Hapshash Takes a Trip: The sixties work of Nigel Waymouth

Sheila Corr | Published in

The Who – I can see for miles, 1967 ©Hapshash and the Coloured Coat. Rock ‘n’ roll and psychedelia mix to promote their hit single. Michael English & Pete Townshend were at art school together.‘London’s visual spirit was given expression by Nigel Waymouth’ wrote Derek Taylor, former Beatles’ press officer. In the late sixties, San Francisco and London were at the centre of the counterculture or underground movement which rejected many establishment values and proved especially popular with those working creatively. There was a close connection between art schools and the music scene – many musicians had been art students, John Lennon and Keith Richards among them. Pop art and psychedelia defined the period, resulting in extraordinary album covers and iconic posters such as those for the Fillmore and Avalon Ballrooms of San Francisco.

In London, the psychedelic art created by Waymouth and his collaboration with Michael English (as Hapshash & the Coloured Coat) is wonderfully evocative of this period. Influenced by the popularity of art nouveau, the swirling colourful shapes and mystical symbols of their posters advertised the underground venues, notably the UFO Club in Tottenham Court Road, where avant-garde bands like Pink Floyd, The Incredible String Band and Procul Harum played.

Clothing reflected the same mood, with stalls on the Portobello Road offering a nostalgic assortment of secondhand lace and velvet, fur and feathers. Boutiques popped up all over London, many around Carnaby Street, Kensington and Chelsea – ‘Granny Takes a Trip’, designed by Waymouth, opened on the King’s Road in 1966. If you were young in the sixties your granny was probably an Edwardian: exaggerate that look with L.S.D. and you get the idea. An ever-changing facade added to the surreal – a huge portrait of Jean Harlow one day and a truck bursting through the window the next.

Although it includes black and white photographs and a few album covers, the focus of the retrospective at the Idea Generation Gallery is on the posters. Looking closely at the original silk-screen prints, it is clear that, to the modern eye anyway, the fusion of different elements works better in some than others. So have they stood the test of time? You will have to visit the exhibition yourselves to decide. However, the posters certainly say much about the late sixties.

In the words of Derek Taylor: ‘Nigel Waymouth and his friends were representative of a strand of British life where intelligence, the appreciation of music and art, the use of acid, and the flowering of real creative energy all came together at the most opportune of times.’

Hapshash Takes a Trip is on show at the Idea Generation Gallery until October 2nd.

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