Discover Harland Miller’s art at Soho Beach House Miami

Discover Harland Miller's art at Soho Beach House | Soho House

As the artist exhibits new works in our coastal outpost and a solo show at White Cube West Palm Beach, we explore his bold use of text and colour

Tuesday 12 December 2023   By Anastasiia Fedorova

Harland Miller’s work is a reflection of the fragmentary, eclectic, sometimes visually overwhelming nature of modern culture. Growing up in Yorkshire, England in the 1970s, Miller lived in New York during the 1980s and 1990s, where pop art, abstract expressionism and colour field painting all fuelled his creative expression. This is most clearly seen through his use of text. He reaches effortlessly for high and low influences: literature, music, self-help manuals, street signage and even mediaeval iconography all appear in his work, sprinkled with a little irreverent British humour. As a result, his paintings resonate with viewers immediately – in his own words, ‘people read before they can stop themselves, it’s automatic’.
Miller’s works have long been part of the Soho House art collection. His painting ‘This Is Where Its F**kin At. Least It Used To Be’, from the highly acclaimed series of paintings based on the dust jackets of Penguin books, can be seen at Soho House West Hollywood. It’s been a member favourite for as long as the House has been open – so much so that it was the only work by a non-LA artist that remained after a recent art display refresh.

Over in Miami, Miller is having something of a moment. His solo show, All Night Meteorite, is showing at White Cube West Palm Beach until Saturday 16 December, while a new series of works are on show at Soho Beach House Miami until Monday 8 January. He also recently spoke to our Art Collection Manager Anakena Paddon as part of our events for Miami Art Week; the pair discussed Miller’s process, how his typically northern English humour translates in America and his visceral relationship to paint. 

Here, we caught up with the artist to discuss his long-standing love of words, Miami and his newest projects.

Discover Harland Miller's art at Soho Beach House | Soho House

What was the inspiration behind your recent work for Soho Beach House Miami?
‘I’ve been working with text in all manner of ways over the last 30 years, maybe more. As a lady who approached me the other day put it: “You’re the guy who does big as f**k paintings with words on.” That’s a fair enough observation I guess… but it’s wrong in one particular way. Words are more “in” my paintings than they are “on” them – the text is an essential part of the painting. 
‘The works I’m showing here at Soho Beach House Miami are a good example of this. They’re the original drawings for a wider series. I made several studies for each work. Since then, the series has gone through several permutations from being very graphic and hard edged to something more loose and abstract. The drawings I’m showing are the ones I’ve used during this whole process. It might not look like this, but all the paint on them has been applied as part of developing the series. You know, when I asked myself the question, “Would this work if it were blue?” Well, before I f**k up the three metre canvas, let me try a little blue out on this graph paper drawing.’

Discover Harland Miller's art at Soho Beach House | Soho House
Discover Harland Miller's art at Soho Beach House | Soho House
Discover Harland Miller's art at Soho Beach House | Soho House

You have been working with text as a medium for a long time – why is that, and how has your relationship with it evolved?
‘Well, language is evolving, it always has been. Even in the short span of time I’ve been living and working, I’m aware of so many ways language has changed, and that’s endlessly fascinating. My work doesn’t reflect any kind of “new speak”, it’s not about keeping up. Actually, it’s about looking at what’s been left behind. That’s key to understanding my work.

‘I was reading recently about the way in which the advent of electricity in the 1900s affected language. People began to say they were feeling “flat” or that they needed to “recharge their batteries”; they talked about being “turned on” or “turned off”. What’s so interesting to me is that there wasn’t any kind of language committee that got together to decide on these new phrases. They were conceived of and uttered by one individual, then repeated by someone else – and so on. I would have liked to have been one of those first casual utterers.’
How long have you been collaborating with Soho House?

‘This is going back a bit, but I remember it well… The first work that was acquired was for Soho House West Hollywood. It was titled “This Is Where Its F**kin At. Least It Used To Be”. It was a new piece at the time, but since then it’s become one of my most sought-after titles. That wouldn’t have happened if it wasn’t in a public space like the House. I like that my work doesn’t rely on being seen in a totally white, austere space – it exists in relation to music, conversation and laughter.’ 

Discover Harland Miller's art at Soho Beach House | Soho House

What’s your relationship with Miami? How do you see your work fitting with the cultural landscape of the city? 
‘I love Miami. I’ve loved the idea of it before I ever even came here. I come from the coast in the UK, but every coastline has its own character. I always want to swim when I get to a new place; it somehow orientates me. In Miami, the sea plays an important part in how the city views itself – the colours, the Miami Dolphins, Joe’s Stone Crab joint. I really identify with that.’
Are there any themes in this series of works that you’re excited to keep exploring? 
‘Yes. As I mentioned, language is always evolving and it evolves differently in different cities, different countries. I’ve picked up a few things here in Miami that I’m going to try and make work back home. Watch this space.’ 
Visit Soho Beach House to see Harland Miller’s artworks on display until Monday 8 January. His solo show ‘All Night Meteorite’ is on at White Cube West Palm Beach until Saturday 16 December