Lewis Miller is an artist of little need for introduction. A St Kilda resident since 1979, Lewis’ still lifes and portraits grace the walls—if one is lucky—of many a home and state art gallery throughout Australia, as well as at the National Gallery and War Memorial in Canberra. His name, writ large in news headlines since his ‘Portrait of Allan Mitelman no 3’ won the Archibald Prize, Art Gallery of New South Wales, in 1998, carries a stature for painterly frankness that stands out, year after year, in the Australian art landscape.
It is with much thanks to Lewis that a small group of artists including Tom Alberts, Lisa Barmby, Gavin Brown and myself gathered at the Vale Street studios, where we drafted a letter of support for the alternative proposal of an arts library that will preserve the green space behind Christ Church, on Acland Street.
Lewis is pictured here in his studio, amidst a mosaic of mementoes of previous works, small canvases, photos of people dear to him, the jetsam of past paintings, halved pomegranates and frequent clusters of halved oysters, within a natural light tamed to allow rich pigments to bounce.
My thankfulness is especially due to Lewis, who was my life-drawing teacher at the Victorian College of the Arts in the late 80s. For during these classes I had what could be described as a kind of tic in my hand that would have me dig deep into a mark before shooting out then retreating, to shoot out and retreat over and over again to complete a drawing. While other teachers condemned this, Lewis kindly realised it wasn’t mannered but necessary. He let it be, as long as I worked hard at seeing. In other words, as a teacher, Lewis didn’t force uniformity, but encouraged individuality if steadfast and true. In this way, he taught us courage: the hallmark of any great teacher.
Lewis is on the Committee for Artists for Kid’s Culture that helps children, often in need, to enrich their lives. His book of elegant drawings, ‘Faces of the Genome’, published in April, 2018, by Cold Spring Harbor Laboratory Press, celebrates the scientists who mapped the genome. It can be purchased here.