Milton George

Despite Milton George’s attempt to create a minimal expressionist style in the 1980s, his paintings remain complex. Even when he subdues his characteristic use of vibrant colour in favour of a darker palette, his work combusts. Energy emanates from the amount of visual information he provides, not merely in terms of subject matter, but in the urgency and fullness of his brush strokes, in the palpability of the pigment, and the way in which he can describe emotion in and of itself. When this is combined with his keen sense of observation and natural tendency towards satirical story-telling, his work is explosive.

Milton George is a Jamaican storyteller ‘par excellence’. His sources range from politics, male/female relationships, religion, the self and others whom he may have encountered while ‘trodding’ through Kingston. Underlying all these major themes is Milton’s recognition and commentary on the base motives of greed, lust, sin, and hypocrisy that underlie our daily actions. Jamaica provides the perfect playground for his scrutiny. He thrives on that cultures ambiguities; the tensions between political parties; the fantastic and often sordid nature of its preoccupations, and the hypocrisies of its so-called ‘Christian’ society.

Milton ability to negotiate identities allows him to access many walks of life. His series of self-portraits are a record of his quixotic personality, painter, lover, pauper, Rasta, philosopher are all possible within his persona. In a manner that recalls ‘the pantomimicry’ of Caribbean Johnkunu, Milton can create orgiastic scenarios with supporting cast who are equally ambiguous. Such masquerading is an integral part of the Jamaican psyche. The ability to assimilate, accommodate, as well as to mask cruelty or sadness are traits learned through our history. Milton’s power to visualize us in our many roles reflects a clear understanding, not only of himself, but the society that he loves to paint.

Milton tells us about ourselves in a way that is not completely condemnatory. He is no prophet of doom; rather his paintings are a celebration of our frailty. There is something empowering about the viewer’s recognition of self in his paintings, even when it is at its most disturbing. For all their cryptic imagery, Milton’s paintings provoke a sense of ownership and pride. Even in this act of recognition, we are still allowed to laugh at ourselves.

© PA-S