Tuesday 9 April 2013

Michael English And Psychedelic Art Of Hapshash And The Coloured Coat

The Soft Machine poster, 1967

Some time ago I bought this book (from 1979) about the art of Michael English, titled 3D Eye. It is the collection of posters, prints and paintings of Michael English from the period 1966-1979. Large part of the book is devoted to the years 1966-1968, when English was a part of a design collective Hapshash and the Coloured Coat, which specialised in making psychedelic posters for London's counter-cultural underground.

Michael English was born in Bicester, Oxfordshire in 1940. After quitting his first job at the BBC animation studios (reason: boredom), he enrolled at the Ealing College of Art. After completing his course in 1962, he went on to work in an advertising agency. Then, in 1965, he met Tom Salter, owner of Gear boutique.  English started designing various items for Gear: screen-printed carrier bags with slogans like 'Sex' or 'Kiss Me', sunglasses covered with Union Jacks (possibly the first appropriation of it as a Pop Art aesthetic) and T-shirts with a slogan 'Jesus Saves' printed in 3-D. His work got him a lot of attention, especially from various figures from bourgeoing psychedelic underground scene, like John 'Hoppy' Hopkins, who would soon comission English to design the poster for 'Love Fesival'.

Around that time, Michael English painted facades for 'hip' new boutiques - Granny Takes A Trip (below, left) and first  Hung On You on Cale Street.


One of the owners of Granny's - Nigel Waymouth (also a graphic designer) became good friends with English, and soon the two started design group Hapshash and the Coloured Coat, who would go on to design some of the most memorable posters of British psychedelic movement.
This is how English remembers his time as he member of Hapshash: Before the posters I was involved in my own kind of Pop Art. Done on my own, the first two paintings were mainly a development of that, but 'Love Festival' was greatly influenced by the work of two artists: Man Ray's painting of lips in the sky - I forget the title - and the lips of women in the work of American Pop artist Tom Wesselman (...).At the same time I was fascinated by the sinuous yet romantic shapes found in Mucha's posters and the work of Beardsley and Rackham. Meeting Nigel brought this to life; I responded to his romanticism. All the Underground posters are packed with secret signs, prehistoric forms and flying saucers.We believed and adopted anything that contradicted the rational world: our science was rooted in alchemy and black magic. Sexuality too was a strong force and there is a lot of happening in the posters. Dragons and pubic hair! (Michael English, 3D Eye, Paper Tiger, Limpsfield, 1979 , p 12).

Poster for 'My White Bicycle' - single by Tomorrow, 1967

Poster for The Jimi Hendrix Experience gig at Fllmore Auditorum, 1967

Love Me - poster by Hapshash and Coloured Coat, 1967

Crazy World Of Arthur Brown, The Soft Machine and Liverpool Love Festival at UFO, 1967

Pink Floyd at UFO, 1967

Julie Felix in Royal Albert Hall, 1967

Poster for Crazy World Of Arthur Brown gig, 1967

Save Earth Now - poster by Hapshash and The Coloured Coat, 1967

Poster advertising 'I Can See For Miles' by The Who

Michael English: Nigel Waymouth worked with me on each poster. Nigel would do a bit and i would add to his work and he to mine until the poster was complete. The posters were silk-screened. the artwork for each colour was transferred to its own individual screen and the elements of the image were married together in the actual process of printing. We developed our own technique of putting two or three colours onto the screen, merging them together as the squeegee was pulled across. that was our most successful innovation. We used metallic and fluorescent inks - day glo! (English, p 12).

Poster for Incredible String Band tour, 1967

Poster for 5th Dimension club in Leicester, 1967

Poster for Middle Earth club in Covent Garden, 1967

Poster for International Pop Fesival in Rome, 1968

Artwork for Albion magazine, 1968

Poster for Granny Takes A Trip boutique, 1967

 Welcome Cosmic Visions, poster by Hapshash and the Coloured Coat from 1968

Posters designed by English and Weymouth for OZ magazine, 1968

Michael English: After Hapshash and the Coloured Coat produced a record (featuring The Heavy Metal Kids) on not a black but a red semi-transparent disc, Nigel remained infatuated with music at the expense of graphics, and the Hapshash partnership died (English, p 12).

Hapshash and The Coloured Coat featuring The Human Lost and The Heavy Metal Kids. Album cover, 1968

Michael English photographed by David Bailey in 1978.

All the images and quotations taken from "3D Eye" by Michael English (1979)

(I love finding people's names in second hand books. There's something thrilling in the fact that somebody was flicking through the same pages years before I was even born...)


Featherstone Vintage said...

I love that he said his "Love Festival" painting was inspired by Man Ray's "The Lovers." It's always been one of my favourite graphics!

fiona maria said...

I'm so glad to see you found the book.Michael is my brother so I have good memories of all these posters, though too young to have participated in all that was going on at the time.He did another book called 'The Anatomy of Illusion' which was publised in 1989.

Michael died in September 2009 - a cancer probably caused by all long term use of the airbrush without wearing a mask. I thought you'd like to know.

norman said...

please contact me fiona. i would love to talk to you about your brother.
normanhathaway @ gmail.com