Milly Ristvedt was born in Kimberley, B.C. and studied at the Vancouver School of Art (now Emily Carr University). She began her art practice in Toronto and had her first exhibition there in 1968 with the Carmen Lamanna Gallery. Her work was included in the 7th Biennial of Canadian Painting at the National Gallery of Canada and the 3rd International Pioneer Galleries Exhibition at Musee Cantonal, Lausanne and Musee d’Art Moderne, Paris during this period. During a three-year period in Montreal, from 1970 to 1973, Ristvedt was a founding member of Véhicule Art Inc., the first artist-run centre in Montreal, and had a solo exhibition at the Musee d’Art Contemporain de Montréal.
Since 1968 Ristvedt has had more than fifty solo exhibitions, including a travelling ten-year survey exhibition in 1978 organized by the Agnes Etherington Art Centre, and her work has been included in national and international exhibitions. She has received grants for her work from the Canada Council for the Arts and the Ontario Arts Council, and in 2012 was awarded the Queen’s Diamond Jubilee Medal for her service as Advocacy Representative for the Royal Canadian Academy of Arts.
Her work can be found in the collections of the Canada Council Art Bank, Art Gallery of Ontario, Montreal Museum of Fine Arts, Winnipeg Art Gallery, Vancouver Art Gallery, Agnes Etherington Art Centre, Glenbow Museum, Musee d’Art Contemporain de Montréal, Boston Museum of Fine Arts, and Harvard University, amongst others. In 2011, Ristvedt earned a Master’s degree in Art History from Queen’s University, with her thesis, Reinhardt, Martin, Richter: Colour in the Grid of Contemporary Painting.
The nature of my art is to resist words; a consequence of the basic premise of freedom of interpretation offered by abstract art, and my enduring belief in colour in painting as a language that can speak to mind, body and soul. Colour has been central to my explorations in painting from the beginning. It has a dual (and magical) identity as elusive, optical sensation and physical, material substance that compels me to explore its expressive possibilities.
I came upon my understanding of the essential natures of form and colour in a sudden, revelatory instant when I was very young, and with practically no art experience. All that I have encountered since – art from other eras, places and motivations – confirms that moment as the beginning of an inevitable path. It is also inevitable that my art practice is regularly infused, not only by other art, but by all that I experience of life and the world, including the world of possibilities.