Read more

The Passing Spirit, 30 Days of Sunlight, May 1st-30th 1989

Parke Estate, Devon

Leaf, light, dye destruction print

183 x 183 cm / 72 x 72 "


The last of these leaf grids was made from 1-30 May 1989, and Miller calls it Breath with a sub-title, The Passing Spirit, Thirty Days of Sunlight. There a re 256 beech leaves, laid out in 16 rows. Starting at the bottom, the longs move, day by day, though the month, one year’s Maytime, with the leaves revealed as barely flushed with green at first, pale, almost transparent, and then drawing the bright gold of the sun into their being (eating the sun, communion with a Solar Eucharist). Finally as the chemistry of the leaf transforms the sunlight with its chlorophyll, we see the leaf darkening into a rich green and solidifying the light that was at first so liquid. It is a wonderful piece, all the more moving for its simplicity and poverty.


From introduction by Mark Haworth-Booth to Elective Affinities by Susan Derges and Garry Fabian Miller, catalogue accompanying exhibition 12 April – 17 May 1996. Michael Hue-Williams Fine Art, 1996.



Light shining through plants gives them life through photosynthesis. This is the process whereby the chemical chlorophyll (which is naturally present in green vegetation and gives it its colour) assists in turning water and carbon dioxide into sugars as energy for growth. During the spring, the increase in daylight triggers photosynthesis and shifts the colours of leaves from pale yellow to deep green. This gradual transformation is laid out before us in Fabian Miller’s Breath, The Passing Spirit, 30 Days of Sunlight, May 1st–30th 1989. The title suggests that through its changing leaves we can see the beech tree breathing and interacting with the sun. The photographic process becomes a fitting trope of photosynthesis in Fabian Miller’s work where light and plants are also primary constituents. In this way, the technology of photography can be rhetorically aligned with the processes of nature: in each, light plays a fundamental role in creation. Light can be understood as creative, worldly energy. Yet, the work Breath is also subtitled The Passing Spirit. With this, Fabian Miller indicates that light can also be read as a metaphor for the spirit, or, as in most monotheistic religions, the manifestation of a divine force.


Illumine - Garry Fabian Miller - A Retrospective, by Martin Barnes. 

Merrell London/New York 2005.

Back to top