Harland Miller’s visually arresting works marry pop art with abstract painting and typography, and pieces are held in private and public collections, including Tate London. And, as both writer and artist, it seems highly appropriate that typography takes centre stage in his most iconic images. In 2001, Miller began a series of oil paintings inspired by the dust jackets of Penguin books and has continued to create work in this style. Now, though, for his first solo exhibition in Germany at Blain Southern Gallery (April 30-July 30), he departs from the use of “borrowed” imagery to show new, large-scale paintings (£30,000-£80,000) depicting his own designs, while transporting viewers on a whimsical trip through the pop psychology of the 1960s and 1970s.
The Berlin show marks 25 years since the now London-based artist lived in the city. Miller initially visited in 1985, prior to the fall of the Berlin Wall, and his explorations in the eastern part led to an encounter with works that incorporated text on their canvases. Unable to speak German, Miller appreciated the text more for its graphic qualities than its meaning and recognised typography’s power as a tool for engaging viewers.
The phrases used in each of Miller’s new paintings are by turns humorous, sardonic and nostalgic. Interpretation is left to the viewer. The 22 artworks include some very large pieces, such as 3m-tall paintings with titles such as Back on the Worry Beads (first picture), Overcoming Optimism (second picture), and Happiness – The Case Against (third picture), which dominate the main gallery space. A new body of Penguin Books paintings are displayed upstairs, including High on Hope (fourth picture), I’ll Never Forget What I Can’t Remember, If Your Past Was on Fire Would You Go Back and Save It and Tonight We Make History (PS I Can’t Be There) (fifth picture, all prices on request).