Winter 2001

Day-Glo mind blow

Julia Bigham
Michael English
Poster art [EXTRACT]

Psychedelia hit late 1960s London in an explosion of silk-screen colour

Between 1966 and 1968 British poster artists produced an extraordinary body of psychedelic posters, with stunning brilliant colours and highly individualistic and imaginative designs. They stood apart from their American counterparts, such as those producing dance posters for Bill Graham and the Family Dog. A key difference lay in their different printing methods. In America offset lithography was generally used but in Britain the most striking posters used screen prints or offset lithography combined with a novel use of metallic foil coated papers.

In Britain, by 1966, there were very few offset litho printers. Since the late 1940s silkscreen had been the commercial printing technique most widely used for short runs of visually led display work, such as posters and point of sale material. Yet by the 1960s it was not a purely economic motive - silkscreen was becoming identified with the ethos of the time, and part of the artistic intention behind the posters.

Some of the earliest British psychedelic posters were designed by Michael English in 1966 and, from March 1967, by Michael English and Nigel Waymouth in a partnership, which became known as Hapshash and the Coloured Coat. Michael English went to Ealing Art School and, after a short spell in an advertising agency, began producing ‘Pop’ objects for the Carnaby Street boutique ‘Gear’. These included carrier bags lettered with ‘Sex’ and ‘Kiss Me’, which the artist hand screened in his studio, and T-shirts with slogans which were commercially screen printed. From this beginning Michael English became very interested in screenprinting, appreciating its distinctive brilliance of colour and the tactile nature of the thick film of ink.

Psychedelic posters became an integral part of the British underground scene . . .

First published in Eye no. 42 vol. 11, 2001

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