Douglas Miller is the creative mind behind CREUTAIR, a project incorporating Scottish history with queer identities. The project explores LGBTQ+ narratives and aesthetics, and seeks to challenge a lack of queer representation in the historical canon.
Creutair is an incredible collection which spans multiple historical eras and genres of art- what inspired you to create such an innovative project?
CREUTAIR was a publication concept I created in the final year of my Fashion Communication degree at university. Back at the start of the pandemic I remember preparing for my final year and trying to come up with a concept that I knew was going to be unique to me and something I could really sink my teeth into; a passion project as well as being part of my university degree. I watched the most recent Mary Queen of Scots film during this time with Margot Robbie and Saoirse Ronan. Although it was a period film, it featured a diverse cast and even a queer character. I found this refreshing - a take on history that was modern and reflected people in today's society. Around this time I also watched The Favourite with Olivia Coleman and Bridgerton which was huge at the time, both featuring queer characters and “modern” casting. Since being very young I’ve always been fascinated by Scottish history and historical paintings, the fashion of those times still inspires the work I do today - I love the threatrics and the drama. When researching I couldn’t find any modern imagery inspired by Scottish history and that’s when it all clicked. I decided to create a version of Scottish history that explored narratives of gender and sexuality from a queer perspective. Aesthetics wise, Tim Walker has always been my favourite photographer as I love how he makes art modern and queer through fashion image. He was also a huge influence in the project and continues to influence my work today. The pandemic also meant my materials were limited to create imagery and I ended up experimenting with collage which at first I was very apprehensive about, but meant I was able to use the beautiful art I was inspired by to strengthen the publication and concept.
Do you think there is enough being done to represent authentically diverse historical narratives?
I visited the national portrait gallery recently and stumbled across a painting of George Villers, 1st Duke of Buckingham with the following words. “Throughout British history, close friendships between monarchs and particular members of their courts - their 'favourites' - have aroused envy, anger, fear and fascination.Monarchs in earlier centuries lived most of their lives in public, and their marriages were usually made for political reasons rather than for love. In these circumstances, intense, affectionate relationships sometimes arose between kings and queens and men or women in their courts. These favourites were often rewarded with titles, wealth and power.In recent times, there has been much speculation about whether or not these were sexual relationships. This is particularly the case with James I and Queen Anne. Both monarchs wrote passionate letters to their favourites, but it is impossible to know now exactly what form their relationships took.” I think this really cements the importance of my concept because queer people were clearly eradicated from history and have been around since time began. When creating CREUTAIR, I had taken into account the devastating impact of British colonialism on the LGBTQ+ community. This is apparent on a global scale, with half of the 71 countries around the world in which same sexual relations are illegal, half being former British colonies. Another example of this is the 1533 Buggery Act which declared that the ‘detestable and abominable Vice of Buggery committed with mankind or beast’ be punishable by death which stuck around for hundreds of years at a major human cost. All these things considered, I think using history as inspiration takes back the power for queer people and turns something negative into a positive. I decided to take these stories from history and reimagine them to fit my own queer narrative. Queer people have been prominent throughout history, particularly in the British Monarchy, but this is not something which is taught about in schools nor is it common knowledge.
Scottish identity and language plays such a key role in the collection, was that something that you felt easy to define and carry out?
As mentioned previously I have such a love for Scottish History and the art and portraiture from those times. I really wanted to create something that had never been seen before and made people think. I didn’t go into the project trying to create something necessarily fashionable, stylish or aesthetically pleasing. It was important to me to create the imagery the way I saw it in my head. I'm definitely no photographer but I’ll always be very fond of the project because it also helped me realise the type of creative I wanted to be after leaving university and my love for creating fashion imagery that merges history and queerness. It was important to me that the project featured Scots language in the writing and that it had a Scottish Gaelic name. The pieces the amazingly talented writers contributed really brought the project together and I am super grateful to been able to work with them on Creutair. I’m proud to be a Scottish queer man and to have been able to celebrate my heritage from my queer view point and to have created something- a first of its kind- which will continue to inspire my work as a stylist and a creative going forward.
What's next for you as an artist?
Currently I work as a freelance stylist in London. I hope to still create fashion imagery that is impactful and celebrates diversity and queerness. Honestly it would be a dream to recreate the project on a larger more professional scale. Maybe even with Tim Walker! That would be a dream come true.