PAUL CANNELL

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Paul in his Creation Records attic studio

Paul Cannell was an artist, most well known for his contributions to numerous bands and studios in the early to late 1990's. His work, (whether recognized as his or not) undoubtably defined that era's visual context of the musical landscape, and is still incredibly influential to this day.

Despite being an artist in various forms throughout his whole life, Paul got his start in the music world after being introduced to Jeff Barrettthe head of music studio Heavenly Records through his friend - a drummer in the indie-pop band Flowered Up, who were under Heavenly at that time. His first cover piece was for their album 'Phobia'. Paul's most notable contribution to Heavenly was undoubtably their iconic bird logo.

Paul's artwork quickly gathered momentum, and after working under Heavenly for a year - he was introduced to Primal Scream through their manager at the time, Alex Nightingale.  After seeing Paul's work, Primal Scream's Bobby Gillespie contacted him looking for a sleeve for 'Higher Than the Sun'. This was the beginning of a partnership that saw Paul contribute a number of covers to Primal Scream's releases, and saw Paul crossing over into working for Creation Records, the studio Primal Scream were under. 

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Heavenly Records logo

It was during this time working for Creation in his own attic studio (seen above) that Paul produced most of his work - most notably the iconic "psychadelic sunburst" sleeve for Primal Scream's 'Screamadelica' which is now regarded as one of the most memorable and iconic album covers of all time. This cover was even one of only 10 albums in 2010 to "get the royal seal of approval" in being released in a series of stamps.

 

Under Creation, Paul continued to create artwork for the covers of numerous iconic bands of the era, including Manic Street Preachers and The Telescopes, as well as creating other random pieces for different projects and his own inspiration, including his own exhibition of pieces back at the Heavenly record shop titled 'Cannelism; art will eat itself'. 

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2010's 'iconic albums' series of stamps

It was also during this brief period that Paul would tour with the hype rock band Fabulous, who he had contributed a sleeve to for their debut single 'Destined To Be Free', released under Heavenly Records. Fabulous' lineup was made up almost entirely of contributors to the New Musical Express (NME) music journalism magazine, including photographer Martyn Goodacre and journalist Simon Spence.  Fabulous would drum up press constantly as they toured - making headlines by being banned from almost every single venue that they performed at. Their vehicle of choice; the 'Fab Mobile' was painted by Paul, and Paul would accompany their acts by painting backdrops on stage.

1992, Fabulous' iconic Fab Mobile, painted by Cannell

Paul would even later go on to release a single through Creation Records with his then band Crawl entitled 'Sourface'. The artwork would of course be contributed by him.

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Paul (right) and his band 'Crawl'

(photo by Martyn Goodacre)

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Paul (left) and his band 'Crawl' (photo by Martyn Goodacre)

For reasons unknown to most, Paul slipped away from public view in the late 1990's. Despite his huge contributions to the music world, he made the decision to move from bustling London to quiet Cornwall. He would continue to work and paint, but to those that knew him in this time it was clear he was struggling with a lot, yet he was too humble to allow others to truly bear whatever weight he was carrying on his shoulders. In 2005, in a moment of desparation Paul sadly took his own life. 

To those that knew him (and even those who were just aquaintances) Paul was clearly a man of authenticity, kindness and sincere humanity. Despite his warmth towards others (even those who were seemingly quite cruel to him), Paul was troubled beyond his years, and those that judge on appearances were likely to think less of him, but there was an intense depth to Paul that touched those who spent any time with him.

While Paul has now been gone for 15 years, his art, and his memory will live on.

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Paul Cannell

1963 - 2005

ART & INSPIRATION

In this portion of the page, I will be discussing Paul's art and inspirations, in the hopes that it will inspire any readers who intend to contribute to the project.

