Spiral: How did you first get into art?
Miller: I remember in art classes at school as a kid having no ability compared to some others who could draw portraits that actually looked like the subject. However I got into a career in IT and found that I had the ability to think in pictures rather than words. I gave up IT after about 20 years because of the stress and incipient high blood pressure and decided that there must be more to life. I had risen to the top of my IT profession and was looking for a new challenge.
After giving IT up I found I had this urge to do art. It seemed that this visual thinking faculty that I had honed was now looking for something else to do. So I started doing etching and woodblock print making and really enjoyed it. Later I took up digital art which was much cleaner and needed far less space and no messy things like acid baths and presses.
Coming across Genetica back in 2007 revolutionized my images. It has enabled me to achieve a level of subtlety that I was not able to before. Initially I was using the textures in a very much in-your-face sort of way but that is not so much the case now. To take as an example the following image, the misty background is constructed of four textures, one solid as the base and three transparent overlays to build up the effect. The central element also uses four textures. I often use the textures to provide a textured "wash" over solid colors or even other solid textures. I use a palette of basic textures and build up the effect.
You do have to see a full size print to see the subtle details as a lot of it just vanishes on a low resolution computer image. But something still comes through because if I turn the textures off the image can look quite stark, naked even.
Spiral: Where do your ideas come from?
Miller: Well, taking the current series as an example, many of the images have a vaguely techno look. The sequence was triggered by seeing a painting by the French symbolist Gustave Moreau who was very popular in his day. The painting is popularly known as the "Tattooed Salome" and shows a woman dancing--Salome dancing in front of Herod. But what is particularly interesting is that she is depicted wearing a transparent shift which has embroidery on it and the embroidery then looks like tattoos, hence the name of the painting:
But it made me wonder what a male equivalent might look like. And I didn't think of some male ballet-dancer-like equivalent but a "real" man, a warrior, who might have tattoos in the normal course of events. I had a particular warrior in mind who would be wearing high-tech transparent armor with decorations that had a techno feel. I did some initial sketches using an anime figure:
But as always happens the idea took on a life of its own and evolved into the abstract armor images you see in my current series. I started using the shield shape as a shorthand reference to armor but it is quite an ambiguous shape in itself and can be interpreted also as a mask, or even a spaceship.
So all the themes that I follow are triggered by chance events, by something I happen to see--often in a movie. And that trigger lives on in the images even if not in an obvious way. Plus earlier themes live on in later themes in a subtle way.
The images almost create themselves and with just a little help from me. If I try to impose my ideas too strongly the images often don't work. It is almost as though I am just a midwife in the process. Each image usually grows out of the previous one. There aren't many sudden jumps. And if you look at the images in sequence it is almost like looking at the frames of a movie.
One of the main thrusts of my images is to depict "shimmering," or putting it more metaphysically, creative instability. By that I mean the images have to be always moving or coming into being or dissolving away and how they appear to the onlooker is dependent on them. And this is where the backgrounds particularly become important. To facilitate that visual instability I often use multiple vanishing points and try to get an effect where the subject is both advancing towards you and receding at the same time.
But behind it all there is yet another layer. I am a Buddhist and my artwork is an expression of my Buddhist practice. It is just that I am not making recognizably Buddhist icons, and I am using my own visual metaphors to express that. I'm also influenced by Japanese culture and the unique Zen aesthetic.
I sometimes joke that I create art to stop myself from going mad. Or at least to channel my insanity. It is a joke but there is an element of truth there as well. I think I would go nuts if I wasn't able to create images any more.
Allan Miller uses Genetica to create textures and CorelDRAW for the overall design and assembly of his artwork. Miller's latest series can be found here, while previous works are available here.