British artist and writer Harland Miller shows two new series of works: a selection of paintings based on the marbled covers of vintage Penguin poetry books as well as a group of new figurative paintings.
Miller's practice has developed in tandem with his love for books – both as sculptural objects in their own right and as the carriers of humour, irony and emotion. For over a decade, Miller has been painting fictional covers for imaginary Penguin paperbacks, based on the original colour block covers that were used to denote genre. His new series of paintings adopt the marbled paper covers used on the old-fashioned Penguin poetry editions and are made using luxurious metallic paints on heavy, smooth walnut panels. These paintings appear like facsimiles of an original object, since the wear and tear of each book is clearly discernible, but their titles have been replaced with philosophical aphorisms or snappy turns of phrase. Tonally reduced, in black and gold with the odd accent of brilliant red, their process of making combines an element of pure chance (Miller mixes the paint with a flow medium to make it more slippery) and deliberate intent. The paintings are made on the floor, in the manner of a Pollock drip painting and indexical traces of the artists' movement as well as drips, smudges and accidental colour bleeding all contribute to the final image. Although purely abstract, trompe l'oeil figuration begins to emerge from the 'marbling' where clusters of colours appear like clouds, as in the work In Dreams begin Monsters where celestial sunsets morph into different galaxies or other natural phenomena.
Miller's new series of figurative paintings have developed out of the artist's interest in heterogeneous printed ephemera – in particular, adverts and obituaries – from the 1970s. Described by the artist as ‘escapism through reinvention’; these works suggest a fantasy world of glamour and theatre, nostalgically conveyed through incidental surface details.
Harland Miller was born in Yorkshire in 1964 and lives and works in London.
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