Rumour has it that, despite having announced his retirement in 1997, Sir Peter Blake can still be spotted travelling to and from his studio on the number 94 bus.
Earlier this week it was announced that the 85-year old artist is busy designing a mural for Turnham Green tube station in West London. Scheduled to be unveiled in January 2018, the work will celebrate the cultural heritage of the area where Blake now lives.
Meanwhile brand new work by the artist graces a 50ft barge – recently converted to a floating bar and restaurant – on the Grand Union Canal.
Two works by Blake arrived at Dantzig Gallery this week. The first, Marilyn, is a silkscreen print topped by three impressions of the actress, who has featured in a number of the artist’s most important works over the past seven decades. Most notably, perhaps, on the cover he designed for The Beatles’ Sgt Pepper LP (for which he was famously paid a flat-fee of £200).
Marilyn Monroe has served as muse to the likes of Dali, De Kooning, Rauschenberg and Warhol. But Blake’s take on the star in this print is uniquely British. See here, the print punches out such a rampant blast of colour that it leaves austerity UK reaching for its sunglasses.
The second, Fine Art Bits, is a silkscreen made in the 2000s, and closely based on Blake’s 1959 mixed-media work, The Fine Art Bit, made when he was a 27-year old art teacher (his pupils included a young Ian Dury).
The silkscreen juxtaposes six bands of vibrant paint with a quartet of images from the world of high art. Except here it’s high art in the form of postcards which anyone could write to the folks back home. In the work at Dantzig, reproductions of works by Gainsborough, Velasquez, Vermeer and Spencer hover above the composition, as though waiting to be snapped up and furnished with a stamp.
Blake once commented that he regretted that he didn’t produce more prints earlier in his life. These two works, however, show clearly that printmaking is a medium that Blake come to embrace with vigour.