Having given a talk (to the Ipswich Art Society in autumn 2011 –
see the poster here) about
the work which has inspired him, Borin thought it might be interesting
to include some of the material here and a some examples of his early
work which sprang from it.
The period around 1967 was characterized by an explosion of
visual invention involving typographical, colour and illustrative
elements pushed to new heights. Silk screen printing and offset
lithography, such relatively
crude processes compared to the 21st century's digital/ink jet methods
also pushed by designers and artists to deliver extraordinarily subtle
and striking results. Here are a handful of works which inspired Borin
Van Loon's early exploration of the language of psychedelic posters.
v UFO by Hapshash &
The Coloured Coat
Up to a certain
point, the movement to promote musical events (often billed
anachronistically as 'dance concerts') by means of recognisably
psychedelic posters occurred mainly on the west coast of America.
Visual artists in, excuse the cliché, Swinging London saw,
learnt and came up with some of the best creations in an all-too-brief
cultural moment. This example is one of a string of fine posters by
the team of Michael English and Nigel Waymouth and features foil paper,
split inking, dazzling colour, elastic lettering and eclectic
iconography, all characteristic of their work as 'Hapshash & The
Coloured Coat'. They drew on Art Nouveau lettering, whiplash curves,
Aubrey Beardsley and Alphonse Mucha as well as fine art sources, all
spiced with wit and a sense of playfulness. This
example, probably an early printing of the Osiris
(Visions) Ltd CIA v UFO
poster was spotted framed and hanging on the wall of the Vinyl Vault
record shop in Cheltenham in May 2012. It is so unusual to find an 'in
the flesh' example of designs which are usually only seen as
reproductions in books or as web images. Our thanks to the proprietor
for enabling us to take the photograph. Dealers and collectors have
created a lucrative market for psychedelic posters in recent years.
Jimi Hendrix by Larry Smart
A simple and powerful image of one of the most iconic faces
in early rock, particularly significant as James Marshall Hendrix
started his meteoric rise under the tutelage of Chas Chandler in the UK
with British sidemen Mitch Mitchell and Noel Redding making up The Jimi
Hendrix Experience. Borin actually got to see this poster in its large
scale printed form at an exhibition of posters at the Victoria &
Albert Museum in London in summer 1998 (typically, the organisers left
of the book published to catalogue the exhibits). It rose in public
conciousness again in 2010/11 when Miranda Hart's situation comedy
Miranda was broadcast and this
image was seen hanging in Gary's Bar,
the setting for many scenes. Signed, 2nd printings of the image have
been available at a high price from London dealers. Larry Smart died
some years ago. Inspired by this and other images in the late sixties,
Borin went on to
create a number of Hendrix images over many years.
Mister Tambourine Man by Martin Sharp
Australian designer Martin Sharp moved to London in 1966 and
became art director of Richard Neville's Oz
magazine and became part of London’s countercultural scene,
designing psychedelic posters for clubs and musicians. For a time he
was Eric Clapton's flatmate and presented him with a song lyric which
seemed virtually impossible to set to music. Jack Bruce took the lyric
and turned it into one of the great psychedelic rock songs of the era:
Cream's Tales of Brave Ulysses
from the album Disraeli Gears.
Sharp was also responsible for the back and front covers for that LP,
although it took Borin years to discover it. In those days the artist
rarely got a credit for his or her work on the 12 inch square sleeves
– a main selling point – but 'Printed and made by Ernest J.
Day Ltd' was always prominently credited: the power of the
originator/finisher. The poster of Bob Dylan is visually stunning with
Sharp's characteristic humour showing through in the witty 'Blowin'
in the mind' lettering and partially obscured song title emphasising
the word 'urine'. He was unashamed to use basic tools to achieve
his artwork and credited himself as 'Sharp Martin (& his silver
scissors – snip, snip!)'. Currently living back in Australia as a
painter, he has made a selection of his posters available once again
for the modern audience. This particular era-defining piece featured in
Mick Farren's hard-to-find 1976 book Get
on down: a decade of rock and roll posters.
Steve Miller (Blues) Band by Victor Moscoso
in 1966/7 Moscoso set the
American standard with what he still describes as 'classic
psychedelic'. Moscoso has said that when somebody warns him that he
can't put two colours together in a design, this fills him with a
dermination to do it. The colour vibration he produces is unmistakable.
Some fine examples are reproduced in the compilation of his work: Sex, rock and optical illusions. He
went on to design a back-and-front colour cover for Zap Comix which has
become a classic. He's also a dab hand with a dip pen, so all-in-all a
This contemporary press shot mingles
commercial posters for the London Planetarium, Madame Tussaud's and the
RSC with (from top left) lower part of Smart's 'Hendrix',
[Little Murders: Jules Feiffer play], Mick Jagger ('Let
him that is without sin, Jail the first Stone'), 'Girl with green hair'
(Alton Kelly & Stanley Mouse), part of Big Brother & The
Holding Company (Moscoso), 'UFO at the Roundhouse' (Martin
Sharp), 'Pipedream' (unidentified). 'Steve Miller Band' (Moscoso), 'Luv
Productions' (Hapshash), 5th Dimension Club, Leicester (Hapshash),
Tomorrow:'My white bicycle' (Hapshash), 'October Songs' -Incredible
String Band/Shirley Collins (Osiris Visions, artist?).
Probably from the same shoot (we'll
have to dig out that old Sunday supplement copy), this shows, from top
left: the edge of a Hendrix/Saville Theatre poster (Hapshash),
Dylan/Visions (?), Crazy World of Arthur Brown (Hapshash), Mister
Tambourine Man (Sharp), large UFO poster: cut down (Michael English),
UFO (Hapshash), Love Festival (Michael English), 'Mine eyes have seen
the glory' (Rick Griffin), Sopwith Camel (Moscoso), Can-A-Blis (Rick
& Hardy], [US satirical poster: 'Dynamic duo exposed'], The Doors (Moscoso), Jefferson
Airplane/Great Society (Family Dog), Save Earth Now (Michael
English), right side of UFO Coming
(Hapshash), Castro photo, UFO Club (Mike McInnerney), 'Flapping your
arms can be flying' (Joe McHugh), 14 Hour
Technicolour Dream (Mike McInnerney), Hendrix/Fillmore (Hapshash).
There are all sorts of source books and websites for the psychedelic
poster era and here are some of the best:
Ted Owen: 'High art - a history of the psychedelic poster'. Sanctuary,
Victor Moscoso: 'Sex, drugs and optical illusion'. Fantagraphics, 2005.
Michael English: '3D eye'. Paper Tiger, 1979.
(Visions) Ltd catalogue/images
Emily King's Guardian article on the V&A
psychedelic poster show in 2006
Hurford book web page
Classic Posters (US dealer)
Posters (UK dealer with good images)
Borin's page of early work.
throughout this site belongs to Borin Van Loon