Harland Miller - Happiness

Happiness The Case Against Harland Miller

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Happiness is a print by Harland Miller from 2017. The print is reflective of Miller’s fascination with book covers. The artist is well known for his Penguin series (20001-) in which he adopts the familiar format of Penguin classics, yet substitutes the book titles with his own fictitious, often sarcastic and sardonic titles. As opposed to the Penguin series, in this print, Miller turns his attention to psychology and social science publications from the 1960s and 1970s.

In Happiness, Miller depicts the cover design of a self-help manual. Against a turquoise square background, a seemingly three-dimensional cube is depicted hovering in the centre of the composition in red and blue. Above the image, the title of the cover, Happiness, is written in bold, pink, capitalised letters. Below the text in a more subtle font, Miller adds The Case Against, in dark blue lettering. The manual title encapsulates Miller’s characteristic dark humour and wit, which marks many of his prints depicting book covers such as those that are part of the Penguin series. The viewer is inclined at first to consider the hovering cube formation in the middle, making the text above serve a secondary purpose. In effect, the title is actually activated by the bold colour composition. 

The print exemplifies Miller’s artistic talent and aptitude for printing as he utilises various printmaking techniques, such as polymer-gravure, photo-etching and block printing to achieve a more graphic and superimposed finish. The effect of these various techniques is that while at first glance the work seems one dimensional, its main elements have in fact been given a multi-layered appearance.

Happiness is modelled on the cover design of a self-help manual, while also demonstrating Miller’s continued interest in colour experimentation. A corresponding strategy and structure is employed in Miller’s etching, Armageddon: Is It Too Much To Ask?. While the design of these works is similar, the colours differ drastically, with Happiness using a range of cool colours, as blue dominates the print, in contrast with the warm orange of Armageddon. 

Influenced by Abstract Expressionist Mark Rothko, Miller was very interested in the way colour could affect perception and the way the viewer interprets a text or image. His experimentation with colour in these prints is very significant and reflects his desire to explore the relationship between representation and reality through colour.

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