Harland Miller - Gateshead Revisited

Gateshead Revisited Harland Miller

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Gateshead Revisited comes in two variations, both similar in appearance and made in 2009. In Gateshead Revisited, Miller adapts the familiar format of the Penguin book dust jacket. A bold orange dominates the composition, with a white band running across the centre of the print, upon which the title of the book in bold, black letters is written. Below the book’s title is the artist’s name, Harland Miller, assuming the role of author. Here, Miller blurs the boundaries between art and literature, demonstrating his fascination with the interaction between words and images. The faded cover with its torn edges and smudged pages nostalgically recalls a lifetime of love and use. This makes a visual reference to our intimate, long-standing relationship with text and language.

The title of the book is an adaptation of Evelyn Waugh’s 1945 novel Brideshead Revisited. Referencing the 20th century novel by Waugh demonstrates a sophisticated self-conscious cultural, literary and artistic awareness, as well as Miller’s keen interest in literature. Miller is also a well-known writer, having written two critically acclaimed novels, Slow Down Arthur, Stick to Thirty and At First I was Afraid, I was Petrified (both published in 2000).

In Gateshead Revisited, Miller draws on his Northern roots and British heritage. This was a running theme of Miller’s solo exhibition, Don’t Let The Bastards Cheer You Up, at The Baltic in Gateshead in 2009. Gateshead Revisited was made to coincide with this exhibition and was shown alongside Miller’s other sarcastic re-workings of popular book titles, many of which were linked to the North East of England, where Miller was born and raised.

The print is also part of a wider series of prints by Miller, the Penguin series, all of which take a similar format in appropriating the Penguin dust jacket and showcasing Miller’s experimentation with language and image as he substitutes his own ironic and humoristic titles, subverting perception and playing on the familiarity of the Penguin books.

Using the highly popular Penguin book format, Miller is able to blur the boundary between high and low culture, as he makes the recognisable and widely collected books into artworks. Miller here is influenced by the iconic leading figure of the Pop Art movement, Andy Warhol. Warhol’s reproduction of familiar everyday images, such as the Campbell’s Soup cans elevated these ordinary objects into the realm of fine art. Miller takes a similar approach here by making a tattered book into a piece of contemporary art.

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