Over the last decade, Harland Miller has exhibited his instantly recognisable paintings in galleries around the world, from his hometown of York to Hong Kong. Many of these shows marked the debut of a new series, continuing or completely changing what Miller had made before. Here’s our ultimate guide to Miller’s best exhibitions since 2008.
- Harland Miller in York
- Harland Miller in Hong Kong
- Harland Miller in London
- Harland Miller in Berlin
- Harland Miller in Amsterdam
Harland Miller in York
York, So Good They Named It Once, York Art Gallery, 14 February – 31 May 2020.
“I think the majority of people have a love-hate relationship with their hometown… and I think I do too, but just without the hate,” said Miller ahead of his most recent solo exhibition. The show centred around Miller’s Pelican Bad Weather Paintings, inspired by vintage Pelican non-fictions (an old imprint of Penguin) and featuring titles relating to the artist’s memories of Yorkshire. Miller reworked some of his old Pelican works especially for the exhibition – “I found that there were things that stayed with me all this time, that I never expressed properly,” he said of these new pieces.
Harland Miller in Hong Kong
White Cube Hong Kong, 31 May – 24 August 2019.
In 2019, Miller made his debut in Hong Kong with new works from his Letter Painting series, which began in 2017. Instead of Penguin covers, Miller brought in influences from illuminated manuscripts, giving a modern take to the way medieval monks had decorated, overlaid and combined letters. “I brought a Pop Art sensibility to medieval manuscripts,” Miller said.
The paintings in the Hong Kong exhibition marked a surprising departure to Miller’s usual work: most of the words were positive, devoid of the artist’s usually dark, cynical humour. But many of the pieces still related to the artist’s Yorkshire roots – for example, Boss and Ace. “When I was growing up, ‘boss’ was approbation, if something was great, it was ‘boss’,” explained Miller. “Like ‘ace’, really. I guess for most people ‘ace’ was the card you wanted dealt in a hand of poker, but if something was ‘ace’ it was terrific”.
Harland Miller in London
You Dig The Tunnel, I’ll Hide The Soil, White Cube Hoxton Square and Shoreditch Town Hall, 4 April – 10 May 2008.
Miller has been exhibiting with White Cube since 2008. The artist actually co-curated his first show with the gallery, You Dig The Tunnel…, a group exhibition on the legacy of Edgar Allan Poe. Ahead of the 200th anniversary of Poe’s birthday in 1809, Miller wanted to show that the American writer was more than just his gothic stories – he also influenced detective novels, science fiction and psychoanalysis. Works by 34 artists featured in Miller’s exhibition, including Tracey Emin, Damien Hirst and Jake and Dinos Chapman.
The Next Life’s On Me, White Cube Hoxton Square, 9 November – 22 December 2012.
In this major solo exhibition at White Cube, Miller presented two new series of works. First was a set of imaginary Penguin books with marbled covers, inspired by vintage Penguin poetry editions. The second was figurative paintings inspired by old pulp fiction and penny dreadful books. “They come from books that I used to paint before I started painting the Penguin book paintings. I used to paint pulp fiction,” Miller explained, referencing his work from the 1980s and ’90s. “They always had this B-movie imagery on the cover… Guys in trilbies chewing a match or blondes lying on motel beds.”
One Bar Electric Memoir, White Cube Mason’s Yard, 7 July – 9 September 2017.
Miller’s most recent London exhibition saw him expand on the Psychology book covers that he debuted at Blain/Southern Berlin in 2016, while introducing the first of his Letter Painting series. For Miller, it was “great to tell a story with one word”, like If, Up or Bi-, forcing him to be even more concise than with a Penguin book cover.
Harland Miller in Berlin
Tonight We Make History (P.S. I Can’t Be There), at Blain/Southern, Berlin, 30 April – 30 July 2016.
Miller had lived in Berlin for about a year during the 1990s but had never exhibited in the city until his show with Blain/Southern in 2016. Tonight We Make History presented Miller’s iconic Penguin books along with new paintings based on psychology non-fictions from the 1960s and ’70s. Wickedly anti-self help titles, like Overcoming Optimism and Happiness, The Case Against, graced these new covers.
Although the designs were still very graphic, the new Psychology series would be the first time Miller made the images more dominant than the text. The new covers didn’t have the same instant recognition as a Penguin cover, allowing Miller to experiment with how viewers’ eyes travelled around the painting. By making the image the primary focus, and text secondary, he wanted people “to create some kind of relationship between the text, the form and the colours in their own minds”.
Harland Miller in Amsterdam
I’ll Never Forget What I Can’t Remember, Reflex Amsterdam, 18 September – 9 November 2010.
Since 2010, Miller has exhibited three times at Reflex Amsterdam. Works included his vintage Penguin covers and paintings inspired by Penguin Plays editions. “The jazzy Broadway-style branding of this series has a lightness and a level of unreality compared with the authoritative Classics. The fact that they are plays suggests something larger than life,” Miller has said about his Penguin Plays series.