Ali Miller: Brave Soldier and Black Butterfly

The mixed media artist creates collage pieces using her late father's black and white photography.

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North London-based artist Ali Miller, is currently exhibiting her new series of photography-based work ‘Brave Soldier and Black Butterfly’ at Liberty of London. The black and white photographs on display were taken by Miller’s father and Miller has layered and juxtaposed a mixture of collage and screen-printed images over these pictures. Born out of the artist’s very personal experience of losing her father to cancer, the collaboration becomes a cross-generational conversation between father and daughter; a third space where questions of family, history and identity come together.

Dazed Digital: Tell us about your background.
Ali Miller:
I went to Camberwell to do my foundation and then I studied fine art at Brighton. Since then, I've been trying to make a living, I thought that everything would be lovely in retail and decided to get into windows.

DD: How would you describe your work?
Ali Miller:
My style is very domestic and that’s why I insist that everything I use has to be from the family home. I have old dresses that I have screen-printed on; I’ve taken the family table and collaged on top... I've basically ruined my mum’s house! I don’t talk about politics, I talk about my family and a little religion... my identity as a Jew living in England.

DD: Tell us about the series of work currently on display at Liberty.
Ali Miller:
When my dad was sick, he told me to go to the garage and hunt for these albums. I knew that I wanted to work with them. I wanted to work with him and honour his work, but also put my stamp on the work by screen-printing on them. His photographs were real history insomuch as some of the photographs were taken in Israel during the Six Day War. The images that I chose to screen-print were things that I found in my children’s books. In retrospect, it was almost like were having a conversation that we never had.

DD: What is the significance of the black butterfly?
Ali Miller
: The black butterfly is about me getting darker, but knowing that a butterfly changes. Ultimately, everything that I make, I want to look beautiful, even if it is dark in nature. I did some violent work as a reaction to my father’s death, but I think that they still looked beautiful. I would like to leave a little bit of hope.

DD: Do you have any plans to develop this series of work?
Ali Miller:
I think the images that I’ve collaged feel very English and it would be interesting to go to Israel and perhaps use very different images from my Grandmother's house. It would be interesting to go to some of the same spots that my dad went to, and for me to photograph those places the same way he did.

DD: Do you have any future exhibitions planned?
Ali Miller:
I’m going to show a different body of work in the Women’s area of Liberty’s in August and I’m going to show at Virgin in the first-class lounge in Euston, and also in the Jewish cultural centre next May.

'Brave Soldier and Black Butterfly will be on display at Liberty’s menswear department until the 20th June to commemorate and celebrate the life of the artist’s father, who died of cancer in April 2008, and a contribution will be given to Macmillan Cancer Support.
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