Peter Blake @ Waddington Custot


A new retrospective of Peter Blake’s work is on display at Waddington Custot galleries. Entitled ‘Rock, Paper, Shadows’, the show’s name takes inspiration from the children’s game and subtlely outlines the entries and format of the exhibition: sculpture (rock), paintings (paper) and collage (scissors). The show includes 50 works which range from 1948 to 2012, some of which has been unseen previously.

The use of childlike imagery seen in the title is reflected in much of the artist’s sculpture. Blake has included children’s models of Snow White, dwarves and many well known cartoon characters in his narratives. These brightly coloured figurines are placed into brownish-dull coloured scenery which only adds to the randomness of including such figures into “adult art.” Here the artist has shown he is never far away from his collages overpopulated with famous faces that he is most famous for. This is most obvious in A Parade fo Saul Steinberg, 2007-2012 where Homer Simpson can be seen in a crowded setting along with the likes of Bugs Bunny and Hulk Hogan. Blake directly references the cartoonist Steinberg and much of the work in the exhibition seems to be reliant on childish imagery, particularly cartoons.

In Blake’s newest collages, we come face to face with Dennis the Menace, Wonder Woman and Desperate Dan. Where the artist’s collages once featured famous famous of real, contemporary personalities, his new collages are full of nostalgia to the artist’s childhood. While this work is definitely different to the Beatles’ Sergeant Peppers Lonely Hearts Club Band album cover that Blake is most famous for, he does include some reference to his earlier works in these more recent collages. For example, one scene is set on Abbey Road. A further scene is overpopulated with butterflies which makes me wonder whether the artist was at all influenced by Hirst. In these new collages, of which there are ten, we also see escaped animals at Westminster Abbey and a comic book convention at Piccadilly Circus which has been attended by the comic book characters themselves.

The show also features sculpture from more natural figures including wood, bowling balls, medals and badges. Blake too includes some of his earliest works on paper dating back to 1948 when the artist was still in college. In this section we are also shown a recent watercolour portrait of Queen Elizabeth II which was commissioned for the Diamond Jubilee cover of the Radio Ties.

In this show of work spanning the past six decades the Brit Pop artist shows that he has ignored modern life and I am glad he has. The show is heavily reliant on nostalgia for the past and Blake shows that he really is a kid at heart. With his collages which continue to draw people in, the artist has stuck to what he is best at. With his childhood figures and bright colours Blake’s art never ceases to enchant us and would be loved by all, old and young.

Peter Blake: Rock, Paper, Scissors is on display at Waddington Custot Galleries until 15 December 2012

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Lizzy Vartanian Collier is a London-based writer with a special interest in contemporary Middle Eastern Art. She has a BA in Art History and an MA in Contemporary Art and Art Theory of Asia and Africa from the School of Oriental and African Studies. She runs the Gallery Girl blog and also writes for After Nyne, Ibraaz and Reorient.

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