A tabled question

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Work-related research this week had me wondering who it was that first thought of turning Battersea Power Station into a table. For the past few days I’ve been looking at a lot of the illustration work that George Hardie produced for the Hipgnosis album covers in the 70s and 80s; I’ll explain why in due course but the quest led me to seek out the songbook for Pink Floyd’s Animals album, two pages of which can be seen in the first Hipgnosis book.

Hipgnosis would often extend their album design into promotional areas, producing related posters, stickers, and so on. Pink Floyd’s popularity meant there was demand for songbooks, and the one for Animals is a treat for the use it makes of additional photos from the flying-pig sessions at Battersea Power Station. The idea of using the power station for the cover came from Roger Waters, incidentally; a shame he didn’t apply the same invention to his lyrics. But I digress…

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From the Animals songbook (1977). By George Hardie?

Between the photos (and, er, the songs) there are several pages of graphics by (I’m guessing) Bush Hollyhead and George Hardie; the former depicts a pig, dog and sheep in various stylised arrangements while Hardie provided a vignette of bacon rashers on a Battersea table. This was 1977 so I’m assuming it’s the earliest example of the power-station-as-table, unless, of course, somebody out there knows better.

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When the Monster Dies (1990) by Kate Pullinger. Illustration by Willie Ryan.

And sure enough… Thanks to herr doktor bimler for suggesting this one.

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Robber Baron Table (2006) by Studio Job.

Artist David Mach took up the table idea in the 1990s to produce a series of collages showing an enormous chimney-legged chair sitting beside the power station. There’s no explanation as to why the table should be upside down but then artists often don’t think things through as well as designers. A better idea is the Battersea-like Robber Baron Table (2006) by Studio Job, part of a series of furniture concepts suitable for oligarchs and those who work in the City of London.

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And so to the inevitable, one of a number of stylish tables currently being manufactured by the Battersea Table company.

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Not a table but another clever repurposing of Giles Gilbert Scott’s architecture. Atypyk makes concrete ashtrays for those who still smoke, with the chimneys formed from unsmoked cigarettes. Battersea Power Station when it was in use did much to contribute to London’s polluted air so this seems a fitting by-product. Are there any more examples out there?

Previously on { feuilleton }
Design as virus 16: Prisms
Labels
Storm Thorgerson, 1944–2013
Hipgnosis turkeys
Peter Christopherson, 1955–2010
Storm Thorgerson: Right But Wrong
Battersea Power Station

René Magritte album covers

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Beck-Ola (1969) by The Jeff Beck Group. Painting: The Listening Room (second version, 1958).

An inevitable post considering the shape of the week, and also a continuation of an occasional series about paintings used as album cover art. Given Magritte’s continuing popularity I’m sure these can’t be the only examples, especially when his work had such an effect on the cover designs of the 1970s. In addition to the Magritte-like covers created by Hipgnosis for Pink Floyd and others you can find the artist’s influence in the cover by Alton Kelley and Stanley Mouse for The Grand Illusion (1977) by Styx, a hugely successful album whose painting is derived from Magritte’s The Blank Cheque (1965). There are many more examples.

Magritte died in 1967 so he missed out on this explosion of interest which also spread into the advertising world. When it comes to influence, Magritte has probably had more of an effect on the general culture than any of the other Surrealists, Dalí included.

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See (1969) by The Rascals. Painting: The Big Family (1963).

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Pipedream (1973) by Alan Hull. Painting: Philosopher’s Lamp (1936).

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Vienne La Pluie (1975) by Daniel Balavoine. Painting: Hegel’s Holiday (1958).

Continue reading “René Magritte album covers”

Monsieur René Magritte, a film by Adrian Maben

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Until the end of his life, [Magritte] preferred to take the tram.

Now there’s an attitude I approve of. George Melly in his BBC film about Surrealism mentions visiting Magritte at his home in Brussels, and we see Magritte’s house at the beginning of Adrian Maben’s 50-minute film about the artist’s life and work. Maben’s film was made in 1978 as an Franco-German TV production but the narration, by Maben himself, is in English. Surrealism seemed to be back in vogue in 1978: as mentioned yesterday, the Hayward Gallery in London staged an exhibition of Surrealist art that year, the BBC commissioned George Melly’s film as a result of this, while over on rival network ITV there was the marvellous documentary about Surrealist patron Edward James who modelled for one of Magritte’s most famous paintings, La reproduction interdite (1937).

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Adrian Maben’s name will be familiar to Pink Floyd obsessives as the director of Pink Floyd: Live at Pompeii (1972), and if you’re familiar with that film you can recognise the same shooting style in his Magritte film which deploys similar slow zooms, tracking shots and images sliding in and out of the frame. The music is credited to a surprising combination of Béla Bartók (mostly piano) and Roger Waters, although some of the pieces from the latter are actually by Pink Floyd, there’s even some of the opening of Obscured By Clouds. In style and content the film is as good as anything the BBC were producing at the time, with extracts from a TV interview with the artist, and also some of Magritte’s high-spirited home movies made with his wife and friends.

