Contemporary British artist Harland Miller creates paintings and screen prints inspired by advertising, literature, and popular culture. His work often features humorous and ironic juxtapositions of text and images, making it visually striking and thought-provoking.
This article will take a closer look at Miller's art, discuss some of his most iconic pieces, and explore their meanings. We will also consider his work's wider influence on contemporary art in general.
What was Miller's early lifelike, and how did he become an artist?
Harland Miller was born in 1964 in Yorkshire, England. He earned his BA and MA in Art History at Chelsea College of Arts, and between the years 1980 and the 1990s, he worked primarily in places such as New York, Berlin, Paris, and London, where he also had his breakthrough as a solo artist.
In the early 1990s Miller started painting large-scale text-based works, which often appropriated the style of Penguin book covers. The series has become widely regarded as both witty and poignant, often addressing themes of loneliness, disillusionment, and despair. Around this time he also began writing novels and screenplays.
His first novel, ‘Slow Down Arthur, Stick to Thirty’, was published to critical acclaim in 2000.
What type of art does he create?
Miller has emerged as a distinctive voice in the British art scene, known for his darkly humorous take on popular culture. His work often features references to classic literature, film, music, and personal anecdotes from his own life. His work also deals with mortality, addiction, and mental illness themes.
Miller's art is immediately recognizable for its bold colors and eye-catching imagery, and his paintings often incorporate text as well. And when it comes to his novels, it is also character-driven stories that explore the shady side of human nature. Although they are often bleak in tone, Miller's novels are filled with moments of tenderness and humanity. And his unique blend of wit and insight has earned him loyal fans of contemporary literature.
Whether he's painting, writing, or designing album covers, Miller continues to explore the vulnerabilities of human existence with perception and humor.
How has Miller's work evolved?
Harland’s early work largely featured textured, monochromatic canvases with short phrases or single words painted in a bold, sans-serif font. These works were often compared to Jasper Johns' flag paintings due to their similar use of words and shapes.
Miller's early paintings also were very geometric in style. They consisted of simple shapes like cubes and spheres often used to create portraits of modernist architects and artists such as Le Corbusier and Pablo Picasso. These works also featured intense colors that contrasted sharply with one another.
In the mid-1990s, Miller's work began to change; he experimented with color and collage, and his texts became more personal and introspective. His later work has been described as “confessional pop art.” While strong geometric shapes characterizing his early work, Miller's more recent paintings have been more subdued, featuring muted colors and soft brushstrokes.
And as his subject matter has evolved over the years, Miller’s inspiration from modern culture and literature remains core to his practice.
What are some of Miller's achievements and most famous art pieces?
Miller's most famous paintings are his "Book Cover" series, in which he reimagines the covers of classic novels with humorous or ironic twists. For example, his painting "The Catcher in the Rye" features a protagonist who appears to be much older than the teenager Holden Caulfield. Other notable works include "Dracula," "The Great Gatsby," and "Alice in Wonderland."
Miller has also done several commissioned works, including a series of paintings for the London Underground. He has also created album artwork for famous musicians, such as Paul McCartney and The Rolling Stones.
In 2018, Miller was nominated for the Rise Art Prize, one of the world's prestigious awards to uncover the most exciting contemporary artists. Although he didn't win, his nomination helped solidify his reputation as one of the most important contemporary artists. He also had the largest solo exhibition up to date, internationally acclaimed titled "York, So Good They Named It Once" at York Art Gallery from Feb 14 - May 31, 2020.
What does Miller say about his work, and why do people respond to it strongly?
Whilst Miller frequently tackles complex subject matters, he also injects his work with playfulness and compassion; allowing readers to see the humanity in even the most damaged characters. As a result, Miller's work often resonates with a lot of people who have struggled with difficult experiences.
This ability to find the light in the dark has earned Miller a large following. His fans appreciate his willingness to explore challenging topics.
In an interview, Miller said that he hopes his work can "provide relief or escape for people who might be going through tough times,” making his work more captivating and essential.
“The trouble with worrying so much about your security in the future is that you feel so insecure in the present” – Harland Miller