Responding to local news stories and personal (sometimes slightly traumatic!) experiences with a sprinkling of humour, David Miles creates seemingly innocent micro-worlds and their tales our of card and paper with a dark twist. Local history combines with autobiographical themes of fear and loss to create striking work, which quietly asks for the viewer’s careful attention. His mobiles, watercolours, prints and artist books have been exhibited internationally.
First of all I wanted to ask about your work generally, what themes do you pursue?
With regard to the mobiles: they actually came about from when my son was born and he had a mobile above his cot of 3 elephants, but seen from a certain angle, for me at least, they seemed to resemble skulls. So it had this playful/sinister aspect to it. At the time I was living in Buenos Aires, Argentina, and the first proper mobile I made was Shootout, which depicts a man getting caught in the crossfire between a policeman and a robber. This was a response to the time when I had returned home from one day and found out that there had been a shoot-out exactly where I had been five minutes before – it could have been me getting shot. Laying in bed at night, thinking about the possibilities of what could have happened, I realised that mobiles could be one way of expressing these alternative outcomes. Of putting elements of a story together but having the reading change according to the movement of the piece. From this there have been mobiles about personal fears (imaginary or real), about local news stories that have struck a chord in me, and about more generic themes (forests, lost highways..).
What about your other pieces, like the watercolours, what were the ideas behind them?
Narrative is very important to me too. The Lost cat posters came out of a project I did at Articule Gallery in Montreal where I made new work based on anonymous stories solicited from the neighbourhood. Being able to interpret the stories any way I wanted, be it mobiles, drawings or ceramics, was refreshing, and I enjoyed making links between characters in quite diverse narratives.
Last year I worked with Brighton Museum’s Fine Art collection of prints and drawings, using the selection I chose (and new work I produced in response) to suggest links between disparate images, offering up narrative possibilities but with no real definite storyline. I also worked with a local writer who gave his own interpretation on the images I was working with.
Do you see humour as an important part of your work too? For example, the Lost Cat series definitely seems to have a light-hearted feeling about it.
Humour is really important, it can help alleviate and also convey what are sometimes quite heavy themes. Also, it can provide a way in to the work.
Some of the work is inspired by news items or historical events, which have had some personal resonance with me, but I’m not trying to get any particular message across. I am just hoping that the work I make will also have a resonance with the viewer, however that may be; that spark of recognition or connection will be made.
And lastly, is there a reason for your choice of materials? How do they contribute to the overall look/effect that you want to achieve?
The materials I use are mostly basic card and paper, with no fancy/hidden techniques. The pieces are made well enough to communicate, but are not allowed to become overworked or decorative.
To see more of David’s work, click here.