Where pop meets art

A new exhibition featuring the album artwork of indie rock band The Coral has just opened in Harrogate. Chris Bond reports.
POP ART: Members of The Coral, including Ian Skelly whose art work is at RedHouse Originals in Harrogate.POP ART: Members of The Coral, including Ian Skelly whose art work is at RedHouse Originals in Harrogate.
POP ART: Members of The Coral, including Ian Skelly whose art work is at RedHouse Originals in Harrogate.

Art and music have long had a close symbiotic relationship.

You only have to look at Wassily Kandinsky who was fascinated by the connection between visual art and music – even naming his paintings after musical terms, or Piet Mondrain whose work was profoundly influenced by his love of jazz, particularly boogie-woogie. Andy Warhol is another who bridged the gap, staging sound and light events during the 1960s as well as collaborating with The Velvet Underground.

Musicians, too, have long dabbled with art – some more successfully than others. Bob Dylan has been producing art alongside his music throughout his life and has enjoyed several exhibitions during the past 10 years, while the great Tony Bennett still finds time to paint every day. Then there’s a certain John Lennon who was an art school pupil long before he found fame and fortune with The Beatles.

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Art and music have never been too far away from one another and it’s another Liverpool band that is having its artwork exhibited for the first time at RedHouse Originals gallery in Harrogate.

The Coral: Distance Inbetween exhibition opened this week with a special launch event at the gallery featuring a short acoustic set by a couple of band members.

The one-off exhibition, which runs for two weeks, charts the music, artwork and stories behind their latest, critically acclaimed, album.

Drummer and co-songwriter Ian Skelly has produced the artwork for the band’s album covers since their eponymous 2002 debut up to and including this year’s Distance Inbetween.

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Skelly’s psychedelic, Victorian-inspired cut and paste collages are fused with surreal comic book-style illustrations and have become the band’s visual trademark, and for fans of The Coral it’s a chance to get an insight into the creative process of producing an album.

The exhibition features new unseen artwork alongside special edition prints created by Skelly that document the songs and the stories behind the music, there’s also sleeve notes and original typed song lyrics, some of which are complete with coffee stains. “I like using collage and playing with imagery, which is a bit like our music in a way,” says Skelly.

He draws inspiration for his artwork from a variety of sources including books, comics as well as music. “For me it’s a bit like writing songs for an album, it’s a similar kind of creative process. I’ll listen to the music and use that as a starting point.”

What’s interesting is that Skelly isn’t a trained artist. “It started by accident. I’m self taught and I’ve just picked things up as I’ve gone along. I’ve always been interested in images and I like seeing what works and what doesn’t. There’s no format to what I do; it’s a kind of stream of consciousness imagery, which is a bit like our song lyrics if you look at them.”

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Over the decades album covers have become artworks in their own right and these, too, can be a useful source of inspiration. “You’ve got things like Dark Side of the Moon which are quite clever and highbrow, but I like a lot of reggae covers and I gravitate more towards that sort of style. They feel more homemade and I think that fits in with us more as a band.”

The Coral: Distance Inbetween exhibition runs at RedHouse Originals Gallery, Harrogate, until December 22. www.redhouseoriginals.com