Reclaimed Icons: the latest artistic output from Sir Peter Blake

Known for holding a magnifying glass up to popular culture via his artworks, Sir Peter Blake has placed BBC television history, everyday icons and contemporary tattoo culture at the heart of his latest pieces.

You know someone has made an impact on the creative industry – and the culture beyond – when he gets awarded a Knighthood from Queen Elizabeth II. Sir Peter Blake is one such figure. Knighted back in 2002 for his services to Art, the prolific painter, printmaker and collage artist has not taken the honour as cue to sit on his laurels. If anything, he’s doubled down and produced even more work – a business-as-usual attitude that means plenty of new pieces of his art to fix on your radar.

The artrepublic curators picked up some examples of Blake’s latest work at the recent London Original Print Fair, all of which show his versatility as an image maker, as well as the sheer breadth of his creative output; from collage to painting to silkscreen printing, Blake does it all.

Some of the work that Blake is most famous for producing uses his distinctive collage style, blending elements of pop culture to build a scene or shape an image. Fans of this particular creative approach (we’ll point you towards the well-referenced Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band artwork if you’re fresh to Blake’s work) will be happy to know that the artist has returned to this medium once again to create four new editions: BBC1, BBC2, BBC3 and BBC4. Spoiler alert: a major clue about their content is in the titles!

Against the backdrop of the iconic (and now-repurposed) BBC Television Centre aka Broadcasting House, Blake has assembled (or collaged) groups of much-loved actors, television personalities and children's characters associated with the national treasure that is the Beeb. Spanning the decades since the station was established, the crowds include comedians Morecambe and Wise, the late Sir Terry Wogan, Tony Hart and athlete Jessica Ennis-Hill, as well as characters Rupert Bear and The Magic Roundabout's Florence and Dougal. Looking at these four giclee prints is like playing a who’s who of television history and popular culture, and we can’t get enough of them. Nor can Soho House, which has some of Blake’s work hanging in its brand-new White City House, located in a section of the Television Centre building depicted within the art!

Moving from one set of icons to another equally glitz- and glitter-filled selection of prints, take a look at The Reclaimed Icons, a work-in-progress series that’s due to become a set of 10 silkscreen prints, each in an edition size of 50. Blake has taken familiar images from particular moments in history – such as the classic travelling circus clown and a cat in a sash – and reworked them for the 21st century using vibrant inks and metallic glitters. We’re intrigued to see what other icons make it into this collection, and will be watching closely as Blake unveils them in all their shimmering glory.

And speaking of uncovering something new, check out the latest addition to Blake’s Tattooed People series. ‘Tattooed Ladies’ depicts two women against a royal blue background, naked except for the tattoos that adorn their skin – both black and white. Heavily inked with a variety of colourful designs, there’s plenty of detail to take in within this playful image. The watercolour portrait (a favourite medium for Blake) has been released as a signed limited edition archival inkjet print (from a set of 50).

As we said, Sir Peter Blake has been busy drawing on the vast and varied array of icons and cultural references available to us – from both the past and the present day. Now it’s your turn to dedicate some time to these artworks… we think that choosing which one is your favourite may take a while. If you need a sounding board, try chatting to one of our art advisors.

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