Visual Art: Giles Sutherland
Garry Fabian Miller: Dwelling
Until 4 July
STAR Rating : **** (FOUR)
A number of themes permeate this show of photography, woven textiles and painting : the importance of home, light, colour and, above all, the idea that art has a significance beyond its initial appearance.
Garry Fabian Miller, born in 1957, practised conventional photography until around 1984, when began making images using light sensitive paper and objects, instead of a camera.
Miller placed leaves, flowers and grasses directly on the enlarger (in place of film negatives) and projected their shadows onto photographic paper. In 1991, he removed the object from the enlarger, using this only a light source, and began to make photograms, using the objects themselves.
Miller says "All the other work made since this time and in the exhibition was made by casting the light horizontally across the darkroom to reach the paper suspended on the wall. Its surface is screened and masked by various structures and templates which allow light to touch certain points and not others. Many of the pictures are made over long periods of time varying between minutes, to an hour, to 20 hours."
The Winged Hawthorn is a grid of assembled leaves that range in colour from a fresh green to golden red. Each of the 144 images has been created by directing light through the leaves onto paper.
Miller reveals not only some of his working methods but also his influences. His relationship with the work of painter Winifred Nicholson (1893-1981) is key. A number of Nicholson’s paintings have been brought together for the occasion and show not only an intense interest in nature found on the ‘doorstep’ (Nicholson painted numerous still lives and landscape centred on the view from her living room) but also in colour. Both artists shared an intense love of the countryside (Nicholson lived for much of her life in Northumberland) while Miller lives on Dartmoor.
Here, a couple of rugs specially made for Nicholson are also on display; although less complex in execution and content, they do form a link to what is undoubtedly the centrepiece of the show ¾ two hearth ‘rugs’ (the word somehow does not do them justice) commissioned from the Dovecot Tapestry Company, which is housed in the same splendidly-restored building, a former Victorian bath house.
The gun-tufted rugs, The Golden Light and The Ruby Embers, made by Dennis Reinmüller, are based on two of Miller’s prints. The original abstracted images have been created by placing a circular object in the path of a light source. A ‘halo’ is created by the emergent, escaping light.
Through a complicated process of colour marching and sampling the correct quantity and tonality of wool was then incorporated into the rug design. A template of the main graphical elements of the image were transposed onto the warp on the loom and from there the images grew, using the unique and finely honed skills of the rug-maker. The result is neither copy nor imitation but an interpretation of Miller’s original work.
Miller is, undoubtedly, one of the more interesting figures in contemporary photography, combining a continually evolving practice with a deep-seated philosophical enquiry into the nature of light itself.