Book Review: Hardware - The Definitive SF Works of Chris Foss

Titan Books release a celebratory tome of legendary sci-fi artist Chris Foss' work, from rarities to the iconic cover art that made him a staple of 1970s and 80s sci-fi novels.

Chris Foss. Well, really it's more than likely that you might inherently link the way you think about those universes to his own imagination - because British artist Foss was responsible for revolutionising the art that would be used on the covers of such novels. Fans of Foss' work, including artwork for books by generic icons such as Isaac Asimov, E. E. Doc Smith, Arthur C. Clarke, A. E. Van Vogt and Philip K. Dick, and film design for Ridley Scott and Stanley Kubrick, can now get their hands on this celebratory tome that focuses on the artist's work. Through it they can see the evolution of his style, which would go on to form a major reference point for all subsequent sci-fi artwork and which showcases the artist's huge talent for creating brilliant, almost grotesque sci-fi landscapes and machinery. This considerable book collates many of Foss' rare and classic images that have never been seen or reprinted before, and offers an intriguing insight into his fascination with producing designs that blended his untamed capacity for fantasy and a realism that would cater for the science half of his chosen genre. Foss' work is defined by that jarring oxymoron: his iconic spaceships are almost biological, and certainly monstrous, and yet, unlike anything that came before them, they are intricate in their mechanical realism. They are the convergence of fantasy and precision, and there is a fundamental contradiction within the designs that suggests both a hopeful futurism and an ominous sense of dread in the sheer size and scale of the machine monsters he creates. The format of the book is pretty simple - a "coffee table book" that is comparatively low on the word count, and big on the impact of the subject itself. It starts with an introduction by illustrious British artist Rian Hughes - of 2000AD and Dan Dare fame - in which he talks about Foss's position within the industry, as influential icon and important reference point, as well as his intention to present Hardware as the definitive collection of his work. There is then a biographical article, in a conversational style between Foss and his daughter Imogen, which offers a valuable personal insight from the artist, and a background to his career and successes. There then follows a foreword by Moebius, who relates his experience working with Foss on Dune, and how methodical he experienced him to be in his artist practice, which is followed by a second foreword from Alejandro Jodorowsky who discusses FOss' iconic aesthetic agenda, blending realism with a sense of wonder- what he calls "the two elements so essential to science fiction". All introductions aside, the book lets Foss' work do the talking, presenting an impressive 220 page gallery without annotation or further introduction - and while it is a shame the artist's voice isn't there to guide us through the journey of his work, the presentation and the creations themselves are more than enough to completely capture the imagination. In short, it is an absolute must for fans of Foss' work, and of that era of sci-fi in general. Here's a sampling of some of the great man's art, thanks to ChrisFossArt.com... Simply stunning. It isn't difficult to see why Foss is so highly heralded within the sci-fi community, and in all honesty for art lovers, Hardware is a wonderful collection in its own right, without that weighty context. Each piece is after all a work of art, perfectly composed and intricately crafted down to the last fine brush stroke, and each is a single glorious testimony to Foss' considerable genius. Hardware - The Definitive SF Works of Chris Foss is available to buy now.

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