Curate's Creator in Residence Mitch Miller in the Spotlight at Queenscliff Herald
by Sean Harkin (Queenscliff Herald) December 2,2021
Our feature artist for this month is Mitch Miller, arriving fresh on the scene with his abstract impressionism. Mitch’s artwork uses unpredictability, movement, and explosions of energy to capture hundreds of moments, instances, and impossible colours.
Mitch said that for the viewer of his abstract pieces, they’re often able to find their own story, while discovering images in the work he hasn’t seen.
“So quite simply, what I feel my work evokes is what so many of us tend to lose as adults, our imaginations”, he said.
Although he does (and still enjoys doing) realism, Mitch has found that as a more mature artist, abstract expressionism is his passion.
“It’s a style I’ve come to realise many artists find daunting, just as I once had and still, at times, do. It requires all the skills of realism without a guide as to where to go. Light source, proportion, depth, balance, and colour theory all make an appearance on the canvas”.
Mitch explained unlike styles with subject matter that we each recognise, abstract impressionism isn’t a style where the artist can necessarily stand back and see the work they’ve finished and know they’ve finished.
“I move and I work and it presents itself to me and tells me where to go. Or, it just sits quietly, making me ponder and guess the next move. With abstract expressionism there is nothing to guide you”, he said.
“There is always a beginning but never an end. Hours of agonising thought and vulnerability are mixed with hours of joy and confidence. One moment I’m lost and standing at the edge of failure, and the next, a single brush stroke or splash of colour, has shown me a way out of the darkness”.
In his youth, growing up on the island of Maui, Hawaii, Mitch loved the work of Christian Lassen and Boris Vallejo – both employing a combination of fantasy and realism in their work and neither sparing the use of colour, movement or drama.
“Reality and abundance, in the instance of Christian Lassen. Realism mixed with the impossible, in the case of Boris Vallejo. I dreamt of mimicking both their styles as a boy and oddly, both styles look nothing like, but still closely relate to the work I do now. Even today, I battle with the temptation to stray into surrealism – a style which I also love”.
To some who know Mitch, it would have appeared as though his art career may have come suddenly. But this wasn’t the case. Since he was a boy, and through the years, Mitch had quietly been drawing in pencil, pastels, and colour pencil.
“It had been an on-again, off-again, love affair between me and my art. Sometimes I had time for it. Sometimes not. But it never left me”, he said.
For the last twenty years he and his wife, Deborah, have owned galleries. And even then his work was always put on the back burner. With no time for his own art, the ‘artist’ side of Mitch was the thing that he needed to switch off to be able to represent other artists.
“On the other hand, their art is the thing that drives me. I love living vicariously through the art of those we represent. I love being surrounded by, and talking about, other artists and their stories and abilities. I love selling one of their works even more than my own.
But over those years, the ‘artist’ was quietly building up inside of him, until there was this explosion of his own creativity.
“I really couldn’t keep it turned off any longer. It would have been an impossibility. I had to find a way for these two things to coincide. Ironically, and fortunately, those two things were art and a gallery”, he said.
From 2002 to 2021, Mitch and Deborah, would successfully operate Aspect Design and Gallery Salamanca, both located within the Salamanca Arts Centre in Hobart, Tasmania.
Eventually it would be his business partner and wife, Deborah, that pushed him to have the self confidence and belief to consider himself an equal amongst the artists he hosted in their gallery.
“She is someone whose opinion I always trust and respect. That artist side of me could very well have been simply a frustrated artist today without her influence. She made it seem like it would be the easiest thing in the world for me to throw some paint around, bring the finished work into the gallery, place it amongst the work of those artists I considered giants, and stand naked in front of the world. So, I did”.
“Life is abstract. It’s unpredictable, frustrating, incredibly rewarding, with mistakes creating opportunities and yet never finished. If you take the time to look and to analyse your life, it will always show you another way. It may not be “The Way”, but honestly what’s “The Way” anyway?