Don’t Let The Bastards Cheer You Up Harland Miller

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Harland Miller created Don’t Let The Bastards Cheer You Up as an original watercolour for his solo exhibition at The Baltic in Gateshead in 2009. It was produced as a screen print in the same year. It is instantly recognisable as one of Miller’s iconic Penguin classics works that he started producing in 2001, inspired by the dust jacket of Penguin books:

“I realised that the design of those classics would throw all the focus on the title of the book, which is exactly what I wanted to do.(…) People are so used to the format already with the text in the middle that you could really say whatever you wanted.”

In Don’t Let The Bastards Cheer You Up we see exactly that, the familiar Penguin logo and layout throws the focus on to his title. The words stand out boldly against the abstract, coloured background which replicates the original dust jackets in a photo realistic style. The title is a play on the old saying “Don’t let the bastards get you down” and triggers a ring of familiarity whilst being deliberately  provocative and in keeping with Miller’s usual wittiness seen in other works such as Health And Safety Is Killing Bondage. When asked where the titles from his books originate from, Miller says “nowhere in particular. Everywhere, anywhere.”

In terms of their artistic style, the Penguin prints are influenced by both Pop Art and Abstract Expressionism, infused with the conceptual aspect of the written word. Miller is interested in Pop Art’s ideas of challenging authenticity and overriding authorship, as we see in this work which features Miller as the author.

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