The art of Mati Klarwein, 1932–2002

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If book collecting is frequently a waiting game, some waiting periods can be longer than others. In the case of Mati Klarwein’s God Jokes, my patience and hope have sustained themselves for 28 years until I finally acquired a copy this Thursday afternoon. God Jokes was the second book of Mati Klarwein’s work, published by Harmony Books, New York, in 1976, a slim catalogue-style collection of his paintings, some of which were featured in the early issues of Omni magazine. In 1979 and 1980 God Jokes turned up in a chain of UK remainder shops and for a while it seemed like everyone I knew owned a copy which possibly explains my unaccountable decision to avoid buying one myself. As the years passed and I became increasingly enamoured with Mati Klarwein’s work I came to regret that decision, not least because the book seemed to disappear completely. Copies have turned up since on Abe.com but at bizarrely inflated prices (£50 for a 56-page art book?!). I paid £4.99; patience sometimes pays off.

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Abraxas by Santana.

Mati Klarwein’s work has been most visible via the album sleeves of the Sixties and Seventies which borrowed his pictures for their covers. Chief among these is one of the best Santana albums, Abraxas (1970), which used his stunning 1961 painting The Annunciation (and a lettering design by Robert Venosa), and one of all-time favourite albums, the Miles Davis masterpiece Bitches Brew (1970). Miles Davis was a great Klarwein enthusiast for a while and commissioned new work for his Live-Evil album in 1971.

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Live-Evil by Miles Davis.

It’s not necessary to go into detail describing Mati Klarwein’s work when you can go to the web gallery maintained by his family and feast your eyes there. Klarwein is one of the few 20th century artists to have taken Salvador Dalí’s photo-realist painting style and make of it something unique to himself; his work is always immediately recognisable. That this work is still known mainly for its illustrative connections tells you more about the iniquities of the art world than it does about the value of the paintings as works of art.

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The most curious thing about having to wait so long to find a copy of God Jokes was that I ended up working with a picture of Mati Klarwein’s three years before I found the book; I would have expected to find the book one day but the latter eventuality was far less predictable. In 2005 Jon Hassell asked me to design his new CD, Maarifa Street, and Jon was keen to use a tiny video detail he made of a huge and incredible Klarwein painting, Crucifixion (1963–65). The detail is the rectangle in the centre of the cover, juxtaposed against some Hubble galaxies: the very small against the very large. We used the painting itself and further details inside the digipak. Jon was another of those who used Klarwein’s art for his album sleeves (for Earthquake Island, Dream Theory in Malaya and Aka-Darbari-Java/Magic Realism) and the two men became great friends as a result.

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Crucifixion by Mati Klarwein.

Jon Hassell writes about Bitches Brew—and Mati Klarwein’s sleeve art—here. His site also includes a 1998 Mati Klarwein interview from The Wire in which the painter discusses his life and work. If you want a copy of God Jokes for yourself, be prepared to wait…or pay over the odds.

Elsewhere on { feuilleton }
The fantastic art archive

Elsewhere on { feuilleton }
The album covers archive

Previously on { feuilleton }
Ballantine Adult Fantasy covers
Visions and the art of Nick Hyde
The poster art of Marian Zazeela

Ballantine Adult Fantasy covers

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top left: Bob Pepper (1969); right: David Johnston (1974).
bottom left: Mati Klarwein (1972); right: Gervasio Gallardo (1972).

I wrote about the classic line of fantasy paperbacks in the Ballantine Adult Fantasy series last year as part of the post about Bob Pepper’s illustration:

It was the success of the publication of The Lord of the Rings in America which inspired Betty Ballantine to publish a line of fantasy classics in the late Sixties. The series began its run in 1969 and continued until 1974. Lin Carter was commissioned as editor and given free reign to choose any title he thought might be suitable with the result that many of the books in the series—obscurities such as Lud-in-the-mist by Hope Mirrlees—received their first paperback publication. Carter also reprinted personal favourites which frequently shifted from fantasy to outright horror, such as the titles from HP Lovecraft and William Hope Hodgson. The range and scope of this line is what makes the series so notable today and the books have become highly-collectable as a result.

I’m fairly sure this page of cover scans of the BAF series wasn’t there when I was searching for Pepper covers. Whether it was or not, it contains a lot of Bob Pepper artwork I hadn’t seen before at large size, plus a substantial number of the other covers. I was never all that taken with Gervasio Gallardo’s work which took the lion’s share of the illustration duties but the passage of time has lent his paintings and their florid title designs the distinction of being emblematic of the era. And some of the rest are still pretty decent covers.

Elsewhere on { feuilleton }
The illustrators archive
The book covers archive

Previously on { feuilleton }
The art of Bob Pepper
Fantastic art from Pan Books

The fantastic art archive

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Previous posts about fantastic, surreal or visionary artists.

