Back to index of Nerve 9 - Autumn 2006

Noted English artist Peter Blake is most famous for his pop art paintings and the design of The Beatles’ Sgt Pepper album cover. He has now been commissioned by the Liverpool Culture Company to design and produce a portfolio of eight prints using the serigraph method to celebrate the city winning the award of European Capital of Culture in 2008.

Blake’s 08

By Colin Serjent

Why did you agree to do this commission?
I am doing a lot of prints at the moment so it fitted in with what I am doing…I have always been involved with Liverpool in one form or another. The commission I am doing seemed to tie in with this.

Why have you such a strong link with Liverpool?
The strong links I have with Liverpool derives from the time I was in the RAF. I was based near Belfast and used to get the ferry from Liverpool to Belfast. In 1961 I won the junior prize in the John Moores Contemporary Art Exhibition (at the time of this interview he was in Liverpool to act as one of the judges in this year’s exhibition).
I have happy memories of that time, for instance having a party at the Adelphi Hotel with Adrian Henri. Also when I was curating the collage exhibition which took place at the Tate several years ago I was visiting Liverpool a lot.

What is your view of Liverpool winning the European Capital of Culture award?
I am pleased it is coming here. I was involved in the bidding for the award. I designed a poster of famous Liverpudlians. It was presented to some of the judges shortly before the award decision was made and some people said that this maybe helped Liverpool win the vote.

A lot of artists in Liverpool are still finding major problems in getting funding; a lot of exhibition venues and art studios have closed in the last two years or so. It is not all hunky-dory in the local arts scene despite Liverpool winning the award.
I don’t think artists should be sponsored. You should not rely on grants. You either make a success of your art or you don’t. I worked as an artist for a number of years without making much money – I have never had any financial backing in that way. Things are now very good for me but for a lot of the time things were not.

Did designing the Sgt Pepper album cover prove a sea change for you?
No, not in terms of being an artist. I was already established as a painter of pop art. In a way it was something separate from being a painter. A top band - who I can’t reveal - have recently asked me to design an album cover for them. I talked to Paul Weller earlier this year and he wants me to do some design work for his planned book of lyrics.
I still do a lot of music-related work. But it does not affect me as a painter. They are separate endeavours. It is in some way a sub-division. Sgt Pepper made me more famous but it did not change me as an artist.

Can you explain the techniques involved in producing serigraphs?
I can’t work with computers but I work with someone who can. We talk about what the subjects will be and then I get a load of images about Liverpool. We then scan them and put them on a disk and then we manipulate them on the computer. I am treating them as posters. They are prints but I want them to look like posters.

What are the prints meant to represent in regard to Liverpool winning the Culture award?
In a way they are a commercial venture. I wanted them to look like old-fashioned posters, for example travel posters. All eight prints will have a similar typeface and border. I was given eight subjects to work on. They are: Sea, Religion, Learning, Innovation, Heritage, Culture, Environment, and Performance.

Are all the images of a nostalgic nature?
The subject matters and look are nostalgic. But they have a contemporary look. For example, the golfers featured in the Performance print are wearing modern attire. It is about Liverpool now, but the look is nostalgic.
We are producing the prints two at a time. Two more will be done before the end of 2006. The complete series will be completed by 2008.

What else are you involved in at the present time?
I have never been so busy as an artist. In 1996 I made a conceptual announcement that I had retired because I was 65. But I had retired from jealousy, anger, ambition - all the nasty things about the art world. But I did not retire from working. I now tell myself I am in my late period. All artists go a bit barmy. It is an amazing time for me. I have just had an exhibition in Stockholm and Copenhagen, and am really looking forward to my retrospective exhibition taking place at Tate Liverpool in 2007.

If you are interested in obtaining any of these prints visit www.lydiabates.com

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Sorry Comments Closed

Comment left by Tim Jones on 6th July, 2007 at 10:47
What a great article! Lovely to read your answers Peter, especially the one about retirement! Regards, Tim

Comment left by byra dorneles on 11th August, 2008 at 0:04
Good good good!!! Byra Dorneles www.myspace.com/byradorneles

Comment left by jack` on 18th September, 2009 at 17:08
it is good `

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