The visual magick of Malleus Rock Art Lab
Taking their name from the infamous medieval witch-hunt treatise, Malleus is the rock art lab from Italy responsible for some of the most stunning gig posters today. Drawing on the traditions of Expressionism, Art Nouveau and Surrealism, while tripping through the psychedelic influences of the original 60s poster art, Malleus conjures visual art from music.
Heads Lifestyle: What is Malleus?
Malleus: Malleus is a three-headed Italian art lab devoted to the visible representation of music. We mainly create handmade silkscreen gig posters, but we also work on everything involved in the visual arts, from painting to video, illustration to simple website and CD cover art.
Meeting Etichette Indipendenti 2004 poster.
HL: Who are some of the artists you've worked with?
M: We've created gig posters for artists such as Iggy and the Stooges, The Cure, Mars Volta, Beck, Chemical Brothers, Monster Magnet, Sigur Ros, Mark Lanegan, Dresden Dolls, Bongzilla and many, many more.
Brant Bjork & The Bros concert poster.
HL: When designing artwork, do you listen to the music of the artist?
M: Yes, obviously. Music is the main inspiration—the door to entering the artist's world we are representing. We don't want to simply use his image or logo; we try to express our personal interpretation of the music. Sometimes it's easy and comes naturally. Sometimes we get crazy producing lots of sketches before arriving at the right idea.
Left: Cyborg "Curfew" poster. Right: Morgan concert poster.
HL: There’s a tenebrous theme running through your work. What is the source of this darkness?
M: It's cool you noticed this. It's not something we do because we have to—it comes out naturally in our work. It's a part of our iconography. We try to maintain a really personal style. We don't want to copy anybody other than ourselves. At the same time we've been influenced by the artists we respect and love—exploring the "European style" coming from the beauty of Mucha and Klimt, simultaneously poisoned by the agony of Schiele and Munch. It's really interesting to think about strange and impossible things, like, for example, the hand coming out from the mouth of a girl in our interpretation of Cyborg World. There's a dark visionary atmosphere you can almost breathe in while at the same time there is a feeling of fatal beauty.
Verdena concert poster.
HL: There is a psychedelic element to your art as well. What fuels this?
M: You may not believe this, but we're sorry to tell you, we don't use drugs. Only one member of our team smokes once in a while but it doesn't affect the creative process. We're psychedelic on the inside and we look at the world through the eyes of the child within our souls.
Left: Meeting Delle Etichette Indipendenti 2003 poster. Right: Linea 77 2003 Euro Numb Tour poster.
HL: How much does the original rock poster art from the 60s and 70s influence your designs—people like Stanley Mouse, Rick Griffin, and Alton Kelley?
M: They're really important to us. They were a great incentive especially in the beginning of our art lab, mainly because they were devoted to rock and we admired their attitude and approach, in particular Griffin with his incredible style. But we have a lot of other artists from all over to thank for their inspiration as well, like Mucha, Kokoscha, Moebius, Pazienza, Giger, Mignola, and Hokusai. And, of course, there is the music. We would be nothing without it!
Oneida concert poster.
HL: What does the future hold for Malleus?
M: We really hope people all around the world will see there's a little lab in the middle of Europe where three Cyclopes are forging their flaming works. Nothing more. We're growing and we hope people will soon recognize our style of artwork as Malleus!
Malleus Maleficarum (1486)
Malleus Maleficarum is the most infamous of the witch-hunt manuals. Written in Latin, the Malleus was first submitted to the University of Cologne in 1487. The title is translated as The Hammer of Witches. Written by James Sprenger and Henry Kramer, the Malleus remained in use for three hundred years. It had tremendous influence in the witch trials in England and on the continent.
The Malleus was used as a judicial casebook for the detection and persecution of witches, specifying rules of evidence and the canonical procedures by which suspected witches were tortured and put to death. Thousands of people (primarily women) were judicially murdered as a result of the procedures described in this book, for no reason than a strange birthmark, living alone, mental illness, cultivation of medicinal herbs, or simply because they were falsely accused (often for financial gain by the accuser). The Malleus serves as a horrible warning about what happens when intolerance takes over a society.
Follow them on Instagram at: @malleusdelic
This article first appeared in Heads Vol.5 Issue 05 - June 2005
You may also like:
Where mood and movement meet
Visionary painter, Chris Dyer embodies love and light
Through the artist's gaze, a mugshot becomes art, otherness turns to affirmation