The godfather of British pop art, Sir Peter Blake, who recently celebrated his eightieth birthday, has rifled through The Fine Art Society's holdings to curate a show to rival any big group summer exhibition. Blake first discovered the gallery as an art student in the 1950s when he was buying cheap prints to use within his work. Now, 60 years on, his adroit eye for works by artists both overlooked and iconic, has brought together pieces in all genres and subjects, which are displayed over the gallery's three floors. There are paintings by Pre-Raphaelites and ruralists, works that are abstract and figurative, plus a surprising array of nautical paintings.
Intermittently Blake punctuates the exhibition with personal anecdotes about his choices. These include the delicate pencil drawings by Sir William Orpen, murky renderings of music halls by Walter Sickert and stark, black-and-white photographs by Oscar Marzaroli, all assembled here as if Blake were constructing one of his collages.
A mile away, at Paul Stolper, Blake's eye for collage is again demonstrated in ten new prints titled 'The London Suite'. This is the third of his 'World Tour' series (Paris and Venice preceded), and the images stay true to form in their hypnotising depictions of the city. Petticoat Lane is overcrowded with images of women of varied eras and nationalities, while Piccadilly Circus is swarming with every comic book hero imaginable. Animals run riot over Westminster Abbey, and skeletons populate Ludgate Circus. Although the collages use familiar source material, the butterflies, dancers and cultural icons take on a new guise in each city. In Blake's London, everything fuses in a nostalgic, celebratory theatricality that, right now, seems entirely appropriate.