Oliver Hibert’s tarot deck takes the familiar “wicked pack cards” (as Eliot called it) and gives it a healthy dose of mind-altering pizzazz. Hibert is a professional artist and illustrator whose work you may have seen on album covers, posters and in periodicals — it’s the kind of work you recognize instantly. His images explode with color, his characters are plucked from your most vivid dreams and nightmares, and he often uses a blacklight-poster aesthetic. To state the obvious, these tableaux of flower power, unblinking eyes and dripping gobs of who-knows-what is art on acid, and it might be the brown kind. You can see the various things Hibert does at his website, oliverhibert.com.
A few years back, he embarked on a very specific and sustained project — presenting a tarot deck in his own aesthetic. And he didn’t care to reinvent the wheel; in fact, the compositions are based on the best-known of all tarot decks, the Rider-Waite. They look very familiar, but very very alien. Everybody’s naked, many have a single eyeball in place of a head, and there are technicolor globs of something dripping all over the place.
HEAVY METAL: What’s your attraction to psychedelic art? Were there artists or specific works that spoke to you in your youth and steered you in this direction?
OLIVER HIBERT: I always was into art as a kid, I drew a lot at school and at home and made all sorts of crafts and things…. But when I was around 15, I discovered the art and culture of psychedelia / 60’s. I stumbled across the art of Peter Max and was immediately inspired and blown away. I then started to teach myself how to paint. It all sent me down a rabbit hole that I have been digging deep into for over two decades now.
HM: In one post on your Instagram page, you’re holding an issue of Zap Comix #4, and in another one I see EC horror comics, a Gold Key Donald Duck, and a Marvel Weird Wonder Tales. Are you an old-school comics geek?
OH: Well haha yes, I really love old comics, especially all the old classic horror comics.. And of course strange psychedelic comics, cartoons, etc. I love them a lot but I’m not sure if I totally qualify as a comic book geek. I’m not heavily into one series or anything. I just like and collect what I think is cool and interesting.
HM: Psychedelic is so strongly associated with the late ’60s, hippies, blacklight posters and such. Are you conscious of being/not being in that tradition? Do you try to walk that tightrope between modern psychedelia and the retro, kitsch variety?
OH: Yeah well, I think psychedelic can be a hard thing to label. It’s not the same as it used to be. And I try to not just re-hash something that has already been done so long ago. Although, I would say that genre is my highest of inspirations. I think it’s easy for people to just label my art as psychedelic, and well, I am fine with that. But personally I wouldn’t really know how to label my art. Is it psychedelic? Surreal? Surrealedelic? Who knows. I leave that up to the viewer. I see things as being psychedelic in life and art that might not be really officially labelled that sometimes. I just try to make what I like, I pull from things that inspire me. And most importantly I just try to create my own reality in life and art. Psychedelic or not ha!
HM: We’ve seen a lot of very interesting Tarot decks by contemporary artists (there was actually a running feature of Tarot cards in Heavy Metal for several years). Some artists really try to rethink everything, start from scratch. You’ve taken one specific deck, the Rider-Waite, and duplicated the compositions pretty faithfully while layering your aesthetic overtop. Why did you choose this approach?
OH: Yes well, I was highly inspired by the Rider-Waite deck and the wonderful imagery created by Pamela Coleman Smith from a young age. It’s iconic to everyone and iconic to myself and I really wanted to pay tribute to her work and the deck but to give it my own flavor. And I thought it would be wise as all of the many various imagery within each card is so important. So I tried to keep a lot of those things intact so they can be easily usable. I wanted the deck to feel new and fresh with its own voice and feel but to keep in the Rider-Waite tradition. Maybe my deck would be like looking at the normal deck on 6 hits of LSD. Or a psychedelic nightmare in hell or space.
HM: When you finished the minor and major arcana, you then started your own original “Secret Arcana.” Can you describe how this works (are there “suits,” do the cards have meaning, can you do a reading with them, etc) and why you’ve done it?
OH: Yes, after I finished the full tarot deck, I really wanted to create my own from scratch. And I really wanted to create an extra set of cards that one, could be used on their own for a reading, and secondly, they could be used in addition to the full normal deck. As a bonus or more full reading when combined. Yes, each card has its own meanings and as far as suits go — I will be expanding the Secret Arcana deck very soon into a full deck of its own. Stay tuned on that.
HM: We acknowledge that this isn’t new — looks like you finished up in late 2016. What can you tell us about recent or current projects you’re doing that you’re excited about?
OH: Yes well, I try to keep myself very busy. I value myself as a painter first and foremost so I am always working on paintings and drawings for art shows and projects. I also do a lot of illustrative work for bands and fun things. I am working on a few short films and I am also in the process of writing and recording my first music album right now which I have been dying to do for years. Keep up to date with my projects and news on my instagram feed or website. I try to keep my posts pretty current.
HM: What’s your soundtrack when you’re creating your images? Do you have a shortlist of albums that really help transport you to this other world your work seems to inhabit?
OH: Oh yes, Music is sooo important as a visual artist works. I listen to many many types of music but yes, I do enjoy “psychedelic” types of music most. I love the Dukes of Stratosphere, Morgan Delt, Syd Barrett / Pink Floyd, Siousxie and the Banshees, Revolving Paint Dream, Mr. Elevator, Walter Ghoul’s Lavander Brigade… I could go on and on haha. But yeah, those are some of my favorites for sure!