Adrien Miller makes functional beauty. Or, you could say, he makes beautiful ceramic works that aren’t just for looking at, but integrating into our daily lives. For Miller, beauty isn’t just an idea, but an energy that can improve wellbeing. There’s a particular feeling we get when we see something beautiful in an unexpected place and Miller’s works depict beauty - by medium and message - in truly unconventional ways.
I don’t mean unconventional in terms of subject matter per se, as his ceramics deal with the human form, particularly from the shoulders up in ways that we recognise. It isn’t the components of his work that divert from the expected, but the sum of all of its parts. Ceramics are the functional brother of sculpture - some iconic pieces being functional, others entirely ornamental - Miller’s sits comfortably in-between the two.
One of his standout pieces is a fruit bowl with a face protruding from the centre as if a figure is trapped beneath and trying to gracefully make its way out. It’s such an aesthetically pleasing object that it seems rather wasteful to cover it in fruit - yet it is in being covered in fruit that the bowl reaches an elevated status - beauty where we didn't expect to find it.
Miller’s ceramics don’t exist just to surprise though. The artist says he has a “need for making things that feel good to use in daily living.” Art in a contemporary context has become increasingly abstract, not only from geometric constraints but abstracted from our lived experience too. This American aims to realign them.
Art, historically, wasn’t just about being looked at or having our chins to stroke whilst pondering their meaning. No, art was the beautiful things in our everyday life captured in a novel way for the betterment of the environment it was displayed. Sculpture was particularly prevalent in antiquity, mainly for its ability to bear a tangible likeleness and presence - a mirror for us to revere all that is wonderous about the human form.
Much of the early decorative arts were made by a hybrid sort of person. Part artist, part craftsman, part handyman. The physical relationship that the audience enjoyed with these pieces came as an extension to the physical relationship the artist had with their own creation and there’s little more hands-on disciplines and materials than sculpture and clay.
Miller is conscious about the clay he uses, picking it up from other studios who’d otherwise throw it away. Well before the vision is materialised, Miller has begun a connection with his materials. Without sounding too New Age - this bond between artist and material translates into the kinetic energy and form of the finished product. His faces, never static like a bust sat on a plinth, are alive and rippling like a Rodin.
Although deeply imbued with the atmosphere of classical arts, Miller remains an outlier to either the old or the new. Both are present, sometimes together, in his sculptures. A recent example - a nude female figure taking a selfie in quarantine - exemplifies his approach. Although less functional than the cups, plates, bowls and vases - it’s testament to the young sculptor’s versatility and originality. Of which, there’s no doubt much more to come.
More like this:
Please, check your email.