Digging: Pete Fowler

Explore the Welsh designer's work...

For over fifteen years, artist and musician Pete Fowler has been sketching, painting and animating the imagery associated with bands including Clinic, The Horrors and, most famously, his fellow countrymen, Super Furry Animals. His exhibition at Wales Millennium Centre, back home in Cardiff gives the self-confessed music obsessive the opportunity to look back at some memorable moments, but also a chance to showcase his current inspirations.

Super Furry Animals, ‘Play it Cool’ sketch - 1997
“I can’t really talk about my artwork and love of music without mentioning the Super Furry Animals. This is a sketch for the ‘Play it Cool’ single from the ‘Radiator’ LP, drawn from my archive of faxes, scribbles and random drawings. I was pretty much given a free reign to come up with ideas for this LP, along with early versions of the tracks. I was quite nervous about this project as they were a band I loved from their first EP, but we quickly clicked and who was to know the working relationship would last so long?”

Super Furry Animals, ‘Do OR Die’ promo CD sketch - 2000
“Fast forwarding three years from my first cover for the band to the ‘Guerrilla’ LP, this was a promo CD of the ‘Do Or Die’ single, released with an alternative cover for their gig/podcast ‘Mash Up The CIA’ at the Cardiff International Arena. The cover caused a ripple of controversy as I pictured the Guerrilla creature destroying both the CIA and Cardiff castle. The destruction of the castle was an idea I had after I made this sketch, almost like placing a cherry on a cake to finish it off. The band liked the idea so we included it on the finished painting!”

Vangelis in Space - 2006
“One of my musical heroes is Vangelis, famous for his soundtrack work and collaboration with Jon Anderson, but in my book he’s most loved for his work with his previous band Aphrodite’s Child (along with Demis Roussos!). Their LP ‘666’ has been a long time favourite for me and it always surprises people to hear Demis singing and playing on a deeply weird and psychedelic/prog-rock concept album! Later on I became more interested in Vangelis’ solo work and his explorations into cosmic sounds he made at his Nemo studios in London. This painting was created for a group show with a space theme so it seemed to make sense to portraying him having an out of body experience in the cosmos.”

Digging - 2008
“I’ve been buying records since I had enough money to afford them and the endless search for the missing albums and singles on my wants list continues as I sail into my roaring forties. This painting is an homage to digging for records in flea markets, car boot sales and charity shops with like-minded friends. Although transported to the ‘World of Monsterism’, the behavior is the same! The competitive collector instinct kicks in, rapidly scanning boxes of easy listening, Phil Collins’ ‘No Jacket Required’ and millions of ‘not by original artists’ chart compilations. Amongst this chaff there often lies wheat and, for me, that’s the excitement of music, as much as actually listening to the records discovered. Just remember, if you find something valuable or rare, keep your cool.”

Filter Cleaning - 2012
“Momentarily off the musical theme, we take a walk down to the coast of a Cornish/Polynesian hybrid land, only to witness a huge UFO going through a routine filter cleaning process. Cornwall, its landscape and the weird and wonderful world of UFO’s has been a big influence on my work and myself. Cornwall was also an important place for me music wise. From my art school days in Falmouth I’ve always been drawn to music lovers and got turned on to so many sounds whilst living there. Not to mention the mini post rave movement that was going on around 1990 with Luke Vibert , Aphex Twin and various sound systems and raves in farm sheds that went down. I’ll never forget driving to one in a small village called Praze-An-Beeble at some god forsaken hour. In fact, I seem to remember a UFO sighting not far from there, perhaps they went to the party as well?”

Footer - 2102
“Musical equipment has been an interest of mine for some time. Not just for the sound they make, but how they look as well. I’ve bought a fair amount of what’s called ‘circuit’ bent modified electronics including Furbies, cheapo synths and a particularly mad dolls arm contact microphone. A slightly unnerving item! Many of my new pieces in the show touch on musical gear and along with the soundtrack I’ve compiled and the piano and synth toy I think it’s fair to say music is a huge part of my life. This piece is a sketch for a finished painting in the show and I like the Monty Python-esque disjointed foot, this time engaging an effects pedal.”

Seahawks VQ1 picture disc LP - 2011
“After collecting lots of music making equipment and oddities I started recording and making sounds with them, quite abstract and cosmic. I got together with a friend, Jon Tye and released cassettes under the name Space Weather Sounds. Our love of the smooth 70’s AOR combined with the more psychedelic/cosmic led us to forge the two loves into Seahawks, our production duo where we’ve been releasing mostly vinyl 12”s and LPs the last 2-3 years. It’s been a change for me to work on the covers outside of my more recognizable illustrated style and the digital collage method I use has been something I’ve played around with since the early days of Photoshop. I guess Seahawks is somewhere both Jon and I can hide behind almost and let the music and artwork speak for itself.”

Synth Dad - 2012 
“This is a painting featured in my show at Wales Millennium Centre and I think it’s fair to say it’s a pretty accurate portrait of a ‘Shoreditch Dad’. It’s both a term of mockery and endearment and a name I came up with to describe the kind of middle aged hip dad that has enough money to buy expensive men’s shoes, dancing on the line between 50’s vintage nut job and high fashion geek. I think there’s a little bit of myself in there too, in fact I think there’s a bit of me in everything I do. I’m not afraid to make fun of all that, you should never take yourself too seriously. Oh, and whatever anyone tells you, this isn’t a painting of Gruff Rhys.”

Pete Fowler, Oceans of Fantasy opens at Wales Millennium Centre between Saturday 8 December 2012 – Sunday 24 February 2013.

 

http://www.wmc.org.uk

http://monsterism.net

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