Thom Yorke & Stanley Donwood “Test Specimens” Art Exhibition in London
Updated: Jun 4
An exhibition of 60 drawings by Radiohead vocalist Thom Yorke and artist Stanley Donwood will take place between 25 and 29 May 2022 at 8 Duke Street, St James’s in London.
The event showcases 60 works created by Thom Yorke and long-term collaborator and friend Stanley Donwood from 1999 until 2001. The display features lyrical drafts, workings of the Radiohead bear logo, and a cartoon featuring a sperm monster menacing witch monkeys. All artworks were sketched at the turn of the millennium, while the creative duo was also working on iconic Radiohead albums "Kid A" and "Amnesiac."
Thom Yorke and Stanley Donwood first met in the 1980s as they both studied at Exeter University and have created art together ever since. Donwood authored the cover imagery for all of Radiohead's ground-breaking records since The Bends (1996).
With the internet and emails still in their infancy at that time, we’re witnessing a collaboration shaped by an innovative way of thinking about creativity by constantly bouncing images and ideas and sharing images via fax.
This exhibition beautifully captures an inspiring dynamic of unfinished images, fragments of text, and indecipherable attempts to express thought, energy, and emotion. Thome Yorke describes the process:
"I think both of us were trying to loosen each other up in different ways. There was just a lot of work. A lot of to and fro. A lot of sifting around the same things over and over again until something spoke."
Most drawings are works in progress, largely black and white moments in time often inspired by dreams: "You'd wake up in the morning and try to just capture something before it fades away. It was really just a nice place to start on stuff," Stanley explains.
When it comes to images such as depictions of stalactites and stalagmites in a hallway, Thom Yorke's "Self-portrait with Spiders," and vampiric bears or the Balkan war, the goal was to draw things to make them disappear. Fed by nightmares, politics, mental unrest, and discomfort, it’s no surprise that many works seem violent and scratchy. At the same time, visitors will notice elements of beauty, cuteness, and humour that build an overall tension between pleasure and discomfort throughout the whole experience.
Both Yorke and Donwood were against the pretensions of the art world: "We wanted to utilise Radiohead's fame as a canvas to put our ideas as big as possible in as many people's faces as possible. Using the record shop as a democratic Art Gallery and advertising hoardings as basically propaganda spaces," Donwood explains.
According to Curator Siobhan Andrews Kapoor, "Test Specimens offers an extraordinary, intimate glimpse into the minds of two creative geniuses at a pivotal moment in British cultural history. For us the viewers, it's an honour to be let behind the scenes and explore this fantastical world for ourselves."
The artists are represented by Tin Man Art, whose founder James Elwes said: “We're opening the pages of Thom and Stanley's sketchbooks to the public for the first time with e pieces that were made at a time of political upheaval and war, strangely enough, mirrored by today's tinderbox climate, making the timing particularly poignant. The message holds true: humanity can be cruel and chaotic, but art, invention, and collaboration can shine a light in any darkness.”
📍 The “Test Specimens” exhibition is at 8 Duke Street, St James's, London, SW1Y 6BN. 📆 From May 25 to May 29, 2022.
⏰ Opening hours: Wed 25th May, 10 am - 6 pm; Thu 26th May, 10 am - 6 pm; Fri 27th May, 10 am - 6 pm; Sat 28th May, 10 am - 6 pm; Sun 29th May, 11 am - 4 pm. Alternatively, you can browse and purchase the artworks here. 🚇 The nearest London Underground Stations to 8 Duke Street, St. James's are Green Park (on the Jubilee, Piccadilly, and Victoria Lines) and Picadilly Circus (on the Bakerloo & Piccadilly lines).
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