Sir Peter Blake, who is widely thought of as the Godfather of British Pop Art, is well known for his use of icons from popular culture in his work. Having experienced first hand the boom in youth culture in the 1960s, Blake channelled the era’s vibrancy and optimistic spirit into his work. Viewed now against the backdrop of time, his use of bygone movie stars invokes a strong feeling of nostalgia and sentimentality.
'James Dean' from his incredible new USA Series, sees Blake including the legendary actor who is instantly recognisable with his iconic red jacket and self-assured squint. Despite having died nearly 60 years ago in a car crash, the actor remains the epitome of cool whose signature style and attitude has transcended generations. Dean also appeared in Blake’s first foray into lenticular printing, where he was juxtaposed in front of the Albert hall in the now sold out holographic print.
Another colossal star of the era that has functioned as a muse for a wealth of artists over the years is the irrepressible Marilyn Monroe. The image of the blonde bombshell is an indelible component of art history both as an illustration of beauty and a symbol.
Monroe stared in Hollywood blockbusters including ‘The 7 Year Itch’ and ‘Some Like It Hot’ and courted controversy with her alleged affair with then president John F. Kennedy. Following her death in August 1962, it was the Pop-Art visionary Andy Warhol who would go on to create the most iconic and recognisable images of the actress. In the four months following her death Warhol made more than 20 silkscreen paintings of the actress in different colour combinations all based of the same publicity image from the 1953 film Niagra. For Warhol Monroe represented the two constant themes present in his work: death and the culture of celebrity.
In his famous painting ‘Marilyn Diptych’ Warhol contrasts vivid colour with black and white, the fading effect of the right panel echoing the polarity of life and death. The repetition of her image reflects ubiquitous presence in the media and the notion of her being one of the most photographed people to ever live. Peter Blake has also paid homage to the actress in ‘Marliyn’. He offsets the repeated image of Monroe with signature vivid colours and geometric shapes, providing a nod to his experience as a graphic designer.
It is not just the pop art pioneers who have used Marliyn Monroe to make an artist statement. The ever elusive artist HYBRID, made the beautiful print ‘Marilyn Butterflies’ using actual newspaper clipping which all feature Monroe as the subject matter. The clipping combined with butterflies capture her status as a global icon as well as capturing her fragility.
While Thai artist Pakpoom Silaphan has used her image in ‘Marliyn on Pepsi’ to comment on the universal reach of cultural icons and mass consumerism. Silaphan used vintage signs and advertising hoarding onto which he adds collage and illustrations of celebrities.
Sometime a film can have such a lasting impression on an artist they can’t help but make works that celebrates it. A great example of this would be Ryan Callanan a.k.a RYCA and his Star Wars influenced prints. ‘Chose Your Droid’ is a playful reworking of Banksy’s ‘Choose Your Weapon’, where RYCA has replaced the hooded youth and Keith Haring dog with characters from the sci-fi trilogy. While ‘Death Dots’ is his take on Damien Hirst’s famous spot paintings, with the multicolour dots being replaced by Death Star’s, the space station/ super weapon that appears in the films.
One artist who has experience life on either side of the film camera is the French maverick Theirry Guetta a.k.a Mr. Brainwash. For many years Guetta would document street art heavyweights such as Banksy and Obey as they went about their work leaving their mark on city streets in the dead of night. It was Banksy who helped Mr. Brainwash to make the transition from cameraman to leading star through the 2010 documentary ‘Exit Through the Giftshop’.
The film follows the run up to Guetta’s debut show ‘Life is Beautiful’, which was held in a former television studio in LA. Despite the chaotic build up to the show, it proved to be a huge success with over 100 works by the artists on display and helped establish Mr. Brainwash as internationally renowned artist.
Now that you know a bit more about the influence of film in the work of some of our artists be sure to check out all of the beautifully crafted prints on offer. That’s a wrap!