Beach Meets : Pete Fowler Pete Fowler’s second Beach exhibition (after 2013’s cross-stitch extravaganza ‘The Needle and the Damage Done’) opens this Thursday. ‘Unholy Mountain’ will be a series of new acrylic-on-canvas pieces by the London illustration legend, and perhaps one of his most formal shows to date. Whilst the content will contain many familiar Fowlerisms – psychedelic characters, owls, synths, nauticalia and more – they are perhaps used in the most erudite and iconographic manner yet seen in Pete’s work.
We’ve long been fans of Pete’s work and we’re delighted to have him back here. He’s someone we bump into on Brick Lane on a daily basis and is always up to something fun; be it drawing, making wax with his band Seahawks, DJing, or supping real ales in the Carpenters Arms(best pub in the area IMHO) and he really is one-of-a-kind artwork-wise with unparalleled output. His studio space at the top of Brick Lane is rad and full of interesting stuff he’s worked on over his career so if you ever get the chance be nice to Pete and ask him if you can pop in.
If you never get chance to meet him (and come to this Thursday’s show and you just might) then we took the liberty of snapping his studio for you. We also asked a few words about the show and other bits and bobs…
We’re sure you’ve been very busy since we saw you last here at Beach, tell us about one of your favourite recent projects?
A project I’ve been working on for over 2 years is Gruff’s multi format American Interior. Firstly a film, that spawned not only an LP but a book published by Hamish Hamilton (Penguin) and an app. I worked on all four of the releases, in particular the film. It’s been really interesting and challenging to work with lots of very hard work going into it from the whole team. I designed, at first, the font that would be used for the film, then website that eventually got used throughout the 4 releases. I worked with Louise Evans (Felt Mistress) to make a felt avatar of the main character of the story that the film revolves around as well as working with the team on animations and general artwork throughout the film. You can watch the trailer and get info on all the releases at http://american-interior.com , the story is really larger than life and I’d go on for some time explaining it! I’ve worked with Gruff since the early days of the Super Furry Animals and the band and himself have always been brilliant to work with and I always relish my involvement.
You’ve got such a variety of skills that you show off through painting, cross stitch, toys and music. What would you say you enjoy doing the most?
When it comes down to it I’d have to choose drawing as everything I do starts with sketching, from illustration to painting. I love it for that reason and also it can be a very personal thing as well as a tool, to draw to work and to draw to relax. Painting I enjoy very much but I think the portable nature of a pencil and paper is a winner and so cheap and accessible. How do you get your inspiration for all your characters within your work?
I think just living on planet earth to be honest! London can be quite a good place to observe people and I think you soak up the world around you and re interpret it to a certain degree. I tend not to actively seek out inspiration as I think it comes to you via a curiosity or natural interest in whatever aspects of life that come your way but when I do I tend to go to museums and draw whatever interests me. In fact I don’t do enough of that. Last time I went to the British Museum I fell in love with Greek pottery. The characters, myths and creatures depicted on them could have been drawn yesterday. It’s a great connection to experience as someone who is interested in mark making and drawing.
If you could choose to be one of the characters you’ve created, which one would it be?
I did a lino print earlier this year of a centaur, I kind of liked the idea of that guy having human arms but the 4 legs and body of a horse. I imagine that he would probably have some type of supernatural powers as well so that could be interesting. I think the interesting thing is that there’s a bit of me in every character I’ve made, in that I’ve used some of my own traits to create them. Kind of like Adam’s rib, but kind of not!
Have you ever had a project that’s just gone horribly wrong?
I’d be lying if I said no! I won’t name any names but yeah, it happens and has happened a few times! They should be something that you learn from, at least. If not then, hell, move on with a bit more experience!
Tell us a bit more about your collaboration with Super Furry Animals?
I started to work for them from their second LP Radiator in 1996 up until their last LP Dark Days/Light Years in 2009. The band, who were signed to Creation Records at the time, saw my work in a free paper in Cardiff, my home town and the label tracked me down to London. It started with a pretty free reign in terms of what they wanted. At the time there were a lot of poster groups in the indie scene and the band wanted something rather than images of themselves to represent them and chose me to create the visual would that would accompany their music. I then got asked to work on the next LP Geurrilla and have worked on every cover aside from Hey Venus, that was designed by the legendary Japanese artist Keichi Tanaami, who I then collaborated with on their Dark Days/Light Years and later had an exhibition with in Tokyo at the Paul Smith gallery. I’ve been involved in everything from stage design, merchandise, animation, giant inflatable bears and painted instruments. I’ve worked with lots of the members of the band on their own solo projects, more recently the logo for Guto Pryce (SFA bass) new band Gulp and Gruff Rhys’ American Interior epic. I’m really proud of my work for the band as I’m firstly a big fan of their music, attitudes, outlooks and approaches.
How long have you been in the band, Seahawks for?
We’ve been releasing music for about 5 years now as Seahawks with a few releases before. Jon Tye is the other half who I know from DJing with in London and for the label Lo Recordings he co runs. We started to make edits of tracks and pass them back and forth, as Jon lives in Cornwall and he’d add things to them, when we thought, we have something here. We first put out a picture disc 7” through Static Caravan then self released, at first, 3 limited edition 12”s that were all hand decorated, between 300 and 500 copies. Since then we’ve made quite a few albums, 12”s and remixes for artists such as Badly Drawn Boy, The Horrors and Tim Burgess. We recently released an album called Paradise Freaks that has developed our sound a bit further with additions of singers on a lot of the tracks. We also have DJed at festivals over the years and a handful of live gigs, of which we have 3 at festivals over the summer.
Give us 3 tracks you’ve got on in your studio today?
Bobby Caldwell-What You Won’t Do For Love
Michael Farneti-ESP Switch
What can we look forward to with your next show here at Beach?
I’ll be showing around 10 acrylic paintings on canvas that I’ve been working on this year as a group. The pieces started as skull portraits and have developed from there with motifs reappearing through each of the pieces. More painterly than the pervious work I’ve been making and as always, draw heavily from sketchbook work, albeit with a looser approach to elements of the pieces.I’m excited to be showing these at Beach and sharing, I think, the best paintings I’ve made. They need to get out of my studio!
Pete’s show will ran until September 28th 2014. For a catalogue of available artwork please contact firstname.lastname@example.org and you can buy Pete’s Zine in on our online store here.