Hoole, Peter Blake and Art At 41

My wife and I had been invited – along with, it soon became clear, an enthusiastic crowd of far more notably Cestrian others than ourselves! – to the opening day of the Peter Blake exhibition at the Art At 41 gallery in Hoole.

We arrived early and were greeted with two glasses of apple juice (we could’ve had wine, but we’d brought the car; best not to tempt local fate …); in the event, the apple juice had a pleasingly artistic black straw as a counterpoint – things were clearly looking up.


More important, however, than the drinks and the welcoming smiles, were the thinking and ways of seeing that the selected works of Peter Blake transmitted to the visitor on entering. It was a grand combination of intricate reworkings of Victoriana (almost Monty Python-like in style – so who had been quoting from whom, exactly, I wonder?); splendid splashes and echoes of Warhol (not sure if they pre-dated, were parallel to or quoted from); and very individual reflections of Blake’s always vigorous Britishness.

From a 2007 exhibition, at the Tate Liverpool I believe, we have the following video. It’s lovely when the expressiveness of the face behind an art shows itself to be an artistic expression, in itself.


Meanwhile, fast-forwarding back to this evening’s Art At 41 event (if such movement doesn’t constitute an agreeable oxymoron), a couple of my favourite paintings ended up being as follows:

  • “Another Parade” – for its gorgeously clever and pointed compositional spaces, as the creating of pleasing shapes out of apparently randomly located figures is not only beautiful to see but also, surely, so damn challenging to achieve
  • “La Vern Baker” – for its punchy colours and bold declamations of form, jazzily attacking our senses
  • From the “Paris Quartet”, “Birds” – here I just can’t get away from how rebelliously well the blue stripe of connections halfway down the work makes it all function, when it really, definitely, shouldn’t
  • And from the “Found” series, “Nazionali” is simply grand – its gently drawn contrasts of colours would grace any environment, never mind the agreeable and collaborative space of Hoole’s very own Art At 41 gallery

There was lots more to admire, of course. Much more.

Which is why, if you’d like to really do justice to this art, the best way – at least for anyone finding themselves in Chester and/or the surrounding areas over the next four weeks – is to go along to Art At 41, and catch Peter Blake’s undoubtedly intelligent, yet also undeniably accessible, ways of seeing and doing – before, sadly enough, they have to move them on.

So it was that after we finally disabused ourselves of empty glass, we left and had a wander round an already packed Hoole night scene.

We were going to have a drink, too, but the area’s just too damn popular! Maybe you got to be a local, to know when and where to go during an early Friday duskness. And as an elderly odd couple savagely parked their gloriously dark blue Jaguar, we walked from the Faulkner, past the Sticky Walnut – and mused on the evening we’d just been lucky enough to venture into.

All to the backdrop of the music of a good-humoured, yet distantly eavesdropped, laughter.

In much the same way as the microcosm that makes up Blake’s own ingenious humanity became powerfully transparent to everyone who joined in, so this marvellous Chester suburb of Hoole too: Art At 41’s admirable achievement in bringing real wisdom to our city simply underlines the grandeur of what’s happening under our very noses – almost without anyone being really conscious of how profoundly Chester’s growing.

I’m sure the rest of us are bound to start taking due note as well, as we continue to make admirable strides, sometimes despite ourselves, into what needs to be not just a locally prideful future of real cultural investigation, but also a hyper-engaging – and above all, worldly wise – leap into the fabulous dissonance of productive creativity.