The first major UK-based Peter Blake retrospective since 2007 opened today at the Waddington Custot Galleries.
Rock, Paper, Scissors features around 50 new and previously unseen works from the past six decades with the children's game title providing a framework: sculpture, works on paper and collage.
In his sculpture, Blake continues to assemble found objects, with surreal scenes and narratives. ‘A Parade for Saul Steinberg’, started in 2007, resembles a New York street parade, where famous cartoon characters and other fantasy figures march in recognition of the cartoonist Steinberg; one of Blake’s artistic heroes.
Popular characters from Blake’s earlier works reappear; Snow White is seen showing-off her garden of underwater debris to René Magritte, whilst elsewhere 30 of her dwarf companions lead an invasion of a bagpiper’s Swiss chalet.
In addition to using plastic, readymade characters, Blake constructs figures from natural materials including a miniature army made from bowling balls and stained wood, adorned with medals and badges to represent military achievements.
Another sculpture built from wooden objects is a life-size family group posing beneath a driftwood tree and this two-metre-high sculpture will dominate one of the galleries.
As a departure from his constructions of found objects, in a new group of works, Blake presents six found objects as works of art in their own right, reminding him as they do of sculptures by Henry Moore, Barbara Hepworth and other twentieth-century masters.
The early works on paper in the exhibition date back to 1948 and are shown alongside Blake’s most recent watercolour, ‘Portrait of Queen Elizabeth II’, commissioned by the Radio Times for the cover of their Diamond Jubilee souvenir issue.
Blake’s ten new London collages form the ‘scissors’ component of the exhibition, creating fantastical scenes around London landmarks, such as a comic book convention at Piccadilly Circus (attended by the comic-book characters themselves), a gathering of escaped animals at Westminster Abbey and a parade in Abbey Road.
The most ambitious work in the exhibition will be a six-foot-wide canvas, started in 1963 and still a work in progress. Originally titled ‘Drake, land wars in Ireland and Essex’, the painting was created for a group exhibition about Shakespeare.
Blake is painting over his initial composition, turning the rural scene into a fantasy narrative featuring children and storybook characters. The painting will be exhibited at Waddington Custot Galleries in its current state as Blake intends to continue reworking it indefinitely.
Pete Blake: Rock, Paper Scissors from today until 15 December, Waddington Custot Galleries, www.waddingtoncustot.com