Electrical Banana – Masters of Psychedelic Art
‘Lord of the Rings’ (German Book Cover) – 1970
Sci-Fi-O-Rama is proud to present a selection of ‘far out’ imagery sequestered from the fantastically titled ‘Electrical Banana’ Psychedelic art book. And yes, that title is indeed derived from a reference to a certain type of sex toy.
This article was originally planned as a feature on 60’s Psychedelic Music Posters by artists such as Bonnie Maclean, Victor Moscoso and Wes Wilson. Upon searching for an appropriate book to feature I came across Electrical Banana and a selection of artists I was less familiar with so I thought I’d give it punt. Here’s the blurb:
Electrical Banana is the first definitive examination of the international language of psychedelia, focusing on the most important practitioners in their respective fields with a deft combination of hundreds of unseen images and exclusive interviews and essays, Electrical Banana aims to revise the common perception of psychedelic art, showing it to be more innovative, compelling, and revolutionary than was ever thought before.
The artists include: Marijke Kroger, a Dutch artist responsible for dressing the Beatles; Mati Klarwein, who painted the cover for Miles Davis’ Bitches Brew; Keiichi Taanami, the Japanese master of psychedelic posters; Heinz Edelmann, the German illustrator and designer of the Yellow Submarine animated film; Tadanori Yokoo, whose prints and books, defined the ‘6os in Japan; Dudley Edwards, a painter, car designer, and graphic embellisher for the London rock scene, and the enigmatic Australian Martin Sharp, whose work for Cream and underground magazines made him a ‘hippie household name in Europe.
As you can imagine the book is impeccably researched and is laced with some excellent, fairly unique content. What I’ll do here then is run through each of the artists and add a couple of samples. Before starting I’ll stress that this barely skims the surface and if your even the slightest bit interesting in the swinging 60’s and psychedelia in general Electrical Banana is an absolute must-have.
Let’s begin then…
‘Yellow Submarine Stills’
Heinz Edelmann (20 June 1934 – 21 July 2009) was a German illustrator and designer, most famous for his art direction and character designs for the 1968 animated film Yellow Submarine. An immensely talented individual Edelmann’s career spanned four decades and utilised many styles. It is, however, the playful and gloriously vividly coloured work with The Beatles that will remain his most famous work.
As with all featured artists, Electrical Banana includes an extensive interview with the artist, in his Edelmann explains he had little love for the Psychedelic scene and his work of the period. As the compiling authors Norman Hathaway & Dan Nadel note “Never of the scene, Edelmann instead invented it, imparting his visual language to a culture he was barely interested in”. It’s a fascinating read and you can’t help but wonder why the disdain for something so wonderful, of course, though the strive for perfectionism and purity of ones artistic vision are crosses all artists half to bare – who are we to judge.
It feels a little strange too then to underline this fact by choosing two more illustrations from another project Edelmann reflects upon with unfond feelings. ‘Andromeda SR1’ was illustrated children’s book about a voyage to Mars, again featuring the dynamic iridescent and totally unmistakable style. I love the way the Ink bleeds and blooms, this effect was achieved apparently by using Dr. Martins Dyes.
‘Andromedar SR1’ Book Illustrations – 1970.
Moving on from Andromeda SR1, a quick mention with regards to this articles header image. This is Edelman’s Book jacket for a German edition of Tolkiens legendary ‘Lord of the Rings’ which gained traction and was popularised by the hippy movement. The publishers thus wanted psychedelic styled Illustrations, and approached Edelmann who was by this point “Fed up with this entire flower power thing”. Persevering anyway he states that for the book jacket (which I love) the “unforgivably parodied” Milton Glaser’s famous Dylan Poster.
There’s no doubt then that Heinz Edelmann was supremely talented if a slightly-hesitant individual, (with regards to Psychedelia) and I’d love to write and research more but that’ll be the subject of a future post…
For wider overview check the Wikipedia article.
The books next selected artist is Australian Martin Sharp (born 1942), these days considered one of the finest Antipodeans Pop Artists. As opposed to Edelmann Sharp was very much part of the scene, becoming roommates with Eric Clapton during his swinging London years.
