Stanley Donwood biography in Biographies from the artzine on artrepublic.com
Stanley Donwood is a notoriously reclusive English artist and writer. His work on Radiohead’s album and poster art since 1994 has gained him worldwide recognition.
After graduating from the University of Exeter, Donwood worked as a freelance artist in Plymouth, England. In an interview he said the word ‘artist’ was “just the most convenient way to describe myself on application forms for unemployment benefit.”
Since 1994, Donwood’s evocative and haunting imagery has helped create one of music’s most distinctive brands. The powerful visual identity Stanley Donwood has created for the British band is considered so in tune with Thom Yorke’s music that the debate still rages as to whether he and Yorke, the lead vocalist, principal songwriter, guitarist and pianist of Radiohead, are one and the same. Donwood and Thome met at Exeter University and Radiohead’s infamous Oxfordshire HQ contains an art studio for Stanley and Thom to work in. Reportedly, his first impressions of Yorke were that he was “Mouthy. Pissed off. Someone I could work with.”
Donwood likes to explore and question, society, sexuality, war, conformity and politics in his art. His work combines deep personal and political emotions with modesty and humour. He is obsessed nuclear apocalypse, Ebola pandemics and global cataclysm. Growing up in England in the 80s, a time when advertising was being considered seriously as anything resembling an art form, he was very influenced by it whilst simultaneously resenting and hating commercialization.
He has written and published a number of books. His first was called ‘Slowly Downwood’ and was a collection of stories which he claims “were all part of a self-administered therapy, as I had gone a little mad.” His collection of short stories, ‘Household Worms’, he described as “an idea stocking filler for the slightly deranged” and reportedly it proved very popular with people who drink in pubs. He has said that he finds writing and making art mutually exclusive, claiming, “it is possible – even likely – that I will never write again. Unless I stop making art.”
Donwood prefers creating things manually and enjoys the process of print making, “I don’t really enjoy making artwork on a computer because it doesn’t seem like I’ve done anything.” He has exhibited to an international fan base in galleries across the world, including London, Tokyo, Amsterdam, Barcelona and Rotterdam. He exhibited an 18 foot long linocut of Los Angeles being destroyed by fire and flood and meteor storm at Shepard Fairey’s gallery in Los Angeles.
In 2002 he won a Grammy Award for Best Record Packaging for the special edition for the album ‘Amnesiac’.
What’s next for Stanley Donwood? “It could be anything. Avian flu, traffic accident” (Stanley Donwood)
“I have no idea what motivates me. That’s like asking ‘what’s the meaning of life?’There is no meaning of life” (Stanley Donwood)
"Los Angeles is, of course, f****d. Everything is f*****d, all of our cities, all of our towns, our villages, our farms, our entire way of living. And I don’t mean f****d in a good way, oh no; I mean it in a very, very bad way. Our energy rich and culturally complacent society has doomed everything, and really, we all know this. Or at least, we should do. We have run out of everything, pissed it up against the wall, blown it, spent it, wasted it. We’ve run out of money, of oil, of gasoline, of water, of food, of any resources, of energy, of everything. We are reduced to trying to blast pathetic amounts of gas from solid rock and we don’t care if we poison our water while we’re doing it. The apocalypse is already here, and the saddest thing is that we’re trying to fool ourselves that it isn’t happening. Our politicians are f*****g idiots, our heroes are fools, our industries are dying, our farmland is trashed and our culture resembles nothing more than a self-devouring joke. Our architecture is hideous and our art revels in empty platitudes. There is no future; we have evicted ourselves from our own cities, rendered our agriculture poisonous, criminalised the poor, aggrandized the rich, honoured the stupid and ridiculed the intelligent. I don’t pretend to stand outside this f*****g mess. I’m just as guilty as anyone." (Stanley Donwood)