Pop art "godfather" Blake still the outsider at 80

Wed Nov 21, 2012 11:34am EST
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By Mike Collett-White

LONDON (Reuters) - Pop music loves him. The art establishment shuns him. At the age of 80, British artist Peter Blake is revered for his celebrated "Sgt. Pepper" Beatles album cover yet at the same time dismissed as too "cheerful" to be one of the greats.

Regularly stroking his wispy silver beard, and supported around a central London gallery by a walking cane, the man dubbed the "godfather of Pop art" still struggles to come to terms with his place in the world of contemporary culture.

"It's a cross I bear," he said of the fact that his art is not taken as seriously as that of some contemporaries.

"Perhaps it's surprising that at my kind of age and with my infirmities I'm still cheerful," he told Reuters at the Waddington Custot Galleries where his latest show, "Rock, Paper, Scissors" has just opened.

Surrounding him are works ranging from some of his earliest watercolours executed in 1948 when he was 16 to "The Family", a sculpture he completed just a few days ago.

What is striking is just how lively they are - plastic figures of Snow White and 30 dwarves crowd outside a model of a Swiss chalet in one humorous work, and the six-foot-long "A Parade for Saul Steinberg" is a model bursting with color and references to popular culture.

Blake concedes that he is often left having to defend his work in a world where "serious" art is cherished above all.

"Painters all have a different reason to paint - it could be politics, it could be angst, it could be anger. My reason to paint is to make magic and to make cheerful things."   Continued...

British artist Peter Blake arrives for the U.K. premiere of "Celebration Day" at the Hammersmith Apollo in London October 12, 2012. REUTERS/Suzanne Plunkett