Tuesday, 12 January 2016


Elvis Shrine: Portraits, Landscapes or Still Lives 1994-2016

....is the first exhibition to focus on the artist’s portraiture. Not perhaps portraiture as we know it, as he appropriates pop culture icons, advertising imagery, collage and much more to construct  playful, irreverent and often baffling images.    He describes himself as a “journeyman, jobbing portrait painter who gets a good likeness and a nice picture, but in terms of great paintings, they’re not Lucian Freud, Francis Bacon or Stanley Spencer.” . The exhibition includes a series of small watercolours depicting heavily tattooed women and men. Sa Ben Luke of the Evening Post points out,'Blake is a skillful draughtsman and, especially when using watercolour, has a delicate, painterly touch'.

Going round the gallery lined with portraits, it's possible to turn a corner and discover yourself in a grotto, a small sanctuary, a shrine dedicated to Elvis Presley. On tables and panels Blake has composed assemblages of found objects with humorous allusions to the history of art and childhood fantasies. Masses of memorabilia jostle for space on the walls and the surfaces.

It is bound to call to mind Blake's iconic 1961 Self-portrait with Badges, in the Tate Collection, showing him plastered with notices and baseball badges, looking like a human billboard. Centre stage Blake is holding an Elvis album. 
Usually people dress up if a portrait is in the offing but here Blake's clothes are casual and eccentric, denims and trainers. As for the denims, it's said that having seen a pair brought back from the States by an art teacher, he bought a workman’s pair of dungarees, cut off the bib and kept the trousers up with a belt  And he had managed to get a pair of basket ball boots said to be ones like those  the abstract expressionist painter Jackson Pollock wore in the 50s. For a masterly analysis of this painting read what the art critic Jonathan Jones wrote about it in the Guardian in 2002

 The exhibition catalogue includes an essay by Marco Livingstone.

Peter Blake's work also features in an earlier Blog 169: .'American Trilogy' at the Railings Gallery

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