Coulthart on Dean

John Coulthart has a long and impassioned post up about Roger Dean. Here are a couple of tasters:

There’s a certain kind of critic, usually male and British, who finds the exercise of a Romantic imagination to be a suspect and unwholesome activity. That suspicion often sees a single “story” being told in art history which skips from Impressionism to Cubism and ignores the Symbolists and Decadents; it dismisses Dalí’s work after the 1930s and won’t even look at the paintings of HR Giger, Ernst Fuchs or Mati Klarwein; it’s a suspicion which marginalised Mervyn Peake almost to the year of his death in 1968, which scowls at genre fiction and ignored JG Ballard (always a proud science fiction writer) until his Booker Prize nomination in 1984. Minimalism and restraint is favoured over exuberant invention, and a blokey cynicism is favoured over any kind of visionary impulse which is seen as tasteless or kitsch, with “kitsch” in this context almost always meaning “whatever I dislike”. For every Marina Warner, Michael Moorcock, Clive Barker or China Miéville who assert and promote the value of the imagination, you’ll find a vocal crowd who find the whole thing to be unpalatable and juvenile.


The writings of JG Ballard and Philip K Dick gained widespread popularity when the world began to more closely resemble their fiction. In Roger Dean’s case, technology is now better able to bring his imagination to life. Over the past decade we’ve seen the creation of buildings which resemble his organic designs while his holistic approach to architecture and the environment is more widely accepted than it was when Views first appeared.

FWIW, my college room poster was Dalí, not Dean. I have albums by Pink Floyd and Emerson, Lake & Palmer, and I have lots by King Crimson, but I could never get used to Jon Anderson’s voice.

One thought on “Coulthart on Dean

  1. Perhaps you’ve chatted to Alastair Reynolds at Bristolcon or elsewhere about King Crimson, as he’s a big fan, including making Cadence and Cascade two characters in House of Suns. I like them a lot too, by and large, though with the huge non-Fripp personnel changes and the experimental nature of some of their stuff they can be variable (I don’t care for the improvisational instrumental noodling on some early-70s albums, for instance). Starless from Red is my favourite single track.

    I wasn’t that keen on Jon Anderson’s voice – or Peter Gabriel’s Genesis-era voice either – but I still really like Close To The Edge, and some other Yes tracks. ELP was really popular when I was at school – Tarkus, Pictures, Trilogy – and I absorbed a lot, but now I find them almost completely unlistenable-to.

    I too, like the chap linked to, was a teenager who did some Dean-tinged drawings in the early 70s, like this one and this one.

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