Spotlight: This Is Your Brain on Grant Miller
Technology creeps me out. And I realize this is a first world problem, but I find myself avoiding gadgets and the internet whenever possible. I don’t tweet, I don’t chat on Facebook, my iPod was born in 2007 and I’m audacious enough (apparently) to forego the tablet for real books. I just recently took the smart phone plunge and this was only because it became abundantly clear that, by today’s social standards, it is considered rude to let even a few minutes pass by before responding to an email. Whilst drafting the pros and cons list that eventually led me to acquiring my fancy phone I found myself wondering if I’m the only one who feels the need to heavily evaluate technology before welcoming it into my life. To my friends the answer to this query was assuredly yes, but technology runs deeper than Instagram and YouTube. At some point smart phones become the too-easy escape during a lull at the cocktail party, television becomes the determiner of when we need to be home on the couch, and social media becomes the bully taunting us with the lives of others, leaving us feeling highly uninteresting or ravenous to make sure our recent camping trip was properly, and publicly, chronicled. It’s overwhelming. Fortunately, in my quest for the perfect words to describe this tangled techno chaos I met artist Grant Miller and he showed me what this chaos looks like. Because despite the wealth of information and imagery technology affords us, the one thing it can’t seem to show us is its self. Until now. - Halcombe Miller, Kansas City Contributor
Whether we recognize it or not, we have all had a moment of realization that technology is constantly evolving, as soon as we’re up-to-date we recede into the land of the obsolete shortly thereafter, and somehow we have to fit within all of “this.” But it’s tough to put a finger on what “this” really is. To artist Grant Miller, “this” encapsulates news, social media, television, all the little nooks and crannies the internet has managed to hook us on, and our need to record every detail of every experience in a public format. And while we can physically feel the anxiety of keeping up in a society that is bombarded with information more quickly than ever, we haven’t been able to look “this” in the eyes and examine its consequences. That changed the instant I entered Miller’s studio and my eyes found a home in his work. Each piece provides a visual vocabulary for our current social and technological landscape, and his work truly looks like the sensation of having unfettered access to information: convoluted, dense, and highly intriguing.
Miller begins each piece with an architectural mark or grid, and then his process commences. With thoughtful mark making and controlled, determined layers Miller creates bold, rigid structures that begin to, in a sense, form themselves through a chain reaction. Once the angles and lines come together the fluid forms that exist within the gaps and holes come forth creating a striking dichotomy. Curiously, these fluid forms begin to take center-stage in Miller’s work while the initial structure that brought the effects together slowly recedes. Much like the history we gobble like savory bits in front of our computers, Miller records a set of experiences for all to see, but inherent to the focus of recording is the loss of the information tucked in the peripheral line: while we’re busy recording the occurrence of hurricane Sandy or the presidential election what bits and pieces of information are lost in the process? In this sense, Millers process mimics the course of attaining and recording all the information technology shoves in our faces while his work exhibits the physical sensations technology induces.
Ultimately, Miller wants to “wrap [his] arms around the lives we live now,” and I was immediately drawn to his piece Untitled (67) because it accomplishes this desire. The imagery bursts from its surface with its movement; you can practically feel the buzz of current travelling through each of its severe lines. A rigid blue and yellow structure dominates the composition with horizontal lines jutting into the negative space, posing the primary mass in the center, hovering as if it were a nest of wiring housed within a confined space. Similar to the guts of a computer hard drive or television, Miller layers architectural elements with an array of cascading lines and intricate patterns. Once the eye comes to terms with the structural design of the piece it moves, naturally, to the amorphous pink web, akin to flesh, seemingly draped on, and within, the wiry network. The horizontal and vertical lines almost seem to pierce the fleshy mass; the pink drips and oozes like abraded tissue. Like dizziness provoked by the waves of news and gossip cascading across our various screens, Untitled (67) gives a vision to the draining quality of incessant information. If Miller’s acute lines and angles are the sea of information, then the pink mass is my brain after a too-long session on Pinterest: this is your brain on technology.
His piece Untitled (42) reflects the same sense of over-stimulation, but on a more intimate level. While Untitled (67) puts the viewer in the position of examining a fixture, Untitled (42) exudes a feeling of submersion. The piece contains no negative space for the eye to rest on while grasping the composition at large. The architectural component of this piece is incredibly dense: as soon as you think you’ve fixed yourself on the initial structure the eye finds another detail, another line to follow. Much like the magical ability the internet has to trap you as you travel from page to page; Miller tests his viewer’s patience by providing a wealth of visual paths and conclusions. While a majority of the pastel lines within the composition fit Millers architectural point of view, he punctuates the harsh lines with rounded splatters of white reminiscent of fibrous synapses or stringy ventricles. This imagery, coupled with the rich pools of red, create a sense of bodily injury: instead of viewing the effects of techno-oversaturation from the outside Miller takes his viewers inside the flesh as the blood pressure rises during the evening news and the wrists bleed at the keyboard.
As a duo, these pieces provide an all encompassing and intimate look into the physiology of existing within all of “this.” And while it’s a bitter pill to swallow, Miller’s work is striking. Because technology is pivotal to our existence; the iPhone provides countless answers to random questions during the cocktail party, the television can educate and entertain us, and social media can provide contact when an ocean separates you from your loved ones. There is always a pros and cons list. Grant Miller simply provides a complete look into the reality of living in this time: the stunning, convoluted, exhausting and exhilarating world of now.
Grant Miller is a Kansas City based painter and art educator. His work was most recently seen at PULSE Miami, and he will show at the Black & White Gallery in Brooklyn, New York in 2013
Halcombe Miller is a writer based in Kansas City where she masterminds the blog for Cara and Cabezas Contemporary and scours Midwestern flea markets for ceramic animal figurines.