Meet Inspiration from Isolation art prize finalist Niall Millen

The latest addition to our College archive is Niall Millen's The Spirit Dial. A finalist in our 2020 art competition and a regular student at the College, Niall shares about what inspired this piece.

By: The College of Psychic Studies.   Posted

When we shared Niall Millen's The Spirit Dial on Instagram, the response was incredible. We received more than a few messages singing its praises! This painting was one of our 2020 finalists, and we're thrilled that Niall has donated it to the College archive to be admired for years to come. Here, he shares about his journey with The College of Psychic Studies, what inspires him, and how he created this extraordinary painting.

When did you first discover your passion for creating art?

"I enjoyed art as a kid but the opportunities to carry on being creative slipped away as I got older. But I did have one blessing, I started studying history of art when I was 17 and went on to do my degree in art history. It was only later that a desire to be visually creative myself re-emerged. I don't often have time and only tried oil painting for the first time during the lockdown."

Can you share something of your spiritual journey?

"For years I had little interest in exploring my own spirituality, but all that changed when I started experiencing dramatic psychic phenomena at night. In search of answers, I found myself at the College and over the years have studied with many excellent teachers, including Gary Wright, Lucy Aumonier, Sarah Tyler-Walters but have now studied longest with the wonderful Gerrie March."

How did The Spirt Dial come to being?

"I found an old canvas with a hole in the middle. I was going to throw it out when I saw the College's competition and felt inspired to try and do something with it. I decided to turn the hole into a keyhole and the idea of placing a dial around it came from there. I tried to repair the surface as best I could, but I really had no idea how ambitious I was being in attempting to paint detail in oil on such a small, damaged canvas. But I felt compelled to try and that is when the images started coming. Each is inspired by a different spiritual tradition. I shall leave it to the viewer to work out which.

I decided to add a white halo around the edge of the dial, because when I closed my eyes, I could see the dial spinning. Just when I thought it was finished, I felt compelled to paint the back of the canvas. Words came first, the biblical quote 'Knock and it shall be opened unto you.' Though slightly hidden, there is also the constellation of Pisces, numbers, letters, Tarot and other symbols. Finally, I knew it was completed when I drew the Kabbala tree of life linking the back of the painting with the front via the keyhole. I can't help but think of the painting as a working tool in some way, but I am not sure how. It has become a mystery even to me."

What inspires you? 

"I think art is at its best when there is a balance between craftsmanship and meaning, even if the meaning is hidden."

What does it mean to you to do so well in this competition and do you have any advice for aspiring spirit artists?

"It was a lovely surprise to be a finalist, especially when I remember how many times I scraped the paint off, thought I was out of my depth technically (I was!) and nearly gave up altogether. But I carried on, and there is spiritual lesson in that.

As for advice for anyone else, I would say, you don't have to be a formally trained artist, but when you are inspired you must do it, begin and try your best. It is the trying that is the most important thing you can do."

Feature images © Niall Millen

Missed 2020's art competition? You can always enter your artwork next year! Sign up to our newsletter for updates.