ian milliss   the invisible artist     exhibition  +  documents  +  about 
The works in the gallery are the tip of the iceberg. By following the links in the  exhibition catalogue below you can view related works, reviews and comments on the works by the artist, curators and other viewers, and you can add your own comments.


The earliest exhibited works were illusionistic shaped canvases. more...


Milliss began to extend the work across the wall, breaking up its structure to test the limits of visual readability.  more...


He then became interested in achieving the same effects with materials whose physicality could not be denied, that could not easily be read illusionistically. more...


The previous works had made the viewer increasingly aware of the gallery space around the works. Milliss began to create works that intruded into that space and incorporated it into the artwork. more...


These works then began to control, limit or extend the gallery space and the way the viewer could move around in it. more...


This led to a series of works that investigated the range of possibilities inherent in conceptual art. more...


His use of the structure and fittings in the gallery led to making works that simply rearranged the furniture of the gallery as in this installation at Blaxland Gallery. more...


Walk Along This Line was among the first of the interactive works. more...


The door works began several series that manipulated day to day domestic environments rather than the gallery environment. more...


Milliss also produced a number of works to be experienced by driving over them in a car. more...


The interactive works increasingly involved social interactions between the viewers, and the use or abuse of rules. Related mail works instructed recipients to make strange or nonsensical changes to their lives or living spaces.


He also produced plans for dystopic ways of living as in this work, the last to be exhibited in those years, that proposed a prison cell existence lightened only by multiple sources of information. 


Milliss at this time saw the art world as a microcosm of the wider  world in which interventions could be made that were symbolic of wider actions. As editor of the CAS Broadsheet Milliss turned his attention to art world infrastructure and political activism. 

The Victoria Street Resident Action Group 1973

The real world soon intruded however when developers took over Victoria Street Kings Cross, a working class and artist community where he lived. As a founder of the resident action group he squatted in the buildings and devoted himself to resisting the increasingly violent actions of the developers, police and government. 

Media Action Group 1978

The Media Action Group was initiated by former Art & Language group members who had returned to Australia from New York. Milliss and many others played an active role in the development of slide shows and publications analysing media treatment of current political issues including uranium mining. 

White Elephant or Red Herring 1979
White Elephant

The  Sydney Biennale was initially set up to showcase contemporary international art. Milliss and many others rejected this as colonial cultural cringing and began an aggressive campaign for 50% Australian and 50% women artists.  

The Art Workers Union 1980
Art Workers Union

The campaign around the Sydney Biennale had raised awareness of the need for an organisation to fight for artists rights. Issues of equal representation, proper payments and occupational health all needed to be addressed. Meetings were organised, a steering committee elected and Milliss drafted a constitution for the new organisation, the Art Workers Union.  

Union Media Services 1980

The Media Action Group was approached by a trade union journalist, Dale Keeling to work on the ATEA  union journal.  Milliss began working with  Keeling to set up a design and publishing business that became the first specialist social marketing organisation in Australia, Union Media Services. Over time it produced publications for numerous unions, community groups and  government departments, revolutionising  trade union communications. 


Milliss was now acting like a film producer using other artists to carry out the projects he conceived. While welcoming the revival of trade union banner making he found most of the banners too conservative and set out to create a banner for Actors Equity  that reflected the glitziness of the industry, the first ever gold lame union banner. 


The Australia Council's Art and Working Life programme, run in conjunction with the ACTU had led to a revival of traditional trade union cultural activities. In this Art and Working Life publication he spelt out the much more radical position that he had espoused for over a decade regarding the creativity of workers and the role of work in the creation of our culture.  

Self Portrait as a Ghost 1988

After splitting with Union Media Services Milliss's increasing sense of isolation became apparent in a series of crude drawings on newsprint done over several years in the late 1980s. 

Making the Clever Man 1990

He began to develop computer based works that symbolically explored the intellectual and culture territory he had traversed. Making the Clever Man explored notions of initiation, power and the public indicators of power, equating cicatrices with pin stripe suits. 


In 1989 Milliss began working for the Federated Miscellaneous Workers Union. It was his final major involvement with trade unions where he produced a model communication system with production values equivalent to the mass media, including this full colour magazine.  

A Brief History of the Human Race 1993
Brief History

The computer works became more elaborate as the technology became available. This work, A Brief History of the Human Race, was an attempt to summarise the past and future of the human race with a sly dig at the pretentious titles so often used by artists. 

Self 1999

This work painted in the US reflected his  bemused horror at the ideology of the American dream and the concept of "enlightened" self interest. On the other hand, at the other extreme, it also reflects his ongoing sense of isolation. 

Tree of Life 2005
Tree of Life

Milliss describes his recent paintings as his scrapbook of images, a minor personal sideline to his historical and heritage work There is, nonetheless great complexity beneath the surface simplicity as this four part work demonstrates. 

Can we call it fascism yet? 2005

The political activism has not gone away although it often takes less strident forms. This poster was produced as a giveaway for an anti-sedition laws exhibition.