As is demonstrated below, Sharp was capable of extremely trippy draughtsmanship and Electrical Banana compiles a varied selection of his portfolio including work from his long dedication to Oz Magazine, the infamous counterculture magazine that ran (in it’s 2nd guise) from 1967 to 1973.
Interesting to note that apparently Sharp did not apparently plan nor pencil his hyper-detailed drawings and would rather populate a page with just the right amount of line and the fill out the composition.
‘London Oz’ – Offset Promotional Poster 1967
Here’s a perfect demonstration of Martin’s playful, swooping linework and hand-cut typography, the above image was designed for the first edition of London Oz, but however was not released at the time.
‘Dantalians Chariot’ – Silkscreen poster on foil 1967
On this poster Sharp notes “It was an image Inspired by Syd Barret and Pink Floyd and my experiences at the U.F.O Club. Mark Boyle did wonderful light shows there over Floyd’s music. The Speakeasy, for example, was a typical nightclub where musicians met and played. The U.F.O Club was a weekly event and total psychedelic experience. Pink Floyd always amazed me”…..
‘Float’ – Offset/silkscreen poster 1969
With far more than one string to his metaphorical bow, the above bold and vivid abstract print serves as a fine example of Sharp’s more Pop Art slanted minimalism.
West Yorkshire’s Dudley Edwards (born 1944) first came to prominence as co-founder of the ground-breaking ‘Pop’ design collective with fellow artists Douglas Binder and David Vaughan (Binder, Edwards & Vaughan).
To quote from Electrical Banana: “Binder, Edwards & Vaughan exploded into the creative carnival that was 1960’s London with it’s brightly coloured and electrified take on traditional fairground painting. Applying the awe-inspiring hand skills onto heretofore unvisited areas of applied art such as pianos, shop fronts and automobiles”
In layman’s terms Binder, Edwards & Vaughan perhaps defined the look of swinging 60’s London more than any other. And though their collaborative time together was short their work would propel them to the lofty heights of collaborating with The Beatles. It’s also doubtful (for better or for worse) that Austin Powers would ever have come to conception for it, not for the craftsmanship of the trio.
‘Carnaby Street’ – Mural 1967
‘Dragon Cafe’ – [With Mike McInnery] Mural 1968
‘Cosmicomics’ – Book Jacket 1968
Edwards also went on to a stint in Record Sleeve and Book Jacket Design of which the interesting above Graphic illustration is a sample.
Read more about Dudley Edwards at Godfrey Townsend Music.
Marijke Koger (Born 1943) was the primary visual artist behind the four-person art group ‘The Fool’ a Dutch design collective (and later band) who rose to prominence in late 1960’s London. Alongside Koger ‘The Fool’ consisted of fellow artist Simon Posthuma, Fashion Designer Yosha Leeger and Barry Finch, the group’s name is derived as a reference to the Tarot Card. The Fool made a tremendous impact at the time via there work for the Beatles, Cream and The Move to name but a few. In fact such was the popularity of the group that despite having few musical inclinations they record a Psych-Folk album produced by Graham Nash – I’ve got to track that one down!
Electrical Banana contains many of Koger’s rainbow coloured illustrations, murals designs and more, carefully documenting the huge influence she had in defining the Technicolor hippy look. Here’s a pretty cool quote from the book when describing her style:
“She did not engage with modernism or pop art, preferring a more accessible, almost colloquial approach to art-making. This is not psychedelic art made by a designer or psychedelic designs made by an illustrator, but rather full-blown psychedelic visuals made by a woman who inhabited that space in her mind’
‘Love Life’ – Offset poster 1966
‘Tiger Man’ – Offset poster 1970
Next up is the first of two Japanese Designer / Illustrators featured in Electrical Banana, and all seven artists featured here I’d have to say that Keiichi Tanaami (born 1932) is definitely my favourite. Tanaami’s style, characterised by beautiful and distinctive line work was to continually evolve and adapt throughout the 60’s becoming increasingly fluid and hedonistically playful thus mirroring the mood of the subcultures he was so fascinated with at the time. Today Tanaami is considered one of Japans leading pop artists, with a back catalogue of work that’s meandered between a variety of mediums, following the doctrine of Andy Warhol whom he met and became fascinated with in 1968.
