Hipgnosis at Albert Bridge Studios PDF Print E-mail
Gigs - 2009 Gigs
Written by Steve Green   

In mid November on a cold night I am welcomed into the Albert Bridge studio gallery in Battersea.  I have been invited to come and check out the new exhibition, “Hipgnosis, For the Love of Vinyl” which is a showcase and auction of thirty signed silkscreened prints of some of rocks most iconic images.

It is the opening night and everybody is in a festive mood, conversation flows in every corner of the room, as does the wine and it seems everybody is still in awe of the artwork on the walls some thirty years after it first appeared.  Hipgnosis were a three-man design team formed in 1968 whilst studying at the Royal College of Art. They have designed the artwork for the likes of Pink Floyd, Led Zeppelin and Genesis amongst others.  The first thing that hits you when you walk in to the gallery is the fond memories brought back by the pictures on the wall.  I’m immediately drawn to Peter Gabriel’s self titled album, the sight of him peering out of the car window reminds me of my adolescence when I’d raid my parents record collection.  Further down on the wall is the captivating cover for Genesis’, “The lamb lies down on Broadway” which was inspired by pulp comics from the 1950’s. Next to Genesis is the suggestive yet inoffensive cover for “Correlations” by Ashra and the charming mezzanine level is loaded with the most iconic covers of all.

When you close your eyes and think about the history of rock music certain images flash across your mind. "Born in the USA", check, "London Calling", yes, "Sgt Peppers", that’s there too and amongst those, is "Dark Side of the Moon". It hangs above us like a beacon, and it couldn’t be more fitting that I spoke to one of the artists, Aubrey Powell underneath its shadow. Powell is a warm man, who looks into your eyes and answers every question with a hand on your shoulder. He is modest but knows what his work has achieved. 

“We never believed for a second that the work would have the impact it has, it was just something we did”, he says.

We talk about the processes he used compared to how it’s done today, we both agree that it was more organic back in the 70’s and he talks me through the process he went through to make. "The Lamb" lies down on Broadway in which he had to cut Peter Gabriel’s silhouette and sand it down by hand, something which took a very long time, but as he assures me was a complete labour of love. I ask him if he thinks he would have used aides like Photoshop if they’d been available or if he felt like it took away from the organic nature of art, to which he replied with a wry smile “people are certainly very lucky to have it but no, I like the way I did things just fine”. Then just as quickly as he’d arrived he’s gone again. I step outside for some air only to find myself at a table with members of Grace Jones’ management team and none other than hat designer Philip Treacy, it seems that the exhibition has attracted the luminaries too.

Two days later and I’m back again to talk to the gallery’s owner, Ginny Manning. In the light of day I see that the gallery is nothing more than a quaint cottage, a quiet hidden gem.  The row of houses they align with it are a little rural oasis placed in inner city London. Manning welcomes me in again and I find out that the gallery is also her home, she tells me that she’s only been there since April of this year and the decision was not greatly supported.

 “People said to me, are you crazy? Nobody is opening businesses now and nobody is spending money on art either”, she says.  But after a stop start first few months, things are picking up. At the moment viewings of the gallery are by appointment only but that is something that she wishes to change soon.  Manning was born on the Isle of white and soon moved to Australia with her family where she grew up. It was there where she found her passion in photography, which took her to Japan to teach and then to France before finally making it to mainland Britain. The Hipgnosis exhibit is only the second that the gallery has held, the first being the Phillip Townsend collection “Sorry you missed the 60’s”, a series of photographs of swinging London in the 1960’s It’s tough for Manning to keep the gallery afloat and she has a three woman team that help with the business side.

“It ultimately comes down to me though”, she tells me. She also runs a photography workshop, also by appointment where she takes her students through everything from shutter speed to composition, lighting and effects to post production or even just showing you how to make more of your camera.

Although the gallery is off the beaten track Manning wishes to offer something different in her approach to the business.

“I’d like to keep private viewings exclusive and spend time with my clients and sit down with them for lunch, things like that”, she enthuses. She seems to have the ideas to make the gallery a success and the pieces that are available for purchase are certainly not wallet-busting either. The next step is to advertise, advertise and advertise.  The more people who know about this suburban heaven, the bigger it will grow.

Hipgenosis: for the love of vinyl runs from 19th November – Early February 2010.

To book a viewing visit www.albertstudiogallery.com

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