Wednesday, 26 November 2014
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Blur 21: The Exhibition

This Friday sees the opening of something very, very exciting. Something for Britain to be enormously proud of – and that shows the world what we’re capable of producing as a nation. Yes, it’s the opening of Blur 21: The Exhibition.

Alternative shot from an NME show, taken in Hammersmith on 22 August 1995, by Kevin Cummins?

Source: Kevin Cummins?

Alternative shot from an NME show, taken in Hammersmith on 22 August 1995, by Kevin Cummins?

The show celebrates one of the most important bands of the last two decades, and will present over 70 images of Blur by music photographers, designers and artists including Pennie Smith, Kevin Cummins, Paul Postle, Tom Sheehan, Banksy and Julian Opie from the band’s 21-year career, including previously unseen artwork.

Starting life as Seymour in 1988, taking their name from a JD Salinger story, the band became Blur on signing to record label Food in 1990.

Stylorouge working up Blur logos

Source: Stylorouge

Stylorouge working up Blur logos

The next 20 or so years has seen the band deliver some of the most forward thinking and innovative pop music of the time – with brave, diverse artwork to match. Back in January we spoke to Rob O’Connor, founder of design consultancy Stylorouge.

Blur artwork by Stylorouge

Source: Stylorouge

Blur artwork by Stylorouge

The consultancy designed much of Blur’s early artwork, including the pop-art-meets-British-seaside works for debut album Leisure and the deceptively wistful, romantic images for Girls & Boys, a sarcastic beer-soaked anthem of Brits abroad, ‘paranoid’ love in the 90s and the consequential ‘nasty blisters’.

Girls and Boys single cover visual by Stylorouge with post-it note instructions Dave Balfe, Food Records

Source: Stylorouge

Girls and Boys single cover visual by Stylorouge with post-it note instructions Dave Balfe, Food Records

Stylorouge’s Blur work catalysed the emergence of the band logo – something that had hitherto had nowhere near the prominence it does today. Back in January, O’Connor said, ‘Bands weren’t really into logos at that point - or so it seemed to me, anyway - it was almost deemed a bit naff in the early 90s, so it was good to have David Balfe [Blur’s then-label Food’s founder] as he was really into having a memorable brand and a good t-shirt to sell.’

Since then, Blur’s artwork has used covers by artists including Julian Opie, who created the Blur: The Best Of compilation cover, and Banksy, who worked on 2003 album Think Tank.

Graham Coxon in Brighton by Paul Postle.

Source: Paul Postle

Graham Coxon in Brighton by Paul Postle.

Guitarist Graham Coxon painted the haunting artwork shown on the cover of 1999’s bleakly beautiful album 13; while Damien Hirst famously directed the bright, kitsch and somewhat uncomfortable video for Country House, which sees Coxon looking decidedly awkward and soapy in a bathtub.

Back with two new singles, Under the Westway and The Puritan, a sold-out Hyde Park show next month and this exhibition, it looks like modern life might not be so rubbish for Blur after all.

Blur 21: The Exhibition runs from 27 July – 14 August at Londonewcastle Project Space, 28 Redchurch Street, London E2

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