If The Phone Don’t Ring It’s Me Harland Miller
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If The Phone Don’t Ring It’s Me by Harland Miller comes in various iterations, with two versions as a screen print in blue and orange from 2008. The print also comes in a deckchair format in yellow from 2013. In these prints, Miller takes the familiar format of the Penguin classics and their iconic, highly recognisable dust jackets and reinvents them by creating his own satirical, witty and sometimes controversial titles such as Incurable Romantic Seeks Dirty Filthy Whore Now and Death What’s In It For Me? Miller’s humour is not only reflected in the title of the print, but also in his ironic substitution of his name for the author’s name on the front cover of the book. In these prints, unlike others in the Penguin series, instead of writing his name in full where the author’s name ought to be, Miller simply writes ‘It’s me.’ This joke signals his rise to fame and prolific recognition in the art world. Miller occasionally also uses other famous writers such as Charles Bukowski or Ernest Hemingway, demonstrating his keen interest in literature. The Penguin series, which Miller started in 2001 was a pivotal moment in his artistic career and is what the artist is known best for today.
The screen prints of If The Phone Don't Ring It's Me are made in a photorealist style through the use of high-resolution digital images of the original book covers. Miller then added layers of colour to the photographs. The layering of colour was done in order to achieve the authentic and rugged look on the book cover. The edges of the covers seem to be torn, the spine bent, and the covers are full of ‘smudges’ which makes the white band running across the book cover off-white. These techniques make the book cover seem like an actual loved and often read second-hand book, evoking a sense of nostalgia and intimacy. Miller’s father was an avid collector of Penguin books and would sift through second-hand bookshops for more of the classics to collect and bring home to his family. The worn look of the books rendered by Miller reflects the intimate connection people can have with books, as well as the deep, personal connection Miller has with this classic publisher.
The print also comes as a deckchair, a limited edition variation which is an inventive adaptation of the traditional screen prints of the dust jackets. The deckchair format brings with it an additional, playful aspect of Pop Art, pushing boundaries of authenticity and merging high and low art through transforming a print, which is an essentially aesthetic object, into an everyday, functional furniture piece used for leisure.
Miller was highly influenced by the Pop Art movement and his adoption of the Penguin dust jackets resonates with Andy Warhol’s use of Campbell’s Soup and other mundane everyday objects to form the basis of his artworks. The deckchair design demonstrates Miller’s craft with a range of mediums. The canvas is a mixture of polyester and cotton and comes in various sizes. The frame is made of Merpauh wood coated with teak oil for protection, durability and an organic finish.
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