Barrington Coast local Mark O'Brien tells us about his latest exhibition at Manning Regional Art Gallery.
The past decade has witnessed a marked resurgence in the popularity of vinyl, to such an extent that it is now the fastest growing physical format in the music industry. Record pressing factories, of which only a few remained in operation twenty years ago, are today unable to press enough records to meet this revived appetite.
Coinciding with this demand is an increased appreciation and interest in the actual housing of the vinyl – the record sleeve itself. Such an interest existed before, particularly from the mid 1960s to the mid 1980s, when all manner of weird and wonderful eye catching sleeves were produced. The rise of the Compact Disc from the mid 1980s, however, largely halted this art form in its tracks for a number of reasons. Firstly, the format of the 'jewel case CD reduced the canvas that graphic designers could play around with from the LP's 32 x 32cm to around 12.5 x 12.5cms. It was extremely difficult to design anything weird, wonderful or eye catching upon this reduced space. And secondly, the rise of the CD had more to do with record company profits than anything else, and as such the record companies were no longer interested in commissioning arresting sleeve designs.
Today, however, it is almost as if those 'wilderness' years of the CD had never happened. Young bands are clamouring to have their music released on a vinyl format, and are insisting on new and original designs for their record sleeves. Record companies, ever eager to make a dollar or two, are re-pressing lavish sleeve editions of older releases. There is now an appreciation that vinyl is not just about the musical, but rather an art form that is also highly visual and uniquely tactile.
In a climate such as this, it is therefore very timely to mount an exhibition that celebrates the eclectic record sleeve designs of both yesterday and today. In displaying the rare, the new, the odd and the old, or even just the plain every day, it is the intention of this exhibition to unite a younger generation with an older one in their appreciation of the vinyl record. To a younger generation, whose parents probably never had a record player in the house, the vinyl record is viewed as commodity that is both hip and novel. And to those of us of a certain age, the LP record is inextricably linked to the memories and moments of our past.
I hope you gain as much enjoyment in viewing this exhibition as I did in assembling it. Long live vinyl.