The unadorned simplicity of Carl Miller’s imagistic works on paper underlies what is a fervently individualistic viewpoint, a spirit that can be traced all the way back to the groundbreaking works of the visionary poets William Blake and Walt Whitman. Pairing 34 poems with their matched abstract drawings, each canto of Miller’s works breathes full life from two different ways of understanding their meaning, through hints and gestures supplied by word and imagery.
Printed on matching sheets of large format paper, and displayed in rotation throughout the time of this exhibition, the similar size of these works suggests that Miller does not prefer either the poems or the drawings above the other as the dominant artistic form. Instead, these works become something akin to a musical composition through their relationship to each other, forming a completely different visual interpretation. Like variations on a familiar theme, the poem-and-drawing pairings are more like notes on a sheet of music, creating a building chorus of sight and language as one navigates the room. The exhibition will be accompanied by a full set of Miller’s poetic series in a binder for the audience to view, as well as Miller’s recorded music for the audience to listen to while viewing the works.
Both poetry and abstract art are perhaps the two most difficult works of art to fully comprehend. By using both these practices at once, Miller’s works insist on avoiding the need to completely understand what either a poem or a drawing means on their own, and places the emphasis on what the viewer is willing to take from the experience of reading and seeing in that moment in time. They give the viewer two ways to understand Miller’s bridging of silent means of communication. Drawing the viewer in without completely giving away their full intentions, these works are in some ways an homage to the Enlightenment-era notion of the memory of art: if you can put it into words, there was a place for it in your heart. These works in all senses form a measured tapestry of an artist’s memories and emotional history – a diary of a poetic life, detailing moments not so easily forgotten.