"Nulla dies sine linea" -- Apelles, 330 BC
Miller thoughtfully shares that with this body of work he has looked inward as never before. Trace had taken some time to step back from exhibiting and was then confronted with significant personal loss. Miller's painting has often been about connections with the iconography and traditions of classical painting and making this art centered him. He worked to remember and to memorialize those he lost. Not in any way moribund, the work is contemplative, optimistic, complex and celebratory.
Miller's sketch-like textures respect the fundamental acts of drawing and painting. His tonal layered imagery echoes memory. There is geometric order at play with translucent naturalistic motifs. Pigment is applied, removed and reapplied; under-painting, delicate effects of opaque veils and texture form transparencies for deliberate impact. Perhaps it has been this ability to manipulate the interplay of technique and meaning that has given Trace Miller the emotional opportunities he has needed. Having gone, as in the words of Greek painter Apelles, "not one day without a line," we are the beneficiaries.
Having studied in Rome, I've always been drawn to the beauty and fragmented nature of the wall paintings from the Renaissance. As time erodes, scattered details seem to float on the surface-isolated images beckoning from the past. Most of my work since has tried to capture that sensation. But the images floating on my surfaces call out not from the past but rather from present emotions visually surfacing simultaneously (or so it seems) out of my head and as familiar shapes coming together on the layered surface of the painting itself. The intended effect being to set up a heightened tension between the abstract ground and the images it anchors. To isolate feelings, not reality.
As the title of the painting, Remembrance of Things Past, suggests, I have been attempting to work out over the past year, the great emotional upheaval of recently losing both a father and a brother within weeks of one another. To suspend reality and possibly the pain through my work. It helped!
In all eras humans have longed for gods and heroes, in our time they seem especially to be lacking. We have looked to our artists who gave us only past glories - Greece, Rome. We love old, crumbled walls.
In Trace Miller we have an artist who erects a wall of paint, and then finds evidence of beauty - a flower, a vase. He presents the modern man, vulnerable and exposed not to spears and arrows but to the wounds of modern life. All of these paintings are bathed in a silver light, which gives us hope. If we have brave artists then we still have heroes.
Layering, imagery, ambiguity, dream, memory. The physical layering of elements in Trace Miller's paintings exactly represents his artistic goals and their psychological consequences. Miller uses the construction of painting and its process, and the choice and/or discovery of images; to crack the facades both artist and viewer erect to maintain a fragile reality. These methods illuminate for both the art and it's beholders wide vistas of remembrance and possibility.
Miller's techniques and goals are the conventional ones of late 20th century painting. With them he has created his own style, combining a flair for drawing, a distinctive high-toned palette, a sense of spatial construction and denial, and an idiosyncratic of classical and neoclassical motifs with body fragments and symbolic objects. The frequent inclusion of self-portraiture contributes an intimate and haunted personal dimension reinforcing the paintings' mood of individual revelation.
Miller's combination of colors, the bright tones of blue and brown with subtle pastels, and the brilliance contributed by his white grounds, give his works - especially the large canvases - almost the appearance of fresco fragments. Although Miller's piling up process would be impossible in that medium, fresco is also a layering technique and one which we increasingly experience in fragments - shattered, patched, laboriously reconstructed and often separated forever from lost companions and contexts. It is as if Miller has reassembled such found elements from fantasy and memory with the same spatial necessity governing construction of works which directs us, as fresco does, to an experience in a specific place. It is a committed and accepting exploration of post-modern techniques and practice, producing intelligent and provocative paintings.
Painting is essentially reflection; a freeze frame of feelings; a testament to existence. It does nothing and says nothing unless it is sincerely felt and strikes a universal chord. If it holds your attention, suspends reality, or anchors the mind for even a moment, it has done its job. As the artist, it allows me to deal with conflicted feelings. The harsh reality of our strangely isolated and detached lives - aimless and agitated, tuned out in an increasingly desolate environment; while at the same time giving into a persuasive and deceptively alluring sense of calm. A strange beauty superimposed over a virtual vortex of present reality.
Anchored in the past and yet irresistibly drawn to a certain (if unknowable) future, a sense of resignation and ignorance in the ensuing struggle should become almost palpable in these works. At least that was the intent. The endless layering, the constant resurfacing of images together with the rhythmic agitation of line and figure, all are meant to suggest both a marking of time and ignorance of the game, played out in subtle movements over not yet revealed spatial dimensions. Jasper Johns and John Cage respectfully called it a "definite but," a "definite maybe." I'm intrigued by this juxtaposition of ideas. Art should move you from one realm to another.