High On Hope Harland Miller

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In High On Hope, Miller adapts the dust jacket of a Penguin classic, substituting his own title in place of the original. Miller draws attention to his technique of title substitution by writing his name on the book’s cover in the place where the author’s name conventionally goes. The print comes in two variations, both from 2019. The orange version is more traditional and closer to the original paperback design. The other print, in which yellow dominates the composition, stands out from others in the Penguin series, as the text is written in red, as opposed to the bold, black, capitalised letters which are normally seen on the front of Penguin books.  

Miller intentionally creates a second-hand feel to the book cover by producing smudges that bring an old and nostalgic element to the composition. Miller also ensures that the white band running across the cover is slightly off-white and makes the edges of the book seem tattered. Rather than employing a shadowing technique to invoke dimension, in High On Hope, Miller experiments with angles and depth. The worn spine of the book seems to float in the centre of the canvas, similar to one of Miller’s earlier prints, I’ll Never Forget What I Can’t Remember

The print is part of the wider Penguin series, which dates back to 2001. Miller has been appropriating the Penguin dust jackets for nearly two decades and has become well known for these recognisable prints. His technique of creating his own witty titles for the books, playing on well-known phrases or other book titles, reflects his sense of humour and way with words. By adopting such an iconic format, Miller investigates the way in which words and images interact and how meaning is produced. As an artist who also had a keen interest in literature and was also a celebrated author, Miller is fascinated by the relationship between words and images and the disconnect between representation and reality. Miller’s titles are often ironic and sardonic. Some of them also function as a social critique, with political undertones. In High On Hope, Miller merges the comforting visuals of the Penguin book format with an advert-like catch phrase. The print can be interpreted as a sly reflection on consumer culture and collective memory, in the same manner as Andy Warhol’s Campbell’s Soups once did. Warhol was a great influence on Miller’s work, and the use of Penguin books can be compared to the way in which Warhol took ordinary, everyday objects and elevated them into works of art.

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