The Story Behind The “Europa” Album Artwork Revealed

This all might seem a tad pretentious to the casual pop music fan, but here’s a short note about the artwork of EUROPA. An album that talks about love and loss, and finding a glimmer of hope in the dark where we can dance.

“United Kingdom After The Rain” was part of a series of paintings made in 2001/2. I was thinking about what I could show in an exhibition at Studio Voltaire  called “Ausgang” . It was to mark the The Golden Jubilee of HRH Queen Elizabeth, albeit alternatively. After the release of Soulstream, on the cusp of a new century, and in an attempt to reset or reboot myself creatively, I had just begun working alongside the MA students at The Royal College of Art Fine Art Printmaking department. I did a whole series of Post Pop Punk QEII prints based on the Cecil Beaton photograph, used both by Andy Warhol and Jamie Reid in their iconic celebrity and anarchist work. The “fun with flags” started at home in acrylic paint and ended up as a big oil painting and some lithographic prints (shown). The prints were exhibited at The Royal Academy Summer Show and the oil painting at The Mall Galleries, just a stones throw from Buckingham Palace. The title references “Europe After The Rain” by Max Ernst, a post war apocalyptic landscape by the famous surrealist painter and collagist.

Great Britain, with it’s constant rain and history of war seemed to be dissolving in a miasma of celebrity culture and reality TV: fading, dripping, national identity washed away with globalisation and European directives. As we had all watched, live by satellite, the Twin Towers crumble, the new century was threatening. Dystopian dreams come true, with no off world escape route as depicted in Ridley Scott’s Bladerunner.

Talking Typography with designer Philip Marshal who chose to use details of the painting for the cover; I mentioned The Vorticist Manifesto BLAST (1914), a title I had used in 1989. We both had Black Sparrow Press reissue in our rooms and decided to ape the print style in homage to Wyndham Lewis and his group of artists ( a publication which also marks the 100 year anniversary of WW1). The title track EUROPA references all these things in an abstract way. A song written just after the fall of the Berlin Wall, and finished in May 2014 with the Greek God of electronic music Vangelis, near his home in once occupied Paris, initially recorded by me and Mark Ralph in London on a desk built in Germany by the legendary Kraftwerk collaborator Konrad “Conny” Plank.

The artwork now the last piece of the jigsaw.

Holly Johnson 2014

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