So good they named it once? Harland Miller returns to York

The acclaimed British artist will stage his largest exhibition to date at York Art Gallery next month
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Harland Miller. Photo by George Darrell
Harland Miller. Photo by George Darrell

The artist Harland Miller may have mythologised himself as International Lonely Guy, "a character he invented, intended to be hard-boiled but with a melancholy yearning aspect, Philip Marlowe or James Bond with a perpetually broken heart,” as the writer and critic Martin Herbert puts it in our Harland Miller book; yet, despite working in Brooklyn, Paris, and London, Miller still owes some of his artistry to York, the city where he was raised.

The painter grew up in Dringhouses, once a village, now a suburb of York. After leaving school, he apprenticed at Priestly’s, a T-shirt printer in the city which, as our book notes, “makes many bootleg band T-shirts, often with their name slightly altered to avoid copyright infringement.”

In 2020, having made his name with works of art that also borrow and appropriate imagery – most notably Penguin book covers – Miller is returning to York later this year, for his largest solo exhibition to date. 

 

Rags to Polyester – My Story, 2003, oil on canvas, 213 × 155 cm (83 7/8 × 61 in). © Harland Miller
Rags to Polyester – My Story, 2003, oil on canvas, 213 × 155 cm (83 7/8 × 61 in). © Harland Miller

The show, Harland Miller: York So Nice They Named It Once, takes place at York Art Gallery 14 Feb – 31 May 2020, and is named after one of Miller’s own withering book cover one liners. Casual observers might assume that Miller isn’t especially fond of his home town. However, the exhibition, which is supported by his gallery, White Cube, will feature his Pelican Bad Weather Paintings, a series that suggest a wry love of the region.

“These works directly refer to the artist’s relationship to York, the city in which he grew up, as well as making wider references to the culture and geography of Yorkshire as a whole,” says the gallery. 

So, look out for classics in this series, such works as Bridlington – Ninety Three Million Miles from the Sun, as well as newer pieces. York Art Gallery will also show Miller’s more recent Letter Painting series; “canvases made up of overlaid letters to form short words or acronyms in a format inspired by the illuminated letters of medieval manuscripts.” It looks like Miller's taste for appropriation is stretching back a little further these days.

 

A spread from Harland Miller: In Shadows I Boogie, featuring his painting Bridlington – Ninety Three Million Miles from the Sun
A spread from Harland Miller: In Shadows I Boogie, featuring his painting Bridlington – Ninety Three Million Miles from the Sun

Can’t make the show? Then order a copy of Harland Miller: In Shadows I Boogie. It is the most comprehensive monograph to date on the British artist, and a beautiful, entertaining read.

Harland Miller: In Shadows I Boogie


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