invitational Landscape Prize, the richest landscape award at the time in Australia, John has also established and run a number of art prizes, including the most recent St Bernard’s Hotel $10,000.00 Art Prize on Queensland’s Tamborine Mountain, which debuted in 2005.
It is therefore no surprise commentators and patrons often remark on the wide range of John’s work, both in medium and approach. He works across the spectrum from near realism to a form of abstraction, and in just about every two-dimensional medium, oils, acrylics, watercolours, pastels, drawing mediums and most print-making mediums.
This can be disconcerting for some who can’t identify a definitive style, but John says, being essentially a landscape-based artist, the subject dictates the medium and approach. It is natural for a man who has been so multi-faceted in his involvement with the visual arts that his art should also be multi-faceted.
Over the period which all the images deal with there have been distinct themes which have been dominant at certain times although a wide range of subject matter is always over-arching the basic themes.
1978 -82 Local landscapes of the Gold Coast and Hinterland
1982- 88 The Rainforest
1989-92 Kakadu and the Northern Territory
1993-96 The Sugar Town series. Canefields, Burns and Mills.
2001-05 Tamborine Mountain and the Beaudesert region landscapes
2006- Coastal Paintings (the N.S.W. Far North Coast) and Beach Sketchbook watercolour series.
All these series overlap and are returned to from time to time, e.g. living once again in the heart of cane country, a number of works are currently being added to the Sugar Series.