Opening on 4 May at the Sonos London store in Seven Dials, Covent Garden is Gonzo Notes; a career-spanning retrospective showcasing unseen and original works in music by renowned British artist, Ralph Steadman. Remaining open until 20 June 2018, the exhibition will offer the rare opportunity to see a never-exhibited collection of works from Ralph’s 50-year career.
Working as an artist, sculptor, cartoonist and designer, Ralph is perhaps best known for his collaborations with Hunter S. Thompson; in particular, his illustrated cover of Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas. He has also worked on a number of other classics such as Alice in Wonderland, Treasure Island and Animal Farm.
Gonzo Notes will feature Ralph’s defining collaboration with Hunter S. Thompson, alongside portraits of musicians Sir Ray Davies CBE, John Cooper Clarke and Tim Minchin. The exhibition also includes some never previously exhibited collage series from the 1970s including Jimi Hendrix, Frank Zappa and Ralph’s personal favourite of the show, The Who. “It has the sense of violence that they were trying to express,” he explains.
Despite his varied work in the field of literature, these pieces highlight how Ralph has always simultaneously had one foot firmly in the music world. “I listen to [music] a lot,” he tells It’s Nice That, “I went through a period of writing my own songs because of Leonardo da Vinci. I energetically wanted to create something that wasn’t there before.” With a client list boasting a host of big names, it’s his designs for The Who’s Happy Jack and Nils Lofgren’s Crooked Lines that top Ralph’s list.
“I try not to have a preconceived notion and just start working in the hope that something will emerge unexpectedly,” Ralph tells It’s Nice That on his process for such album covers. “Furnaces [by Ed Harcourt] was very like that. I listened to the music and the messages in it and I knew that Ed wanted something fiery; a fiery planet but, really, I just let the paint do the work.”
Ralph’s work embodies this spirit through-and-through, his strong images emerging from a somewhat chaotic use of tools and materials. “For the portrait of Grace Jones, I used my ‘dirty water’ technique,” Ralph explains, “I throw water from the jar I use to wash my brushes out in onto a fresh, clean piece of paper. The water and paint debris do amazing things and create textures that I couldn’t possibly draw intentionally. There is a lot of chance and happy accident involved.”
In addition to Ralph’s renowned work, Gonzo Notes will show daily screenings of the docufilm For No Good Reason, directed by Charlie Paul and featuring Jonny Depp, exploring the connection between life and art through the artist’s eyes.
“We’re very excited to welcome the iconic artwork of Ralph Steadman to the Sonos London store,” says Steven Dolcemaschio, director of brand activation at Sonos. “Ralph is widely revered as one of the most important and influential illustrators of our time and someone who Sonos has always admired.”
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