Reasonable Doubt 

Miles’ paintings are painstakingly rendered, taking months of periodic working and reworking of the paint. This exhibition uses observation-based paintings to investigate sites and systems that rely on, or interact with notions of belief, faith and assumption.

How do you trust that what you know is correct? What if your version of truth is different to how others think? Are you aware of how you came to accept your beliefs? Were they inherited from family and social groups or absorbed through the media? Are they based on scientific methods or even just through visual observation?

Miles' exhibition contains a series of intricately made oil paintings. At first glance these works appear to document various subjects through an observational manner of representation. Closer inspection reveals that things are not necessarily as they seem.

An apparition hovers in a fluoride sink stain, street lights suggest beaming UFO’s in the sky, a dramatic setting sun smolders with black smoke whilst a local government cautions its citizens through warning signs posted outside a Berlin church.

Scott Miles is a Melbourne-based artist working primarily in the genre of painting. His works are made in a detailed and intricate manner that intends to augment an empirical approach to our process of perception. Reason and evidence do not necessarily lead to truth. Observation can be trickery. There are elements within us that require less reasoning and rational thought and more mystery, engagement and interaction.

In Reasonable Doubt, Miles explores ideas within the works stemming from the eighteenth century Scottish philosopher David Hume and what is known as his ‘problem of induction’. The basic premise of this notion is a distrust of human reason and its ability to provide an insight into reality. A simplified example of this is the suggestion that just because the sun rose today - and has done so countless times - it does not mean that we can assume it will rise again tomorrow.

Many beliefs, systems and processes are often dependant on predictable occurrences. Science is commonly seen as a reasoning tool into reality that positions itself through inbuilt checks of ‘neutral’ observation and repeatable results. This body of work aims to play with the notion of painting as a form of documentation of the observable.

Rational liquid

If you could watch the process of these paintings unfold, you might get the sense that sections of cinematic frames were compiling in layers within a fixed parameter, rather than shooting past in a linear procession. Fragments of time would accumulate vertically, enmeshing relationships between places, histories, and events to gradually reach a condensed point of stillness. These images suggest suspended states that don’t necessarily allow an ideal progression.

Incongruous convergences are at play between sites of investigation and observation with reference to empirical evidence, faith, illusion and historical hoax. These images are decisively made, yet they are ambiguous and revel in uncertainty. The process through which they solidify may be seen to echo the way a decision or sense of reason might form. Countless perspectives are turned over, waded through until something crystallizes. Liquid possibilities are pushed around, grappled with and left to set. This apparently seamless edit is not an answer by any means but more of an acutely meditated proposition.

On closer inspection clarity starts to break down, triggering the sense that behind the masquerade of the naturalist vista, things are not quite ‘right’. In a material parallel, the painted surface does not retain the level of detail observed by a cursory first glance. Up close, the veil of realism can be unpicked in a similar way that judgment shifts according to varying degrees of investigation. Perception is taken to task.

From a panoramic landscape to the focus of a microscope lens our perspective shifts from further than the eye can see, to the prospect of what is invisible to the naked eye. This passage between vastness and scrutiny begins to suggest a broader framework of ideas swelling through the adjacency of singular images. We may need to re-calibrate our judgment and read between the lines.

Susan Jacobs, October 2009.

Some films, texts and music of interest to the artist: Chris Marker ‘Letter from Siberia’, Andrei Tarkovsky ‘Stalker’, Karl Popper ‘Science: conjectures and refutations’, Theodor Adorno ‘The stars down to earth’, The Flaming Lips ‘Embryonic’.

Susan Jacobs is a visual artist practicing in Melbourne, Australia.