ART: First Casualty
Acrylic on canvas
36 x 22 inch (91 x 56 cm)
2017, edition 1/1
A key element of these developments has been the apparent decline of ‘truth’ and the ascendancy of the label ‘fake’. Facts are no longer debated and contested – they are simply rubbished and dismissed by political interests and their supporters.
In the UK, Brexit promises were unceremoniously ditched the day after the referendum. In Syria, the regime and its allies have consistently denied the use of chemical weapons and other human rights abuses, despite overwhelming evidence to the contrary. And in the US, the political system is all but paralyzed by the rise of ‘fake news’ and partisan accusations and counter-accusations which frequently have little bearing on anything we might recognize as the truth.
Meanwhile, Richard Prince’s designation of one of his own artworks as ‘fake’ in early 2017 raises provocative questions about ‘real fakes’ and ‘fake fakes’ in the art world.
Miller’s series of ten paintings reflects on ‘the decline of truth’, exploring aspects of deception, fakery and mendacity through the visual vocabulary of dazzle camouflage. Dazzle is a form of geometric, high-contrast patterning developed to protect transatlantic shipping during the First World War. It was intended not to hide a ship, but rather to break up its form and outline and obscure its heading and speed. Like all forms of disruptive camouflage, dazzle is founded on the apparently paradoxical idea that concealment can be achieved through a deceptive form of revelation.
While these works might give the initial impression of legibility and openness, a closer look reveals inconsistencies, revisions and distortions. Forms move and float in ambiguous pictorial space, often obscuring other painting layers in a literal ‘cover up’. Each work therefore asks the viewer to consider not only what is revealed, but also what is concealed.
This relationship between the seen and unseen is underlined by the interplay of transparency and opacity, and by ambiguity in spatial representation and the definition of volumes. The application of paint suggests weathering and corrosion, underlining the maritime origin of disruptive dazzle schemes.
Lines, marks and other compositional elements are left visible in an apparent gesture of ‘truthfulness’, but in many cases these elements are spurious additions, introduced to undermine any suggestion of pictorial integrity.
In January 2016, Miller moved to Santiago, Chile, where he currently lives and works.
In addition to his regular art practice, Miller has been involved in a range of community-based public art projects in New York, and has supported a number of arts-based not-for-profits as a volunteer artist. From 2012 to 2015 he sat on the board of SONYA (South of the Navy Yards Artists) in Brooklyn. He also sat on the Brooklyn Navy Yard’s exhibit advisory committee.
Michael Miller is trained as a social scientist, and has studied at the Universities of Edinburgh, Leicester and Pennsylvania, as well as the Ecole des Hautes Etudes en Sciences Sociales in Paris. In 2001, he earned a PhD in contemporary history from the European University Institute in Florence, Italy.
Miller is also a long-standing supporter of human rights, and has published work on a range of issues including violence against children, gender-based violence and the prevention of torture.
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