Positivity comes more easily to some than it does to others. For Byron Bay artist Diana Miller, optimism runs through her veins and spills out of her into her work. A self-declared ‘happy person by nature’, Diana says she always finds the good in people and in situations.
Her latest series of works, fittingly titled ‘An Antidote to Gloom’ channels all the goodness we’re craving more of, and the sunshine we’re constantly searching for. You’ll find notes of happiness in Diana’s collages where layers of golden hues fold and overlap, or in her paintings where solid blocks of deep ochre or bright yellow stretch out before your eyes.
If this series shows us anything, it’s that optimism can be shared; passed from one person to another – in this case, through art. Whether you need it or not, there’s a little bit of joy here in this Artist in Focus and it’s yours for the taking. You’ll find it simply by reading our chat with Diana (her uncomplicated, happy outlook on life is infectious) and in each of her sunny works.
You’ve named this series ‘An Antidote to Gloom’. It’s such a wonderful concept and something we’re sure will resonate with many people. What messages are hidden within this series of work?
During times like this it is very easy to lose the ability to find goodness and joy in the world, but I believe it is the small gifts from nature or the simple delights of a taste, sound or sight that can bring us back into presence and into a place of optimism.
I worked with yellow as my base colour, because to me yellow represents sunshine and positivity. Taking inspiration from this golden hue, I want these works in turn to inspire others to find the things in their everyday lives that lift their spirits. I want these works to operate as little beacons of light, to transport the viewer away from the ever-present doom and gloom of the current Covid state. It is easy to get overwhelmed and feel like we are stuck in this thing forever. So in the meantime, I want to encourage people to choose to find joy and beauty in the everyday.
Essentially the underlying message is a simple one of hope and optimism for the future. For this hard time too shall pass.
What is it about the colour yellow? Has it always been a colour that has inspired you?
I have always been an optimist and for as long as I can remember yellow has been my favourite colour. I even had a yellow bedroom as a teenager, including yellow curtains, a yellow light shade and a lattice wallpaper with yellow flowers (what was I thinking?). Even now yellow elements are spotted throughout my home.
You can’t help but be uplifted by yellow’s warm glow, and as a painter, there are so many yellows to choose from. As you mix them with deeper tones you also get the array of beautiful mustards and ochres which I adore too.
We just love how you play with shape and texture in such a cohesive way. Tell us, when did you start using collage and how important is collage in your practice?
Collage has been an integral part of my practice for over 15 years, although the content of what I collage has changed drastically over that time. Collage is a vital component of my practice as I use it to create compositions and to find my way into my paintings. I love the uncontrived nature of collage and how you can re-imagine an image by breaking it up and putting it back together.
Some of your lines are executed with such precision, others are fluid. What is it that tells you what a specific works needs in terms of colour or form? Is it instinct?
I would say it is most definitely instinct. I will either keep my lines super sharp if I am working on something geometric like “Lemon Pie” or “Golden Gate” where I am using sliced, painted paper to construct an image.
If I am painting, I try to keep my lines “alive” which means they may have a bit of a wobble, or an unevenness to their quality, which I believe makes the work more interesting.
So much of your optimism and cheerfulness filters through into your work, especially in this series. How have you managed to maintain your upbeat attitude this year?
I think I’m just a cruisy, happy person by nature. I always find the good in people and in situations and somehow have an ability to always stay positive.
I live in a very idyllic part of the world in Byron Bay where we are mostly quite unaffected by what has been taking hold of the rest of the world. I have the beach, the sunshine and the blue skies to keep me positive, and my art practice brings me complete purpose and peace which I think is key for finding meaning in life.
I surround myself with positive people and limit my exposure to the media. My husband always asks if he can come and live in my bubble with me; maybe that is how I manage to stay upbeat?