'Photo-encaustics' - Kevin Miles' artist statement and info.
Graduating with BA (hons) in Film, I later worked in film and television and as a freelance photographer for several years in London and Rome. Then in 2003, I completed Art and Design teacher training (PGCE) at Goldsmiths College, London and I worked as a secondary school art teacher, also in London; developing my own practice at the Prince’s Drawing School in the printmaking studio and painting courses. Then in 2009, I moved to New Zealand and lived in Otautau, a small town in Western Southland. From January 2010, I was the photography tutor on the film and photography/visual arts Bachelor’s Degrees at the Southern Institute of Technology, Invercargill. In February 2016, I completed a Master’s Degree in Fine Art (photography) at Otago Polytechnic. In early 2018, I moved to Wellington to begin a practice-based PhD in Fine Arts, at Massey University in Wellington.
My PhD research aims to explore photography’s materiality as a medium of representation, to extend theories and notions around photographic ‘object-hood’. Its focus is on our current understanding of the photographic image-as-object within contemporary art practice. This research takes a particular interest in the material of photography, not just visually but as a process or principle of practice. My research aims to explore a ‘new materialist turn’ in photography to reflect upon analogue processes, but also go beyond some of its limitations through processes of transmutation.
This year I became interested in the painting technique of encaustic, originating over 2000 years ago in ancient Greece, and used by the Roman-Egyptians of the 1st Century, in funeral portraits. This process combines natural beeswax, resin, pigment and heat to fuse together translucent layers. Encaustic means literally to ‘burn in’. Malaysian dammar resin and beeswax are melted together, to give the wax strength. Traditionally, this painting medium is regarded as a method of ‘suspending light and pigment’, similar to under-painting in oils. The encaustic medium became all but obsolete until the mid-twentieth century saw resurgence with artists such as Jasper Johns who exploited its translucency, texture, and mixed media/collage capabilities to produce Flag (1954). More recently it has been used as a versatile cross-disciplinary medium. In this body of work, chemigram derived images have been re-produced on semi-translucent Japanese rice paper and fused between layers of translucent encaustic and pigment. The resulting mixed-media works have an origin in photographic phenomena but yet are far removed from that original format. The original film chemigrams are also exhibited on the light-boxes and demonstrate the degree of transmutation within this practice.
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