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The Execution of the Testament of the Marquis de Sade by Jean Benoît

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Ernst Fuchs, 1977

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Ernst Fuchs, 1930–2015

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The art of Aleksandr Kosteckij

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The art of Fabrizio Clerici, 1913–1993

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The art of Victor Linford, 1940–2002

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Heimkiller and High

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The Man Who Paints Monsters In The Night

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Hans by Sibylle

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The art of Jean-Michel Mathieux-Marie

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Gilles Rimbault redux

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Albert Goodwin’s fantasies

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The art of Roland Cat

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The art of James Gleeson, 1915–2008

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Sidney Sime paintings

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The art of Joanna Chrobak

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Giger’s Tarot

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Giger’s Necronomicon

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The art of Thomas Cole, 1801–1848

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Raymond Bertrand paintings

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Raymond Bertrand’s science fiction covers

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Visionaries: The Art of the Fantastic

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Starowieyski in Switzerland

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The art of Luis Toledo

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Jacques Brissot’s Hay Wain

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The art of Jindrich Styrsky, 1899–1942

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The art of Robert Venosa, 1936–2011

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Initiations in the Abyss: A Surrealist Apocalypse

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The fantastic and apocalyptic art of Bruce Pennington

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The art of Leonidas Kryvosej

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The art of Johfra Bosschart, 1919–1998

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The art of Aloys Zötl, 1803–1887

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Sibylle Ruppert revisited

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Sibylle Ruppert, 1942–2011

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In the Land of Retinal Delights

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Gilles Rimbault revisited

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The art of Martin Wittfooth

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The art of Carel Willink, 1900–1983

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Wilfried Sätty: Artist of the occult

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The art of Ran Akiyoshi, 1922–1982

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The art of Gilles Rimbault

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The art of Michael Hutter

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Boy, O Boy by Julie Heffernan

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The art of Jim Leon, 1938–2002

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Surrealist echoes

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The art of Laurie Hogin

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The art of Christian rex Van Minnen

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Angels of Anarchy: Women Artists and Surrealism

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The art of Oleg Denysenko

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The art of François Schuiten

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The art of Sibylle Ruppert

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The eyes of Odilon Redon

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Fata Morgana: The New Female Fantasists

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Franciszek Starowieyski, 1930–2009

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The art of Boris Indrikov

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The art of Mati Klarwein, 1932–2002

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The art of Pierre Clayette, 1930–2005

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The monstrous tome

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A Midsummer Night’s Dadd

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The art of Ian Miller

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The art of Leonor Fini, 1907–1996

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The art of Michel Henricot

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The art of Heidi Taillefer

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Set in Stone

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Against Nature: The hybrid forms of modern sculpture

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The art of Jean-Paul Faccon

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The art of Andrew Severynko

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The Hound of Heaven by RH Ives Gammell

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The art of Jean Carriès, 1855–1894

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Visions and the art of Nick Hyde

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The art of Julie Heffernan

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Custom creatures

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The art of Harold Hitchcock

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The art of Agostino Arrivabene

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The art of Takato Yamamoto

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The art of NoBeast

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A Madmen’s Museum

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The art of Andrey Avinoff, 1884–1949

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Imaginary maps by Francesca Berrini

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The art of Jacques Sultana

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Fantastic art from Pan Books

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The art of Jean Benoît

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The art of Bertrand

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Pierre Matter’s cyborg sculpture

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The art of José Hernández

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Czanara’s Hermaphrodite Angel

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The art of Sergei Aparin

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The art of Nicola Verlato

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The art of Stephen Aldrich

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The art of Rudolf Hausner, 1914–1995

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The art of Erik Desmazières

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The Codex Seraphinianus

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Surrealist women

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Leonora Carrington

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Two American paintings

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The art of Thomas Häfner, 1928–1985

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The art of Arnau Alemany

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The art of Jean Louis Ricaud

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The art of Gérard Trignac

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The Museum of Fantastic Specimens

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The art of Franz Xavier Messerschmidt, 1736–1783

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The art of Ernst Fuchs

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The art of Jean-Marie Poumeyrol

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Las Pozas and Edward James

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The art of Jean-Pierre Ugarte

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The art of Ljuba Popovic

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The art of Stanislav Szukalski, 1893–1987

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The archive page archive

White Noise: Electric Storms, Radiophonics and the Delian Mode

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Many sounds have never been heard—by humans: some sound waves you don’t hear—but they reach you. “Storm-stereo” techniques combine singers, instrumentalists and complex electronic sound. The emotional intensity is at a maximum. Sleeve note for An Electric Storm, Island Records, 1969.

An Electric Storm by White Noise is reissued in a remastered edition this week. It’s a work of musical genius and I’m going to tell you why.

Hanging around with metalheads and bikers in the late Seventies meant mostly sitting in smoke-filled bedrooms listening to music while getting stoned. Among the Zeppelin and Sabbath albums in friends’ vinyl collections you’d often find a small selection of records intended to be played when drug-saturation had reached critical mass. These were usually something by Pink Floyd or Virgin-era Tangerine Dream but there were occasionally diamonds hiding in the rough. I first heard The Faust Tapes under these circumstances, introduced facetiously as “the weirdest record ever made” and still a good contender for that description thirty-four years after it was created. One evening someone put on the White Noise album.

It should be noted that I was no stranger to electronic music at this time, I’d been a Kraftwerk fan since I heard the first strains of Autobahn in 1974 and regarded the work of Wendy Carlos, Tangerine Dream, Brian Eno and Isao Tomita as perfectly natural and encouraging musical developments. But An Electric Storm was altogether different. It was strange, very strange; it was weird and creepy and sexy and funny and utterly frightening; in places it could be many of these things all at once. Electronic music in the Seventies was for the most part made by long-hairs with banks of equipment, photographed on their album sleeves preening among stacks of keyboards, Moog modules and Roland systems. You pretty much knew what they were doing and, if you listened to enough records, you eventually began to spot which instruments they were using. There were no pictures on the White Noise sleeve apart from the aggressive lightning flashes on the front. There was no information about the creators beyond their names and that curious line about “the emotional intensity is at a maximum”. And the sounds these people were making was like nothing on earth.

Continue reading “White Noise: Electric Storms, Radiophonics and the Delian Mode”