As one of the most profound figures at the forefront of non-figurative contemporary photography, Garry Fabian Miller’s “camera-less” photographs create transfixing, chromatic atmospheres that emanate with a pulsating, almost breathing, inward light. The photographs, with their auras of natural light, encourage an intimate contemplation of the human psyche and on the phenomena of the physical world. GFM’s evolution in photography through his exploration of time and place while using light as a medium and subject, make him not only a unique and enigmatic artist, but one whose work addresses central human themes of philosophical, spiritual, and mystical matters.
Born in Bristol, England in the late 1950s, Garry Fabian Miller’s family owned a photography studio, introducing the future luminary artist to photography at an early age and instilling in him a sense of wonder at the darkroom’s chemical development process. It is perhaps here where GFM begins to conceptualize an aesthetic for the alchemical interaction between creative art, science, and the chemistry of photography.
“I think the key thing is, from my early teens I was exposed to a darkroom and what a darkroom is and the things which happen in it; the magical process of images merging into the world through your actions.”
After studying the Shetland Islands and experiencing life at the periphery of urban society, living with the vastness of nature as the rural communities allowed, GFM realizes early on in his career, that he could use photography and the experience of being in the landscape to communicate feelings and the idea of contemplation as well as natural observation. This realization becomes an artistic mantra; the potential to become a channel between the human being and the outer space, creating work that transmits and reflects a deep interaction with the landscape.
“As I walked myself into the landscape, it became an experience of the sky space, the changing weather systems, the deep-thinking space, and that is how I think the work evolved from a kind of narrative, figurative based practice around trees and plants and nature into an abstract sky, light space.”
Garry Fabian Miller’s regular, meditative walks into the Dartmoor landscape, (an ancient moorland in Southwestern England) renowned as an incubator of age-old English myths and legends, provides him with the lingering impressions that inspire the visual aesthetic of his exposures. This process is perhaps one of the most consistent qualities of Fabian Miller, his symbiotic relationship to photography. In every aspect of his practice, Fabian Miller treats the medium as a meaningful and interdependent way of living life; in turn, creating wholly sincere, conceptual representations of his connection to a place and a changing atmosphere.
Within a historical context, Garry Fabian Miller’s work has a direct connection with concepts familiar to early modern English history, that of the complex interaction between magical, religious, and scientific belief. Although the work contains an array of minimalist forms, hues, and shapes, it is inherent to the past; to a preindustrial society intrinsically connected to agriculture and the cosmos, to the land and the changing patterns of nature. GFM produces a visual testament to that which escapes simple explanation; to the experiences of meditation, spirituality, and enlightenment.
In this method of representing the experience of natural energy, his piece Year One, Samionios, Single F, October 2005, resembles an eclipsed sun, a ring of energy peering through total darkness; entitled Samionios in reference to the Celtic calendar. GFM creates this photograph through meticulously crafted exposure of light, inserting a poignant and ephemeral quality to the piece, creating imagery relating to the observable mysteries of the universe by its natural, repetitive, and methodical process. Samionios, Single F nonetheless appears as a solar eclipse with the circumference of the disk burning through the darkness.
“(My practice) is perhaps to do with understanding a much larger abstracted space in which an interest in nature feeds a kind of sense of well-being that comes through a relationship to the life cycle of a tree, for example, and the effect it has on the viewer in an affirmative way… the way the tree and I were sharing the same breath. I became increasingly interested in trying to understand what the energy of light is and how through touching me, it transforms my being.”
Garry Fabian Miller shares a love and fascination with the beautiful chromatic qualities of visible light that connect him to artists such as James Turrell, Dan Flavin, and Rothko among others. His trajectory as a photographer, from detailed photograms of plant objects to crafted light exposures, is a beautiful, comprehensive path towards abstraction, resembling a clarity akin to Mondrian’s abstraction of painting and the unapologetic, resonating emotion of Malevich. In simpler terms, Garry Fabian Miller can capture, in his unique art form, the vital, universal, and intrinsic energies that live through and within us.