Tonight We Make History (P.S. I Can’t Be There) is Harland Miller’s first solo exhibition in Germany. Departing from his use of appropriated imagery, the exhibition comprises many new large-scale paintings that incorporate his own designs, which is a first for the artist. He takes formal and conceptual inspiration from the abstract geometrical covers of popular psychology books of the 60s and 70s, an era when positive messaging often masked societal neurosis.
Three-metre high paintings with titles such as Overcoming Optimism and Back on the Worry Beads occupy the main space of the gallery. Often the same text appears on different compositions, demonstrating how form and colour relationships can change the way in which titles are interpreted. Interspersed between the larger paintings, a number of smaller works act like punctuation marks. The sentiments of the artist’s phrases remain open enough to imbue every work with a different idiosyncratic significance to each individual viewer. Upstairs, a new body of the artist’s most iconic artworks, The Penguin Books Series paintings, are bought together including; High on Hope, I’ll Never Forget What I Can’t Remember and the titular Tonight We Make History (P.S. I Can’t Be There).
The exhibition marks twenty-five years since the artist lived in Berlin. He first visited in 1985 prior to the fall of the wall and the experience had a lasting impact on his practice. Staying in Kreuzberg and exploring the east of the city, he encountered many German paintings that incorporated prominent use of text as an integral part of the work. Unable to speak the language and thus understand such texts, Miller found the appearance of these words as imagery equally as effective as the written message. Having been advised against the use of typography in painting at art school in the UK, this discovery of a direct communication between type and image was a defining moment.
Blain|Southern, Potsdamer Straße 77-87, 10785 Berlin
30 April 2016 – 30 July 2016