Sir Peter Blake makes dramatic return to etching for Side Show

Sir Peter Blake is sharing his love of the Side Show in a new exhibition, which sees him return to etching for the first time in several decades.

His subjects are the characters and heroes from circuses, wrestlers and popular entertainment who he admired in his youth.

Blake created his Side Show study between 1974-78 and it has been held in the collections of the Museum of Modern Art, New York; The Metropolitan, New York; the British Council, London and British Museum, London.

There were five pieces in total but now a new show at the Paul Stolper Gallery presents two new etchings – a wrestler and a tattooed girl – and revisits the other work in the series.

You’ll also be able to see photographs and proofs from Blake’s own archive showing the inspiration for and genesis of his work.

Bearded Lady from 1974-78 Side Show collection by Peter Blake
Bearded Lady from 1974-78 Side Show collection by Peter Blake

Blake has curated the show himself and presents the wood engravings and the nostalgia of the subject matter as something which has followed him throughout his career.

The engravings have all been designed using a fine-pointed burin on a hard end-grain wood block. Although he studied wood engraving as student, he is largely self taught.

Fat Boy from 1974-78 Side Show collection by Peter Blake
Fat Boy from 1974-78 Side Show collection by Peter Blake

His early engravings were the starting points for his first two prints, Tiny T.N.T. Tantrum The Pocket Prince in 1973 and A Souvenir of the Bath Festival in 1974.

Blake says: “There’s a whole background to it, but really it’s a class thing, a working class thing. When I was a kid these were my interests – the fairgrounds, circuses, rock’n’roll. So, at a certain point in making art, when I had to make a decision about what to do, I thought, “be  autobiographical ”.

Giant from 1974-78 Side Show collection by Peter Blake
Giant from 1974-78 Side Show collection by Peter Blake

“Well, it wasn’t that conscious… but the work became very autobiographical and about popular culture, and that’s what became Pop art. And it’s still there. I still go to circuses when I can, and concerts.”

Midget from 1974-78 Side Show collection by Peter Blake
Midget from 1974-78 Side Show collection by Peter Blake

Side Show by Peter Blake runs from 27 November 2014 – 10 January 2015 at the Paul Stolper Gallery, 31 Museum Street, WC1A 1LH

Tatooed Man, from 1974-1978 Side Show collection by Peter Blake
Tatooed Man, from 1974-1978 Side Show collection by Peter Blake

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