Halfway up the grand staircase of Trowbridge Town Hall, where it splits into left or right, my daughter, permanently two paces ahead of me, asked me which way now. I’d noted a sign to the art exhibit I’ve been aching to check out, so I called it. Problem was, the show is called “Up,” to which her only rejoinder could’ve been, “yes, I know it’s up, but which way?!!”
If I had reservations about the unpredictably positive response in asking if she wanted to come, being sports is her thing and creativity perhaps not so much, it was only that she might drag me around Usain-Bolt-going-for-gold fashion. Key to my pitch was that, essentially, the most appropriate movement in which to pigeonhole artist Tom Miller was street art, secondarily only to the fact she was “bored, with nothing better to do anyway!”
But it’s not her incentive on entry which is important here, rather her reaction inside the exhibit, and if she enjoyed it, which she did, anyone with a mere slither of a passing interest in art will we wowed by this show. For me, it was up my street and knocking loudly on my door.
Native to Trowbridge, Tom Miller exhibits at his hometown until 20th August, not long left to pay it a worthy visit. For yeah, Miller typically uses spray paint as street artists do, but only as a base for these canvases. He thickly layers acrylics and oils over it, amalgamating mediums as much as influences, in explosions of colour and meticulous and intricate detail. The result is staggering.
Swirls of psychedelia snake your eyes across them, akin to underground comix or yore, and in particular S. Clay Wilson. They can be themed darkly, with elements of cyberpunk, or lighter, fine art, impressionism is at play too. Yet there’s a nod to pop art, capturing humorous elements, wide-ranging themes from flowers to ice creams, and contemporary cultural icons, such as The Simpsons can be discovered on closer examination. Then, as you pan out, you begin to focus on a central point, the composition vortexes into a subject, often random, but themed to suit the surroundings. It is also a clear running concept to repeat the central subject atop the first, but slightly smaller in scale, and perhaps the topper most of one below, larger, like a play with a hall of mirrors.
Apt to mention a hall of mirrors, as there’s generally something fairground going on here, if the repetition of the central subject is cubist, it would be like viewing cubist art whilst on the waltzer. On a few occasions the subject can feel tangible, as fine art, expressionism, but with Miller’s style brashly expanding the realms of normality, somewhere along the lines. For this, and the running theme of these scaled duplications, Edvard Munch meets Marcel Duchamp in Salvador Dali’s studio, as the lines of expressionism, futurism and surrealism blur into dada in such a way only pop artists could’ve dreamed of.
But, as I said, if your knowledge of art doesn’t stretch to the influences and movements I’ve cited, none of it really matters, as why I contemplated René Magritte, my daughter also examined the concepts and discovered subjects. Like a Where’s Wally book, you could circle this exhibit twenty times and still discover something you’d not noticed before in these canvases.
Added to the pieces, there’s some sublime charcoal sketches, showing his workings and thought process. There’s also a bio, with printed matter showing the various private commissions and frescos which obviously couldn’t come to the exhibit, for quintessentially, Miller is a street artist, and in Bristol and round and about Trowbridge there’s some excellent examples. The brilliant finale to this show is, once you’ve left, you can make a beeline to Stallard Street to find such a wall with Miller’s art displayed, and in the same ethos as what’s on display inside. This added an extra dimension to the enthralling exhibit.
Plus, I’m pleased to say, Usain-Bolt had no influence over my daughter’s pace through the show, she took her time, examined everything and came out with some exceptionally precise observations. This is ideal to enthuse a non-art lover equally as much as one who is, as good street art does, but with the extra dimension of this influx of various art movement influences. Go see it, but hurry; it’s only running until 20th August!
Not forgoing Trowbridge Town Hall is a friendly place, where I gossiped and namedropped to the man on reception. There’s a vast and amazing array of events planned over the coming months, from the yoga classes to the PSG Choir and from Moo Moo Music for little ones to an impressive gig line up from the likes of Will Lawton & the Alchemists on 11th September, Onika Venus on 18th, Juice Menace on 25th, and on the list goes on….
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