It’s no secret that It’s Nice That is an admirer of Sophy Hollington’s illustrations. In this instance, the artist has collaborated with writer, David Keenan for Rough Trade Books, to create a beautiful linocut tarot deck that retains its mystic roots but also displays a glam-punk contemporary twist.
Tarot cards were used from the late 18th century as a tool of divination, as well as a game. David Keenan used Aleister Crowley’s Thoth deck as a point of reference for his writing; a deck that was conceived in the 1930s, aiming to update the traditional pictorial symbolism of the tarot which is more complex and stuffed with “greater meaning and symbolism”. David had already “written most of To Run Wild In It”, the experimental novella that sits alongside the cards, “prior to us being introduced by Rough Trade Books”, Sophy explains. His prose was “structured using the tarot cards as headings for each small chunk of text, and I used David’s writing as the main springboard for my own visual interpretations," says the illustrator.
Fascinated by folklore and mysticism, this is a project that sits close to Sophy’s heart. “Folklore can tell you so much about yourself and the world around you in the most visually rich and startling ways”, the artist explains. Describing David’s writing as “honest and free from convention”, Sophy’s illustrations parallel his style with their strange, but intelligent abstract attraction. Adopting his posture gave it “a punk tang”, she explains.
“Every time I sent a finished card to David, he’d reel back interpretations and symbolism that I hadn’t even considered," Sophy explains. “Every card needs to harbour a duality, which enables the reader to make multiple interpretations”. The images are simultaneously wicked and beautiful; a combination of both terror and wonder, a mixture that only the strangeness of magic can induce. “The deck that David and I created suggests an inner world that can be tuned into rather than an outside occult force working its magic," Sophy comments.
The illustrator has also brought her own individualism into this newly designed deck. For the High Priestess she focused “on David’s description of a ‘long, nylon legged Goddess’ who stood on ‘burning sand’," she explains. “I chose to spear the sand with her heels to create foundations and from the number two form menstrual blood. It needed to be both aggressive and vulnerable, but still not give everything away”.
Not afraid of cutting corners, Sophy uses lino cutting to make her prints. “I like the restrictiveness of lino”, she comments. “It forces me to make decisions and be bold — things I’ve often struggled with otherwise”. The process, similar to Tarot, has been around for a while and allows the artist to feel connected to her past. With a repetitive colour palette that is minimal yet striking, Sophy’s prints recall the mysticism of times gone by, those moments buried within history that lie clouded and obscure.