Artist Deenagh Miller paints the aftermath of war. Not the lightning-fast explosions, bullets and fires that shatter people’s lives, but the quiet pain afterwards. Broken houses, limbs, lives and dreams.
Her latest exhibition is hosted by the Bath Royal Literary & Scientific Institution, its genteel honey stone façade a bland wrapping for the disturbing images within. In a foreign country far away, a family stand mute in the ruins of their home. A man hugs his brother. Is he relieved to see the hero return from war, or is he clutching a corpse? We can’t know. Similarly, the small child hooked up to a life support machine is blurred at the edges, fading away, or perhaps already dead. The ambiguity adds to the nightmare these innocents endure.
Many of Deenagh’s other paintings are dark and brooding, often with a fairytale quality but always hinting at secrets below the surface. Here, emotions are written on the subjects’ faces: love, loss and even acceptance. Family, friends and medics pick up the pieces long after the fighters have moved on.
Fearing that war was about to break out, Deenagh began this body of work in 2001. She decided there was only one way to make a difference: by using her painting skills to show others the damage war causes. Her oil paintings and her monochromatic drawings (starkly picked out in pen and ink and charcoal) are indeed powerful media. I defy anyone to see them without shedding a tear for the desperate plight of the victims of conflict.
Deenagh’s paintings, together with abstracts by Brian Goodsell, are on display at the Bath Royal Literary & Scientific Institution until 24 November 2015. More of Deenagh’s work can be viewed in her online art gallery. The first instalment of her autobiography, The Adulterer’s Daughter, is available to buy from Amazon – it’s a gripping read, as dark and shocking as her artwork.