Ian Thomas Miller is an American emerging contemporary artist concentrated on interesting, cool artworks that feature an array of conjunctive elements, including still life objects, body movements or gestures. Miller’s imagery smoothly recalls 80’s art aesthetics; patterns, hues and shapes equally contribute to his paintings, apparently inspired by that era. The artist’s eyes operate as an advanced photographic device that can capture specific moments of the daily life. In his art statement, Miller mentions that “the subject matter I choose to work with is often varied, though I do tend to focus on the interactions between people, objects and spaces. My process involves both traditional and digital methods of sketching and drafting, though the final pieces are always painted”.
Words: Yannis Kostarias
The Minnesota-based painter thoroughly examines a seemingly unseen daily scenery of human interactions striving to depict them on canvas. Most of his recent work seems to seize a particular moment, which encapsulates a meaningful concept for him as well as a creative potential to be portrayed on canvas. Inspired by the everyday culture, Miller manages to develop an assemblage with various cultural references. His rich and mixed visual syntax seems to draw inspiration from Pop Art, illustration, Surrealism or even modern computer aesthetics.
By considering paintings, such as The Persistence of (2018), Friend (2016), No Title (2018), Hold on to that, smooth skin, kid (2015), Paradise (?), (2015), You Did Well (2015), the viewers’ eyes are involved with characteristically manifold arrangements of leg and hand gestures. Additionally, concealed faces or not clearly expressed facial features, as well as negative space, have an evident significance in his visualisations. Mixed feelings, incomplete figures or contradictory iconography are engagingly balanced in a clean, fresh and leisurely structure underscoring the artist’s creative ambivalence that eventually elevates Miller’s painterly identity. Ambivalence, here, does not function as an obstacle, but rather provides other qualities for further and deeper interpretation.
In his interview with Art Verge, Ian Thomas Miller shares his notable and fresh approach on his art and other issues, while also providing some very thoughtful insights about his daily life. Check it out!
Art Verge: Can you tell us about the process of making your work?
Ian Thomas Miller: For my most recent bodies of work, I’ve been taking a lot of reference photos, and have been drawing influence from my immediate surroundings, interests, and interactions. I draft pieces out pretty thoroughly before any paint actually touches the canvas. This generally involves a mixture of both traditional and digital image making, manipulation, drawing, and composing. However the final pieces are always painted (pretty much always oil on canvas or panel).
AV: How would you define your work in few words (ideally in 3 words)?
ITM: Curious, deliberate, still.
AV: Can you name any artists you, lately or generally, take inspiration from?
ITM: Nairy Baghramian, Alex Zhang Hungtai, EJ Hill, Sarah Charlesworth, Zadie Smith, and Peter Cain, are some artists, musicians, and writers who I think are incredible and whom I admire greatly.
AV: Creating a new painting can be a solitary process. If this applies to you, when you concentrate on a new artwork does it affect your social life at all?
ITM: I would say it does. I’m pretty out-going, but I often prefer to stay-in and work instead of go out. However, I do try to maintain a healthy balance. A lot of my work is based on experiences and observations, so it’s definitely beneficial to leave the studio sometimes.
AV: How do you know when an artwork is finished?
ITM: I do a good bit of design work in addition to my painting practice & I think that has had a lot of influence over not only how I paint, but how I determine when something is finished. As I mentioned earlier, I do a lot of drafting and planning before I start my paintings, so I usually have a pretty good idea of what I want them to look like when all is said and done. So there’s usually a point where everything just looks & feels ‘right’.
AV: What about the place where you work? What’s your studio space like, and how does it affect your process?
ITM: I’ve been moving around a bit, so for the last few years my studio space has also been my apartment / living room. That being said, it’s a very well lit space, and it challenges me to stay as organised as possible. Subsequently, I’m constantly looking at & re-examining my work throughout the day which is both good and bad, but, mostly good, i think.
AV: Which exhibition did you visit last?
ITM: The last exhibit I visited was at Yeah Maybe which is an exhibition space in Minneapolis, MN. The work featured was by Katelyn Farstad & Coral Saucedo.
AV: What do you hope audiences will take from your work?
ITM: Best case scenario is that they will walk away from the work feeling some kind of a connection, or mutual understanding, relating the work to their own lives in some way, small or big. But that being said, even if they end up just having an aesthetic appreciation of the work, that’s fine in its own way, too.
AV: What does your mum think about your art?
ITM: She’s a big fan, as is my dad, they have a few of my older paintings hanging up in their house actually.
AV: Are you a morning person or a night owl?
ITM: Definitely a morning person, I love the morning light & the shadows it casts.
AV: Is the glass half empty or half full?
ITM: The glass is half full, even when it’s almost empty, I try and view it from a different angle and convince (trick) myself into thinking that it’s still pretty full.
AV: Which are your plans for the near future?
ITM: To exhibit more frequently and in more places. To continue meeting new people and seeing new things. To keep making art and to keep pushing my practice forward. I’ve also been working on a book of unreleased photos, drawings, and paintings that I’m looking forward to putting out into the world within the next year or so.