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Peter Miller was born in the Waikato in 1955. After moving to Auckland, Miller studied life drawing with Peter Waddell and Matthew Browne at Outreach (Art Station) from 1993 to 1995 before attending Manukau Institute of Art & Design and graduating in 1998 with a Diploma of Visual Arts.
Miller's work traces its theoretical origins to the Northern European tradition of 'Vanitas' painting, most prevalent amongst Flemish and Netherlandish artists of the 16th and 17th century. The Latin translation of 'Vanitas' encompasses the conceptof moral emptiness in relation to vanity and the coveting of material possessions. The spiritual ramifications of this notion led the Vanitas painters to express these concerns through symbolicelements in their work. As such, Vanitas painting is distinguished by its use of emblems such as the bare human skull to comment onthe transient nature of life, the inevitability of mortality and the futility and insignificance of mankind's pursuits in the face ofthe endless passing of time.
Miller's work draws its impetus from the concepts of the Vanitas tradition, but the heavy moral symbolism that characterised the Vanitas genre is tempered by Miller's concern with its philosophical, spiritual and religious implications. Where Vanitaspainters treated their subject matter as a warning of the ramifications of vanity, Miller holds up his subject matter as something to be desired: an object of sentimentality as well as metaphorical comment. Painting simple and common objects such as Crown Lynn china sets and Fun-Ho toys, Miller offers these objects up to the nostalgic gaze. Meanwhile, the damage, wear and patina ofthe objects within Miller's works indicate the fragility and impermanence of material possessions and through this the fragile nature of life itself.