This month’s 3, 3 and 3 guest is one of the most abundantly creative people I know. Miles Lowry lives and works in Victoria BC, Canada, but I met him in Ireland, where we were both in residence at the Tyrone Guthrie Centre. I vividly remember the day I had the privilege of visiting his studio. Swallows flew around the walls from painting to painting, or so it seemed to me, so beautifully had Miles captured their mercurial essence.
Miles has been exhibiting paintings and sculptures since 1981. His exhibitions Two Tribes and Rites and Passages and his series of cast fibre figures, Crucial Fragments, have established him as one of Western Canada’s most versatile contemporary artists. After receiving the People’s Choice Award at Artropolis in Vancouver, his work received national television coverage on CBC Artspots. He has been creating a collection of paintings based on travel and sanctuary and specifically his residencies at the Tyrone Guthrie Centre at Annaghmakerrig.
He wrote and co-directed Opium, for Bravo! CHUM Television, inspired by French poet Jean Cocteau, and in 2007 introduced the film at the Lincoln Centre, New York. His Bravo!FACT dance film Aisling: We Saw A Vision is based on an award-winning poem by Irish poet Liam Mac Uistin, and he is currently preparing Saint Cloud, a multimedia collection of his works on Cocteau.
A founding Artistic Co-Director for Suddenly Dance Theatre, Miles works in digital arts, sound design and new media. His second Bravo!FACT short, Guthrie Swims the Lake, based on famed theatre director Tyrone Guthrie, premiered on Canadian Television in 2010, and he is currently creating sound and visual design for Suddenly Dance Theatre’s Art of War.
As a painter, Miles recently presented Marks of Devotion, a collaboration of painting and text with calligrapher Georgia Angelopolous, and Saints of Circumstance, an ongoing collection of cryptic portraits.
Miles’s book Blood Orange (2008), based on the life of writer Paul Bowles, sits on my desk with a clutch of poetry collections that I love and dip in to from time time.
And now, over to Miles…
3 things you love about your work
1. I love how my artworks travel over time into people’s lives and hold meanings that I will never know. Occasionally I receive messages from people who have acquired my work. I also get emails with photos of my paintings over fireplaces, sculptures in specially built niches, and sometimes in isolation as the sole artwork in a room. These photos sent from afar connect me to the new world my pieces now inhabit. I imagine how the light may travel over their surfaces. I am reminded by these messages of how some works come back after a long absence and I have to get to know them again.
2. I love to experience the process of transforming materials into something surprising. My new series of painted sculptural figures are covered in tiny optical beads highly sensitive to variant angles of light. This allows for both a reflective and transparent surface, where the painting beneath becomes illuminated. The effect is transformational and suggests to me an alternative dream-body. There is no subject more significant for me because we have no other way to exist than through our bodies. We embody ourselves. I learned that we average about 2000 dreams a year. In dreams we rarely see ourselves but we recognise the presence of ourselves in others. Sometimes we experience the dream-body as ourselves. We are free to become both object and idea. With this new work I am considering the human body as a vehicle for dreams and as a potent symbol of our times, reminding us that our bodies are the vulnerable housing we are given.
3. I love to challenge the idea that an artist must be exclusive to a particular medium. I once thought I wanted to be a stone sculptor. I experienced the satisfaction the sculptor has of picking away at something until it is revealed. However, I have made only a half a dozen stone sculptures. Upon calculating the time, energy and risk of working in such a way, I then expanded into the world of clay—the giving and receiving medium that helps shape our functional lives and lends itself so well to the sculptor’s hand. Later I found the simple versatility of casting paper as both a painting and a sculptural medium. Now I am creating three-dimensional paintings. I change licence. I create in new ways. I feel free to create in any medium including ones yet to be discovered.
3 journeys you would like to make
1. I have always wanted to journey to Skellig Michael in Ireland because it sounds terrifying and beautiful—an island of stone rising straight out of the Atlantic, 630 rough-hewn steps climbing from the sea, a cluster of ancient dwellings at the top. It is terrifying because I fear heights but I long for the beauty of its isolation.
2. I hope to visit Morocco to experience now the world I wrote about in Blood Orange, my book about writer Paul Bowles. I wrote about Morocco as I experienced it through the lens of his writings and not my own experiences. Now I would like to experience the reverse. I want to walk where I imagined.
3. I would like to visit Rome, as I have only been there in the movies.
3 favourite places
1. Gustave Moreau Museum Paris, France
2. Dali’s house at Port Lligat on the Costa Brava, Catalonia
3. Annaghmakerrig at Newbliss, County Monaghan, Ireland
To see more of Miles’s work, go to his website