Hilton Miller

Introduction by Nick Miller

As a painter and a son, It is both a privilege and a great pleasure to introduce my father’s work. I moved to Ireland in the 1980s and pursued a relatively public life as an artist, while my father, Hilton Miller maintained a modest and private relationship to his artistic practice in the London. As an artist he has worked in relative isolation for the last forty years, but painting daily with an absolute dedication. This year, 2011 marks his eightieth and remarkably it is also the first public exhibition of his work. This small publication is a start at a record and celebration of that life of painting. The opportunity to exhibit at the Highgate Literary & Scientific Institution seems particularly apt given his earlier career as a mathematician and because it is also a place of archive for the area he has lived since 1964. We would like to thank the society for agreeing to host the show at the Highgate Gallery.

I am very grateful to Aidan Dunne, painter and visual arts critic for the Irish Times for his insightful essay giving objectivity and context to my long held personal belief in the strength and relevance of my father’s work. One of the few benefits of ageing has been a ‘letting go’ of Hilton’s resistance to disturbance and exposure, giving me permission to root around his studio and make this small personal selection. As I write this, I uncovered a stack of another hundred or so paintings in a garage, that I am not even able to begin to address for this first show. This process has been a revelation, discovering the real depth and coherence of his journey as an artist. The paintings unfold with viewing and time as deeply considered dialogues with the language of colour hung on an armature of landscape– equations resolved in their own terms.

He began painting in the early 1970s after walking away from a growing academic career as a statistician at Cambridge and Birkbeck College at the University of London. He had been highly regarded for coming up with some significant mathematical “pearls” and solutions, and co-writing a book
The Theory of Stochastic Processes that is still a bench line text in it’s field. He became uncomfortable with the pressure to “publish or perish” believing that publication should follow discovery of a true ‘pearl” rather than a need to fuel academia. He left to become a consultant statistician for the Insurance industry and began drawing and painting. As his interest grew, he began to work part-time to enable him to devote himself to painting. His approach to art mirrored the purity of his understanding of mathematics, not seeking a ‘career’ which he felt would disturb and interfere with the crucible of true discovery in the studio, but to work with reserved and persistent dedication towards silent painted solutions. His somewhat unorthodox, quiet and hermetic way of life was made possible through the support of Riva, his wife, who lives and works with parallel vigour in the outer world.

The walls of his studio are littered with his personal colour notations, and almost impenetrable colour wheels of his own design about which I often joked with him could make his name in the contemporary art world. There are few painters I know who have had his knowledge and precision in colour mixing. In my mid–teens, I began using oils around the same time that he was establishing a serious studio in the house and capitalised throughout my career from his example of studio discipline. More important than the physical approach to the studio, the real legacy for me is in what I learnt from his extraordinary ability to pay little heed to the outer world, to focus entirely on the work so that the primacy of meaning is held in the activity of painting. It may also be true that both my brother Peter, a film editor and I unconsciously followed his example of life transformation, jumping untrained from other careers and disciplines into the arts.

This selection focuses on the French and Irish Landscapes that are mostly post 2000 from a particularly fruitful period, but also a few earlier pieces that can only hint at his development. I have included for the catalogue some other images from the studio and paintings that I feel give some context. I hope that others find the uniqueness and concentration of his vision as compelling as I do myself.

January 2011