It would be foolish in the extreme to simply dismiss the artist Jamie Hewlett as the guy who drew Tank Girl and The Gorillaz. Starting from his work in iconic indie magazine Deadline in 1988, to the modern age, Hewlett never has stopped creating eye-catching and unique work. His irreverent approach and innate sense of fun defined an entire generation, his art-style becoming synonymous with the British pop culture of the ‘90s, one that continues to influence and drive creativity to this day.
Of course, those ‘90s indie kids are now grown-ups, who have nice cars (probably), interesting music collections and hazy memories. Many also own coffee tables, which is handy as Hewlett has produced a Taschen coffee table book. It simply says Jamie Hewlett on the spine. It’s all we need to dive into the artist's mind.
Taschen, of course, specialise in producing lush, dense and rather heavy books crammed with artwork. If it’s the sort of art that someone, somewhere will pay an incredible sum of money for the original of, then it’s likely that Taschen have turned that artists work into a very lovely and very heavy book that will sit awkwardly on a coffee table and be admired by people who like looking at pretty things. Taschen books are cool, in that 2am in a café somewhere in Paris, arguing the meaning of truth and beauty sort of way. And boy, have the out done themselves with Jamie Hewlett.
The book is utterly lovely. Hewlett’s style is unique and in places quite silly, but it’s also breathtaking. For every drawing of, say, Tank Girl flying a highly detailed spaceship that looks like a huge penis, we get page upon page of Tarot card designs that not only get the meaning of the Major Arcana perfect, but do so with wit and humour. We get a comprehensive idea as to where The Gorillaz came from, and a plethora of ideas, from an abandoned newspaper strip, to the rather silly (and doomed) Foo Action TV show.
The book explores Hewlett’s full career, including his work on the adaptation of Chinese novel Monkey: Journey to the West by Wu Cheng’en, complete with circus acrobats, Shaolin monks, and Chinese singers. We take a look at the BAFTA -winning work on the Beijing Olympic Games. We also see work from his shows at the Saatchi Gallery in London, including Honey and The Suggestionists. This more modern work is different, clever and mind-blowing. It includes transparent ‘sketches’ at the back and a host of notes and some all-too-brief interviews.
Taschen’s Jamie Hewlett is a gorgeous thing, worth buying a coffee table for and a lovely gift for your eyes (or for the ‘90s kid in your life).
JAMIE HEWLETT / AUTHOR: JULIUS WIEDEMANN / PUBLISHER: TASCHEN / RELEASE DATE: OUT NOW