Saturday, June 09, 2007

Too Cool To Die - Harland Miller´s Penguins

One day, Harland Miller picked up a Penguin, and an idea was born.Harland Miller's paintings are unusual in the range of current contemporary art in that they are, first, self-evidently painterly paintings and, second, companionable; they can make you laugh.

I remember the first time I came across the Hemingway painting I'm So Fucking Hard - it was propped against the wall in a studio, an appropriately imposing object, about 6ft by 4ft - I laughed out loud...
"There's always been this compunction to write on pictures," Miller (also a published novelist) has said. It wasn't until he started painting book covers that he realised he had stumbled across a style of painting that didn't look right without words. "International lonely guy" are apparently the first words Elton John sees when he opens his eyes in the morning. He owns the painting of that title, inspired by the swaying hangers in the empty wardrobe of a cheap chain hotel. From Scarborough to Santa Monica and back again.
Gordon Burn at the Guardian, next to a conversation with Harland Miller

Harland Miller is a both a writer and an artist, practising both roles over a peripatetic career in both Europe and America.

After living and exhibiting in New York, Berlin and New Orleans during the 80s and 90s, Miller achieved critical acclaim with his debut novel, Slow down Arthur, Stick to Thirty, (2000), the story of a kid who travels around northern England with a David Bowie impersonator. In the same year he published a small novella, First I was Afraid, I was Petrified, based on the true story of a female relative with Obsessive Compulsive Disorder, discovered when Miller came across a box full of Polaroid images she had taken of the knobs of a cooker.

In 2001 Miller produced a series of paintings based of the dust jackets of Penguin books. By combining the motif inherent in the Penguin book, Miller found a way to marry aspects of Pop Art, abstraction and figurative painting at once, with his writer’s love of text. The ensuing images are humorous, sardonic and nostalgic at the same time, while the painting style hints at the dog-eared, scuffed covers of the Penguin classics themselves. Miller continues to create work in this vein, expanding the book covers to include his own phrases, some hilarious and absurd, others with a lush melancholy. Miller was the Writer in Residence at the ICA for 2002 and over the course of his residence he programmed a number of events drawing from his experience in literature and fine art, which included a season devoted to the ongoing influence and legacy of Edgar Allen Poe.

Harland Miller was born in Yorkshire in 1964 and lives in London. Group exhibitions include Royal Academy, London (2006, 2005), Kunsthalle, Mannheim (2004) and the ICA, London (1996).
taken from Harland Miller at White Cube


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