by flaunt

Picking up an album illustrated by Robert Beatty is both a dangerous and fantastical experience—one that puts you at risk for free-falling through a rabbit-hole, directly into an technicolor, mystifying alien world.

The prolific artist and musician calls upon a surreal sense of reverie intrinsic to the human consciousness through prismatic, distorted shapes couched in landscapes of undulating waves. Moving the brain into a hyperdimensional state, Beatty’s art work confounds and configures style and theme, explored in his recent debut monograph titled Floodgate Companion. The extensive retrospective presents a cosmic and immersive collection of the artist’s experimental artwork. For the underground album artist, dripping spiral patterns, kaleidoscopes of vibrant colors, and intricate designs stimulate the mind through a gentle reconfiguration of shape and color.

The absence of text in Floodgate Companion sets up a loose narrative driven by a series of seemingly interconnected images that challenges reader activity. Structured to be more of an experimental film than a book, Beatty’s assemblage of album art is comprised of multicolored, psychedelic images that may differ stylistically—calling upon the reader to make connections and construct meaning. Renowned for his trademark use of line and idiosyncratic, dripping images infused with neon colors, the interdisciplinary artist uses elements from the past and adds his own personal touch. Beatty often plays with “turbulent flow,” by creating trippy, trance inducing graphic designs that call upon the ways in which gas or liquid travels around an object.

While Beatty’s collection includes pen and ink drawings that were digitized for coloring, the visual artist mainly uses Adobe Illustrator and Photoshop to create the appearance of movement in line. His album artwork creates a timeless feel through warped bursts of color against black backdrops and mystic doorways- playing with an aesthetic that seems “retro-futuristic” or entirely out of time and place. Like his eccentric oeuvre of album artwork, his point of inspiration is anything but ordinary—including Polish animation by the likes of Piotr Kamler, advertisements of the 60s and 70s, and experimental films.

By placing colors of equal value and intensity in contrast, Beatty creates an Optical Art-like vibration effect that appears to ripple across the page in gentle waves. A style of abstraction using geometric shapes to create optical illusions, OP art navigates perspective. His improvisational process of creating music is similar to the experimental nature of his art; the two converge to create an out of body, otherworldly experience—marked by an elusive exploration of color, a serendipitous sequence of shifting sound, and the principles of optics in the mystifying movement of color. Beatty’s stimulating album sleeves are entirely instinctual, products of his creative process. A recollection of the heyday of paperback sci-fi, experimental animation, and the epoch before the advent of the computer, Floodgate Companion is a “cosmic gateway into a familiar yet alien world of airbrushed grotesques, abstract typography, and pulsating op-art landscapes.”

Released to the public by Floating World Comics, the collection showcases Beatty’s attempt to capture feelings that surface upon “seeing an image and knowing nothing about it- be it a record cover, an advertisement or food packaging. Anything that provokes a response.” A visual exposé into the vast body of album cover and illustration work that extends over the span of several years, Floodgate Companion is an illuminating window into an alternate universe.

Written by Jasmine Ashoori