Harland Miller: Paperback Rioter

Harland Miller’s Penguin Book Cover paintings are brilliant adaptations of Penguin and Puffin covers -daubed with almost Morrissey-esque titles.
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Harland Miller’s Penguin Book Cover paintings are brilliant adaptations of Penguin and Puffin covers -daubed with almost Morrissey-esque titles.

Do judge a book by the cover

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This summer the Camden based Yorkshireman (how weird does that sound? Think Billy Liar and David Hockney not Geoff Boycott nor the Tetley Bitterman) took more paint to his library when BALTIC in Gateshead, North of England presented a collection of paintings entitled ‘Don’t Let the Bastards Cheer You Up.’

Based on the dust jackets of old Penguin books, Miller has produced genuine pop art. Eye-catching reproductions of the definitive book covers, Miller delivers Penguin classics with their top and bottom bands of green or orange and the iconic logo on a huge scale, twenty times the size of their original form. The finish is deliberately distressed, as if the canvas has been completed and then left to rot in a disused railway siding for ten years.

Most importantly the titles of the books have been altered to present the artists worldview. Miller is a unique figure in that despite being represented by White Cube, he doesn’t have the hunger for attention and ambition of many of his contemporaries. His work doesn’t shock, it startles and amuses. David Bowie as played by Sean Bean on Simfast, is the cheapest way to describe the man himself. He seems reluctant to turn the Penguin covers into a production line and studiously avoids both fashion and the limelight. However demand for the work continues to grow.

“I just loved the fact that Bridlington is the same distance from the sun as somewhere with perpetual sunshine like Tobago.”

Explaining the paintings Miller says “Back in the 80’s a lot of the Northern Seaside towns tried to reinvent themselves as destinations despite the bad summer weather, their tragic attempts at re-branding influenced a lot of these works.”

And so Miller serves up ‘Blackpool: It’s All Fun And Games Until Someone Loses An Eye’ and ‘Bridlington: Ninety three Million Miles From The Sun’. What Miller calls The Bad Weather Paintings.  “I just loved the fact that Bridlington is the same distance from the sun as somewhere with perpetual sunshine like Tobago.”

In the book International Lonely Guy, published by Rizzoli, to accompany the White Cube exhibition of the same name a few years ago Miller indentifies Roald Dahl, Northern Soul, Mark Rothko and Robert Rauschenberg as influences.  But it is the tight fisted humour and an eye for the details of the social decay of the North that shine through.

www.whitecube.com/artists/miller/

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