Monday, 20 August 2007
Joseph Conrad & Phil Hale
Phil Hale is an American-born, UK-based painter whose work I first came to know through his arresting, disturbing comic covers. Since then he has also been featured in the annual Spectrum books, each of which features hundreds of the best pieces of science-fiction and fantasy artwork of that year.
The small Wikipedia entry on him states: "His current work focuses on figure as well, in depictions of slightly surreal scenes with strange characters performing various physical feats, usually in a confrontation of some sort. He seems to take keen interest in tension and emphasis of angular and dynamic aspects of the figure, almost always incorporating slight anatomical distortions to great effect."
This seems an apt summary.
It was pleasantly surprising to me, then, to see that Hale has been commissioned to produce new cover images for six of Penguin Classics' new editions of Joseph Conrad. Conrad is one of my favourites; he writes wonderfully, and (as with the great Nabokov) English was his third language. Interestingly, in his autobiography, Conrad says that it wasn't until he knew English that he felt he could be a writer. A love affair with the language itself led to his career change.
Sadly, Penguin (who used to keep all of Conrad's work in print) has let much of it go in recent years, including that autobiography (A Personal Record and A Mirror of the Sea).
However, I hope that these murkily appealing new editions should gather Conrad some new readers. I love them.