Tuesday, March 30, 2010

Roger Dean Talks 'Avatar' at Retrospective

A special thank you to author Cathy Rose A. Garcia for allowing me to reprint this wonderful article

``Osibisa'' is the original work by British cover artist Roger Dean, which was also used for the cover of Osibisa's 1971 self-titled album.  Courtesy of Roger Dean

By Cathy Rose A. Garcia
Staff Reporter

One look at the floating islands in British artist Roger Dean's landscapes and the first thing that comes to mind is ``Avatar.''

But Dean was creating these lush, otherworldly landscapes in the early 1970s, decades before director James Cameron even started work on the billion-dollar-blockbuster. Days after the film came out the Internet was abuzz as fans discussed the striking similarities between Dean's fantasy world and Cameron's Pandora planet.

Dean, who was in Seoul last week for the opening of his retrospective ``Dragon's Dream'' at the Daelim Contemporary Art Museum, Tongui-dong, Jongno, remained tight-lipped whether he will pursue legal action against Cameron.

``The only thing I will say is I am extremely grateful to these millions of people online who have recognized the similarities and talked about my works. It's a great honor that so many people recognized it. I didn't know there were that many people who would remember my work,'' he said, during a press conference at the museum.

Dean apologized for not being able to talk about the matter, but hinted of future developments, saying: ``I'm sorry I can't say much about it, but watch this space.''

``Dragon's Dream'' is the largest retrospective of Dean's works, which include original paintings; original album covers for the rock bands Yes, Uriah Heap, Gun and Asia; and design logos.

``This is exciting for me because this is the biggest exhibition of my work that I have ever seen. It is wonderful that we have my works all in one place. Some of the pictures have never been exhibited before, and some have never been shown since the 1970s,'' he said.

Dean's career in cover art started in 1968. After designing Ronnie Scott's jazz club in London, record label executives were impressed and asked him to do art cover for then a new band named Gun's album ``Race with the Devil."

``It was an intriguing thing for me. I never thought to do cover art. ... They continued to ask me to do jazz albums with very austere graphic designs. At that time I wanted to go and do more rock 'n' roll. So with my portfolio, I went around London, knocking on doors and asking for work,'' he said.

In 1971, Dean did his first covers for Osibisa (``Osibisa'') and Yes (``Fragile''), which attracted a lot of attention and made him a sought-after cover artist.

His album cover art was distinguished by a dreamy, surrealistic quality that matched progressive rock music. Dean created a world of floating rock islands with pine trees and flying dragons that most people would label as ``fantasy,'' but he disagrees.

``I never thought of it as fantasy. Essentially, I paint landscapes. Most are real, like the trees, but I add something that is not real like waterfalls with no source of water or rocks that float. But these are all inspired by places I've seen,'' he said. For instance, some of his landscapes with rock formations were inspired by American deserts.

Some of Dean's paintings are now worth as much as $2.5 million, but he takes more pleasure in the fact that his album covers have reached millions of people around the world. ``I definitely feel happiest when millions buy the albums. ... Basically, I only paint three or four paintings a year and if I sell one, it is a great honor for me,'' he said.

Rock music by Yes, Uriah Heap and Asia are played at the museum to get viewers into the right mood while looking at Dean's works.

Interestingly enough, the silvery-haired artist is not influenced by the music of the bands whose covers he makes. ``I talk to the band about the ideas they want to convey through their music. ... (But) I'm not reinterpreting their music. I listen to what they're saying about their music,'' he said.

While he loves different genres of music, Dean doesn't listen to music when working on his paintings and designs. ``When I listen to music, it's for the mood, but not for the creativity,'' he said.

Dean is also a designer, who has worked on logos and stage design and architecture. One of his most famous logos is for the video game Tetris, which has been played by millions of people around the world.

The ``Dragon's Dream'' exhibition runs through June 6. Tickets are 5,000 won for adults and 3,000 won for students. Visit http://www.daelimmuseum.org/.

SOURCE:  http://www.koreatimes.co.kr

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