– Art by John Miles
– Text by Robert Beer
As a naturally gifted draughtsman with great technical versatility, John Miles wielded the brush with dexterity, speed and confidence. Figuratively, he was able to draw from life without any apparent struggle to render the form he observed. Nature Herself was his real teacher, and the sublimity of form displayed in nature, such as leaf and stem structures, tidal patterns, seashells, galaxies, waves, water, and the naked human form were the primal sources from which he drew. In his youth, he was greatly influenced by a book entitled Sensitive Chaos, written by Theodor Schwenk, a student of Rudolf Steiner, who explored the natural forms that permeate both the microcosm and macrocosm. This natural sublimity is revealed in the amorphous molecular and cellular forms that spatially constellate John’s compositions, with all the refined grace of the finest Islamic calligraphy. He once astonished a visiting Japanese Zen Master by spontaneous replicating his highly formulated brushstrokes with rapier-like precision.
Of particular impact are John’s intricate circular mandala paintings, which represent the apex of his visionary skill, devotion and patience. Some of these large canvases took several years to complete, and he would repeatedly return to them after periodic forays into smaller works, or disastrous romantic adventures. ‘Synaesthesia’, meaning the ‘crossing of the senses,’ was a word John always prefixed to these compositions, which in many ways evokes their titles better than any other, for essentially they are a sumptuous, sensual, spatial interplay of form, colour and line.
These paintings were executed on raw unprimed Irish linen canvas, with an amorphous nebula of sprayed synthetic dye forming the dark surface on which a multitude of ‘passages’ could play in acrylic, gouache and oil colours. The spatial relationships of these passages resulted in the illusion of deep visual perspectives and tonal harmonies, which are as structured in their chaotic sensitivity as the scored musical notation of any great classical composition. His used a unique artistic vocabulary, a highly intelligent visual language of grace notes and poetic lines. Like Blake, common sense made him poignantly aware that each little flower is a product of ages, and that eternity is in love with the products of time. Or, as Picasso once replied to some art critics who were discussing the development of his work, “I do not evolve. I am!” This is the work of John Miles for our appreciation, but whatever one may think, he was more than that.
John Francis Beverley Miles was born in Cardiff, South Wales, in September 1944. From an early age he was confident and self-assured, nurtured in his mother’s love and his father’s radical individuality. The world was a joyous cosmology, ripe for discovery and artistic exploration. In his youth he wrote, “The least that I am going to attain is the Sun.” He was a master of games, quizzes and puzzles, an accomplished etymologist and horticulturalist who knew the Latin names of countless species. He took great delight in the nickname of ‘Rasputin’ that his doctor bestowed on him, with his Herculean body, freckled skin, red beard, demonic laugh, and his long gracefully curving tobacco pipe that echoed the calligraphy of his brushstrokes and handwriting. Like all artists of the soul’s code, of life itself, John had to grapple with this spiritual dilemma, of the dualism between the notion of a self and its total absence.