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Monday, 7 February 2011

Faith and Fabian Miller

Sometimes we come to revelatory conclusions in life, only to realise that they are simple and universal. Recently somebody warned me that everybody needs Faith in something and I can't help asking myself, what do I have Faith in? If it is not God or Love, then what magic word can I attribute to my feeling of Faith and Spirituality in the world?

At the Shadow Catchers Symposium Marina Warner, the intellectual goddess, began the day with a lecture on the histories and contexts of Camera-less photography; phantasmagoria, magic lanterns, silhouettes. This practice was revealed to be steeped in superstitions, it explores the limits of faith and belief by capturing shadows and stealing souls. She showed us the thought projection of Hipolyte Baroduque but told us that the interest of the 'odique clouds' did not lie in the question of their authenticity. Our modern condition is of the 'disbelieving believer' she stated with absolute insight, 'we enjoy without suspending our disbelief'.
She quoted Wallace Stevens, an American modernist poet who I am now desperate to pursue;

'The final belief is to believe in a fiction, which you know to be a fiction, there being nothing else. The exquisite truth is to know that it is a fiction and that you believe in it willingly.'

Marina Warner's words chimed on with growing significance as Philosopher Nigel Warburton interviewed Garry Fabian Miller. 'I was involved with a religious phase, but thank God that's past,' Miller immediately sees the irony but continues, 'Now I'm a free spirit'. Through all the laughter and all the uncomfortable irony, this resonates. Artistic freedom, and also freedom more generally does not reconcile with my idea of religion.

Nigel Warburton christens him a 'photographer of light' but this underplays the sense of spirituality. In his own words, Garry Fabian Miller has made 'a religion out of light', he 'dedicates' himself 'to the light'.

Fabian Miller works alone in complete darkness transforming light in to dark and darkness in to light in an attempt to reach towards the 'white dematerialised end' of the spectrum. Like all artists he seeks that indefinable spirituality which belongs to our work and our passion for it. 'It is your work in life that is the ultimate seduction', wrote Picasso, it is also the ultimate, all-consuming religion. This is why the Symposium was so brilliant; I had not conceived these things at the exhibition. I had not comprehended what a claim was being made about faith and contemplative art practice.

'The pictures I make are of nothing which exists in the world . . . What I am trying to suggest is a state of mind which lifts the spirits and gives strength and some kind of clarity.’_ Garry Fabian Miller, 2003

And yet his pictures are also of the plants in his garden, his walks on Dartmoor. However abstract these things become their presence remains as a shadow. If Miller has created a religion in his art it is the religion of the local and the particular. It describes the power of the local to lift us in to the sublimely spiritual. The meditation of light on a leaf or the water of Dartmoor become abstract constellations, planetary formations and orbits of light. These small things become our universe. I look in to these works of light and I willingly believe Garry Fabian Miller's fiction.

There is a kind of Faith which rests in the beauty of the world as it is. A courageous Faith perhaps? Which looks no further than the magic of leaves dancing in the wind, the natural lights of the stormy sky and the secret rhythms of water. This is my Faith; art looks at the world through a filter, which sees beyond the visible to the sublime. A sublime which already exists in the world but that is beyond the visible eye. Looking on the world with my eyes in light I know that if there is nothing more, this is enough.

Enough, enough now...


  1. There is something profound about these wonderful pictures- a sense of the infinite.

  2. 'The earth is the Lord's, and everything in it,
    the world, and all who live in it.' (Psalm 24)

    The world is beautiful; imagine how much more beautiful the God who made it is. Just like the beauty (or emotive power, or whatever it might be) of art cannot exist without, and reveals something of, the artist. You love the art of Marina Warner - you go in search of the woman. You love the beauty of the world - why not search for its creator?

  3. I don't believe that God created the world and so my search would be something very different.

  4. What a profound post.
    I believe that if 'God' did have some play in creating the earth, then he created everything that is so beautiful and magical to us, and that he created these little things for a reason, for us to appreciate them. And maybe that is all. Maybe 'God' just wanted us to find beauty in life, maybe he hasn't bothered with creating an amazing heaven beyond life, because everything we have here is already lovely.
    Why should we spend our lives in search of something. There is so much to see and do and appreciate already, and not enough time to do it. I am satisfied with life, and earth, and the magic of everyday. I don't need to know who or why. And I don't need any more.
    Sometimes religion teaches us not to value our physical lives and that we will never be complete until we find/meet God and Jesus etc. But I think that's just really depressing, and not very positive.
    So in essence, yes, enough, enough now...

  5. really interesting post, thanks for it.

  6. I love the grid of Silver Dollar (Lunaria) leaves at various stages of maturity. Beautiful.