Monday, December 11, 2006

Donwood's "Cnut," from the cover of "The Eraser"
Donwood Dresses Up Thom Yorke Solo Album
June 15, 2006, 2:20 PM ET

Katie Hasty, N.Y.
Artist Stanley Donwood was fascinated by the floods in Cornwall, England, two years ago, inspiring part of his recent exhibition, "London Views." His woodcuts and general interest in the catastrophes of London also seemed to jive with Thom Yorke's upcoming solo release, "The Eraser." And it's his piece "Cnut" that will ultimately grace the cover of the album, due July 11 via XL.

"As often happens, the concurrent work that we were doing -- Thom with the music, and me with the artwork -- seemed to intertwine," Donwood tells "We realized that the 'London' stuff would fit perfectly with 'The Eraser,' which in a lot of ways seems a very English record. There was something about this immense torrent washing everything away and the futile figure holding back the wave (or failing to) that worked with the record, especially as we had both seen the flood, just when Thom was starting on the music that would eventually become 'The Eraser.'"

"The Eraser" is packaged as one large foldout card of art, in which the CD will be slipped. "The packaging was a bit of a f***er, because the picture at actual size is about 12 feet long," Donwood admits. "We both wanted to avoid using plastic, apart from the CD itself of course."

Donwood (whose real name is Dan Rickwood -- "I like to separate the person I am at home -- washing up, vacuuming, picking up the kids from school and so on -- from whoever Stanley Donwood is," he says) has been friends with Yorke since their days at the University of Exeter. The pair won the best album packaging Grammy for Radiohead's 2001 album, "Amnesiac."

"[The Grammys] didn't really work out well," Donwood says. "A lot of the things that happened on that visit to Los Angeles were utterly alien to me and quite frightening. I smoked too much evil Californian weed and got the heebie jeebies. I was too paranoid to go to the after party and I had an unpleasant run-in with some over-zealous post-Sept. 11 security guards."

Artwork from his various projects is available through Donwood's Web site, which also features some of his writings. But despite his Radiohead association, Donwood says he's never dabbled in music of his own.

"I can't read music, can't tell a guitar from a bass and haven't ever tried to play anything. It's a sort of blind spot in my life," he laments. "I mean, I suppose being a musician is vaguely equivalent to being an artist or a writer -- but much better. Music is more immediate than [visual] art or writing because it has a visceral reach and can alter your mood much more comprehensively and immediately."

As one would expect, Donwood has been given a sneak peak into some new Radiohead material, much like audience earlier this week at the band's New York shows.

"All [the songs] are good! There are a couple of songs -- 'Down Is the New Up' and 'Videotape' -- that are so beautiful. I just pray they don't f*ck them up in the studio. But as I said, I know nothing about music, so really I should keep my gob shut," he jokes. "I think the new work demonstrates a kind of freedom or release. The long-awaited happy album from Radiohead it is not, but I think there's an amount of dark humor in it. Or not."

Sunday, December 03, 2006

London Views
This work was started in November 2005, whilst a record that was eventually called The Eraser was being worked on in Covent Garden, London. I didn't know that this would become the artwork that would accompany this record, although I hoped that it would, for several reasons too vague and tenuous to go into here. Which is one of the reasons why the record is called The Eraser and the artwork is called London Views.

Another intention was to exhibit the completed project at Lazarides in Greek Street, just over the Charing Cross Road in Soho. This show opened on 19th May 2006, after an opening night which passed eventfully enough.
London Views is a picture of London, an apocalyptic panorama that stretches from the Thames estuary upstream to beyond the familiar structures of the gherkin, the NatWest tower, Big Ben and Battersea Power Station.
This medievalised vision of apocalypse in England's capital city was carved on 14 pieces of linoleum with one small cutting tool. The original blocks make up a picture about twelve feet long, which has been painstakingly hand-burnished on to beautiful Japanese Kozo paper, as it has so far proved impossible to print this using a press. Thus the edition is extremely small; only 8 have been made.

Each of the 14 sections were first proofed on a huge cast-iron printing press, an Albion made in 1860, scanned, and printed on to large aluminium/polymer composite panels, which in turn were caged with diamond-pattern wire, reminiscent of the Evening Standard headline-boards that infect the capital with their own dire predictions. Each of these panels are 75 cm wide x 140 cm high.

In addition to these, the exhibition shows individual relief prints from the original linocuts printed on that Albion Press, a selection of limited edition screen prints , and a small concertina-folded booklet showing the entire panorama. For those of you that imagine the dreadful consequences of late-period Western capitalism are not irretrievably final, I have made 33 jigsaw puzzles of disaster. These will be probably the most expensive jigsaws ever retailed. I wish you luck in the reassembly of our civilisation's Golden Era.

Thanks to Richard Lawrence, Andrew Lunt, Lyndsay Geddes, Martyn Grimmer, Ghazwan Hamdan, Steve Lazarides, Thom Yorke, & Audrey Pussycat.