Your Space Or Mine
Known for producing over two decades worth of album covers and single record sleeve artwork for Radiohead: visual invocations or equivalences to the band’s edgy, expansive and unpredictable aural grit and splendour. In tandem with the musical inspiration it seems the artist Stanley Donwood has also been driven by a profusion of apocalyptic concerns.
‘Kid A’s panoramas of power were fuelled in part by 1990s news reports of war in former Yugoslavia; visuals for ‘OK Computer’ derived from imagining a nuclear winter, the aftermath of human devastation; abstract imagery for a ‘A Moon Shaped Pool’ evoke the unpredictability and power of the elements.
Likewise, the stark, graphic rendition of London deluged by floods for Thom Yorke’s solo album ‘The Eraser’ pictures man made doom. And there’s work like Ness (pub. 2018) – a collaboration with nature writer Robert Macfarlane – inspired by and portraying a very strange landscape, the shingle spit of longshore drift known as Orford Ness in Suffolk. Donwood started making imagery with materials found on the coast: sea coal, mud and clay. But as is often the case with this artist – who is so flexibly and sensitively attuned to making work that elicits feelings, experience and senses beyond words – the chosen media morphed to fine penmanship, detailed drawings that capture both the ephemeral atmospheres and architectural archaeology of a strip of land that’s been used for decades as a military test site. Bad Island published earlier this year on the cusp of UK’s COVID-19 pandemic is a stunning and stark wordless graphic saga. Eighty monochromatic lino prints made over a period of two years chronicle both the discovery of a rich and magical world and, with a sense of inevitability, its destruction.
So what’s with the work showcased in this latest Your Space Or Mine outing for BUILDHOLLYWOOD? Are we seeing Donwood’s sunnier side? “I’m trying to make pictures that elicit some kind of happiness. It’s a novel concept for me,” said the artist. Looking at the vertically formatted Sol, its giant refulgent sun almost seems able to warm viewers’ faces. It is a beautifully pared down design with rich flora in the foreground and skeins of woven luminosity emanating from the star at the centre of our solar system. The source of light and life.
A larger work called Set will appear on 48 sheet billboards and other sites across the country. A detail from a fundraiser released through Donwood’s new imprint The Lost Domain, Set shows a squall of birds silhouetted against a raging sky. It is sublime, and uplifting but still, there’s clearly unnerving depths to Donwood’s foray into cheering the nation.
That said, in an effort to chime with the artist’s newfound shift towards brighter subject matter, we embarked on a light-hearted chat with Donwood, proposing a baker’s dozen of questions covering fashion, beauty, celeb and lifestyle news… All in a further bid to temper the mood of gloom that stalks the land. Here we go: