Wednesday, 8 July 2009

Fish Ghosts

Gormenghast - The Tower of Flints

I've come across the artwork of Ian Miller in various guises over the years. I first saw it on the cover of the first issue of Interzone I bought (number 7 I believe) from the old Forbidden Planet in Denmark Street. This was one of his characteristic spiny, dessicated fish with staring, unblinking eyes and mouths agape as if in a constant state of shock. Having just dug this very issue out, I notice that they are all on long poles, which may account for this look of startlement. His work featured with some frequency in this early period of the magazine, and there is a particularly startling cover in which the Empire State Building has torn itself free of an otherwise featureless plain to reveal a tangle of roots and strange viscera beneath. He did illustrations for a couple of books I used to have, The Tolkien Bestiary and Realms of Fantasy, both long since gone, flotsam in life's bibliographic wake. The latter featured his depictions of scenes from the Gormenghast novels, so he tackled both of the towering standards of twentieth century fantasy. Clearly he was more at home with the darker aspects of The Lord of the Rings, the labyrinthine mines of Moria and the blackened towers of Mordor. I liked his depictions of Gormenghast whilst never feeling that he captured the sheer solidity of Peake's imaginative vision. But his illustrations always remained essentially his own, adapting the worlds he depicted to his own signature style and recurring motifs rather than vice versa. So you are really looking at an Ian Miller picture rather than an attempt to recreate the world of a particular novel.

The Luck in the Head

Sometimes his work and that of the writer he's working with do achieve a perfect convergence without either having to temper their style. Such is the case with Miller and M.John Harrison, whose collaboration on The Luck in the Head produced some gorgeous, ravished images. I also have the paperback copy of The Ice Monkey with what I now see is just an extract of Miller's cover illustration. You can see the whole thing below. I suppose the obvious parallel is with Dave McKean's work with Neil Gaiman, which Neil (snowdonnotgaiman) has touched upon in previous posts. he certainly has the same gaunt-faced, hunched figures. Anyway, through the auspices of M.John Harrison's blog (link in the list to the right) I came across this site which has a fantastic and wide range of Miller's artwork to look at (and even some to buy). So lose yourself in a world of towering, jerry-built edifices, trees more gnarled than Rackham's (and with more tormented faces), Lovecraftian creatures too awful to be described, wary figures with gas-mask heads, biomechanical forms self-assembled at the local rubbish dump and yes, lots of spiny, skeletal fish with optional attachments.

The Ice Monkey

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