This kind of morbid humour is characteristic of the artist and is present in his renowned Penguin paperback paintings, which darkly and irreverently satirise the publisher’s cover art amid vibrant bursts of oils. One Bar Electric Memoir, however, puts a brand new series in the spotlight. Several recent large-scale canvasses, drawing on Miller's extensive archive of psychology books from the 1960s and 1970s, provide a window into the artist's evolving practice.
The words 'if', 'ace', and 'up' glare down from the paintings of his psychology books exhibited on the ground floor. To create the words, Miller uses a range of typefaces and colours; he intersects them and layers them over each other. The effect is alluring, for the words contextualise the bold, colourful abstract covers of his books, written in the 60s and 70s to offer a possibility of 'fixing disorders through a process of self-help'.
Downstairs, it's much of the same. In these paintings, however, three-dimensional architectural forms in vivid pop colours are the focus of the works. The shapes stand out from the saturated mute backgrounds, as do the paired fictional but witty titles such as Reverse Psycology Isn't Working, 2017. In both series of paintings Miller uses his own name as author. The inclusion of his own name, not only alludes to his authorship of both image and text, but to the fine line that exists between fiction and reality.
Harland Miller, Detail: Up, 2017
The more time spent looking at the works, the more seductive they become. The same titles and shapes reappear in the range of compositions on display, highlighting how the visuals can alter the rhythm and meaning of the words. Here, words and shapes work as one.
White Cube's exhibition of Miller's work demonstrates that Miller’s wit is more than matched by his craftsmanship. The more time spent looking at the works, the more seductive they become. The same titles and shapes reappear in the range of compositions on display, highlighting how the visuals can alter the rhythm and meaning of the words.
Here, words and shapes work as one. The luminous and controlled colours of his psychology canvasses signal a departure from the vivid splashes of the Penguin paintings. Indeed, Miller’s distinctive mixed-media approach is emblematic of his career as a polymath.
Rising to critical acclaim as a novelist in 2000, he has since dedicated himself to prints and paintings, all of which are marked by a sophisticated conceptual edge. Miller’s more recent work engages with the short stories of Edgar Allan Poe and returns to the themes of justice and humanity in a series of billboards exploring the life and crimes of the Yorkshire Ripper (You dig the tunnel, I'll hide the soil, 2008).
The exhibition is sharp and engaging but admittedly not diverse; although the paintings differ in subject they don't differ in style. If you are not a White Cube regular, a quick whiz round will suffice. But prepare to jostle with the wealth of artistas and fashionistas who take themselves incredibly seriously.
|What||Review: Harland Miller, One Bar Electric Memoir at White Cube|
|Where||White Cube Mason's Yard, 25-26 Mason's Yard , London, SW1Y 6BU | MAP|
|Nearest tube||Piccadilly Circus (underground)|
07 Jul 17 – 09 Sep 17, Tuesday - Saturday, 10:00 - 18:00
|Website||Click here for more information|