Realism Today Ambassador of the Week: Neil Miley
My life as an artist started in high school when I skipped technical drawing classes and crashed an art class instead. Despite my adherence to realist art, the teacher, Peter Powditch, a confirmed abstractionist, encouraged me. My heroes of art then were Tom Roberts and Arthur Streeton, but my opportunity to be an artist didn’t come until almost 40 years later. Perhaps fortunately, I left school early to help support my family, after my father suffered a stroke. At the time I doubt I would have had the persistence or support to become a full-time artist.
Finding myself as a painter was a slow process of a succession of drawing courses, portraiture classes, life drawing for years, and finally a bachelor of fine art and visual culture, finished in 2017. Scattered in all that has been a succession of trips to Europe and a deep interest in late-19th-century European art. Much of what is in my paintings comes from painters that nobody has heard of, such as Pelez, Bastien-Lepage, Dagnan-Bouveret; I even have a soft spot for J. W. Waterhouse. These artists influenced my technique and subject matter in the past but are now left behind as I move in my own independent direction.
My main interest now is in narrative painting, making commentary on social issues, and engaging my viewers to think about not just the painting but what they can see in the works. One aspect of my current work is the development of paintings around books, attempting to condense an entire book’s meaning into a single image. Portraiture is also a significant part of my practice and will remain so.
My paintings are executed in oils on wood panels. It’s a slow and steady process, on average taking two weeks per painting, but they are never really finished.
Additional Figurative Art by Realism Today Ambassador Neil Miley
This portrait, titled “Gulaga Ideas,” is of a local business owner in my small coastal community. The work encompasses her inner confidence, attachment to the beauty of the local area, and her tireless activity. The inclusion of the smile is my piece of rebellion against the conformist idea that painted portraits should never smile.
“Our Freedom” is a work promoting reflection on how illusory the western concept of freedom is. An array of many different character types all hemmed in by their reliance on an industrialized world. The use of both English and Chinese text plays a part that viewers have to work out for themselves. The work borrows from old and new, both in artistic and human terms.