British sculptor Sam Orlando Miller grew up surrounded by silver and the highly skilled practitioners of the family silversmithing business. Using craftsmanship as a means of thinking, and resolving issues through the manipulation of materials, is therefore second nature to him.
He uses mirror, he says, because it is part of a lexicon of materials which people readily understand, and he is clearly at ease with the creative use of the silvered surface. “The skill of working with silver”, he says, “is the understanding of reflection. When you make an object in silver you need to know how it captures the world around it.” He made his first wall mirror piece to infuse a rather dark place in his home in Italy with modulated, reflected light, and the discovery that these forms had the power to animate spaces has led him to develop further wall-mounted sculptures, lighting, and tables.
For his Untitled series, Miller has devised a distinct, restrained palette of colours, shapes and surface treatments, in various materials: mahogany; lacquer; silver plate; combined with cut and patinated mirror-glass. The shapes are geometric, tessellating into illusionistic images, receding drums, and cylinders, influenced by the architecture of his adopted Italy. These speak of antique luxury, and their faceted forms are reminiscent of jewels, whose surfaces are cut to expose an internal order and beauty.
Miller has retained an exploratory attitude to materials, delighting in fresh rediscoveries of the very old, such as the recipe for bituminous black paint which was used on the original Model T Ford, and shellac found in the basement of an old Italian hardware shop, mixed with collected rust. He contrasts found patinated material with carefully applied new patinas, as a comment on the transient nature of cultural objects. Evidence of the process of making, such as tool marks on his rusted steel chandeliers and the cursive numbering retained on the mirror facets, sometimes remains as a motif. The narratives such traces imply are seamlessly incorporated into the works, which thus appear ancient, having had a life of their own in the making.
Sam Orlando Miller divides his time between London and Italy. His work is held in private collections worldwide.
© Sara Roberts