I spent the day in London today visiting 'must see' exhibitions with UCS graphic design students. I ended up at Tate Britain checking out the Muybridge show which I found much more engaging than I thought I would, but the main attraction was Process: The Working Practices of Barney Bubbles.
For those that don't know, Barney Bubbles created many of the sleeves for punk and post-punk pop favourites such as The Damned, Generation X, Ian Dury and The Blockheads, Elvis Costello & the Attractions, Nick Lowe, and was Stiff Records' designer in residence. Before this he had a history of designing record sleeves for Glastonbury Festival and Hawkwind, as well as creating light shows for Pink Floyd, which is where his name was coined, as he mixed oil, water and ink and projected this to form psychedelic 'bubble' back drops for live shows.
It is only in the last few years that he has been getting much deserved recognition as he preferred anonymity to fame during his working lifetime, with much of his work going unsigned. 27 years after his death, with Paul Gorman's excellent 'Reasons To Be Cheerful' biography (2008), and this show, Barney Bubbles is finally being seen as a hugely important figure in the history of graphic design.
Paul Gorman was on site this morning and together with Donald Smith, Director of Exhibitions at Chelsea Space, kindly gave an introduction to Barney's working life and practices to students. The show was put together on the basis that most of the finished outcomes, (the products) were displayed along the entrance ramp, with the focus being squarely placed on Bubbles working methods. Sketches, Letraset and Rotring artwork, overlays of tracing paper with notes to printers and PMTs were all given pride of place. Students were amazed, enthralled and daunted in equal measures by the fact all the artwork was produced by hand - Barney committed suicide 2 weeks before the introduction of the Apple Mac in 1983.
The show unfortunately finishes this coming Saturday (23 Oct) but find below more images and links to Paul Gorman's blog, the Chelsea Space website, and unusually for Dublog, a link to Amazon for Reasons To Be Cheerful book; go buy it.
I look forward to the coming weeks where this exhibition will form much debate and discussion among students about process on display, ideas informing application, application informing ideas, and old school design methods.
Barney Bubbles blog
Chelsea Space 'Process' images
Reasons To Be Cheerful biography