Harland Miller’s I’ll Never Forget What I Can’t Remember is a signed archival inkjet print released in an edition of 50.
This work demonstrates Miller's established interest in Penguin book covers, shaped by some of his earliest memories.
The influence for such quintessentially English book covers stems from his childhood in the North-East of England, crediting his father with his exposure to the books. His father’s sporadic collecting of Penguin books meant Miller could never be sure what paperbacks he would bring home from the Leeds’ salerooms. Whilst his father was primarily searching for a priceless first edition, Miller routinely organised the classics into sections dependent on their imagery, attributing his contact with both lowbrow and highbrow novels in his later career, continuing to experiment with both in his work. The artist never stopped acquiring Penguin paperbacks upon leaving Yorkshire, even in Paris he regularly came across them in second hand shops. Struggling to understand if the title of these French novels appealed to him, Miller began to invent his own titles, claiming it to be an awakening moment in his career, “I invented a text that suggested a story – a whole narrative – which suggested the way in which I should paint the painting. I found that it seemed to be more interesting than what I’d been doing before.”
This particular screen print demonstrates the British artist’s wit, suggesting that the already forgotten cannot be further forgotten, but it is also a personal anecdote. His father suffered from Alzheimer’s, and Miller has devoted a few of his works to his father’s condition. Another work of his, Pipe Down Cunt (2012) is based on his father’s hatred of profanity, but as the disease took over, his language became uncontrollable, resulting in such phrases. Likewise, I’ll Never Forget What I Can’t Remember, is steeped in his experiences watching Alzheimer’s erase all memories his father once possessed.
Miller starts with a high resolution digital photograph of the work and layers base colours upon one another, resulting in a rugged quality as areas of colour invade one another and seep down upon each other. The tattered book covers of these works evoke nostalgia, the viewers of the work also filling in the meaning of everything not present within it, with their own experiences.
Whilst for some the title may evoke melancholy, for others it challenges the notion of autobiographies as a faithful recollection of one’s memories, suggesting how many ‘truths’ may be lies masquerading as fact, because through the twists and turns of life, our history may be partially forgotten due to the limitations of memory.