Kentucky-based artist Robert Beatty is a master of album artwork and it seems no piece of music is complete until his airbrushed, digital wizardry has been cast over it. We’ve featured the artist and musician multiple times before for his ability to reinterpret nostalgic references in a contemporary way. He’s a constant image-maker and collector of ephemera, and lucky for us his debut art book, Floodgate Companion distills his obsessive nature into one svelte tome.
Published by Floating World Comics, the book aims to navigate the “overwhelming amount of images” we’re bombarded with every day. “The initial idea came from collecting old graphic design and illustration annuals, and also my obsessive collecting of images from the internet,” explains Robert. “I began to see interesting relationships between very disparate images and also began to see the ways images can transform when viewed as a thumbnail on a screen surrounded by tonnes of other images.”
These observations paved the way for a new body of work, which Robert believes has “an alternate reality visible only through the ephemera presented.” Throughout Floodgate Companion we can expect to see transforming mutant figures, devotional logos from distant lands, optical illusions becoming landscapes and coded information melting into the horizon among many other bizarre yet captivating scenes.
Presented in a foil-embossed, clothbound hardcover, the book is 112 pages without text, and this sense of ambiguity and wonder is ignited initially by the book’s cover. “So much of what I’m trying to capture is the feeling I get from seeing an image and knowing nothing about it – be it a record cover, an advertisement or food packaging. Anything that provokes a response,” explains Robert. "That’s what I was trying to achieve with the cover. I wanted it to convey a sense of weight, but also be playful and persuade people to investigate.”
All of the work featured in the book is unpublished and any that has been seen before has been updated and revised. It would’ve been easy for Robert to simply reproduce the record covers and other commissioned work he’s become known for, so it’s refreshing to see him tackle the challenge of “creating a book that stands on its own as piece of work, rather than a collection of previously seen artwork.”
In terms of the design of the book Robert had clear ideas about how he wanted this new work to be presented. A lot of effort went into the sequencing of the images as there’s no narrative structure to tie the visuals together. “I structured [the book] in a similar way to an abstract animation or film – the transitions from one image to another should seem like a transformation or as if someone were changing the channel, while still maintaining a flow throughout the book.”
Robert continues: “I wanted the printing of the book to be as much a part of the book as the images themselves. Since most of the work is being made digitally it isn’t really complete in my mind until it’s printed and transformed into something you can hold in your hands,” he says.
Floodgate Companion is published 11 October 2016, by Floating World Comics.