Paul's Early Influences:

  • Renoir (traditional impressionism)

  • Monet (traditional impressionism)

  • Picasso (Cubism / Surrealism)

Paul's Later Influences: 

  • Jean-Michel Basquiat (neo-expressionism)

  • Andy Warhol (abstract-expressionism)

  • Rothko (abstract-expressionism)

  • Jackson Pollock (abstract-expressionism)

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"I got into more classical stuff before I really got into abstract but abstract painting to me was like ‘what the fuck does this mean. People like Rothko. I just thought it was crap, canvases put up on a wall. I couldn’t understand even self-expressionism or anything, Pollock and that. I had no idea. I just took on a lot of classical stuff. -- Then I fell into Abstraction and now I can’t get out of it."

Paul Cannell

Kid's Drawings

Some of Paul's work is clearly inspired by kid's drawings, he's commented on how they would inspire him, and he would later let kids get involved on some pieces, including his bands 1996 sleeve for 'Sour Face' (middle).

 "I pick up so many kids drawings off the street at 4 o’clock in the afternoon. It’s incredible, they’re great. I put them up here and in my house and people go ‘oh, I like this one’ and you say, ‘how much would you pay for it?’ and they’ll go, ‘I’d give you 200 quid for it’ and then you say ‘yeah..it’s a fucking kid’s drawing mate’. [laughs]."

Paul Cannell

Paul Cannell's studio at Creation record

Non-Dominant Hand

Paul was naturally left handed, but at some point during his time at Creation he decided he would no longer use it because he preferred the 'messy' 'clumsy' result of his non-dominant hand.

"You’ve got to know how to draw, you’ve got to have control of your fucking hand. All this work that you see here, is done with the other hand, it’s not even done with my natural hand. I changed my hands about three and half years ago because I was sick of what my left hand was doing. I like drawing with my right hand because it’s messy, it’s like a kid. It’s clumsy. All this clumsy work you’re seeing here, that’s why it’s clumsy. That’s the only way I’ve been able to build abstraction. I was getting too dangerously technical with this arm."

Paul Cannell

Oils:

Oils were what Paul used the most in his work.

" I mainly use oils. But I add stuff. Like household paint, undercoat or something. I use this with it, car body filler, recycled. My mate works at a garage and he collects it from the back room and then he brings it home for me. I mix it with the paint and it builds up like a cement. It’s really good. Good fun."

Paul Cannell

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GALLERY

Here is a collection of Paul's work that I have managed to collect images of.

MUSIC

'Phobia' - Flowered Up (1990)
Heavenly Recordings 'Bird'
'Destined To Be Free' - Fabulous (1991)
'Stay Beautiful' - Manic Street Preachers (1991)
'Motown Junk' - Manic Street Preachers (1991)
'You Love Us' - Manic Street Preachers (1991)
'Screamadelica' - Primal Scream (1991)
'Don't Fight it, Feel It' - Primal Scream (1991)
'Higher Than The Sun' - Primal Scream (1991)
The Telescopes (1992)
'At The Astradome Lunaville' - The Times (1992)
Creation Tape - Various (1992)
'We Are Very Happy You Came' - Shonen Knife (1993)
'Sourface' - Crawl (1996)
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CANNELLISM: ART WILL EAT ITSELF

(1992 HEAVENLY RECORDS EXHIBITION)

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OTHER SOURCES

I have listed here a short number of sources that have been very useful personally in understanding Paul's art and character. I would encourage you read them yourself if you want a deeper insight on his personality and how others saw him.

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Marceline Smith, who was only 16 at the time of interviewing, decided to make Paul's work the subject of her A Level art project, the interview she conducted with Paul has been the biggest resource for me personally in understanding his character and personality during his time at Creation. It also goes into considerable detail about his art world inspirations.

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Other than Marceline's interview, this is the only resource I have ever managed to discover that detailed Paul's history and activities during that era.

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Other than in the cases of people I have personally contacted about Paul, this is the only resource of somebody specifically talking about their own perception of Paul's character during that time.