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Thom Yorke and Stanley Donwood to unveil co-produced paintings at London exhibition

A series of new large-scale paintings co-created by Stanley Donwood and Thom Yorke will be presented by TIN MAN ART gallery.
A series of new large-scale paintings co-created by Stanley Donwood and Thom Yorke will be presented by TIN MAN ART gallery. Copyright Credit: AFP / Tin Art Man gallery
Copyright Credit: AFP / Tin Art Man gallery
By Theo Farrant
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'The Crow Flies' paintings originated as cover art for The Smile's acclaimed debut album 'A Light for Attracting Attention'.

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Radiohead frontman Thom Yorke and artist Stanley Donwood, whose creative partnership spans around three decades, are set to open a new art exhibition in London titled 'The Crow Flies Part One'. 

The show, which features a series of new large-scale paintings, has been the result of two years of collaborative effort by both artists during lockdown. 

Remarkably, Yorke and Donwood painted side by side, in tandem, during this period. 

The exhibition, at the Tin Man Art gallery in South Kensington, runs from 6-10 September.

Yorke and Donwood's creative partnership

Credit: Torben Christensen/AFP
Thom Yorke of the British group The Smile performs on Arena Stage at the Roskilde music festival in Roskilde, Denmark, on July 1, 2022.Credit: Torben Christensen/AFP

Stanley Donwood, who first crossed paths with Yorke during their time as art students, has been the creative force behind all of Radiohead's album art and promotional materials since the release of 'The Bends' in 1995. 

His iconic paintings have offered a visual dimension to Yorke's music, both in his solo career and in various band projects. 

He has been the official artist of the Glastonbury music festival since 2002 and has won two Grammys for his artwork for Radiohead’s albums 'Amnesia' and 'In Rainbows'.

Reflecting on their recent project, Yorke likened the art sessions to the process of making music, saying “that was what I found incredibly exciting. It just stays active for so long… I became so conscious of the fact that the two processes are almost exactly the same”.

Observing the similarities between music-making and art production, they have also both referred to themselves as a ‘two-piece’, working side by side and responding to each other’s work in real time. 

What to expect from the exhibition

Credit: Tin Man Art / Thom Yorke and Stanley Donwood
'Unchecked' from 'The Crow Flies' by Thom Yorke and Stanley DonwoodCredit: Tin Man Art / Thom Yorke and Stanley Donwood

The genesis of the 'The Crow Flies' series can be traced back to its inception as cover artwork for The Smile's critically acclaimed debut album 'A Light for Attracting Attention', which was released last year. 

The Smile is a musical endeavour by Yorke, featuring his fellow Radiohead bandmate and accomplished film composer Jonny Greenwood, and Tom Skinner, the jazz drummer and member of Sons of Kemet.

The body of work presented in 'The Crow Flies' taps into the duo's enduring fascination with maps and topography, one which was previously evident in the album artwork of Radiohead's 'Hail to the Thief', released two decades ago in 2003.

Credit: Tin Man Art / Thom Yorke and Stanley Donwood
'Somewhere You'll Be There' from 'The Crow Flies' by Thom Yorke and Stanley DonwoodCredit: Tin Man Art / Thom Yorke and Stanley Donwood

17th-century maps crafted by Persian pirates, early renditions of the British Isles, and U.S. military charts dating back to the 1960s all serve as inspirations for the paintings. 

The artworks fuse gouache, tempera and powdered mushroom on canvas, showcasing an extensive language of signs and symbols meticulously crafted by the artists and complemented by supporting imagery.

James Elwes, the director of the Tin Man Art gallery, underscores the cultural significance of the exhibition. 

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“Stanley Donwood and Thom Yorke’s 30-year artistic partnership has been culturally groundbreaking - and ‘The Crow Flies’ marks a momentous new chapter for them. This two-part exhibition showcases that rarest of achievements: pure co-creation," Elwes states. 

He adds, "The paintings, sublime illustrations of technical and mental virtuosity, are the result of two artists working together to build worlds in gouache and gold." 

Credit: Tin Man Art / Thom Yorke and Stanley Donwood
'Let Us Raise Our Glasses To What We Don't Deserve' from 'The Crow Flies' by Thom Yorke and Stanley DonwoodCredit: Tin Man Art / Thom Yorke and Stanley Donwood

The exhibition will also feature a Flemish woven tapestry based on one of the key paintings, specially commissioned by the artists to commemorate the album's one-year anniversary.

Consisting of more than 20 works, the series will be presented in two distinct parts, with the second part commencing at the end of the year.

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