First Impressions: Peter Blake: A Museum for Myself, 1982

Ostensibly blurring the line between Peter Blake’s art making and his obsessive collecting, the piece is a collage of artefacts of significance to the artist.  The composition is jigsaw like, the different elements have been placed together seemingly just because they fit neatly side by side one another.  There is little sense of an overall palette other than what one would expect of a collection of old photographs, posters, and other largely paper-based objects: black, white and off-cream recur throughout the piece.  A line of shards of pottery act as a frame along the top of the piece, but this could equally simply be the continuation of the desire to fill the space as completely as possible.  This space at the top is too small for most standard photograph shapes and sizes, and we should perhaps also consider that black and white photographs might be hard to see in this relatively dim space just below the frame.  The case itself is interesting: it looks quite worn, with various nicks and dents, wood painted black.  It is a case, not a frame, the glass cover and its depth highlights its unsuitability for a conventional painting.  It is interesting to wonder which came first: the case, or the objects.  If it were the case, the objects might lose some of their significance, simply chosen to fill a certain space.  Vice versa, their importance would be heightened, they were chosen for their significance to the artist, and their housing carefully chosen.  I can’t help but think the case may have come fist.  Largely arranged in horizontal bands, the objects seem to come from a wide variety of backgrounds, “Hallo” emblazoned on the box of a small water pistol, signed photographs of each of the Beatles, postcards of flowers, and an old five pound note only a small selection.  But the idea that each of these tells us something about the artist might be deceptive.  Certainly all of them did not naturally come into his collection, they are not necessarily artefacts from his own life.  Some (if not most) were bought in the condition in which they go into the piece.  Blake is an obsessive collector, visiting flea markets and second-hand shops seemingly wherever he goes.  So the idea that this tells the story of his life, or the people he has met, has to be seen in line with this knowledge.  It is an interesting exploration of how we see the artist’s involvement in the process of modern art-making.  Blake has chosen all these pieces, they must tell us something about his character, as he saw some merit and interest in them.  So it becomes a question of whether we see the art-making process as the act of an artist imbuing a creation with his thoughts, feelings, collected life experience and experiences, or from a point of view whereby the artist’s choices are based on a desire to stimulate the viewer’s interest, and to offer them a view of a world different to their own (whether or not it is that of the artist becoming irrelevant).  Blake could be said in this piece to offer the view many different worlds, periods and sub-cultures.  Perhaps it is telling that included among the objects is a Marcel Duchamp autograph, with Peter Blake’s name next to it (the only form of signature on the piece).  Perhaps Blake finds ready-mades which come to tell us something about his interests at that time in his life.  He creates a postcard to himself form his own past, using the postcards of others, from the past.  I will not claim he has created a piece I find aesthetically pleasing, but the explorations of the meanings in modern art does make for a thought provoking piece, with more to offer than it might first seem.  He (deliberately or not) brings us to question what we think an artist should offer the viewer in today’s society, and whether they should continue the Romantic tradition of artists as giving their audience a view of the world through their own eyes and wisdom, or if it is simply enough for them to present us a view of the world, and leave us to draw our own conclusions.  I for one can still not quite decide which Peter Blake would seem to fit himself into.

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