Entertainment & Arts

Sir Peter Blake allows remixes of his art on new Dazzle app

Sir Peter Blake and (right) Dazzle It Image copyright BBC/Dazzle It
Image caption Sir Peter is one of the leading pop artists of his generation

A new app will allow users to remix the art of pop artist Sir Peter Blake, the first time the artist has consented to his art being used in this way.

The Dazzle It app, commissioned as part of the official cultural programme marking the First World War centenary commemoration, has been inspired by 20th Century artists who painted British vessels in camouflage to confuse enemy U-boats

Earlier this year Sir Peter, who famously created the cover for the Beatles' Sgt Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band album, produced a dazzle design for the Mersey Ferry Snowdrop for the Liverpool Biennial.

He spoke exclusively to BBC online about why he has allowed his art be appropriated for this new technology.

How tech savvy are you, do you feel pressure to engage with technology in the digital age?

At my age I don't have to, I'm still a painter so I don't use it but I admire someone like David Hockney and David Hamilton, when he was alive, for their interest in it.

Richard Hamilton right from the 1950s was up with the latest technology. He had his own studio with his own computer and was completely up to date until he died at the age of 89, so I admire that.

Everything's going so quickly now, technology is changing so quickly. I'm a complete luddite, I don't have a watch, I don't have a phone, I work on the computer but with other people. I must have learnt a certain amount, I mean I know what a jpeg is but I couldn't ever turn a computer.

But I do work with other people who are brilliant technically, so they can can do for me whatever I want done but in daily life I'm a total luddite.

40 years ago, you and other pop artists like Richard Hamilton were at the forefront of combining mediums like painting, photography and video. Are app designers taking on that baton? Are they the new pop artists?

I'll go back to what you said first there, when the first computers came out, David Hockney and myself and a couple of other people were invited to test them. So we were using a Quantel which, I think was the pretty much the first computer here in England and I remember I never quite understood what they could do.

I remember the guy who invented it saying: 'Well look, you can make collages on these, you can just source the images and do it on the computer,' but it's just over the past five years or so that I've embraced it.

To answer your question, with younger artists, it's very much part of the process. We visited an art school about 10 years ago and there was no-one drawing or painting at all, in every studio were lines of computers. I think that's a bad thing, what I would say is that it [technology] is no more important than a pencil and should be an additional tool for making a picture.

Image copyright PA
Image caption Sir Peter Blake is best known for his Sgt Pepper cover

Do you worry about drawing and painting with pencils and brushes becoming a lost art?

It's gone beyond worry. It doesn't affect me at my age, I'm still doing what I want to do. I regret that it's happened but it's happened anyway and there's nothing I can do about it. I could teach anyone to draw relatively simply, I could teach the basics of drawing and occasionally have done a masterclass - going in for a couple of hours and giving people hints and tips of how to draw. But if it's gone, it's gone. The ways of creating art move on and there's little I can do to change that.

Image copyright Dazzle It
Image caption The remixed image can be applied to a 3D mode and viewed within an augmented reality scene

So these kinds of art remixing apps like Dazzle It democratise art even further so that anyone at home can create and share art?

Anyone can grab a paper and pencil and make something or can use something on their phone but it takes a great artists to make great art out of it. As I said, Hockney has embraced technology at every stage and now makes extraordinary pieces of art on his [tablet] and that's fantastic. But this technology may make art but not necessarily great art. In the right hands, like Hockney, it can.

Is there a danger that they dilute the impact of art which he has thought hard about conceptually and has painstakingly created, by letting someone else just click and create with little effort?

Image copyright Reuters
Image caption Sir Peter praises Banksy's social conscience

I don't mind that, there's always been appropriation, I've appropriated other artists so someone using my work, well, it won't be by me, it wont have my signature or be approved by me, so it really doesn't matter. it would happen anyway, there's no point in my worrying about it or regretting it if it's already happening.

You've spoken about younger artists, what about street artists like Banksy or Stik, with their mix of humour and social comment, do they fit the mould of modern pop artists? Have you been to Dismaland yet?

Not yet, I met Banksy before he went undercover and I think some of the work he does is brilliant, he does a bit of social work, he'll do a piece knowing that will be worth a lot of money to the people who find it. In Bristol, he did one on the side of a boys' club which could be sold to keep it open. He's great, I think Dismaland is probably really funny. He makes some terrible art but he makes some great art as well. Which we all do I suppose.

Are you still happiest in your studio? Do you ever think about retirement?

I think artists don't retire, I mean, you think of someone like Richard Hamilton who worked right up until the very last day. You only retire if you must. Even someone like Degas, his eyes got worse and worse and he ended up doing sculpture which he could do. So I won't ever retire unless I'm physically forced to stop.

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