Magritte and Pink Floyd are a fitting match, some of the Floyd’s album covers could be Magritte paintings rendered photographically: two men shaking hands, one of whom is on fire; a giant pig adrift over a power station. Storm Thorgerson always acknowledged the debt that Hipgnosis owed Magritte’s example, it’s there in the title of the first Hipgnosis book, Walk Away René, and in this short Tate interview from 2011 where he mentions the Wish You Were Here album as being a very conscious Magritte homage.

Previously on { feuilleton }
George Melly’s Memoirs of a Self-Confessed Surrealist
The Secret Life of Edward James
René Magritte by David Wheatley

Swinging Britain, 1967

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My thanks to Jay for turning up this gem from the huge British Pathé archive which recently landed at YouTube. British Pathé provided short newsreel films for UK cinemas up until 1970. The flaws of these films have always been immediately apparent, chiefly an irritating editorial attitude manifested by patronising voiceovers and sequences staged for the camera. On the plus side, everything was being shot for cinema screens so 35mm film was used which means the footage always looks better than the TV news of the time.

Swinging Britain is an 8-minute jaunt from the Portobello Road and Carnaby Street, to the offices of Intro magazine (launched that year), Mary Quant’s boutique, a “happening” in a park, and various nightclubs (not the UFO, unfortunately). Most footage along these lines tends to concentrate exclusively on London but this one also includes scenes in Manchester and Newcastle. The voiceover is as sceptical as you’d expect, leavened with a few qualifying remarks: “It’s good business for Britain!” The event in the park was one of a number of happenings and art events staged by Keith Albarn (Damon’s dad). The Pathé archive has another film showing the interior of Albarn’s Fun City environment at Margate, Kent. Of more general interest is this film of one of the popular beat groups of the period, four young men who call themselves The Pink Floyd.

See also:
Woburn Love-In (1967)
Light Fantastic (1968)
Out Takes / Cuts From Cp 662 – Reel 1 Of 3 – Swinging Britain (1967)
Out Takes / Cuts From Cp 662 – Reel 2 Of 3 – Swinging Britain (1967)
Out Takes / Cuts From Cp 662 – Reel 3 Of 3 – Swinging Britain (1967)
Out Takes / Cuts From Cp 719 – Fun Palace, Air Cushion And Balloon Race (1968)

Previously on { feuilleton }
San Francisco by Anthony Stern
Smashing Time

Weekend links 208

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The Blue Girl (2013) by Sungwon.

• “Meanwhile, in her parents’ room [Max] Ernst painted aardvarks eating ants and big human hands around the windows. ‘Sexual connotations, I think,’ she says shyly.” Agnès Poirier talks to Cécile Eluard about her childhood among the Surrealists.

• “Thrilling and prophetic”: why film-maker Chris Marker‘s radical images influenced so many artists. Sukhdev Sandhu, William Gibson, Mark Romanek and Joanna Hogg on the elusive director.

• At Dangerous Minds: Throbbing Gristle live in Manchester in 1980, and Brian Butler talks about the rediscovered early print of Kenneth Anger’s Lucifer Rising. There’s a trailer!

• From 1981: The Art of Fiction No. 69 at The Paris Review, an interview with Gabriel García Márquez. Related: Thomas Pynchon reviewed Love in the Time of Cholera in 1988.

• “Seven years ago, a stolen first edition of Borges’s early poems was returned to Argentina’s National Library. But was it the right copy?” Graciela Mochkofsky investigates.

• “What was Walter Benjamin doing with his shirt off in Ibiza?” Peter E. Gordon reviews Walter Benjamin: A Critical Life by Howard Eiland & Michael W. Jennings.

• A video by Marcel Weber for Måtinden, a track from Eric Holm’s Andøya album. Another album on the Subtext label that I helped design.

• More Ian Miller: Boing Boing has pages from his new book, The Art of Ian Miller, and there’s an interview at Sci-Fi-O-Rama.

Outrun Europa, a free compilation of 80s-style electronic music. There’s a lot more along those lines here.

• Praise Be! Favourite religious and spiritual records chose by writers at The Quietus.

Ralph Steadman illustrated Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland in 1973.

British Pathé is uploading 85,000 of its newsreel films to YouTube.

• Drawings by Lebbeus Woods at The Drawing Center, New York.

• At Pinterest: Ian Miller and Kenneth Anger.

Lucifer Sam (1967) by Pink Floyd | The Surrealist Waltz (1967) by Pearls Before Swine | Which Dreamed It (1968) by Boeing Duveen And The Beautiful Soup