Featured Artist: South African Digital Artist Karin Miller

Featured Artist: South African Digital Artist Karin Miller

A personal new favorite, Karin Miller is our featured artist this week. Completely blown away by her brilliant work. Get to know her a little more.

Karin Miller didn’t have to do much soul-searching to realise that she was an artist. Inspiration found her early in life, and as a child she found herself absorbed in drawing and creating cut-and-paste collage. She spent her childhood as an introverted dreamer, inspired by everything from Marvel comics to Bible illustrations.

Karin was born and educated in Pretoria, South Africa. After studying graphic design at TUT, she worked as a graphic designer in Johannesburg for 15 years, before returning to leafy, sub-tropical Pretoria, creating a garden-sanctuary for herself and her family as she started exploring the then-new world of digital art.

My work is a visual play between beauty and tragedy, rhythm and interruption – searching for a sense of order in the overwhelming chaos of life. Two main metaphors I use are those of disguise and pattern. Apart from the obvious masks, I play games of hide and seek with the viewer. Issues are veiled; in the discovery of detail, deceit is revealed and absurdly inverted.

She fully immersed herself in the medium after taking a course in Photoshop in 2001. For her earliest projects, she took old family photos, bringing long-forgotten people back to life in surreal, dreamy settings.

A pioneer of the digital style and medium in South Africa, Karin disregarded the former tentative attitudes that digital mixed media art received from exhibitors, drawing on childhood experiences of making collages and intricate artworks from magazine cut-outs in perfecting her idiosyncratic aesthetic. As can be seen today, her indifference to this stance from the artistic community has paid off, making her a forerunner in the field and an inspiration for young artists.

My art deals with the typically South African ability to laugh at ourselves, and consequently, to play and take risk. Playfulness is seen in the variety of patterns. The first layer of observation reveals simple decorativeness, but closer looking introduces the heroes who are the personalities that are either super good or super bad. In this lie the acidic hero or smug tyrant and bedfellow of the sad footman. 

In the early to mid 2000s, when political commentary was reserved for a select few, Karin’s art gave her a unique voice in delivering commentary about South African society, history and politics. Her colourful, often playful depictions of momentous societal issues had as many layers of meaning and significance as they had layers of digital manipulation. Woman’s rights, racial equality, ethnicity, beauty, vanity and religion were frequently addressed, embellished with a unique South African flair through the presence of indigenous flora, symbols of the local lifestyle and familiar faces.

Never one for the mainstream, Karin veered away from political commentary when social media turned everyone into an “activist”. Instead, she decided to focus instead on the intricacies of nature, patterns and unexpected beauty, as can be seen in her more recent work – although societal commentary often still makes a subtle appearance every now and then.

For Karin Miller, art is not merely an act of escapism, but a multi-layered journey of thought and reason. Karin does not pretend to have the answers, but relishes in asking questions about life and beauty. Although seeking solutions to these questions is not an outright motive of her art, she has honed her stylistic voice and media in such a way that inquisitive minds can feel themselves drawn towards pursuing the answers in the subtle details and iconography of her work.

Celebrities and political figures form, in a broader sense, the wallpaper background of our lives. In masking a sense of defeat and despair, all is structured in order, attempting to create sanity and in this, beauty is given the trump card. Beauty affirms our sense of comfort, which is visualized by balance and symmetry and presents us with a sense of warm reassurance. However, my works simultaneously seek out comfort’s opposite side of uneasiness and thus creates tension – as a result a sting is revealed. My cloned icons are cyber creatures that are comfortable with their awkward antics. The play on sexuality and it’s striving towards physical perfection becomes not only seduction in the realm of personal politics but the mask of all our devious underhanded games. At times my characters exchange humble gifts, and in a way, I feel the stab at our bizarre world is the console I give myself.

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