Previously presented in Birmingham, an exhibition of Revelations: a magical portrait launched in London, UK on April 13. Scottish contemporary artist Stuart McAlpine Miller’s collection of artwork will be on display at the S&P Gallery until April 27, 2022, with a percentage of proceeds going to Lumos.
Revelations consists of 11 portraits inspired Harry Potter, painted in pop art style. Each painting takes a Potter character or characters as seen in promotional photography for the film series and adds layers of emphasis, pattern and wording. A variety of Harry Potter book covers also feature throughout. It’s fun trying to identify where the different elements come from, and you soon start to wonder if a typography is more typical of the 2014 UK editions or the US originals.
At first glance, the portraits are assumed to be digital collages of all these other works of art, but each print was created from an original painting by McAlpine Miller, which took him six years in total. His use of light and shadow on the central figures is more reminiscent of the Renaissance masters than the Pop Art movement, and brings them to life far beyond what was captured in the original photograph. Harry’s piercing blue eyes lock into yours, and the layering of the pieces only adds to their three-dimensionality.
Pop art is something McAlpine Miller is known for, his style being regularly compared to Andy Warhol. It makes you think that in the 21st century, Harry Potter is truly as ubiquitous as Campbell’s soup cans and as iconic as Marilyn Monroe when Warhol portrayed them in the 20th century. Such has been the impact of the series on global mass culture; it is hard to imagine that there are many people in the world for whom these coins would not be at least somewhat familiar. After being plastered on buildings and lining store shelves for more than two decades, the images they are based on are nothing short of iconic.
This iconic nature is evoked in the paintings by echoes of more traditional religious iconography with jewel tones and fragmentation reminiscent of stained glass. The vaulted Gothic architecture often associated with cathedrals can be seen above Harry in A complex nature, and a cross shape behind Snape in Hypnotic revelation was used to portray him as a martyr in a play recounting his double life.
This exploration of the different facets of the characters is found throughout the exhibition. McAlpine Miller has a previous successful collection titled Lives lost // Personalities split, and that fascination with duality obviously followed him into this one. This is most evident in the portrait of Hermione titled Dual personalitybut also in inner evil. The latter shows the dark form of Draco Malfoy as seen on a poster for Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince but with a lighter shadow behind and the phrase “The good and the bad” falling partly out of sight, hinting that it may not be as black as it is painted.
Wizarding-inspired art has long spanned a wide range of skills and professionalism, from amateur DIYers to celebrity fan artists. But Revelations: a magical portrait is something virtually unknown in the world of Potter art: Fully licensed from Warner Bros., which isn’t exactly known for its laid-back attitude to its copyrights. We wonder if this is the start of something new for this franchise and if we can expect more such collections in the future.
Revelations: a magical portrait is on display at the S&P Gallery, 58 Gloucester Road, London, until 27 April 2022. Limited edition prints of pieces from the collection are available to buy in person or online, from £2,100 (approx. $2,755). 10% of each net sale price will be donated to the Lumos Foundation.