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Lancashire Times
A Voice of the North
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Caroline Spalding
Features Correspondent
10:14 AM 17th August 2020

Artistry Of Lancashire – Rob Miller

Brown Barn, Edgeworth
Brown Barn, Edgeworth
A viewer is awed by the immediate beauty of the landscape and seascape paintings of artist Rob Miller. His scenes, depicting landscapes from Lancashire and the North of Britain to the juxtaposing settings of Northern Europe, Spain and Iceland, are created predominantly using oil paint. Oil paint, Rob explains, can be used in multiple ways, creating lush colours and effects which suggest the feel of the landscape beneath your feet, or the anticipation of a forthcoming storm. Robs seeks to explore the existence of himself in that place, in that moment through living the experiences visually in paint.

Farm Mill Houses, OldhamFarm Mill Houses, Oldham
Brown Barn FarmBrown Barn Farm
Rob also produces work using watercolour, charcoal and mixed media. In every place he chooses to paint, Rob senses a feeling, an emotion – what the landscape might feel if it were a sensory entity. He is attracted by the visual impression of a scene, then seeks to determine what feelings the landscape emits, or inspires within the observer. Over time he has come to be able to use paint to describe this emotion with colour, tone or mark but he is always aware that paint itself is an independent force: it will create its own nuances, imprinting its own identity on to a canvas.

Working to combine the above factors into a shared narrative, Rob chooses his scenes based on his personal experience of them: on a walk, during a sailing trip, or garnered in a moment of meditation. He focuses on the small feelings: the peace of a shaded woodland, the vibrancy of a wildflower field on a summer evening, or the ray of sunshine that escapes from behind a bank of cloud to illuminate the incoming sea.

He also explores how landscape is affected by external factors, be it the changing season, or the remnants of human industry that scatter across the landscape. His latest exhibition, at Water Street Gallery, Todmorden, explores the pieces of history that resiliently endure. In a world where historic rural dwellings and field systems are being bulldozed and concreted over for the sake of progress, there are pieces of the past that remain – like an old miner’s house, or place names that suggest what might once have been. Rob has recorded these places in a series of paintings that form the new collection: a focus on the industrial and agricultural heritage of the Pennine region, comprising mines, mills, farms and quarries.

Farms and Mills, BlackburnFarms and Mills, Blackburn
Lead Mine Clough, AnglezarkeLead Mine Clough, Anglezarke
Rob’s work has often been described as Post-Impressionist, or that of a Colourist. He was indeed originally inspired to paint after finding a small library of illustrated books on Cezanne, Claude Monet and the Impressionists; struck particularly by their use of colour, how it conveyed meaning and emotion. His father, George Miller was also an influence by dint of their conversations on art: he was a keen amateur painter and member of Blackburn Artists. Later Rob would discover the prose and poetry of Rilke, Jaccottet, Federica Lorca and Ted Hughes; whose work gave an emotive and existential, land based narrative which Rob drew upon to explore the relationship between man and the landscape.

Working and exhibiting alongside landscape painters of Spain, France, Germany and Portugal has helped Rob to piece together all the combining influences, contributing to the jigsaw that defines who he is as an artist. But the puzzle is never complete and new influences add pieces that will find their place. Recently Rob has studied the work of Scottish artist Joan Eardley, known for her portraiture of Glaswegian street children and her landscapes of the North-East coastline and the Welsh artist Kyffin Williams; acknowledged as a prolific and influential painter whose work depicted the natural beauty of the Welsh landscape and the rural, agricultural lifestyles of its inhabitants. For Rob their work appears to “ingrain (itself) into the very soil of Scotland and Wales” and he hopes he could do the same for his corner of Lancashire and the North West.

The influence of Lancashire’s landscape, drawn from a love conceived during long, Sunday walks with the Blackburn Ramblers as a teenager, still resonates profoundly within his work. His favourite vistas are the view of the Lake District from Blackpool’s North Shore, from Jeffrey Hill across the Ribble Valley and surrounding the river Hodder in the Forest of Bowland.

Like many, Rob sought comfort in walking during lockdown; and he too experienced a slow-down in the pace of life which affected his own work. At the same time, however, he saw an upsurge in interest from the public towards his paintings. There are fewer galleries open in the North and less opportunity for people to see and explore the work of Lancashire and Yorkshire artists. Rob urges people to visit the galleys were the liquid velvet shine of oils or the pattern of marks made by brush or palette knife have a richness which you don’t see in a photograph on-line. Going to events and initiatives such as Painting Padiham and Create Longridge play a key role in taking the work of local creators direct to the public and the public themselves getting involved in making a painting themselves. Rob and many Northern artists do regular workshops and demonstrations to local art groups.

As many will have discovered during the lockdown period, creating art for yourself is a great way to ease stress and pass the time in an engaging and peaceful manner.

Rob’s work is exhibited at Longridge Gallery ( https://www.longridgegallery.co.uk/ ) The Picture House, Padiham (https://www.facebook.com/phgallerypadiham/) Water Street Gallery, Todmorden ( https://www.waterstreetgallery.co.uk/en/ ) and the AC Gallery in Skipton, Wigan, Leyburn, Kendal, Huddersfield and Harrogate. Rob’s work can also be viewed online: https://www.instagram.com/robartmiller/ https://www.facebook.com/RobMillerArtStudio/ and http://www.robmillerartist.org/