Richard M. Powers

Star of Life_RMPThe quite literally, fantastic work of the American illustrator Richard M. Powers is at once dated and timeless, reflecting as it does both the heady, trippy times in which it was made and the infinite possibilities that alternative futures and alien worlds might offer.

Powers (1921-1996) had a very distinctive and singular style that caught the eye of both publishers and the public alike, resulting in his work gracing many science fiction book jackets throughout the 1950’s and 1970’s.

Galactic Diplomat_RMPTaking influences most obviously from the surrealism of Joan Miro and Yves Tanguy, Powers’ organic landscapes were populated by collections of often vague, indistinguishable shapes and suggestions of beings, which in terms of appearance, scale and biology were light years away from the generally held ideas of Venusians, Martians and other Hollywood B Movie space monsters…

Indeed it is a commonly proffered argument that it was Powers and his wonderfully escapist imagery that were one of the key bridges between the stereotypical 1950’s space girls in short skirts being rescued by handsome spacemen with hard wired technology (usually in the form of ray guns) and the wider concept that we were on the edge of a wholly unknown and potentially dangerous universe. We humans could effectively be insignificant, our destiny’s at the whim of beings and civilisations far beyond our wildest dreams…

All of which I think still makes these images hugely powerful and impressive, dated possibly, but with an insight and imagination that only the truly gifted can achieve. Looking at them again now, I can see so many things that must surely have taken their cues from Powers’ work: the lanky aliens in Close Encounters, the gas giant worlds in Iain Bank’s Culture novels, the organic spaceships of H R Geiger and the mind numbing scale of the Matrix…

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