Stanley Donwood has been in a reflective mood of late. At the end of last year he created a catalogue – “it was supposed to look like a manual from the 1950s or something,” he says – that documents all the prints he has created, stretching back to 2004.
He has now decided to hold an exhibition of a selection of the most rare (and in some cases, previously sold out) prints in his archive at Jealous East gallery in London. “It’s basically things that there aren’t very many of, in some cases, just one print left,” he says. “It’s 15 years worth of screenprinting.”
The work on show – which is all for sale, with prices ranging from £150 to in the thousands, depending on the rarity of the print – spans both prints created to accompany Radiohead covers and other personal work. “It’s a completely wide-ranging selection of work,” says Donwood. “There’s some of the Hail to the Thief word paintings, there’s one called Wraith, which is the cover of Moon-Shaped Pool, the last Radiohead record from 2016… When I did the In Rainbows cover, that was really quite abstract… I used hyperdermic needles to squirt ink, so it was very hard to screenprint. I think I only did one from that series, but I really like it, so that’s in there.”
The prints may vary hugely in style though are linked by a certain dystopian gloom, mixed with touches of black humour, which pervades much of Donwood’s art and writing. This isn’t necessarily intentional, Donwood explains. “Because I started working in this way with Radiohead, with each record as a different thing, I would try to change my brain so I could be a different person and make different work, so it didn’t feel like it was just a continuation,” he says.
“But now, after two decades of doing it, I look at it and it’s sort of weirdly all connected. There is a connection, and it’s probably my disordered brain that’s the connection more than anything else.”
As well as putting together the print show, Donwood has also been working on a new book of featuring linocut prints for Penguin – “a novel with no words,” he says – and a larger monograph looking back at his work to date, which is due to be published by Thames & Hudson next year.
“It’s like looking through a photo album when you’re about to move house, or something like that,” he says of this reflective period. “That sort of point in your life where you just go ‘oh, so that’s what’s been going on the last 20 years’. So this is a selection of the last 20 years, and maybe I’ll close one door behind me and hopefully open one in front of me.
“It feels like a bit of a hinge point,” he continues. “I’ve got very little work left from these editions. Maybe I will just get a storage unit and put everything that I’ve got into it, and start completely again, rather than having the weight of two decades of work hanging around my neck. So that’s an idea. Whether or not I’ll have the actual chutzpah to pull it off, I don’t know.”
Invalid Response by Stanley Donwood is at Jealous East in London until June 24; jealous gallery.com