TateShots

Tracey Emin in conversation with Peter Blake

Peter Blake talks to Tracey Emin

Tracey Emin interviews Peter Blake and finds out how you get offered a knighthood, why Blake turned down dinner with Andy Warhol, and what he really thinks about that Sgt. Pepper cover.

Tracey Emin: Well, that was a lovely introduction from Christoff, but he kept making one serious mistake, and do you know what that was? What’s your name? Peter Blake Yeah. [Laughter] I think if there is a mistake I can deal with it.

Tracey Emin: This is the one and only Sir Peter Blake. [Applause]

Peter Blake: What happened was, a couple of years before I accepted it, two people who would have known said ‘You’re going to get a letter, you’re going to be offered a knighthood.’ You expect the letter. And it never came. [Laughter] So I thought, well, it’s not you. Later on, two years, when it did come, I really wasn’t expecting it. And it simply says ‘If you were offered a knighthood, would you accept – yes or no?’ [Laughter] And you tick yes or no.

Tracey Emin: Peter’s studio is probably one of the most crazy, insane places you could ever go in your life. It’s like a completely surreal experience. He collects everything under the sun, but in a very precise, correct, ordered way. His studio – his studio is like ginormous. I don’t know, how many square feet is it altogether?

Peter Blake: Three and a half thousand. Tracey Emin: Three and a half thousand square feet. But I would say the area that he paints in, which is the kitchen, is about the size of…. no bigger than this stage. [Laughter] Everything else is just this absolutely amazing collection of objects, and it’s kind of what inspires Peter, within terms of collaging and putting things together. And what I like really about this show is you’ve somehow created that intensity. I mean, you spend years in there walking around looking at things – get lost. My generation….all right, we’re all getting on a bit now, in our forties, but all of us, absolutely, from Damien, Sarah Lucas, Gavin Turk, Matt Collishaw, we all adore Peter. And we adore his work, because Peter, right from the beginning – this is like maybe 15, 20 years ago, made an immediate connection with all of us. It’s almost like he just homed in. I’ve got some kindred spirits. I’m back. This is where it’s happening with Art. And Peter totally embraced my generation of artists, and also younger generations – the younger artists now. And why – how – why? Peter Blake: I mean, I like you, it’s as simple as that. I like what you’re doing, and I like you as a group, and I admired the fact that you…. it’s dissipated a bit now, but earlier on, you were incredibly supportive of each other, all the artists supported each other. They weren’t bitchy about each other. You had a kind of infrastructure of young critics who supported you, young dealers who supported you, and you were nice to each other. And my generation haven’t always been very nice to each other, which we won’t go into. [Laughter]

TraceyEmin: Come on! [Laughter]

Sir Peter: So there is a slight feeling too that, when I was at the Royal College for instance, my tutor was Johnny Minton and he was kind to me and kind of nurtured me and looked after me. And I remembered that, and I just think it’s important that you put something back. You’re given to and you give in turn.

Tracey Emin: I like this idea of Peter Blake and Andy Warhol. Sir Peter: Rather sadly, the last time we might have met, there was a dinner at Michael Chow’s Restaurant and we were right across the room. He was with a separate party and I was – we were literally across the room – and Michael came over and said, ‘Andy would really like to meet you’ and I said ‘Michael, we’ve met eight times. We’ve never ever had anything in common. I’m not going to come across.’ [Laughter] So I stayed at my table and didn’t go across. And it was so childish and silly. I mean, looking back, I should have gone across and hugged him and said ‘Hello Andy’

Tracey Emin: And what would he have said? ‘What do you want? Why have you come across?’ [Laughter]

Sir Peter: But I mean, I admire what he was.

Tracey Emin: You once said to me in jest, I’m sure, something to the effect of ‘I wish I’d known when I made that bloody LP cover – I wish I’d known what effect it was going to have on the rest of my career.’ And you were joking, but also I think there was a kind of serious tone as well. How do you feel about it, that everybody who knows of your name associates you with the Beatles and with that LP cover? They might not have even looked or seen anything else you’ve done, but they know that.

Sir Peter: You have the same problem. I mean, you have the bed, don’t you, and you have the tent. You get stuck with a certain kind of image that will never lose you. People will always say, ‘Oh, Tracey’s bed.’ And eventually you deal with it – it happened – and looking back, I’m glad I did it. I’m proud of it, but I’ll never get away from it.

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