The Great Escape gave Diana Miller an opportunity to look inwards. While painting from her Byron Bay studio, old memories resurfaced and she found herself returning to her youth. Not only did this give her an opportunity to escape through her work, but also reconnect with parts of herself she’d long forgotten.
“Making these memories ‘real’ with paint brought them back into my reality while allowing me to escape it at the same time,” Miller reflects.
Read our chat with Miller below, where we cover this exceptional body of work and how it helped Miller navigate a different time in her life. You can also head inside the studio with Diana through our Video Series and listen to Miller’s Studio Sounds playlist on Spotify.
Can you tell us about ‘The Great Escape’ and what these works represent to you? Are they a reflection of a specific time in your life?
These works represent my love for life, friendships, place and colour, and reference the ways we can escape our realities. Some capture memories of my youth, a time many years ago before moving to Australia, and before I was a wife and a mother.
Immigrating, getting married and having children definitely reshapes reality. Perhaps in a way these paintings are nostalgic captures of a time now long gone.
Last year, in the thick of lockdown here in Melbourne, you were our Artist in Focus with your series ‘An Antidote to Gloom’. That series was filled with optimism and brought a lot of welcome joy and escapism! Has any of that same sentiment filtered into this body of work?
Yes for sure. I cannot help but incorporate uplifting colour into my work. While these paintings are very different stylistically to ‘An Antidote to Gloom’, they are still founded on the same principles of shape-making, colour-combinations and composition.
If anything, these works just take that sentiment a bit further, with a lot more freedom and looseness in the mark-making and more boldness in the colour choices I have made. Times are hard at the moment, we are all a bit stagnant and anxious and maybe these works can jolt us out of that.
You’ve spoken about always trying to challenge yourself with your work, and explore new things – be that a theme or a colour palette. What did you delve into or uncover while painting ‘The Great Escape’?
Trying to keep the work fresh and free was one of my main goals which I think I managed to achieve in a few of these paintings. I can tend to overwork things, so this time, being able to step away from the work and call it finished was, to me, progress.
I also uncovered that working with my non-dominant hand lead to different results – I was forced to paint with my left hand after an injury to my right arm.
Making this work really helped to crystallise a lot of memories that I thought I had lost. Looking back on the works now I see them as yearnings for memories and times that exist now only in my mind. It is as if I needed to make these paintings to remind myself that life wasn’t always this restrictive and challenging. While I didn’t necessarily know what each piece was about while making it, the experiences I was unconsciously reminiscing about ultimately made their way into the work.
I think these paintings also represent coming to terms with the loss of my youth. Making these memories ‘real’ with paint brought them back into my reality while allowing me to escape it at the same time.