Is album art dying? It’s a question artist Leif Podhajsky’s sick of hearing.
“Back in the day the 12-inch had currency. People say that album art is dying now because nobody buys albums, but that’s all crap. There’s so much room to show your work beyond something physical now,” he says.
You’re probably unwittingly familiar with his work: he’s designed album sleeves for Tame Impala, Bonobo, Mount Kimbie, Kelis, and Lykke Li to name a few – and he’s coming back to Melbourne for this year’s Sugar Mountain Festival.
Originally a graphic designer by trade, Podhajsky’s has come to popular acclaim for his prolific visual art. His work is now synonymous with an almost ethereal quality – a representation of the natural world’s mesmerising patterns, swirls and textures has set the aesthetic for musicians whose album covers have defined their work as much as their music has.
Mount Kimbie’s Cold Spring Fault Less Youth (2013) gives a nod to the duo’s refusal to be pinned down by traditional genres. Recurring colours frame the LP’s front cover: a thin line of orange, olive and brown bleed around the square – resulting in something akin to urban camouflage.
It’s true that the physical LP doesn’t command as much authority in an age of digital reproduction, but nothing’s really stopped Podhajsky from drawing the eye of astute clients – Warp, Sub Pop, R&S, and Ninja Tune are but a few global record labels knocking on his door.
His return to Sugar Mountain is an interesting time to come to Podhajsky’s work. This year marks his second showing at the festival, after exhibiting a group show at The Forum in 2011. The big difference this time around is Podhajsky’s foray into Glitch Art.
This can be found in his most recent collaboration for Bose and Spotify. The design is classic Podhajsky: warped textures, bold colours – just with added movement on screen. A logical step for an aesthetic predicated heavily on capturing movement.
For those unfamiliar, Glitch Art has blossomed into its own form, created from technological glitches in everyday electronic ephemera, be it cameras, computers or programs themselves. Phillip Stearns, one of Glitch’s more prominent artists, creates work out of broken camera circuits, turning imperfections into something quite exquisite.
2015 Sugar Mountain revellers will be able to see Podhajsky’s work across a series of screens distributed throughout the Victorian College of the Arts. This will run in conjunction with a slew of other exhibits spread throughout the school. One such work is a collaboration (the collaborators are yet to be revealed) featuring a large mural and spinning mandala.
Moving in a purely virtual direction hints at Podhajsky’s frustration with traditional expectations of sleeve design, which is one reason why he’s moving toward Glitch.
“We’re still stuck in the idea of the square, static record cover to please iTunes. But now, there’s really no technological limitation to what we can do. Album covers will be able to incorporate more, like movement and shifting colours,” he says.
Looking at his Bose x Spotify collaboration, you can see why he wants to bend the expectations of LP design.
“I actually fed the images into After Effects and then I read a tutorial about how to bring movement to photos,” he says.
“My work’s always moving, even though it appears static. It takes you on a journey whether it’s a repeated image that takes the eye down a certain path, or whether it alludes to something that’s not there.”
Podhajsky is a man whose work captures attention in a time when concentration is basically zilch. He’s both a product and producer of the internet generation, using its intricacies to reject outmoded conventions that restrict the possibilities of art in the digital era.
“What people are doing and why people are exploring Glitch Art a lot lately is because it’s just a direct reflection of the world we live in. I want to use the tools of this generation, to manipulate them in some way.”
Leif Podhajsky will be exhibiting at the 2015 Sugar Mountain Festival on Saturday January 24.