Radiohead: ‘Kid A’ cover artist discusses influence and creative process

"It was about some sort of cataclysmic power existing in the landscape"

The artist behind Radiohead‘s ‘Kid A’ cover art has discussed his creative process and what influenced his work on the album.

Stanley Donwood – along with Radiohead frontman Thom Yorke – is co-curating a new artwork exhibition in London based around the band’s forthcoming reissues of ‘Kid A’ and ‘Amnesiac’.

Taking place October 5 to 19, the exhibition – dubbed ‘How To Completely Disappear’ – will be held at Christie’s headquarters.


Speaking to Christie’s about his work with Radiohead, Donwood revealed some of the influences that inspired the album covers and how the creative process unfolded.

“It’s quite rare for a band to be as interested in their visual representation as the music,” Donwood said of the band’s interest in the physical presentation of their album.

He explained he was invited to move into the studio during the recording of ‘Kid A’ so that his paintings might “respond to the developing mood of the album”.

Donwood is selling six large-scale paintings he created for ‘Kid A’ at the upcoming exhibition, alongside drawings, lyrics, and digital art made around this era in the band’s history. The series of dystopian landscapes were made in the period 1999-2001, and closely related to the final cover and sleeve art for ‘Kid A‘.

Asked about the dark nature of some of the paintings, Donwood said it had a lot to do with how he was feeling at the time.


“I had a lot of things on my mind to do with the ongoing conflict in the former Yugoslavia, and the death tolls,” he explained. “It was about some sort of cataclysmic power existing in the landscape.”

Yorke has previously said that he and Donwood were “obsessed with triangular mountains” and “had visions of pyramids flying over us”. Donwood elaborated further.

“We started to use the computer to collapse geology into itself and to exaggerate mountains and gorges,” Donwood said, “to populate the landscape with stalking creatures like pylons that had come to life, with half-completed cartoon behemoths and floating red cubes, aerial swimming pools of blood.”

Earlier this month, Radiohead and PlayStation announced a new ‘virtual exhibition’ themed around the band’s forthcoming reissues.

Details were scant about the release, but PlayStation described it as “An upside-down digital/analogue universe created from original artwork and recordings to commemorate 21 years of Radiohead’s ‘Kid A’ and ‘Amnesiac’. Coming in November 2021.”

A triple album ‘KID A MNESIA’ reissue will be released by Radiohead via XL Recordings on November 5.

Two art books by Yorke and Donwood cataloguing the visual works created during the ‘Kid A’ / ‘Amnesiac’ era will also be published on November 4.