Peter Blake, knighted by HM The Queen in 2002, is a British institution: internationally renowned as a founding father of Pop Art, globally famous as the designer of the Beatles ‘Sergeant Pepper’ album cover; the posters for the first ‘Live Aid’ and now, 20 years later, ‘Live8’ concerts.


Blake’s career stretches back to the 1950s and has always expressed his high regard and passion for popular culture, from cinema, the circus and pop music to memorabilia of every variety and the unself-conscious work - what one of his most inspiring teachers, the designer Enid Marx, called ‘the innocent eye’ - of the traditional crafts; of outsider artists and even Sunday painters. Over the years he has formed a huge collection of these objects, which he mines and replenishes constantly.


Blake takes pride in craft and is a survivor of a dwindling generation who benefited from a thorough grounding in technique which had something of the thoroughness of the old guild apprenticeship. He was 14 when he was first enrolled at a technical college and art school, a craft-based education long since disbanded in Britain. That training he has exploited to the full as a painter, sculptor, printmaker, tableau-maker and collagist.


“I don’t mind my work being called illustrative, literary, decorative or sentimental,’ he says, and hopes for no more than that people should ‘kind of like’ what he does. The reason they manifestly do has been well described: ‘He finds human warmth where others find only cliché and exploitation.


The dictionary definition of collage is ‘any collection of unrelated things’. Blake’s life and his art are of a piece, a seamless collage of related and unrelated things. He has always appropriated: ‘If I like something I make a few for myself,’ he explains, a rule which applies as much to fine art as anything else.


Blake’s six prints for Cascadia show him at his vintage best. Homage to Kurt Schwitters wittily and affectionately appropriates the art of a king of collage in a vibrant and poignant series of silk-screened collages. ‘Beautifully and incredibly realistically printed’ by Brad Faine at Coriander Press, they have a common source – the majority of the imagery lifted from some inter-war scrapbooks filled with the memorabilia of the global travels of a Mr Alexander J. Yeats.


Mr Yeats kept his travel tickets for Canadian Pacific and other glamorous lines but the inclusion of bus tickets is the most prominent and humorous nod to Schwitters. ‘Schwitters used bus tickets, so the saying was that you had to have a bus ticket to make a collage; and I was interested in Schwitters when I was a young artist.’ That Schwitters was at the height of his powers between the wars chimes with the times of the Yeats’ memorabilia.


The titles – &; Deon; Empire State; Mickey; Red, White + Blue; The Very Best - derive from an image or word in each specific arrangement. The excitement of scissors-and-paste collage is the way it forms a short cut to imaginative leaps. It also allows a sensual mix ‘n match of textures, a Schwitters speciality. Faine skilfully produced this textural richness with specific embossing, varnishing and silvering.


The inclusion in & of the drawing of a face in the weird shape of a church has a personal tag. It was done by Eric, a hobo Blake first met by chance. Eric tramped round Britain every three years and, inspired by Blake, he would fill cheap sketch-books with drawings as the only way of thanking him. So in Homage to Schwitters there are other homages, other cross references, to set the mind a-wandering.


~J. McEwen


MUSEUM ART COLLECTIONS: Blake's works form part of the collections of most major museums, in Britain and worldwide. His numerous Retrospective Exhibitions have toured Amsterdam, Hamburg, Brussels, Birmingham, Glasgow and London including the following Museums, Tate, London; Portal Gallery, London; Royal Academy of Arts, London; Institute of Contemporary Art, London; Palais des Beaux Arts, Brussels; Musees'Art Moderne, Paris; Museum of Modern Art, NY; Stedelijk Museum, Amsterdam; Kunstverein, Hamburg; Gemeente Museum, Arnhem; Palazzo Reale, Milan, Los Angeles County Museum, LA; Montreal Museum of Fine Arts, Canada. Blake is an Associate Artist at the National Gallery in London.




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