So what do you think of when someone mentions the name Peter Blake? Most people I expect will think of the now iconic Beatles album cover for Sgt Pepper, some might think of the similarly styled 1984 album cover for the Band Aid single, while for others it is the colourful screen print Bobby Rainbow. Such is the output of this amazing artist that there is so much to choose from spanning 60 years… can that be right, 60 years, really? Yes it is. Sir Peter Blake (he was knighted in 2002 for services to art) was 80 this year and has been delighting us with his imaginative and colourful work since the 1950’s.
Sir Peter is probably the best known of the English Pop Artists, creating his imagery from popular culture including music, advertising and wrestling (which he used to watch as a child with his mother). His work is characterised by bold use of vibrant pure colour – red, yellow and blue feature strongly in much of his work. Blake is known as a collector of ephemera, much of which often finds its way into his artwork in the form of collaged elements. During his career Blake has worked and been friends with most of the ‘big names’ in the British art scene over the past half century including Pauline Boty, Derek Boshier and Peter Phillips, all three of whom starred with Blake in the 1962 film by Ken Russell “Pop Goes the Easel”. What put him firmly on the map was his painting ‘Self Portrait with Badges’ which won the junior section of the John Moores painting competition in 1961, and rest as they say, is history.
Pallant House Gallery in Chichester are currently holding a retrospective exhibition of Blake’s work to mark his 80th birthday this year. The show is a feast to the eyes of some of the most well known and iconic images relating to popular culture; including Bobby Rainbow (which is in the Gallery’s permanent collection) Self Portrait with Badges, the fantastic red collage Love painting, the original design artwork for the Sgt Pepper album and work undertaken for Paul Weller and also Oasis album covers. There is a very interesting section wich features work by musicians who also paint and who also have a connection to Blake; including the immortal Ian Drury who was Blake’s pupil at the Royal College. A handwritten copy of Drury’s song Peter the Painter hangs alongside some drawings made by Drury of Blake which are complimented by some sketches made by Blake of behind the scenes on tour with the Blockheads in the 1970’s and importantly Ian Drury’s famous “rhythm stick”.
Sadly because of copyright I am unable to reproduce any images on this post. All I can say is that if you like music from the 1950’s to present day, art and popular culture then this exhibition is a MUST SEE. I enjoyed it so much that I will be going again, just in case there is anything I might have missed!
Peter Blake and Pop Music is at the Pallant House Gallery, Chichester from 23rd June to 7th October 2012.