As with Heinz Edelmann, Taanami’s definitely an artist I’ll be revisiting this year, for now here’s a small taster of his wonderfully kitsch draughtsmanship.
‘Happening’ [projection on models and car] 1966
A projected coloured transparency, essentially a Tanaami piece wrapped over models and car and captured again on film. I have to say I loved this kind of Photograph Installation, a really interesting way to extend an Illustration. The style of work is very similar to ‘After Bathing At Baxter’s’ a Jefferson Airplane cover that you can see below.
‘After Bathing At Baxter’s’ Jefferson Airplane Record Sleeve – 1967
‘1967 Tokyo: C’ Silkscreen edition – 1967
‘1967 Tokyo: C’ Silkscreen edition – 1967
The Tokyo series give you a good sense of the flavour of Tanaami’s pop art sensibilities. These are strikingly printed pieces of art, with an almost viscous contrasting colour palette, stare longer and pick out the subtle texturing and gradient fills, instilling a level of depth and movement.
‘The Savage Eye: A’ Silkscreen edition – 1966
‘The Savage Eye: B’Silkscreen edition – 1966
With an extremely obvious sexual theme ‘The Savage Eyes’ builds upon techniques applied in in the prior ‘Tokyo’ set, but the volume here is now cranked up to 11. Fantastic stuff.
Read more about Keiichi Tanaami in an extensive article on him over at Wikipedia.
Abdul Mati Klarwein (April 9, 1932 – March 7, 2002) was a painter best known for his many album covers of the 60’s and 70’s. As you can see below, Klarwein’s work has a strong surrealist curve, in fact, the samples I’ve selected from Electrical Banana probably owe more to that genre than Psychedelia, though let’s face it the two are closely intertwined. It’s no surprise then to learn that Klarwein actually studied with Salvador Dali at Viennese Fantastic Realist Ernst Fuchs.
Whilst much of Klarwein’s famous work is inspired by Surrealism and Pop Culture, it’s also categorised and reflected by his interest in non-Western deities, symbolism, and landscapes. Klarwein was also friends of LSD Guru and prophet of counterculture Timothy Leary and of the artist, Leary stated that based on the character of his paintings, that Klarwein “didn’t need psychedelics”.
Once again really just a taster of some of the super-far-out work, if you’d like to read more on Mati Klarwien check his wikipedia article or visit his nicely designed official site matiklarweinart.com
‘Bitches Brew’ (commissioned by Miles Davis for his album Bitches Brew) 1970
‘Jimi Hendrix’ (commissioned by Hendrix for incomplete Gil Evans collaboration album) 1970
And so we come to the final of Electrical Banana’s featured artists, Japanese graphic designer, illustrator, printmaker and painter Tadanori Yokoo (born 27 June 1936).
Yokoo is interesting and similar to Heinz Edelmann in that he was not absorbed by psychedelia but rather was influenced strongly by the zeitgeist. This is typified by an extensive body of work typified by the use of searing colours, off-kilter contrasts and optical illusions. Yokoo is also something of a chameleon of style, seemingly able to turn his hand to different disciplines with consummate ease. He’s has produced some stunning work through the years, and you can see much more at his official Japanese site tadanoriyokoo.com.
‘A Ballad Dedicated to the Little Finger Cutting Ceremony’ Silkscreen poster – 1966
‘Sho wp Suteyo e Deyo [Throw Away Your Books, Rally in The Street]’
Shuji Terayama, Book Jacket Design – 1967
So then let’s draw to a close this special feature, with a couple of notes for further reading/viewing.
Firstly, of course, a big shout out to author Norman Hathaway and Dan Nadel. Electrical Banana is a fascinating book and impeccably researched. If your even the slightest bit interested in Psychedelia, the swinging 60’s or just graphical history, in general, you need to own a copy of this book! As usual, I’d recommend Amazon to pick up a copy though I actually picked mine up via an independent online store.
Finally here’s the youtube movie of the Electrical Banana book launch seminar at MoMA PS1.