Val Denham album covers

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Funeral In Berlin (1981) by Throbbing Gristle.

British artist and musician Val Denham was mentioned in yesterday’s post so I thought it worthwhile following up with a selection of the painter’s record sleeves. Denham’s art stood out for me when I first saw the cover of Throbbing Gristle’s Funeral In Berlin album. For its visceral immediacy this is still a big favourite. The early 1980s were the perfect time for Denham’s paintings to appear on record sleeves, the diminished area of CD packages providing a poor stage for work that’s this vivid and dramatic. Denham’s associations with Throbbing Gristle extended to work with Marc Almond, a cover for the Some Bizzare compilation If You Can’t Please Yourself You Can’t, Please Your Soul which featured ex-TG members Coil and Psychic TV, and further associations with Coil allies Black Sun Productions. Many of these connections can be explored at Denham’s detailed website which has a great gallery section showing work in a variety of media from the past thirty years. Denham’s art is surreal, intense, often disturbing, and deeply personal in its exploration of shifting gender boundaries. Isn’t it time someone published a Val Denham book?

Some cover samples follow. More can be seen at the artist’s website.

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Untitled (1982) by Marc and The Mambas. Design by Huw Feather.

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Torment And Toreros (front, 1983) by Marc and The Mambas. Design by Huw Feather.

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Torment And Toreros (back, 1983) by Marc and The Mambas. Design by Huw Feather.

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A Moment of Inspiration, 1983

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Marc Almond (1983) by John Coulthart.

This, girls and boys, is how we occupied ourselves in the long nights before the advent of 24-hour television: we sat up drawing portraits of Marc Almond. A conversation on Twitter reminded me of this, a drawing that’s never before appeared in public but which is now added to the web collection. For a quick piece of art it’s actually a lot more successful than many of the more laboured things of mine that were printed far and wide at this time. The portrait was copied from a magazine photo, I forget which one, possibly Flexipop if it was still going, an increasingly wayward title that had a soft spot (so to speak) for Soft Cell. The Spanish hat identifies it as being from the Torment and Toreros period while the lettering was taken from Val Denham and Huw Feather’s cover design for the first Marc and The Mambas album, Untitled (1982). The padded-cell background refers, of course, to Marc’s former group, and was copied from the back of the Bedsitter 12″. Most of the drawing is done in black Biro pen with the hat and shirt in gouache. On the back I happened to make a note of the date, something I seldom bother with.

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The Twitter conversation was prompted by the appearance of Soft Cell’s notorious Sex Dwarf video at Dangerous Minds; Flexipop enjoyed the scurrilous side of Soft Cell so much they printed a still from this Bacchanal as a centre-spread in one of their issues. Meanwhile Marc himself was writing in the Guardian this week about Bowie manqué Jobriath, one of the real-life inspirations for the Brian Slade character in Todd Haynes’ Velvet Goldmine, and the subject of a feature-length documentary, Jobriath A.D., by Kieran Turner, currently showing at the BFI’s London Lesbian & Gay Film Festival.

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