Harland Miller’s Hong Kong debut

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Harland Miller makes his Asia debut with a new collection that represents an experimental and exciting phase in his career. The collection, featuring new paintings, drawings and prints, includes Miller’s iconic book cover in print and paint. The pieces are a celebratory exploration of the very form and essence of text. Letters become sculptural building blocks, while the paint is given greater freedom and looser quality reminiscent of the Abstract Expressionism of the 1960s. His works are funny, dark and nostalgic, while the freedom of the forms, the blurred lines and dripping paint remind me of the beloved and well-read books of my childhood. 


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After achieving critical acclaim as a writer, In 2001 we first paid witness to Miller’s Penguin book-inspired works. He married abstraction, pop-art and expressive painting, with his writer's love of the written word. Since then he has pushed this theme further year on year. This, his latest collection, takes this love affair further still, using delicate watercolours and brash words, Miller pushes pigment and text to new heights. 


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The exhibition is divided across two floors of the stunning gallery space. The ground floor features a series of new large scale paintings that employ his iconic book cover template and a pop-art palette. The very shape of the letters, their curves and edges form the landscape of these new works. He turns letters into almost sculptural abstract shapes. The result is a kaleidoscopic image made up of colour blocks that resemble overlaid slides. The words and titles he uses have become even freer and incongruous, words like ‘boss’, ‘sin’ and ‘luv’. 


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Inspired by 60-70s magazine covers and psychology books - Miller playfully combines several unlikely visual tropes and uses disparity to delight and unsettle the viewer. The book meets the scale and techniques of fine art, the magazine cover is transported from a coffee table to a white cube. By masking and distorting meaning, Miller creates a new language of his own, signing his name as ‘author’. The exhibition also includes a new and unusual series of delicate and gestural watercolours, in which Miller drags the paint across the canvas, throwing sharp lines into a free and almost chaotic relief. 


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The first floor is dominated by small scale paintings that also feature overlaid letters, but the style refers to the Abstract Expressionism of the 1960s. Inspired by Jasper John’s series ‘0 through 9’ (1960-9), The focus is upon the textures and imperfections of the paint itself. These represent a furthering of his steady shift towards abstraction and experimentation.  Miller has stripped back the wordplay to focus more closely on the visual quality of his subject and his tools. 


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While these pieces are stylistically new, his dry sense of humour is ever-present, he continues to challenge the status quo that decrees ‘humour is a no no, nostalgia is a no no’. The titles have become shorter, and the covers more abstract, but his unique and telltale style remains.