Millie Brown is a young British artist boasting a CV far beyond her 24 years. A member of the now defunct !WOWOW! art collective, she lists Lady Gaga, Nick Knight and Ruth Hogben among her collaborators.
Millie’s international background, passion for travelling and love of colour has led to a global exploration of artistic expression. Born in England to bohemian parents, but spending her youth in Spain and then the South of France, it is clear where the nomadic tendencies originated. At 13, and finding it difficult to relate to most of the French kids, she befriended the local street punks. Sleeping in abandoned buildings and driving around Europe in trucks became part of the everyday adventure. After a quick summer stint in LA when she was 17, Millie returned to London, where she embarked upon her current artistic journey into performance art, film and fashion.
Colour and close friendships remain at the forefront of her work where personal expression and pushing bodily boundaries are fundamental elements. With a peculiar thirst for paint, the art/ performance art gig she is best known for is vomiting paint onto a blank canvas, she even ‘performed’ on Lady Gaga for the video footage of the Monsterball tour (at Gaga’s request!)
i-D online spoke to Millie about her life story so far, current projects she is involved with and what she believes is waiting for her at the end her multi-coloured, multimedia rainbow.
When did you first discover your love for the arts? I’ve loved art ever since I can remember. There are a lot of artists in my family and we were always encouraged to express ourselves creatively. My parents were pretty bohemian, so many of my formative years were spent learning through art. Moving to France, where art was considered an unimportant subject in the schools I went to (a couple of them not teaching art at all), was frustrating. So instead, I started taking art classes outside of school where I could explore without such limitations.
At 24 you have already been immersed in a variety of different cultures. Tell us a little about the time you spent in artist squats when you first moved to London… I left school when I was 17, moved to LA for the summer but then decided to join my sister Tamzin and the rest of the ‘!WOWOW!’ collective who were squatting in south London. I arrived just as the Peckham co-op was discovered. I lived there with my sister Tamzin, Matthew and James. A lot of other people came and went and everyone helped us make the most of the immense space we had. We had a theatre, a club, a gym, a church and two shop spaces – the place was vast, it was like living in our own metropolis! Gareth had his workshop in our gym, our friend’s bands would practice in the space and there were always photo shoots and people creating things all over the building. We put on a couple of exhibitions in the shop spaces, allowing people who didn’t have a gallery or lots of cash to showcase their work. We also threw a few notorious parties in our club and theatre and had all our friends perform. It was a very special time. It was like artist utopia.
What was the initial concept behind your first piece of performance art? In 2006 we were asked to take over a gallery space in Berlin where everyone in the collective was either performing or exhibiting their work. I wanted to create a performance piece that came directly from me, that was un-restraining and felt very real. Taking the colours of the rainbow and exerting them in a way I had never seen before, challenging people’s perception of beauty and taboo. I had never tried to make myself sick before so it was a mystery if my performance was even possible until I was on stage with my fingers down my throat and bright colours were bursting out. After the performance I had a strong euphoric feeling, I felt such a powerful rush.
You also branch out from this artistic medium. Who have you been collaborating with most recently? I recently shot Nexus Vomitus with Nick Knight and Ruth Hogben, collaborating also with two classical singers. I performed live on SHOWstudio.com, where the footage was later edited into a short film. At the moment I am working with four different directors including US director Griffin, who I’m co-directing a series of short films with that are very different to my vomit pieces. I am also shooting a short film with my sister Tamzin who is an actress based in LA. I have live performances coming up in Zurich, New York and LA and I’m planning another solo show to exhibit my new paintings later this year in the UK and LA.
Tell us a little about your forthcoming LA venture and how you intend to transport your London eccentricity to a city by and large known for its celeb-obsession… I am in the process of opening a concept store in West Hollywood with my other sister Beckielou. We really wanted to bring some of the talent and creative feel of London to LA, giving young designers and artists from here a platform to showcase their work in the States. So many of my friends here are so talented it just made sense for us to bridge the gap between London and LA where so many of the stores are staid and conventional; we’re looking forward to shaking things up a bit!