Known for his reimagined paintings of vintage Penguin book covers, Harland Miller appoints the use of imagery and language to comment on the frequent disconnect between representation and reality, as such his artistic status has gone from strength to strength. We explore the genius behind the covers - a must have for any art collection.
1. He is a novelist as well as an artist
Born in Yorkshire in 1964, Harland Miller is considered something of a polymath. Though he studied at Chelsea School of Art in 1988, Miller first won critical acclaim as a writer: his debut novel, Slow Down Arthur, Stick to Thirty, was published in 2000 and, later that year, he published At First I was Afraid, I was Petrified - a short study of Obsessive Compulsive Disorder. The work’s sardonic title, borrowed from the Gloria Gaynor song, is echoed in the title of one of Miller’s later artworks. As an artist, Miller is best-known for his large paintings of Penguin Book covers – an homage to his enduring interest in literature.
2. His Influences range from Abstract Expressionism to Pop Art
Miller is influenced by the Abstract Expressionist genre, and has described Mark Rothko – one of its leading figures – as his biggest source of inspiration. Like the works of Rothko, and other prominent members of the movement, such as Willem de Kooning, Miller’s large-scale canvases feature powerful blocks of colour and abstracted forms. Abstract Expressionism isn’t his only source of inspiration, however: Miller is also influenced by Pop Art, and echoes the movement’s style in his reproductions of mass-produced book covers, which he emblazons with witty titles. Most are tongue-in-cheek, or draw upon well-known idioms, manipulated by the artist: Gone, but not forgotten becomes Blonde, but not forgotten.
3. He works in a variety of materials
Miller is not just famed for his large-scale canvases: from hand-finished screen-prints to relief etching, he has mastered a number of mediums. The artist has also created sculptural pieces, creating 3D versions of his Penguin Book replicas – in doing so, transforming a book’s physical form into an artwork in its own right. In 2013, Miller went one step further, creating his own Penguin book-inspired deckchairs. Branded with his short, witty titles, these beach essentials are proof the artist can adapt to any medium.
4. This year, he raised over £1 million for COVID-19 related charities
In April, Harland Miller released a special, limited edition signed print in order to raise money for those fighting Covid-19 on the frontline. Each edition of the work, which was entitled Who Cares Wins, sold for £5,000, and Miller raised over £1.25m for those affected by the virus.
The artist was inspired to create the work by his father, who suffers with dementia. He explained: ‘caring is all we can do… and caring for the Carers is I imagine one of the ways we can do this best!’
5. He is collected by celebrities
Worldwide, art collectors and influential figures invest in Harland Miller’s work. In fact, George Michael was one of the first people to collect Miller’s art, supporting him from extremely early on in his artistic career. Other musicians such as Sir Elton John, Ed Sheeran and AC/DC guitarist Angus Young are also known to have bought many of his works – as are fashion photographer David Bailey and the Chairman of Penguin Books, John Makinson. Miller’s works, it seems, are universally sought after.