Miller's crossing: The contrast between artist Garry Fabian Miller's 'simple' family home and his 'chaotic' studio darkroom is striking
Sunday 06 February 2011
Garry Fabian Miller's abstract artworks have been the subject of two recent exhibitions in London: Shadow Catchers at the V&A and The Colour of Time at HackelBury Fine Art, Kensington. But his camera-less photograms are far more a product of Miller's rural way of life. His works – which capture light passed through coloured glass, cut paper or liquid on to photosensitive paper – are tranquil, luminous images that nonetheless hum with intensity.
He lives in a 100-year-old wooden house in a village on Dartmoor with his wife and three children – with a studio space just a field away. Miller, 53, has lived here for 21 years; he moved down south after meeting his wife Naomi, when she curated an exhibition of his works in Exeter. "I've always lived this kind of existence – I have to be somewhere I can walk," explains Miller. "It was by accident that it ended up being Dartmoor." Living in a place where he could have thinking space in the natural world (he even likes to tramp about at night) has always been important for Miller.
Being able to live and work in the same place has also been crucial. "I believe it is a positive situation – there's no need to 'escape'. I'm interested in domestic activity and homemaking. I like the way all these things fit together: being an artist, family life and making work. It's more balanced than separating it all out."
The house, Miller says, is like a boat: "Everything is wooden: ceilings, floors, walls, the roof. It was built to maximise light, which is unusual on Dartmoor as most houses are small and cave-like to keep the weather out." Anyone who has seen his work won't be surprised to hear that light is important for Miller.
Inside, the wooden walls are painted a simple, clean white. "I have been quite involved with the Quakers, and the walls have a simple aesthetic which brings out that quality of silence and stillness you find in some Quaker Meeting Houses."
While it is this simplicity that appeals to Miller, the white walls do also happen to showcase artworks rather nicely. Miller speaks warmly of being able to acquire pieces by other artists, and his walls feature works by Jon Schueler and Charlotte Verity, as well as creations from a plethora of potters. "I feel closer to potters," he insists. "Not many artists have this kind of rural life, whereas more craftspeople do. So we share that, and also the repetitive daily action of making something. I work in series of pictures, like a potter, trying to perfect them."
While you may spy one or two of Miller's own works on the walls, he prefers other people's art in his home. "I spend large parts of each day with my work in the studio, so I think keeping my pictures away from home is quite positive."
If the house is a world of aesthetic calm, then his darkroom in the studio is creative chaos. "It's like a big scrapbook that you go inside," he explains. "It's got a sense of the history of the pictures I've made, but also the kids growing up. I feel like I'm going into a place that I know really well, where I work alone, but I'm surrounded by the traces of my family who are just across the field."
Miller's book 'The Colour of Time' is out now (£29.95, Black Dog). Shadow Catchers is at the V&A until 20 February
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